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PrepperFI in the Face of COVID-19

Ever since That Frugal Pharmacist wrote a guest post here on the blog about her family’s experience with what we then coined as PrepperFI, I had meant to write my own. PrepperFI, as we’ve defined it, is the crossover of financial independence/retire early (FIRE) and emergency preparedness.

With the current situation of COVID-19 here in Kirkland and in Washington in general, it felt overdue to write this post – and really, my brain kept circling back to this topic, so writing about other things right now just didn’t feel right.

Clearly not everyone in the financial independence community is well versed in emergency preparedness, and plenty of people who know quite about being prepared aren’t fabulous with their money. There does, however, seem to be a decent crossover between the two, likely because the people drawn to both are more DIY type folks who don’t mind treading a path that doesn’t look like everyone else’s.

While we are no means Doomsday Preppers type folks, we are more prepared than the average family, for a myriad of reasons. We have a large garden. We go hiking and backpacking often. My husband brews his own beer, and, as a former United States Marine, knows his way around guns and is set up to begin doing his own reloading, and he practices archery in our backyard.

I’ve done quite a bit of canning and pickling (and a bit of fermenting) and bake and cook quite a bit from scratch these days. I was a park ranger for 6.5 years and know many of the edible and medicinal plants that grown in our region. So, while these hobbies and interests of ours don’t spring from a concern with preparedness, they fit in well. Our non-monetary emergency fund supports this as well.

And so, I’ve continually meant to write a coherent post about what PrepperFI looks like in our family, but another post always gets written first. This week, however, nothing else quite has my attention like this one, as we continue to live through the biggest COVID-19 outbreak in the United States thus far. It’s a surreal time to live in Kirkland, and our PrepperFI tendencies let me breathe a little easier in this uncertain time.

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Preparedness Begins with What You Already Own

At the intersection of preparedness and financial independence, the goal is to spend your money wisely and not just go out and buy some fancy gear that advertises getting you ready for any kind of natural disaster or other event that disrupts daily life. For us, that natural disaster that most often gets talked about is The Big One, but also semi-regular power outages and snowstorms in the winter.

For those types of disasters, making sure that we have at least a few weeks of food and water on hand is the first step. While we would perhaps not have the most exciting meals after weeks without the grocery store, we would be fine.

Instead of purchasing large quantities all at once in preparation for a single event, we make bigger purchases at Costco whenever we run low, keeping the price low, and buying only what we will eat regardless. The biggest waste with any type of preparedness planning is purchasing things that eventually go bad without ever being eaten/used.

Backpacking / Camping Gear that Overlaps as Prepper Supplies

Backpacking and camping supplies, it turns out, are FANTASTIC preparedness supplies as well. We own a couple of LifeStraws, plenty of Mountain House backpacking meals (Beef Stroganoff is my favorite – plus MREs because my husband enjoys them for some reason and takes them hunting), and keep a couple bottles of iodine tablets on hand as well. All are quite handy when out backpacking, but they do double duty when we’re home as backup preparedness items.

We also have a number of headlamps and flashlights (also great for exploring lava tubes like in Hawaii), including a couple of hand crank ones for when batteries die. Other than an extra bottle of the iodine tables, everything else was purchased for camping, so no additional money was spent getting us prepared for the possibility of disasters.

Park Ranger / Naturalist Skills

Not only were these skills free for me to obtain, I’ve actually been paid by two different jobs to learn them. If that doesn’t count as PrepperFI, I don’t know what does. On slow days at the ranger station, I would dig into the nature books on hand to get a deeper knowledge of the plant and animal life around me. While my husband and I both grew up spending a ton of time in the outdoors in the Pacific Northwest and learned a lot that way, my skills increased quite a bit while working in the sustainability field for so many years.

I’ve always known about the more basic edible plants in our area, such as blackberries, huckleberries, and salmonberries, but my experience as a park ranger and leading nature hikes – some specifically about ethnobotany – I also know how to identify and prepare stinging nettles, salal berries, and fiddleheads, to name a few. Beyond that, we also own Plants of the Pacific Coast, which is a veritable encyclopedia for any of the plants I can’t recognize immediately on sight.

Gardening

Extending beyond what is edible in the natural world beyond our back fence (we live backed up to acres and acres of wooded parkland and miles of trails), we’ve spent a good deal of time over the almost nine years in our home expanding the garden. While my first few attempts didn’t go as well as I’d have liked, my gardening skills have grown exponentially, and our front yard produces quite a bit of food for us each year.

Even in the middle of winter, there is usually something edible growing in the garden, even if it is just some overwintering carrots, early garlic, and other leafy greens. By the time early spring rolls around through late fall, there’s a good amount ready for harvest. In summer, we have plenty to eat and give away while buying very few fruits and vegetables.

