Given the state of affairs in the world today and the possibility of lockdowns in China expanding and lasting longer, or the war in Ukraine spreading, I’ve been asking myself this two-part question: What items that we buy regularly can we not live without? What can we do to prepare for the time that we can’t afford these items or they are not available?
I think considering these questions is helpful for planning and to make sure our preps are on target.
For this article, I am going to ignore the big three: food, water and shelter. We’ve talked about food repeatedly, and I’m going to assume we all have water and shelter and have covered those in our prepping plans.
So, what else do you buy or need regularly that will be affected by inflation and exacerbated by the situation in Ukraine and/or China? What do you buy frequently that you cannot do without, even if the prices rise to an extreme level? Here’s what is on my personal list:
Drugs and Medical Treatment
A surprising number of drugs and the raw components used to make drugs come from China. We saw shortages during the COVID outbreak and I expect we will see more. I break this down into the following categories:
- Life-saving products you MUST have, including chronic items like insulin and anti-rejection drugs as well as drugs like antibiotics for acute illnesses or infections. These were in very short supply in Venezuela during their collapse and people died as a result.
- Drugs that extend your life or improve your health, like blood pressure medication or cholesterol-lowering drugs. You can skip these, but you would prefer not to.
- Drugs that improve your quality of life. These are nice, but not critical.
- Medical treatments, surgery or diagnostic tests that require medical facilities and healthcare professionals. This varies depending on the severity, but we will just hope insurance covers it.
- We can delay dental care unless something causes pain. I think the dentists insistence on checkups and cleaning every six months can stretch to a year or more if money is an issue and you practice good oral hygiene. I also say no to X-rays at least half the time.
Thankfully, we are in good shape here. My recommendation is to stockpile as much of your prescription medication as you can and then use a first-in, first-out process to take the oldest drugs first. There are multiple methods of building up a stock of prescription medications that I will not go into here.
We also stocked up OTC medications, buying big bottles at a club store to buying multiple packages at our local drug store or box store when we had extra funds in our medical spending account. For example, we have excess cold and flu medication, allergy pills, anti-itch creams, anti-fungal ointments, poison ivy treatments, bee sting numbing agents, etc. These things will not get any cheaper, so why not stock?
Pet and Livestock Feed
Every time I use two bags of chicken feed, I buy three. Using this technique, I have built up a three month supply. I aiming for six months, but I am not comfortable getting more than that without doing some research on how long it can store. Getting the chickens through the winter without commercial feed or grains would be a huge challenge. There are at least four months in which there is nothing growing. I would add bedding in this category as well as we use at least a bale of hay every month.
We finally built up a cushion in our supply of cat food, but we have far more people food on hand than we do dog and cat food. The dog food has gone up 25 percent since inflation hit and the cat food is up even more. This is an area where we need to stockpile more.
With every economic downturn, the number of pets surrendered to the shelter sees an increase. How sad for both the pet and the owner.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
I know I left food off the list, but fresh fruit and vegetables are not something we prep because they are fresh. They are not from China, but many are imported from South America or shipped from California. As fuel prices surge, so will their cost. I’d miss things like carrots and onions, which are an important ingredient in many recipes, but I would not miss kale, spinach, and other leafy greens. My wife, however, eats lots of leafy greens.
We would rely on our garden to fill in some of these during the warm month and grow sprouts and micro greens indoors. We would also harvest what we could in the wild, from berries and apples to dandelion leaves and other edible plants. For recipes, I guess we’d rely on dried onions and dehydrated foods from our long term storage.
I looked back at 18 months of online purchases, and most of them were gifts, food, or things we wanted to make our lives easier, but we didn’t really need. When hyperinflation hits, those items we want must be sacrificed for those items we need.
I buy the occasional piece of lumber, some fasteners, or a can of paint, but I could live without these for some time; I just would hold off on new projects. For example, I just built a new stand for two beehives using scrap material and chicken coop leftovers.
If we cannot spend any money, I would stop buying books and convert entirely to ebooks or find something in our tiny local library I have not read. Eventually my shoes would wear out and the elastic in my underwear and socks would give out, but I think I could go two or three years without buying new clothes. Then there are always the thrift stores.
Because we prep, we have a good supply of household items, cleansers, laundry detergent, and health and beauty supplies. We have paper products, zip lock baggies, aluminum foil, and other various sundries, including a five year supply of toothpaste and shampoo.
We would have to cut back on our hobbies. I’d run out of bee equipment at some point and have to stop adding hives. My wife might have to stop buying new flowering bushes and plants and focus her effort on gardening for food rather than for beauty.
Because prices are rising due to the Ukraine situation, I think we need to look at gasoline, electricity, and heat.
In our current location, living without gasoline would be difficult. Unlike the city, there is nothing within walking distance and there are no ride sharing services. We can’t ride our bikes anywhere, and there is no public transportation. Most of our outdoor power equipment is gasoline powered because you can’t run an extension cord across a few acres.
If the price of gas rises prohibitively or it becomes scarce, we would have to cut our trips to town back to once every two weeks and we would combine all our chores into that one trip. Maybe we could join with our neighbors and pick up each other’s mail at the post office on alternate weeks. It would cut back on our volunteering and social life, but that’s a sacrifice we’d have to consider.
For heat, we rely on firewood, and our current lifestyle would be very difficult without firewood. I have a year’s supply already cut, split, stacked and drying. After that, I’d have to buy or harvest more, and the latter would consume gasoline. The challenge I face isn’t cutting firewood, it’s getting it from the forest to the house. I lack heavy equipment and would have to do an awful lot of manual work to provide sufficient firewood.
It’s cool enough here that the air conditioning rarely kicks on, and we can live without it. Can you live without heat or AC? What will you do if your heating or AC costs double or triple?
A lack of electricity would not kill us, but it would be a terrible inconvenience. Besides lighting, we rely on it for refrigeration and our freezer, plus cooking, hot water, and the washing machine. Without electricity, we would also lose our Internet, phone and a good portion of our entertainment. Yes, we are prepped and in an SHTF situation we can live without electricity, but I think this would be the last thing we’d want to eliminate for money-saving purposes. We are already using LEDs in almost every fixture, but we could conserve by doing things like drying clothes on the line instead of in the dryer and turning off some devices.
Unless we end up in a war with Russia that includes nukes or EMPs, I think we’ll have electricity, even if the price rises. The question is, will it be available 24 hours a day? Intermittent electricity seems to be increasingly common around the globe and it could hit here if fossil fuel prices rise or supplies drop.
Our Biggest Threat
If we reach a point where inflation is rising five or ten percent per month, my biggest fear is a major appliance or system breaks and needs repair or replacement. Our last refrigerator cost more than $1,500, which I thought was outrageous. What happens if we need a new one, and it costs $5,000? What happens if our hot water heater springs leak and has to be replaced?
The simple answer is we either buy it even at an outrageous price, or we do without. I can’t trade eggs and honey for a major appliance.
Make Your List
We no longer need to prep for inflation because it’s here. The time to buy real estate and gold as a hedge was a year ago. But you can prep for higher inflation or even hyperinflation by taking a hard look at what you can and can’t do without. Cutting back on a few streaming services is the low hanging fruit; asking yourself the tough questions and making sacrifices that hurt is the next step. Talk about it now with your spouse or significant other. Decide while you still have a choice and aren’t backed into a corner. From those decisions, make a plan and then prepare.
Don’t worry if your choices differ from mine; my list is an example, not instructions. Your situation is different, so expect your decisions to be different as well. The sooner you get started, the better prepared you will be to handle gas that is $3 or $4 higher and food that is twice as expensive than you are paying today.