INSTANT SURVIVAL TIP: Upscale survival training

image by Dave Dugdale

Resources for learning new skills are all around us, but have you thought of checking out upscale retail stores for classes? Liz Long, a long-time Survival Mom contributor, writes:

Williams Sonoma probably isn’t one of the top ten (or twenty) places anyone thinks of when they’re talking about prepping.  Sometimes there are great finds in unexpected places, and this is one of them. Most of their stores have weekly “techinique” classes that are FREE!

Last summer, I took a class on making jams and jellies. This last August I attended a class on grinding your own grains. I’ve also seen classes on canning and other prepper-friendly topics. Each class includes recipes to take home.  Of course they do demonstrate products they would like you to buy. For example, they demonstrated a $50 hand-powered mini food processor I would love to have. Cheap? Clearly not, but I’m pretty sure it would last the rest of my life, with care, and a power outage would not affect it.

I really enjoy the classes because they give me the confidence to try new things. As someone who is totally clueless about cooking, I also value classes on techniques such as braising, sautéing, and knife skills. Many of you may already know these things, but I’m not even entirely clear on what the words mean, much less how to do them.

Next time you have a free Sunday afternoon, you might want to take a trip to Williams Sonoma and learn some new cooking techniques. They do ask you to make a reservation in advance, but I have been able to drop in without a problem.

REI stores also have a very nice variety of classes, almost all of them are free. My family is taking a class this month on using a compass and reading topographical maps. They also offer classes that teach bicycle maintenance (important if gasoline prices ever become too expensive), and outdoor survival skills, including Wilderness Medicine.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s offer an enormous range of classes that have included outdoor survival skills for kids, hunter safety courses, meat processing, Dutch oven cooking, bow hunting, and tons more.

Are there other retail stores that you know of that offer classes related to survival and preparedness?

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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  1. Jill says

    Also check living history museums and National Park Service. We’very learned about spinning, how to dip candles, even how to clean clothes with wash boards and ringers at various historical sites near us. Next year my husband wants to take a class in blacksmithing with our oldest son. It is a fun family outing to boot.

    • says

      I can second this one. Nautical museums give you up-close and real views on how primitive (okay, 19th-century) fishing and boating happened. Out here in Oregon, most pioneer museums are perfect incubators for learning how they lived and worked back in the late 19th century, sans power.

      On the east coast, y’all are even luckier. A good, solid study of, say, Colonial Williamsburg (esp. with the re-enactors)? That will give you solid insight into how you can rebuild things if society goes ‘splat. The best part is, most of these are at an absurdly low cost, and some are even free. As a kid, I remember a small outdoor exhibit at an old Virginia gristmill that had the complete recipe for soapmaking, right there on the plaque (next to a log trough that had been burned in the center, which they used to make lye).

  2. says

    Great Ideas! And the Ren and other festivals where period clothing are worn and many families camp out and use old timey traditional cooking, hand made clothing, and have many antique tools and things to examine and try out. One we went to many time in Illinois which was near our home in Wonder Lake, had the best fish and potato stew made in huge cauldrons over and open fire pit…. and also fresh popped and sweetened corn….on a cold day I can tell you it was a real treat. Watching the medical / dental tools be demonstrated on volunteer ( actors) was my favorite. Bartering tents were also popular and often run by the young people. All the items were either small handmade things or items from nature, like cool rocks, shells, feathers, pieces of leather thongs, colored cloth pieces, ribbon strips, etc………Great Fun family outings.
    Thanks for the reminders :-)
    Peace at

  3. countrygirl says

    Check out your local cooperative extension service, ours offer a variety of classes for food prep, and we have a community education program, also with great classes. Or quilting stores that offer classes on things like making clothing.

  4. Elsje Taggart says

    While my grandmother was the one who taught me to knit, it was classes at my local yarn shop that provided the tools, materials, and lessons on how to spin my own yarn and also how to weave it into cloth. I have also found that many folks selling their goods at farmers markets can be a useful resource- if someone is selling homemade soap, ask about the process and if they would like a volunteer to help make their next batch. Often, they will be happy to share their time and experience with you. Same for small, organic family farms selling produce. I even was offered a class on blowing my own glass vessels, although I am not sure I will be buying the kiln anytime soon!

  5. says

    Those are great ideas. Nice post.

    I was thinking if there were other places and off the top of my hard ole head comes Magazines. There are a lot of great magazines that print articles along these lines. They are already hard copy, so you don’t have to print them out. They can contain plans for planting, guerrilla harvesting, tool making, defense, emergency preps… the whole shebang.
    I recommend:
    Mother Earth News
    Hobby Farms
    Back Home
    Country Living … and most of the rest in this wide genre.

  6. HikingDan says

    Interesting that nobody mentioned the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Most cities where I live often offer free or low cost classes through their parks and recreation department. In fact, I can’t wait to take a free Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training class offered by my city.

  7. Suburban Housewife says

    Not to miss the “upscale” aspect of your post – we have a store – its’ a chain, but I don’t know how many or where other stores are – it’s called Sur La Table. They have classes, primarily cooking, but they also have cheese making and canning. YOu can find the store locations and class schedules here

    Also several of the health food stores around here have various classes, the botanical garden, and there are several very upscale local “kitchen” stores that offer classes too.

    Don’t forget to check Facebook and Meet Up to find like minded people who arrange meetings and lessons and thing.s

  8. Marcie J says

    As a former employee of a living history museum in CT, I second-third-fourth looking to museums and sometimes your public library for classes and demos. I’ve taught classes on fire making in an hearth, open hearth cooking, knitting, herb use, etc. Ironically I am very afraid of fire (and I have firemen in my family!) but I forced myself to learn how to start and control it because I knew it was a valuable skill and part of my job. 😉 Museums and libraries are also very safe environments to start introducing young children to these skills.

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