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6 Useful Preps You May Not Have Thought Of

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: August 24, 2021
6 Useful Preps You May Not Have Thought Of

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One of the very first things I did when I adopted the prepping lifestyle was a walk-around inventory.  This was years ago and although I had not consciously considered myself a prepper at the time, I discovered that I had a lot of stuff, but it was woefully disorganized and lacking in many key areas.

For example, I had lots of canned goods, supplemental lighting, off-grid cooking devices, tools and more.  On the other hand, except for a 55 gallon water barrel and a small first-aid kit, I was sorely lacking in water and medical supplies.  My how things have changed!

Since then, I have learned a lot, shared a lot and made a number of prepping mistakes.  Taking them all in stride, I now look back with and am amazed by the knowledge I have acquired since taking that initial stroll around the house to inventory my stuff.

6 Useful Preps You May Not Have Thought Of | Backdoor Survival

But as I often say, prepping is a way of life and there is always something new to learn, tasks to do and gear to purchase.  Today I share a list of things I initially overlooked when putting together my preps.  These are useful things you you may not have thought of while planning for a disruptive event, be it a short term emergency or a SHTF situation where you will be on your own for weeks or months.

The great thing about these items is they are budget-friendly and, in many cases, things you may already have stashed around your house.

6 Things That Will Be Useful if the SHTF

1.  Aluminum Foil

A few rolls of aluminum foil will serve you well in an emergency situation.  You can use foil to fashion cooking utensils or to line your pots and pans before cooking so that you do not have to waste precious water while cleaning up. If you do cook on you pans directly, a crumpled up piece of foil can be used as a handy scrubber to remove the crusties.

You can even use foil to create an impromptu Faraday cage.

There are a lot more uses for this handy stuff such as wrapping stones in foil, heating them by the campfire, then using them to heat up your blanket or sleeping bag before going to bed.  Once your put a mind to it, you will wonder why you had not thought of including aluminum foil in your survival kit before now.

Hint:  Most of the space it taken up by a roll of foil is from the inner core so buying the 200 foot rolls gives you more for the space it occupies.  Try stuffing the inner core with other items so the space is used efficiently.

2.  Disposable Eating Utensils

Unless you live near a lake or stream, chances are that water is going to be precious.  Even a 55 gallon water barrel or two will only go so far and you will want to reserve that water for drinking and cooking.  Paper plates and disposable utensils (forks, knives and spoons) are the answer and will only set you back a few dollars.

Better still, invest in a spork or a set of utensils for each member of your group.  Let each person hang on to their own eating utensils so that they can re-use them over and over again.

3.  Laundry Equipment and Supplies

You are going to need to have tools and supplies for hand washing and drying your clothes.  Sure, you can wear a shirt and pants for a few days without worry but hopefully the undies and other unmentionables will be clean.  And who wants to wear dirty socks?

Consider setting aside a tub or bucket and plunger (don’t discount using a plumber’s helper if that is what you have) or better yet, one of these mobile washers.  An old-fashioned washboard may also come in handy.

You can fashion a clothes line out of paracord or purchase a dryer rack.  But have you thought about clothes pins?  And what about hangers?

And for washing, how about a bar of Fels Naphtha washing soap?  It is light weight, portable, and does not take up a lot of space.  As good as my DIY laundry soap works in a machine, when you are the machine, nothing beats a bar of soap for rubbing, scrunching and stain removal.

Hint:  If you are buying cheap clothespins from big box stores, look close at them, there are two sizes, 3.25 inches and 3 inches. The bigger ones are made with a bit thicker wood and a lot stronger springs than the small ones, and are a lot better at holding laundry on the line, especially if it’s wetter because it’s not been spun out, or heavy clothes.

4.  Cooking Grate or Grill

Depending on your facilities and the number of mouths to feed, cooking over an open fire may be a real possibility.  Even if you are using a rocket stove – either home made, an Ecozoom, Solo Stove or other type – an open fire may still be needed for grilling freshly caught fish or game or for long term simmering if stews and chili’s made with your stored food items.

It makes sense to set aside a cooking grate with your preps. This can be a wire oven rack or re-purposed grate from a discarded barbeque.  Check thrift stores for a deal.

5.  Sanitation Supplies

Funny how people forget about the basics.  In addition to a supply of TP, how about some old tee-shirts cut up into squares to use when nothing else is available?  In addition, you will need some feminine supplies for ladies and diapers for the little ones.  If the sewer or septic system is inoperable, you are going to need a buckets and some large heavy duty plastic bags to use as a liner so you have someplace to do your business.

