12 Months of Prepping, One Month at a Time

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
12 Months of Prepping, One Month at a Time

Once the prepping bug hits, it is easy to want to go for it.  You know what I mean:  Let’s do it and let’s do it all Right Now!

There are some problems with this.

First there are time constraints and second there are money and budget issues.  But the biggest problem and undoubtedly the one that is overlooked in the initial flurry of readiness preparations, is that without reasonable care and thought given to the process, the tasks and the actual products involved, you can make some costly mistakes.  I say this from experience.  In my haste to get “stocked up” I bought gear that I don’t like and will never use.  I purchased foodstuffs I will never eat.  Jeesh.

12 Months of Prepping | Backdoor Survival

Stupid stupid stupid of me.  I should have taken my time, done my research, and made a well thought out and educated decision before I even got started.

Today I would like to help you break down the overwhelming task of emergency preparation by providing  you with a month by month calendar of things to do, tasks to complete and items to purchase.  For the newbies, this gives you a manageable number of things to do in a short period of time.  Instead of looking at a task list 10 pages long, you have a short list that is eminently doable in 30 days or less.

And for the more experienced prepper?  You can start with month #1, look at the activities and tasks involved and fill in any gaps you may have in your own preparation.  In some cases you may see a need to update or rotate what you have on hand and in others, you may find the need to practice a particular skill.

I love lists.  So bear with me as I present a readiness calendar to guide your through twelve months of prepping.  Hopefully you will find that one month’s work is not too costly, not too time-consuming and not too difficult.  The most difficult part as I see it will be getting off your bum and starting.

So let’s do it!



  • Water-3 gallons per person and per pet
  • Hand-operated can opener and bottle opener
  • Canned meat, stew, or pasta meals – 5 per person
  • 2 flashlights with batteries


  • Inventory the disaster supplies you already have on hand, including your camping gear
  • If you fill your own water containers, mark them with the date they were filled
  • Date cans of food and food containers if you have not already done so



  • Canned vegetables – 4 per person
  • Toilet paper – 3 rolls per person
  • Sanitary napkins – 2 months’ supply
  • Instant drinks (coffee, tea, powdered soft drinks)
  • Family sized first aid kit


  • Change the batteries  and test your smoke detectors.  Purchase and install smoke detectors if you don’t have them
  • Make an inventory of home contents for insurance purposes. Take photographs (digital are easiest) of your house and contents. Store a copy away from your home.



  • Canned fruits – 3 cans per person
  • Any foods for special dietary needs (enough for 3 days)
  • A large plastic tub or bin for storage of food and other emergency supplies.


  • Conduct a home fire drill
  • Locate the gas meter and water shutoff points and attach/store a wrench or shutoff tool near them.  Also store special shutoff instruction, if any.
  • Establish and out-of-state contact to call in case of an emergency
  • Identify a location for your storage of plastic bin or tub.



  • Extra baby bottles, formula and diapers if needed
  • Extra pet supplies; food, collar, leash, etc.
  • A stash of at least $100 in small bills – more if  you can afford it
  • Begin to stockpile extra supplies of critical prescription medications. Talk to your pharmacist for help in making this happen.


  • Place a supply of prescription medicine(s) in a storage container and date the medicine(s) if not already indicated on its label
  • Start putting supplies in storage container(s) and include blankets or sleeping bags for each family member



  • Canned, ready-to-eat soup – 4 per person
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Plain liquid bleach
  • Portable am/FM radio with batteries
  • Liquid hand soap and hand sanitizer
  • Disposable hand wipes
  • Disposable latex or nutile gloves


  • Make two photocopies of important papers and put one in the storage container, and one away from your home.
  • Talk with neighbors about organizing a neighborhood preparedness group.



  • Box of granola or power bars – 1 per person
  • 6 rolls of paper towels
  • Box of N-95 or N-100 face masks – 1 per person.


  • Check to see if stored water has expired and needs to be replaced
  • Put an extra pair of eyeglasses in the supply container
  • Find out about your workplace disaster plans and the disaster plans at your children’s schools



  • NOAA Alert Weather Radio
  • ABC fire extinguisher
  • Jug of juice – 1 per person
  • Adult and children’s vitamins
  • A pair of pliers and/or vise grip
  • 100 feet of rope or paracord


  • Take a first aid/CPR class
  • Show family members where and how to shut off utilities



  • Box of crackers or graham crackers – 1 per person
  • Dry cereal or instant oatmeal – 1 weeks’ worth per person
  • 1 box of large, heavy-duty garbage bags


  • Make a small preparedness kit for your car. Include food, water, blanket, small first aid kit, a list of important phone numbers
  • Secure water heaters to wall studs (if not already done)



  • Extra batteries for flashlights, radio and hearing aids (if needed)
  • Duct tape
  • Add an additional 3 days of water to your supply per person and per pet


  • Follow up on efforts to organize your neighborhood
  • Conduct an earthquake drill at home: stop, drop and hold, then go outside. (Remember, and earthquake can happen anywhere as recent events have demonstrated.)
  • Replace prescription medicines as required by expiration dates



  • Take the month off from purchases. Yay!


