the minimalist's guide to mindful prepping

Art work by my favorite artist, Phoebe Wahl.

Art work by my favorite artist, Phoebe Wahl.

I’ve debated about writing this post because it seems a bit off topic and because even saying the word prepping silently in my mind makes me feel strange. But oh well, because I do think it’s becoming increasingly important to talk about and work towards, as much as I hate to admit it.

To take it up a notch, I feel like it’s my responsibility as a mother to prepare for downturns of any sort. I grew a child inside of me for 9 months, birthed her into the world, have fed her from my body every single day, and constantly watch out for her safety.

So why would I stop there?

We can all agree the world is strange, and no matter to what degree you think it’s so, we always need to plan a few steps ahead of where we currently are. It’s just a smart practice. But what do you do when you’re already a minimalist, seek simplicity, and don’t subscribe to doomsday scenarios? What does prepping look like inside of these parameters?

Years ago when I was going through a particularly hard time in life, a large box was delivered to my door. I lugged it inside, sliced through the tape, and peeled back the cardboard to reveal a bunch of books. Specifically homesteading and DIY ones. My mother, in all her wisdom and love, knew exactly what my sad little heart needed.

To this day it’s still one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.

In the following weeks, I read and read and read, and then I got to work. At that time I was very interested in learning how to make everything myself, and those books gave me the direction I needed. I collected recipes and learned to cook and bake from scratch, I made mustard, mulled wine, soaked-grain bread, shampoo, toothpaste, sodas, and cleaning products. I learned how to compost. I even looked into raising rabbits for meat (In the end, I couldn’t do it).

I was in the process of getting back to my roots. When I was growing up my mother taught herself anything she wanted to know. For a while, we had goats and chickens and ducks. She could sew a bit. She foraged twisted branches and learned how to craft furniture from them. She canned vegetables. There wasn’t much she couldn’t do.

But like a lot of kids, I didn’t have the interest for it. Instead, I spent my teens and the first half of my twenties going after meaningless material gains. I was creeping towards 30 before my curiosity for those old ways started returning, just in time for that box of books to arrive on my doorstep.

This is a long way of saying that I believe prepping looks a lot like this: knowing how to make what you need at home and by hand. There’s still a ton I don’t know how to do, but I’ve got the basics down, and what I lack I know where to go to find it.

(A very important point: I love mochas and trendy yoga classes and spending all day long in a book store, preferably one with wooden floors. I shop at Whole Foods. We love to ride our bikes down paved greenways. So while I know how to make and do a lot at home, I still revel in and depend on what I consider to be the luxuries of the world. But I have a certain level of security knowing I could be fairly self-sufficient if it became necessary.)

If you don’t know how to do much right now, that’s perfectly fine. I started with making mustard. The next day I chopped up garlic and made some medicinal honey. The day after that I learned how to make sauerkraut. I just kept adding 1 small thing at a time. I’ll never be a pro, but I can follow instructions and that’s basically all one needs to know how to do.

But prepping also involves stocking up on food and water, which is where, as a minimalist, my eyes glaze over. A pantry overflowing with cans and jars and boxes makes me feel nauseous. But I’ve convinced myself to look at it for what it is: the equivalent to having a safety net of monetary savings.

So I’ve been looking into integrating my needs for simplicity with my needs to keep my family safe. We are, after all, remodeling a travel trailer for full-time living, so space will be limited. Thank goodness we have some storage on the outside and underneath.

This is what I’ve come up with: At some point, it would be good to have 2-3 months worth of food stored away, but for now, I feel comfortable with 1 month. That’s not too much to make my stomach turn over, and it doesn’t feel like too little. Like Goldilocks, I’ve settled on just right.

So…..what to actually store? Thus far I’ve settled on salt, bouillon cubes, coconut oil, peanut butter, millet, basmati rice, canned salmon, red lentils, nuts, maple syrup, and applesauce. These are things we already eat, so we’ll be able to rotate through quickly enough so the food stays fresh. I will expand this list little by little as I stumble on other food that stores well and that we enjoy.

I’ll link below to a cool course I recently found that highlights the top 10 foods to store and how to efficiently rotate through them.. I’m planning on taking it soon and will update this post once I do, but I feel like it’s safe to go ahead and recommend it because it’s so cheap and I like the lady who put it together.. I almost did a little somersault when I stumbled on it because it’s so…well….minimal.

Water is a little more complicated. Storing a month’s worth of storage? Not in a tiny home. I have yet to find a way to do so. If you have a well, this isn’t a problem for you-all you need to get is a manual pump incase the electricity goes out. But, if you’re in the position we’re in, then here’s what I’ve come up: 1 week’s worth of water, and a collection of Life Straws.

I do want to make sure it’s clear that I don’t believe we need to stress and rush to stockpile anything. This is purely a journey to create another safety net for our dear families in case of an unfortunate event, whatever that may be. Safety nets are the foundation for a simple and uncomplicated life because when we put them in place, we can worry much much less.

To quote a book I own on personal safety:

“Condition Yellow: This is a relaxed, yet alert, state of mind. This is not a stressful mindset to have but keeps us engaged and in tune with our surroundings. We can be aware of our surroundings and lead a high energy, outgoing, fun life at the same time. A person in condition will tend to have their head up, shoulders back, and will notice strange or odd circumstances if they begin to unfold.”

This is exactly how I think we should be with world events and weather patterns. Be aware, prepare, and lead an incredibly satisfying and happy life. And to quote yet another book, one that I’m currently reading:

“…I thought I would be spending time with people who had been shunted to the edges of an overdeveloped city. But over time, meeting people who produce food draw others around them; they are not isolated, but among the most connected. As much as any other group of laborers or artists, they are the culture of New York. They are the ones who wrangle space to manufacture foods and to share them at feasts and ceremonies-the things that help weave the unruly, disparate strands of the city into something uniquely itself.”

I quote this to remind all of us to use any excuse to connect to our communities. I need the reminder as much as any of us. It’s the easiest thing in the world to stay inside my own family bubble, but that doesn’t lead to the most robust and abundant life. I also quote this because the topic of prepping tends to promote feelings of separateness, and while that’s necessary to a certain degree, it’s not healthy to stay there.

Once you do these things, you can look into putting together a box of tools that don’t require electricity, like a hand-cranked coffee grinder, mortar and pestle, mason jar olive oil lamps (my favorite), French press, battery-powered NOAA radio, camping stove, and flashlights. What about if you were without electricity in the middle of winter? You’d probably want extra blankets. Stock those too.

It's also smart to have a well-stocked first-aid kit, but this is a given and you probably already have one. If you want to know some things to stock in it, follow the link below to a post I wrote on herbal remedies.

And here are a ton of resources for you if this post has sparked your own curiosity:

These were some of the books my mom sent me years ago:

And here are 2 new favorites:

This is a great, free catalog for off-grid tools and appliances:

And the 2 books that I quoted above:

An interesting podcast episode on prepping in small spaces:

As always, I would love your input. What are your thoughts on minimalist prepping and setting up a safety net for our families? Is there anything you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments below :)

And if you liked this post, be sure to check out: