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There are TONS of lists of must-have preps and things that are essential to survive X disaster, but what about the things you actually don’t need? What about the things that are a waste of money, energy, and space?
I’m coming at this from the perspective of a person on a strict budget who has limited space and who lives in a family with no serious health concerns. I’ve always had a very low-tech prepping style. This was initially due to budget, and then later because I think with low-tech, there are fewer things that can go wrong.
As well, I’ve also seen that tons of gadgets aren’t really worthwhile. The prepper industry has tried to fill every single need, and often, they end up preying on the inexperienced, whether they mean to or not. Don’t get me wrong – there are some awesome companies out there. I’m talking about the large, corporate businesses run by non-preppers who are just trying to cash in on the lifestyle. Those are the folks responsible for 90% of the items I’m about to write bad things about.
Also, keep in mind that everyone’s situation is different. What works for my family and me may not work for yours.
Here are some of the preps that I just don’t find worthwhile. In fact, I think you might as well just light your money on fire to stay warm. This is pure opinion, and you may completely disagree with me. It should make for an awesome conversation in the comments.
Whole home generators
I know, I know. Cue the chorus of people who are really unimpressed with me right now. The ones who say, “I stopped reading as soon as you wrote bla bla bla…”
Generators are really nice to have. I lived in a rental once that had a whole-home genny wired in. It was great during a blizzard that took out the electricity. I have a small solar one that will power my coffee maker, a fan, and a laptop indefinitely. It’s awesome.
But I don’t need it. It’s a luxury item. At least, it is for me.
If you have a family member with a chronic health condition who requires electricity to live, then you may have an entirely different opinion on whether this is a luxury item. For you, it may not be. (Note that a teenager who swears emphatically that she will die without her phone is not actually someone who requires electricity to live.)
A gasoline, propane, or diesel generator that will keep your home operating as normal is very, very expensive. We’re talking about an investment that starts at around 5K and goes up from there. If you can afford this, more power to you.
It’s also important to note that your generator is only good for as long as you can fuel it. Once you’re out of gasoline, propane, or diesel, you have a giant and costly paperweight.
If money is tight, think about how much food you could buy with that same five thousand bucks. I like to play the odds when it comes to prepping. I focus nearly all of my energy and money on the things that are most likely to happen and the things that I can’t survive without.
I’ve long said that our most likely disaster is a personal financial SHTF. Unless you live in an area prone to a specific alternative disaster, money trouble is probably your most likely crisis too.
Ask yourself these questions if you’re debating getting a whole-house generator:
- Can I still afford to prep otherwise if I buy this?
- Do I have to use credit to buy this?
- Does anyone in my house require electricity to live?
- Do I regularly experience power outages that last longer than a day or two?
- Do I have the capacity to safely store large amounts of fuel?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, you might be better off spending your hard-earned money on other preps.
Storebought Faraday cages with duplicate electronics
If you don’t plan to survive with electricity created by your own generator, you’re probably not going to have tons of electronics that need to be protected.
If you do want to put a few things in a Faraday cage, there are loads of how-tos out there in Internetland to help you make one inexpensively.
A lot of folks stock large, storebought, and tested Faraday cages as well as duplicates of their normal electronics to store in the cage. That’s a LOT of money, particularly if this is mostly for entertainment purposes.
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If you’re one of the people mentioned above who need power for the safety of yourself or a family member, then consider duplicate medical equipment stored in a Faraday.
Collapsible emergency stoves
These things are the freaking WORST. Nine times out of ten, they’re too small and flimsy to actually support a large cooking vessel full of water. Lighting a fire in one can be a nightmare, with you laying on the ground blowing into a teeny little whole trying to encourage that tiny spark to life.
When I took Selco’s survival course for women in Croatia, this was among the most frequently-abandoned item that we found was not worth bringing back home with us on the plane. (Here are the products that did and didn’t work for us.)
Some exceptions to this are high-quality stoves like the Volcano Stove. If you have room in your backpack, go for it, but remember, you get what you pay for. I personally carry a cooking vessel and lighter and improvise with what I find in my environment for creating a fire on which to cook.
I often see canners showing off their canned water, and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. But you don’t need to can your water and waste the seal of a perfectly good lid. I’m not saying to leave your jars empty. I love storing water in all my empty canning jars, but simply follow the rules of water storage and put the lid on normally.
By processing it, you’re wasting time and lids.
500 pounds of X
Just like you, I’ve seen those lists that tell you to stash away a billion pounds of wheat per person per year. Please don’t do that – or at least don’t start out like that. If you have all your other preps in order, then sure, go for the wheat berry gusto. But there are several problems with focusing the majority of your prepper food strategy on a crapton of one item.
- You’ll get bored long before you eat it all. You’ll get so bored you’d literally rather die than eat it again. It’s called food fatigue, and it’s a serious issue.
- It’s not nutritionally balanced. I don’t care how many people swear to you that it’s incredibly healthy to eat rice and beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as long as you both shall live, it’s not. Humans need variety.
