The Survival Buzz #191: When It Comes to Prepping, Where Do I Start?

This week in the Survival Buzz I am going to address the most pressing question that has crossed my mind in a long time.  When it comes to prepping, where do I start?  Sure, I have written about this before, sometimes in general terms and other times very specifically.  But this is me starting over and not someone else.  These are preps that are particular to my location and my life.  Where do I start?

Now for those of you just signing on, you might not know that last week I shared the news that I had relocated to Central Arizona for five or six months.  Believe me, nothing could be more different than the sea and the forest footsteps away from my home on San Juan Island in Washington State.  Although I did bring some gear with me (which I will share with you next week), other than a well stocked bug out bag and an “ammo can” first aid kit, I arrived with the clothes on my back, a cooler full of essential oils, and a Subaru stuffed with as much as it would carry.

When It Comes to Prepping, Where Do I Start?

For all intents and purposes, Shelly (the Survival Husband) and I are starting over and I was freaking out.  I knew I had to get over it so I asked myself another question.  If the SHTF tomorrow, what would I need?  It all boiled down to three things:  water, food, and biomass to use for cooking outdoors.

Prepping from Scratch: The First Two Weeks

Here is an outline of what I have accomplished so far.


1.  I ordered a 320 gallon water tank system from Emergency Essentials.  It was more than I wanted to spend but with the latest promotion offering a $100 gift card with purchase, I knew I couldn’t lose.

2.  A Royal Berkey from LPC Survival arrived yesterday and is being set up today.

3.  Juice and soda bottles are being washed then filled with tap water at the rate of two a day.  I am labeling these bottles “do not drink” because I am not cleaning them with bleach or adding supplemental water purification.  Set in my garage, I want to keep these on hand for sanitation and cleaning purposes.  I also have 4 gallons of fresh, unscented bleach I can use to purify water after the fact if I need to.


1.  A 25 pound of rice, and another 25 pound bag of pinto beans are now part of my food storage.  In addition, I purchased a case of baked beans that can be eaten hot or cold right out of the can.  I also purchased a dozen packages of spaghetti plus a dozen cans of sauce and two jars of peanut butter.  I will continue to add products each week or two, filling out my pantry with items from 20 Items to Kick Start Your Food Storage Plan.

2.  I am researching what type of freeze dried food I want to store.  I will probably purchase a “package” because I want at least a three month supply for two of us right now, all at once.  There are many variables that go into this decision not the least of which is food quality, taste, and cost.

3.  Still on the to do list is to get Mylar bags and O2 absorbers so I can repackage my bulk foods for storage.  I will worry about the heat and the space for food storage later.  Sound familiar?  Oh my, this is so different than Washington where I never have to worry about temperature and basements are common.

4.  Loosely related to food, I purchased two cast iron skillets, in the 12” and 15” sizes.


1.  Of all of my immediate concerns, this was the most difficult.  One solution is that when we take Tucker the Awesome Wonder Dog on his daily hike, we pick up wood debris that is laying around from neighboring active construction actives.

2.  This pair of Fiskars pruning shears from Amazon will allow be to discreetly snip of twigs from random vegetation I find here and there along the way.  Can you burn cactus in a rocket stove?  Perhaps some of you desert natives can help educate me.

3.  Bags of charcoal are on the list of things to purchase next week.

Whew.  This has been tougher than I thought it would be and a lot more expensive. There is also the time factor.  I still have remnants of my day job to attend to as well as this website. Still, this is grand adventure and for better or for worse, there is no looking back.


Current Backdoor Survival Giveaways

Let’s kick off the Fall giveaway season on Backdoor Survival with this Survival Shovel from SportsTek!

15 Uses For the SportsTek Survival Shovel + Giveaway

With all giveaways, winners are notified by email and have 48 hours to claim their prize or an alternate will be selected.  Once selected, the names of winners are also displayed in the Rafflecopter on the original giveaway article.  This usually happens on the Friday following the end of the giveaway.


