Return of the Prepper #3 : What am I prepping for?

In a comment on yesterday’s Return of the Prepper post, @livinguktaiwan asked what I am prepping for – “a natural disaster or for some unfortunate reason you have financial difficulties?”.

That is a perfectly reasonable question and one that I do ask myself regularly.

As a keen watcher of post-apocalyptic movies it is quite easy to get carried away with heroic visions of fighting off hoards of zombies, leading the resistance against invading aliens or being the gallant survivor whose immunity provides the miracle cure against some virulent plague.

But the reality of course will likely be much more mundane. With my age, health and limited resources and skills I would be unlikely to fulfil any such dramatic roles.

Prepping is about being prepared for difficulties at all levels – from losing one’s job and income to being snowed in on the mountain to strikes causing food shortages to everything beyond.

I have over my years of prepping developing a little ‘disaster scale’ to measure my prepping activities against.

I gave this scale the grandiose title of…

Pennsif’s Personal SHTF Scale (PPSS)

Threat Level Threat Area Examples
0 Family house fire, death of immediate family member, loss of main source of income, major illness
1 Local major flood, explosion at a chemical factory
2 Regional widespread flooding, terrorist dirty bomb, severe earthquake
3 National extreme weather destruction across the country, multiple terrorist attacks in several cities, government collapse, cyber attack on the electricity grid
4 Continental outbreak of war with Russia in Europe, major pandemic, terrorist detonation of a nuclear bomb
5 Global major meteor strike, worldwide pandemic, outbreak of nuclear war between USA and Russia / China


I am sure someone, some body or some worthy institution has codified this in a much more elegant and robust fashion. But this works for me and acts as my onboard scale for planning and prioritising my prepping activities.

Every prepper will likely have some variation of such a scale, and every realistic prepper will likely know what point on that scale that could actually deal with.

Personally while it might be bold and brave to aim for the big #5, in reality the best my family could readily cope with would be #3.

Moving up to the continential type threats of #4 might be doable with some luck and good fortune but I think it would be all survive and no thrive at that level.

So for the here and now I set the targets for our family preparedness squarely at be ready for level #3 threats. Maybe in some areas, overspill of our preps will move us up to #4.

Certainly, with only a casual glance at the news these days, with incidents in Iran, with the latest Chinese coronavirus outbreak and with ever hastening climatic dramatics, it is not difficult to make a strong case for seriously wanting to up our prepping activities to be ready for level 4.

That though can begin to get just too awful to imagine and contemplate.

That is the stuff nightmares made of.

Time, I am sure, to go to sleep…

[ image from ]

Return of the Prepper #2 : Tins v Freeze-dried for long term food storage

Like any good prepper building up a stockpile of long life food is part of the plan.

Traditionally the go-to route for any hardcore prepper is freeze-dried ready meals from the likes of Mountain House, the Wise Company or My Patriot Supply.

These can come in sachets, tins or buckets, with shelf-lives ranging from around 7 years to 25 years.

In the UK the choice of producers is much more limited than in the USA. Mountain House has stopped producing in Europe, so I believe anything still available here is old stock or imports.

Generally these freeze-dried meals are also considerably more expensive in the UK than in the USA where they are much more widely available.

Over the last few years I had been buying some of these products for long term storage. I had managed to collect about 6 weeks supply, and had been planning, when funds permitted, to buy much more – maybe eventually even a year’s worth.

But they are very expensive – commonly up to £5 / USD6.50 per meal – and because of the price, not rotated in with our general eating plans. Therefore they can represent a lot of locked-up capital that is not then available for more immediate prepping needs like investing in solar power.

So recently we have decided to swap our long term food prepping strategy to building up a good supply of tin foods, along with some dried goods like beans, rice and pasta.

Tin food is much cheaper than freeze-dried, and can therefore be much more readily rotated in with our general food consumption.

If you shop carefully at the discount supermarkets like Aldi you can find decent unbranded tin food with up to 2 years marked shelf life (and more in practice) at very cheap prices.

Common products like baked beans, soups, broad beans, sweetcorn, assorted beans, tomatoes as well as tinned fruit, rice pudding and custard are commonly only 20p – 50p, and there often 4 for 3 type offers to bring the price down further.

Pasta and rice are also quite inexpensive and will commonly have a shelf life of up to a year.

This tin based prepping strategy might not appear so long term and mobile, but we are very much thinking in terms of bugging-in not bugging-out. And at our age (approaching 60) thinking 25 years ahead does feel rather extreme and almost inappropriate.

So our current food prepping plan of action is…

  • Collect up to 12 months supply of common tinned foods (baked beans, vegetables, fruit, creamed rice etc)
  • Buy only products that we like and commonly eat
  • Look out for offers and bulk buy opportunities, and buy as cheap as possible
  • Manage the stocks carefully and ensure good rotation so the oldest are always used first
  • Buy 6 – 12 months of dried goods (beans, lentils, rice, pasta) as shelf-life permits
  • Hold up to 3 months of more short life products like flour, UHT milks, sugar, tea, etc, and rotate well
  • Supplement all this with as much fresh and preserved home-grown produce as possible.

I would also like to learn more canning techniques to increase the amount of our own surplus garden produce we can put by. Canning is nowhere near as common in the UK as it is in the USA.

Depending on the exact nature of any emergency I think we can ensure we would have up to a year’s supply of food that is sufficient in calories and in nutrients, and varied and enjoyable enough to eat.

To date I have been following an ad-hoc path of buying as and when offers and funds have allowed. But now I am adapting a more strategic and more methodical route – even bringing a spreadsheet into play.

