The art of prepping can take many forms, from radical survivalists to home canning aficionados. But at its core, it’s a practice of being prepared — and one that anyone can do.
If storing and stockpiling a couple months’ worth of food and supplies sounds intriguing, here’s how to get started.
Assuming the prepper mindset
The most important aspect of prepping is to reframe your mindset about preparedness. Preppers assume a mentality that it is important to be able to sustain yourself even if our daily systems and social structure fail. Instead of having anxiety about the potential failure of society, they choose preparedness, whether that means just having a little extra food or developing survival skills.
“I think prepping [is] a mindset,” said Jonathan Evans, a prepper who lives off-grid in the Belfast area. “What you need is your mind: you need compassion, you need to stay out of fear [and] you need to be able to survive on the fly.”
Part of this is practicing austerity on the day-to-day, and learning to appreciate what it takes to make the various things we use.
“Our mentality today is I can just go to the store to buy it,” said Mike Enos, a prepper based in Auburn and Porter. “We don’t really appreciate how long it takes to grow an animal or grow food. People need to embrace a little more austerity.”
How much you need to store
Enos said that with prepping, you often need less than you think.
“You don’t need 10 years worth of food,” Enos said. “A couple months of extra food would have been great for a lot of people when the coronavirus hit.”
Evans said that a good rule of thumb is to have three to four months worth of supplies.
“Right now is the time to do it before the shelves are stripped clean,” Evans said.
How to stock up
Enos said to start by auditing what you use over the course of a few weeks. As you purchase these items for daily use, buy a little bit extra to accumulate it over time.
“Think about the things you use: toilet paper, paper towels, whatever types of food you eat,” Enos said.
To start, Janice Jewett, a prepper based in Ashland, said to look out for what’s on sale in terms of non-perishable or preservable food (whether that is through canning or freezing) that you and your family likes to eat.
“Anyone just starting, watch your store flyers for what’s on sale and buy 10 of a sales item,” Jewett said. “Also, only buy what your family will eat. Beans and rice are good long term storage foods.”
Stocking up bit by bit not only helps build up your food stores in case of an emergency, but Enos said it will help you to save money in the long term.
“You are saving money buying it now because inflation is always going to occur,” Enos explained. “If I buy it now, I am buying it for less than I will in six months, possibly.”
Enos also emphasized that prepping does not have to be — and, if done correctly, truly should not be — expensive.
“If I would like to have three months of food on hand and I don’t have a lot of money, I will save five bucks, every time I go to the grocery store [and use it to] buy storable food,” Enos said. “Anyone can prep, even if they don’t have a lot of money. It’s just about being smarter with your money.”
Enos added that the average person also probably doesn’t need a bunker.
“If you were a millionaire or billionaire that would make sense, but that’s because they have that kind of wealth,” Enos said. “The things that you or I would need is everyday stuff.”
Prepping does not necessarily mean you have to develop survival skills, Enos said. Extremely wealthy people, for example, are able to set up bunkers with all the amenities they could possibly need.
“Wealthy people don’t have the time or any of those skill sets,” Enos said. “When you hear about these bunkers, it’s a person with $100 million who wants to walk in and be done.”
However, for preppers that do not have the wealth to hire out skills, it could be beneficial to learn some self-sufficiency skills for yourself.
“I have a heck of a library,” Evans said. “One thing that all preppers should have is a huge library of books on how we did things way back in the day: how to preserve, how can, seed saving, gardening vegetables.”
Not all skills are appropriate for all preppers, though — for example, shooting.
“If you’re not comfortable with a gun [and] you’re not going to take the time to learn how to use it, you’re more likely to hurt yourself than anything,” Enos said. “You’re going to hear people say yes it’s an absolute must — well, maybe it isn’t for the 70 year old person who lives in downtown Portland and wants to make sure they have a little extra food.”
The last essential element, Enos said, is to stay abreast of the news. This doesn’t mean getting sucked into doomsday conspiracy theories, but paying attention to global trends in financial markets, health and other influential sectors.
Enos said he and his wife were gathering additional supplies for the coronavirus lock-down in early January, weeks before the first case was announced in the United States.
“Coronavirus came in and completely clobbered our whole economy,” Enos said. “The only thing I would say people should take away is that they need to be more aware of stuff that’s going on. My daily life is hectic, everybody else’s is, [but] what’s worse — worrying about something for a little bit and planning for it or getting side swiped by it?”