Are You Ready For The Zombie Apocalypse? I’m Not.

Photo credit: Tobias M. Eckrich

If the zombie apocalypse happens I’m doubtful I will survive.

I’m okay with not being prepared for things that have little chance of actually happening.

That’s one of the ways I wrapped my head around letting go of so many things I had boxed up for  someday.

That’s one of the ways I easily rationalize not buying a camping stove for some extraordinary scenario that doesn’t involve camping.

Because we don’t camp.

At least, not right now.

Someone commented on my post about the empty fridge that it was careless of me to be so ill prepared for disasters.

It’s true. I’m not prepared for a lengthy and extreme disaster. But who truly is?

We have enough bottled water and nonperishable food to last us a few days. If our fridge was even half stocked we would be fine for at least a week.

I’m not careless: I watch the flight attendants during the safety demonstration and make note of the nearest exit on an airplane. I wear a seat belt. If the weather is very bad and there is a chance the ferries may not sail I make sure we have a few things in the fridge.

I cannot stock my home for every hobby, event or disaster scenario that may happen.

This is what I’ve taken from trying to live with less stuff. I have to live for the 95% of my life that is mostly guaranteed. Like eating a roast chicken dinner, online banking and my kids getting a norovirus.

Keeping embroidery thread for when or if I ever take up needle point? Nope.

Stocking six months worth of food for some Cormac McCarthy The Road scenario? Nope.

If the whole world is on fire, if my little island and the rest of the world is overtaken by by aliens, we will most likely be alien food.

If cinematic depictions of the end of days have taught me anything it’s that a) it’s not the guy with the bomb shelter that survives and b) running from zombies is exhausting.

And lonely.

No thank you.

For some people drought or hurricanes or another disaster scenario is a real possibility. They plan accordingly. They have bunkers.

I would do the same if I lived in their town.

But for now I live on a windy island in the Irish Sea. The basics of emergency preparedness will suffice.

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  • I recently had a lengthy conversation with my parents about the end of the world. We decided they’d be targets by bands of thieves (they live in a very nice neighborhood) and that it’d be best to just assume it’s never going to happen. My mother, who lives in New Orleans, is inadequately prepared for hurricanes, and that’s a whole other matter…I wish she were ready, especially after I spent Hurricane Isaac with her with no supplies.

    Anyway, if you were to advertise here how prepared you are, wouldn’t that be asking for moochers and crooks to show up at your doorstep? A secret stash might be prudent.

    • I’m betting there’s no Internet during the Zombie Apocalypse 😉
      Yes, if I were in a hurricane or tornado area I would definitely have a bigger emergency kit.

  • While I’m not prepared for a zombie apocalypse or any disaster, really, we did have an eye opening experience during the blackout of 2003 that affected the NE US and Michigan (where we were). We had barely enough gas to get home, after sitting in a parking lot for 3 hours while the roads cleared. There was no way we’d make it home in all the traffic caused by everyone leaving work when it went dark. We had no power for 3 days, stores were being raided, it was a scary few days. After that, I said I’d never let my gas tank dip below half full and I’d stock up on some survival basics. But, I’m a minimalist at heart. I don’t tend to buy more than is necessary and I never have bottled water sitting around. I know it’s probably a good idea to be a little prepared for the unexpected but it’s hard for me to plan for the “just in case”.

  • great angle! my fridge is also only filled one day ahead. i do not hoard food or supplies. if zombie apocalypse hits, we are doomed :) you are on an island though, so should be safe! if all fails, a one way ticket to Iceland can be a way. a cabin by the volcano, and wave bye bye to any manmade apocalypse :)

