Prepping 101 – A Step By Step Plan for How to Get Started Prepping – pt.1

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Last Updated on November 10, 2020

I have been asked before by friends about how I got started with prepping. It seems the concept can be pretty daunting at first for some people. I can understand how it is when you start to think of the literally hundreds of important items that you need to consider for your family. My first list of “needs” took up an entire sheet of paper. At first glance, this undertaking can appear to be a giant behemoth and some people throw their hands up immediately and give in. I have heard excuses from not having enough money to not knowing where to start. While I agree that some prepper items require money (sometimes a lot!) often there are alternatives to spending a ton of money, but knowing where to start should never be an issue. This post will be a prepping 101 tutorial.

The uncertainty of knowing where to begin prepping could stem from the motivation that is driving you toward emergency preparedness. If your desire to be prepared is driven by some external threat that seems real and tangible like living in Tornado Alley, the starting point might be easier to find. If the motivation to be more prepared is due to what I would call common sense; which is telling you to be prepared for anything, the sense of urgency is lower in some cases might make the choices about where to start and what to do more complex.

In this article, which will be broken into a few different parts,  I will try to lay out what I consider is a basic guideline for how to start prepping with a list of areas that I have placed in order of importance. This is just an example of one methodology, but your personal needs, resources, or experience might shuffle some of these around. This list was designed for the perspective of the person who is brand spanking new to prepping and is looking for a template of sorts they can follow to get their homes prepared for most emergency situations listed above (within reason). This does not address bugging out but is designed primarily for sheltering in place. My wife loves lists and something like this breaks everything into nice little chunks that is easier to digest and then she can cross off one at a time, so this type of list is designed for people like her.

One of the Prepping 101 first items is to ensure you have enough food to feed your family for two weeks to a month.

Prepping 101 What to do First?

Set Priorities

First things first, before you do anything it is important to understand a few things. This is also known as “So you want to be prepared, now what?” For me, it started with a gut feeling for lack of a better word back in 2008. I have said before that I believe someone was trying to get my attention so I started to listen. There was no driving natural threat like earthquakes or hurricanes, wildfires, or mudslides that prompted me. I do not worry about the poles shifting too much or aliens attacking from planet Niburu (look that one up) but I did have a sense that society, as we know it now, is too fragile. Within this fragile society we are dependent upon systems and processes that are created to address the problem of Just in Time inventory management and if those systems break down, so does society. When society breaks down, so do people. When people break down, all hell breaks loose.  As Gerald Celente says; “(when) People Lose Everything, They Have Nothing Left to Lose, And They Lose It.”

The example that gets used pretty frequently is natural disasters so I will stick with that for a moment. Looking back at Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Katrina, the people in both of those situations saw how quickly society could come crashing down. In both Katrina and Sandy, gas shortages, grocery stores wiped clean and looting happened almost overnight. Power outages, of course, happened right away and within 24 hours people’s lives were turned upside down.

Now, imagine your family and what you would be faced with if you were in a similar situation. But I don’t live anywhere near the ocean you say. OK, now forget about tornadoes earthquakes, fires, nuclear meltdowns, comets with aliens living in them, and all of the other natural disasters. What if there is a major fluctuation with the price of gas and the grocery stores are no longer filled by the trucks that drive down the street every day? What if the trucks were rolling, but with the high price of gas, they were only able to come half as often as they were in the past? What if there is a terrorist attack at the Port of Los Angeles and shipments are delayed for months? What if there is a stupid basketball game that doesn’t go right and there is rioting on your street? What if the police declare martial law because a bad guy is running around and they prevent you from going out of your house for days or weeks?

The point I am trying to make is that there shouldn’t be one single reason you are preparing for. You should want to be prepared for anything. The chances of any one single event happening to you are too small, but the chance of something happening at all that could disrupt your life is much higher. To understand what you need to be prepared for, think less about the event that could cause disruption and more about the potential for disruption and what you would need to live comfortably through that disruption.