We are upping our own food production and buying in 3, 6 and eventually 12 months supply of tinned and dried goods.

Finances will have some influence of course, but the plan is to reach full capacity by the end of the year.

What’s your food prepping strategy?

[ images from @pennsif – note, the first image is from before we became vegetarian ]

Return of the Prepper #1 : Keeping chickens for free?

Currently we are down to one chicken and one guard goose.

Our flock of hens was up to about 14 the summer before last but due to age, foxes and buzzards the number has since dwindled. But we were not too fussed as we were spending a lot on feed and producing more eggs than we needed at peak times.

I’m looking to get a few more this spring, but not too many. Many another four or five hens and a new cockerel.

And more importantly I’m looking to have a zero input chicken operation.

Relying on externally sourced corn or pellets is expensive and not self sustaining.

From a prepping point of view I want to move to a system that will continue regardless of what is going on in rest of the world.

Having a cockerel (or two) means we would be able to keep rearing our own birds regardless. Although we would need to introduce fresh bloodlines from new cockerels every year or two to prevent inbreeding.

That is where community resilience would come into play. Hens, cockerels and eggs are great for local bartering and swapping. We have done quite a bit of that already.

Feed-wise we are not looking to raise birds for meat as we are vegetarian now so a high input diet is not needed.

We only give the birds a small amount of mixed corn each day now but I think with better planning that could be eliminated altogether to make our egg production zero cost and totally self-sufficient.

Because of foxes in the area we can’t let the chickens free-range even with the guard goose in action, but they do have a good sized fenced compound to roam in.

That compound will be doubling up as a second orchard this year with the planting of at least dozen mixed fruit trees. In a few years windfalls from the trees will add to the diet of the chickens.

I have just been re-watching Justin Rhodes “20 Creative Ways to cut Chicken Feed Costs by 100%” video.

Some of his suggestions are a little hard core for the here and now – using animal carcasses and roadkill for example. And others such as slaughter by-products and excess cows milk don’t fit in with our operation.

But others are quite usable. We don’t produce anywhere the quantity of food scraps and kitchen waste as Justin’s much larger family appears to, but what we do produce already does go to our flock. Surplus eggs also go back to them when we have too many to give away.

Soldier flies, worm composting, forage crops like buckwheat, blackberries and winter squash are ideas I am going to try.

I’m interesting to hear other ideas. Do you keep chickens? Do you buy in food, or are you self sufficient?

That’s it for now. Time to sleep.

I wonder – do chickens dream of electric eggs…

[ images from @pennsif ]

Return of the Prepper

As I mentioned yesterday, one of my resolutions for the year is to get back to the ways of the Prepper.

Before I came to Steem, prepping was very much my thing with a good dash of homesteading thrown on top.

I’m not a Doomsday Prepper guns and camo type. I’m more Good Life wind and two veg.

My prepping journey began in the 70s with John Seymour’s ‘The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency’ and trips to the Centre for Alternative Technology.

My early adult life took various twists and turns until, at the symbolic age of 40, we moved to our homestead in the hills. 17 acres and a lake on a Welsh mountainside.

The dream finally came true. I was where I wanted to be.

Alas life/work/business got in the way a little, and not all the grand plans fell in to place. But the self-sufficient, or perhaps better termed self-reliant, life has always remained firmly in our sights.

Now 20 years on, with the world getting hotter both politically and climatically, it seems an appropriate point to take stock and refocus our efforts.

We will be consolidating what we have already started, and we will be starting what we haven’t.

Food production will be ramping up, water provision will be expanded, energy generation will be initiated.

We will be starting in the middle and working out.

It does feel a little selfish to be focusing on the us, but I hope we can expand out from here.

Making more connections locally, producing surplus food to give to those in need, sharing resources and skills with others around with a similar mindset.

A big part of prepping is community. That is very much part of the plan.

We are not lapsed preppers by any means, but the last couple of year I have rather taken my eye off the ball at times.

But this year I am feeling rejuvenated and eager to get back on it.

Stay tuned for what comes next…

[ image from ]

Pennsif’s Progress #576 – Hair today, gone tomorrow

Tomorrow my wife is going to cut my hair.

In fact she has been cutting my hair every 8 weeks or so since we got married 31 years ago.

That is an amazing 200 free haircuts.

It was primarily for money saving reasons that my wife started cutting my hair. We were rather short of cash when we first got married.

Back in the day a haircut at a barber would have cost around US$10. Now it will be nearer US$20.

So over the years we have saved somewhere in the region of US$3000 – US$4000. A rather useful sum of money.

My hair has in fact been quite a good source of saving.

I haven’t used a comb (or a watch for that matter) since I moved to Wales nearly 20 years ago. And 18 months ago I went all-in with the ‘No Poo’ approach to hair care when I gave up using shampoo.

Although saving the £££ was a big part of my hair strategy, it wasn’t the only factor.

We wanted to ‘stick it to the man’ and wave another small flag for self-reliance.

I wish was practically adept enough to do many more things for myself and up my self-reliance score more.

I did attempt to cut my wife’s hair in return but that didn’t work out so well. Women’s hair is a wee bit trickier.

How useful it would have been if I could serviced my own car all these years, or tiled the bathroom, or fixed the roof.

I can handle raising animals, growing food and cooking but I have never been much of a DIY’er.

There was never any practical subjects for me at school, and whacking my Dad on the head with a hammer when we were building the rabbit hutch rather dented my hopes of much parental tuition.

I wonder what a curriculum would look like if we decided to go all in on teaching the skills of self-reliance to our children. Homeschoolers and unschoolers have got the edge here, but imagine if schools went that way as well.

Education for Self-Reliance… now that would be a thing.