What is MYDS? It’s not prepping, it’s not hoarding, it’s not a disease or even a mental condition and it certainly isn’t unpatriotic or terrorism. What is it about, then? It is about being provident. Actually, MYDS stands for Make it Your Darn Self! That is my Philosophy and Motto for 2013!
Provident means to prepare for the future. Why? Why take the time, the effort, or the expense to be provident? Look around us. Look at the world we live in. Look at the economic and political climate. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to anything. Everything from the top down – From our God to the sand beneath our feet – Everything is being questioned and demonized. Right is wrong and wrong is right. The freedom that we once knew as children of playing and frolicking on the streets in our community only to worry about making it home before dark or when we were hungry has given way to the fear of our children playing in front of our homes. Progressives, Agenda 21, Socialism, Communism, Failing Schools, and having to sign up on a registry to know where sex offenders and predators live just to be able to keep our kids safe. I wonder how to keep my kids safe in these times – both physically, spiritually and educationally. My goodness, these are scary times on our doorstep. The moral decay of this country is an entire topic all on its’ own and one in which I won’t get into here.
The real question should be why not? Why not take the time to make sure you and your family has a little extra. Why not have the knowledge and resources on hand to make it through a possible job loss, a natural or manmade disaster, a terrorist attack, the collapse of our financial system. Why not have practical skills and knowledge to endure the “what-if” scenario that weighs heavily on your mind. To every question you have there are multiple solutions. And, as I have found, every solution leads to another question and yet another discovery. The most basic answer I can give is to be as provident as you can possibly be and that will ONLY come through knowledge and experience. You must find within yourself the desire to learn and to never stop asking questions. You should learn to ask how does that work, how would I do that if I could not run down to the local big box store, how can I make this if I didn’t have a box of prepackaged food. You don’t have to have a property that resembles Fred Sanford's home from Sanford and Son (a sit-com from my earlier days) or a pantry that would make your local big box store envious. Instead think of what you do and what you use every day and remember the 5 W’s from elementary school. Who, What, Why, Where, When and I’ll go ahead and add How. How is it made, why is it done that way, where can I get it from if it’s not available commercially, who can I learn from, from when and where will I start getting my knowledge and experience base?
That is the premise behind my 2013 motto “MYDS” and being provident is a never ending process that plays directly into my motto. The world is always changing and as the saying goes “without change there is no growth.” I am learning to be more provident. I read all of the prepping web sites and have spent a massive amount of time researching and more money than I care to admit on buying this book and list or that book and list to see what I can do to be more provident. As you will learn in your journey, not everything is contained on those lists. Don’t get me wrong, they are all very good resources and they were well worth the investments even if I only learn one thing new from it. Being provident (most people would say prepping), has, for the most part, been a man’s specialty area. Their department. Beans Bullets and Band-Aids type thing. And, most would agree that is it rightly so. Men are our protector’s, our muscle our anchors our braun. We love them, we cherish them and we look to them as our rock in time of need. However, I find the majority of publications on the market, web sites and blogs today are lacking on the subject of being provident from a woman’s point of view. Women, just as men, have a role in preparing the future needs of a family. After many hours of research, I am often left wondering how I am going to clean my house if I can’t go to the store or can’t afford to get what I need. How am I going to do the laundry without laundry soap if the price is too high or it’s not available? How are my children and family going to stay clean if we can’t get our hands on what we need? Let’s face it. Work isn’t picking up. People are losing jobs. Our dollar doesn’t get us as far as it used to. Taxes are going through the roof from all levels of government. The price of gas, food, household cleaners, and the cost to put our children through school are going through the roof. Honestly, it’s getting pretty darn expensive just to be able to exist these days. How are we as wives and mothers going to continue to manage our household without breaking the bank or the ability to just run down the corner market when we run out of something? How are we going to take care of our families in tight or hard times?
That is the key to my article and the story behind my new motto/philosophy and I want to share with you some tidbits of knowledge from a wife and mothers perspective on being a provident housekeeper.
For starters, you have to learn how to make your own household products. It’s simple, it’s easy, it will save you money and is something you can start doing right away with little to no investment. Money that you could use to start stocking up on food supplies or paying down debt. A bottle of laundry soap is expensive, but what if I told you that you could make 10 gallons for less than what you pay for one bottle of commercial laundry soap? Even cheaper than the generic brands! I am here to tell you that it is possible. You don’t need special or expensive equipment. All you need is the desire to obtain knowledge and skills that will see your family through. Save the space in your supply area for more meaningful supplies such as seeds for growing a garden or food preservation supplies, food, first aid and all of those other items you read about. With ingredients that you have, or can get really inexpensively, you can clean every aspect of your home. Adding a few more ingredients to your arsenal will allow you to make personal hygiene items such as deodorant, hair cleaners and conditioners, and bath soap.