There is a saying called the rule of 3’s and it goes like this. A person can live 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. We will use these as a guideline for prepping going forward. In some cases, the rule of threes can drive what you need to focus on.

Step 2 – Water

Assuming for a minute that you can breathe and have or can obtain shelter easily we will skip over to water. Water is an obvious necessity, it is probably the easiest survival item to procure before any disaster and yet most people still don’t have enough of it to last the normal duration of what we might call your “usual” disaster. Without trying to be funny, a normal disaster is not measured in hours or days. At a minimum, if you are faced with a severe emergency like a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake, services and life as you knew it probably won’t return to normal for several weeks. To verify this just look at the people who lived through Katrina and Sandy. There are people still that can’t go back into their homes and this happened back in October of 2012. At the time of this writing, that is 7 months ago and Sandy was only a Category 1 hurricane. Imagine the destruction had it been much stronger.

A good rule of thumb for water storage is to have one gallon per person per day. This includes cooking and cleaning, but that amount could change depending on the weather, the health of the individual, and the physical activity they are participating in. Still, one gallon is a good rule and it is simple to figure out. I like nice round numbers.

For every person in your home, you should plan on storing a gallon each for as many days as you can envision needing clean water. FEMA recommends 72 hours’ worth or three days. The general concept is that you need a 72 hour kit for each person for survival. I think that in order to be well prepared a minimum should be three times that amount. For a 4 person home, you would need to store 4 X 9 = 36 gallons of water.  That is a great start, but having twice as much that would be even better. Twice as much would be closer to 21 days which works out nicely with your 3 weeks of food so now for that same family we are looking at 84 gallons of water.

For water storage, the problem is space for most people. If you have a large basement or storage building, storing a couple hundred gallons of extra water is easy. In an apartment, this is not the same because you will usually only have a small closet and some pantry space if you are lucky.  Regardless of your situation, water is an essential aspect of planning and should be one of the first items you consider for your survival kit.

For storing water, it is easier and more space-efficient to store at least 5-gallon jugs of water as opposed to a case of individual bottles. There are plenty of relatively inexpensive options at your local big-box stores or online. Just search for 5-gallon water storage and you will have plenty to choose from. For those with more space, 50-gallon barrels are ideal. Because I don’t have the storage space I incorporated two 50 gallon barrels as rain barrels outside attached to my gutters. This water will need to be treated, but if it rains I can have a fresh 100 gallons fairly easily. For inside the house, I went with 5-gallon because that made the most sense for our available space. We got ours from the Ready store and they stack easily which helps with space.

The bottom line is to get some water stored for yourself and your family. It’s easy and doesn’t take much preparation at all.

You can read more about storage and water treatment options in our article that deals specifically with water.

Later on in Part 2, we will discuss the rest of the basic options which will cover Food Storage, Firearms for Self Defense, and Financial Security.

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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Steve Steiner

Loving this blog. LIke you, I’ve had that feeling of “something is going to happen and I need to be prepared” for about 4 years. No direct threat, just that gut feeling you talk about. Most “sane” people and professionals will tell you that it’s anxiety or some mental issue (trust me, I know) but after years of medicine and trying to ignore that feeling, I’m beginning to listen to my intuition. These articles are helping me to get started. Thanks!


That is the highest compliment we could hope to receive! Thank you very much Steve and I am glad we are able to partner with you in some way on your journey.


I hear ya totally, its like me, had this “feeling/vibration” all my life, since 13 yrs old now 50, I known about all conspiracies well, grow up with all that info, it was still classified at the biggest anxiety is most around me DO NOT HAVE THAT FEELING, VIBRATION…so what do you do when your immediate family refuse to listen., we’re only 3 that’s it! SOOOOOO frustrating really…I need to find communities, start meeting others cause I know when the time comes, well I hope they’ll change their minds, at least my son, 19 years old could be of… Read more »


Out of curiosity, why do you (and most other writers) advise 1 gallon per person per day? That seems to me to be not enough for drinking, cooking, and hygiene. Wouldn’t 3 gallons per person per day be a better rule of thumb?