Additional Reading: How to Prep for Feminine Hygiene Needs

Here is another thought.  a heavy duty bag full of human waste is going to be very heavy and awkward to carry, even if set inside a bucket.  An empty #10 tin will make the perfect urinal that can be used by both sexes. Use the plastic lid to control odors between potty sessions.

When it is time to dispose of the liquid waste  The advantage is that it is small enough to easily carry outdoors to dump or store for disposal at a later time.

6.  Mops and Brooms

Keeping things neat and tidy as well as clean will help mitigate stress.  Having a decent mop and broom will be invaluable for cleaning up after a flood, fire, or even a dust storm.

Consider a heavy duty push broom, a heavy duty straight broom and a good string mop for cleaning up serious messes.  To save money, check out local restaurant supply stores ort warehouse club stores such as Costco.

The Final Word

As you look over this list, it may occur to you that many of these items are already available in your pantry, closet, garage, or basement storage area.  Even if you don’t already have these items, none are overly expensive.  Even the cooking grate can be improvised from an oven rack or you can purchase one at a second hand store.

The moral of today’s article is that when and if the time comes, it will be comforting to have the basics covered so that you can spend time worrying about important things such as safety, security, and the overall health and well being of your family.

Sometime over the next few days, why not walk around your home or apartment and seek out items that will be useful in an unconventional manner in an emergency.  Add them to this list and of course, share your ideas in the comments below.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Note:  This is an updated version of an article that first appeared on this website in 2012.

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Below you will find the items related to today’s article.

Light My Fire Titanium Spork: A “spork” is a spoon-knife-fork combination utensil. I have wanted one of these for the longest time so I finally ordered one.  I chose the titanium over non-BPA plastic because I thought it would be more durable.

Paracord Planet Mil-Spec Commercial Grade 550lb Type III Nylon Paracord:  An ideal all-around utility cord in the field, paracord is tough and long lasting. It is made from 550-pound test nylon and features a seven-strand core for maximum strength. Also, it is manufactured in the United States.  Note that some colors may be more expensive than others.  Need ideas? See 44 Really Cool Uses of Paracord for Survival.

Mobile Washer:  I love my mobile washer which serves as a hand operated washing machine. Like a plunger, it uses a technique of pushing and pulling the water through clothes to clean them well without wearing them out. It uses a minimum of water and less soap due to the agitation motion. Use in a bucket (5-gallon suggested), sink or tub.

Wood Clothespins: Cheap as all get out and imminently useful for lots of things, including handing laundry on a paracord clothes line.

EcoZoom Versa Rocket Stove: Burning twigs and pinecones, this stove will cook a big pot of rice in under 20 minutes. The stove is solidly built and will burn charcoal as well. There is also a version that only burns biomass for slightly less money.

Laundry Drying Rack: I own a laundry drying rack which I keep on my deck. And when the weather is nice, I use it.

Columbus Pail Size Washboard:  For about some elbow grease, this old fashioned washboard will get you by if no machine – or electricity – is available.

Love My Antibacterial Bamboo fiber Reusable Menstrual Pads & Panty Liners:  These reusable pads are perfect for light and medium flow days and even some heavy days.  Also consider Heart Felt Bamboo Reusable Cloth Menstrual Pads and these for those heavy flow days: Love Green Bamboo Reusable Sanitary Pads Normal/HeavyFlow.


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29 Responses to “6 Useful Preps You May Not Have Thought Of”

  1. Since I taught Girl Scouts a few decades ago, I’ve had a few packets of those metal shower curtain holders which fit on the shower rod. This is why:
    ** I would teach the girls how to use a sharp knife, so they could shape a branch or stick into a hook. One patch earned.
    ** Then I would show them how to use a needle and thread how to sew a simple bag which measure just bit bigger than their place setting for camp. #2 patch.
    ** Then the girls learned how to make a fire, cook a meal, then using another large pot, put soap and cold water in and each girl was responsible for washing they had used for eating the meal. They would wash the dishes in the cold soapy water, then using their new camp bag made from netting, they put their washed dishes in the bag, using the string which was around the opening, they drew the bag closed. The shower curtain holder is clipped onto the girl’s bag closed string.
    ** Then using the hook stick, the each dip the bag into boiling hot water for rinsing and sanitizing.
    ** Then each bag was hung on a rope stretched out between 2 trees or tall bushes to allow for air drying while the rest of the camp was picked up. O and the wash pot? Well, by the time 14 six year olds finished washing their own dishes the only dishes which needed cooking were the one used to cook the meal. The wash pot had been cleaned for the most part just by all those girls and only needed a few swipes for the one(s) having KP duty. Then the wash water was dumped and you guessed it, the rinse water was carefully poured into that pot by 2 girls using the hook sticks to lift and carry the pot to the wash pot from the fire with third using hers to guide the pot so no one gets hurts.

