Sneaky prepping and prepping by stealth.

This week we are going to wander off track a little bit.  Cath just started a Facebook group called Cheapskates Prepare.   Her timing is impeccable!  Even people who called us nuts for having well stocked pantries are wanting to learn and be better prepared now.   In the last few years we have have seen things no one would ever have believed.  No one.  Now many of us feel the sense of urgency to get things well and truly squared away in our households.  If you have that feeling,  no,  you are not crazy! 

I will tell you some things I have experienced personally in the last three years.   During this time Dad died as well.  Two babies were born.  My Uncle also passed away. 

We had to evacuate due to a massive wildfire.  A house down the road burned down and thousands of hectares around us.  It was terrifying and we had five minutes to leave.

We had another fire close by and were ready to leave again.

We have had massive shortages and empty supermarket shelves.  Like... some entire isles completely empty.  In my life I have never seen that.

We had rationing in the form of store limits. ie one loaf of bread per customer, two milk... many times this affected twenty or more different staple products.  If you were a single person household or a twelve person household you got the same. 

We had a new way of shopping that was patchy... sometimes you could get things and sometimes not.

To get to my daughters house I had to pass through police and army checkpoints. 

To get home again I had to do the same.  One time they didn't think I was allowed to go home.  After an hour they let me but I had to go to a dr first to have tests for covid.  

My daughter had a baby in hospital and went home with her newborn.  The dr wanted the baby to come back each day to be weighted and checked.  There were some issues.  Lucy was not allowed to take the baby back.  The specialist wrote an urgent letter to the government saying he must see this baby and the government answer was too bad. 

People began to hide in boots of cars and trucks to cross from one state to another. 

People were not allowed to attend their parents funeral,  visit a dying relative,  check on the elderly and well you know all of that. 

We were told not to sing,  attend church or speak to our neighbours.  

Through this my Dad was no longer here.   Sometimes I was thankful as he would have been very distressed.  The police visited our house and demanded to know why I had not had my covid test at the doctors.  They drove an HOUR to get here..   I had done all the right things and had to convince them when, what time and where.   

Still today the overall availability and quality of food has dramatically plummeted and what is there is many many times the price it used to be. 

Many medicines are in short supply.  Many things such as tires, parts, vehicles etc are very hard to get.

(For anyone new we are in SE of South Australia.) 

If anyone tells me there is no need to be prepared all I can say is 🙄 !

Quite a few people we know decided to try and be more independent from the shops and help each other out.  This is good and has helped us build up a bit of a network.    Some family members are really well set up and prepared and some less so.   This leads me to my subject...  how to quietly help others be better prepared.  

I do not like to give useless gifts.  I want to give gifts that are helpful or useful or may even safe the day or a life.   In the last few years some of the things I have given my son in laws,  brothers and daughters include:   first aid kits,  blackout kits with candles,  torches,  (flashlights) matches, lighters etc.,  snake bite kits,  a Berkey water filter,  stainless steel water bottles,  Mosquito zappers and good torches.   I gave Chloe a dehydrator also.  Giant beautiful candles.  This is a good one as they are so lovely,  decorative but alternative lighting for many, many hours! 

My Dad gave myself, Chloe and Lucy each a dozen fruit trees.   That was a wonderful gift.   

Other ideas I have up my sleeve are padlocks,  security signs, thick socks, good boots,  cold packs, wool blankets or underlays,  eye glass repair kits, solar phone chargers, solar torches, battery operated radios.   Good work gloves,  good tarpaulins, tools,  

What else?  A BBQ as then there is an alternative way of cooking and heating water.  Camping gear. 

My Grandkids are little but if I live to see them through the teenage years they will be getting:  good tools,  sewing machine,  (Harper already wants one) sewing scissors, sewing kits,  cookware and so on.

When they have cars they will be getting:  strong torches,  first aid kits, pure wool blankets...

If you are asked what you might like for Christmas or a Birthday have some handy dandy suggestions ready to go!  

Some ideas:

Jars!  Canning jars, lids...


A vacuum sealer.

Vac sealer bags.

Mylar bags. 

A dehydrator.


A load of compost. 

A worm farm.

A compost bin.


A chicken coop.

A food processor.

Essential oils.

Reference books/homesteading/preserving books.

Water bath canning equipment.

A pressure canner.

Pantry shelves.

A first aid course. 

Garden tools.

Cast iron cookware.

A pizza oven. 