  • Think I can ‘top trump’ you on the careless comment ;-). I’ve been called irresponsible for my sparse fridge.
    In all the years I have bought food for just 7 days and meal planned like a fanatic, the family have never gone hungry.
    Living in suburban UK (I totally appreciate other countries/areas may need to store a certain amount of supplies) it’s unlikely that we will ever not be able to get hold of food to feed the family. We are incredibly lucky in that respect. There’s water on tap, no hike to the nearest well. There’s a grocery shop within walking distance, pretty much whether I head N,W,S or E. Oh and I am not shy about popping to the neighbours when my egg basket runs bare.
    I admit I had no bread for my Kid’s lunch boxes last Friday, so I gave them cheese and crackers instead. There’s always some (albeit limited) dry, canned, long-life and frozen emergency food items for well…an emergency.
    When you watch the shows that feature food hoarders, and see what risks they are exposing themselves, and their families, to by keeping out of date food, having too much stuff generally thus attracting vermin and insects, as well as the cost/waste – I am contented to be the other end of the spectrum.
    Should the Zombie Apocalypse occur I can pull a vacant expression and moan with the best of ’em so likely will fit in quite nicely.

    • I too appreciate that some people actually live in areas with high occurrences of natural disasters or in a place where food isn’t always available. By all means, stock up and be prepared.
      We have a Spar one block down that has eggs, fruit & veg, etc. Not the greatest selection but in a pinch it’ll do.

  • This made me LOL..because I am in Tennessee and therefore surrounded by ‘preppers’…I have the basics…because we are in tornado alley and I have a small child I have a responsibility to be prepared enough to last a couple of days…When storms hit we are usually without power for a few days…But, with my minimalist heart I only have a very small pantry and my fridge is never very full…I find that I manage food better when there is less of it :)

  • I love apocalyptic novels from the highbrow to the low brow I really don’t mind (if you read just one I would go for Alas Babylon – very old and out of date but one of the best). Consequently I have often thought about whether we should be better prepared for an apocalyptic disaster.

    The slightly older readers amongst us will remember the Cold War. As a child we had endless conversations about what we would do when the bomb hit (not if, when). Was it better to try and take shelter and hope you (a) didn’t die of radiation sickness (b) weren’t killed by marauding gangs (c)didn’t starve to death. Or was it better just to run outside and fry. We generally opted for the latter.

  • This is a very timely post for me. Having just gone through our own state of emergency here in southern Alberta (flooding) it has given me a new perspective on a lot of things. We were evacuated with very short notice and while I was standing in my basement in the dark trying to figure out what to “save” I was glad it wasn’t full of stuff. Skis, bikes, camping equipment would all either be ruined or fine (but could be replaced) and a couple of boxes of childhood things were moved upstairs. We just grabbed the cat and got out of there. At this point we were fairly certain our house would be okay, or at the very least only have minor damage (luckily our house was saved) – but having to leave really gave me a new appreciation for those who live in areas where natural disasters are more common.
    We were lucky that our house was fine in the end, but we spent many days hauling stuff from peoples water logged basement and it was AMAZING how much stuff people kept. I carried 4 crock pots out of one basement along with about 40 mason jars of canned food!! It was another good reminder of the benefits of minimalism. And time and time again, from people who had lost a lot (and some even their entire homes), the resounding sentiment was “it’s only stuff, why did I keep all of this?”…..

    • Hmmm.. I canned 40 jars of tomatoes last summer and used all of them through the winter. I hesitate to judge that 40 mason jars of food is too many. That could be some jam, some pickles, some beans, stew, pasta sauce, or any number of other things. Four crock pots, however, does seem a little excessive.

      • Celia I do the same when able. I would make the same argument when you are canning for your family’s needs for the winter as it is the cleanest and most healthy source of year round nutrition. I do know people who can all that their garden produces and end up throwing out what they “over canned” . I would say that crosses out of the realm of minimalism. As I hear echoed throughout this blog/comments regularly, planning and not going beyond true necessity are big parts of minimalism no matter what you and your geographic area are faced with.