For example, Borax, Washing Soda (not baking soda), and Castile Soap in bar form will make laundry soap. From 1 bar of grated soap, 1 cup of washing soda and a ¼ cup of borax, and water, you can make 10 gallons of laundry soap using just a pot for melting the soap on your stovetop. You will also need two five gallon buckets. To show you real numbers, let’s break down the cost. In my area, a bar of Fels-Naptha castile soap costs $.97, A 76 oz. box of Borax is $3.38 and a 55 oz. box of Washing Soda is $3.24. Keep in mind that you are only using a few ounces of each box, not the entire box to make your liquid laundry soap. For a mere, $1.62 you can make ten gallons of laundry soap. WOW! That is a Savings you can’t argue with. To eliminate those expensive dryer sheets try adding ¼ cup (or less) of vinegar to your rinse cycle and in place of dryer sheets use a ball of aluminum foil. Yes, this does really work. The laundry soap is safe to use for the smallest of family members. Don’t fret; you will be able to use the borax and washing soda in making many other cleaning products for around your home.
Let’s expand on those items to include the following items: Vinegar, Apple Cider Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Baking Soda, Liquid Castile Soap, Essential Oils (not fragrance oils), Ammonia, Bleach, Cornstarch, Olive Oil (or other neutral oils) and you will have the perfect combination to make everything you need to make a smooth running household without almost never having to rely on commercial products again. That’s right - YOU will be able to clean your floors, windows, toilets, walls and so much more. YOU will be able to make deodorant, hair care products and bathing products. No more spending countless hours’ couponing to get those ridiculously great deals. I coupon too and love the thrill of getting those free to cheap deals. With my new knowledge to make my own products, my perspective and scope of couponing has changed to buying things that I cannot make myself – razors, toothbrushes, dental floss and of course beans (unfortunately there are no coupons for bullets) and Band-Aids! Do some research and you’ll be delighted at the amount of information available to make your homemade household products. A word to the wise, there are items above that should NEVER be mixed together. Ammonia and bleach is just one example – The mixture is toxic and potentially deadly. Please air on the side of caution. Read labels, research what can be mixed and what cannot! Do not put yourself in harm’s way over saving money. You and your families’ safety should always come first!
Second on the list is to learn how to manage your kitchen. By taking the time to do some research on these topics - making your own mixes and how to make meals in a jar – you will be pleased at how simple and fun it is to learn about the multitude of options for short and long term food storage. The concept surrounding making your own mix is to make a master mix and from there you can make almost anything. Pancakes, cake mixes, breads and so on. Additionally, there are recipes to making your own “cream of soup” as well as gravies, drink mixes and spices, to name a few. I found a lady on the internet that takes separate complete meals and puts them in quart sized mason jars for a total of 52 meals in a jar, or more if you desire. It’s a provident housekeeper’s version of fast food. Take this idea and expand with your own recipes or scour the internet for more meals in jar recipes. While hers are made from freeze dried (and dehydrated) food, there is a plethora of web sites and forums dedicated to canning meals in a jar. My advice here is to start off small. Try a loaf of bread or try starting off with sampling each recipe. What tastes good to one person may not to another. The absolute last thing is to get into a situation where you have stocked up on x,y, & z and not like it when you could practice, practice and practice some more to find the ones you really are going to like and use! Get crafty and try adding your own twists to the recipes. The possibilities are limitless.
Another aspect of kitchen management you should consider is the use of paper towels and cleaning utensils (sponges, miracle erasers, etc..). What are you going to do when you run out of paper towels or that sponge is on its’ last cleaning leg and has to go to the trash? Invest in cloth ones! Rags, kitchen towels and wash cloths. I know, I know, you like your cleaning wipes. I do too! Except, I make my own cleaning solution with the products listed above, soak my rags in the all-purpose cleaning solution, store them in a container with a lid and voila – I have my own homemade cleaning wipes! They are dirt cheap and ready when I need them. When I’m done, I just pop them in the washer, dry and reuse (of course, the paper towel version goes into the trash!). This year I am going to grow what is called a loufa gourd. From my research, you use it the same way you do any other loufa. The plan is to initially use it for bathing purposes and when it is outlived its’ purpose for bathing it will be relegating to cleaning tasks. When it’s done with cleaning, it goes into a compost pile after being thoroughly cleaned.
What about feminine needs? Are you going to stock shelves upon shelves of these products? This is another item that is growing to be very expensive, and, if I dare, a luxury item. I believe it is time to discuss alternate means to commercial pads and tampons. One solution is to make your own feminine pads and another solution I found is called a Diva Cup. It is an alternate solution to tampons. They are washable and reusable. A concept that our use and throwaway society would probably not take to instantly even though the rest of the world has been using for some time now. To have them as a back-up in your arsenal is what I consider to be an invaluable asset! There are plenty of tutorials and patterns on the internet on how to make your own feminine pads. It’s almost the same concept as cloth diapering for babies.
