Things growing wild in my garden: Purslane (an edible weed); calendula (used to make an ointment for minor skin ailments), and raspberries (just yummy).
Prepping for hard times is nothing new. Like a lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck, I know what it means to be on a budget and make my dollars stretch through the month, but in the wake of a short or long term emergency type situation, even the most frugal and resourceful people like myself, can never be fully prepared for every possible scenario that can uproot our lives. Nonetheless, it's not just about having "stuff", it's about knowing how to use what you have and using what you know.
Being as fully prepared as possible will not happen overnight, and you need to be OK with that. Each day we are exposed to scenarios, situations, and outcomes that open our eyes a little wider each time, eventually leading to an ultimate reality check where you need to decide once and for all how you want to do what you can to be as self-sufficient as possible. There is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming, and that is enough to make anyone not want to deal with it. The one thing that I try to keep in mind is "baby steps", one step at a time, or as our Preparedness Pro says, "one bite at a time". I started "prepping" my food storage by allowing myself to buy one thing at the grocery store that was not on my list. It was usually an extra box of top ramen, a can of tuna fish, or a buy-one-get-one-free deal. I found this to be a great way to stock up without overdoing it. Once I accumulated a little stock pile, I came up with my Rule of Three where I would always make sure to replace what I used once it got down to three items.
Then I included a similar thought process with my errands to other stores where I get non-grocery items. For example, I went to the drugstore to get some shampoo and conditioner and just happened to walk down the first aid aisle. I saw some liquid iodine on sale. Even tho it was not on my list, I knew that it is a disinfectant and antiseptic, but that it can be used to make water potable. There I had it! Every little bit helps. The key is to be diligent but flexible.
The next step for me was to become better organized about what I had, what I need, and what I want. I made "Need" and "Wish" lists, and rather than buying things brand new, I incorporated garage and yard sale-ing into my schedule while running errands. I found that the world has a funny way of providing us with what we need... and sometimes what we think we need. Once you put it on your list, and look at it periodically, it's almost as if the world is listening and provides an opportunity to help you out. Here is where we must exercise patience. I can't tell you how many times I went and bought something new, at retail price, only to find a better deal, and usually a better quality, at a second hand store or a yard sale. You might think you "need" that Pyrex bowl right away because yours just broke, but if you put it on your list and be patient, you will probably score one that exceeds your expectations, and if you don't find one, you might realize that you didn't really "need" it anyway.
Here are somethings that I do, and strive to be better at doing. Remember that it is a learning process that takes time, and if you can commit yourself to just one of these (or something else that fits better for you), then you will be surprised at how much something so little can take you so far.
1. Use Cash - I try to spend only my bills and save my change. I put it in a jar and forget about it. At the end of the year I take the time to count and roll it up myself. It takes some time but it is gratifying when I realize that I have accumulated about $150-200+ that I can use to spend on me. That means I can get things I wouldn't normally get, or I can get more than I normally would. Also, paying with cash helps keep me from overspending on my "flexible" item when I go shopping. If I have enough cash for it then great! If not, then it's probably better that I skip it, and/or look for something else that I can afford. Remember, be diligent but flexible.
2. Rule of three - I try to have at least three of each item at all times. Of course you can have more, but three is a reasonable number to wrap your head around especially if you are just getting started and extra-specially regarding food storage and rotations. Once I even think about using one of my three, it gets added to the list and replaced.
3. Barter - This is something I want to be better at doing. Rather than selling things I don't need anymore, or charging money for crocheting a hat, I have come to realize that people tend to be more open to a trade or barter. Something I have for something you have, or something you have for something I have. Don't be afraid to ask about trading services for goods, or goods for services, or goods for goods. It takes money out of the equation which is somehow psychologically more effective from both sides.
4. Network and prep it forward - Knowing who you can count on and what you can count on them for COUNTS! What skills or resources do you, your friends and family, or your neighbors have? All you have to do is ask, and let those around you know what you have to offer and would be willing to help them out with. Maybe your neighbor has a garden of abundance. Offer to help them weed, harvest, and preserve. They get help and you get knowledge and experience, not to mention the possibility of taking some of that goodness home.You will need to make sure this is a two way street and don't be afraid to revisit the deal, or bow out completely, if it is not beneficial to both sides.
5. Challenge yourself - Do what you are afraid to do, or do what you don't think you need to because someone else is doing it. We all have our excuses about why we don't do certain things, but the only thing anyone can ask of you, including yourself, is that you try. For example, try a new recipe each week. Think outside and inside the box. That means, know how to make things from scratch as well as with things that are already prepared. For example, instead of buying a package of lunchmeat, roast a chicken. It will go so much further than just sandwiches. If you already roast chickens for lunchmeat, see what you can do with the giblets. Go beyond what you are used to. You will expand your knowledge and more often than not you will find that knowing how to do something, even if you do it just once, will come in handy and you will be glad that you have that knowledge and experience.
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