How to Survive Really Hard Times : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

How to Survive Really Hard Times

In the old days, folks were accustomed to periodically having to live through hard times. They knew how to survive the hard times with the least amount of wear and tear on their families. Nowadays, most folks dont know what hard times really are. Even those folks who think they have it hard right now can usually still depend on some type of government handout or charity assistance, and therefore they dont truly know what hard times really are.

My definition of hard times is when things aint what they use to be and they dont look like they will return to normal anytime soon. This frequently happens in times of war, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Which are also usually accompanied by power failures that last for days, weeks, or months.

Following are some suggestions for surviving these types of hard times.


Lets start by assuming you now live in some type of dwelling and your dwelling is not in the immediate path of a flood, hurricane, marching troops, etc.

First, stay inside unless you must absolutely go outdoors. In the old days, folks had enough sense to come in out of the rain. During hard times, you dont need to get wet, cold, or frost bitten. That just makes matters worse.


During cold weather you need to stay warm. Nowadays most folks believe warm is having the thermostat set at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Not so in the old days. Back then folks felt comfortable if their home was 40 degrees or warmer in the winter time. Now why was that? Because they wore warm clothes inside the house during the winter. They knew that several thin layers of clothing felt warmer than one or two thick garments. And they were right. There is a layer of air between each layer of clothing and that air forms a pocket of insulation to help retain your body heat. If a person got too warm, they would take off one layer of clothing and they would cool off and be comfortable again.

And they wore gloves inside the house to keep their hands warm.

They also wore their hats inside the house in the winter time. When a person is normally dressed, they lose 90% of their body heat through their head. Do you want to stay warm? Conserve your body heat. Put on a hat. Any hat. If you dont have a hat, make a turban by wrapping a thin towel (or a cut up sheet) around the top part of your head and secure it with a safety pin. You will feel warmer because you are conserving your body heat (and burning fewer calories). If your dwelling is still too cold for you (below 40 degrees), then you need to reduce the size of your living area. If you have a big closet, then move the family into it. If all your rooms are big, then partition off one corner of one room using mattresses to make temporary walls. In other words, build a small temporary room in the corner of a big room. Use all your extra sheets and blankets to insulate this smaller living area.

What does this accomplish? Humans dont generate enough extra body heat to warm up a large room (or house). However, their body heat can increase the temperature of a smaller area by 10 to 15 degrees. In addition, each time someone exhales, their breath will also contribute to an increase in the temperature of the small area. One word of caution. Under no circumstances should you build a fire (or smoke) inside your little area. The carbon monoxide (or smoke) will kill you all. Also remember, heat rises. Therefore, let fresh air into your living space somewhere down close to the floor.

Now some folks may laugh at the idea of heating a room with your body heat. But stop and think for a moment. The Eskimos live in a frozen wasteland and they survive year after year. How? Because they build small igloos that capture and conserve their body heat.

If you have a wood burning fireplace or wood stove, use it for heat if possible (save your propane or fuel oil for a real emergency). Bring in enough firewood once per day. Dont keep opening and closing the door all day long.

If you dont have a chimney, dont start a fire inside. The smoke will kill you. Even if you build the fire near a window, the smoke will gradually fill your dwelling. And you will lose any heat from the fire through the window.

If the water is off, then fire can be one of your worst enemies. Keep a fire extinguisher near any open flames (fireplace or propane stove). Or keep a bucket of water handy. If a cooking skillet accidentally catches fire, you should keep some baking soda nearby to throw on the flames. Some fires can be put out by smothering it with a heavy blanket. Without oxygen, the fire cant burn.

Toilet Facilities:

If the water is off and the toilets dont work, then you will have to manually deal with human waste. Take two trash cans and line each one with two plastic trash can liner bags. When possible, put urine and poop in separate containers. This allows the poop to dry out. Put something over the trash cans when they arent being used. You can urinate and defecate wherever it is comfortable for you, but pour the waste material into the trash cans. Periodically empty the trash cans. Dont just throw the waste outside. It will attract flies and other vermin that breed and spread disease. The best solution is to bury the waste underground.