News from Our Sponsors

Let us give a warm Backdoor Survival welcome to the Survivalist Water Bottle by Fit Bottle!  When you take a look at these water bottles, I know you will want one.  I have one on its way to me so I can tell you more about it but in the meantime, you can get a 10% discount on your order by using code BACK10 at checkout.

It is with the support of the Backdoor Survival sponsors (you will see them on the right hand side of this website), that allows me to continue my work in educating the public about preparedness. I do not and will not accept donations. I will, however, encourage you to support the advertisers who have been so loyal to me over the years,

Other Announcements

Tropical Traditions is having another one of their FREE Ground Shipping this weekend! In addition, their Gold Label Virgin Organic Coconut Oil is on sale with a buy one get one free offer.  This is the only brand I use in my salves and in cooking,  I use it for everything!

Anyway, Use coupon code 19151 at checkout and you will receive free ground shipping, including orders to Alaska and Hawaii.

The Final Word

If you get nothing else from this week’s Survival Buzz, let it be that each of us has decisions to make when it comes to personal preparedness.  I have done this before, so starting from scratch is an exercise in worry because I know that I am not as ready as I need and want to be.

That being said, everyone, whether experienced or not, should periodically ask themselves “What will I need if the Stuff Hit the Fan tomorrow?”.  You might surprise yourself with the answer.

All right, what about you?  What did you do to prep this week?

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

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Spotlight Item:  What was the most popular item purchased by BDS readers last month?  Why am I surprised?  It was this UltraFire Mini Cree LED Flashlight, currently only $3.17 with free shipping. From what I can tell, over 175 were sold via the Amazon link on this website. 

I own a bunch of these super mini sized, bright and waterproof flashlights that only use a single, standard AA sized battery to produce a bright beam.

Note that these come from Asia so if you want to stock up for holiday gift giving, get your order in now.  (I just ordered two more.)

                  mini Cree_0         

Bargain Bin: Here are some items mentioned in today’s Survival Buzz.

320 Gallon Ultimate Water Reserve Combo:  Some might consider this overkill but considering the lack of a pond or stream in my own back yard, I want to be covered.  I like that I can store 320 gallons of water in such a small footprint.

Royal Berkey: The Royal Berkey at my San Juan Island home is the backbone of my water purification system.  I drink and cook with this water and would be lost without it.  I am happy to say that LPC Survival has them back in stock plus they are available from the LPC Survival Store on Amazon.  If you don’t already have a Berkey, trust me, a Berkey is worth saving for.

Mylar bags and O2 absorbers:  I have the buckets but now I need the bags and the oxygen absorbers so that I can package my food is smaller quantities.  For me, it is easier to pull a one gallon bag out of the bucket as needed than to open the bucket, scoop our when I need, add a new O2 absorber, then seal it up again.  (Although for some items, I do that as well.)

Cast Iron Skillet with Hot Handle Holder: I feel that everyone should own a basic, 12” cast iron skillet.  In spite of the myth, they are easy to care for and over time, will become a family heirloom.  On grid or off grid, cooking with cast iron is the way to go.

Fiskars Traditional Bypass Pruning Shears: Cheap pruning shears or snippers are simply not worth it.  Why bother when you can pay less than $10 for genuine Fiskars.  These are the snippers I purchased to discretely scout for biomass.  Of course I find other uses for them in the garden as well.

Alaska May 2013 312 Lifestraw

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw contains no chemicals, no batteries and no moving parts to wear out. It features a a high flow rate and weighs only 2 oz. It works quickly, taking roughly 3-5 seconds of sucking to start the flow of water through the filter. It’s ultra-light and inexpensive but effective.  There is also the LifeStraw Family that will purify up to 12 liters per hour.

The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way: I KNOW I packed my print version of Joe and Amy Aton’s book but somehow it has disappear so I added the eBook version to my digital library.  This is one book everyone should own.


Shop Emergency Essentials Sales for Fantastic Deals!

Emergency Essentials | Backdoor Survival


Need something from Amazon (and who doesn’t)? I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here. You still get great Amazon service and the price is the same, no matter what.

