What NOT to Prep – Part 2

That’s right, I said what “NOT” to prep.  This is part 2 in a short series on thing I choose not to stock up on.  Read part 1 here.  If you have made the decision to start preparing, you are experiencing information overload.  When I first started to prepare, I was told and read so much advice on what to prep I came to the conclusion that I should just prep everything!  Well yes, and no.

Incomplete information distracts those who are new to the concept of prepping from focusing on what will save their lives, doing your own research from different sources helps fill these information gaps. Questioning what you read on the internet, and even from me, is a good thing! After doing a lot of research and some testing these are items I have personally chosen not to prep, you may choose differently and that’s your right.  If you have a question on anything I have listed here, disagree with it, or think I have forgotten something, feel free to leave a comment.  I will get back to you as soon as I can.  Always base your preps on common sense, think things through, ask yourself; how will this work in a stressful situation where you will not have the luxury of time?  How will this effect your security?  Will it put your group or yourself at risk?

Three More Things I don’t Prep:

You should stock up on paper plates and plastic utensils so you don’t have to use water to wash dishes:  Paper plates and plastic utensils will create a lot of trash, unless there is still garbage service you will have to find somewhere to put your trash.  Plastic doesn’t break down and even paper will take time to compost.  Trash attracts rodents, insects, and other vermin you don’t want around your location.  Burning your trash may or may not be an opinion.  Most modern wood stoves are not made to burn trash, the features on them that make them super efficient and “clean burning” will get gummed up with the residue of burning trash as opposed to wood.  If you a have an older wood stove (prior to the late 80’s) you should be fine burning trash as long as you have a way of keeping your chimney clean.  Burning trash in the open outdoors may not be wise if you do not wish to draw attention to yourself.  It also may be too dry to burn safely outdoors.  If you accidentally catch your house, the woods, a field or other out building on fire, the fire department may not be able to help you.  As history has shown us, when there is no public water service, or fire department available, it is completely possible for one person to burn down an entire city or countryside with one simple mistake.  Don’t be that person.

If you practice washing dishes a little bit now, you will learn that it does not take much water to get the job done. You can even sanitize them in direct sunlight, if you have had to use unfiltered water for washing and don’t want to put aside even more water for making bleach. Learning to conserve water and practicing water efficient methods of washing dishes, is a better approach than stocking plastic and paper dinnerware to avoid washing.  This will also allow you to use that space to store maybe a little extra water, and to spend your money on more productive items like first aid supplies, soap, and food.

Women should keep a back-up supply of make-up on hand so you have some if you can’t get it from the store.  If you are in a prolonged grid down situation, there is a good chance that you won’t be bathing as frequently as we do now.  Most make-up is not made to be left on for days at a time.  And if it is, it will cause skin problems.  Another thing to consider is, if the rule of law falls it will only be to your benefit to not look ‘made up’ or as one person gently put it to me  “for your personal security, you definitely don’t want to look hot.”  You will want to blend in with everyone else, not stand out.  If you have make-up and no one else does, people will wonder what else you might have.  Besides most department store make-up is really not very good for you.

I am fairly certain the men in my life will still find me attractive even if I can’t put on some bush everyday.  I am also passing on hair spray, perfume, or anything along those lines.  We will all stink from hard work, lack of air conditioning, and lack of soap, and again, if you smell pretty it could draw a lot of unwanted attention to you – when everything else stinks its amazing how far away you can smell perfume, body lotion, or hair spray.  Give going without it a try on the weekends or cut back a little, get accustomed to it – not only will your skin thank you for it but your self-confidence will too.


You should prep ‘barter items’ so you will have something to trade to get what you need.  Now, since I know this is something preppers love to do, before you get upset, read my reasons.  I don’t believe in prepping barter items. 

If you have prepared wisely and thoroughly for yourself and whoever may join you for any disaster, and you have become as self-sufficient as possible, you should not be “in need” of much.  My grandfather who grew up during the depression could tell you exactly how little one needs to survive.  The original idea behind ‘barter items’ is to get things that you ‘need’ not to accumulate wealth or profit off of others in a time of emergency.  No one knows for sure what would happen in the event of a prolonged emergency.  Will you turn away your own brother or sister if they show up at your door hungry with no where to go?  If something happens to your neighbor and their 6 year-old kid is orphaned, will you turn them out?  I think, despite what is heard online about how resolved we all are, that most of us would take them in.  In no time at all, you will find yourself on reduced rations, which is still starving to death, its just doing it more slowly than eating nothing.  

