Survival Survey: In defense of ‘frivolous’ items

image by Kirti Poddar

There have been more than a couple of times that people have posted here about stocking up on 5 Hour Energy drinks, chocolate, coffee and other similar “luxury” items only to have one or more people give a rather withering reply about how foolish they are to even think about anything beyond water, wheat, and bullets. (I’m going to guess those folks don’t have young children at home.)

If you’re a single guy who isn’t looking out for anyone but yourself, that approach might work. You would still probably end up with taste bud fatigue, but that’s your business.

However, a lot of “frivolous” items have very real value in a SHTF situation, and not just for barter. If you are forced to stay up all night driving to get to a safe place, doing guard duty, or nursemaiding someone with food poisoning, wouldn’t a 5 Hour Energy drink come in handy?

Chocolate has proven calming properties in stress-filled situations, among other things, and that can be invaluable. Besides, it really does rock as a barter item.

If I have to get my kids to drink powdered milk, I really don’t want to try it without adding some Hershey’s Chocolate (or Strawberry) Syrup. At least as importantly, my stockpile of Teriyaki sauce buys me some time if my sons favorite brand should ever (please NOOOOO!!!!) change the recipe.

So, what “frivolous” items do you have, and what is your defense of frivolous items?

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. 

© Copyright 2011 The Survival Mom, All rights Reserved. Written For: The Survival Mom
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Liz Long

Liz Long is an eclectic writer who lives in the exurbs (that's what comes after the suburbs) with her husband, sons, and cats. Her life-long Scouting skills have been a help in becoming a prepper, but the lack of any cooking skills in the entire extended family is not. Liz blogs at

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  1. says

    Frivolous indeed. There isn't a thing frivolous about storing comfort foods. Cocoa, really good chocolate bars and fixings for cookies (butterscotch, coconut, chocolate chips) are my top frivolous items.

  2. Katie says

    I really appreciate this article – I have two kids, and I share your sentiments. I have stocked up on the kids' favorite brand of canned Ravioli, as well as their favorite cookies (Oreos). We also keep a healthy stock of jams and jellies, as my husband makes the best jellies from our peach and fig trees. Even when you put great food in front of a picky eater – he or she may still refuse that food, which could be dangerous – plus, if we are ever in a truly desparate situation, I imagine that we could all appreciate some comfort food!

  3. Lynda says

    I have many frivolous items and don't feel a need to defend them to anyone. It's not as if what I buy is subject to anyone's approval. It's simply a matter of choice.
    I don't have young children in the house as my sons are grown men, but I'm quite sure they, and I, will appreciate some cookies, chocolate, coffee, popcorn, dried fruit, marshmallows and other goodies to break up the monotony of a basic, no frills diet.

    Other frills would include good fiction books, scented soap, face moisturizer, body lotion and hair conditioner.

    LOL, what, am I going to get a spanking because I'll spend my money as I please? :-)

  4. MaryB in GA says

    Good points Liz! I have some 5 gallon buckets of hard candy, some cocoa for baking and buckets of popping corn and an old fashioned over a fire popper. I have crayons, coloring books and board games too. My most "vain" luxury item is some brown haircolor kits that I pick up when they're on sale or being discontinued since I'm afraid I'd turn gray really quick, LOL!

  5. Ra Clette Kaese says

    I have a stock of unread books at home. Fantasy, biographies and the likes. Me and my roomate are geeks and if a situation arises, where we have to bunk down, we have something to do. Ther is nothing better than somebody reading to you, when you are to ill to hold your eyes open. And I have a "special occassion pack" also known als " moral booster pack" and "the trade off". In there I have some chocolate, some alkohol (rum and wine), some cigarretes, cookies, jellow powder, "Ahoi Brause" (german treat) and other things to fill the space in the box.
    Just as the names for the box suggest its for celebrating birthdays, finding familiy members or if the moral is particulary down. Nothing helps more then something nice to eat, when you had a bad week. It contents (cigarettes and alcohol) can also be used to be traded (there are always some people who are better of than you and can indulge in luxuries).
    It also helps in "normal" desperate moments like when my roomate got some bad news. It was late and the stores were closed. So I broke the wine and the choclate out and we talked till the next morning. Additional good effect: She had to laugh, when I showed her my secret stash.

  6. Laurie says

    I actually don't care what other people store, aand I don't care what they think about my storage! A person can have ten tons of wheat stored away and still die of starvation because of appetite fatigue. I store what I think will be useful in getting my family through a crisis while minimizing their sense of deprivation.

