Very often, when we discuss any type of preparedness or emergency planning, we focus on the needs we have that must be addressed for us to survive. Things such as shelter, food, water, first-aid and defense are all talked about. Certainly they are important and necessary for our basic survival, but in contemporary society, all around the globe, “survival” is involving economic considerations at a greater rate. That reality forces us to make this realization: self reliance equals economic stability. The caveat is this: …but only if we can adjust our expectations realistically. What do I mean? Allow me to explain.
In the homes of most of middle class America you’ll find a host of conveniences; some of which we take for granted; others we might appreciate a tad more. Those conveniences would include but are not limited to:
- Electric lights, heat and air conditioning
- Indoor plumbing
- Electric or gas cooking
- Prepackaged food
- Abundant entertainment (i.e. television, games, recorded movies, etc.)
- Prepackaged toiletries (i.e. soap, shampoo, shaving cream, razors, etc.)
- Communications (i.e. phones, computers, etc.)
A great many of the preppers I know are middle class folks who simply want to be prepared to survive in the event some emergency strikes. It may be a weather event (hurricane) or a man-made disaster (nuclear power plant leak) or an attack of some sort by terrorists. Whatever the cause of the emergency, these folks make all kinds of preparations (and I’m NOT being critical; I think they are wise to do so) so that the emergency will have less impact on their survival AND their convenience.
What struck me in this thought process was just how much MORE prepared they would be if the adjusted their lifestyle to slightly reduce their dependence on those conveniences, focusing more on self-reliance. The happy side effect, if they did, would be less felt impact for them from today’s unstable economy. What do I mean?
Let’s take some of those conveniences listed above as examples and consider ways we might adjust our expectations. If we can adjust our expectations, reducing our utility dependence, we can increase our financial independence. For the record, none of these things involve installing full-scale (or even down-scaled) solar power systems on your home.
Electric lights, heat and air conditioning.
There is a limit to how much we can adjust our lifestyle to require less electric light. As humans we require light to see and function. However, there are options that might be viable for us to seek other electric sources (solar power instead of grid power) and there are other lighting options which are, admittedly, not as convenient as flipping the switch. For instance, solar recharged LED lights designed for landscaping use can be charged outside during the day but brought inside at night for lighting. Many of them are bright enough to read by and have on/off switches. After the one time purchase cost, they become a savings in your electric bill.
During the winter months it’s easy enough to heat a house using a wood burning stove. However, during the summer months, few of us like to sweat and sleeping can sometimes be difficult when it’s hot. While we may not voluntarily do without air conditioning, we CAN learn how to keep our houses cooler (or warmer) by adjusting how we use our sunshades, blinds, and when we open or close our windows. I live in the mid-Atlantic region and can keep my house comfortable the majority of the time by controlling air flow and light intrusion (how much sunlight I let into my home) if the temperatures remain between 55 – 85. Humidity becomes the biggest concern, but on my electric bill, the savings I’ve seen (nearly 50% – sometimes more) make it worth the work and occasional inconvenience.
I like my warm showers as much as the next guy. That said, if I’m willing to do the work, I can take nice warm showers outside in the spring, summer and fall months. I use far less water and no electricity heating it up. How? Camp showers. Just Google that term. Camp showers. A five-gallon thermoplastic container with a small shower head attached. It heats up through the course of a sunny day and is sufficient water to get wet, lathered, shampooed and rinsed. The one caveat I have is that you need one camp shower for each family member who showers daily AND you need a fixed location outside to take those showers.
Obviously, anyone can go to the bathroom outside rather than using a toilet inside, but to be sanitary you have to plan and set up for it. A composting or other disposal system has to be in place and (just as obviously) it never smells pretty. That all said, the average toilet uses about three gallons of water PER FLUSH, so you can make a significant dent in your water bill by reducing your toilet flushes.
Pets don’t require well-fed or city-provided “clean” water. For that matter, neither do we humans; however, we DO require water cleaner than our pets’ bodies can handle. Of course, depending on what climate you live in, there is usually a pretty good water source available if we’re smart enough to take advantage of it: it’s called RAIN. I’ve written previous articles dedicated to rain barrels and stand by their value. The amount of water we lose off our roofs each rainfall is amazing. That water can be captured, prefiltered and used for just about every purpose we require water for.
I’m talking about meat, fish, fruits and vegetables. Man has been a hunter/gatherer being for as long back as history can document. We are omnivores, meaning that our mouths, teeth and bodies are designed so that we can take sustenance from meat, fruit, vegetables and other organic material. Largely, in modern society, we are dependent on the local grocery store for canned vegetables, prebutchered and packaged meat, frozen fish, etc. That is our choice and I’m as guilty as the next guy. That said, it’s also our choice, if we make it, to hunt for our meat; fish for our fish; and grow our own vegetables if we have the space.
It IS a matter of work and time to do these things. If you are supporting a middle-class family, the effort has to involve everyone old enough to be involved if you’re going to make a significant impact in how much you spend on these things at the grocery store. It may also require an adjustment in your eating habits. Ground venison may have to replace ground beef. Fresh filleted, battered and fried or grilled fish may have to replace frozen and microwaved fish. Rather than buying canned vegetables, you would have to invest the time in raising, harvesting and canning/jarring the vegetables yourself.
But just using those three items on our necessities list, think about the reduction that can be made in how much money you spend for conveniences. Of course, we call them conveniences because using them saves us time and effort. That’s the trade off. Reducing our dependence on these conveniences means increasing the amount of time and work we put into being self-reliant. The positive side of the effort, though, is the reduced impact we feel when the economy is bad or challenged. THAT is a preparedness effort many of us overlook but one that is looming ever larger in consideration almost daily if we believe contemporary news. Believe them or not, I have to think we’d all feel more secure financially, and from the general preparedness outlook, if we reduced our dependence on these costly conveniences and worked up a little more sweat doing for ourselves.
What do you think?
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