Bartering is not the only way to network and create “good will” in your community.  If you start networking now in your community you won’t have to worry about how to go about approaching people after a disaster.  Good will can be created by helping others, honesty, faithfulness, and charity.  You don’t get to throw charity out the window just because hard times hit, that’s when we will all need it the most.  I strongly believe that if we preppers are in a position to help, and we can do it safely, then we must help.  It could be something as simple as teaching your neighbor how to filter water or as big as taking in your relatives that have mocked your prepping efforts in the past.  There will be other options for charity and you will spot them along the way.

The only exception I think is valid of is bartering for the services of others.  Say, perhaps there is a dentist down the road and you need some help with a tooth.  In that case, you would want to pay him with something.  The problem is, you may not have what he wants for payment, meaning that you will have to go find someone else who has the thing he wants and hope you have something that could be traded for it.  This is where the danger of bartering doubles and triples and the guessing game of what to prep for barter becomes a little ridiculous.  Your best bet is just to stock up on the stuff you need and just keep in mind that somethings may make better barter items than others maybe pad the numbers of those items a little but don’t buy things for the sole purpose of “it could be a good barter item.”  Invest that money in your stock of food and meds.

In a world where society has collapsed to the point where we are no longer using paper currency, it would be foolish to assume that we will set up this quaint barter system where everyone follows the rules, its safe, and no one gets hurt.  Look at New Orleans after Katerina, look at Bosnia (even after a year).  History has proven that the “bad guys” don’t go away in disaster, they get stronger and more brash. 

If you do barter, and you do it more frequently than other people in your area, and/or  if you have unusually nicer stuff than most, they will start to wonder what else you may have.  They may start to think that if you have extra to barter, then you have extra for them to take.  It could be a very dangerous activity and it could draw a lot of unwanted attention to you.  Especially if you are bartering super high value items like cigarettes, alcohol or drugs.  It won’t take long at all for word to get around a small community that you have antibiotics, or booze.  Great care will have to be taken that transactions don’t go wrong, that you are not followed home.  In my opinion – it’s not worth the risk unless you absolutely have to – so whatever it is you forgot to prep or ran out of, it had better be pretty danged important for you to go out looking to barter for it.  

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About the Author:

Stephanie is a writer for the American Preppers Network, a small local paper and for her blog, The Home Front and was featured in Marie Claire UK in the October 2012 issue that featured women preppers. She is also the credited writer of "Emergency Bag Essentials (Swatchbook): Everything You Need to Bug Out" released in August 2014 and available on amazon.com. "I write articles based on my own experience with emergency preparedness, self-sufficiency, homesteading, food preservation and life around the farmstead. I grew up in a very rural area where I learned to garden, the art of canning, to hunt and fish, and to raise my own animals for food. I also spent 6 years volunteering for the local county Search and Rescue group where I learned a variety of survival skills and a little bit about law enforcement protocol. " "As a general rule of principle I do not write articles about information that I have only read - if I am writing about something it's because I have done it myself and gone to great lengths to provide you with the facts meshed with personal experience. My alter egos are as an full time mom, amateur photographer, and backpacker." Stephanie's past APN articles are featured below on several pages. To connect with her --> click on one of the many little square social media buttons below!

29 Comments on "What NOT to Prep – Part 2"

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  1. SimpleWoman says:

    I enjoyed this article. I had a lady say to me one time we should stock high heels and lace panties…yeah, I know…I tried explaining that in a shtf situation you certainly do not want to be running around in lace panties and in all honesty, its gonna be about survival not looking pretty.

    • Simplewoman says:

      Hey! No problem…I totally agree with you and understand where you are coming from. You can’t reach them all nor can you make someone understand. All any of us can do is share our wisdom and pray it reaches those that need it. Keep up the good work.

  2. Kris Watson says:

    I have no desire to stock up on lace panties or makeup, but if someone else does, I am not going to stop them. It’s none of anyone else’s business what someone preps.

    • Nor would I Kris, 
      What I offer is practical advice backed up by logical reasoning and history. No said they were going stop anyone from prepping anything. I always encourage people to do thier own research and think for themselves. Is there perhaps an issue about the article you’d like to discuss? Or were you just leaving a passing complement?

