How do you find time to do it all?
Where do you start?
How do you gauge progress?
These are common questions from people new to the prepping scene. Of course you can’t do everything all at once, most people just don’t have the time/money/space for it. We have to do it one step at a time.
As preppers we tend to focus on the Beans, Bullets and Band-aids. The Beans part can be overwhelming, especially if you can’t do (or aren’t interested in) the Year-of-Dry-Food packages from food storage venders. There are those who advocate for coupons and bulk buys. And there are those who go for the flats of MRE’s. I follow a different path. I like to know where my food comes from so that I can keep getting it, even when the trucks aren’t delivering. That means a combination of growing my own, gleaning, and buying from local producers. That takes a lot more time, and a lot more small steps.
Small steps can be useful, they are more manageable, and easier to fit into a budget. But, the flip side is they take a little more coordination to keep in synch and it’s easy to lose track of goals and accomplishments.
One of the tools I use to help keep myself accountable for progress made (or not made, whatever the case may be) is the Independence Days challenge that Sharon Astyk started on her blog. The premise is that by reporting weekly on all the small steps you take, you can keep the larger goal in mind and on track. It’s ok if you don’t manage to get a hundred tomato vines planted, as long as you get something planted. If you can keep planting something, every week, from Feb through Sept, other aspects of food storage will fall into place. The continuous planting means a longer harvest season, which means more food available, both to eat now, and to put away for storage. Like planting, it doesn’t always have to be 50 jars of corn that gets put away. A small batch of raspberry preserves counts as progress. Especially when combined with 48 other weeks of small batches. (Yes, 49, let’s keep things real here, you do have to buckle down and do a couple of weeks of serious, kitchen wrecking preserving in order to build up months or years worth of staples.) If you like online methods, you can track the weekly goals on a blog or as comments on her posts. If you are a paper person, you can journal them. This type of food storage is very multi-facted, and the categories she has chosen reflect that.
Plant something: A lot of us were trained to think of planting as done once a year, but if you start seeds, do season extension and succession plant, you’ll get much, much more out of your garden, so I try and plant something every day from February into September.
Harvest something: Everything counts – from the milk and eggs you get from your animals to the first dandelions from your yard to 50 bushels of tomatoes – it all counts.
Preserve something: Again, I find preserving is most productive if I try and do a little every day that there is anything, from the first dried raspberry leaves and jarred rhubarb to the last squashes at the end of the season.
Waste not: Reducing food waste, composting everything or feeding it to animals, reducing your use of disposables and creation of garbage, reusing things that would otherwise go to waste, making sure your preserved and stored foods are kept in good shape – all of these count.
Want Not: Adding to your food storage or stash of goods for emergencies, building up resources that will be useful in the long term.
Eat the Food: Making full and good use of what you have, making sure that you are getting everything you can from your food, trying new recipes and new cooking ideas, eating out of your storage!
Build community food systems: What have you done to make your local food system more resilient?
Skill up: What did you learn this week that will help you in the future – could be as simple as fixing the faucet or as hard as building a shed, as simple as a new way of keeping records or as complicated as making shoes.
This type of food storage is much closer to what you’ll need to do after a serious SHTF event. A can of vacuum packed seeds and a flat of MRE’s won’t magically renew themselves. And super coupons only work while the Just-in-time service is still running. Grid down is not the best time to be learning how to refresh them. Weekly practice is invaluable. There’s no time like now to start!
– Calamity Jane