A load of firewood. 

A mushroom grow kit. 

A sprouting kit.

Growing pots.

A seed starting kit.

A mini green house.

A wheel barrow. 

I think a family gift can be great and some of the larger items like a BBQ can be more feasible this way.   Or several families get together for one gift.

Our Easter falls in Autumn.   Mum and I conspire and give all the kids warm coats, pyjamas, dressing gowns,  slippers,  hats, scarves, socks... some combination of warm things.  We also buy a whole season ahead.  We include an Easter egg but that is not where the money is spent at all.  I have heard of people spending hundreds on Easter eggs etc which I just don't understand. 

For someone elderly, or who lives alone,  I think some individual home cooked meals for the freezer are a wonderful gift.   Little chicken pot pies,  some soup, muffins... a whole roast dinner.  If you are not sure what to give it might be an idea to ask if they need help with their power bill.   It is not the time to waste money on dumb stuff.  

What else can we add to the list?   We can make an impact with our gifts and have everyone a little bit better prepared without them even noticing.  😊   xxx


  1. We gave our kids portable, battery-powered air compressors, with rechargeable batteries. And spare rechargeable batteries.
    Also good knives. and each got a frying pan.

  2. I have deviated slightly from my handmade Christmas this last week, and have added flints to the stockings for everyone. Being able to light a fire at any time is a good thing to be able to do. Just keep preparing, do what you can as you can, every little bit helps and it adds up. xxx

    1. Reading through all of this reminded me of the dryer lint to go with the flint. I have tons of empty prescription bottles that could be used for fire starters. Thank you for the great ideas.

  3. I live in Central Florida. I always enjoy your articles. Timely, yet sad. May God grant you and your family safety and peace.

  4. Such a wonderful post. Definitely will get our minds working on useful and not wasteful things to do for people’s gifts.

  5. Replies
    1. Totally agree Jenny.🙋🏼‍♀️

  6. Annabel,
    What a thought provoking blog, excellently done. You have made some wonderful suggestions for the ladies to use.

    We always have a useful Christmas here. One item that is always given is a 6 pack or more of socks, slippers (less wear on daily shoes while home.)
    Then we get creative, One Christmas everyone got blankets, whoever owned a car got an emergency pack for it. Large aluminum flash lights, for light and defense,
    Here we have a lot of snow, so we also gave them traction pads if they get stuck. I made up totes with essentials for the cars and to keep warm in winter if stuck.
    Our most fun gift were board games or cards games for to play when the power went out.
    Though the years I have helped my son build his pantry of essentials, he has a better pressure canner, water bath canner, more canning jars than I have, a dehydrator, slowly but surely we work to build his pantry as much as ours.

    Snow shovels were a present one year and a battery charger, there is so much we can add to the list. Even when medical supplies are on sale to put together a tote with essentials.
    Every little bit helps.

    1. Annabel, We always did/still do a practical Christmas, socks, flashlights etc. And always a little fun stuff too. My kids always come to expect that from me. Thank you for the list!

  7. Thank you for this excellent post. I hadn't realized how crazy it had gotten there, with police visits and army checkpoints. I heard yesterday that my niece expressed interest in preparing, so I'll be sending ideas from this list to my sister, as she wants to do this for her Christmas presents. Very helpful, as I've been doing this so long, I forget how it is to start out.

  8. I lost both of my parents in the last three years. After my Dad passed away my Mom sunk into dementia that I think protected her from much of what was going on in the world. We were never able to have a funeral for Dad because everything was locked down tight when he passed away so we had a combined service for the two of them when Mom passed away which I think they would have liked in the end.

    Our adult children only want money for gifts so we cannot outsmart them. All I can do is pray for them. Talking about it causes division so it is best left alone.

    1. Lana, I know exactly what you mean about talking about this stuff just causes division. They will just have to learn for themselves, hopefully without too serious consequences. For me, it was an epic 48 inch snowfall in a town that didn't even own a snowplow. We had been married less than a year, my husband was in graduate school, and luckily, I'd just been to the grocery store a day or two before, so we had food. The power was only out for a short time.

      Another time, when our kids were little, we had an ice storm and our pipes broke. Our power was only out for about two days, but by then I had the beginnings of a pantry and we had camping equipment for cooking and light. Fixing the pipes on Christmas day is another story!

      My sister always made fun of me, but then her daughter married a doctor who preached preparedness...and the pandemic came along. She had already called me to ask about what to do. They were all right.

