Survival It Is All About Self Sufficiency

There is debate and will continue to be debate on what exactly living off the grid means. It means different things to different people. To some it is a complete independence from any municipalities, similar to homesteading, which in years past meant you picked out, or were given, a section of land and while it was yours, you had to work it for so many years before you could claim the title to the land. You had to build your own infrastructure from scratch, which meant digging wells and latrines and in some cases, it meant building water wheels to mill grain and cut lumber just for your own use and consumption.

To others going off grid is progressive and should be done in steps and in most cases it cannot be done overnight. People have to work towards independence. In some people's minds you can never in today's world be truly independent. However, what happens when a disaster essentially destroys or damages the local or national infrastructure to the point it cannot be restored for weeks, months or even longer. In essence, you are completely independent from the municipality (off grid) and not of your own volition. Can you survive, when there is no longer a grid to go off?

Self Sufficiency

The basics for survival are shelter, water, fire/energy and nutrition/food. Without the basics, particularly shelter and food, you cannot survive longer than three days in most cases. The basics are the foundation from which to build.

You must either have a renewable food and water source or have enough stockpiled to give you the time to begin developing alternative sources. This means wells must be dug and gardens planted if the crisis is an extended one.

Start with a 10-day plan and as you, progress you can add multiples of 10 days to where you would eventually have enough supplies for six months and then for a year, but first you have to know whether you can survive for even 10 days completely independent of your community and other persons. You also need to know what type of supplies, tools and materials you will need and how much you will need.

Things Still Need to be Done Even during a Crisis

To help you get started list all of the things that you do in the normal course of a day and think about how you would accomplish those same task without electricity, gas for cooking/heating and running water. Obviously, a good portion of these tasks simply do not need to be accomplished but, meals still need to be prepared, baths given to children, laundry will need to be done and house cleaning. If you have children, they will need to study and be entertained and their medical needs will need attending to.


It is assumed you have a shelter so your next priority is water. In a survival situation for the bare minimum the recommendation is one gallon/four liters of water per individual daily. This amount allows enough for hydration and oral care. For an extended crisis 10 days or longer you will need water for bathing and washing of clothing, cooking and house cleaning so the amount is now at least five gallons a day for each family member. For a family of four that is 20 gallons per day and for 10 days that is 200 gallons minimum and then add 25 percent for waste, accidents with water containers and damage to containers.

In addition, keep in mind water weighs 8.5lbs/3.8kg per gallon so weight will be a factor if you try to store water on the shelves. You can buy plastic water barrels that are rated food grade that can be filled in place. You can store them in the garage, basement or even outbuildings.

Sizes can range from 10 gallons up to 55 gallons or even larger containers that would have to be stored outside on a level surface or inside a structure with supported subfloors or a concert pad. Once filled the containers would be difficult if not impossible to move so make sure they are where you want them once you fill them.


You can eat out of cans or packages for a few days and the kids would probably find this to be an adventure at first but after three days or so, the routine of meal preparation must begin, otherwise the stress in the family will increase.

You must try to instill a sense or normalcy into your life regardless of the situation. Meals must be scheduled and a hot meal is important, as well as snacks. This means you will need certain items to help prepare meals such as camp stoves or portable charcoal/gas grills for outdoor use only.

There is more to food than just the nutritional value. There is a very important psychological value to food and meal preparations. People that find themselves lost or stranded in the wilds come close to panic thinking about food in the first few hours of becoming lost, when in reality an average person can go weeks without food but only three days without water. Food and mental well-being go hand in hand.

You will need spices like salt and pepper and other dried or ground spices for meal preparations and other sundry items such as cooking oil, flour and sugar. The kitchen during the normal course of the day is the focal point in most homes and it still must be such during a crisis.

Have foods that everyone can and will eat, cans of spinach on sale may sound enticing at the store but that is about the extent of its popularity. Learn how to bake breads and biscuits from scratch because bread is a staple that can be stored on the shelf. You simply need a little water, yeast, salt and sugar. For biscuits, you would need powdered milk, or powdered buttermilk cultures, water and oil/lard, sugar and baking powder and in some cases baking soda. Bake in a Dutch oven on a charcoal grill or a propane camp stove. Dried beans can be put on to cook and along with some rice makes, a hearty meal and you can even add some dried meats for flavor.


If you have a wood burning fireplace make sure, you have an emergency stockpile of seasoned wood for heating. Ensure your chimney/flue is inspected every year even if you never use it because once a crisis is upon you is not the time to find out birds have built nests inside it.

If you do not have a fireplace, use propane fueled heating devices and have an ample emergency supply of propane canisters. Make sure you read the directions carefully about using in enclosed spaces.

Additional Considerations

Some of you that are connected to the local sewer system will not be able to flush toilets or use the drains once the power/water has been cut off. However, those on septic systems can flush their toilets by either filling the tank with water or by pouring water directly in the bowl in some cases. Waste management during a crisis never seems to be a concern until it is too late, so make it a priority.

Most sewer systems have so-called flood valves that prevent the backup of waste at the treatment plant once the water and/or electricity is disrupted. This means if you flush your toilets, the waste can backup into the home. You will need a waste management system to deal with this eventuality.

Portable chemical toilets are one option along with waste bags that are specifically designed for human waste or you can dig latrines outside. You must also deal with any spoiled foods that are in your refrigerator as well. You cannot let the food sit there because it will create odor and allow for the growth and spread of harmful bacteria not to mention it will attract insects and rodents. Bury all household garbage if possible and if not seal in bags or barrels and move as far from the structure as possible.

If you plan to use latrines, you should have agricultural lime on hand to deal with the odor and bacteria and to use simply sprinkle a cup full of lime in the latrine after use. Do not put spoiled foods in the latrine pit. Bury in a separate hole and use lime in the garbage pit as well.

  • Use water hand sanitizer and pre-moistened baths wipes whenever possible to conserve on water 
  • Have tools and materials for emergency repairs to your home such as tarps, sheets of plastics, duct tape and plywood sheeting 
  • You will need communications devices for communicating with each other and for monitoring for news and information You can use ham radios, Citizens Band (CB) radios and/or two-way radios (Walkie-Talkies) 
  • Illumination is important and candles are now considered a fire hazard so use with caution, oil and propane fueled lanterns are ideal and you should have one for every room and one that can be carried outside at night 
  • Have a stockpile of medical supplies and medications in particular maintenance medications, add large limb splints, compression bandages and if you feel comfortable you can add a suture kit for emergency wound closures and make sure you have an ample supply of topical antiseptic such as 10 percent povidone iodine (Betadine) and antibiotic ointments for burns and abrasions 

You cannot so anything overnight and you certainly cannot begin preparing during a crisis. Preparedness should be sate that is maintained at all times and not just in the days leading up to a seasonal disaster. There are any numbers of disasters or threats than can become reality without warning.

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