    • Shelly, you make a striking point, when you say, “We were evacuated with very short notice and while I was standing in my basement in the dark trying to figure out what to “save” I was glad it wasn’t full of stuff.” It is easy for those not faced with the realities (time, space, structural limitations, etc. etc.) of disasters to go into hypothetical survival mode…”I’ll surely survive and when I do, I will continue living just as now with my three month store of food and supplies ……” ………is essentially what people are thinking…..

  • Well, I spent some time reading through your empty refrigerator post and the comments – which were many :-).
    And reading through this post and comments.

    I guess I am a supporter of the “in moderation” approach. From my perspective, no approach is good if it swings excessively to one way or another. Just as extreme hoarding is bad, extreme minimalism is also less than great. One example: There are certain areas of the country that have a higher chance of natural events that can interrupt the flow of life for long periods and put you at risk if you haven’t prepared for them. I am not talking about “hobbies.” Things like food, water, and gas are life lines when major storms hit.

    BUT, with that said, a full fridge is not always the best way to prepare – once the power goes out, you have only a fixed period of time when the contents are trash! So moderation makes the most sense to me. And in my house a fridge that is stocked moderately is one on that is about 1/2 full and kept that way – never overstuffed or empty.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I believe I am outnumbered in my opinion on this site.

    It was fun reading the posts and the comments, however.

    • I absolutely agree. I think you can be minimalist without being irresponsible.

      Being minimalist means getting rid of excess things you don’t need. Having reasonable supplies on hand in case of disaster is necessary and responsible. You do need these things. Failing to be prepared is irresponsible.

  • As always I am so glad to read this post. My sister always remarks at how I just buy exactly the food I need for a week or two without having a stockpile of toothpaste and canned soup. I just don’t see the need. I keep a few extra things around in the winter for the odd winter storm or power outage, but I can’t prepare for every little thing. Thank you for a great post!

  • Watching the news coverage about the flooding in Alberta – seeing the damage and how little time people had to evacuate – to narrow it down to the minimalist in me: made me realize all the more that the less stuff I have, the less I have to carry / sort through. Say I was given three minutes to evacuate….what would I grab? Okay the obvious – any living being that relies on me. (Would I be in such a state of shock, would I even be able to think?)

    I have a couple of cans of peaches in the pantry and some crackers, dried pasta, but try to keep the food bulk to a minimum. It’s easier for me to plan meals when I know exactly what I have / need to add to the grocery list. But I always have extra cat food. I can get by with the pantry basics for a few days, but the cat needs his food.

    All emergency documents / papers / contact lists are in one location in a folder – easy to grab. I have my small carry-on bag that is pre-packed with basic toiletries and layered clothing items. I do not want to life in the “what if” sense, and can appreciate all those that have to prepare for such in the parts of the world where they live.

    However, thinking back to those in Alberta – that were evacuated from their work place and were not even allowed to get home…well even my minimal preparations wouldn’t have helped in such a case. I admire the resilience of people who can get through a disaster like those floods. I don’t know what my mental / emotional state would be in such a situation.

    I leave it in God’s hands.

  • Sounds like there’s not a lot in the way of potential natural disasters in your area! Here in prime earthquake country (SF Bay Area), I’ve been focusing lately on putting together 72-hour kits for the whole family. No huge stockpiles – and I’ve certainly seen a lot of that when I’ve been online looking for emergency prep info – but enough that we could survive on our own for a bit. I hope we never have to use them, but in this area, a big earthquake at some point is a very real possibility as is the possibility that basic services would be out for a bit (or longer).

    I think it makes sense to be prepared for what is the most likely disaster in your area and not go crazy going overboard (ie: I’m not about to start preparing for a nuclear meltdown).

