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Prepping On The Sly


Two years ago, my husband thought I was nuts to imagine a life without electricity, gas, or grocery stores. He didn’t want to discuss it, much less have hand tools and tactical gear cluttering up every inch of unused space and reminding him just how far I’d “gone off the deep end.”

Regardless, I felt I had a responsibility to plan for our children — with or without his cooperation. His attitude was basically, “Do what you want, as long as I don’t have to deal with it.” Talk about a head-in-the-sand approach!

Pledge to Prepare

Now, I would never advocate lying to your spouse. That said, you have a responsibility to plan for your family’s future, no matter what that future holds. When your kids look to you with vacant eyes and rumbling tummies, “I was waiting for Daddy‘s approval,” will not fill those bellies! I’ll bet you’d resort to much worse than prepping on the sly / covert shopping to provide for them, if you had to.

I started small, with what I could personally control without interference: my purse and daily driver. If you’re overwhelmed but feel an urgency to prep without causing conflict, consider these common-sense approaches.

Have resources on hand

Keep your vehicle filled with at least a half tank or more of gas at all times. Power outages cause pumps and ATM machines to not work, gasoline deliveries can be disrupted, and credit card issues happen every day. You don’t want you and your children to be stranded away from home.

Keep $100 in small bills in your purse. Be disciplined enough not to touch it for lunch money. The idea is to be able to make exact change in a real emergency situation.

Your purse is your Every Day Carry bag. Lists abound for what to include, but think of it like this: If you and your kids were trapped somewhere for an extended period, what would you have to have? My purse weighs seven pounds. I’m not getting rid of ANY of it.

Put a well-stocked First Aid Kit in your trunk. (Remember that summer heat will make medicine degrade more quickly in your car than in your home.) Once you’ve assembled your bug-out bag, stash it next to your gas can and on top of your flat-ish storage tub containing a change of clothes for you and your kids. Keep a pair of hiking boots in there in case you have to hoof it home.

trunk organizer is also great to keep things like bottled water, tools, “picnic blankets”, and other stuff your husband will probably use but won’t want to know you carry. Mine has used the first aid kit a dozen times but sometimes still asks when I’m going to get rid of all that “junk” so my groceries will fit.

Over-the-seat storage bags are perfect for other things you’ll want to keep handy, like snacks, travel-size games, and books to keep the kids busy, and an extra flashlight or two. Check out this link to see what you should keep in your glove box.

Financial Preparations

Get “cash back” with each debit card transaction — just $5 or $10 at a time. For me, it started out as an experiment to see how much money we wasted without noticing. I watched our account balance and kept it level. Within a matter of months, I had several hundred dollars in the safe for emergencies — and told my husband about the “waste” we were actually saving. Once you’re comfortable with your amount, grab a few of those twenties and take this action step.

Clip or print online coupons and compare to local store ads to save money. Once I showed my husband I could get free toothpaste and 5 boxes of $4 cereal for $1.10 each, he never questioned why we had so much stuff in the pantry. Now he’s sort of proud of the convenience of having a “grocery store” in the spare closet. 

When he asks, “Hey, do we have any more [fill in the blank]?” he loves that the answer is always, “Yes!” Keep track of the money you save — especially if you’re paying cash. Your budget will never miss it and you can tuck it into your emergency stash pretty painlessly.

Nontraditional college funds for the kids took a little more convincing, but here was my pitch: We’re already putting XX dollars into savings each month for the kids’ college funds. What if we took that money and, over time, bought silver coins? Silver will never lose its value like their 529 plans did when the market crashed in 2008. We can keep it in the safe so we always have access to it in case of emergency. When the kids go to fill out their FAFSA forms, it won’t count toward their “expected family contribution” because it’s off the radar. And if they never need it—if they get scholarships or choose a trade instead of college — they can always sell it to put toward a wedding, a car, a house, or whatever.

Still not convinced?  If you can, try the 52-week savings plan. What man doesn’t love a good challenge? Hey, he might even want to take on the challenge of doubling the amount saved using this plan!

“Christmas shop” all year. Keep a spreadsheet with a list of those you usually buy for and the budget per gift. It’s never too early to start bargain shopping!

