By Daisy Luther
Everyone has heard of those crazy folks who are all ready to hunker down in a bunker with some buckets of freeze-dried food and a bunch of guns – it’s the fodder of quirky news stories and the avatar of many a deranged serial killer in the movies. So how does a perfectly normal person end up turning into a survivalist prepper?
I get asked this a lot because I come across as fairly normal and sane. But, despite my average-mom exterior, I’ve been a prepper for more than 20 years and there’s most likely a gun tucked away in my girlie-looking purse.
So, let’s dispel a few myths and answer a few questions, shall we? At the end, let me know if the how and the why make more sense than you thought they would.
How did you get started prepping?
Just about every prepper I know has a story about something awful that happened during which they felt helpless to take care of their families. And I’m no different.
My turning point occurred when my first baby was just over a month old. There I was, at home with that precious little bundle, when my husband walked in from work one night and told me he’d been laid off.
We didn’t have much money saved up. We had a few groceries in the kitchen but were by no means stocked up. We had diapers to buy, rent to pay, and a car to keep on the road, and suddenly, not a penny of income. My husband applied for unemployment and desperately sought work, picking up some day labor here and there. It was dismal and terrifying. We ate bagels and peanut butter for weeks because I’d stocked up when they were on sale. We had some broccoli and tomatoes from our vegetable garden and that was absolutely it. I have no idea what we would have done for our baby if I hadn’t been nursing when this all occurred.
And it was during that time I went all Scarlett O’Hara with the carrot and waved my fist around in a field and yelled, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again!”
Okay, there wasn’t actually a carrot or a field, but I did make that vow.
That was when my mindset changed because I realized how quickly life can change. One day, things are ticking along, you are feeling relaxed and happy, and then WHAM, the Universe shows you that sh*t does indeed happen.
I was determined to be prepared for those moments when things went wrong instead of blissfully ignoring them, because now, for the first time in my life, someone was depending on me to make things okay no matter what. At the time, I had no idea it was called “prepping.” I just thought I was frugal.
What epic disaster are those crazy survivalist preppers actually getting ready for?
A lot of folks who have an opinion on the preparedness world base that opinion on TV shows like Doomsday Preppers. But, just like basing your opinion of homesteaders on a few television shows, it belies one’s ignorance when a program designed for entertainment value and ratings is their font of knowledge.
On that show, each prepper featured is said to be getting ready for some singular type of Armageddon. Maybe it’s a nuclear war or a Russian invasion. Maybe they think an asteroid is going to strike the earth. Maybe it’s an economic collapse and the subsequent Mad Max world that follows.
While all of those things are within the realm of possibility (I mean, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton for the presidency, which proves that anything can happen), they are far from the most likely scenario. And the people on the show don’t really think that either. Hours of interviews and footage are cleverly edited to make each participant look bat-crap crazy because that makes for good TV. Of course, in some cases, the people are legitimately bat-crap crazy, like the one guy who said he was an Apex Predator but then went right back to prison after the show aired because he, a felon, was televised shooting a firearm.
While not denying that disaster-movie-level bad things can happen, what most of us are prepping for are things that are far more mundane than a giant asteroid. Things like…
- Being ready for storms that knock the power out for a week
- Having the supplies on hand to battle a stomach virus that hits every person in the family at the same time
- Stocking enough water to get through it without rushing to the store when a contaminant gets into the local public water supply (this happens at least 6 times a year right here in the US)
- Being able to evacuate rapidly if you live in an area prone to wildfires or hurricanes
But the most common concern that people prep for, that worst-case scenario that actually does happen to so many of us isn’t at all glamorous and would never be the subject of an exciting movie of the week.
It’s being prepared for it if the primary breadwinner for the family loses his or her income.
Let’s face it, that is the epic disaster that we’re all the most at risk for.
It could happen in so many ways. That person could be fired or laid off. The business could close, like thousands of retail industries are charted to do this year. The primary breadwinner could become chronically ill or injured, and thus unable to work.