While on the topic of feminine needs, let’s address a rarely discussed topic and probably one of the most embarrassing and hardest to plan for and that is “The Bathroom.” What are you going to do in a situation where there may not be power or access to toilet paper? This has plagued me for quite some time. There are composting toilets, outhouses and ones that incinerate your waste. Another solution I’ve discovered is a bidet. They are used in other countries. In a grid down situation or an off grid situation, I don’t see why you would not be able to use them. Especially if you are on well and septic. You can find portable ones and ones you can attach directly to your existing toilet for about $150. These are supposed to attach to any two-piece toilet system without any special plumbing other than attaching to your water valve. That would eliminate the need to stock up on toilet paper. Of course, as my husband pointed out, it may not clean everything and you’ll be left wet. The solution here is to make washable toileting cloths. Scour the internet for free tutorials and patterns. Again, think about cloth diapering of babies. It is the same concept, just used on adults instead of babies.
You should also consider showering and not only taking a shower in general, but taking a warm shower. How are you going to get warm water? There are many people who would disagree with me and consider this a luxury and not a priority. In my household, I don’t agree with them! I always tell my husband that no matter what, he has to make sure we have some way of us getting a warm shower. It is one of the best feelings at the end of a long day of hard work. Just to be clean makes you feel normal, it improves moral and helps you get a good night’s rest, too. Try researching solar heaters and solar showers and other forms of heating water without relying on electricity. You’ll be amazed at the options available as well as the interesting DIY videos.
Gardening and food are two very key provident factors. My research has led me to a few animals of choice. In considering my animals, I wanted those which serve many purposes. Chickens – I can get meat, eggs and manure for my compost piles. Goats – I can get milk and milk products like cheese, goats’ meat, and goats’ milk soap. Rabbits – Meat, fur and manure for my compost bins. And, a donkey for my heartstrings (yes, I’m absolutely in love with donkeys, especially miniatures). On the practical side, they are great for protecting your livestock and you can train them to pull a cart for carrying farm and other supplies. Children will love taking rides in the buggy too.
Aquaponics is a relatively new concept as it takes aquaculture (fish farming) and mingles it with hydroponics (growing plants in soilless media). This is a fascinating concept as you are able to grow fish which are a great source of protein as well as grow fruits and vegetables from the byproduct of the fish and increase your food diversity. [JWR Adds: Because modern aquaponics require circulating pumps, I recommend them only for families who have large, long-term alternative power systems--typically either a PV power system with at least 20 panels or a micro-hydro power system that runs year-round.]
Some gardening techniques you may want to consider are square foot gardening, container gardening, growing dwarf varieties of fruit trees as well as the Back to Eden gardening concept. Search your local free classified ads. Many people do not want to harvest their fruit and nut trees and will typically offer the bounty for free or really cheap if you come and pick it from the tree. There are always ads of people selling off “extra” for less than what you can get at the market and grocery store. If you do not have the ability or space to garden at your present location, why not take an add out to see if there is a local farm or land owner that will lease you a small amount of space to start growing your own food? Even if you do not have a lot of money, try bartering some of your harvest or offer your time around their farm in exchange. Farmers always need help and you’re more likely to walk away with a ton of useful knowledge. You are in a win-win situation!
My final piece of advice is to research essential oils and growing your own herbs. As a mom, I worry about the access to medical care – good quality medical care. I have been doing some in depth research in to natural healing with herbs. Way back when my dad had to walk 5 miles to school barefooted in the snow uphill both ways, families like his mostly relied on herbs and plants to maintain their health and to help heal them. Mother Nature has a pharmacy all her own and many of her miracles contained within are no longer practiced and almost all but lost. Very few herbs have side effects and actually the most common complaint comes from the user not using enough to make them effective. Let’s take lavender for example. Lavender can be used for its antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, and antiseptic properties as well as for its’ calming effect and it is successful in repelling fleas! From this one herb you get all of that for cleaning, medicinal healing and for your pets too! I love multifunction solutions such as this one! See the trend here? I took it from corporate America. It’s the ol’ Do More With Less philosophy!
In closing, I hope that you will take the time to analyze what you do and use every day and then start learning about how to replicate those practices in a less than ideal situation. As the founder of The Provident Housekeeper, it is my goal to research, develop and teach seminars that intertwine the ways of the past with the ways of today. With just a little knowledge and a desire to DO, you can achieve anything. Educate, Inspire, Lead and always, be Provident!