How to be a strategic thinker and survive TEOTWAWKI (or everyday life)

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest  Jeff B

I consider myself to be relatively normal, middle of the road type person.  I was sailing along in my life, not completely oblivious, but leaning more towards mild apathy, when it came to TEOTWAWKI scenarios.  I occasionally watched TV shows like Doomsday Preppers and while I admired their preparedness, I had the mindset of most Americans, “I have more important priorities”.

After the emotional and financial turmoil of a divorce, I was left to essentially re-invent my life.  Initially, I was stuck in the same thought patterns, regarding my “McMansion” and other life essentials.   I have always been a saver, my ex-wife a spender.  That was the wedge that eventually split us up.

As an engineer, I did what I always do, make lists. I began to calculate, make spreadsheets, formulate plans, etc.   Being a pragmatic person by nature, the prepper/survivalist mentality is a close fit. Not an exact one, but close.  So I began to investigate that lifestyle.

And suddenly, a light bulb went on.  I began to realize that this lifestyle wasn’t filled so much with the “tin foil hat” wearing, conspiracy theory types, but in fact, more often, people like myself.

The Boy Scout motto is, “Be Prepared”.  Truly words to live by.  If you’re not prepared, you’re either dead or homeless, when the Tsunami hits.  I don’t want to be either.

But where to start? There are so many websites and advice columns to gather information from, it’s difficult to decide.   Sometimes it’s hard to make a decision.  You want to do your due diligence, source out every option, give it a considerable review, but not fall into “Paralysis by analysis”.

To put it simply, you have to start somewhere.  If you consider yourself an educated person, you don’t want to waste time or resources making hasty decisions.   I don’t profess that this template will fit everyone, but here are the steps I took.

  • Realize and accept that (almost) everything you know is useless. Change is inevitable, nothing stays the same, all things eventually change.  If you believe that education is a lifelong pursuit, you’re well on your way. I can flop on the couch like everyone else, and pretend everything is hunky dory.  That gains you nothing. Preparing for changes and positioning yourself  to accept those changes does.  Let people believe what they will, you be the one preparing for the societal changes that are sure to come.
  • Commit to a plan. I can be stuck in a rut occasionally.  Like many people, I have been guilty of procrastinating.  Sure the hedges need trimming, but dammit, I’m binge watching TWD on Netflix.  Committing to a plan means making lists, doing research, budgeting and yes, sacrificing some of your free time. Not all of your free time, but if you want to make progress, get off the couch.
  • Be realistic in you time commitments and planning. For myself, I have time and social commitments, so I can’t really jump into any “full-time” hobby, without neglecting the yard work, house, daughters, etc., etc.  My answer to that dilemma is to devote about 30 minutes each evening to research.  That could be water purification, gardening, or whatever I need to educate myself on.   During the weekends, I compile whatever I have learned into my Master spreadsheet.
  • Don’t narrow your focus. It’s great to be focused, but not to the point of losing sight of your objective.   I tend to go overboard, on occasion.  When I started my prepping journey, there was a lot of news blurbs about guns and ammo.  I went a little OCD, stockpiling ammo, in every conceivable caliber.  Looking back, that time and energy could have been a little more widespread.  By simply reacting, I stockpiled enough ammo to last my lifetime.
  • Slow and steady wins the race. I came back to my senses, after the ammo craze and developed a more sensible approach.  I split my focus into different categories, such as food, tools, storage, precious metals, etc.   Every payday I commit (approx.) $100 into a purchase for one of these categories.  It’s not huge, but persistence pays off  in the long run.
  • Keep a positive outlook. Like many things in life, a positive outlook is often good medicine. The world, particularly the internet, is filled with bad news, forecasting doom and gloom in the financial markets, health care, government, police, etc. etc.   Keep plugging away!   You have made the decision to prepare for an upcoming crisis, so you should rejoice.  The mindless souls who wander this earth, (I used to be one of them) are just going through the motions of life and are somewhat clueless.
  • Operational Security. Keep Quiet. Say nothing, reveal nothing. Let me repeat that, NOTHING.  Do you tell your neighbors or your Mother in Law, when you stock up on toilet paper, motor oil or any other staple? Of course not, it’s mundane information.   Why would you tell anyone you are stockpiling anything?  They are more likely going to think you’re Kooky, rather than relate, so why bother?   I have told only my oldest kid enough for them to carry on, should I pass away. See: Top ten ways to blow your operational security.
  • Discard or sell all useless items. My parents were collectors.  They weren’t “hoarders”, but there were magazines, books, artwork, coins, furniture, on and on and on.  Some of that rubbed off on me, but thankfully (and partly due to moving) I have begun to de-clutter.  I get the sentimentality aspect of keeping possessions; no one wants to throw out their daughter’s soccer trophy.  So don’t, but I have a storage unit filled with items, I don’t use.   I am disposing of these things through EBay or craigslist and when I am through, not only will I have generated a few extra bucks; I will not have the monthly storage unit payment.