Most families do not have a large savings account set aside these days because life just costs so dang much. Many people are only one missed paycheck away from financial ruin. Few of us could go without income for more than a month or so.
However, when you put aside food, sanitation supplies, cleaning supplies, and whatnot, and you hone the skills necessary to produce some of your own, then you are far better suited to weather this particular crisis that could happen to anyone.
Would you rather head to the food bank after a week of unemployment or head to your own pantry? The answer seems clear to me.
What’s with all the guns?
Not all preppers are armed to the teeth with tens of thousands of dollars worth of firearms. Sure, some are, but for the most part, people have just one or two personal weapons, and some don’t arm themselves at all.
As for me, the middle aged mom? I’m a concealed carry permit holder and it’s a pretty safe bet that I have a Glock in that boho, flowered purse I’m carrying, and if not, then it’s probably tucked away under the flowy shirt I have on.
I learned a valuable lesson during a potential home invasion that happened at our place in the country. You don’t generally have time to say, “Hang on, Bad Guy. Let me go grab my gun so we can have this conversation on equal footing.” That unsettling incident was the impetus I needed to realize how quickly things could happen, and I began keeping a firearm within reach at all times, even at home. My daughters are also proficient shooters because if they are ever home alone when someone bursts through the door, I want to increase their chances of survival and level the playing field. Anyone who says she is pro-woman and anti-gun is full of baloney or completely ignorant, because there is no greater equalizer in a physical conflict than a firearm.
In the aftermath of a disaster, heck, anytime really, we can’t rely on 911 to save us. We should be prepared to save ourselves. You know what they say: when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Personally, I think being armed is an essential part of being prepared, but no one will take away your prepper card if you aren’t.
How would one get started if one did not want to go full-on, bunker-dwelling, gas-mask-wearing crazy?
I understand. You want to do it but you don’t want to be nuts. You don’t want to be the subject of a mainstream media article in which they put the word prepper in quotes each time they use it like it’s some kind of made-up word and not actually in the dictionary.
So here’s how you get started. No one even has to know you’re doing it.
- You must keep abreast of current events that could potentially affect you. (I’ll keep you posted if you’d kindly leave me your email address. I send out an email 5-6 times per week letting you know what’s on the horizon.)
- You can begin shopping carefully to stock up on a supply of food. (Here’s how to do that, even if you’re on a tight budget and like healthy, organic food.)
- You need to stock up on at least a 2-week supply of water – remember, water contamination emergencies happen at least 6 times a year right here in America.
- You should learn more about the types of scenarios you need to prep for and take some steps toward that. (Sign up for this daily email to get a tip every day on budget prepping and take a look at this very comprehensive book.
- You need to pay off debt and build an emergency fund. Remember how I said the most likely disaster to strike any of us was financial? This will help you through such a crisis.
Here’s an article on how to be a prepper, but not one of those crazy ones.
Being a prepper actually isn’t that crazy of a thing to do.
There have been many times in my life I was glad to be prepped and never once when I said, “I sure wish I didn’t have all this food and toilet paper.”
My emergency fund has seen me through many rainy days. My supplies helped keep a roof over our heads once when I got laid off and the choice would have been between buying groceries or paying the mortgage. When California was drowning in rainfall last year, we had what we needed on hand to stay safely at home when all the roads dangerous or closed due to sinkholes, avalanches, flash floods, and mudslides. When a wildfire drew near, we were prepared in minutes to evacuate. When our well stopped working, we were able to maintain hygiene, care for our livestock, and quench our thirst until it was fixed.
None of these scenarios are outrageous. They’re ordinary life events. Although the natural disasters in your area might be different than ours, every area is prone to something. The key is to be ready for things to go wrong every now and then. That keeps a crisis in the realm of “inconvenience” instead of “epic disaster.” It isn’t doom and gloom to be prepared. It’s actually a form of optimism because you have the confidence that you will be able to get through anything that life throws at you.
And on the odd chance that once-in-a-lifetime mega-disaster strikes? You will be ready and you will be glad.