  • Very good thoughts! Exactly how I feel. We are in New Jersey and when the super storm Sandy was coming, we had DAYS to prepare, and we did. After the hurricane passed I had tons of canned goods and things that were taking up a lot of space even in my own tiny bedroom. Because we didn’t loose electricity like others around me did, I didn’t really need those cans of food or extra supplies. I decided that I didn’t want to keep it all for a what if another storm comes and used most of it already. I tend to rationalize in terms of what if something big happens and there is no way of being prepared? and what if you are away from home and those things you have stocked up really won’t help you? So the only preparations I have is a flashlight for each one of us, a battery radio, extra change of clothing in the trunk of the car with snacks, water. In the apt we have extra water and food for just in case, but not tons of it like for a natural disaster. There are things we can never really be prepared for.

  • Real emergencies are faced by many people whether or not they are in a zone that has faced disaster before. 3 days to 2 weeks of food, water and TP is a good idea for everyone. You can be minimal about it. And if you choose to be fooled by the attitude that “everything is all fine and always will be” then you had better be very good friends with someone who has a well stocked pantry!

    • I don’t think that people are saying that everything will always be fine. I think people are saying that considering your personal situation and making choices based on that will be much more beneficial than general stockpiling. I live in one of these safer zones so I don’t stockpile either . BUT, if I lived in tornado alley, I would assess our needs based on the threats and plan accordingly. With that said, I am not naive enough to think that nothing bad will ever happen. Honestly, I think building community with your neighbors may be the best line of defense; not to raid their supplies but to problem solve within the moment working as a team if and when something happens. The variables within a disaster are great. And, then, the daily benefits of good neighborly relationships can be enjoyed the rest of the time.

      • Juanita – you took the words out of my mouth. I’ve been hearing/reading about stockpiling and even had it recommended to me. It doesn’t make sense for how we want to live (with less stuff) and where we live (not a danger zone for tornados, hurricanes, etc). Emergency essentials are wise for everyone but dooms day supplies? Not for my family.

  • I have three days’ worth, usually, but could eek out longer if we were in dire straits. I tend to agree that the amount of prep some people do is excessive. HOWEVER, I have been through so many random freak weather situations in our different places of residence that I do not dare go without three days’ food and water in the pantry. Huge flooding in the state I grew up in (that never floods where we lived), a blizzard in the South, hurricanes, and earthquakes. That said, it is on a specific shelf and I use those ingredients anyway. (I can seasonal produce and usually have canned salmon/beans on hand, as well as nuts or dried fruit.) I don’t go out of my way to “prep” for long-term issues, but I do buy in bulk for my freezer or for canning because I prefer to eat locally and generally-speaking, seasonally. But, if it’s not something we’d eat anyway I don’t have it. My fridge is full of produce, which rarely takes a week to eat anyway. (I shop twice a week for those things.)

    In case of a zombie apocalypse or nuclear war, I figure none of us will last long even with a year’s supply of food and water.

    I do know a food hoarder, though, and it’s hard to see so much go to waste on a regular basis just because that person has no idea what’s in the pantry or fridge.

    • This is pretty much my philosophy. I decide what disasters are likely where I live (flood, fire, earthquake, blizzard, power interruption, water interruption, tornado, hurricane, civil unrest, etc.) and how I am likely to respond (flee or shelter in place). Then I prepare for those outcomes.

      Currently my likely risks are blizzard, power interruption, and water interruption; and I’ve decided I’m likely to shelter in place. So I have ways to keep warm; a generator + fuel to power my deep freezer; ways to cook without electricity; about 20 person-days of drinking water; and a lot of shelf-stable food, some of which doesn’t need cooking.

      But the reason I have a lot of food is to save money: I stock up when it’s cheap. Like Celia, I buy only what I’d eat anyway and eat the oldest stuff first.

      My preparations would be very different if I were going to flee: a bug-out bag of food, cash in small bills, iodine, medical supplies, important papers, hard drive.

  • I used to be an avid prepper. I watched all the shows, i stocked up my pantry, i worked out intricate plans to retrieve my children and bring them home….. I had grand plans to build a root cellar, secret food stashes….

    Eventually after I realised my anxiety had skyrocketed and I could barely sleep due to contemplating all the potential “end of world scenarios” that could possibly happen I realised I had to stop. Prepping for an emergency stopped me living my life today.