Amazon has a feature called Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items. This is an easy tool for finding products that people are ‘wishing” for and in this way you know what the top products are.  All you need to do is select the category from the left hand side of the screen.

The Amazon Top Most Wished For and Best Selling Outdoor Items
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Essential Oils: Deal of the Week

Each week I update a special page with the Spark Naturals item of the week?  You can find it here:  Essential Oils from Spark Naturals – Weekly Deals. Every once in awhile there will be free shipping or a free gift offered as well as a product discount.

20% Off Discount Code:  BACKDOORSURVIVAL
This is the sale you have been waiting for!Spark Naturals Anniversary Sale | Backdoor Survival

And remember, you can always use the code BACKDOORSURVIVAL for an additional 10% off your entire SN order.  When it comes to saving money, every little bit helps.

  1. Hi there, love your blog and that you are a fellow female prepper who makes good sense. I’m teaching a beginner prep class at our community center this winter and woulld like to refer preppers to your blog.
    One thing that did bother me is that your immediate purchases seemed very pricey and I thought it would be helpful to know your prep budget. I live in a beautiful small community in Ohio (with plenty of rain) and think that for us, good rain barrel water collection is a the way to go. Plus like myself, many in my community are on limited incomes.
    I guess what I’m asking is what are your suggestions for prepping when you can’t spend what you did in your first two weeks?
    Loved your idea of refilling water bottles to use as ‘grey’ water.
    Thank you. Looking forward to your answers!

  2. Hi, Gaye~ cactus probably wouldn’t help you much for cooking fuel, but don’t discount it. As long as there is cactus around, you have a constant source of food and hydration. For biomass fuels, most southwest desert areas have plenty of sages, brooms, and/or rabbit brush. All of these would burn well in your rocket stove. Go for the woody old growth, if possible, rather than the tender new growth, for burning. Another source of desert fuel is dried animal “patties.” They’ll burn pretty much like charcoal. You’re looking for dried piles… not pellets. Don’t worry, when they are dried out, there’s no smell. *G*

  3. That 320 gallon water system can be a double edged sword. The benefit is that you can store 320 gallons of water in a very small area, the negative is that you are storing 320 gallons of water in a very small area. Water is very heavy. 320 gallons of water weigh over a ton (2670 pounds, to be precise). That’s over a ton of weight in 7 and a half square feet of floor space. Where are you going to put it that the floor is strong enough to hold that kind of weight? If you are putting it on a concrete slab, you’re all set (except that you should look into raising it up a little on something so you get airflow instead of mold growing underneath). Any other kind of floor I’d look into reinforcing before putting that kind of weight on it or you might end up with 320 gallons of water in the basement or crawl space and a large hole in your floor! I’m surprised that the Emergency Essentials description doesn’t have any sort of warning about this…

    I’d also seriously consider the review comments before purchasing something that expensive. The complaints about dirty tanks and plastic smell worry me.

    1. The tanks will be located in a garage, suspended on top of 2x4s. I agree about the Emergency Essentials site. The descriptions and technical specifications on a number of items are quite thin.

  4. You probably know this, re: collecting wood from construction sites, they say not to burn treated wood, the kind they use for building porches and outdoor decks. Maybe newer treated wood doesn’t have the dangerous preservatives or what-not (or as much?) in them these days as they used to, I don’t know, but the older stuff is nasty when burned.

    This week I took my favorite, and often used, 3 1/2″ folding knife out of its leather sheath. Last year I stored the knife over the Winter the wrong way: wrapped inside a plastic baggie drenched in rust inhibitor and then stuffed inside the leather sheath. Come Springtime I discovered spots of green had formed on the brass portion of the knife handle. There was no rust (they say leather attracts moisture, but I guess maybe it depends on where the leather is stored?) but I didn’t like the green on brass. The question I’ve been pondering for awhile now is, how to store the knife and sheath when I’m not using it. I’ve been told the green comes off, but there must be a trick I don’t know because it wouldn’t come off for me.