A different type of waste problem is when the sewer works but you are short on water. That happens sometimes in the country with folks who have septic tanks but their water well goes dry (or almost dry). When that happens, you dont flush as often. You still use the stool all day long, but you only flush solid waste. To quote an old rhyme: If its yellow, let it mellow. If its brown, flush it down.


Without water, a person will dehydrate and start to die in about three days. This first step to survival in hard times is to inventory your water into two categories: drinking water and all other water. If the water is on, fill all the water containers you have in the house (anything that will hold water and not leak). If the water is off, be creative. Ice cubes in the freezer. Water inside the hot water heater. Both are safe to drink. Water that isnt safe to drink is toilet bowl water and water inside the mattress of a water bed.

Many canned foods are packed in water. When you open a can, serve the water in the can with the food (dont throw the canned water away if you are low on water).

The second step to survival in hard times is to ration your water. During normal times, one person needs one gallon of water per day. Nobody I know drinks a gallon of plain water each day. However, all of us drink some water, plus a variety of other fluids (coffee, tea, soda, juice, or whatever appeals to you). During hard times, a person can survive for a short period of time on two quarts of water per day (two quarts is one-half gallon). If water is really in short supply, then one quart per day will keep a person alive, but they will begin to slowly dehydrate.

Everyone knows better, but after a long period of little or no water, a person will drink all the water they can when it suddenly becomes available in quantity. If you do this, you will get sick. S l o w - - d o w n . Drink one cup of water every 15 minutes. Give your system a chance to absorb the water and send it where it is needed most. Dont overload your system and kill yourself.

When your water runs low, where can you get more? Collect rain water. If you have rain gutters on your dwelling, capture the rain at the end of the down spouts.

Be creative. Think about what you have available that you can put outside to catch and hold rain water, or channel rain water through a partially open window into a big pot. Remember that it usually rains 1 inch or less each time it rains. You need a large surface area to collect enough rain water to drink. A small cup or glass wont do. Even a 5 gallon cook pot is too small to just put outside by itself (it will only collect 1 inch of water in the bottom of the pot). Something like a childs plastic swimming pool would be ideal. You can always put clean bed sheets outside your windows, let them get drenched in rain, ring them out by hand inside the house into a pot, and stick them back out in the rain again.

If it doesnt rain, go outside at dawn and collect the morning dew. How? Take a clean thin dish cloth or thin wash cloth and wipe it gently over the damp grass (and non-poisonous shrubs). Periodically ring out the cloth into a bowl. Repeat. It is hard work, but without water you are dead.

Ground water is usually the most contaminated. Ground water is lake, pond, creek, stream, or river water if you live in the country. In the city, it is water flowing beside the sidewalks during a heavy rain. If no other source of water is available, then you may be forced to collect the only water you can find. But dont drink it until you purify it.

Even if the water looks crystal clear in a glass, it can still contain tiny organisms that will make you sick. You dont need a severe case of diarrhea or a high fever during hard times. Like the old saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

How to purify water:

First, pour the water through a standard paper coffee filter (or clean pillow case). This will trap and remove any large impurities. The same coffee filter can be used over and over again for a long time (unless the water is very muddy or dirty).

After you have pre-filtered your water, you can use one of the following three options to purify the water:

1. Boil the water at a hard boil for about 10 minutes. Wait for the water to cool. Then pour the water from one container into another container several times to add air back into the water to improve its taste.

2. Or put 2 drops of chlorine liquid bleach (Clorox or store brand, unscented) in each quart of water and wait one hour for the bleach to kill all the tiny organisms. (Or 8 drops per gallon.)

3. As a last result (not for pregnant women or nursing mothers), you can put 3 drops of iodine (2 % strength) into each quart of water and wait one hour. (Or 12 drops per gallon.)

If there is snow or ice on the ground, you can collect it and melt it inside your dwelling. A word of caution. Never melt the snow or ice inside your mouth. This consumes more water than you get back in return (water vapor lost through your mouth and nose while breathing). You dehydrate more quickly and end up worse off than when you started. If necessary, you can put the snow inside a small container and put the capped container inside your clothing (but not next to your skin) and your body heat will gradually melt the snow into water. If you are concerned about the cleanliness of the snow, then you can boil the resulting water 10 minutes before you drink it.

