Prepping on the Sly

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prepping on the sly Two years ago, my husband thought I was nuts to imagine a life without electricity, gas, or grocery stores. He didn’t want to discuss it, much less have hand tools and tactical gear cluttering up every inch of unused space and reminding him just how far I’d “gone off the deep end.”

Regardless, I felt I had a responsibility to plan for our children — with or without his cooperation. His attitude was basically, “Do what you want, as long as I don’t have to deal with it.” Talk about a head-in-the-sand approach!

Now, I would never advocate lying to your spouse. That said, you have a responsibility to plan for your family’s future, no matter what that future holds. When your kids look to you with vacant eyes and rumbling tummies, “I was waiting for Daddy‘s approval,” will not fill those bellies! I’ll bet you’d resort to much worse than prepping on the sly / covert shopping to provide for them, if you had to.

I started small, with what I could personally control without interference: my purse and daily driver. If you’re overwhelmed but feel an urgency to prep without causing conflict, consider these common-sense approaches.

Have resources on hand

Keep your vehicle filled with at least a half tank or more of gas at all times. Power outages cause pumps and ATM machines to not work, gasoline deliveries can be disrupted, and credit card issues happen every day. You don’t want you and your children to be stranded away from home.

Keep $100 in small bills in your purse. Be disciplined enough not to touch it for lunch money. The idea is to be able to make exact change in a real emergency situation.

Your purse is your Every Day Carry bag. Lists abound for what to include, but think of it like this: If you and your kids were trapped somewhere for an extended period, what would you have to have? My purse weighs seven pounds. I’m not getting rid of ANY of it.

Put a well-stocked First Aid Kit in your trunk. (Remember that summer heat will make medicine degrade more quickly in your car than in your home.) Once you’ve assembled your bug-out bag, stash it next to your gas can and on top of your flat-ish storage tub containing a change of clothes for you and your kids. Keep a pair of hiking boots in there in case you have to hoof it home.

A trunk organizer is also great to keep things like bottled water, tools, “picnic blankets”, and other stuff your husband will probably use but won’t want to know you carry. Mine has used the first aid kit a dozen times but sometimes still asks when I’m going to get rid of all that “junk” so my groceries will fit.

Over-the-seat storage bags are perfect for other things you’ll want to keep handy, like snacks, travel-size games, and books to keep the kids busy, and an extra flashlight or two. Check out this link to see what you should keep in your glove box.

Financial Preparations

Get “cash back” with each debit card transaction — just $5 or $10 at a time. For me, it started out as an experiment to see how much money we wasted without noticing. I watched our account balance and kept it level. Within a matter of months, I had several hundred dollars in the safe for emergencies — and told my husband about the “waste” we were actually saving. Once you’re comfortable with your amount, grab a few of those twenties and take this action step.

Clip or print online coupons and compare to local store ads to save money. Once I showed my husband I could get free toothpaste and 5 boxes of $4 cereal for $1.10 each, he never questioned why we had so much stuff in the pantry. Now he’s sort of proud of the convenience of having a “grocery store” in the spare closet. 

When he asks, “Hey, do we have any more [fill in the blank]?” he loves that the answer is always, “Yes!” Keep track of the money you save — especially if you’re paying cash. Your budget will never miss it and you can tuck it into your emergency stash pretty painlessly.

Nontraditional college funds for the kids took a little more convincing, but here was my pitch: We’re already putting XX dollars into savings each month for the kids’ college funds. What if we took that money and, over time, bought silver coins? Silver will never lose its value like their 529 plans did when the market crashed in 2008. We can keep it in the safe so we always have access to it in case of emergency. When the kids go to fill out their FAFSA forms, it won’t count toward their “expected family contribution” because it’s off the radar. And if they never need it—if they get scholarships or choose a trade instead of college — they can always sell it to put toward a wedding, a car, a house, or whatever.

Still not convinced?  If you can, try the 52-week savings plan. What man doesn’t love a good challenge? Hey, he might even want to take on the challenge of doubling the amount saved using this plan!

“Christmas shop” all year. Keep a spreadsheet with a list of those you usually buy for and the budget per gift. It’s never too early to start bargain shopping!