      One thing you can give adult kids is a solar-powered cell phone charger. Or camping equipment if they ever camp. Just get them started and, hopefully, life will teach them some lessons without serious consequences. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

    2. The above was from me, mikemax aka Maxine. I could swear I was signed in via Google.....

  9. Thank you, Annabel. This is an excellent post and a great source of ideas. Times will only get worse.
    With love,

  10. Oh Annabel! This post brought tears to my eyes! It's so helpful! I'm going to print it out as my starting point to help my family. As I said in my last post I worry about the rest of my family that seems unaware of the need to prepare and it makes me feel overwhelmed. But this post helps. Thank you. I like to give baskets full of goodies and handmade things as gifts. I think I can use your suggestions in the baskets like seeds and a few pots or reference books for this Christmas. Then I'm thinking from there I can move onto bigger things as birthdays come around...This is getting me thinking and feeling more hopeful.

    I do have a lot of those things in your list for myself already. But I can see having this list will be handy when someone ask for ideas for gifts for me. Honestly, I'm usually terrible at answering that question of what do I want for Christmas or birthday or Mother's Day. Now I can say I need mylar bags or more canning jars, etc!

  11. Such a timely post, thank you Annabel. As well as equipping our adult daughters with things we also have given them skills. We gave them jump leads for their cars and my husband taught them how to use them and how to change a tyre etc. We gave them high vis waistcoats, warning triangles, wind up torches, fire extinguishers etc for their cars. A kind aunt made them both really useful toolkits for their 21st birthdays and another gave them really powerful headtorches, the sort used by climbers/ cavers. We have given our son in law cast iron skillets etc which he can use to cook on the outdoor BBQ and pizza oven if need be. I have taught them how to cook and do basic first aid ( ones now a nurse so she can teach me!). Our eldest daughter inherited my late mother's sewing machine and a friend of mine offered a spare sewing machine to me for the youngest daughter. I snapped it up! It's exactly the same as my machine so I will teach my daughter how to use it and give her a copy of the manual. We give them lots of produce from our garden, preserves for their pantries and gave them both slow cookers as presents. We encourage them to batch cook and freeze some for those days when you're ill or too tired to cook.
    I'm looking forward to everyone's suggestions because we want to give useful Christmas presents again this year. Our youngest doesn't have a partner and can't always cope with outside maintenance of her ground floor flat so this weekend the rest of us are gifting her with a working party to sand down and paint some woodwork, replace some rotten wood on a shed door, hedge trim and install remote timers on her heating system. Manual help is worth a lot. Penny.

  12. Rick from Florida and Donna from N Indiana

    I am struck dumb at your story! I believe you but can’t understand why we never heard of those tactics: hiding in car trunks (boots) to cross state lines, and all the rest! We had a bit of that not like you describe! Very frightening!
    Of course you’re comments and suggestions are the best! We’ve had hurricanes and gone to our kids who have a generator, chicken, and several of your suggestions and we’re considering getting a generator. We save drinking water, medical supplies, etc already and will add more from your list!
    Also, your comment about crazy or very expensive Christmas or Easter gifts is so timely! Here we have “Toys for Tots” sponsored by the Marines, I think. You donate a new unwrapped gift at Christmas. We, here in St. Petersburg, have a volunteer program called Santa’s Workshop that repairs dolls and other toys for the poor. Anyone can help by working there or donating! Also, the UK and maybe others, have free repair for appliances stores, you just bring i to our item and they fix it for you free!! Free!
    As scary as your account of things going on and having gone on is, I really recommend we act on all you say here and speak up when you can to educate others! Our little talks and suggestions will go a lot farther to convince someone than a post card campaign will!
    Our grocery store pharmacy closed recently and they sent a letter that all accounts would be transferred, including 2 years back up info. I called the new pharmacy and they only have names and no backup info. Then called grocery store. Manager gave me same: have dr call in new prescriptions. When I asked about back up, they gave same story over. So when I said, that means you don’t care about me and so why should I shop at your store and they just hung up! So ruthless and uncaring!! And my backup lost!!
    Many thanks for always thinking ahead and thinking of us out here around the hinter lands!
    Hoping for a better future and sending a brighter day to all,
    Rick and Donna XOXOXOXOXO