If you are short on water, dont waste it bathing or washing your clothes. I know cleanliness is important, but most of us overdo it in this country. Just wash your hands and face periodically. Dont discard the water until it is too dirty to use again. Wash your dishes in one pot of water with dish soap. Rinse the dishes in a second pot. Rinse the dishes again in a third pot. When the dish water in the first pot gets really nasty, discard it. Then put dish soap in the second pot and use it as the initial wash pot. Use the third pot as your first rinse. And add a new pot with clean water as the final rinse. If your sewer is still working properly, you can pour your waste water down your toilet stool to flush it.

Always brush your teeth at least once per day. It doesnt take much water, just a little in a small glass. (Only use a little toothpaste each time, not what you would normally use. Your toothpaste will last four to six times longer this way, with no compromise in dental hygiene.)


First rule, if you have no water to drink, then dont eat.

Second rule, remember the first rule when you get really hungry.

Your body uses water to digest food, and if you send food into your tummy without having had any water to drink recently, then your body will draw the water it needs to digest the food from your body tissues and you will dehydrate and die much faster. A person can go three weeks without any food and survive without any long term ill effects. But three days without water and you are dead. Never forget the first rule.

If you believe it may be some time before you can replenish your food supplies, such as during a severe snow storm, then inventory all the food in your dwelling and begin rationing on day one. Inventory your food based on the major food groups and on the number of calories listed on the label on each box or can. If you have food in the refrigerator, and the power is off, then eat it before you start on your canned foods. Eat refrigerator food first, then freezer food, and eat canned and boxed food last. Look at the expiration dates on snack foods (potato chips) and be sure to eat them before they go stale. After you have a list of all your food, plan a daily menu based on the order in which you intend to consume your food so you work all the major food groups strategically into your diet on a regular basis. Deviate from that plan if a particular food item looks like it might go bad if you save it any longer. Better to have the calories stored inside your body than to let them go to waste. Concerning waste, during hard times there is no excuse for throwing away any food that is edible. Save all uneaten food. If it cant be saved for the next meal, then someone should eat it while it is still edible.

If you have canned food, try to keep it from freezing (which will rupture the can and ruin the food). When you open a can, smell the food. If it smells funny, or if it has any fungus growing on it, then destroy the food by burning it. Dont put it in the trash. A stray animal (or person) may retrieve it and die of food poisoning. Most canned foods are still edible after two or three years. Canned meat will last even longer. Therefore, dont worry about your canned food going bad if you purchased it during the previous year. After two or three years, the food will still be edible, but the taste and nutritional value of the food will be less.

Drink the liquid inside canned food. It contains vitamins, fluids, and oils your body needs.

Folks here in our country eat over 2,500 calories every day. You dont need that many calories to stay alive, if you remain inactive. Read a good book. Play cards. Tell stories. Just dont exercise. A person can survive a long time on 1,000 calories per day if they remain relatively inactive. They will probably loose a little weight, but for most of us that would be a good thing. Plan your daily menus so each person will get about 1,000 calories each day. If your food supply starts to run low, and the hard times dont look like they are going to end soon, then cut back the calories to 750 per day. A person doesnt suffer any permanent damage just because he continuously feels hungry. Folks all over the world have felt real hunger before, and they have gone on to lead normal, healthy lives. (One exception to this is a nursing mother. Without the proper nutrition, her body cant make the milk to feed her baby.)

If you have any vitamins in the house, ration them out to your family members. Each person should get two vitamin pills each week (for example, one on Wednesday and one on Sunday). The vitamins will last a long time this way, and each person will have a much better chance of staying healthy and not getting sick.

Food from nature:

Squirrels: If you live near an area with trees, you may be able to get fresh squirrel meat with a 22 rifle, or a really good BB rifle at close range, or a trap or snare. However, if you fry or roast the squirrel, its meat it will be too tough to eat for most folks. Skin the squirrel, remove and discard the digestive organs (stomach and intestines), and cut the squirrel meat into small pieces (cut the heart and liver into pieces also), and boil all the meat in a little water with a dash of salt (dont forget the salt). Enjoy the meaty soup and drink the soup broth when the meat is all gone.

