Balanced storage is important to ensure we really can weather life’s storms, great and small, personal or widespread. However, there are some things that make sense to stockpile in excess. They’re typically going to be things that we have zero or limited expectation of producing, or producing efficiently.
That can be things that are out of reach due to climate. It can also be things that are unwieldy to process or require long growing and then processing time, or multiple space-sucking and sometimes financially draining investments to produce something that can be cheaply purchased and easily stored.
Here I’m aiming for universally applicable items or standards, and trying to stay away from the ones that are situationally dependent. Even so, there are plenty we can add to this list.
Our current storage should factor hugely in determining if and what we stock to excess, and how much excess. We also want to consider our location and existing capabilities before we go whole hog when over-balancing stockpiles.
Prime excess items are also prime for barter
I’m not a proponent of barter-only stockpiles, but these are also things we or most of us will be using as well.
Some of the examples below are somewhat limited as to crisis scenario, particularly when we’re trying to avoid tipping or showing our hands, but many apply to all types of crises, slow or sudden. Some of the examples even have barter potential now depending on our social networks.
Not everyone is ready to start hitting excesses or extras
If you’re not there yet, first cover the 3-7-10-14 days every government agency and state/territory prescribes. Then be able to function for 30 days in a relatively normal society where you pay bills and family needs to be at work/school, rested and in fairly clean clothes without smelling funny.
By all means, go out further – it’s a suggested minimum.
After that’s set up, make sure you’re right financially.
Once your food and other daily-use items and your immediate-need goals are covered, then start veering into excesses, but prioritize them. Even within this list, how much of what we can make the most use of – personally and for barter – is going to be hugely individual.
Stuff to Stockpile (or, at least consider)
Large-Scale Staple Crops – These are, in order: Grains/carbs, fats & oils, protein plants, and other proteins. Tag on hay feeds for livestock.
Those crops tend to require a fair bit of space, some equipment, and significant labor effort and hours to produce.
It can be done, absolutely, but since they represent base survival calories and macros, and are fairly inexpensive in a world of mechanized farming (in about the same order as that list) it’s worth considering having them in excess to the rest of our food storage.
Veggies and greens we can produce pretty much anywhere and stand a much greater chance of foraging. Fruits and fish are neck-and-neck for next easiest to obtain for most of us (hugely dependent on where we live and how much other competition we’ll have for them). Hunted/foraged or raised mammal and bird proteins are even more location-based for reasonable expectations of impacting our food supply.
We’ll start balanced, ideally, but because of our likelihoods of successfully producing or harvesting/capturing, once we get to whatever our comfortable level is, we can work those items in a pyramid from deepest to “be nice if”.
Climate-Specific Produce – We’ll also want to consider things we like that just aren’t practical to grow or produce in our areas, for all kinds of reasons.
(The “value” article here https://theprepperjournal.com/2017/07/26/selecting-crops-survival-gardens/ has a number of assessments we can apply on that front.)
Sugar – There are alternatives to sugarcane that can be produced for sweeteners, although it, too, requires sometimes significant land area and post-harvest processing. Some of them can be concentrated enough for use in water bath canning, but it’s usually not an efficient use of those items.
On the other hand, whatever we think about it and its origins, white sugar is fairly cheap at the store. It requires nothing more than a moisture and pest barrier to store for decades.
Salt – Like sugar, salt is fairly inexpensive, requires nothing but a good container for decades of storage, and is vital in several types of preservation above its seasoning capabilities.
Distilled Vinegar – This one is also very doable at home. It does, however, require multiple pieces of equipment and the know-how to basically make wine or beer or strong cider, then clarify and distill it.
Not bad skills and materials to have, but also not always reasonable, particularly if we don’t already produce or have the ability to harvest fruits and-or grains … and harvest them in enough excess over our food needs to watch barrels and crates become buckets, and then those buckets become quart jars.
Conversely, vinegar for cleaning and preservation is relatively inexpensive in stores, has a long shelf life, and is more compact to store than its ingredients and supplies.
* There are two general ways to make non-distilled vinegars that are totally worth it as seasoning, health boosts and a way to use tart fruits that are totally worth the much more minimal investments that take up less space and that are way, way easier.