Being prepared for an emergency is really no different than buying insurance to cover your home or keeping an umbrella in the car. It’s about being ready if things go wrong so that an emergency doesn’t completely ruin your day. You and your family deserve to feel safe, comfortable, and secure, no matter what.
Yep, Its the surprise circumstance… Like no power in winter.. and you relied on a machine to keep you alive…
Snowed in in the country and no way to get out…. That ‘ill get you started… Then you see how crazy it’s gitten.
And the old Boy Scout in you says “Be Prepared”… P.S. I enjoy your blog. Keep it coming. Pat
Great article to help people understand. I feel sorry for those who say this or that will never happen to them. Simple life emergencies do happen. Boy Scout motto is not a thing of the past it is practical advice for daily living– Always be prepared.
May God Bless you in your work
“How Did a Nice Girl Like Me Turn Into a Gun-Toting Survivalist Prepper?”
I get asked this question too. I think my family was SHOCKED when I got my concealed carry license. (I told very few people.) LOL!
Some had difficulty picturing a former elementary school teacher who still teaches Sunday school, is a mother and grandmother with a gun.
Unfortunately, some people will never understand. But, I do think more people are realizing the need to be prepared.
I always enjoy reading your articles.
Take care! Have a great day!
Very good article. Well done!
Blessings always, Jeremiah
Right, always carry and be ready to defend yourself and your loved ones.
Situational awareness is key, as you talked about in your great article here… https://www.theorganicprepper.com/taharrush-asylum-seekers-play-the-rape-game-across-europe-01132016
…and having plenty of fresh water, food, medical/bathroom supplies on hand.
I love this article. As I tell my kids, anything is possible, but not everything is probable. As a kid I was in our house when it was jumped by a tornado so I have always been a bit paranoid that the sky would open up and try to kill me again, but the thing that made me comment on this article was that you started as frugal. When I was single, and even after my husband and I were married I never would have called myself a prepper. I was frugal and an extreme couponer. That is where I started the overflowing pantry. If you buy extra non-perishables when they are dirt cheap, you really cut your grocery costs. Plus you never have to run out for toilet paper at 2 am because you just ran out! After I had my kids I started actively prepping. Like you said, I needed to be able to take care of them, no matter what. And you know things have happened. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had food poisoning and the entire family got a stomach virus, my son was less than a year old at the time. Two weeks after my daughter was born our electricity was out for several days. I had just gotten all the frozen and perishables in coolers and the kids (a newborn and a 15 month old) and myself packed to bug out to my mother’s house, two weeks after a c-section none the less, when the lights came back on. That same summer someone shot out one of our windows with a BB gun so two days with out a window. By the end of the summer my husband got pushed out of his job so we were without income. All that was before either of my kids hit two. Since then things have not been all smooth sailing. We have gone 3 weeks of July with no air conditioning, had expensive car repairs including replacing a transmission, need to repair our house, lost electricity and gotten sick multiple times. We have been to the emergency room and to the urgent care a couple times too. But you know what, an emergency fund, a full pantry, and a household full of equipment and supplies have seen us through it all. Yes, I prep for the big disasters but those preps have saved my butt during all the every day disasters time and time again. Honestly, in my mind being a prepper is just part of being a mom. You carry band-aids, granola bars and crayons in your purse and keep water, a change of clothes and a first aid kit in the car, it only makes sense to prepare your home and your life for whatever may happen as well.
Emergency fund – I get $1300/month Social Security as my only income. Over the years I have been able to save back some money. Not a lot, but it is emergency funds only, not for “That gadget looks nice, I think I’ll buy it” funds! About 3 weeks ago my clothes washer quit. Using the funds I ordered a new timer for it, which did not help. So, looking around the appliance stores I found a used washer that was $300 delivered and set up. Again, the emergency funds bought it for me. If I had not had that I would still be washing my clothes by hand!
So, even if you are low income, yes you can! Put back whatever you can each month, even if it is only $5 or $10. Do not touch it for anything but an emergency!