Thin Evergreen Needles (pine, spruce, etc.): Those thin green needles are edible and are an excellent source of vitamin C. If you eat them year round you will notice they taste different during the different seasons. Sometimes the taste is neutral and sometimes a little bitter. Regardless of how they taste, they are still an edible food source. Dont eat too many at one time unless your body is accustomed to them. Like any new food item, your body needs time to adjust to the new food source. Remember, they are very low in calories, so they wont provide the energy you need ... but they will provide some fresh natural vitamins. Pine needles may be eaten raw or cooked. Or you can dice the pine needles into very tiny pieces and boil them in some water to make a broth or tea.

Pine Cone Seeds: The seeds of a pine cone are located under the outer scales of the pine cone. Break off the scales to get to the seeds. There will be two winged seeds under each scale. The seeds may be eaten raw (the same way the squirrels do), or you may roast them. This is one of the most important wild food sources due to its high food value and availability.

Soft Inner Tree Bark (not the hard outer bark): In the spring when the sap is rising, the inner bark of most trees is edible (pine, birch, elm, maple, spruce, willow). It is low in calories but better than nothing. Peel the bark up near the bottom of the tree or from exposed roots to reveal the fresh inner bark. Do not peel the bark off a tree in a circle all the way around the tree. You will kill the tree. Dont overdo it on a single tree. Move on to the next tree. Inner tree bark may be eaten raw, or cooked, or dried and pounded into flour for future consumption.

Dandelions: Most folks think of them as pretty weeds. Did you know that every part of the dandelion plant is edible (flower, stems, leaves, and roots). The stems and flowers can be eaten raw or cooked. The leaves taste bitter if eaten raw so it is usually better to boil them first. Remove the tough center vein from the leaves before you boil them. Wash the roots and boil them like a potato. They have an agreeable taste. Or you can dry the roots in the sun, crush them and use them as a substitute for coffee. From a medicinal perspective, any and all the parts of the dandelion plant help to improve blood circulation in the body.

Clover: All types of clover are edible. Clover contains some vitamin E. Clover can be recognized by its small round flowers and its three small leaves. Sometimes four leaves (the proverbial four leaf clover). The clover leaves may be eaten raw or boiled (older leaves are better boiled). The tiny flowers can be boiled to make a tea. The roots can be scraped, washed, and boiled.

Bugs: The following bugs are edible: ants, grubs, slugs, and earthworms. They may be eaten raw (but not alive) or cooked. Nobody I know likes em raw, so the best solution is to dice them into small pieces and cook them in a soup with some other type of wild food. Grasshoppers can also be eaten if you first remove the legs. The legs contain tiny barbs that can get caught in your throat. Dont eat grasshoppers raw because they occasionally contain tiny parasites (which will be killed if you boil the grasshoppers in water). Never eat flies, mosquitoes, ticks, centipedes, or spiders.

Depending on where you live, other edible foods may grow wild. In much of the south, young poke sallet leaves (which no two people can agree on how to spell) are also nutritious if you first boil the leaves three times in clean water. Change the water between each boiling. Acorns (which set every other year) are also edible if you remove the cap (or crown) and boil them at least three times in clean water. Then let the acorns dry in the sun. (Acorns contain a small amount of tannic acid which will make you sick if you dont boil it away first. When our forefathers first arrived in this nation, the Indians showed them how to bury the acorns in mud for three months to make them fit to eat. This is an effective but very slow method for removing the tannic acid.) A handful of acorns is equivalent in nutrition to a pound of fresh hamburger.

If you try a new food source, dont eat too much of it the first time. Give your digestive system a chance to become acquainted with it. You dont need to make yourself sick with a fever or diarrhea by going overboard on a food you have never eaten before.

If you think a wild plant might be edible, there is three step test to go through before you eat it. If there is not enough of the wild plant growing nearby to serve as a regular food source, then you should ignore it. Its not worth the risk. If there is plenty of the plant available, then follow this test sequence. First, rub a little of the plant on the inside of your upper left arm (a sensitive body area but one that wont incapacitate you). Wait eight hours to see if the skin breaks out in a rash. If you pass the first test, rub a little of the plant on the outside of your lips, and wait eight hours to see if your lips break out in a rash. If you pass the second test, then put a very small quantity of the plant in your mouth, chew it up really good, and then spit it all out. Wait one day. If you dont get sick, then you can try swallowing a little bit of it the next day. Never eat too much of an unknown wild plant in a short period of time.