    • Kris Watson says:

      I guess I am a person who isn’t keen on being told what to do. I can’t understand why someone else’s choices for prepping ought to be criticised. I am SO not the person who would prep girlie stuff, don’t even use it now. But my point is that if someone else doesn’t want to face the end of the world without lingerie, why should they have to be told that is not okay. It’s their future, they get to make their own decisions. It’s your opinion that it’s not a good idea, it’s their opinion that it is. What’s the big deal if the want what they want?

  3. Your comments on the danger of bartering are certainly spot on, but alcohol and to a lesser degree, cigarettes, have been and currently are used almost like currency in parts of countries like Poland and other “ex-eastern bloc” nations. When prepping, one should consider how people are handling disasters in other troubled countries now. For our country, just think however far back you would like to visualize to figure out what will be needed. 1900 when few had electricity, much less refrigeration? 1800 when society was largely agrarian and self-reliant? 1700? 1600? Prep yourself backward through history.

    • You offer good well thought points. One of the problems with my theory on bartering is that it doesn’t really take into account “life after shtf” like say we were to pick up life but in a deminished way – as if it 1801 all over again. So that is something we should all take into consideration. My thoughts mainly deal with the time surrounding the emergency, not 3 years later. Sometimes just even taking the time to think it through will give you an edge, as the saying goes “having a plan is half the battle” Thanks for your thoughts!

  4. Well Kris I guess the good thing is that absolutely no one is telling you what to do here. You and everyone else are free to read this article and disregard my recommendations do whatever you’d like. That is the beauty of the internet you can read it – take it in – and do what ever you want.

    As was stated in the beginning of the article when I started prepping it was all very overwhelming – that is a common feeling for people who to start to prep. It helps people to have some idea of what is really needed and what is not. This series of articles examines a few things I had questions on when I was starting to seriously prep and provides people with information, and yes my recommendations (most column authors include their opinions in their pieces, this is not unusual here)  so they can decide for themselves what they want to or not want to prep. 

    No one is criticizing anyone else here. I critiqued items NOT PEOPLE. Even SW was relaying a story where she was trying to help the lady who wanted to stock lace panties, not criticize her – this was based out of concern as not malice. We should all strive to help each other when we can. Sorry you don’t agree with the article and feel the way you do. 

    • April says:

      Stephanie you weren’t critcizing. You were offering information, and if someone takes it as criticizing or condemning, then that is their issue. You’re doing a good job!

  5. i loved this. You made some very valid points about bartering that i hadn’t thought of. We put a lot of our efforts into prepping, but like anyone else, we still like to have fun. One of my favorite barter items to buy, until now, was those little .99 bottles of liqueur at the liqueur store. I don;t drink but I go there on occasion with people who do. So for a while now, I buy those and through em into a bucket lol. I guess I won;t be doing that anymore lol

    • Well if my article made you change you mind – you could always use that booze to make homemade extract. Vodka is especially good for that. All you need is some lemon peel for lemon extract or vanilla bean for vanilla extract – throw in jar together, shake and let sit until you get the desired strength of extract. SO even if you don’t drink there is some prepping value to it. And you know, now you have it, so if you need that tooth pulled and the guy wants some booze to do it – you are ready.

  6. CherB says:

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. I gave up makeup years ago because of some chemical sensitivities. I have sometimes put on some powder but in most cases natural is best. There was so much I had to get rid of that was great prepper items when my husband passed. I sure wished I could have passed on at least my books to someone to keep as some books are just not replacable. Though starting over and loving many things that preppers do or would have to do, just because I think its great to know many basic skills. My son has told me many times he is glad for the things he learned growing up from me and my husband as they have helped him many times when money was tight or to figure out a problem at his job. That made me feel good.

    • CherB – my condolences on you husband, I’m so sorry… There are bright sides to starting over I am glad you can see them. It sounds like you were a great wife and better mom! Thanks for the comment and passing on our mindset to your son

  7. These two articles are some of the best I have read in a long time. Being fairly new at this I have been a bit overwhelmed with options and advice. I had read in several books to have disposable plates and silverware and thought it was bad advice for the same reasons you listed. Your observations on bartering items are a very good insight to possible problems with the concept. After checking out some books at the local library I’ve decided that when I can I will buy “The Disaster Preparedness Handbook A guide for families” by Art T. Bradley,PHD. He has useful info. and a common sense approach like you do. Please continue to write your articles, I am greatly enjoying them and learning a lot.