  7. says

    I'm pretty sure my kids would rather starve than eat most of what I could come up with from food storage, as such, we stock plenty of boxed macaroni for them and plan to mix it in occasionally as needed.

  8. says

    Small pleasures go a long way in easing stress and creating continuity in otherwise harsh situations. Coffee, apple cider, my preferred brand of facial cleanser/moisturizer, thick fluffy socks so my feet won't be cold – there are lots of little things that are easy to stock up on that will be extremely appreciated later!

    I usually defend them by pointing out that as the homemaker it is, and will remain, my responsibility to see to the needs of my household. I know what it takes to make that happen in good times or bad, and its vastly easier to just prepare for the reality than to try and realign it to logical argument. :0)

  9. says

    We have 'luxuries'. Coffee, for sure. Candy. It helps grease the wheels, and can be a comfort to help kids cope. It can also be used as an encourager if there is hard work that kids are unused to, long trips driving out of an area, etc. "As soon as we get there we'll have a lolly and then set up our beds" or "when we're done digging we'll have some chocolate milk". We have cocoa and sugar stored, to try to provide normalcy- I want to be able to make a birthday cake or a treat at Christmas, even if we can't do anything else, there is no party, no presents, etc. because of an emergency situation. These cultural touchstones are important and are part of who we are, part of our humanity.

    I have some of the familie's favorites, even though we don't usually eat them (summer sausage, for example.) If things are so bad we're eating our emergency supply, a little bit of thoughtfulness and home comforts go a long way.

    I have lollipops in our first aid kit. A sucker is a good way to distract a distraught child, help them hold still, etc. while removing stingers, washing and bandaging wounds, and so on.

    • LizLong says

      I have to admit, I think I've lost track of how many boxes of cake mix I have long-term stored with O2 absorbers. I know I have at least 10 in the regular pantry area as well. My kids really do love to bake cakes, and when I find the mix on sale for $1, I just don't see a reason to say no. About $2-$3, all in, for a full cake and happy kids? Heck yeah! And we'll have birthdays covered for a long time if we cut the cake mix usage down to just birthdays. :-)

  10. Linda says

    Humans are more than just a physical body. We need good nutrition, but also nourishment for soul and spirit. So I'm including in my stash morale boosting things like candy and wine, good books and classical music, board games and art supplies. II have a box of "gifts" for birthdays and Christmases to come — nothing fancy, but SOMETHING so that even in a SHTF scenario, life does go on and we'll have good things for which to be thankful. Anyone who'd criticise the inclusion of such things is being short-sighted, since survival is, first and foremost, a mental challenge. If they keep hope alive and remind us of all that's good and noble in life . . . then my money was well spent.
    I also try to make all my survival preps beautiful as well as functional. My vegetable garden is a delight to visit, and my chicken coop is decorated in a quirky, fun manner. I used what I already had, didn't spend much extra time or money, but it makes a little more magic in what might become a dreary, chore-filled existence. Optimism is a valuable thing in this dark world. Let's hold on to as much sunshine as we can!

  11. rightwingmom says

    Frivolous Preppers UNITE! :)

    If you have the finances and means, stockpiling comfort items (food, toiletries, etc.) makes sense. Whether they're for personal use or bartering…history shows that "creature comforts" are sought after. Even in Laura Ingalls Wilder's books, she reflects on the simple pleasures of store bought candy and white sugar. I have my frivolous items packed away. Trust me…when the SHTF, that piece of dark chocolate MAY save my sanity! The guys, who think stockpiling a limited diet makes them REAL preppers better, not beg me for brownies or kettle popcorn from my frivoious stash. :)

    Jesus told us in Matt. 4:4 "Man does not live by bread alone…" (IMHO…spiritually and nutritionally)

  12. jen in michigan says

    If you've stored the necessities and have the space and cash for some extras – go for it! One of the reasons we're preppers is that we live our own way and don't like the government telling us how to live. Let's not start dictating to each other.

  13. says

    A frivolous item I always carry is some kind of water flavoring. I can only drink so much water, especially if it is warm.

    These days there are complete (nothing else needs added),instant versions of everything: Tang, Gatorade, lemonade, Kool-Aid, you name it. I've become a big fan of Mio. It mixes a lot easier since it is a liquid.

    And I do pack a travel mug that doubles as a French press. Honestly, if there isn't coffee, is it really surviving?