During hard times in the old days, folks didnt complain much. Everyone was in the same boat. They would just make causal comments about having to punch a new hole in their belt so their pants wouldnt fall off. Our forefathers lived through hard times on a regular basis. We can too. Dont let the loss of a little weight make you compromise your values. You do have values, dont you?


There is only one sure way to win a fight. Avoid it.

Avoid fights with other people, and stray dogs, and wild animals. How do you avoid fights? First, by staying inside your dwelling. If you must go outside, try to blend in with your environment (whatever it happens to be at the time), and dont attract attention to yourself. Speak softly. Move quietly and slowly. Most people wont attack a person who is visible armed (pistol in holster or hunting knife on waist belt). Dont carry a weapon in your hand. You would be advertising that you are either looking for trouble or that you are afraid. Neither is a good sign if you are trying to blend in.

On the other hand, if you are backed into a corner, and no option is left except to fight, then fight to win. Use whatever weapons are convenient at the time. Remember, with Gods help David whooped Goliath with a tiny stone.

Evacuating Your Present Dwelling:

The time may come when good judgment tells you it is time to leave your dwelling (the flood water is rising, or the enemy troops are on the outskirts of your town). For times like these, it is advisable to have a camping bag pre-packed for every member of your family. Each bag should contain clothes, personal care items, food, and one container of drinking water (12 ounces up to 32 ounces). Water is very heavy. You cant carry enough of it with you. You will have to trust that you can find more water along the way.

If you have these bags packed ahead of time, then you will be in much better shape than someone who waits until the last minute and then grabs items haphazardly to take with them. Pack the bags at the beginning of the hard times and have them ready to go on a moments notice. As time goes by, you will think of additional items to put in your bags. You will also have time to reflect and realize that some items should be left behind. The more time you ponder the contents of your bags, the more practical and useful the bags become.

When its time to leave, you may or may not be able to leave in your car. You may have no gas, or the roads may be blocked. If you have to leave on foot, make sure each member of the family has a bag that is no heavier than they can carry for a long distance.

If you take your car, you should have two sets of bags. One set of bags to carry with you if you have to later abandon the car, and another set of bags that you leave behind in the car (items that would have been nice to have but are not critical). A car offers the best protection for your family from the elements (rain, wind, snow). However, it restricts your movement to surface roads. The final decision on whether to take or leave the car may be a very tough one. Reflect on it ahead of time.

Temporary Government Shelters:

During severe hard times, the government usually sets up temporary shelters for the destitute. The folks who enter these shelters usually bring nothing with them but the clothes on their backs. The government will not let anyone bring a weapon into a shelter. Occasionally the living conditions in a shelter are okay, but most of the time the place is too crowded for the average person to relax in. There is absolutely no privacy.

If you have the knowledge, a little basic equipment, and a little food then you might try camping with your family in the woods instead of entering a shelter. Only the most highly trained individuals can live off the land. If you dont bring some food with you, then your chances of surviving in the wilderness by eating natures fare will be pretty slim. You will spend all your time searching for edible plants and wild game or fish. Most folks wont be able to find enough to keep their families alive. However, if you bring some food with you, then you can supplement that food with what you find in nature and you will have a pretty good chance of having a good camping experience. If the camping adventure doesnt work out for your family, then you can enter a shelter knowing it is your last option.


You can camp outdoors in the spring, summer, or fall. Don't camp outdoors in the winter if it is avoidable. There is almost no food available, and the weather is so cold that you will probably freeze to death.

What camping equipment do you need? Every family member (age ten and older) should have a knife with a sharp edge. A knife is a campers most frequently used tool in the woods. It is also a weapon.

One or more rifles. Extra bullets. A small hand hatchet (or meat cleaver) and a small shovel (or big metal cooking spoon) are also nice (but not critical). Plus a waterproof tarp (or the plastic protector sheet off a bed, or anything that repeals water and is big enough to sleep under). A lightweight tent would be ideal, if you have one.