I often buy my children’s clothes a size up at the end of the season.  If they need new jeans before Christmas, I don’t have to buy them at full price because I have some tucked away. Otherwise, they have a few necessities that didn’t break the bank. I store them in their plastic bins of off-season clothes. I also buy the $15 sneakers in the next size when advertised in the Academy circular.

Then I brag to my husband about how much I saved versus last year’s gifts! He knows exactly what I’m storing and why. I do the same thing with birthday gifts. If the unthinkable happens and I can’t buy clothes this time next year, I’ve got a little cushion to come up with plan B. I keep unopened socks and undies for each family member in current size and the next size up for kiddos for the same reason.

Food Preps

Grab an extra bag of beans and rice each trip to the grocery store. Sounds simple, but you can quickly stock up on staple foods like canned goods without breaking your budget. Check out this article for tips on where to store your stuff incognito.

How many of your dinners have started with “my friend gave me this great recipe…”? If the “friend” happens to be the Survival Mom and the ingredients happen to be freeze-dried, you have an explanation for the doorstep delivery from Augason Farms or Thrive Life! Now you have some staples for everyday cooking! And if the recipe is a keeper, you can always survivalize it for the future.

Take the kids to “pick your own” farms or the farmer’s market and then can/dehydrate!  It gives them something to do outdoors and away from their electronic gadgets!

I took a canning class through our local farmer’s market so I could preserve “extras” from the garden.  If you don’t garden, try canning some things unavailable in grocery stores. We love mango salsa, corn relish, whole berry cranberry sauce, and mint jelly.

The only way to get those kinds of fresh, homemade, preserved foods is learn to make it yourself. Learn a new skill and acquire equipment in the process. And make room to store the jars of goodies you’ll eat all year. They make unique and budget-friendly gifts. And my husband is actually a little proud to take these unique goodies to office parties and potlucks — especially homemade pickles.

Other Essentials

Tools make good gifts. My husband sort of expects practical things for obligatory gift-giving occasions, so he’s gotten things like a tent, a Mag light, fishing gear, hunting boots, and other survival gear without knowing (or caring) that I would’ve bought those things, anyway.

I’ve requested and received a sewing machine, pressure cannersolar oven, sleeping bag, pistol, dehydrator, and food saver sealing system. Granted, I’ve requested some of the less “mainstream” items from my parents who also diligently prepare, but you can’t get rid of a gift from your parents, no matter how weird, right?

Check out the FSA store. If you have access to a flexible spending account, you can use this website to spend any funds remaining in that account before you lose them at the end of the plan period. (If you’re in, say, a 28% tax bracket, taking $$ pre-tax to pay for medical expenses is like saving 28% on your medical bills.) I had $50 I was about to forfeit at plan’s end last year. I used that money to stock up on first aid items and contact solution.

Because it had already been deducted from my paycheck, my budget didn’t even feel it. You can shop the site with a regular credit card if you don’t have an FSA card, but it’s comparable to store prices and you can’t use coupons. I have been able to find hard-to-find items there, though, like NasalCease, which I include in my first aid kits.

Emotional Preps

No amount of arguing, pleading, or article-forwarding could convince my husband that a bleak future was possible. But little by little, I was able to do enough on my own to get us in decent shape for the most common events in our area — tornadoes, extended power outages due to ice storms, and personal financial crises. We had a few short-term outages that we weathered just fine thanks to my preparedness. We had some scary injuries and friends with serious illnesses that made him remove his head from the sand and see the wisdom of forethought.

I made a point of drawing attention to the fact that I was ready for little, everyday emergencies. Then I’d wonder aloud what would happen if that emergency was magnified. Then I’d lapse into silence and wait for a reaction.

Mostly, though, I prayed. A lot. I prayed for safety for my family, for a little more time to prepare, for wisdom to do so ethically, and for the strength to do it on my own.  Hang in there. Baby steps in the right direction trump paralysis every time. And even if you catch a little flack now, know that you’re not alone. It won’t be long before your spouse will think it’s weird that other people don’t have bottled water in the trunk.


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About Author

Baron Von Kowenhoven

Baron was just a shy kid with a dream, growing up in the 40's with a knack for story-telling. After a brief career in film, Von Kowenhoven went to Europe in search of fringe-scientific discoveries and returned in the 90's to unleash them on the entertainment and political landscape of America.

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