Whether you believe the end of the world is nigh or think it’s a really good idea to be prepared just in case, building a SHTF home begins in the kitchen. You see it in every disaster-struck area: food and water are the first things to go scarce. There are no two ways about it — you need to keep eating to live.
If you’re prepping for the SHTF, chances are you’re buying food — lots of food. Anything dried, canned or freeze dried is ideal. Your pantry should be stocked with enough food to last you and your family for a long time. Whether you’re prepping for a few months of disaster or a full failure of society as we know it, you’ll have to determine what your goal for stockpiling is. As far as how much food to stockpile, you know your family best. Observe how much food you go through and plan accordingly.
You’ll need a place to put all those canned goods, whether they’re put together by the Jolly Green Giant or in your own kitchen. Keep in mind, for security purposes you’ll want a good, out of sight place to store all this food. We’ll get into that more later.
So what are the best foods to stash in your SHTF pantry? Canned goods and dry goods are among the best. Properly stored, they’ll last for years. This includes canned meats. Rice and pasta are filling and preserve well. Sugar, spices, flour, cooking oil and other basic cooking goods can round out your stores.
If you’re prepping for an event that lasts longer than a few months, you might want to start your own garden to upkeep your food stores. Beans and potatoes are easy to grow, filling, and nutritious. They also stay good for years if properly stored. Fruit trees, while they take a long time to mature, can pay off in a big way down the road.
Water will be your most precious resource. Stockpile it first, and stockpile a lot of it. You should collect one gallon of water per day per person (and don’t forget your pets). If you live near a natural source of water, purification tablets can protect you against contaminants. However you have access to water, conserving your supply is important. Ration your daily expenditures of water, bathe quickly and efficiently, use half-drunk glasses of water to water plants or clean dishes.
If you retain access to running water, or have a well, make sure to practice water-saving techniques like running your faucet only when necessary or mending water leaks in showers and toilets. Nobody likes a cold shower, but if you keep a hot water heater running through your power supply, be careful not to use that hot water to excess. Your home will need power in other places, like cooking and heating or cooling (depending on climate).
How you want to cook in your SHTF homestead is greatly influenced by two things: how you’re powering your home and how discreet you wish to be. In an EOTWAWKI scenario, discretion can be your best friend. Smoke from a fire and food smells can draw unwanted attention from outsiders who might not have the best intentions. In that scenario, something like a solar oven is the best way to prepare your food, since they reduce food smell.
Wood burning ovens or stoves can pull double duty: you can use them to cook food and to heat your home. They do give off smoke, so this is better for a power-grid-down scenario where law enforcement is still in place or to cook at night when it won’t be so visible.
If you still have power, or have solar power to keep your lights on, you can use hot plates, thermal cookers, crock pots or traditional ovens.
You have your food, water, and method of cooking the food. Now you need your little odds and ends that make up a kitchen. Knives, naturally, are incredibly useful for so much more than cutting food. When purchasing your knives, make sure they are the kind that can be sharpened. You’ll need a sharpener to go with them.
Matches, a teakettle, cutting board, and a colander can all be very useful. Think about what you’ve stockpiled. Lots of pasta? You need the stuff to make pasta. A can opener will be useful if you’ve stockpiled canned goods. For anything you can get as a hand crank, like a can opener or egg beater, go that route. If you have electricity, you’ll want to use it for other things. Select your pots and pans carefully. Cast-iron skillets are low maintenance and incredibly useful for open-fire and kitchen cooking.
Always keep an eye to safety. Be careful of what you can burn in your home, and what you can’t. Charcoal and treated wood should never be burned inside, as they can release chemicals that can sicken you and your family. Make sure your chimney or wood oven ventilation is cleaned and maintained, or it could become a fire hazard. Keep your kitchen stocked with cleaning materials — you might not be able to go to a doctor if you get sick from bacteria on your cutting board.
We all know that OPSEC, or operational security, is vital to maintaining your SHTF bug in home. In the worst case scenario, you’re playing the long game. Your supply won’t last forever if everyone within a 5-mile radius can see your smoke and smell your food. It can even be dangerous for you and your family.
So how does OPSEC relate to your kitchen? Kitchens are one of the biggest sources of household trash and other waste. While a lot of your kit will be reusable, like jars and pans, you’ll need to find a low-key way to store your trash. You can compost most of your organic materials (especially if you’re growing your own food) and everything else can be buried. Make sure it’s deep enough not to attract animals.
Your food stash should be secured in a hidden, safe place. You want to make sure your food is preserved well, but you also want to make sure it’s as hidden as it can be. Prepping for the SHTF means a lot of secrecy about what you’re up to. When things go wrong, you don’t want your hard work to become a solution in the minds of everyone who knows you.