I often buy my children’s clothes a size up at the end of the season.  If they need new jeans before Christmas, I don’t have to buy them at full price because I have some tucked away. Otherwise, they have a few necessities that didn’t break the bank. I store them in their plastic bins of off-season clothes. I also buy the $15 sneakers in the next size when advertised in the Academy circular.

Then I brag to my husband about how much I saved versus last year’s gifts! He knows exactly what I’m storing and why. I do the same thing with birthday gifts. If the unthinkable happens and I can’t buy clothes this time next year, I’ve got a little cushion to come up with plan B. I keep unopened socks and undies for each family member in current size and the next size up for kiddos for the same reason.

Food Preps

Grab an extra bag of beans and rice each trip to the grocery store. Sounds simple, but you can quickly stock up on staple foods like canned goods without breaking your budget. Check out this article for tips on where to store your stuff incognito.

How many of your dinners have started with “my friend gave me this great recipe…”? If the “friend” happens to be the Survival Mom and the ingredients happen to be freeze-dried, you have an explanation for the doorstep delivery from Augason Farms or Thrive Life! Now you have some staples for everyday cooking! And if the recipe is a keeper, you can always survivalize it for the future.

Take the kids to “pick your own” farms or the farmer’s market and then can/dehydrate!  It gives them something to do outdoors and away from their electronic gadgets!

I took a canning class through our local farmer’s market so I could preserve “extras” from the garden.  If you don’t garden, try canning some things unavailable in grocery stores. We love mango salsa, corn relish, whole berry cranberry sauce, and mint jelly.

The only way to get those kinds of fresh, homemade, preserved foods is learn to make it yourself. Learn a new skill and acquire equipment in the process. And make room to store the jars of goodies you’ll eat all year. They make unique and budget-friendly gifts. And my husband is actually a little proud to take these unique goodies to office parties and potlucks — especially homemade pickles.

Other Essentials

Tools make good gifts. My husband sort of expects practical things for obligatory gift-giving occasions, so he’s gotten things like a tent, a Mag light, fishing gear, hunting boots, and other survival gear without knowing (or caring) that I would’ve bought those things, anyway.

I’ve requested and received a sewing machine, pressure canner, solar oven, sleeping bag, pistol, dehydrator, and food saver sealing system. Granted, I’ve requested some of the less “mainstream” items from my parents who also diligently prepare, but you can’t get rid of a gift from your parents, no matter how weird, right?

Check out the FSA store. If you have access to a flexible spending account, you can use this website to spend any funds remaining in that account before you lose them at the end of the plan period. (If you’re in, say, a 28% tax bracket, taking $$ pre-tax to pay for medical expenses is like saving 28% on your medical bills.) I had $50 I was about to forfeit at plan’s end last year. I used that money to stock up on first aid items and contact solution.

Because it had already been deducted from my paycheck, my budget didn’t even feel it. You can shop the site with a regular credit card if you don’t have an FSA card, but it’s comparable to store prices and you can’t use coupons. I have been able to find hard-to-find items there, though, like NasalCease, which I include in my first aid kits.

Emotional Preps

No amount of arguing, pleading, or article-forwarding could convince my husband that a bleak future was possible. But little by little, I was able to do enough on my own to get us in decent shape for the most common events in our areatornadoes, extended power outages due to ice storms, and personal financial crises. We had a few short-term outages that we weathered just fine thanks to my preparedness. We had some scary injuries and friends with serious illnesses that made him remove his head from the sand and see the wisdom of forethought.

I made a point of drawing attention to the fact that I was ready for little, everyday emergencies. Then I’d wonder aloud what would happen if that emergency was magnified. Then I’d lapse into silence and wait for a reaction.

Mostly, though, I prayed. A lot. I prayed for safety for my family, for a little more time to prepare, for wisdom to do so ethically, and for the strength to do it on my own.  Hang in there. Baby steps in the right direction trump paralysis every time. And even if you catch a little flack now, know that you’re not alone. It won’t be long before your spouse will think it’s weird that other people don’t have bottled water in the trunk.

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Kris

Kris is a busy mom, wife, and teacher. She makes her little homestead on two sprawling acres in Tornado Alley with her husband and 3 children.