    I’ve thought about possible storage solutions from time to time over the course of this year but I never really came across an idea I liked or a nylon sheath I liked, and was a good fit, and wanted to spend money on.

    I carry a thinner and lighter knife in my front pocket during the off season and this week my hand was forced: it was time to put my heavier knife and its leather sheath away for the season. I wanted to store it in my ‘camping bag’. I had some (very hard to source locally for some reason) tiny nylon bags I bought as part of a bunch last summer, they were about 3″x9″, perfect sized for tent stakes. After I sprayed the knife down with some rust preventor I slipped it into one of these bags and tied the top shut with the string that comes with the bag. Then I put that bag into another bag the same size and put the leather sheath inside that, so they are together, yet separated. I added one of those spring type cordlocks to the string that closes the outer bag so it wouldn’t open easily.

    While untying the nylon string I found out it was composed of a string within a string. I had pulled it wrong somehow and the inside length was protruding out a bit and began to make a birds nest type of frazzle. I don’t know how to correct that! Maybe with a needle? I quickly tied the ends together and moved on, but now I know to watch out for creating that mess in the future.

    I don’t know if that’s a good way to store a knife or not, but I’ll find out.

    Now I’m a bit late! I’m off to the local farmers market to try and network… a.k.a. talk to people. I have learned (it seems to me anyway) that the bigger the farmers market is, the more difficult it is to get to know them. It’s not the size of the city the farmers market is in.

    Oh, I saw a funny sign in a “treasure/junk” store this week that some of you might like, it said:

    My grandmother used it.
    My mother threw it in the trash.
    And I bought it.

  5. Don’t discount the “bio-mass” of newspaper and other paper products. Imagine a TP roll stuff full of folded TP rolls. That would burn for quite a while. (and if you cut it in all the TP rolls in half, it would fit in a small stove quite nicely.) Shove a little dryer lint into the end of each and they become very easy to light.

    I used to make newspaper logs for my fireplace. Not sure how you could make them small enough for small (read “solo type”) stove, but they would work in outdoor fireplace quite nicely. Some people say to wet the newspaper before rolling it, then let it dry throughly (which shouldn’t be a problem in the desert LOL) but I never did. Just rolled them as tight as possible and used twist ties to bind them closed….yes, it took a few twist ties twisted end to end to make it long enough, but I learned the hard way that twine is NOT the way to go. (or you could use thin wire that you buy…but what to do with all those twist ties? )

    Don’t try to roll the entire Sunday paper up at once…start with one section and about half way down add another section and halfway down that one add another. You get the idea…kinda like how you make a french braid in your hair.

    Now if you have a recycling pick up area/transfer station you are supposed to take your recyclables to…that’s the place to pick up newspapers, cuz no one can afford to buy as many newspapers as you need to make logs. It was my experience that a newspaper log burned about 3/4 as long as a real log. Not bad for something I was going to throw away. The only problem is the ashes are not good for chickens to dust bathe in, which is why I don’t make them anymore.

  6. Hope everything goes relatively smooth. Just don’t forget to take your own advice about prepper burnout if needed. Good luck to you and Shelly on the new adventure. PS the new pressure treat lumberis real toxic still

  7. The first thing I did, when I started prepping, was create an inventory of things I had. Then, a personal skills inventory.

    I did not then, but should have, made a block diagram, or some other graphic of my prep plan. This will take some time, maybe a few weeks, and you’ll rewrite it many times. You should prioritize your goals and research the costs for each step.

    Prepping is like any long term project, with one possible exception, you never really finish. Think about building a house. A roof is very important, but, it’s not the first thing you do.

  8. Wow Gaye, my hats off to you for enduring another prepping household. Last summer I bought a 18″x8′ child’s pool at a thrift store for $1. I plan to use this if needed for extra water. I currently fill any bottle or jug with water for cleaning, these are stored in various places around the house. We do have a fast running stream at the end of our property.
    I find that if I just add $20 a shopping trip of extra food, batteries and other essentials, it’s not so overwhelming to my pocketbook.
    Good luck in your new habitat, we have had a black bear outside all day keeping us inside.