Now, I gotta get to work rebuilding my emergency funds! 🙂
My husband and I grew up in less than wealthy families in rural areas. As a former girl scout and girl scout leader, I agreed with the motto of “Be prepared.” We always liked to have extra food in the house, as we lived in a rural area with electricity that went down often with storms.
The financial problems with U.S. banks and our economic difficulties in the fall of 2008, were the driving force for my husband and I to take MORE steps to become more prepared and more self reliant. At the time, we searched the internet and had difficulty finding reliable sources as to steps to take. Our business was in a slow period and we didn’t have a lot of money to spend. (I wish you had your website then!) A Mormon friend shared links to help me get started.
Since then, we have learned many things, including gardening, dehydrating food, canning, etc. I believe preparedness is a journey. You just keep working at it.
Thank you for all you do to help others become prepared! May the Lord bless and guide you!
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another great article. i do enjoy reading your posts and am still learning at almost 70 years old. we may not agree on politics but you are a smart person and you help lots of people. looking forward to learning much more….
Most of the nice girls I know are Gun-Toting Survivalist Preppers.
Yes I am just getting started in prepping.
Please let me know any information you receive on what is going on. I am fighting up hill battle between my wife who think what I am doing is silly. & me having rheumatoid arthritis. I am not give up though from grown son and my Six grand children. I love you article and
Attitude!!! You seem like a very intelligent lady. So this why I am s asking for your help in prioritizing things first and go from there! Thank you ! BEAR
You are so right and on the ball. I like what you’ve had to say. I have been a prepper since 9 11 shortly after that happened I was layed off with no backup money, food,gas for car it’s an offal feeling. I am now prepared for anything to happen well ok almost anything I do not have a bunker but I can hunker down or bug out and there are plenty of places to go under ground if need be. My wife thought I was crazy but I can can say I am not worried shit hits the fun. If it’s nuclear I would not want to live anyway. You can have fun with that.
Great article. You used phrases that my wife and I have often said. It’s not crazy to be prepared, it’s crazy NOT to be.
…and that’s the thing…even a power outage or a trucking strike lasting just a week can have a huge impact on one’s life. It’s not just about the zombie apocalypse. Good post.
Great article. Most people do focus way too much on a cataclysmic events, rather than the boring and mundane, like losing a job or bad weather. Growing up poor, I always had the save for a rainy day and stock up on sales days type attitude, but never really thought about it, even when sleeping in reststops due to hurricane evacs. It became really clear during Hurricane Katrina (I got out). In MS and AL, scenes were taken right out of War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise version) when you see thousands upon thousands of people stranded because they were out of gas. Thankfully I was prepared for that, and had a gun to protect myself and the women I was with.
That being said, another thing I learned, from my girlfriend at the time, is if you are going to panic, panic early. If you don’t, you are better off sheltering in place, as the contraflow highway system is an absolute failure. Oh, by panic, I mean evac’ing.
Nice Article. Great summary of what “real” preppers are all about. Our adventures started back in 1980 when the economy tanked and we survived losing jobs with a newborn child, etc. We decided then and there – that we would never be “unprepared” again. Life happens to all of us. In 2009, we survived an ice storm in Kentucky where we were without power for more than 21 days. My wife said that it was the easiest winter camping we had ever done.
Really enjoy your posts; keep up the good work. I share your posts with some of our non-prepping friends and I think you are making some converts.
I had a ‘cushy’ job for almost 7 years, and all of a sudden it went away…it took me a couple of years to even find a minimum wage job. I don’t know what we would have done without our stores. We are in a position now where we are struggling to build those stores back up. But thankfully we had them when we needed them.
Great article, very accurate.
This is a really great article, Daisy. People often ask me how I also became a “prepper”. There’s nothing really wrong with prepping. I always tell them that it’s better to be ready than to regret eventually. Preparing is the key to survival. Not only stashing food or other materials we need when the disaster comes, I always save a little money as our emergency fund. Over the years we have been doing this, and it’s very useful and has been a great help.