    I do still believe that it is important to have a least a few days supplies, and also to consider your local environment. Ie; if the heating went out in winter, what would you need to keep your family warm. Do you need to prepare for tornadoes/hurricanes? Also to have important documents in an easy to grab and go location.

    I am much more balanced with it all now. Being prepped is certainly a good thing, but don’t do what I did and forget about the now as well!

  • I’m not prepared for the zombie apocalypse, but I am confident we could survive a week in our home with no electricity, no ability to get anywhere (assuming no one is injured, obviously if we needed hospital-level care being stuck in the home would be a problem …), no food (except what’s stashed), and no drinkable water.

    In winter, I try to keep enough wood on hand we could heat for a week with just firewood in the wood stove. We have a gas grill (with canisters, not on the gas line) we could cook on, and boil water if need be to make it drinkable (our stove is electric). We certainly have enough food — dry/canned goods, not in the ‘fridge, for heavens’ sake (who could imagine that would work?) — that we could get through a week without starving, though it wouldn’t be a nutritionally balanced week, or a scrumptious one.

    We live a mile from the nearest shopping center, and as long as we have gas in the car (though we’re not diligent about that, day-to-day), we can use it to run one plug-into-an-outlet appliance, if we want to. No good for a crockpot or fridge, but it could run the coffee maker or electric teapot.

    Where I live, we’ve twice in the past 2 decades had periods when significant portions of our town were without power and, in one case, safe drinking water for a week to ten days — one hurricane, one ice storm. So being able to cope for at least several days (getting blocked in by fallen trees and having stores closed are real possibilities) makes sense to me, but except for keeping an eye on the firewood, everything I’ve described is just stuff we have around/on hand and don’t need to think about much.

  • Oh my… back in 2005 I sorta freaked out a bit after hurricane Katrina. Hurricanes are such a big problem here in landlocked Colorado, don’t you know? :-) It was just all that footage of people with no food and no water that got to me.

    So in my zeal to “be prepared” I went out and stocked the basement with about $250 worth of canned food, dry beans, rice etc. It seemed like such a good idea at the time… Of course, I didn’t exactly think it through. I bought all sorts of things that I envisioned “needing” in a disaster, but wouldn’t actually use under normal circumstances, like, ahem, several cases of canned spinach. Oy!

    I also didn’t come up with a system for rotating the stock, so I had no earthly idea what I had, and while there was stuff down there that I could have used, I fear I ended up just buying more because digging through it all to find a can of olives proved to be not worth the effort.

    Anyhow, I ended up throwing out several HUGE boxes of food and it took over a year of concerted effort to eat up the rest. I think… at least I HOPE I have finally learned my lesson!

    I do think that it’s important to be at least somewhat prepared here in Colorado, because I’ve been snowed in for several weeks at a time before, and the power often goes out during a big snowstorm. But I’m vowing to keep it to a more reasonable level this time around!

  • Interesting discussion. I have never thought much of being prepared for emergencies, but I know I am on most levels. I have a few stores I like to go to near my folks’ place, but since they’re 2 hr away from where we live, I tend to stock up for a few months on certain items (namely bulk items from an Amish store). I’m blessed with plenty of room out of the way for storing it. I have a set amount of shelving though, and don’t let it spill over. I think in the case of emergency, selection wouldn’t be that important. While rice is kinda borning plain day in and day out, it is easy to store, lasts a long time, and would get you by. Plus, as a pantry staple, it’d be something you would eat up over the course of time. Now water is something I don’t know about. I’m not comfortable buying bottled water on a regular basis- such a waste! can you drink water from the dehumidifier? Would need something to store it in, and perhaps that’s not safe. Don’t know.