    • JillyBean says

      It's not a frivolous item. I know missionaries who love KoolAid since it colors their water so it isn't brown. They always want the darkest colors. The water in a survival situation may be gross looking. KoolAid and such will help people want to drink it anyway.

      • Chandra says

        A french press is a straight sided pot. The lid has a plunger on it. You put coffee grounds and hot water in the pot. let it steep for a few minutes. then push the plunger down to hold the grounds. Keeps you from having to strain your coffee with your teeth. They are available all over if you know what you are looking for.

  14. TheSurvivalMom says

    I have a few bags of brownie mix but also have the ingredients to make a hundred batches or so from scratch! However, my main frivolous item isn't in my stash yet, and it's my Bumble & Bumble shampoo. There's just something about it that keeps my hair looking clean for 3 days! If I use the cheapie stuff, my hair is flat and looks dirty by the middle of the afternoon and I use a TON more. My B&B isn't cheap, but it would actually end up saving water because I don't have to shampoo my hair that often. I haven't stocked up on much candy and we aren't coffee drinkers. I guess another frivolous item for me, though, is the green tea they serve at Starbucks! Of course, Starbucks may end up being like cockroaches, surviving just fine right through Armageddon!

  15. LizLong says

    I don't really care much what others think of my preps, but I do see people making negative comments sometimes about what others are storing. I know there are lurkers out there and I want them to see that those negative Nellies are just not seeing the forest for the trees! I am glad so many folks are being smart about it. :-)

    I have, however, and with great effort, resisted buying a machine to make my own soda. I don't drink coffee, I drink soda for the caffeine. But I'm going to stay strong and not buy this gadget….

  16. says

    I use the 5 hour Power Shots when I go fishing and they do help keep a level steady flow of energy w/o a crash at the end. But they do a number on my stomach, especially if I haven't eaten anything first. And they also dehydrate me.

    I'd rather stock up on No Doze and Ginseng pills.

    • LizLong says

      I read about an all-natural green-tea based drink in O Magazine. It's called eboost and they have it on I want to get some but haven't tried it yet. Maybe that would be kinder to your tummy?

  17. Jan says

    I have cocca powder and hard candies in my food storage to make occasional sweets if things were to get tough. My grandpa has told me stories about being a little boy during the depression. His family was dirt poor and they scraped by on cornmeal porridge, oatmeal, whatever animal they could shoot, and plants that grew nearby. He said that sweets were rare and usually given to the kids by someone not in their family. Sweets were something he really looked forward to. The memories of wanting something sweet still haunt him, so I made sure I had some comfort foods in my food storage. BTW, my grandpa is terrified that another great depression is looming over us. He calls often to make sure we are stocking up, canning foods, and preparing.

  18. rainygardener says

    My parents lived through the Depression and I can say that it was the little things like chocolate ice cream and soft peanut brittle paddies that they remember most, that got them through hard times.
    Dad's Mom took apart an old wool coat she had and made him and his little Brother Elmer Sunday nickers, jackets and caps.
    Grandma and Grandpa owned a small meat market in Illinois, they grew the beef, pork and chickens. Grandma would made up a beef roast and bread and go down to the rails and make sandwitches for men who were riding the rails in search of any place that had work for them.
    Little things go a long way when times are hard, they help you feel normal if only for a moment and that moment is remembered for a lifetime.

  19. rainygardener says

    For my comfort preps, I grow mint for my tea and lavender for calming, soothing effect in lotions and baths.
    My husband seriously uses chocolate when he is stressed and worried. Chocolate doesn't store too well, so I have tons of cocoa powder and sugar put away.
    Oh, lets not forget the Pinot grapes I am growing for my wine someday.

    • LizLong says

      I'm planting lavender near a path in our yard because it's pretty, it smells nice to people, it has herbal uses – and apparently a lot of critters (including deer) aren't fond of it. They don't hate it like they hate marigolds, but it at least won't draw them in closer.

      We have mint in a planter in the front. It apparently can be very aggressive and take over everything around it. But sometimes I just break off a leaf and eat it to help me stay awake. It's not as good as caffeine, but it helps a bit. :-)

  20. shewhispers says

    IMO, anyone knocking people for storing goodies is probably a troll (internet, or RL). Ever since I read a "don't make my mistakes" blog post about a lady that stored a bunch of chocolate she got with coupons after Easter (big savings), then after some time (I forget how long), she said the chocolate candies smelled off, so I won't store chocolate except cocoa powder. I'll just eat the chocolate candies in non-disaster times LOL

    As far as my frivolous item: powdered flavored coffee creamer, and of course coffee. DH will make a special trip to the store if he runs out of flavored creamer. After Ike, I made SO much coffee on the campstove, because at that time, my 2 neighbors either didn't know how to make coffee without power, or didn't have the supplies. Guess what I got back without asking? One mowed our front yard after we picked up the sticks (to break apart all the debris) as well as giving us their coffee to make sure I didn't run out, while the other brought home ice for our chest for almost a week, until the stores reopened (his job gave their employees a few bags of ice everyday as incentive to keep showing up LOL – they're specialized trash pickuper uppers, so they were hoping to get lots of contracts after the storm). So frivolous goodies pay off in disasters AFAIK.

    PS: When I went to nursing school, we thought it was odd that old people counted their toilet paper squares. I even saw a lady put back squares on top of the holder after I pulled off more than her "magic number". An older nurse told us they learned this from growing up in the Great Depression – when toilet paper was a real luxury!

  21. schatzie ohio says

    This isn't a comment about this thread but I can not open the comments on the camping post. I have tried on several days and no go.

    • TheSurvivalMom says

      You're the second person who has mentioned this. On my end, there's nothing different with that post than all the others. Let me ask some computer friends of mine and see if there's a fix. Thanks for letting me know.

  22. Diana says

    Well, as far as food goes, the only thing that might be considered frivolous is the several containers of Nutella that I got when they were on special. Not everyone has heard of it, it is a hazelnut spread with skim milk and cocoa. A nice change from peanut butter. A frivolous non-food item I stocked up is dollar store eyeliner pencils and eyeshadow. Darned if I'm going through the apocalypse without my eyes on. lol.

    I learned from another mother how to hide treats from the family so that they could be doled out at a moderate pace. When the Girl Guide were doing their yearly cookie sale she would buy many boxes, store them in the freezer, wrapped in foil and labelled 'peas'. lol.

  23. Sean P says

    To see the value of frivolous items in a SHTF scenario, just look to the second world war. Chocolate, coffee, sugar, maple syrup (which I have 5 gallons of), honey, booze (good stuff, not hooch) were all used as bribes, or ways of getting things done when supplies were short, so do not under estimate their appeal, and their value.

    I'm not saying to short yourself on staples to have a stash of "goodies", but as a barter item, some chocolate goes a LONG way as a bribe, and if the idiots are pushing the perimeter, and shooting at you, wanting your stuff, then a few 5 Hour Energy, or a good strong pot of coffee with sugar will be a damned welcome addition.

  24. Tracy says

    I don't thing there are any "frivolous" preps. My husband are a great team when it comes to prepping, and what I consider one of my roles is making our surviving "livable". We have all the necessities and I work on trying new recipes and methods of cooking/baking to make the food side of that more enjoyable and tasty. I include cocoa and other baking ingredients (chocolate chips, baking powder, different sugars, etc.) as necessities.

    After all, what's the point in surviving if you can't live.

  25. says

    I think the key is priorities. Adding some "luxuries" to the list is fine as long as you're not neglecting the primary things. We call the "luxuries" morale builders.

    In hard times, it'll be nice to be able to celebrate a birthday with a chocolate cake; it'll be nice to site around a fire in the evenings and tell stories while munching on popcorn.

    There was a wise old say: everything in moderation, including moderation.


  26. countrygirl says

    I must admit I have cans of freeze dried ice cream and other instant desserts. I have kids and a significant other with a sweet tooth. Food is a huge part of a human's life and being able to add variety and enjoyment is important. Oatmeal for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch, beans and rice for dinner, pullling out some quick dessert every now and then would be important. I know when we are on extended camping trips the calroie need goes through the roof and these will help. Also flavored water additives like tang, or instant apple juice can be the vitamin "C" for the day.

    I store cake mixes and coffee, and coco powder. I have more sugar then I think I'll ever need and was reminded this weekend when I made Jam how quickly the sugar can be used.

  27. Mike says

    While deployed in Central Asia in pretty austere conditions (close to SHTF), we would eat tons of MREs. Guess which items were the most popular and almost instinctually became barter items…Skittles, fruit drink mix, cocoa, Tootsie rolls, etc. Nobody ever asked me to trade for "omelete with ham"!