The garden has taken years to get to this point, but the perennial plants, saved seed, and few plants I purchase each year cost us very little and give us so much in return. In the case of a supply chain disruption – or quarantine, as is now a not-impossible possibility – we would have fresh produce even after a month or two without a grocery store run.

Baking / Cooking / Canning

While I haven’t done nearly as much canning since my kiddo was born, I still do some, with the ability to do much more. Like any good prepper (cough canner), we have tubs in the garage with canning jars, as well as more in the hall cabinet.

With the 5+ canning books (Food in Jars is one of my favorites), I have plenty of recipes to work from even if the internet was down for any reason. And of course, it’s a very cheap way to preserve food for the off-season, and one that doesn’t require freezer storage.

Baking and cooking are skills that more people have, but when we were first married, I couldn’t do any of it. In time, I’ve gotten a lot better and enjoy it quite a bit. With a bin full of flour on hand on all times, there are quite a few options for baking with limited other ingredients (though we aren’t usually terribly limited).

Homemade naan tastes way better than store bought, and it costs a fraction of the price. I tried my hand at homemade doughnuts this weekend for the very first time, and we will definitely be making them again. Avoiding the grocery store isn’t so bad when you can make a lot yourself – and you have basic (cheap) ingredients on hand.

EcoFrugal Preparedness

PS. I also have another post today that was published over at Ecofrugals about my clothing ban – 3 years as of March 1st!

So many of the ecofrugal practices we have at home are also helpful when thinking about preparedness. Our zero waste alternatives for regular goods mean that we don’t need to stock up in the same way on things like paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, and female sanitary products because we have reusable versions instead.

Caring about the environment, frugality, and preparedness is a combination made in Heaven. While clearly both frugality and preparedness don’t have to be done with an eye toward sustainability, when they do, the overlap happens a lot. The same reason I don’t worry about a last minute party (not needing paper plates or paper towels) is the same reason we’re prepared to hunker down and stay home for a period of time, whatever the reason.

COVID-19 in Kirkland

While we’ve experienced the random few days of power outage or up to a week or so of being snowed in, none of those weeks were anything more than a minor inconvenience – and often quite a lot of fun (a generator that we received a couple years back as a present from our families helps too). The Coronavirus outbreak here in Kirkland is decidedly less fun.

While we are pretty healthy, the kiddo and I have had a slight cold this past week, keeping us home instead of heading to work and childcare. We had done some additional stocking up at Costco the weekend before we came down with a cold – and right when the first deaths occurred in our city (and the whole country), so we were extra prepared in terms of food variety, which has already come in handy.

The husband and roommate are both still working on site for their jobs, as both their careers require in person work, but otherwise we have been attempting to stay out of large public places as an abundance of caution. Our son’s grandmothers (and great grandmother) are much of his childcare each week, so while we aren’t as concerned for the three of us, we are aware that the virus is much more dangerous for them.

And beyond that, there are many others in our community who are at risk of serious complications or death if they catch COVID-19. As we have the ability and privilege to mostly stay home, we are.

This past week has been filled with lots of gardening, lots of hiking, and lots of cooking. While we would love to be out and about with more people to fill our extroverted selves, we are absolutely fine hanging around the house (and in the parks keeping a social distance from others).

If nothing else, this experience with the Coronavirus has gotten us even more prepared for any kind of disaster that might come our way, and I definitely see it as a silver lining that our community in general is now more prepared for The Big One, and anything else.

Now we hope and pray that things get under control before we see extraordinary measures like are occurring in Northern Italy. But even if they occurred here, we are prepared as we could be, and that brings me some peace in a very surreal time.

Looking for more finance related Covid-19 content? Here is a list of other bloggers who have written about it so far:

How to Pandemic Proof Your Business Erika F Consulting

PrepperFI vs the Pandemic That Frugal Pharmacist

Rebalancing the Pandemic Dr PayItBack

Coronavirus Emergency A Dime Saved

Preparing for the Coronavirus Without Breaking the Bank Life Before Budget

Working From Home Tips Keeping Up With The Bulls

The Coronavirus is a Bigger Deal Than I Thought Eat Sleep Breathe FI

What Now? Prepare. And Help. #kindnessfightscovid Chief Mom Officer

How To Prepare For Short Term Emergencies Problems and Projects

How to make the most of your unexpected downtime Kathleen Celmins

Coronavirus Cleaning Tips: Disinfect Your Home Pantry Escapades

How to Prepare Financially for the Coronavirus Michelle Is Money Hungry

Emergency Preparedness Military Dollar

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