On the non-food front…
Fire Prevention, Detection & Control
This is one that everybody, everywhere, should buy into, and then go to excesses. They’re too prevalent right now and too common in any disruption in services or extreme weather to ignore.
Some aren’t going to be able to manage prevention’s and safeties to avoid having fires reaching us. However, we can all buy into smoke detectors and masks, make escape and rally plans, and backup batteries and supplies for controlling small fires and evacuating even in the worst of times.
Cooking & Heating Fuels
There are all kinds of fuels that fit all kinds of lifestyles. With any luck, we’re availing ourselves of multiple types, with backup methods planned for both cooking and varied ways to generate and maximize heating.
We want our stockpiles of fuels to expand past our stockpiles of foods in case it is possible to harvest more, and in case we end up expending more than anticipated.
If we rely on wood, it’s even more important that we stockpile to excess. If our primary tools – or our bodies – go down, our harvest rate will, too.
There are also all kinds of scenarios that also make it impossible or undesirable to leave home or generate noise.
If all we have is the bare minimum to get through, any delay in harvesting more can lead to burning raw woods, which hugely increases our risk of fires along with a few other undesirable conditions, or going cold. Deep stockpiles of fuel wood are a must if we rely on it.
I can manufacture many things. If I live in the right place, I can even manufacture black powder and cast bullets. However, manufactured ammo (or components) tends to be more efficient, particularly if we’re talking about a world where we’re crazy busy.
That said, and acknowledging that I’m saying it’s totally okay to exceed our basic total-coverage storage, we do not want to go too crazy on this one at the expense of being able to easily weather everyday minor and major disruptions like outages, medical costs, decreased income, unemployment, replacing a fridge-freezer right after shelling the deductible for both home and auto, etc.
Remember, even the super-duper high-speed military elitists don’t always come home from combat. We don’t want to rely on being the better guy in a gunfight to eat, so we don’t want to bottom out the scale with imbalance on this one.
Tools & Equipment
The hardware each of us can and will make use of is even more solidly dependent on our storage space, location, and skills than ammo, fuels, and ability to source animal proteins. The tools that make sense for us to stock, and to overstock with excesses, revolves around the efficiency of manufacturing and the efficiency of making do with alternatives. That, too, is specific to each individual.
We do want backups of tools we use and can expect to use more if we’re unemployed, trying to stretch budgets further, or in any significant collapse scenario.
That’s tools we use, and that we expect to use more if our usual revenue and supply streams dry up.
If we have never felled a tree, live in an apartment/condo, have never located deer/pig/rodent sign and harvested that wildlife, live somewhere with about 6 trees per house, have never gone backpacking or multi-day paddling, live somewhere with tight fish and game limits, and-or have never gardened much, there are whole worlds worth of “must have” hardware we might as well not bother with, let alone spend resources on backups and excesses.
We’re better served extending our balanced storage and financial readiness while we gain the skills.
(For those who are still waiting for them, stick canning jar lids, water filters, lights, construction/repair kits, and fire-making supplies in this category – they’re situationally dependent and aren’t getting separate listings.)
Soap & Cleaners
Body to kitchen, clothing to gear, most soaps and cleaning products can be had fairly inexpensively and in compact forms with decent shelf life. There are many that multi-purpose across genres.
Homemade may appeal, especially if the perennial supplies and oils are already present. Most of us assume we’ll be working harder than ever if we end up living off our supplies, though. Go ahead and have extras stocked to lessen the workloads.
While there are things that absolutely rate being stocked to excess of our balanced storage, and many have value for barter both in everyday life and definitely emergencies, we still want to apply some thought to how over we stock and balance within reason of our present situation.
Sometimes we’re better served extending our everyday-emergency and self-reliance capabilities than having an extra 18 months of soap and six seasons worth of canning ingredients.
Stocking to excess applies to financial readiness as well. Many preps won’t actually save us while the rest of the world is spinning as usual. They can help, but it’s limited aid.
Prep for the most-likely events first, and cover them well. Build up rainy day caches and savings, and then, when we’re at a level we’re comfortable with, we can start intentionally and deliberately unbalancing our preps with excesses.
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