  • Secure shelves, cabinets and drawers to prevent them from falling and/or opening during earthquakes
  • Imagine your house with no electricity. What more do you need?



  • Package of paper plates
  • Package of napkins
  • Package of eating utensils
  • Package of paper cups


  • Exchange work, home and emergency contact phone numbers with neighbors for use during an emergency



  • Heavy work gloves
  • Begin to try to expand your food supply to twice of what you have on hand right now. Continue with this effort into coming 12 months.


  • Check to see if your stored food and water needs to be replaced.


Congratulations.  You have completed your year of preparations.  Now is a good time to go back to month 1 and review, replenish, rotate and drill.  Good job!

The Final Word

Once a month for the next twelve months I will feature an article devoted exclusively to the monthly tasks at hand including suggested activities, recommended purchases, viable alternatives, budget saving strategies and references to more reading material.  Sometime I may deviate from the list a bit and other times I may enhance it.

The final word for today is this:

Emergency preparation is your journey and should be unique to your circumstances, your family, your geographical location and your financial resources.  Yes, it can be a chore.  But as I have said before, it should be a chore with a happy ending.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Bargain Bin: Below you will find some foundation items for your emergency kit. Sure, you still need to add food, water personal care items and a whole lot more. But these basics will get you started.

Etón American Red Cross Self-Powered Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger:  The description says it all.  Everyone should have a self-powered emergency radio).

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife:  This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing. The Kershaw Volt II Pocket Knife is another moderately priced alternative.

Rothco Type III Commercial Paracord: You can get 100 feet of Paracord for cheap. This is a real bargain but be aware that price can vary substantially depending on the color. See 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.

Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.

Flash Drive: I cannot over emphasize the importance of having important documents on a flash drive.  Sure, the power may be out temporarily but for the nominal price and virtually no weight, it is silly not to carry all of your documents and survival reference guides on a flash drive.

Cyalume SnapLight Chemical Light Sticks: Read all about light sticks at Lighting Your Way With Chemical Lighting.

Coleman Rugged Battery Powered Lantern: This sturdy Coleman has a runtime of up to 28 hours on the low setting and 18 hours on the high setting but does require D cell batteries. Personally, I have both a battery operated and propane lantern. Of course by now you know that I like redundancy with my preps.

Blocklite Ultra Bright 9V LED Flashlight: I now own six of these little gems. There is a similar flashlight called the Pak-Lite (which is more expensive) but it does not have a high-low switch like this one. These little flashlights just go and go, plus, they make good use of those re-purposed 9V alkaline batteries that you have recharged with your Maximal Power FC999 Universal Battery Charger.

Windstorm Safety Whistle:  This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.

BIC Disposable Classic Lighter With Child Guard:  This six pack of Bic lighters is reasonably priced but check around since these often go on sale locally.  BICs just work – every time.

Swedish Firesteel:  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets:  These come in compressed packets small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet.  You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you.

Victorinox Swiss Army Climber II Pocket Knife: This is the Swiss army knife that both Shelly and I carry.  It includes the following: large and small blades, two standard screwdrivers, bottle and can openers, a corkscrew, a wire stripper, scissors, key ring, reamer, and parcel hook. In addition, there is a tweezers and a toothpick that pull out of the end.

GI P38 & P51 Can Opener Combo Pack (Made in the USA):  This is one of the army’s greatest tools. Can be used for dozens of jobs. Makes a great can opener, cutting edge, groove cleaner, screw drive, clean finger nails, open seams and many, many more practical uses. Now you can have one of each size.

Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials

Emergency Candle

Although I have plenty of flashlights and batteries (you might even say I have a flashlight fetish) I also stay stocked up with a dozen of these Clear Mist 100 Hour Plus Emergency Candlesimage as well.  For the best deal, purchase a dozen at a time to get a discounted price.  Be sure to also check out the Clear Globe attachment.


Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!


My eBook, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage will provide you with everything you need to create an affordable food storage plan, including what to buy and how to store it. Nothing scary and nothing overwhelming – you really can do this!

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17 Responses to “12 Months of Prepping, One Month at a Time”

  1. I have a small, six pound dog. I have stored 20 pounds of dry kibble type food in gallon sized Mylar bars as well as gallon sized food saver (vacuum seal) bags. In both cases I used a single 300 cc oxygen absorber per bag. I then put the finished packets in buckets with gamma seals, I will use the vacuum sealed bags first as part of my normal rotation and leave the Mylar bagged versions for longer term. I am pretty organized so when the vacuum sealed bags have been used up I will get another bag of food and seal up a new batch. Call be nuts but having two type of bags makes this is an easy way for me to know when it is time to replenish.

    Tucker the Dog also gets treats which I have sealed up in Mylar as well as about 2 dozen cans of Little Caesar which are stored in a bucket and rotated out every six months. I think Tucker has it made in the shade LOL. It is probably over kill to use the buckets but we get a lot of field mice and they love dog food – as well as chocolate and other items – and they can not get in to the buckets.

    I use the dry dog food from Costco (recommended by the breeder) which is highly rated by Consumer Reports and quite economical. The 20 pounds is about a two year supply.

