Reality Checks and Baby Steps

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.

R.K. CA

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Comments

Good to know! Never thought about baby steps or the rule of three, but it makes things more gradual and less overwhelming...great!

Great advice!

Very reasonable steps that most people should be able to incorporate into daily life. Good work!

I love the social aspects of this article! Preparedness isn't just about stocking up, it's also about working with others and building relationships that are mutually beneficial. I also agree with the statement, "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." I can't count how many times I will be thinking about an item that I really need or want, and then see it at a yard sale or second hand store a week or so later.

Great advice!!

mmmmm.. I love raspberries!

Thanks for the great tips on living better!

Worth noting: Remember, be diligent but flexible."

I like all the ideas, will take the time to digest them.

I plan to share these ideas with my friends and family.

Thanks for taking the time to share your ideas, RK.

Very thoughtful and practical.

Excellent advice!

:)

:D

great advice, thanks!

These are such key concepts to keep in mind, but I always forget them! Thanks for reminding me.

Thanks for all the practical advice!

Most PRepared 2012!

Well thought out, with goals that can actually be accomplished.

AWWWWWWW...SHUCKIE DUCKIE !!!!!!

YES!

excellent post! very informative !

I really like the idea of bartering for other goods and services. Makes things so much more interesting and fun!

I also really like the idea of trying to spend cash only. Doing that would definitely save me a couple bucks on the plastic that burns a gaping hole in my pocket.

Your advice was very helpful!

This is great advice! And it is especially helpful for college students who sometimes forget how to be resourceful with their busy schedules.

This is really motivational and I plan to implement these ideas in my life and share it with others.

Awesome!

Rooting for you RK!!!!

My last vote goes to you. You deserve it.

This makes perfect sense. I have a tendency to overstock in a panic and end up with forty boxes of ramen i don't need. It makes more sense to keep the items around that you actually use and to make sure you always have the right amount.

Just reiterating my vote

This was so well said I linked it to my Facebook account.

This lady knows her stuff.

I have tried Miner's Lettuce and but I will have to try Purslane.

I like the idea of going to second hand stores.

Excellent practical tips that can be easily incorporated into everyday life :)

Using cash is a great way to save money. Over the last few years I've been relying mainly on cash and I find that in addition to spending less, I don't "feel" so broke when I have actual money on me. Plus it makes balancing a checkbook and paying credit card bills less stressful.

I also really like the idea of bartering. For some reason I don't feel comfortable "selling" things that I make. I usually just give them away as gifts, but it's fun to receive homemade items from others as well.

Thank you for your advice!

Keeping stocked up on grocery staples (rule of 3) is a great idea. I love to cook, but when I don't have the ingredients I need it sometimes seems easier to just get take-out even though it's more expensive and usually not as good as something I could make at home. When the kids are hungry and it's getting late, I don't want to have to wait to go to the grocery store and then wait to prepare the meal as well.

Great job Raven!

Great advice! And I love that you mentioned bartering. My husband is an artist and he barters for things all the time. It is such a great way to go! Thanks for all the awesome tips!

Creative thinking!!

Great tips

"Baby steps"!!!!

Going to take your advice on the article and you have my VOTE!!! :)

This is an excellent article, which I think deserves the top prize. What I like is how detailed R. K. goes into strategies for managing life. Rather than speak in the abstract, she manages to make the article interesting by giving specific examples within her own life. She offers reasonings behind each technique that further exemplifies their merit. Hence, the purpose is both concise and detailed. Overall, this is well-written.

Challenging yourself is a really great idea - I think I'll roast a chicken over the weekend

Creating lists sounds like such a good practice - and having the patience to wait for what you need will be something to work on

Thank you so much for sharing

I love the "Rule of Threes," concept! Very helpful!

Very interesting article!

I love the concept of networking and prepping it forward. It's great to know your neighbors and what kinds skills and services you could exchange.

woohoo!

Realistic, practical and helpful!

Fantastic article!

Excellent advice! I find this to be very helpful and informative!

Great thoughtful ideas.

Sound advice, I like rules of 3 idea.

Great article. Simple but efective.

Great article! love all of these rules and definitely going to take them into account throughout my daily life!

Great article! Excellent advice!

The article was excellent and it goes back to what Grandpa and Gramma taught us: "Don't buy it unless you have the CASH to pay for it". I started using CASH for groceries, and only allow a certain amount each week. Once it's gone - that's it. It makes you think about what you NEED and what you WANT and what you can wait for. More people should think this way. Also, I think it gives "self-pride" in the challenge of doing those things, and makes you proud, when you know how much money you've saved! Thank for sharing!
Kitty in Arizona

I love the idea of learning how to be self-sufficient. There was an interview with a lady who's house has been completely taken over by stockpiling food. I'd rather learn to looks towards nature as a food source.

Great article! It makes me excited for the coming season and all of the canning that comes with it. It makes me feel so good to be able to take care of my family in that way. Thanks for all of the tips.

I love it!

Great advice Raven!

Yes...I do need help! OR HELP! Thanks for the tips!