  13. All I can say is, "Wow!". I knew you (Annabel) had been through allot due to the pandemic, but when add it all up. Whew!
    Thanks for the list of useful gifts. I have already written them down in my daytimer and ready for use. I am asking for an egg incubator for Christmas! So far, I have been letting the ducks and banty hens do their jobs. But this year was a bad chick year. The mamas need to up their game. Most of my ladies are old so I need to restock in the Spring.
    Looking forward to reading everyone's comments on a less busy day.🥴
    God bless you all,
    Leslie in Ohio

  14. Hi Annabel,I find these posts really helpful,Thankyou , I have since on your advice bought a water filter berkey, it sits nicely on our kitchen bench, I would be interested to know what a snake bite kit has and where to buy one as we have snakes on our property so I have been really worried from seeing one in our backyard,I know what to do if bitten as I do first aid course every year

  15. Dear Annabel, great and provocative post for the practical people. The way life is and it will be, a useful gift is much more than just a gift.
    People in my life know me well - for my birthday I was gifted yarn for knitting, a very light grass mower, easy to use, a food processor and a coffee grinder, some cosmetics and flowers in pots. For my son*s birthday in Nov. we will pay half of his driver*s license school and some good warm winter clothes and boots. For my husband the gift will be a big box (three inside) of tools, he has already ordered on a discount voucher. No waste here of money or absurd desires.
    I will note down in my special note book many of your ideas and Bluebirds* ideas as they are very very good.
    Thank you!
    Lots of love from far away. Laura_s_world from Romania

  16. Excellent ideas, Annabel. The last three years have been crazy- full of the kind of stuff that would be hard to believe if we didn't live through it and see it with our own eyes. I honestly do not understand the people who are still asleep. At this point, I'm not sure flashing lights and blaring sirens would help them, but we still have to try.
    Thankfully, my parents are preparedness minded and these types of gifts are the types we give and receive between each other. My dad had mentioned earlier this year that he wanted to get more chickens but that he didn't have the time to raise them from chicks. Well I picked up on this and Colton and I bought chicks and raised them for him, ready just in time for his birthday. He was very surprised and happy. We also gave chickens as a wedding gift to Colton's sister when she got married!
    I do have one thing to add and I know it's not possible for everyone, but I will use Patera's words and say that men especially love "pellets" for their "hole punchers". The way things are, this can go for women, too. (For anyone wondering, I am talking about self defense.) If that isn't possible, maybe a self-defense course. I am very good with a hole puncher but I would like to learn other ways as a backup!
    Then there are actual pellets that are for grilling (bbq). I know Colton would be thrilled if he got a bag of coal for a gift lol, either to cook with or for blacksmithing.
    I love that there are so many ways to disguise preparedness gifts, like beautiful candles or the way you decorate soaps. I'm thinking a laundry-themed hamper would be nice, full of detergent, wool wash, clothespins, a retractable clothesline for in the house, etc. Actually, I just bought a clothes wringer so I can wash by hand if I need to. Now if anyone asks, I can say I want some wash tubs!
    A set of spices for the pantry (so many diy recipes for mixes online) is another idea, or baking ingredients. Flour, sugar, yeast, baking powder, salt, oats, raisins, pecans, peanut butter, etc. can be tied up together like a baking kit. Add chocolate chips and sprinkles so they don't suspect anything 😉
    Going into winter here soon, I am focusing on cold weather preps. I just ordered hot water bottles, Hot Hands (little pouches that heat up with friction), and gloves for the kids. I'm on the lookout for wool blankets. Any of those would make great gifts, plus they have a theme which I think is a bonus when it comes to giving. I love that you and your mum buy warm things for your grandchildren. My parents do this every fall/winter and it is such a blessing to me and Colton to not have to buy so much every year. Plus the kids get so excited over seeing their new things.
    Oh, another thing I just thought of is walkie talkies for communication. We bought these for the kids for when they are out on the ranch with grandpa. They are not quite old enough for them yet, but I think John will be soon. I mention this as some reach long distance and may be an idea for neighbors to communicate in case of a storm, fire, or other emergency.
    Hmmm, now I need to get some paper and make a list!

