I'll admit it. My journey to preparedness has not been without its ups and downs. Looking back today, there's quite a few mistakes that I made. All of these created unnecessary stress in my relationships with my family, not to mention the wasted money, time and effort.
If you're truly looking to be better prepared, there's a few key things to keep in mind.
You're going to need to store it
This is what many people fail to realize, and is why we recommend starting with just a couple of weeks or months' worth of food supplies. Your supplies will take up space. A massive amount of space if you've got a big family. Consider food needs, water, and all of your equipment and gear, and you're looking at least two or three rooms in your house full to the ceiling with supplies. Yes. It is that much. So, have a little foresight.
Instead of cramming your kitchen cupboards and stacking up boxes in the kids' rooms and your home office, plan. We were lucky in that both my wife and I agreed to move to a rural homestead, which offered us plenty of space. In fact, we built an addition on to the side of our home which we call our mini-mart. It's got plenty of space to store what we need. Oh, and I also build a new "shed" to store all of our heave equipment. Without this as an option I'd recommend keeping a smaller supply, or finding unique storage solutions to keep your supplies out of sight.
You need to have the right things stored
I touch on this point specifically because far too many people think they'll be fine if they have enough food. But food isn't all you need. Water will be the hottest commodity once the taps stop working, so make sure you've got more than enough stored (for hygiene too), and you've considered ways to replenish your supply. You'll also need a way to filter and clean any water you collect, and not only that you need to consider everything else.
Do you have clothing, medication and enough soap? How about deodorant? How about toilet paper and dishwashing liquid. Toothpaste too, and don't forget more than one backup toothbrush. Everything you use in your home on a regular basis will need to factor into your survival stash.
You will need a variety of food
Now it's easy to buy a year's worth of rice and beans. And stock up on things like raw flour. Salt. Sugar. But your body needs a variety of nutrients to survive. Especially if you're not used to cooking with these ingredients, you're going to have a big shock when it comes to actually eating everything you've prepared. What I would recommend is twofold. First, do a little research and look for recipes that will work, for long-term food stores. Learn how to make your own bread. Your own noodles. The idea is that you actually incorporate cooking with these types of ingredients into your daily life. Second, make sure you're adding variety. We've been steadily pickling and canning as much of our own produce as possible, so that there's variety we can add into our meals. Plus, we've also got a pretty substantial garden growing, which means we'll always have fresh veggies to throw in too.
You need to buy back up gear
When my generator broke two days into a week-long power outage I wanted to scream. I thought I was prepared, but you need to remember that things break. You can't rely on a single piece of gear, as this becomes a single point of failure that can make your survival miserable. Instead, you need to follow the same rule as the army. Two is one. One is none. You need common spare parts, or better yet, a complete replacement for all mechanical items you'll be using. A generator is great, but if it won't run it's just an ugly paperweight. Have a backup power option. Same goes for your vehicles. I aim to have at least two backups for every key piece of gear. So, in addition to our family car, we've also got a motorbike and a quad-bike, and worst-case scenario we can bug out on our bikes.
You don't need to buy fancy gear
This is one point I see too many survivalists get caught up on. They waste money on the latest gear. The top of the line products. Or even useless items that are just being promoted. The amount of times you'll actually need a set of night vision infra-red binoculars I could probably count on one hand. I mean, I get it. It's a nice piece of tech, but you also need to think about practicality. Invest your money into the right equipment. That will help you survive. Forget trying to impress your friends and family with all of your "stuff," what you want to ask before spending a single dollar on a piece of survival gear is – is this a luxury or a necessity. And not only that, make sure you've actually got a practical use for it, right now. If not, perhaps you out to reconsider if you need to buy it at all.
You need to be able to carry it
Finally, this point is on actually bugging out. There is such a thing as packing too much, as it'll slow you down and make it impossible to actually get to your location. Be smart with every single item in your emergency kit, and if you think you're up for it go for a test hike. I'll bet after having it on your back for 5 or 10 miles there will be many things you're willing to take out next time.
Being prepared is about staying smart. Choosing to stockpile the right gear that serves its purpose of keeping you alive. That's it. It doesn't need to be fancy, but you do need to put a little thought into it, or you'll make all of these mistakes too.