It’s been said that the first casualty of war is truth. That may be true, but right on the heels of truth are holidays and celebrations. In the middle of war or other crisis, who has the time to bake a birthday cake or hang Christmas lights, and yet, nothing else brings a sense of normalcy than celebrating long-standing family holiday traditions.
In a post-SHTF world, how can a family continue celebrating special days when the world as they knew it has come to an end. Depending on circumstances, here are a few ideas to help you begin planning and preparing for right now.
1. Know how to bake a cake from scratch, beginning with grinding your own flour from wheat. Remember that wheat can have a shelf life of 20 years or more, white flour less than 2 years. Along with the recipe and skill, make sure you have all the ingredients for the cake and the frosting. Most of them will be quite inexpensive.
2. Begin selecting recipes for special days that require inexpensive ingredients. Sounds silly maybe, but one of our favorite Christmas treats of chocolate mint bars ends up costing about $12 for a single batch! I know we can do better with a treat we’ll love just as much but will be easier on the wallet.
3. Use the inexpensive to create special moments and settings. I’ve always loved the look of twinkling white lights, and, surprise! they aren’t just for Christmas anymore! Why not hang a string of lights in your child’s bedroom the morning of their birthday or use them to decorate the backyard or patio for Independence Day. Look for them in the after-Christmas sales. Solar powered lights are even nicer, since they don’t require electricity and would be a great item to have on hand for power outages.
4. Many holidays have a signature food or dish that helps make the day special. For an inexpensive tradition that would be easy to continue through almost any hardship, assign a special recipe for holidays, making sure most of its ingredients can be stored in your long-term pantry. A Dutch Baby pancake is special and doesn’t require any “fancy” ingredients. Use your imagination and make sure everyone knows that this recipe will now be served every year on this special day.
5. Another food related treat is to allow the birthday girl or boy to choose their favorite recipes for their special day. If that’s too risky, then you prepare a menu making foods you know they love and you just happen to have all the right ingredients for!
6. Be on the lookout all year long for incredible bargains on large quantities of something or another. Sounds vague, I know, but here’s how it worked out for me. One year I was able to buy a massive amount of pink tulle at an unbelievable price. When it was time for my daughter’s 5th birthday, we strung swathes of tulle from the center chandelier in the dining room to each corner of the room and let them drape to the ground. It was an amazing setting for her little-girl tea party. If you see something on sale and you can’t believe the price, snatch it up. You never know when it will come in handy. By the way, if you’re into frugal living and want a support group, join my 52 Weeks Savings Club on Facebook!
7. When my son was 7, he decided he was manly enough to use Axe shower gel and shampoo! So, on Christmas morning he woke up to find sample bottles of Axe products in his stocking, along with a well-wrapped piece of the Limburger cheese he had always wanted to try! Gifts can be practical, fun, and don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Pay attention to what people casually mention in conversations for inexpensive gift ideas.
8. Make it a habit to buy a few holiday decorations, including paper plates and napkins, when they show up in the discount bin at the store. Sometimes all it takes to make a meal or holiday special is eating it on Christmas Barbie paper plates!
9. Begin giving the gift of experiences, rather than things. I learned this a few years ago when my sister-in-law and her partner treated my husband and I to a magical dinner at The Melting Pot. I’ll never forget the evening but so often I forget gifts and who gave them. I’ll bet it’s the same for you and your family. A gift of a “girls day out” is something your mom, sister, or daughter will remember forever, or a “guys day only” for father and son. This is a gift of time and attention, things we all too often do not give to our loved ones in this fast-paced world.
10. Have special read-aloud books that are only read on certain holidays. We’ve always had a book basket filled with Christmas books that is pulled out only in the month of December.
11. Set special dates and traditions of your own. Families with adopted kids often celebrate “Gotcha! Day”, the day their child officially joined the family. Or make it a family “rule” that, “We don’t listen to Christmas music until December 1,” or “Our family always has a family bike ride to the park on Mother’s Day.” Dates and simple traditions give kids something to look forward to and help bond the family together. It also establishes what makes your family unique, as in, “Our family only eats pizza on Fridays!”
12. Stock up on candles and enjoy a family candlelight dinner on birthdays or Valentine’s Day. Any holiday, really. Kids have seen candlelight dinners in TV shows and movies, but to have one in their own home??? Wow! And, the nice thing for Mom is that it doesn’t even matter what’s on the plate!
13. In truly hard times, sacrifice a little bit each day in order to provide something special later. I’ll never forget learning about one of the moms in the ill-fated Donner party, who was stranded in a tiny cabin surrounded by snow that came up to the rooftop. She set aside tiny bits of food for weeks at a time just so she could tell her kids on Christmas morning, “Today you can eat all you want!” Even nickels and dimes add up when saved over a period of months.
14. Plan for attrition now. Sooner or later your stash of wrapping paper and ribbon will run out. How could you creatively wrap presents in the future? Christmas ornaments will eventually break, fade, or become otherwise unusable. How could you decorate a Christmas tree when your stash of ornaments dwindles? The products we normally use to make holidays special may not be as easily accessible in the future, so it would be smart to stock up on your favorite items now and plan for alternatives down the road.
15. Remember that your attitude sets the stage for any event. If you’re feeling depressed because the money isn’t there for expensive family traditions, the whole family will feel the loss instead of looking forward to a fun, new tradition.
Moms are wired to give and to want to give the best they possibly can to their kids, but consider this. Is it possible that we’ve put too much emphasis on things and other material distractions and have forgotten that we are what our loved ones want more than anything? I’ve seen parents sitting with their kids at expensive birthday parties, immersed in their iPhones or trying to impress the other adults by showing off their own new “toys”.
A difficult future is going to be made easier if family bonds are tight and the love is strong. There’s nothing quite like traditions and holidays to establish and reinforce those bonds, and tight times shouldn’t mean the end to these celebrations. Survival Moms are creative enough to overcome anything!