A bible for regular family devotions.

Soap. Small towels. String and rope. Duct tape. Toilet tissue. Matches and cigarette lighters. Plastic freezer bags to keep these items dry. Small cook pots that will survive an open fire. Forks and spoons. Unbreakable cups and plates. Aluminum foil. Lightweight high calorie food (pasta noodles, dry beans, Ramen soup). Precooked food (canned beef stew, chili with beans). Salt and pepper.

A deck of playing cards. First aid supplies. Headache pills. Diarrhea pills. Feminine hygiene items. A compass. A map. A Boy Scout Handbook (or any good camping book). Some fictional paperback books to read (after everyone has read each book, the individual pages make nice fire starter, or even better emergency toilet paper). More freezer bags for these items.

Blankets and a small pillow for each person. One complete change of clothes for each person. Three or four pair of socks for each person. (If you are walking, your socks will need changing more frequently than the rest of your clothes to avoid blisters and athlete's foot rash.) The best way to avoid foot blisters is to wear two pair of socks: a very thin inner pair next to your skin and another pair on top of that. Macho tough guys will laugh at this next suggestion, but panty hose make a good inner pair of socks for both men and women and they keep your legs warm. After the tough guys get a few bleeding blisters and cant keep up with the rest of the group, the panty hose idea wont seem so silly. Remember, the basic idea is survival - youre not trying to make a fashion statement.

Never camp on the very top or bottom of a hill. The best location is on the side of a hill about half way up the hill (avoids high winds and flooding waters). Look for firewood that is just off the ground (fallen branches caught in trees or shrubs). It is usually dry enough to burn even during a rain. Dry pine needles make excellent kindling. Keep campfires contained at all times. Make sure your fire is completely out when you leave. Bury human waste promptly.


Hard times bring out either the best or the worst in each of us. (I often wonder if God planned it that way?) If you and your family face hard times together sometime during your life, what kind of example do you want to set for your loved ones? In future years, when your young'uns grow up and look back on the hard times, what do you want them to remember? What do you want to remember? Think about it.

May God Bless.


-- Grandpappy (Grandpappy@old-timers.hom), June 30, 1999


The above are just a few of my thoughts about hard times and the way to get through them when they come upon you suddenly ... sometimes with a little advance warning and other times with none.

Lots of you folks have been reading the stuff on this forum for a long time but you aint shared any of your ideas yet. Now would be a good time to step in and share your gems of wisdom.

For example:

1. What plants grow wild in your neck of the woods that are widely available and easy to find? How do you identify the plant? What part of the plant do you eat? How to you prepare it (raw, roasted, boiled)?

2. If a person were going to stay indoors, what items do most of us already have around the house that can come in real handy during hard times (or have a second use that most people dont know about)?

3. If a person were to go camping, what should they take with them from the house and what would it be used for?

These are just a few suggestions. I know yall can think of lots of additional good ideas. Please share them with your friends here on this forum.


May God Bless.


-- Grandpappy (Grandpappy@old-timers.hom), June 30, 1999.

Thanks a millions pappy, I printed it out and plan to use it if it becomes necessary. Thanks for the effort and thought.

Blessings to you and yours now and always

-- (, June 30, 1999.

A keeper... Thanks!


See also...

I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO: Basic Y2K Preparation Thread for Newbies 0010R5

-- Diane J. Squire (, June 30, 1999.

die ann i love your authoritative way with a delete key. kiss me you fool, I AM YOURS!!!

-- corrine l (, June 30, 1999.


What a beautiful testament of lifes most basic necessities. I am truly a better person for having read it. You opened my eyes to many things that I hadn't considered, and gave details to others that I had only a passing knowledge of. I will definitely print all you have shared and treasure it to pass on to others.

Your humble heart also, has touched mine. It brings 'dignity' to a time in life that may be less than ideal.

You are one unique person and such a treasure!

-- gale (, July 12, 1999.


-- sandi (sandihere@you.know), November 05, 1999.


-- Kevin Dix (, February 08, 2005.

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