Prepping for the Financially Challenged: Basic Survival Strategies For Apartments and Confined Spaces

truther March 30, 2012 3

Tom Chatham

Previously we talked about basic critical preps for apartments. Once these basic elements are secured, you will want to expand your supplies to increase your capabilities. Your expanded supplies will be dictated by three things. They will be based on your individual situation, your personal preferences and your financial capability. The potential list of supplies based on these things is infinite so we won’t try to list all of the conventional items but instead let’s look at some unconventional things.

In the area of sanitation and hygiene it will be important to keep clean. Your cleanliness will be a contributing factor to your overall health. Women have their own special needs so they should plan for this accordingly. Overall you should have a way to shower at least once a week and clean yourself a few times in between. This can be as simple as having a supply of baby wipes and a solar shower to use. With the solar shower just keep in mind that you will need a way to hang it up high that can support 50 or so pounds. One solution to this might be to use a step ladder that supports your shower when you need it and the rest of the time its’ steps can be used to hold small planters such as for sprouts.

As for sanitation you will need to have a good supply of toilet paper but even so you need to plan on the day when you will run out, then what do you do? The yellow pages may help for a while but even that is a limited resource. You may need to have some type of cloth that you can reuse and a way to clean it so you need to figure that out now. One solution may be to keep a small supply of cloth baby diapers which are made for this similar purpose. If you have the resources to maintain cloth diapers then you should be covered.

I have just one final note on sanitation. Your water supply may be limited so you want to make the most from what you have. After you shower you might want to save this grey water for watering your plants. Cut the top off of a milk jug or large plastic bottle, fill it two thirds with sand and punch a few small holes in the bottom, wrap a tightly woven piece of cloth around the bottom and pour your grey water through it catching this filtered water in a container. This should remove most of the soap scum. It would also help if you were to use organic or bio compatible soap with chemicals that your plants can use.

On the subject of water, you will be dependent on whatever local sources you have over the long term. This may be a puddle, pond or river. There are two main problems I see with foraging for water in an emergency situation. Most people will not have the filtering and storage capability that you do and going out in public will advertise this fact. The other thing is, the first problem may lead to you becoming a target of those unprepared and wishing to upgrade their position. Moving around too much in public could be very dangerous.

Because of these dangers it would be much safer long term to have a rain catchment system. For an apartment this is a tricky problem. If you have a balcony you can set up a tarp and channel the rainwater into containers. If you have access to the roof you can set up the same system. A more advanced system might involve having a rain barrel on the roof with a threaded pvc connector that a garden hose can attach to. This hose can be hung over the side of the building and down to your window. The hose can be run through your window and have a shut off valve on it to aid in filling containers. A nylon collapsible type of hose would be easier to store and handle and most of these components could be secured in your apartment until needed. If your apartment is more than about 200 feet from the roof this system may not work because of the weight of the water in the hose. It could actually drag your barrel off of the roof unless it is well secured. This should give you some ideas to ponder as you plan the system that will work best for you.

The conventional approach to food is to store canned and dehydrated goods but this could run out at some point. One way to insure sustained access to food is to grow some of your own. This is difficult in the confined space of an apartment but is possible. If you have a balcony you will have room for more planters but almost all apartments have at least one large window that you can use. You need to grow the most food in the least amount of space so certain plants with a high yield will become obvious. Things such as tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and peppers that can be grown vertically work well and have a small footprint. Other plants such as carrots, beets, turnips, radishes and lettuce are compact and can be grown in small containers and provide a good yield.

Here is something that most people don’t consider. With a potato tower you can produce up to 100 lbs of potatoes in a container with a footprint of 4 square feet. The plans for this can be found on the net so I won’t go into a lot of details on it. Most people plant a summer garden but don’t think about a winter garden. You may grow some plants in your apartment during the winter but will they live if you have no heat? Things like cabbage, turnips, brussel sprouts, spinach and collards can survive a lot of cold weather and even if you have no heat these things will live and provide you with fresh produce throughout the winter. Two potato towers and a few planters can provide you with a great deal of life sustaining food. In the winter your potato towers can be laid on their side and used as planters for large things like cabbage and collards providing you a good dual use for them.

Here is another plan for providing food throughout the year. If you are allowed to keep pets such as birds then why not keep chickens. You can keep four Rhode Island Red pullets in a cage and be provided with about 2 dozen eggs every week. They will need at least 4 square feet per bird or more if possible. A multilevel cage would work well. For 4 birds you would need 4 bags of lay ration and 1 bag of cracked corn. This 250 lbs of feed would keep your birds fed for about a year. For about $65 worth of feed you would get about 100 dozen eggs, not a bad deal. The egg shells can be fed back to the chickens for extra calcium and any trimmings from your garden would make them very happy birds. The only other thing you would need to stock is a bag of granite grit to feed them to help with digestion. Another good thing to keep in mind is that chicken manure is some of the best fertilizer you can get. Chickens are also very cold hardy as long as you keep them out of the wind so a cold apartment would not bother them.

You could almost survive with nothing more than two potato towers and four chickens. This would provide you with three eggs and over half a pound of potatoes a day. While not ideal it would go a long way towards prevention of starvation and desperation. One last word on apartments, other than security issues regarding two legged critters, the main threats you face are destruction of the building and fire, which may be one and the same. If an earthquake or similar destructive force takes down the building there is not much you can do except make your peace with God and try to get out. With a fire you may have enough time to gather your critical supplies and evacuate. You need to plan on a hasty evacuation and have a list of must take supplies. These will allow you to set up another home and continue caring for yourself. In this instance one special item you might need is a respirator or protective mask to filter out the smoke so that you can make it to the lower levels and escape. This is a very real threat in the city during a grid down situation because water and firefighters may not be available to assist you.

Planning for long term self sufficiency in an area that is not designed for it can be daunting but it can be done if you take the time to think everything through carefully while you have the time. The greatest asset you have is your mind so fill it with all that you can to make the best use of available resources. In the next article we’ll look at single family homes and some things that are unique to that situation.


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  1. Jennie September 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    These are some great ideas! Thanks

  2. Marie May 5, 2012 at 10:11 pm - Reply

    You should really be careful doing this. I was a prepper and lost my daughter because of it. The government said I had “too much food” and was a “hoarder” and took her away from me forever. I had moved to a new place and was unpacking. A family member that I had problems with called the government on me. I am now considered too dangerous to be around my own child and it’s been months since I was even allowed supervised visits with her. My daughter was even telling people that I had been falsely accused and was begging to come home. The government worker lied and said I “admitted” to things I had never said and stuff that had never even happened.

    So, be very careful doing this prepping stuff if you have children.

    • Kruiznik June 26, 2012 at 2:08 am - Reply

      Thats why if the government attempts something illegal, always good to have a awy to get DSS away from your door. I prefer rotwieler, or 100k volt tazer, and tell them to come back with a warrant stating what law you actually broke, and the law saying it is illegal to be prepared. Then ask them if are supposed to be like FEMA, unprepared? After all, a disaster couldn’t happen, right? I hope you find a way to get your daughter back!

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