Thanks for the helpful tips, Raven!

No kidding! There is alot of information in the other entries, but this one makes it easy for me to see how I can get started. Thanks for the tips.

I read this a couple weeks ago and roasted a chicken and made chicken broth. Then I used the broth to make some rice to go with my chicken. So much better than using water! I feel so good about myself that I accomplished something so simple but that I hadn't though of. Thanks!

It's a great idea to take advantage of buy one, get one deals to stockpile/do your rule of three!

I fear clutter such so much that I don't really keep enough of anything around to be considered prepared and I value my limited storage space too much. I am not sure how to overcome that, but this is definitely an inspiration to become more prepared!

Thanks for sharing! Great Ideas!!!!

I vote !

I'm prepared, are you?

SO awesome, you have my vote!!!

I took your rule of 3 to heart and surprised my wife with four things of flour, salt, maize, sugar, rice, and one HUGE bag of pinto beans. I told her that once she gets low on the first bag to get another one so we always have at least 3 backups. She doesn't quite get it yet but we're working on it!

Oh! and we are preserving nopales! Canning and drying!

Great tips! I've started making an effort to use cash more... it DOES make you more mindful of what you are spending. And, fyi, I'll trade you yoga lessons for some of your awesome crochet goodies!

Awesome!

Great advice!

I started couponing and that definitely helps you stockpile too!

Fantastic! I have a stockpile of toothbrushes, deodorant, nyquil, razors, cough drops. I figure if I have the medicine we won't get sick! Lol! Usually we get sick then have to go get the medicine. :-)

We learned about using cash at a couponing class I took and it really helps so your not going over budget.

Great ideas, Networking is such a big part of being prepared.

Good tips. If I had to pick one it would be challenging myself. I love living the life of a bachelor but I need to be more creative with food. Going to try a bean dessert recipe I found on this site. Thanks.

Another vote for tip #1. I already use cash and put the change aside but I like that you put it out there for others.

Considering incorporating tip #2. It would be nice to have some extra food stored so I don't have to go to the store as often. 3 is a good number to start with.

Raven is awesome.

#5 is definitely where I need to keep improving.

Another cheer for Raven! Hip Hip Hooray!

Re: #3 --- sometimes when I'm short on cash, my counselor lets me pay her in home-cooked meals. I am all for bartering.

Good way to look at it.

I could be better at making $ stretch, great tips!

Great job!

Sometimes I trade cookies for candy at work!

I know you care about this subject!

Rule #5 is great as well, always a good reminder.

Good approach for those who are starting out - but also good reminders for those who are 'casual' preppers

Very informative.

Nice article!

Didn't know that about iodine.

Now I want to look up "potable"

Thanks for sharing.

I agree with acting on reality checks that happen more and more, but I disagree with the baby steps a little. You need to hit it full on and get to your goal before it gets worse but i guess baby steps is at least a start. Good ideas.

These are very broad tips and can be easily applied to daily life. Our society has trained us to be dependent on others, especially government run social services. I like the idea of challenging yourself. Its the only way to get out of a rut.

Networking and bartering doesn't work if you have a limited circle or people you can't trust. Only if you are around like minded people. They are hard to find but not impossible.

I live in the city and work 60-80 hours a week at a hospital. This entry and this blog has got me thinking about going back to the basics and being more mindful of being more prepared. Thanks.

Thank you everyone for your comments/votes! I was pleasantly surprised that so many of you read the entry and made thoughtful comments, and that you took the time to peruse the blog and other entries. I am also happy that it has encouraged to to think about ways to be more prepared for short and long term situations. Here's to us!

Loving the Rule of 3!

Going back to the basics and using the resources around you to be prepared is the best way to do it!!

By the way this was a really good read!!

thank you for taking the time to share it with the world! :O)

I bartered my dog/house-sitting services for a scooter. It was an enjoyable experience, and now my gas costs have dropped! :)

I received a lot of feedback from people who didn't comment/vote on this entry because they said that if this is my plan of attack then I am DOOMED!!! Well, yes... but the tips I provided are in the spirit of "outreach" and I wanted to appeal to people who have not started to prepare for the long haul, or who are not sure where to start. Even so, I appreciate that they took the time to read it, and I hope they were able to get something more from the blog and other entries. Thanks for NOT voting for me "just because". I really mean that!!!!

go for it anyway!!!!

Number 5 is where its at. You'll never experience the great things out there in life if you don't challenge yourself! Its nice to be reminded to do that on occasion.

A proven methodology having been practiced by many generations. But, a timely reminder on these proven steps spelled out. They have helped carve out many careers and lives while juggling the daily tasks and responsibilities we all face while making ends meet. Keep your eye on the prize, while keeping to your goals & agenda. An excellent and proven resource.

The barter idea is great--it's easy for me to make a friend a scarf when she buys me coffee a few days in a row, or buy her dinner when she helps plan my party (I hate making phonecalls!). It's true that you feel better about using your expertise and/or time to actually *help* instead of discussing dollar amounts.

Barter! Barter! Barter!

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