26 thoughts on “Prepping on the Sly”

  1. Patti Solenberger

    We also thought coins were a great investment until it comes time to actually sell them for their education and you pay 50% capital gains tax.

  2. I love how you used that which is in your domain to prep, while respecting your husband’s position in your family. Well done, Kris!! 🙂

  3. Great article and ideas. My hubby says I worry too much, I’ll take care of us, including kids and their families. With that said he has slowly come to realize that we need to prep. He built me a huge pantry and it is wonderful. He openly doesn’t talk about prepping but I mentioned I wanted a Ham radio, he brought a really great one home. Now to get my license. I thought he had his head in the sand but slowly is coming around. He also loves the answer yes to do we have any or I need some statement and I have it. I’m also hoping to Ninja hide my Augusaon farms buys this week. He’s not so sure of the freeze dried item even though we use them daily. Now to get my kids to start doing more.

  4. I literally lost friends (one turned several against me) when I finally got the courage to tell someone I prepped. I was trying to build my network with like minded people. They called me crazy and stopped talking to me. I was stunned. Now, I don’t tell anyone and I hide everything.

  5. I have always bought extra to have on hand, gifts and clothes at end of season, etc. and my husband never thought much about it. In the last couple of years tho, I have stepped up my prepping and it took a bit of talking to get him interested. I still do it all, but he is as excited as I am when something comes in the mail, UPS, etc. that I ordered. He still is skeptical that we will ever need what I have stored, but as long as he doesn’t have to think about it, it’s ok with him!

  6. I have always shopped the sales all year round for birthday, Christmas, etc gifts. Everyone is always happy to get an expensive gift and I usually pay 12-20% of full retail. If you can get sales on items that are already discounted, even more of a savings! I keep my book with me of names, dates, and I always list who the item is for and for what occasion. I no longer need Black Friday sales, or end up in the crowded Christmas rush. It’s a great way to save money and enjoy your holidays!

  7. I am careful who I talk to about prepping. I have made comments that have left it open for others to respond, in attempts to ‘feel out’ other secret preppers.
    Several years ago our city was completely without water for 3 weeks due to a flooded treatment plant. I heard my son-in-law whisper to my daughter “looks like your mom isn’t the crazy one after all” 🙂

  8. I’m understand where you are coming from. I think I’ve done all of this myself.

    BUT… Your spouse should be your greatest asset in life. Manipulation and deception may weaken exactly the relationship you will need for support when things are tough. Who else (besides you of course) will ever care for your children as much as your spouse? A divorcee with an emotionally traumatized family and weather radio and some beans and rice is not necessarily at an advantage to a unified family built on trust and consensus with less “stuff”.

    Another thing to remember is that in the last XX years the “sheeple” with their heads in the sand have been the ones who are right. The world has not fallen apart, suburbanites have not resorted to canabalism, the dollar is not worthless, the stock market has provided incredible gains. Believe me I know it could change and all go bad, but try to at least be honest enough with yourself to admit that they have been the ones who were right – not the preppers.

    Prepare for though time – they just might come. Try to make sure you can feed your family – it’s not that hard to do inexpensively. Learn how to do and make things – it makes life interesting.

    But we preppers (I’m one of you) don’t have to drag everybody else into our bleak fantasies, they just might be more productive and supportive the way they are.

  9. Mike, I think you’re disregarding the fact that the writer specified that she doesn’t advocate lying to your spouse and that hers didn’t really care as long as she just didn’t involve him. I had a husband who didn’t believe in planning for emergencies, but he also considered the house and everything in it to be my responsibility. Therefore, I was able to stock extra food and water, along with methods of cooking, without stepping on his toes. He appreciated those efforts when we dealt with a lengthy power outage in the middle of winter. While I don’t believe that we can be prepared for every calamity that comes along, I do think it’s prudent to focus on the crises that are most likely to impact your family. For us, that’s planning primarily for unemployment, not a potential worldwide catastrophe. Thanks to my “prepping supplies”, we were able to keep going when we lost our income. Because the possibility exists that it’ll happen again, I keep prepping. It has nothing to do with solar flares, WWIII, or the return of the dinosaurs. I disagree with the people who have no interest in stocking more than a few days’ worth of groceries, but we each have to live our lives as we see fit.

