Survival. Everywhere you look, you see ideas, suggestions and ‘must have’ things you need to buy in case ‘the Big One hits’. Unfortunately, for many of us, the Big One is already here – through job loss, health issues, or economic strains, such as so many dairy farmers (and other farmers). We don’t have to worry about a world-wide catastrophe; we are living it now, in our own home.
How do you go into survival mode, when you know it is just a matter of time before the bill collectors are breathing down your neck, or already are? We would throw a pity party, but can’t afford the balloons, much less the cupcakes. We could hide under the bed, but the dust bunnies are already in fighting mode to jealously guard what is theirs. So what do we do?
I firmly believe that we need to operate the same way we would if it really was a world-wide issue. Here are a few ways to reconnoiter, and face the dilemma head on.
Before you do anything else, the one thing that has the best chance of getting you through this is prayer. Believe it or not, God has long since known you would be in this position, and He already has plans to get you out. It isn’t an instant fix, but it can give you the strong foundation you need from which to work. Take the time to listen. His wisdom is always so much better than ours. And keep your faith and trust in Him.
One of the biggest burdens on a budget is the grocery entry. Whether you are a family of two or twenty, in order to make it through this latest crisis, you need to stay healthy. Go through your pantry, your refrigerator and your freezer. Make a list of everything you have – from the canned goods to the spices to that last piece of frozen garlic bread. Know what you have on hand.
Then head over to the recipe box and cookbooks on the shelf. Grab paper and pencil, and begin making a menu. Find recipes that incorporate all, or at least the majority, of what you already have.
Even if you have never made bread before, you can still bake biscuits and batter rolls – both of which make great sandwich bread. If you are missing a few ingredients, make it your goal to spend $20 or less at the grocery store purchasing that which is only necessary (flour, baking soda, salt, and other staples).
One of the least expensive ways to feed your family is to cook at home. Cut out some of your spending by using up what you already have, or make Two in One Meals.
Make a separate list of what you have outside the kitchen and what you can use to get you through this hard time. Make another one of what you can ration – water, gasoline, electric, gas, etc. Know what you have, what you need, and how you can use it to your advantage.
Gather your Tools
If I had to make a list of survival tools that we have, I would begin with ‘our knowledge and wits’. Living on a farm, on a shoe-string budget, has honed our knowledge and wit skills to a fine edge. We are constantly in the progress of learning to improvise by using what we already have. We think outside the box so much, I honestly believe the ‘box’ has long since been composted with the rest of the cow manure and vegetable peels.
If knowledge and wits are #1 on your list, make #2 your skills. List them all – from scrubbing floors to college degrees. If you have a skill, you can use it.
Start a garden
That may sound strange, but when in survival mode, you not only have to think about right now, but also down the line. Even if all you have is a few pots, start a tomato plant and some lettuce or fresh spinach.
It will take some time, but eventually will add to the fresh food category in the ‘Must Have’ column. Tomatoes take a little longer, but your leaf lettuce and spinach will be up and ready to harvest in approximately 45 to 55 days. Radishes take approximately 30.
Most lettuce and leafy greens are cool season crops, but you can extend your season with a cold frame. Plus, it has been suggested that eating leafy greens may help to lower stress, and while in survival mode, you need to get rid of as much stress as possible.
Leave tomorrow alone
I know I am contradicting myself here, since I just said that you need to think ‘down the line’. But truthfully, that only applies to the gardening aspect. In reality, you cannot do today what you imagine will need to be done tomorrow. The only certainty you have is right now – right this minute.
Something you do today may very well change the course of tomorrow, so it is wasting time to figure out how to ‘fix’ that worry of tomorrow, when it may not need to be ‘fixed’ at all. Instead, focus on just today. Make a list of what you must do – send in job applications; look at your checking account balance and pay at least one bill, if you can; feed your family; even call the electric, gas, and water companies and discuss possible delayed payments.
If you desperately need money, see if you can find enough items around the house that you really don’t need and have a garage sale. A few signs around town and word of mouth will cut down on the cost of advertising.
If you have larger items, consider Craigslist or the local Facebook Market. I do advise caution with both of these, or any other online means of advertising. Never give your address. Instead, be willing to meet in a busy area, such as a parking lot. And when you leave, please make sure you aren’t followed. I know. I sound paranoid, but this world is uncertain, and we don’t want to take chances.
Never accept a check from a stranger. And if possible, find a store who is willing to let you use one of their bill-checking pens. It is always better to be safe than sorry. You can also do ‘one time’ jobs, such as cleaning someone’s house, weekend dog or house sitting. Who knows – you may find enough of them to keep your bills paid until another option comes along.
Everyone has to go through survival mode at some point in their life. The human tendency is to panic and scramble wildly looking for solutions. Instead, just take a deep breath, pray and hunker down for the duration. And believe…
This Too Shall Pass
These are just a few tips you can use to help you cope while in survival mode. I know there are many of you who have the tee shirt for these situations, so any tips you may have to share would be great to have. Just leave a comment below so we can all learn from each other!