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10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper

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This is the year of the Prepper.  Or so it seems.  For the first time, the Prepper is coming into respectability.  No longer is the individual or family putting a little extra food and water aside for an emergency considered a weirdo or fanatic.  And for that, I am thrilled because after all, that is what Backdoor Survival is all about.

As family preparedness becomes mainstream, a frequent question is “How do I get started?” coupled with “Oh my gosh, that is so much work!”.


Today I offer 10 tips for the beginning prepper.  As you will see, there is no great mystery, no drama, no nonsense and no weird stuff.  Just practical common sense organized in a manner that you can use as a jump off point for your own preps.  Shall we get started?

10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper

1.  Take Baby Steps

Take a deep breath and get started.  Do not let your fear or lack of experience overwhelm you.  Step in to the mindset and just start.  There are lots of encouraging articles and blogs online (see Recommended Sites) in addition to this one to set you on your way.  And please, don’t let naysayers who are too lazy or too stupid tell you that it is not worth it.  Just zip you lips and carry on.

2.  Keep to the Basics

Don’t worry about the long term.  When you are getting started plan for a 3 day emergency supply.  When you have more experience – and more confidence – you can expand to a 7 day, 30 day or even an annual emergency supply.  But for now?  Go easy on yourself and give yourself permission to start modestly.

This means water (one gallon per person per day), non-perishable food items, some first aid supplies, packets of prescription medications, and, if you have pets, some pet food.

3.  Gather Important Documents

Obtain copies of your drivers license, passport, marriage license, emergency contacts and medical history and keep them somewhere handy so you can grab and go if you have to.  These documents will assist rescue workers and first responders in identification and in providing you with adequate medical care, if needed. It also would not hurt to include some pictures of yourself with family members.  I like to store this information on a flash drive along with other information such as survival manuals, home inventories and such.

4.  Develop a Communications and Transportation Plan

If the SHTF and you are not at home, what then?  This is where a plan becomes important.  Make a plan that identifies how loved ones will connect with each other in the event there is a natural disaster or other crisis.  Come up with a meeting place, and if possible, run a drill or two so you become familiar with the process.

5.  Learn Basic Skills

This is my personal favorite because it involves having fun.  Learn to garden and grow some food.  Heck, anyone can learn to grow lettuce and potatoes!

Take up fishing or hunting.  Go camping and learn to build a fire and sleep outdoors.  Fire up the barbie and learn to bake bread, steam vegetables, and make pancakes on on open grill or fire.  The possibilities are endless plus, you can involve all members of your family while turning basic skill building in to a hobby.

6.  Determine the Most Likely Natural Event in Your Area

Every geographical area a pre-disposed to some type of emergency.  Do live in a hurricane zone?  Then that should be your focus.  The same thing applies to tornado, earthquake, flood, and wildfire areas.  Live in the city?  Perhaps you should prepare for gang violence and civil disobedience.  It is possible, you know.

If you think you are immune, go back and read Disasters 101: A list for those that think it will never happen to them.  This might change your mind.

7.  Plan for a Power Outage

Pick up some extra flashlights (this LED type Maglite is one of my favorites), batteries, candles and waterproof matches.  For starters, that is just dandy.  Later on, when you have the budget, you can purchase the more esoteric items such as an inverter or generator.

8.  Learn how to Shelter In Place

Who says you have to get out of dodge?  That alone may be one of the reasons you are putting off the prepping effort.  Except in extreme circumstances – which you still need to prepare for – you will want to hunker down in the comfort of your own home or apartment.  Make sure you have some plastic sheeting and duct tape available to seal out dust and toxic chemicals.  You can read more about it here:  Shelter In Place.

9.  Plan for Comfort Foods and Amusements

I have taken flak before on this and I will probably continue to be dissed forever on this subject.  But, when panic and fear set in, there is nothing like a bag of cookies, some mac and cheese from a box, a juicy paperback and, for kids of all ages, a snuggly teddy bear.  Add some playing cards, popcorn (which can be popped over an over fire), and a book of Sudoku and you are all set.  Well maybe a bottle of whiskey or vodka would be good too.

The moral of the story is to pack away a few things in the survival pantry that will make you feel better in spite of the chaos around you.

10.  Get to Know your Neighbors

Get to know your neighbors, or, if you live in a remote area, the folks in the surrounding community.  These are the folks that will watch your back and help you out if the SHTF and you are really in trouble.  And likewise, you should be inclined to help them out if they are worse off than you following a disaster.

I am not talking about giving assistance or handouts to free loaders.  No, I mean offering a hand to your friendly clerk at the post office, or a teacher at your children’s school, or the neighbor down the road who offers you fresh eggs when his chickens are over-producing.

Friendly and familiar faces will be a good thing when and if the destructive zombies start roaming around.  Just remember, life is a two way street.  The moral and right thing to do is help your neighbor in need.  You will be a better person for it.

Extra Credit – Build your Family Preparedness Library

The number of available books, e-books, survival guides and videos offering preparedness and survival advice can be overwhelming.  When in doubt, check your local library and if you find something you like, make the purchase after the fact.  That is what I do.