    • Sarah – you can use water from your hot water heater, the dehumidier, the condensation from your AC, and from the tank in your toilet. The issue with all of these is whether there is mold/muck/algae in the vessels. If there is, then the water might need to be purified – you can use iodine (2-10 drops per quart, depending on how mucky the vessel is) or chlorine (I don’t know the protocol).

  • Funny, but I recently told my husband, “You know with all these apocalypse movies out, it’s looking like surviving ‘the end of the world’ isn’t a really great option.” I grew up in hurricane central. If one was coming, we filled the washing machine, bathtub, and every spare pot with water. Some for drinking, some for toilet flushing. (We had a well, so no electricity meant no water.) Then when I moved to the Dakotas, I never let the car get below half tank and always had a bit extra water, canned goods, and blankets. I figured if it got really bad in winter, we had a fireplace and surely paper and furniture will burn. I told my husband if we move to tornado land, I want a basement. Period. However, I guess I’m only minimal-ish because I DO have that embroidery thread and some other craft supplies on hand for when a kiddo needs a quick something for their imaginary play. But it works for us, though I do have to be careful to not let it get out of control. Books and crafts–my personal “stuff battle”.

  • Hmmm. Here in Ireland we don’t even need the zombies, give us half an inch of snow and life stops. :) So yes, in the winter when/if snow is forcastes, I count my blessings that I live in the capital and that can just walk down to our local butcher/greengrocer/TESCO so no need to stock up. So far, never experienced empty shops, maybe slightly lower supplies. :)

  • Living in Vancouver and having the ever-present risk of a cataclysmic earthquake, we do have an emergency evacuation kit – a duffel bag with food, water, first aid supplies and some emergency essentials (a crank-operated flashlight/radio combo, a whistle, a multi-tool).

    When we started putting it together and were looking online for suggestions, we realized you can get really elaborate about the contents (three changes of clothes per person, work boots, portable toilets, etc. etc.), but at the end of the day, the thing has to be small and portable enough that you can actually evacuate with it, otherwise you may find yourself with a stockpile of stuff burning or floating away while you run.

  • I am still learning to cut down on the ‘just in case I need it someday’ stuff, but slowly getting there. Having food in my fridge has never crossed my mind, simply because if we were in that kind of emergency, surely there would be no electricity so all that extra food would go bad (not to mention that it sounds needlessly wasteful to stock your fridge with more than you can consume as surely the excess will have to be thrown out).

  • In most zombie apocalypse dramas, it’s the people with few possessions, who keep on the move who seem to survive; those with minimalists tendencies are well suited to this!

  • For me “stockpiling” is more about the financial aspect. Since my family likes canned tuna fish I buy a case of it for. 50 cents a can. If it is normally .80 cents then I save $7 that way. Just an example not exact prices. My husband got laid off twice in two years and both times we made less each new job. Because we didn’t have any “toys” to upkeep, no debt minus our little affordable house, etc, we were able to make it okay. I do a little home canning with my mother and do have a stockpiled pantry. The key is to know when it is excess for your family and make sure it is food you actually use so it doesn’t become a waste.

    By the way, love the blog and it gets me thinking in ways I didn’t use to think. I have a little one being born next month and am looking forward to less stuff that I will be using / spending compared to the last kids.

  • As ever, it depends who you are and where you live… It’s certainly ok for me to have a couple of bottles of water around for an emergency (we get a crateful of mineral water delivered monthly, so that’s covered….) and a few tins in the back of the cupboard, we wouldn’t starve for a few days. However, that will depend on how you define emergency – where I live, there are no floods, droughts, hurricanes, bush or forest fires and no expected earthquakes… so the worst I can expect is for electricity to maybe go off for a few hours if there was a really huge storm (unlikely), with an even slighter chance of losing water. This hasn’t happened in the 30 years I’ve been an adult, so there is no reason for me to stockpile food. And certainly nothing else!

  • I really like this blog post. I often feel a bit panicy that some impending disaster is approaching and I am ill prepared. This puts things into perspective a bit. In fact if you have bottled water you are more prepared than me!!

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