- If something goes wrong with your ONE item, you’re in trouble. What if someone develops are horrible allergy to the one item you stocked up on? What if pests get to that one item? What if you splurged on a bad batch and disaster strikes, and you open it up to find it’s moldy or filled with chubby weevils that feasting on your wheatberries?
- It’s a lot of money into just one thing. If you’re buying a massive quantity of one thing, you may not be able to afford the other preps that you need. I’d rather spread that money around.
- It takes up a LOT of space. If your space is limited, do you want to allocate all of it to just one thing?
This is a classic case of not putting all your eggs (or rice or beans) in one basket. You’re going to be so much happier with a variety if you end up relying on your food stores for a long time.
Low-quality dehydrated food kits for X days
Some of the prepper foods out there just aren’t worth buying. I’m not going to name names, but I’ll give you a description. Imagine you ordered a kit in a bucket that will last you for “30 days” per person. You stash it away and expect that when disaster strikes, all you have to do is boil some water and you’re fed for the next month.
Think again. Here’s what some of these places consider “meals” for 30 days. Imagine you’re ONLY relying on the contents of this bucket.
- 8 servings of cheesy broccoli rice
- 8 servings of creamy chicken “flavored” rice
- 8 servings of creamy potato soup
- 8 servings of hearty vegetable chicken “flavored” soup
- 4 servings of fettuccine alfredo
- 8 servings of Spanish rice
- 8 servings of strawberry cream of wheat
- 6 servings of buttermilk pancakes
- 10 servings of maple brown sugar oatmeal
That’s your 68 “meals,” but you also get these additions, which I assume is how they got to this being a 30 day supply.
- 20 servings of milk alternative
- 8 servings of banana chips
And that is THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Are you kidding me right now? You’d feel like you were starving to death. There are no worthwhile protein sources. There is only one potential fruit serving and no real vegetables. It’s all carby foods that sound more like side dishes or appetizers than the main event.
Keep in mind that if things go south enough that this is all you have to eat, you’re probably working your backside off repairing, or running, or producing. You’re going to be hungry. That bowl of “chicken-flavored rice” doesn’t sound so great, does it? Heck, it doesn’t even have actual chicken in it. It’s chicken flavored.
For a lot less money, you could get those packaged side dishes from the grocery store to encompass all the things listed above, some cans of tuna, and some cans of fruits and vegetables. You’ll be far more satisfied and nourished, and you’ll have extra money left over to buy more.
If you want to buy buckets, I suggest trying a bucket from Legacy foods that also contains freeze-dried chicken to go along with the typical side-dish-type meals. You can also purchase freeze-dried individual ingredients from them. These will make for far more satisfying meals. Our sponsor, Ready Made Resources, also has an excellent selection of individual ingredients.
I keep some liquid bleach, but even though it’s cheap, I don’t go crazy stashing years’ and years’ worth. Why not?
Because liquid bleach loses its oomph. After 6 months it begins to degrade. By one year, it may have lost 20% of its potency. By the next year, it’s lost another 20%. And so on and so on. After five years, you just have little more than a jug of salt water. (source) If you’re relying on bleach to sanitize in a crisis situation, the last thing you want is to use something ineffective. Nobody can afford an infection in times like that.
Instead, I store pool shock in powdered form. You can easily mix up liquid bleach from it as you need it, it takes up far less space, and it’ll remain potent for longer.
Premade first-aid kits
I’ve seen a lot of folks, who aren’t as into prepping as we are, boast about having a “medical kit.” But when they proudly display their kit, it turns out to be a pre-made first aid kit that they bought from Amazon in a nifty bag.
While those can be a decent start, they are not ideal. You can get a lot more for the same amount of money by assembling your kit yourself. Let’s take a closer look.
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One such kit contains the following for $100.
- Blood pressure cuff
- Gauze pads
- Burn gel in one-use packets
- Eye wash
- Triangle band-aids
- Multi-trauma blood stop dressing (one packet)
- Individual packs of Tylenol, aspirin, and anti-diarrhea medication
Come on. Let me count the ways that you’ve just been ripped off. You could buy each of those things separately for far less money. You could buy full bottles of medication, boxes of band-aids, rolls of gauze, decent-quality instruments, a bottle of aloe vera gel, and some saline solution. Add in some Quik Clot, and you may still not be up to $100.
That small amount of gauze won’t even be enough to stop the bleeding of one serious injury. You need more stuff. Seriously, don’t waste your money on premade kits. Check out this article and this one for some great lists of medical and first aid supplies that would be far more worthwhile.
What are your thoughts?
Okay, I’ve cut loose on the prepper industry in this article. I may have stepped on the toes of some sacred cows. You may think I’m dead wrong, or you may have other things to add to the list. I want to hear about it!
What are some preps that preppers really don’t need? What commonly-purchased prepper item is not worth the money? Did I write about anything that you want to staunchly defend? Do you disagree or agree? Let’s discuss it in the comments.
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites. 1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2) The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media, and she has appeared in many interviews.
Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.
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