12 Proverbs Taught Us to Be Prepared, Were You Listening?

by DB

Proverbs have existed, in part, to teach us (and remind us) how to live our lives in a better way. Cultures have relied on such methods for as long as language has existed, and for good reason: they’re to the point, easy to remember, and provide valuable knowledge in an unassuming manner.


While there are many dozens (even hundreds) of proverbs that I could have included, these twelve that I have selected stood out to me as most appropriate for living a more prepared lifestyle. Enjoy…

“Two is one and one is none”

A very popular proverb that is oft-repeated in preparedness circles. The meaning is simple: expect stuff to break, wear out, get lost, or otherwise be out of order… especially when you need it the most!


Typically applied to tools and equipment, this saying can (and should) be applied to every aspect of a preparedness lifestyle, including disaster plans, knowledge, bug out contingencies, personnel, and so on.

 “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”

This proverb has been around in one form or another for many centuries. In a post-SHTF scenario I firmly believe that disease and infections will be a HUGE problem. That’s why hyper-vigilant sanitation and personal hygiene will be critical to your survival.


Even though our ancestors might not have understood the real reasons for disease—that being bacteria and viruses—they did recognize that good cleanliness led to better health. Heed your ancestors’ advice and be ready to scrub, scrub, and scrub some more!

“You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”

Another proverb that has been in existence for at least several centuries, this saying implies that even though you can show another being the path that must be followed, you cannot force them to do what must be done.


With regards to prepping, I think this proverb most applies to getting others (family and friends) to also prepare. And, as frustrating it can be, the best you can do is to continually show them the way through your good example until they choose to either prepare themselves or, in this case, die from thirst.

“Silence is golden”

This proverb points to (I believe) the fact that not saying anything at all is sometimes the best course of action when the need for secrecy outweighs the need for openness. With regards to prepping it has additional meaning.


In fact, I can’t think of a better application of this saying from a preparedness-mindset than that of one’s OPSEC needs both before and after SHTF. Unfortunately, the more people know about you and your preps the more vulnerable (and targeted) you may become.


Personally, I have a hard time with this. I firmly believe that others (at least good friends and family) should know what I’m doing in the hopes that they’ll follow suit. Thus far I’m not having much luck. I assume they’ll get onboard TEOTWAWKI+1. Regardless, I think Elmer Fudd said it best: “Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits”… lest the rabbits hunt you.

“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”

Another wonderful proverb, if only our government could truly heed this one. J I think we all understand the point of this saying.


The important point I want to get across is that these skills need to be sharedNOW, before SHTF. Do you best to share what you know with family (especially children), friends, and even your neighbors. It can be as innocent as “Hey I’m going fishing, want to come along?” to “I’m building a greenhouse, please help me today”. Either way, others are learning from you even if they don’t know it.

“Waste not, want not”

It’s amazing how wasteful we truly are. Sure, we recycle boxes and cans and even make an occasional trip to recycle our glass jars, but by and large we’re a wasteful family and society. We’ve become accustom to abundance and our lifestyle choices reflect that. In any extended survival scenario we’re going to have to abandon this way of thinking.


We must recognize how to use and reuse nearly everything, from finding new uses for tin cans to recycling greywater, and even utilizing every part of an animal kill just as our ancestors once did. It will be a new (or should I say “old”) way of life. Begin contemplating this now. What finite resources will you need to reuse and what will you do when they are truly gone?

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

I would suspect that anyone who has ever lost everything they own to a house fire or tornado would shout this proverb from the mountaintops. With regards to prepping, I would simply suggest that you shouldn’t have ALL of your food, supplies, and equipment under one roof.


In fact, this is easier to accomplish than you might think. Simply ask a very trustworthy family member or friend to let you store some of your supplies at their home; I’m sure they have a bit of room in their garage or basement to spare.


It’s easy to start. Buy a few large, stackable Rubbermaid bins from Walmart and fill them with basics such as a few changes of clothing for everyone, shoes, maybe rain gear, flashlights and so on. I would also include some money, copies of ID’s and important paperwork, and prescription glasses (if needed) to get you started. You’ll figure out what to put there and you’ll be even better prepared for doing so.

“Jack of all trades, master of none”

Only a few generations ago many Americans could be considered a “jack of all trades”. They seemed to have a mindset of “if it breaks, I can fix it” rather than “if it breaks, who do I call?” This is an important paradigm shift. Our society has become a collection of highly specialized masters who can do one trade very well while being nearly ignorant of everything else.


Take it upon yourself to learn a bit about everything. Look to family, friends, and neighbors who have interests you don’t have. Maybe the guy down the street is changing the brakes on his car so you offer to help, or perhaps your brother-in-law is going to the shooting range and you ask to tag along.


However you do it, begin exposing yourself to disciplines and hobbies you might not otherwise be interested in now so that you’re more versed later. Who knows, maybe you won’t learn enough to rebuild a vehicle’s transmission but you might learn enough to know when you’re getting suckered.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link”

It amazes me to see how willing people are to spend thousands of dollars on firearms and ammunition only to find out that they have virtually no food storage or even basic first aid supplies. Another example might be the guy who purchases a huge (and expensive) generator to power their entire home during a disaster but who has little food in the refrigerator to spoil or, for that matter, doesn’t have the ability to defend themselves from looters.


Please understand that it makes no sense to have thousands of rounds of ammo and no food just as it makes no sense to have years of food stored and no ammo. Ensure that all aspects of your preparedness plans (water, food, first aid, defense, shelter, etc) are considered equally at all times so that there are no weak links in your preparedness chain.

“Practice makes perfect”

We all understand that the more one practices a skill the better they will become at doing it. Target practice is an obvious example. Other examples could include skills such as basic first aid, gardening, and cooking without electricity. Considering that there are many necessary skills one could need in a survival situation there are ample opportunities to practice.


Of course, this proverb also means practicing more than just specific skills. For example, take a leap of faith and flip your main breaker one weekend night (or if you’re brave the entire weekend—*yikes*) to test your preparedness plans. You’ll quickly realize what works and what doesn’t. And the best part is that you can still turn your main breaker back on whenever you like!

“There’s no time like the present”

It’s amazing how easy it is to procrastinate; I know I can be a poster-child for this saying at times. But, like most things in life, you’re never going to get anywhere sitting idle while both time and opportunity pass you by.


If you’ve been sitting on the fence so-to-speak and have not put your prepping into high gear then now is the time to make that happen! After all, tomorrow could be too late.


And last but not least…

“The best things in life are free”

Often I wonder what life will truly be like if (more like when) SHTF. I’m sure I won’t like most of what’s to come. I’ll quickly miss many things about modern life such as Sunday night football, dining out, and the movie theatres. Eventually I’ll miss more important aspects of society such as grocery stores and proper dental care.


Fortunately, for me (and for you) the best things in life truly are free. From time spent with your children, the love of your spouse, and even time for prayer… it’s all free… and it will ALWAYS be so.

20 survival items ebook cover

Like what you read?

Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these innocent little items!

Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link. This will also subscribe you to my newsletter so you stay up-to-date with everything: new articles, ebooks, products and more!

By entering your email, you agree to subscribe to the Modern Survival Online newsletter. We will not spam you.


  1. Funny the sayings and little ditties you remember from your childhood. My parents would often speak ‘sayings’ and ‘proverbs’ to help me get over my life’s little challenges. Some I could not understand fully as a child but now……..there was wisdom in those words. A few of my favorites are ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ or the old ‘pick your friends, don’t let your friends pick you. And remember, Murphy was an optimist. No matter how bad things get, it can always get worse. Keep your caps dry and your powder hidden.

  2. You know – this week every blogsite I visit has put lists like this together and it’s been a eureka moment each time. THANKS I’ve been using these myself for years but never put them all down in one place…

  3. Hey -it just hit me, can offer three more I use regularly use but didn’t invent? How about

    “Use it up- Wear it out- Make it do or do without” (A real Vermonter’s motto)
    “Always try to want what you have, not everything you want”

    And my version of one of these is
    “The strength of the pack is the wolf- the strength wolf is the pack”

  4. Oddly enough, when the term first came into use, “Jack of all-trades, master of none” was something of an insult – often aimed at the British “Tinker/’Gypsy’/Traveler” groups. These folks could all do a pretty-decent job of fixing your wagon wheel, shoeing your horse, fixing your wall or telling you what herbs to feed your ailing cow, but they weren’t “real” wheelwrights, farriers, stonemasons or veterinarians, with houses and shops in town, and established clients.

    As Mr. Heinlein has said so well, “Specialization is for insects”. If TSHTF, I think I’d rather have “Jack” as part of my group.

  5. Prior planning prevents pi** poor performance – a favorite of one of my jungle warfare instructors back in the mid to late ’70’s.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.