The fundamental rule is to not be greedy: within the scope of this guide, your goal should be to preserve capital, not to take crazy risks. If you are tempted to put your money into Tesla, Twitter, or some penny stock mentioned by your third cousin, you are not thinking straight. Pick about 10-20 boring companies that seem to be valued fairly, that are free of crippling debt, and that have robust prospects for the coming years. Stay clear of financial enterprises, of highly speculative sectors such as biotech or solar power, and of heavily regulated industries that lack the flexibility to deal with sudden economic shifts (say, airlines). Relatively safe picks can be found in no-frills domains: basic chemicals, staple electronic components, profitable freight railways, mechanical assembly manufacturing, home and office supplies, and so on.
At $40 for a case of 12, Soylent does a great job replacing solid meals with pre-mixed drinks that can extend your survival food stores by a few days. Each bottle is 400 calories and contains 20% of your daily nutritional needs. Drink five bottles and you’ve got a full day’s worth. They’re also vegan and nut- and lactose-free, with very clear nutritional info.
For those who are worried about less likely, longer-term contingencies - or who want to limit their future grocery expenses in case of a financial shortfall - a more varied stockpile to cover 3-4 months is a reasonable choice. At that timescale, it's still smart to begin with some number of hassle-free survival rations, but it is important complement them with a more palatable menu: freeze-dried or canned meals, MREs, or cheap home-made food. Crisco aside, some of the nutritious and easily stored staples include Mylar-bagged, oxygen-scavenged white rice, white flour, dried beans and grains, instant mashed potatoes and oatmeal, pasta, sugar, honey, powdered milk, salt, spices, and so forth; when stored properly, all of them can last 5 years or more. Freeze-dried or garden-grown fruit and veggies can add some flavor to your post-disaster cooking, too. Heck, you can even buy supposedly tasty butter, chicken breast, canned bacon, and bread-like crackers with 10+ year shelf life (although they are not cheap).
One measure of survivalism’s spread is that some people are starting to speak out against it. Max Levchin, a founder of PayPal and of Affirm, a lending startup, told me, “It’s one of the few things about Silicon Valley that I actively dislike—the sense that we are superior giants who move the needle and, even if it’s our own failure, must be spared.”
If I can cite the number one reason people become overwhelmed when even thinking about putting aside an emergency food supply, it is the perceived sense of urgency that it all needs to be done right now. And this, for many, results in complacency and inaction. Don’t fall into this trap. Begin with a three day supply and gradually build that up to a week. After that, add to your emergency food supply week by week until pretty soon, you have three months of food stored away for you and your family.
Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures, Roy Bahat, the head of Bloomberg Beta, a San Francisco-based venture-capital firm, told me. “When you do that, it’s pretty common that you take things ad infinitum, and that leads you to utopias and dystopias,” he said. It can inspire radical optimism—such as the cryonics movement, which calls for freezing bodies at death in the hope that science will one day revive them—or bleak scenarios. Tim Chang, the venture capitalist who keeps his bags packed, told me, “My current state of mind is oscillating between optimism and sheer terror.”
Pense just sold his company, Gardening Revolution. For 20 years he shipped the proprietary iron, zinc, manganese, copper, sulfur and boron soil blend. Each bed costs $800, after you buy the cinder blocks and mat. On his best year, he shipped $580,000-worth of them. The magazine John Deere Homestead featured him. He’s taught classes on raised-bed gardening and survival in his cabin ever since. “The record on tomatoes is 274 pounds for one plant. Think about that,” Pense says. “That’s a lot of ’maters for one plant.” More than the ’maters, he’s proud of teaching people younger than him to grow their own food.
It pays to be prepared for nasty spills or sanitation emergencies. In addition to some of the tools discussed in earlier chapters, a good starting point is a large box of 13 gallon trash bags ($10-$30), another box of thick, 42 gallon contractor bags ($30), a set of disposable vinyl gloves ($4) plus a pair of tough PVC or nitrile ones ($11), some rubbing alcohol ($6), and a bottle of regular laundry bleach ($3). Rubbing alcohol is an excellent solvent and a rapid-evaporating disinfectant; bleach is a potent, long-lasting biocide and a great odor neutralizer. Oh - as noted earlier, an absorbent sock-style barrier may be useful for containing particularly nasty spills, too.
Just because we are all gonna die does not mean we need to eat junk …. ditch that high carb and super processed junk food. There are many choices of decent food out there … particularly the foods packed by Mormon canneries. Do a google search for where to find the best deals. Really, get rid of the raman noodles, progresso soups, spagetti-o and other junk … you’ll have enough problems living through SHTF without killing you gut microbio ….
In practice, the process can be a bit tricky. Freeze-dried meals require that you have potable water lying around, which might not be the case in the event of a serious calamity (some Wise Company kits include water purifiers). The cooking instructions for the Wise products I tested call for using the entire four-serving bag at once, which means that you have to have a container on hand to store what you don’t eat, and a fridge to keep it from spoiling. Even at my office kitchen, the only way I could make it work was by pouring about a fourth of the packet in a mug, filling it with water, and putting another mug on top of it.
“How do I tell Dr. Norman Shealy that he was voted out of the meetup?” Finelli asks, rhetorically. “So I told him on-air. I said, ‘Dr. Shealy, they had a vote, and you were voted to be barred from the meeting.’ And he kind of laughed, and I said don’t get all excited, they banned me, too.” He holds no grudges; he says he’s actually glad it happened. Now he knows how his students really felt.
Astronauts are provided with survival kits due to the difficulty of predicting where a spacecraft will land on its return to earth, especially in the case of an equipment failure. In early US space flights, the kit was optimised for survival at sea; the one provided for John Glenn on the first American space flight in Friendship 7 contained "a life raft, pocket knife, signaling mirror, shark repellent, seawater desalting tablets, sunscreen, soap, first aid kit, and other items". A survival kit was provided for the Apollo program which was "...designed to provide a 48-hour postlanding (water or land) survival capability for three crewmen between 40 degrees North and South latitudes". It contained "a survival radio, a survival light assembly, desalter kits, a machete, sunglasses, water cans, sun lotion, a blanket, a pocket knife, netting and foam pads".