Pat Henry

Thanks for the question Rosie! The one gallon per day is really just the minimum you would need all things being equal to sustain life. Really when we start talking about stocking up we talk about the minimums and one gallon per day is just a milestone step to acheive. Could you ideally use more like 3 gallons as you mention? Of course, but articles like this are trying to get people to the minimums first. What will it take to keep you alive? Once you have several weeks or months worth of the minimum anything after that just gives… Read more »


Because it teaches you to be frugal


I have five 7 gallon water containers like the one pictured in this article. I want to fill and store them for an emergency. I’ll be filling them with chlorinated city water. But I think I should empty, clean, and refill them periodically – but how often? Every 3 months? Every 6? Is there something I could add to the water to help prevent algae or bacteriological growth?


A few thoughts from me, a novice… I feel like if the container was clean to begin with, water could be kept in there for years and you could pop it open and drink no problem. Maybe especially because it is chlorinated city water, it can last longer than other types of potable water like spring water. A benefit of it as compared to dirty puddle water is that you do not need to filter out dirt. To make is 100% safe, if you wanted to be extra sure it was ok, all you would need to do is boil… Read more »


You purchase bottles of stuff that is set up for you to put so many drops in each container. They are usually good for 5 to 7 years, then start over. I do it all the time

Deborah Leininger

I am a senior citizen it might sound strange but I started prepping when I started watching walking dead no I don’t believe we’re going to have zombies but no power no jobs nothing the same could be caused by anything so my family thinks I’m a little crazy but I’m the only one getting prepared I’m in the middle of a divorce so the prepping will help with change there I don’t have much money but I do what I can to just in case so thank you for your information


THANK YOU SO SO MUCH FOR SHARING THAT DEBORAH..same here absolute same..but you know, older is often means a lot of life experience nothing like it, that’s must..i grow up in the mountains, fishing, hunting, etc…so for me I know a lot of things that way, but me too, all around me just wont hear it, refuse to prepare, it keeps me from sleeping at times..keep sharing hope to talk again, one by one, networking for now its part of prepping…I think anyways..Sylvie

Claudia Carlsen

I bought a 5 gal. jug and found that it is too heavy to lift when full of water, so I’m using 2.5 gal. jugs now.


Get those wooden plant stands that have wheels and put your 5 gal container on it and fill it. Or you can use furniture dollies and put a piece of wood in the center and place your jugs near the edges. They work great. I have them

Dan C Watkins

Look up Their containers hold 3.5 gallons ea and are much easier to carry. Just remember that water weights 8.3 lbs per gallon. Adjust your water resupply according to what you can handle as you get older! I used to be able to carry 2ea 5 gal jugs at a time in my youth. Now being older and hopefully wiser. I find it easier to carry a WaterBrick in each hand for longer distances than I ever could a bigger 5 gallon container.


I am a fairly new prepper starting only months ago, and I’m currently prepping for the electric magnetic pulse or more commonly known as the EMP, with my family. I love this community because they don’t rely on the government for protection, we rely on our selves and with that, we will gain a sense of purpose that can only be accomplished by relying upon the gifts of the environment.

eugene itnyre

To get a mind set of the value of Prepping both for yourself and family Check out the novel and new release “The Silent Armageddon”. The website . It is based on research that shows just how the nation could be brought to it’s knees and the importance of


Uh, my storeroom/tornado shelter is in my basement. On the other side of one of the walls is my Water heater. It holds 50 gallons of fresh water.


Be sure to shut off the intake if there’s an emergency. You don’t want contaminated water refilling it.

Jack Mack

Information security is about people, yet in most organizations protection remains focused elsewhere. The human element is crucial in the majority of successful attacks on individuals, and attackers not only exploit technical vulnerabilities, but hack the human as well. The black art of social engineering is an information security risk that must be understood, measured and managed effectively. Every prepper must be aware of the main sources of risk from enemy social engineering and understand the psychological models that provide the basis for human vulnerabilities analysis. Survivalist vulnerability mapping is not to be ignored. How can an organization that claims… Read more »

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