  28. Tia says

    I am a frivolous prepper all the way around. LOL. But let me tell you when those "hard core preppers" are having problems keeping their kids quiet in critical, scary, situations, my kids will be quietly devouring that bag of m&ms. The one that really gets me though is when they say that your laptop and other electronics will be obsolete. Well yay for them. All I can say is I can download thousands of books into my nook, not to mention how many micro sim cards I can fill with pdf files and music. Lets not forget the ipods and for a major reward for a hard day of work why not one of those video games my parents bought the kids. My biggest thing. My external hard drive. On it I have all family photos, I have all my homeschool stuff, I have all important documents scanned in. Music, movies and what ever else I can find for entertainment purposes. And really if it comes to a grab and go situation, well all my stuff fits quickly and easily into one small bag. That also includes my solar chargers to keep everything going.

  29. fran says

    OLIVES!!!…………..when you're eating preps and the economy is trash and you're out of work and its cold as anartica outside…..its nice to EAT well and olives and pickles and good sharp cheese is something that make up for a lot of deprivation…..I can imagine if we get to have Depression type areas…far worse than now…..pulling out green or black olives at Christmas would be a real treat….

    as far as hard cheese, "Cougar Gold" made and sold by Washington State University is one of the best if not the best I've ever had….it comes in a can, and should be kept in the fridge but often people just keep it in a cool place…..its worth it……

  30. Ann says

    I think its a good idea to condition your family to storage foods now. You do not want your dh or children starving because they refuse to eat beans & rice. I have no trouble with beans as dh and I both love them, but rice is a hard sell for both of us. I'm collecting different recipes for rice and we're learning to eat it. Easier for me than dh but he's trying. I store pudding mixes and, of course, the base ingredients to make from scratch because powdered milk is a real hard sell. However, in pudding we will manage to eat it.

  31. Kimmer17 says

    Like any Mom I've got kids who would probably think they had died if sugary treats were gone. Now for myself, give me salty. So, I had coupons for 1.00 off the big bags of Skittles and Starburst. (Making them only $1.10 per bag). I bought four bags to put up for someday. Being in the south, if power is loss chocolate will melt, and these sugary treats usually handle the heat somewhat better. Now for the salty snack. Who doesn't love a hot bowl of popcorn? I transferred bags of kernel popcorn into mylar bags w/ o2 absorbers. (Tip..for most of use it's been yrs since we popped it over a stove..write the instructions on the outside of the bag)

  32. Kelekona says

    I have a fairly decent collection of board games, not bought with the intention of surviving a catastrophe. I am planning on modifying the faces on my Rummikub set so that it can be played by the light of a single candle. (Going to carve symbols into the faces according to the colors. I have the large-print edition.)

    I have a decent collection of books, but I need more. (No way to read e-books without power right now.)

    I can't eat sugary things like candy and cake. The things I would miss in a survival situation are the things that I would have to barter for rather than store: eggs, milk, (butter, cheese.) It's going to be a while before I can homestead, but once I do, I think I'm going to set up a still.

    • says

      @kelekona……………Go to Walmart (or similar in your area) and buy #10 cans of eggs, milk, butter etc. It stores for a very long time and is especially good to have if you don’t have access to “fresh”.

  33. bryan says

    As I have a very adictive personality, I have found I needed a system of purchase rotation so that I don’t end up surviving on coffee vodka and lead. The system goes like this- for every $50 I spend on core food storage items, I spend $40 on firearms/ammo category, then $30 on toiletries, then $20 on tools/fuel, the $10 on frivolity.

  34. reklawj9 says

    When my kids were young and times were tough…I used to shop the after christmas sales and stock up on small toys ,ribbon and wrapping paper…these would be used through out the following year for presents they would take to parties and the "just because you're a good boy" suprise…there were no panics over last minute invitations..just go to the present box ,grab wrap and go….i have adjusted this for my prepping needs by adding some more adult type gifts…in a shtf situation a little bit of joy goes a long way.

  35. says

    I have definitely stocked up on Coffee, filters, powdered milk, pream and sugar packets (and salt). I feel that whatever I have as extras will be good bargin power.

  36. Donna Johnston says

    I rotate my stores, so the chocolate that I have can be refreshed instead of spoiling. The same goes for coffee. So the item I consider frivolous, even though in rotation, is deodorant. It’s the only thing I have that my family has said “What the hey?” about. But it will make me keep up hygiene habits and feel somehow still civilized.

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