I was born into a family of preppers. My grandparents were all farmers and lived through the Great Depression in the Midwest. My parents both grew up on farms and came from large families. While my folks would not label themselves today as preppers, they would consider themselves as independent and self-reliable. In order to understand my journey as a prepper, you have to go back a few years. Early into my parents’ marriage, my dad just got out of the navy and worked in various cities and towns, from Texas to Minnesota. The largest town we lived in was Minneapolis, but usually we lived in towns with a population of around 100,000 people. As the family grew, there was a desire for my parents to move to an acreage, to get a large farmhouse, and to raise some animals. By the early 1980s they were able to purchase an acreage that was homesteaded in the late 1800s and was located in rural South Dakota. It was about 8 acres, had a barn, chicken coop, and two-story house. It was located at least 20 miles from any town over 1,000 people. The acreage was situated on a high water table, so we had an outdoor well and had a sand point well for the water in the house.
After my parents purchased the property, they bought a milk cow, laying hens, some sheep, and a dog. My mom planted a large garden (roughly 30 yards by 10 yards) with a variety of vegetables. She canned the extras and created a pantry with shelving all the way to the ceiling with the many jars. All my siblings helped in the process, hauling up the vegetables to the house and cutting them up. Many of our neighbors grew large sections of sweet corn, so we would usually eat corn most days in the summer and then would have a few days devoted to freezing the extra corn (sometimes two pickup loads). My parents went from having a small chest freezer when they were first married to purchasing two large, used chest freezers (these were about 6 feet long). These came in handy when they began butchering their own cows, pigs, and chickens. It was not too long until their freezers and pantry were full of meat and vegetables.
In order to save money on clothing, we would wear hand-me-down clothing, and my mom sewed/repaired our clothes to make them last as long as possible. We attended public school and even in by the late 1980’s and early 1990s, I can remember being bullied because we did not wear “cool” clothes, have neat electronic gadgets, or bring homemade things for show-n-tell/holiday time instead of from a store. I remember these bullies using various names to me and my siblings, ranging from being a loser and hick, to poor and worthless.
It was this time in school that I vowed that I was going to get a great job, make a lot of money and show these classmates just how wrong they were. I vowed that I was going to study hard so I could be the first in my family and go to college. I wanted to get as far as possible from the rural life. The summers would especially motivate me to study hard and change my future. It was during the summers that I spent much of the time on my grandparent’s farm, getting up at 5:00 am, picking rock, milking cows, pulling weeds out of the fields, fixing machinery, putting up hay, and doing other chores until late in the evening. By the end of the summer I would be even more motivated to move away and was left with a motivation to do well when school started up again in the fall.
I excelled in school and did end up going to college. My parents were unable to financially provide for me to go to college, so I did work-study, took out student loans, and worked as a resident assistant to pay for my dorm room. The motivation from the summers at my grandparent’s farm was still fresh in my mind and I graduated four years later. I did well in college and ended up going straight to graduate school, this time even further away from my parents. I enjoyed the college life, much preferring the academic pursuits as compared with my previous manual labor on the farm.
It was then that my “average” life began - the life that I had always wanted. I got married, graduated again and got a great job. With both me and my wife working, we were making great money. We had accrued over $70,000 in student loans, but where happy to pay just the minimum monthly payment. We enjoyed eating out many times a week and spent a lot towards “entertainment” each month. We bought a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo; a new car; and took a trip to Disney World. Things were good.
Then my best friend, a man in his twenties with a young family died of cancer. It shook me up and made me reevaluate all aspects of my life. It was then that things started to change for me. We had a young daughter at the time and made a decision that one of us would stay home with her. My wife quit her full-time job and went to a very part-time position (a few days a month). In addition, my parents gave us tickets to a live Dave Ramsey event and we decided to get “gazelle intense”, getting on a budget and paying down our debts. Even with our income going down greatly, it still felt like we had more money than ever. Less than two years later we had to push “hold” on our debt pay-off, as we had a son. My wife did not work at all that year, and our son had a difficult beginning, so our medical bills were pretty high. Being a father to a son, I thought a lot about my role as provider and protector, as well as the legacy that I wanted to leave for my family. It felt that I was a long way from where I grew up in terms of my lifestyle. Life was fast-paced, we lived in the city, we went to the grocery store near our house a few times a week, and we even had all our yard/maintenance taken care of thorough our homeowner's association (HOA.) But I could feel a yearning that there was something missing. And thus began my return trip home!
It was with two young kids that we decided to move back closer to my family. The decision did not happen overnight, but rather over 18 months and a lot of prayer. The housing market bubble had popped and we lost about $25,000 on our place but we packed up and moved anyway. We found a two-bedroom apartment in our new town, only about 25 minutes from my parent’s acreage. We decided that we wanted life to slow down and get back the skills that generations of my family had all known. In order to do this with only one income we got creative on how to save money. We began couponing, collecting the weekend newspapers on Monday from the motel just a few blocks from our place. We sold our car for a used minivan. I went to my parent’s acreage and helped butcher chickens like when I was a kid – my folks were grateful to have us back and to be helping so they gave us 30 chickens for our freezer (we acquired to small chest freezers that we have in our garage). I helped my uncle butcher four large pigs, and like my parents, he appreciated the extra help, thanking me by getting me about 50 pounds of ground pork. We used the envelope system for our budget and paid cash for our purchases. We got a used food dehydrator at a garage sale for $5 and began to use it. We tried our hand at canning and did a few small batches with various foods. We made our own laundry detergent, baked our own bread, and tried to drive our vehicles less. With these small changes, we currently have our monthly food budget at under $250 for our family of four. We are proud to say that our student loans are down to about $4,500 and we don’t have any car payments or credit card debt! We even have our $1,000 emergency fund and within a few months hope to have the remainder of our debt paid off. We then hope to save for a house, maybe even an acreage just like my folks.
Since moving back closer to my family, I have devoted myself to learning about new skills. I have always enjoyed reading, so I naturally began to follow blogs and read books on how to be self-reliant and how to save money. Much to my surprise, most of the books and blogs I was learning the most from were from a group of folks called preppers. While I do follow multiple blogs now, I do have to say that it is SurvivalBlog is my favorite. Not only has it helped me to stretch my dollar for food, I have acquired so many new skills that I now don’t know how I lived without them. I feel that I am now a better provider and protector for my family. I like that our house now has a medical kit, a bug-out-bag that we can grab at a moment’s notice and enough food to last us for at least 3 to 6 months. I enjoy how there is a focus in SurvivalBlog about family and the importance on building relationships. I feel equipped that even with all the negative news on television, my family is going to be okay, as we are going to be prepared.