    We also learned we could put food in a bag and hang it from a tree (using those curtain holders) to keep the animals from our food.

    O and then the girls had fun figuring how they could use those curtain holders for other things. Whoa the power of children thinking inside and outside the box. 🙂

    So I have a bag for each BOB, along with each first aid kit according to size = how many. When going camping or now around my home these holders take so little space and weight so little, they are hardly noticed until I can’t find one to use.

    • What a great idea. It strikes me that Girl Scouts and Scouting were great training ground for prepping. Those girls were lucky to have you.

  2. If you have a basement don’t forget you can string a clothesline down there for cold weather or extensive rainy days. My husband will have to create the anchor base to string the lines around the top of the basement walls. I think I saw an adjustable clothesline pole on Lehman’s website for indoor use to keep your wet laundry off the floor. You may also need a similar pole to use on your outdoor clothesline to keep the clean clothes from sagging onto the ground. Recently replaced some of my older brooms that were on their last leg and hubby purchased a new push broom. If you purchase a new mop don’t forget to grab a couple of replacement heads. Still need to get a wash board but recently picked up three metal tubs in different sizes.

  3. I use clothespins all the time. Keep a few clipped in a handy spot for: keeping pages of a book open, closing bags of food in the box (e.g. cereal), minor gluing repairs, holding messages (recipes, reminders), clip hand laundry for hanging (e.g., two mittens or gloves clipped at the cuffs so they don’t fall off the drying rack), organizing those slips of to-do lists by topic (they hold more sheets than paper clips). I saw some stainless steel mariner’s clothespins online at a sailing/boating supply site. They are strong and won’t rust! Expensive, but over time worth the investment.

    Oh, and don’t forget a WASHBOARD! My mother used one for my Dad’s ‘ring around the collar’. You can still get them from an outfit in Ohio that makes them. // You will need galvanized basins in convenient sizes. One for soapy water and another for rinse water. Some antique places have those copper kettles (oval) that they boiled the water in. Of course, it was an ‘outdoor’ job! Any housewife with class sent out the laundry as it was such a big job. If you do any hand washing, small items are not too much trouble, but jeans and coats would take a lot of water and a big tank. In the real old days, they would let sunshine and fresh air ‘detox’ the big bed cloths.

    I got one of those hand pushed dusters previously mentioned. They are light and work great for small spaces. Have a few dusting brushes and dustpans around for those pick up tasks. I have a really tiny one with a snap in brush. Don’t forget an apron with lots of pockets!

  4. I have 4 bottles of propane that I use on my barbecue pit. They are 5 gallons each, which is the
    standard size. I can cook many meals with one bottle. I try to keep at least two full at all times. I figure I could cook for a couple of weeks or more on those bottles… if need be. And that’s my tip of the week !! Thanks Gaye for making us all THINK about possibilities.

  5. I was injured in an accident 4 years ago and all the prepping I had done sure helped. I have never returned to work. Amazing after this length of time all the bills are paid. I now wish I had kept my home in tip top shape. Then I would have had more options. I could have boarded horses, rented out a room, rented out the entire house or it would have been ready to sale without expensive repairs. Prepping is a lot of things and one thing I have learned is that it is also about creating options for yourself. Buy the clothes pins, pick up some aluminum foil, create some options for yourself. But also take an honest look at your home.

  6. The clothespin info was helpful. My mother had the same set of clothespins my entire life at home. The last ones I bought didn’t last a year. I didn’t think about the different size. Thanks!

  7. Gaye, actually, if you count all the items you mention, you’re well over seven… just saying. Good article.

    • Thank you for mentioning that. I usually choose to lump similar items together and chat a bit about them rather than create a long list that is just that, a list with no commentary or discussion.