  17. Dear Annabel,

    I'm sorry I haven't commented in awhile, though I have read every post! You have some really great suggestions here. We do the same, gifting practical items, but there are a few things here that I am adding to either my giving or asking (!) lists! :) My parents set a great example for me by doing this for me when I was younger, and for my hubby and I when we were first married. When I first moved out, I got a multi-tip screwdriver as a birthday present, I remember, and later things like: a yogurt maker (which I still have and use today), a dehydrator (also still have and use), seed sprouter, a sewing machine, a sleeve board for ironing that my dad made for me, a pressure cooker, water bath canning supplies, a pressure cooker canner, a glass kerosene lamp/lantern for power outages, a compass (though admittedly, that was because I pursued a degree that used one, but this is a tool that I still have and use!), etc. Hubby has also gotten tool kits, an air compressor, a battery inverter "powerbank" for power outages, etc., ...and some of this has been from his parents, too, including from both sets of parents some loads of home-canned goods. I think I will look into an incubator for him for Christmas, though we need a new rooster first! Ha, ha. Last year one of the kids gave my husband 2 headlamps, and they were a Godsend during our power outages last year when he had to hook up a generator in the dark, etc. I love the idea of the food for elderly friends/relatives.

    There were a couple of scenarios that you experienced during the last few years that I hadn't known freaky they would have been! We have certainly smartened up for power-outage prep, as ours goes out a lot more often than it used to. Thank you for all the ideas...and the comments section is full of good ones, too!

    Love, Jen in Ns

  18. It makes me shudder to think what was done in the name of C-19. A family member was discharged the next day after open heart surgery because they were not vaccinated. Left at the curb with a non English speaking orderly.
    No follow up home health for the same reason. Crazy times to be sure.
    I am trying to think in the future since so much is uncertain now. Replacement shoes , boots, clothes. Towels. With inflation anytime I see a discount I jump on it.
    Pasta was one thing that disappeared off the shelves. So an inexpensive pasta machine would make a nice gift.
    Extra inter tube for Grandkids bikes.
    Oil Changes are close to $90 so an oil Changing kit would be a great gift for the men.
    A Cold & Flu Kit : Dollar Thermometer , fever reducer, tea, cough drops, hydration pouches, Kleenex or Hankies. Top it off with a can of soup.
    I agree with frivolous gifts are a waste in uncertain times.

  19. Hi Annabel
    By now those who are unable to see their life in any other way than it always has been will be appreciative of the care and common sense that practical gifts reflect. But only if you remind them that the gift will be handy when the next oil shock /hurricane/cyber attack /shopping panic/prolonged power outage (insert most recent local challenge here) occurs.
    Because these people are not noticing the ‘writing on the wall’ you have to read it out to them however you can.

    I add to the gift list the following things:
    one day cookery classes for young couples to attend together which can be expensive but if it fires their interest in cooking it’s a lifelong gift. Like the old saying of teaching a man to fish you feed him for life.

    Also give quality knife sets and cookware when they leave home because if the work of food preparation is easy the actual cooking is then a breeze.

    An IOU of a day's gardening to help them start out is also a good way to get them over the overwhelmed feeling of setting out their own garden. I did a day’s baking tips and methods for my DIL years ago and she loved it and is now a fabulous and adventurous cook and baker. (My son already was 😉) Also with a SIL for sour dough bread know how.

    An old but excellent book called ‘Your Money or Your Life’ by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (if it’s still in print) should catch most hedonists attention. It’s about how if you are reliant on a pay packet to live, what you are sacrificing is not hours but your life and wasting your time and money makes no sense.

    Try to make it something that they understand a bit of the why you chose that gift. Don’t scare them into inaction but maybe a reminder that real life is not actually about overseas holidays and regular salon manicures.

    1. Your Money or Your Life is probably the most helpful financial book I have ever read. Although I read it about 20 years after it was published, the principles were the same. I just wish I would have found it earlier. To this day, I still use their budget method and it keeps me grounded.

  20. We've been thru some tough times, and I'm not sure it's over yet. Food here has been good, with a few shortages continuing. But prices are still rising. Over the summer, I bought myself a solar charger for electronic devices. Should I loose power (or want to recharge my off-grid), I can still recharge my phone and/or tablet. Best investment yet. I set the charger outside in the sun, and use my long charging cord to place my phone in a shady spot. Worked perfectly well.

  21. Lace Faerie aka Karen L24 October 2023 at 23:22

    Excellent reminder of the need to stay vigilant and not to ‘rest upon our laurels’ nor to let us use up our back stock of any essential items. They were hard fought to get, and they will remain so!

    I love the upbeat and encouraging community you have grown here. So nice to find pleasant, loving women who actively encourage and lift one another up! Blessing to all the Bluebirds world wide!


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