(Tara Dodrill) Living an off-the-grid or prepper lifestyle is not full of doom and gloom and the absence of typical family activities – quite to the contrary.
It is easy, though, to get lulled into thinking everything is fine and will remain that way. When we do that, we aren’t prepared.
As with all things in life, embarking on a self-reliant lifestyle should start with a solid foundation, and yes, a little bit of homework. Developing a plan that suits your family’s individual needs is crucial to both successful implementation and survival in a crisis.
Here are 10 tips:
1. Learn how much food the members of your family will need to survive. Although you may not be able to purchase or grow enough food to feed everyone for an entire year all at once, do not get discouraged. Adding a little extra food to your shopping cart each week, growing (canning and dehydrating, too) another row of crops, and purchasing long-term storage food every payday will get you started on the road to self-sufficiency. Purchase, raise or grow food items from that pyramid chart we all colored during elementary school many years ago. A balanced diet will become even more important during a survival situation.
2. Exercise. Physical fitness should be among the top priorities for folks to consider when planning to live a more self-reliant lifestyle. Sitting behind a desk all day requires few muscles, but farming, gardening, hunting, chopping wood and a multitude of other routine off-grid tasks demand strength and stamina. Homesteading families do not need a bunch of expensive gym equipment to get fit. Chores both indoors and out will provide ample opportunity to increase muscle tone. When creating a physical fitness training program for the family, think first of crossover activities and craft a chart, set up a scoring system based upon both chore activity, preparedness training, and outright exercise sessions. Going on a hike in the woods as a family offers parents the chance to teach orienteering and tracking to children, enjoy some quality time, and get some exercise at the same time. Self-reliance can be fun and not the least bit scary to youngsters when approached in the right manner.
3. Focus on security. Folks who enjoy living on a homestead in a rural area often enjoy existing in a community with low crime rate. Low does not mean zero, so making a mistake on the possible threat level even before disaster strikes could be deadly. Learning how to shoot a gun for both self-defense and hunting purposes should be done in an age appropriate manner for everyone in the household.
Two-way radios are not too complicated for our tech-savvy children and should be carried when away from the house for security purposes. Self-defense training without weapons should also be a part of the family training; such an activity will not only provide potentially life-saving skills but also aid in physical fitness preparedness as well.
4. Don’t forget fire preparedness. The beautiful cabin in the woods could be reduced to ashes in under an hour if landscaping, flammable storage items, and basic firefighting equipment and skills are not a part of the overall self-reliance plan. Remember the cardinal rule of prepping, “One is none, two is one,” when purchasing water buckets, hoses and fire extinguishers. Brushfires are unpredictable and deadly. Taking a basic firefighting training class should be budgeted into the survival plan.
5. Remember that emergency care in rural areas may not always be there. If the power grid goes down or some other type of man-made or natural disaster occurs, you will not be able to call a doctor. Medical preps and dental preps are perhaps the most difficult aspect of a self-reliance plan. Stocking up on commercial medications is just one route to consider before packing your bags and moving off the grid. Natural remedies and homemade cough syrups and prescription medication alternatives should also be incorporated into the budget. Once again, research and education is key during this process. Learning about herbal remedies and essential oil uses is a great place to begin. Many recipes and instructional videos on traditional medicine alternatives can be found online. Taking a basic first aid course followed by additional survival emergency medicine courses either online or at a workshop is also encouraged. Even a mundane illness or injury can quickly become life-threatening when living in the middle of nowhere or during a disaster. Compile a medical file complete with photo for every member of the family, make a copy of the file, and store both in fire-proof boxes for quick reference and portability.
6. Put together bug-out bags, INCH bags (I’m not coming home) and get-me-home bags, for everyone in the family. The bug-out bags should contain enough food, shelter, water (and/or filtration equipment) firestarters, and a first-aid kit for the carrier to survive for 72 hours after leaving the home. An INCH bag is a more serious version of a bugout bag. These will be heavier and contain more in-depth survival gear, since the carrier does not expect to ever return. A get-me-home home bag is a version of the bug-out bag that is packed with items designed to get the carrier back home from about an hour or two away on foot. Disasters both regional and national can strike at any time. The get-me-home bag in your trunk will come in quite handy when hoofing it home from an evening out to do dinner and a movie when 35 miles away from home. If you do not homeschool your children, include a basic first-aid kit, a map with the route home highlighted, and several nutritional bars and a survival straw in their school backpack.
7. Learn about the items you buy. Spending a lot of money on necessary survival items will not provide the expected benefits if the family does not learn how to use them, continually practicing with them, and keeping them in perfect working order. When the power goes out is not the time to open a box and begin reading the directions by candlelight.
8. Develop a self-sufficient energy supply. Gas generators are great – as long as there is power getting to the local gas station and the roads are accessible to reach them. Solar generators, solar panels, wind, and water energy systems should be one of the first projects embarked upon once the family has a viable and feasible survival plan. Research and educate yourself on the building process and set up and garner the services of a professional to make sure the system will suit your needs if fiscally possible. Make sure extra components are among your preparedness stores, and don’t make the mistake of assuming you can just run to Lowe’s and grab more coil, wire or solar cells.
9. Create a self-sufficiency library. Download videos and burn them to a disc, print plans and recipes, and buy books written by self-reliance and prepper experts. The material in the books will help guide you on both a daily basis and during a doomsday scenario. Do not let the books gather dust on a shelf. Divide the reference material by category and task each family members with becoming the household expert on the topic and then cross-train. If dad is the only one who knows how to splint a broken leg, and he is the one passed out from pain after a farm accident, his knowledge will be lost.
10. Develop mental preparedness. Approaching preparedness from an insurance mindset keeps the most important aspects of plan constantly in focus. It is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed looking at a stack of reference books, a catalog of long-term storage products, or after missing the target during shooting practice. Practically no one rides a bike on the first try and experience more than a few skinned knees along the way. There will be successes and failures when planting, raising livestock, and installing energy and water systems. Do not approach the creation of a self-reliance lifestyle on a rigid timeframe, but as a long-term goal with many adaptations required along the way. Develop realistic long-term goals and celebrate those successes as a family. It is unwise to focus too narrowly on a particular disaster scenario. The basics of self-reliance and preparedness are the same regardless of the emergency envisioned. Learn how to master those necessities and then expand upon your stores, skills and knowledge in a reasonable manner.