  8. We have hard wood floors and area rugs so if there’s no electricity, how do we clean the rugs? So I’ve started to look in the “antique” stores and flea markets to see if I can get an old fashioned carpet beater or if you’re handy make one out of wire coat hangers (if available). That way you can “beat” the dirt and dust out of the rug, that’s predisposing you have your clothes lines up. Hang the rug over the line and smack the carpet with the beater. My grandmother used to do that regularly with her area rugs, actually she got us grand kids to do it, so put a face mask and goggleson, the dust and dirt doesn’t taste all that good;)

    • i’ve read that, during the victorian era, people would deodorize their rugs by sprinkling loose tea on the rug and letting it sit a few hours, then sweeping it up. haven’t tried it myself, but it sounds like it would work.

    • 2 more options:

      You can buy mechanical “sweepers”. We call them “zizzers” because of the noise that they make.LOL You often see these being used in restaurants. No suction, just brushes to pick things up and pull them into the inside compartment that is then emptied periodically. If you have a lot of long hair floating around, human or pet, the brushes have to be cleaned regularly because the hair tends to become wrapped around the brushes. But they work pretty well considering no suction.

      I also have a rubber broom. I love these. They will pick up dog hair from a rug or carpet that your vacuum doesn’t. (It takes a little elbow grease). I use one on my rugs before I vacuum. They also work extremely well on hardwood or tiled floors. They won’t scratch and static electricity helps them pull together any dust bunnies that might be hopping about.

      You would still likely to need to take the rugs out for a good airing and shake or beat now and again, but maybe not as often, and hopefully they wouldn’t be near as dirty in between.

    • Teresa, where can I get a “zizzer”? I haven’t been able to locate any on line. I know
      Jewel Tea used to have them but I don’t think they do anymore
      Thanks Kathy

    • “Zizzer” is just what my family calls them. Try searching for “mechanical sweeper” or “carpet sweeper” or “brush sweeper” or something like that. Amazon has pages of them. Walmart has them on-line and used to carry them in the store, but I’m not sure about now. Several of the little catalog sales companies that specialize in gadgets and doodads carry them. If you live in the region where I do Magic Mart usually has them.

    • If you have a broom (I prefer a straw broom), you just take the area rug and hang it up somewhere, then take your anger, frustration and any negative feeling out on that rug. lol Seriously, growing up, we children, campaigned for our turn to ‘beat the rug’. It was far safer than getting into trouble by fighting each other. 😉

    • You make a good point. Beatin’ the tar out of something is good therapy. LOL But I have back issues and live alone. I have room sized rugs. The prospect of trying to move all of that heavy furniture and handling those big heavy rugs to get them up, outside and then back into place …….. Whew! Not something I want to do until/unless absolutely necessary.

      I use a straw broom for my porches, decks, etc. But I’d lay money on the fact that if you ever tried one of the rubber brooms like I’m talking about, there’d be no going back. They are amazing. If you swept with the straw broom first and re-swept with the rubber broom, you would likely be shocked and dismayed at what the straw broom had missed.

      I’m a big Swiffer fan as well. I use that on my hardwood and ceramic tile floors after I sweep as a “dust mop”. I also use them with microfiber cloths to clean the walls and kitchen cabinets (inside) that are otherwise hard to reach.

      One negative for things like the Swiffer and the rubber brooms is that they just aren’t as sturdy as a good quality old fashioned straw broom. I’m sure that they won’t last as long and certainly will break easier.

    • If you are talking sweeping, I agree with you in certain situations. I actually do have several types. But if I had room sized, that calls for a different method. 😉 Remember that old phrase about eating an elephant? Room sized you just take a bite at a time. Moving furniture? Hey—under that furniture is probably the cleanest area on the rug. Don’t worry about it. If it bothers you, then still just do it in bites. Contact the local Boy Scouts and/or Girl Scouts and ask for help. Remember they earn badges for service projects AND you could always donate a little something once in awhile to their troop(s).
      I have helpers helping me so have Swiffers, guess what? They are now asking for REAL mops and bucket. lol O and sweeping the ceiling and corners of cobwebs? Just slip a tshirt over that broom and they come off better. Pop that T into the laundry and then spray with vinegar to keep the spiders away. 🙂

    • I have a carpet sweeper.
      Saw my Grandma had one in the 60 s… quiet, hand push back n forth, then fold up n put next to frig and wall.
      Got a little one found Fuller bushman !

  9. The title says “7 useful preps…” and yet there are only 6 enumerated. What happened to the 7th?

    • Somethng must have dropped off in the editing process and I am so embarassed. For now I will change the title to “six” but will have to change the photo title later. Not sure what the heck happened.

    • there are only 6 clothespins shown too. hmmmm…..must be a gremlin in the works!

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