You’ve probably seen The 100 Things That Will Disappear when the SHTF (or 72 things To Stock Up On or 50 Things To Always Have on Hand, take your pick, there are a lot of Internet articles along this vein.) Here’s my list, but it’s not really a list for apocalyptic end-times. It’s more a list of really useful, versatile things that you will get lots of use out of right now and will be indispensable if we ever do come upon hard times (personally or as a community or region.)
Since this is not a list for The Zombie Apocalypse, I have some slightly different parameters for putting something on the list. Here is my criteria for making The List:
- It needs to be relatively inexpensive. You don’t want to waste a lot of money if you end up not using it all.
- There should be no expiration date. It’s really hard to stockpile things if they’re going to expire in a few months.
- It needs to be easy to store. It’s doesn’t make financial sense to store things that are easily destroyed by pests or moisture.
- It should be multi-use. It might be nice to have a lot of bandaids on hand, but they are really on good for one things: small cuts and scrapes. I think you’re better off putting your storage space and budget into things that have more than one use.
So here’s my list of things you should stock up on:
Toilet Paper. You really can’t have too much. It doesn’t expire and you’ll always need it. There’s some on sale pretty much every month, so buy several big packs each month until you have a nice supply. Not only will you never run out, but you will never have to pay full price for it either.
Ammonia. Mankind has known for thousands of years that ammonia is a wonder cleaner. All your other household cleaners–Pine Sol, Mr. Clean, etc–all started as ammonia before they added fancy perfumes and colors to it. It can be used to clean just about any surface and is about the cheapest, most versatile cleaner you can find.
Borax is another great multi-use cleaner. You can use it for laundry, bathroom cleaning, to unclog drains, give your laundry soap a boost and a zillion other uses. It’s also inexpensive and if you keep it dry, will store almost forever.
Baking Soda. And while you’re at it, Washing Soda, too. (Read here to learn the difference and why both are so good to have on hand.) If you don’t have money or space for both, get the baking soda because you can always turn baking soda into washing soda (it’s not hard but can be a bit of a hassle.) You will use baking soda for cooking, cleaning, health, beauty care and about 100 other uses. You can buy a 10 pound bag at Costco or Sams for around $5-$6, so get plenty.
Epsom Salt is another good multi-use thing that doesn’t cost a whole lot. It’s great for soaking aching muscles and sore joints, it helps reduce inflammation and infection and it adds magnesium to your garden (tomatoes and peppers LOVE it!) Here’s a list of just some of the great reasons to keep Epsom Salt on hand. In bulk, a 6 lb bag costs around $4.
Vinegar, white or apple cider. Vinegar has many uses–it can be used in cooking, cleaning, preserving food and for health care. Apple cider vinegar has lots of health benefits and it’s better for salad dressings than white vinegar. But white vinegar is slightly more acidic, so it’s better for cleaning. Apple cider vinegar tends to cost a bit more than white vinegar. Either can be used for canning.
Table Salt. I list this separately from Epsom salt. While the uses for Epsom salt are mostly health and garden, you will use table salt mostly in the kitchen and for food preservation. It is so inexpensive, there’s no reason not to have a lot. Most food storage guides say to store one pound per person per year. I would suggest five pounds per person per year. This article gives lots of uses for salt and has pointers on how to store.
Matches. This is the one item on this list that is most vulnerable to moisture and also has just one use–making a flame. But there really is no good substitute for matches, so you’ll want to have plenty on hand. Just be sure to protect them from moisture. You can either vacuum seal in mylar bags or store in a tightly sealed 5-gallon bucket. Throw in a couple desiccant gel packs for added protection. Be sure to get “strike anywhere” matches, not “safety” or “strike on box” matches.
What’s the difference, you ask? Well, there are two components that, when united by friction, ignite the matches. Safety matches only have one of those components in the head of the match. The other component is in the striking surface on the box, so that when you rub the match along that surface it ignites. Strike anywhere matches have both components in the head of the match (that’s why the head has two colors, usually white and red.) that combine with any friction on any surface. The problem with safety matches is that with repeated use the striking surface can become worn and the second component used up so that you are unable to ignite the matches. So get strike anywhere matches so that you can light them…anywhere.
Soap. Good hygiene is essential in any crisis (or non-crisis) situation, so store plenty of soap. Now, you can store a variety of soaps: laundry soap, dish soap, hand soap, shampoo, etc, but that will take a lot of space and do you really want to keep up with such a complex inventory? OR you can store a basic liquid Castille soap and an all-purpose cleaning soap like Fels-Naptha. With these two you can make just about any cleaning supply you’ll need as well as have soap for hand-washing and shampooing.
Canning Supplies/Reusable Storage Containers. Don’t fill your limited storage space with disposable things that can only be used once. Ziploc baggies are a great convenience, but you can only reuse them a few times before they wear out. Consider having a good supply of jars for storage. I prefer glass jars because they have so many uses and do not retain oils, chemicals or smells like plastic containers do.
Metal canning lids are also another one-use item, but they take up so little room and are essential to preserving food over the long-term that you may want to stock up on them. Or, better yet, invest in reusable Tattler Canning Lids. These lids cost a bit more than your regular metal lids, but they pay for themselves after just 2-3 uses.
Peroxide and Alcohol. You probably noticed that I did’t put bleach on the list. That’s because it only has a shelf life of about 6 months. Yes, bleach (and laundry soap and a ot of other cleaners) can lose it’s effectiveness, so only store about as much as you can use in six months’ time. For sanitation purposes, store hydrogen peroxide and alcohol. Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleach and will remove some stains from clothing. It is also a good mouth wash. (Don’t swallow it!) Alcohol is a good disinfectant. Both can be used for first-aid purposes.
Of course, this isn’t everything. This is really only the most basic of basic lists and there are probably lots of things that you use in your house that I might not care about. So go through your house, room by room and look for things that you could use up or wear out in a year’s time and consider if this is something you’d like to store extra of. Make a list of those things and whenever they go on sale in the coming months, buy as much as you can afford and put it into storage.
And if there is a Zombie Apocalypse, you’ll be that much better off.