My family and I are new to prepping in the sense of the Survival Triangle. Water/Food, Shelter/Heat, and Protection all tied together by energy make up this Survival Triangle. These are the things we are beginning to think about and prep for now (many thanks to Zion Prepper for his wonderful book on this subject; The Prepper’s Handbook). However, as I look back over the last three years I realize this was not where our prepping started. Our prepping started with a lifestyle change that I rarely see mentioned on prepping sites, but one without which none of our other prepping activities would be possible. So this article is to those individuals who may just be starting out in the exploratory phase of prepping facing the same situation we were in.
Three years ago we were a family swimming, no drowning actually, in a sea of consumer debt. We had two car loans and multiple credit cards, all of which were maxed out. Even though we had a good income we found that there was always more month and the end of our money. We had let our wants become more important than our needs and debt was a way of life. In that situation it was impossible to undertake a food storage plan, we were struggling just to have groceries for the week! Every dollar of our income was devoted somewhere. We were living Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is slave of the lender”. Our paychecks, our labors, were committed to the repayment of the debts we had amassed. Prepping was just not possible, and at that time, was not even on our radar.
It was time for a change and so our first “prep” began. We undertook a quest to become debt free. We reexamined our “needs” and found that quite a few of those were really “wants”. “I need a new car”, no I wanted a new car. “We need new drapes, dishes, etc.”, no we wanted those items. The items we had were perfectly fine and we determined to put our wants aside. We were flying without a budget, living on the deficit spending of credit (much like our government). So the family budget was born. We found Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University program and learned to spend every dollar “On paper, on purpose, before the month began”. We retired the credit cards from service and started paying them off one at a time. We undertook couponing with a vengeance and planned our grocery shopping. This actually led to the beginnings or our food storage. With a budget, coupons, and the ads from the grocery stores we became bargain hunters. When toilet paper went on sale and we had coupons, we bought in bulk. If Manwich went on sale and we had coupons, we bought it by the case. We did the same with soups, condiments, and any other non-perishable items. We got a Costco membership and started buying flour, rice, cheese and other staples in bulk. Rather than calling for delivery pizza, we started making our own at home. We discovered that using bulk flour, cheese and pepperoni we could make 3 large pizzas for our family of seven for under $5. It has taken us 3 years, but we are now debt free except for our mortgage.
During this time we also undertook gardening to supplement our groceries and started canning our own vegetables. We had always done a few tomatoes, but this expanded to beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage. The more we gardened the more we found we really enjoyed it. We now can large quantities of pickles, tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, salsa, beans, sweet potatoes and crab apple jelly and that’s just from the crops we grow in our yard. We also buy apples at local orchards to can apple butter and apple pie filling.
When we first decided to swear off credit our relatives thought we were crazy. Now that our prepping has started in earnest they are “sure” of it. We’ve drunk the kool-aid, and love it. Having the debt off our backs gives us the freedom to pursue seriously the Survival Triangle to ensure that I never have to look my wife and five sons in the eyes and say “I’m sorry we have no food”. For us, the First Prep was debt elimination.
Proverbs 6:6-9 (ESV)
6Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
7Without having any chief, officer or ruler,
8she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
9How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?