  9. I have been using 2L bottles to hold my drinking water. (water here is heavily chlorinated so I don’t treat it but do rotate it every 6 months). I am moving to my daughter’s in a week. They are on a well so will use your idea of storing grey water over the winter. In the summer they have water rights to a resevoir with the water piped into their yard. They have generators but are lax about keeping fuel which I will be seeing to immediately as well as ensuring there is always an extra propane tank for the BBQ. So far she has chickens, turkeys and pigs and as property is riverfront we will be fishing for salmon next year. Also on the agenda for next year is a much larger garden and a hunting licence as there is a lot of game in the area, especially deer. I will be adding fruit trees and bushes to the garden. There is enough fenced land for a mini cow or a couple of goats but fields will need to be replanted first. Lots of work to do but it will be worth it.

  10. Will your move to AZ be permanent? I spent the day researching for a safe place to move…I want warm, dry winters with little chance of tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, fires, and not close to a military base or nuclear power plant. I know that’s a lot of parameters; but I’m senior citizen and only want to move ONCE! Any suggestions?

    1. We will be here for the winter months. I can’t say AZ is perfect in that there is a lot of nuclear exposure (Palo Verde) plus there are border issues. Depending on location, water could also be a problem. On the other hand, the cost of living is CHEAP compared to Washington State and the weather is nice. There are a lot of retired people here. Or I should say senior citizens – many still work at least part time.

  11. Several years ago I purchased several gallons of bleach in plastic jugs. They were a mix of generic and name brands. Within 8 months 3/4 of them started leaking regardless of brand. Since it was an unused room, by the time I found the leaks, the bleach had eaten through the wood floor. Just something to watch for. YMMV. Yours is an excellent site. Thanks.

  12. Winco sells Mylar bags, oxygen eaters, buckets, bulk food, and pre-package survival meal kits. You may consider going there if you don’t want to pay shipping.

    I grew up in central AZ and although it may not be the prettiest place especially if you’re near the metro area. Get away to the north or south and you will get a whole new perspective of what AZ really is; an awesome wonder of every kind of environment that can be found across the country within a few hours drive. Enjoy your stay.

    1. I believe we passed by a Winco during our travels and also, that some of my PNW readers have raved about their bulk food section. I hope to check them out soon.

      The sunsets here are very different from “home” but are indeed beautiful in their own right. The lightning is something to behold as well.

  13. Your comment about the lack of trees resonates with me. I traveled through that area once and coming from the Northland it felt like I was walking on the moon.

    I really liked the looks of the Colorado River area though, wished I would have checked it out more. Maybe you will?

    The desert 4×4 area towards the West into CalifornIA was enticing, too. In it’s own sort of moon base way.
    That said, the campfires seen from a distance in the middle of nowhere in the center of a circle of parked RVs is not something I’ll soon forget. Kewl stuff.

    Mot having traveled the whole state, I suspect this sentence should read: “an awesome wonder of -almost- every kind of environment that can be found across the country”. If you see trees, real trees, do tell. …Just ribbing you all. But still. Anyway, at least it’s not west Texas. Now that’s barren. heh

    1. You must not have visited the White Moutains!! I promise there are real trees there. Old growth is a little harder to find but it’s there, just hit the higher elevation areas. Down south is very awesome with the Sky Islands, don’t waste your time at Catalina moutains in Tucson go to the Pinalenos near Safford. A sky island rises from the desert and is the equivalent of driving to Canada with the different ecosystems including old growth!

  14. We installed a 300 gallon tank this summer to harvest rainwater from one of our horse sheds(metal roof) to use for gardening or emergencies. The following is a formula to calculate the number of gallons collected based on rainfall. Square footage of roof x inches of rainfall x conversion factor (.623)= gallons of water. A gallon of water weighs about 8.3 lbs per gallon. If need be we could boil/filter/treat the water for drinking. You have to remember that bird poop will end up in water harvested from roofs.

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