    — Gaye

  2. You’re certainly correct about this issue but either way you cut it prepping is still expensive and time consuming. The good news is that once somebody gets “the bug” then prepping really becomes a way of life and not just a “have to do” thing to check off a list.

    • If you caught my article on the prepping addiction, you will know that in my view there is a line you can easily cross where prepping becomes an overwhelming obsession. Where to draw that line is a personal matter. The key is having an awareness that the line is there – you just have to know where that is.

    • The good news is that Survival Husband is a good shot and even so, he is taking more training. On the other hand, he is not always around. My little dog provides a good, early warning system but he not ferocious at 6 pounds.

      I have an article for tomorrow that addresses this dilemma – stay tuned.

  3. I follow your blog pretty consistently and I’m impressed by your drive and dedication. I found this post to be a good “check-point” to asses where I’m at with our preps. I used to think we prepped pretty slowly, but now I see the sense in not going overboard. I do admit to stocking up more water some weeks than others, but having two dogs and four people, I just keep thinking it’s not enough. We hit the sales for dried goods, and I’ve been gathering buckets but I just can’t seem to get to cleaning out a closet to store it all in one central location.
    So thank you for the inspiration…know where I can get a convincing kick in the pants?

  4. Hi, I know this is probably a really stupid question. I am a newbie to prepping and this list seems very doable. I am just wondering how long at the end of the year, will these supplies last. For example 2 weeks, a month and so on. Thanks for your help!

    • There are no stupid questions. I am not sure if I understand your question but I believe you are asking about how long will your provisions last. If that is the case, the best recommendation I can make is to start out purchasing enough to get you and your family through from three days. Or, if you can afford more, a week. You should take a look at my articles for Month 1, Month 2, Month 3 etc. as a guideline.

      After your roll around to the 13th month, you can continue to stock up with additional gear and supplies – say enough to last for another 3 days or week. So much is dependent on the size of your household and your budget.

      If this does not answer your question, let me know and I will continue dialogloge. Oh – one more thincongratulationsions to you for getting started!


  5. Sorry to be such a neophyte with this questions, but when you refer to can of food (Canned Meat – month 1, canned veggie – month 2, etc.), what size cans are you referring to? I want to make sure I’m putting away enough, but can’t really afford to keep storing too much. I would like to build up a one-month supply. Just getting starting in this so I want to start off right!

  6. No apologies needed. In the “One Month at a Time” series, the intent is to assist you in getting started by taking small, manageable, and affordable steps toward prepping. That means you purchase and store what you can afford, a little bit at a time.

    The standard rule is to start with three day’s worth of food, then go to 4 or 5 days, then a week, then a month on so on. So I would say, in answer to your question, that you should start out with a quantity and sizes to get you and your family through 3 days. You can build up from there later, as the budget allows, and of course, as you find things on sale.

    I might add that picking up an item or two every time you shop is a good way to add to your food storage without straining the budget. Hope this helps . . . be sure to continue reading the rest of the months in the series. We are now up to Month 9 of “Getting Prepared” with Month 10 posting next week. Just enter “getting Prepared” in the search box on the right and the articles will come right up.


    • This is probably going to sound like a stupid question given the answers above, but how long should these provisions last while being used? I am looking to begin long term prepping for a family of 3, and am trying to determine what I need and where is the best place to start. I’m a newbie in every sense of the word. I do not know how to can [thankfully I have a friend who will be showing me how soon], I have no clue how to make my own bread, and I have no gardening skills to speak of. Despite these things, I am determined to be prepared and provide for my family. Do you have any suggestions or posts you can direct me to?

    • There is a lot of information available on my website at Backdoor Survival and much of it is intended for people like you that want to start but need some guidance. A good place to start is with the 12 months series which has just been reintroduced in this new post: //www.backdoorsurvival.com/12-months-of-prepping-year-one. In this article you will see links to each month so that you can work your way through the series at your own pace.

      Common sense will dictate how long the provisions gather during year one will last. For many, budget and space are a constraint so the provisions will last only a week. Others are able to acquire a large supply of goods – say 30 cans of soup per person instead of 7 – so their stuff will last longer.

      About the best advice I can give is to go slow and start to build things up at a manageable pace. Another useful article for you is //www.backdoorsurvival.com/six-tips-for-dealing-with-the-new-prepper/.

      Good luck – and thank you for your interest in Backdoor Survival.

  7. I really like your web site! very informative and very good usable information. After working in Threat Preparedness realm – you can never be too prepared! I added you to my favorites!

  8. Hi SurvivalWoman,

    I recently happened upon your site via Activist Post. I just wanted to thank you for putting this list together, it’s very helpful for people like me who’re a little uncertain about how to get started as there’s SO much prep info out there.


  9. I have to say that this was an awesome list and method of getting prepared on a budget. Being organized is one of the issues that many of us have. In fact as you summed it up we as a society more likely then not jump in both feet first before taking time to plan.

  10. Preferred pocket knife, Super Tinker Swiss Army Knife.
    Phillips screw driver instead of the corkscrew.
    Great list, great info.

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