In the meantime, I have a recommendation for the beginning Prepper:

The Prepper’s Pocket Guide: 101 Easy Things You Can Do to Ready Your Home for a Disaster:  Written by fellow blogger, Bernie Carr, this little book is a gem for both beginner and experienced preppers.  I keep a copy on my desk and refer to it often.

Starting any new project, large or small, can be daunting.  Unlike other projects, however, family preparedness and prepping can literally save your life if not your sanity.  This list of 10 beginning prepper tips is not all inclusive in any way – but it is a start.

Let us embrace the year of the Prepper.  What are you waiting for?

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11 Responses to “10 Tips for the Beginning Prepper”

  1. Your point about comfort is really good. Being cold, dirty, and eating rats and bugs might keep me alive but it’s not my first plan or even my second. I want to survive in relative comfort if possible, but will survive in abject misery if necessary.

    About 20 years ago, we had a power outage due to a winter ice storm. Power was out for 5 days. Our kids were pre-teens, and really scared. They had never know a day without power. The big trick was to stay calm! We laughed and said this is so cool–like camping in the house! We immediately started a fire in the wood burning fireplace–cozy. Let the kids bring their mattresses, blankets, and snow ski clothing downstairs, right in front of the fire–warm, not dark or scary. Put them in charge of books and games. Then as a family we inventoried the pantry and fridge, as a group we came up with meal ideas–the kids had very creative and unconventional food ideas. We had 75 gallons of water in the hot water heater. During that time we made a list of all the things we wished we had but didn’t, and all the things that going without would have ruined our good time–toilet paper was at the top of the list. We all remember this as one of the best weeks we ever spent. It is what led us to become better prepared for a longer term disaster.

  2. Being prepared isnt as daunting as you would think. As a beginner, just start small. The average family can build a plan and acquire supplies weekly or monthly as you can. read blogs and talk to other likeminded folks.

  3. Good advice. Remember shtf will happen. It’s not if but when. THE good book says, “in the last days a loaf of bread will cost a mans weekly wage.” Are you ready for this? Prepp and get closer with God. Some may say, ” God has never said a word to me”. Remember because there is so much evil out there, that in itself is irrefutable evidence that there is a God. Fight evil with good, prep and prep to extend some good will to your neighbor, pray for your enemies. Never stop believing in the power of yourself to change a piece of this world with your extension of good that comes from your heart. God bless America, patriots, vetrans, preppers, and every American.

  4. Just beginning and I am finding it all very confusing. There is so much to learn, so much to know, so much to save, so much to prepare for. As I said, I am finding it all so very confusing. I think I could take care of myself in a situation, I have in the past. But having a wife (who is skeptical of prepping) and a disabled daughter to think about, makes things all the more difficult. Also, as with most I would think, not being able to go out and drop a couple thousand dollars on a food supply package makes taking things slow a bit more manageable.

    Articles like this make and this site specifically ( I visit often) make things a little better (inside my head anyway). Start small, prepare for short term then expand.

    I am still confused though, so if there are any veteran preppers out there that can offer any advice, I can sure use it. Any little bit of new knowledge is always helpful.

    Quick question though … is being part of a prepper group a good way to go? It seems like it would be, but then again, it seems like maybe it wouldn’t. If it would be a good thing, how does one find a group? Or even find like minded individuals?

    • Marine, I feel you there where it comes to having a pethetic budget to work with as I am in the same boat,BUT there ARE many thing you can do that I have taken a long time trying and succeeding with that I wouldn’t mind sharing if its allowed here. All they do is take the time at the computer sending requests and wearing out the UPS man, LOL!
      I’ve gotten all my prepped medical supplies for a HUGE bugout bag ( had to buy the bag on eBay though. I’ve got SO much info to share if allowed for everyone if Mrs. Gaye allows.

  5. This is certainly good advice. As always, the key to being a “respectable” prepper is to learn, learn, learn! And, while you’re at it, make a plan and be sure to take specific actions that further your preparedness.

  6. Gaye,
    Awesome article!!! after all the years I’ve been preparing off and on. I too feel overwhelmed. and now being on a small fixed income, makes me feel overwhelmed. your article helps bring us back to “start simple” and worry about a little at a time. Thank you for that. The 4 of usl need to get together and chat for a couple of days and get some kind of a plan, and catch up. we are planning on going to mainland for some things on the 10th for a couple of days, after that we’ll be here for awhile, and no planned company.

  7. Gaye, very good post. Getting started is always the hardest step. It is like a leap of faith. Once you get started it becomes addictive and you can’t stop. Thanks for posting these for the beginning preppers.

  8. Nice list, Gaye!

    The best part about is that it’s helpful in the case of the most likely scenario: the personal/family disaster. It doesn’t take a grand disaster for the preparations to be called into action; something as minute as a layoff or extended hospital stay. It’s good to be prepared.

    • I like the term “Grand Disaster”. And you are correct in that it is the little things in life that will be the things that likely require a call to action. For some, even a short term power outage of a few hours can cause issues if they are not prepared.

      — Gaye

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