  10. My husband was somewhat on board when I started to get heavily into prepping. Over the years I had always prepped for summer vacation. I am a teacher and we always seemed to run low on funds no matter how much I saved for the summer. LOL. So I prepped for summer. My husband was always on board for that. Prepping for real long term emergencies took a little more persuading. In the end I told him to look on it as prepping for retirement which brought him fully on board.

  11. My husband was exactly like yours. Refusing to believe anything bad will happen. I continued to prep in spite of his doubts. We recently had a water main break, our neighbors all ran to the store for water, not us, we had plenty of water on hand. Next, a regional grocery store had a major melt down when the owners went against the employees. This caused a huge disruption in grocery shopping in our area, shelves were bare in just a few days. No worries we have an every day pantry, an intermediate pantry, and a deep pantry, and we grow a garden every summer. We also live in a hurricane prone area. After hurricane Sandy, I will always remember seeing Facebook pictures of friends with gas cans waiting for gas to get to work. Keep your tank at least 1/2 full, and keep a couple of 5 gallon gas cans in reserve( use gas stabilizer). Date the gas, if you don’t use it after a few months, put it in your car and refill. When will people start to understand that you need to be prepared?
    Hurricane Katrina and the epic failure of the government to help the people affected should be a lesson to us. YOU are your best defense in any emergency!

  12. I am a prepper although not a rampant one. I believe in being prepared for emergencies and am not arrogant enough to say what constitutes an “emergency”. Food is canned and stored. I’ve electric and treadle sewing machines. Working on wood stoves and ovens and a hand pump for my well. I’ve a barn full of wood and could heat the house all winter. I also would like to see us have network of friends that support areas where we are weak. However, some would think we are crazy. Too bad.

  13. When I started reading this I told myself “good girl:” obviously your husband is concerned with other “stuff”. I started “gunning up” in 2002, now trying to work and prep at the same time. it’s tough and I prep in secret as well. Not to be deceitful but this is a very important matter in these times of nut jobs and people trying to hurt America. I find ways to pick up extras each time i shop, Ammo, Meals-in-a-box, ETC. ***Spread the word and inform all you can!***

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  15. Yes, apart from the 100 dollars (or whatever) in your purse (which I actually consider a bit on the low side), consider written-down address lists, telephone numbers, credit card numbers etc. I knew a few guys with Blackberries back when they were fashionable and then Blackberry’s servers crashed. All their information was not on their “phones”, it was in the “cloud” (cuckoo-land) so to speak. And they had no money, at least not sufficiently. It was a funny sight (funny because it was more like a fire drill, not a real fire, the info came back soon – err, did it teach them something – I doubt it …).

  16. thank you so much for posting your blog. My husband and finally had it out over prepping and he admitted he thinks it is pointless and a major disaster will never strike during our lifetime. I also just discovered he burned every single one of the emergency candles. The only thing he has agreed to prep is water because we can refil HIS soda bottles. I already drink water out of a recycled soda bottle. So I should be grateful for his soda habit. The water gets routinely turned off in our building. I am determined to build a composting toilet on the balcony with a composting container and a tarp or a screen.

  17. My husband is the male version of Polyanna. To him, everyone is inherently good, nothing extremely bad could ever happen. I love that about him, but I see the dark side, the possibly negative of situations. I let him in on my prepping after I had been working on it for a while, and while he didn’t jump in and get involved, he never has objected. As time goes by and the world situation degrades, I find he is more willing to participate, and has never, ever denigrated the work I’ve done. I pray he is right, that we’ll never need the supplies I/we’ve accumulated and the knowledge we’ve gleaned and continue to hunt for. But I felt led to become more self-sufficient, self-contained. Even if it’s never needed, it has hurt nothing and no one. I do not advocate lying to your spouse, ever, nor did this blogger. But if you feel, as I did/do, led by God to take certain steps, know that you are emulating the virtues of a good wife who prepares her home and stores. End of sermon. Blessings!!

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  21. What about eye glasses for those who usually wear contacts. I highly doubt people will be able to get new contacts when SHTF. What you have is what you will have until the disaster is over.

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