    • Katherin, 

      Thank you so much for your kind comments. Another book that I highly recommend for everyone’s library is the LDS Preparedness Manual. This is a FREE download and it is crammed full of all the information one could want on preparing, if you don’t want to read the religious stuff then skip to page 16. Just copy and paste this address in your browser:  http://www.preppers.info/uploads/General_-_LDS_Preparedness.pdf   this will complement your ongoing library fairly well and costs you nothing but paper and ink.

  8. While I agree with the makeup and bartering thoughts, I still have reservations about “no” on the paper goods. I understand the concerns, but I would think that unless you have an endless water supply, then water is going to be your biggest concern grid-down. I would take the risk of piling up trash to reduce water consumption. So, I would say that stocking up on paper goods should depend on your particular situation. Besides, it can’t hurt to have at least some paper goods as backup to your normal dishes.

    • Agreed on both points. It depends on your situation and it doesn’t hurt to have some extra on hand. No one should go without water because you washed dishes. But hopefully by prepping we won’t run into that. Plan for the worst, hope for the best!

  9. CherB says:

    Paper plates sometimes make good fire starters when you have nothing else. I can understand not wanting a bunch of plastic forks strewn around, but then again when we run out, people might be picking them up and using them for tools.  Its amazing what we will do when put to our limits.  Though a nice pack set of utensils takes up less room even though slightly heavier, they could be easily cleaned and wiped dry.  The water dipper at the well was just left hanging out in the sun and that was it.

  10. Dave says:

    Actually I would think things such as Vodka, Whiskey, ect would be great items to stock pile. Even if you don’t barter them they don’t expire and can be used as painkillers much like in the older days. I mean medical supplies will generally expire pain pills, ect. But if you needed to do some sort of small procedure, pull a tooth or stith something up a few shots of whiskey could just be what the doctor ordered.

    Whiskey, the painkiller of champions.

  11. I agree with you in regards to prepping alcohol Dave – I know there are people who just flat out don’t prep it, and their opinions are valid too but there are so many uses for it. Disinfecting (for the stronger stuff), the stronger stuff also makes cheap efficient cooking fuel (an alcohol stove can be easy made at home from pop cans), you can make a household cleanser with it, dull pain or at least the anxiety associated with pain, use it as a mild tranquilizer, etc…. so personally I think its worth prepping. 

    To all: I am not against having paper plates and plastic utensils on hand – in true prepper fashion we should all have at least a small supply of it if not more and I can see where at least plastic utensils would be handy in your Get Home Bags, Bug Out Bags, and to some extent Bug Out Locations in the interest of saving weight and space, but you have keep in mind that by reusing it will break and wear out FAR FASTER than regular silverware which can last generations. Also if you are so short on water that you can’t spare a liter to wash dishes – you are in BIG trouble, however this does go along with the “Prepare for the Worst, Hope for the Best” theory. So yeah, a small supply would be good if you are in a pinch. But hopefully we can all secure sources of emergency water so we are never faced with having to use paper because we don’t have enough water.

    The main point to these articles is *priorities* if you’ve just started to prep, are in a hurry, and you want to focus on the stuff that will most likely save your life – so you can make some decisions on what to make a priority and what can wait till later. Or if you don’t have alot of storage room at your disposal and can only prep the basic items that will save their lives…. 