These steps are general and everybody is different.   I needed a way to work towards my goals, while still maintaining my current obligations.  At first, I felt a little overwhelmed about beginning to prep. There was so much I needed and I wasn’t sure where to begin.  I made a couple of mistakes in my planning, but who doesn’t?  The important thing is; I started.   And I have continued.  It’s amazing that once you commit to a journey, you feel more secure.  Even though you’re not at your desired goal, you feel better knowing you’re on the way.

Prizes For This Round (Ends July 29, 2016) In Our Non-Fiction Writing Contest Include…

First Prize:

Second Prize: 

Third Prize:

Please read the rules that are listed below BEFORE emailing me your entry… my email address can be found here – please include “writing contest entry” in the subject line.

The more original and helpful your article is, the deeply and less basic it is, the better the chance, that I will publish it, and you will win. Only non-fiction how-to-do-it type articles, please.


  1. Axelsteve says:

    I like your mention of selling things on craigs list or whatever bay. That is a way to keep opsec secure. You could have a garage sale but then locals would know what kind of stuff that you have. Also the ammo ocd thing. Having ammo for guns that you do not have could be a good investment if you buy stuff that is common . For instance you may have bought some 308 and said doh why did I do that? Well allot of people may want some 308 or 270 or 30/30 you may be approved to join a group for that reason. I once bought a box of 20 gauge that was an error. Never by ammo without your glasses. I gave them to a friend and he was happy to get them. He recently remarried and I told him they were a gift. I would stay away from odd ball calibers like 218 bee or 25/35 unless you own something in that caliber.the poodle round may be a good investment due to its popularity, same thing for 40 cal or 9mm or 38 45 or 380.

  2. mom of three says:

    All right I was going to sit and read today now I’ll get up empty the dishwasher:) I get so tired this week has been cleaning my yard, replanting plant’s, and even painting a chair. I think my biggest concern is I don’t have enough even to get through 6 month’s, but when I look or re arrange, I start to go yes, we will be fine. Thanks for the pep talk…

  3. cgbascom says:

    This is good stuff, Jeff. We have been at least 6 generations of “putting by” for the winter, layoffs, lean times, (insert troubles here). Now, I am learning different ways to “put by” for prepping. I, at least, had the advantage of family (and my husband’s family) to learn from and this has been a way of life I have always known. I do have some friends that did not have that advantage and did not know where to start. One told me she felt desperate that she didn’t have anything in her pantry. I told her to start with the store ads and add at least two extras to her list every time she went shopping. It took her a while but after about a year, I noticed that the pantry seemed to be getting fuller. When I complemented her on her stock pile, she said she had stopped noticing the cost of the extras, which she said were not costing as much as she feared, and liked that she didn’t have to go out into a snow storm to get groceries. Yeah. She got it! Most of the “Paralysis by analysis” is fear. There is no right or wrong way to do this. But, you absolutely have to take that first step.

  4. Good story!
    I started by adding to my groceries every week. Nothing big, but got extra salt, pepper, and a bag of beans. Then a bag of rice. Now I am looking at goodies like canned clams for chowder. I have always gardened but a couple years ago grew beans… easy peasy. This year I added barley… nothing to it until harvest. I still grow all the regular stuff like fruits and tomatoes but added staples like potatoes and dry corn. Water is difficult but I have filters and some storage and collection now. I have a tighter budget, but bought 5 acres for less than half my former payment. Now I can’t imagine wanting to be so dependent on the market economy again.

  5. patientmomma says:

    Thanks; good reminders for all of us! List are great for both the beginner and the long-term prepper! I actually have a computer folder category named “Lists.” Every 4 for 5 months I open them up and check them against my inventories. Bulk buys when on sale are a good way to prep if you have the space to store them. I buy on sale–like butter when it is 60 or 70cents (or more) off regular price— then I don’t have to buy it again for months. When someone looks at the 12 pds of butter in your buggy just smile and say family reunion.

    • Axelsteve says:

      I just say that is what my wife put on the shopping list.

      • mom of three says:

        🙂 good one…

        • Axelsteve says:

          Today I went shopping and I bought 4 bags of pasta for pasta salad. My wife asked me about the xtra pasta bags. I told her that they were on special 4 for 5 dollars. she just said ok.

  6. Almost There says:

    Yes, this is a great article. It can get so overwhelming. I know, it happened to me. And it still happens to me because I am not there yet, either by needing to learn something or purchase something or get rid of something.

    Sometimes, I just need to take a break and not think about it for a day or two. Take a new perspective on it. Be a “hog for knowledge”.

    I have created a folder on my computer for all the great advice I get from this site and others. I have them in categories. I open up a blank document in Word and copy and paste, not worrying about the formatting, just getting it down somewhere so I have it all in one place that I can go to. I still need to save it off to a CD, and print, but I am getting there.

    • PatrickM says:

      There are probably quite a few of us that print off articles for a hard copy folder. I print off alot of how to article’s like salt curing meat, canning, making extract’s, mullein candy, etc. I try to stay with basic foundation type stuff.

  7. Good words and ideas!

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!