  12. CherB says:

    Its funny how lifes perspective changes as things happen in your life.  Right now my biggest goal is just making it to my daughters place in Florida.  All my supplies either used up or had to give away. I had a couple yard sales and ended up giving away most of my belongings.  Things I would have rather had been able to keep or donate to a prepper site.  Some was just old stuff that needed to go.
    I know that feeling of having no place to go.  Since I have a dog, not even shelters will consider you unless you abandon or give up your pet and I have a letter stating its a therapy dog.  When I finally threw up my hands and tried to adopt him out, every shelter and rescue was full.  I could not just let him go on the street.  I do have my dog and a roof over my head (he just got up and hugged me like he knew I was thinking about him…sigh) but its not the right fit..sigh..I need to get to my daughters in Florida by the end of Sept.  Her lease is up then.  Her place is nice with a yard but the landloard doesn’t allow dogs. So my daughter asked about just one other person, and my daughter almost got kicked out..sigh..Its alot of changes I am going through…and I never prepaired for this either though I tried the best I could.  
    I used to have to do the prep when I was a military wife incase we had to leave Europe in a hurry. you could only bring what you could carry..like papers, some clothing and then I had my daughter in my arms.  It was a long day of sitting in a building with dozens of other people filling out paperwork about did we feel that we were safe with the current plan..Of course we all said yes..Then we went back home and my landlady started asking me if it was the real thing or another drill?  She was more scared than I was.  I just was surprised she even knew as we never mentioned it to her.  I didn’t take much with me and now looking back I don’t know where I would have put it.   The landlady then joked and said she be willing to hide me in her attic..
    So for now, Pray I make it to my daughter in Florida..I promise to check in and give you updates as to where I am.   Cher

    • Cher – keep me updated.

      Sending prayers out to you and dog that you make it there safely and hopely things get better for you. BTW I totally understand about having a dog, I would rather rough it out with them somewhere than abandon them to get in a shelter. 

  13. Jim Cobb says:

    Regarding bartering, here’s my perspective. Unless one has access to a reliable crystal ball, we cannot know the future for certain. We don’t know what disasters might come our way. Yes, we try to prep for “everything” but we’re only human. We’re going to make mistakes. We might miscalculate how much of item X we’ll really end up needing. Or we may find out that our supply of item Y got tainted during the initial disaster. Anecdotal testimony from people who have actually lived through one or another societal collapses in recent history have often stressed the importance of bartering to survive.

    It costs very little to set aside a stash of barter goods. For under $100, spread out over a few months, I could purchase dozens of cheap, disposable butane lighters, small bottles of booze, tins of loose tobacco and rolling papers, and a bit of hard candy and other comfort foods. Stored properly, most of these items will last quite a long time and all will likely have tremendous value, post-collapse.

    Obviously, the priority should always be to stock up on items you and your family will NEED to survive. But, if we look at prepping as being akin to an insurance policy, I guess I look at barter goods as a secondary policy to be back up to the first.

  14. With each item I have talked, about I have stressed, that it is more of a matter of priorities than anything else. These article are to help beginner make decisions on what they really need to prep and what can wait till later – in my never humble opinion, barter items can wait. Sure you could pick up some items for cheap but whether or not those items have any value at all in the future is not going to be up to us, so it’s difficult to say if the lead or safety pins or whatever is going to to be a tradable item. And you’re right history has shown us that people have survived through bartering – UNPREPARED people. They had to. And it WAS dangerous. Look at the writtings of Selco who lived through the Bosnian war.  I think his blog and story is here http://www.shftschool.com.  But, like I said yes there are cases in which we might have to barter. 

    Mostly these articles are geared to get  people to start thinking, and to help those who are starting  out to prioritize because prepping can be very overwhelming. Judging by the comment I think I am succeeding with the very well thought out responses – thank you all!

  15. CherB says:

    I enjoyed the article on what to prep and the recent article on making jam for storage. There is a great wealth of information out there for people just starting out or wish to take on a bigger project. It sure has inspired me. 

  16. Ann says:

    We have a small supply of TP, but our main idea for this area was to stock up on wash cloths. These are the smaller ones that you can buy a dozen for a few dollars.

    A different color for each person in our network. Rinse out in toilet or a bucket of water, like cloth diapers. Then the bleach water can beside the toilet to place the dirty washcloths. Then for personal bathing we have the nicer thicker washcloths. This will make it where you can tell the difference between face cloths and bottom cloths.

  17. Good points! This is a must read for those just starting and unsure of these items being included.

    • T Cline says:

      One barter item post SHTF will be simple books. If radio/TV go down, reading and cards/games of any type will be in very short supplie in this day and age. Thats not counting books with info, that’s a whole other class. I don’t even know what used paper backs go for now. Worst case, rub between hands to softe and use as TP. I don’t think I’ve seen it on any prepper site, why do you think eveverone had names from the Bible? It was the ONLY book in most people homes…. Just a idea I thought I’d toss out. And a deck of cards or 12 doesn’t take up much space.

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