Camping & Survival

Throwback Thursday: Urban Survival and Prepping for Beginners: Food and Water

Cans stacked in an organizer in a small coat closet

Many conversations about prepping revolve around living off the grid or establishing a bug-out retreat. Those who have either of those options are lucky, because in reality, there aren’t many who do. 80.7 percent of Americans live in urban areas and just don’t find it necessary, or probable to leave their lives and well-paying jobs in the city. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be serious about preparing for disasters.

crowded city street
Do you have a long-term survival plan for living in the city?

Every Sunday for the next five weeks, the Shooter’s Log will post two rules for the beginner urban prepper. This series will teach the basics of what to store and how in small spaces, security, bugging in, and establishing the right mindset to survive a collapse of society and city services.

We will start with the basic necessities—food and water.

Do you know how to get the water from your hot water heater?

  • First, take a large bowl or bucket and put it under the hot water heater.
  • Then, cut the power to the water heater.
  • After turning the power off, close the valve to the hot water heater’s water supply.
  • Open the valve at the bottom of the water heater.
  • Finally, turn a water faucet on elsewhere in the house.
  • Water will pour out. Filter and purify the water from the hot water heater before drinking it, as dirt and sediment deposits from the tank may come lose and end up in expelled water.

Rule #1 Water

The typical recommendation for water storage is one gallon of water per person per day. However—and fortunately—there are plenty of survival experts and disaster first responders who say that this recommended amount just isn’t enough. Will that amount keep you alive? Almost certainly. However, you want to do more than just survive—especially if your bug-in situation is going to last more than a few days. Think about all you need water for—drinking, cooking, cleaning, hygiene, first aid, gardening… You’re going to need more than a few gallons. For example, maintaining proper hygiene during a survival situation is more important than you might think.

Storage of water in tight spaces is an issue. Use your closets and other dark places creatively and keep water in all of the places you can spare the room. Further, invest in collapsible water storage containers and a quality water filter. (Check out Katadyn, which makes everything from individual pocket filter straws to community and base-camp water purification systems.) Cases of pre-bottled water, as opposed to plastic gallons of water can be easier to store because they are stackable.

In an emergency, note all of the water sources near you—pipes, hot water heaters, sprinkler systems, roof top water containment or rain barrels, swimming pools, hot tubs, and water fountains. It will be risky accessing water from these sources, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Boiling, using purifying chemicals, and even plain household bleach will make water from these sources safe to drink.

Rule #2 Food

The Canned Food Alliance says—at a minimum—to store the equivalent of two cans of food per day per person for emergencies. Canned foods last for years, are cheap and offers a wider variety than non-perishable boxed food items. They also do not require anything other than a heat source and a flame-safe pot or pan to prepare. In a pinch, you don’t even have to heat up canned food for it to be safely edible.

Other non-perishable food choices are MRE-style meals and freeze-dried foods. Freeze-dried foods need water to rehydrate and come in either foil packages or 10-lb. cans—both of which can be difficult to store when space is at a premium. Many of the freeze-dried food companies offer packaged meals in a big plastic bucket, which is convenient for storage, but these buckets only provide one-week worth of food. Cases of MREs come in boxes, which are stackable and easier to conceal. Both MRE and freeze-dried food companies offer food heaters. An advantage to freeze-dried food is the variety of complete dishes they offer that taste just like popular frozen food meals you find in you grocery aisle every day.

Cans stacked in an organizer in a small coat closet
This screen shot from AlaskaGranny shows a creative way to store cans and long-term food in the coat closet of a small apartment.

Beans and rice are staples in the prepper’s pantry.

Your best bet is to incorporate all the different types of long-term food storage as space allows—a mixture of cans, dry goods, non-perishables, as well as freeze-dried and MREs.

Avoid using a gas or charcoal grill. It’s just asking for neighbors and wonderers to come sniffing by. Sterno and Sterno-like fuels are safe to use indoor and will heat up your food nicely.

Utilize all the space you have in your urban dwelling for storage of food—under beds, in the pantry, hall closet—anywhere you have room. Apartment preppers will also build “furniture” out of their preps. Stack up MRE boxes or bottled water to create side tables. Throw a long tablecloth over it and lamp on top and no one is the wiser.

For more on collecting, filtering and purifying water, click here.

For more on long-term food storage, click here.

Do you have any food and water storage tips for beginners? Share them in the comment section. Remember to return to the Shooter’s Log next week for part two: Bugging In vs. Bugging Out.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (16)

  1. HOW DARE you publish that the drinking of “pool/spa water” is “safe/OK” Consuming such WILL KILL. It shuts down kidney function. Pool chemicals CANNOT be filtered OUT! Shame!!

  2. Anyone who is prepping for survival should be told AND REMBER, IN ORDER, the following:
    SSWWFF

    S – Security – Without security, you won’t keep what you have.
    S – Shelter – Without shelter, the environment will kill you.
    W – Waste – Waste is always with you, figure out where to put it.
    W – Water – You can only survive 3 days without clean water (that is why Waster disposal comes first)
    F – Fuel – Warmth, clean water, and cooking require fuel.
    F – Food – You can survive 3 weeks without eating. That is why food is your least concern.

  3. Its 2019, life in earthquake prone california has taught me a few lessons. Food and water goes in your body and must go out. I used liter soda bottles for water storage and its a lot of work. Only redeeming feature was that it doesn’t take much space and costs little; have some packed since 1990 to refill toilet for flushing. Always keep bleach (non fragrance-the smelly type) replaced every year or so, it does wear out for water purification. I have some commercial emergency water packets in deep storage for over 20 years, along with Datrex food bars; be sure you can tolerate emergency food before you buy a lot. Don’t forget good quality garbage bags suitable waste disposal, the smaller 10 gal size is more practical for me… Need I say toilet paper. Small shovel to dispose of said bags or to scoop dirt to mix with it. Never had to use any of it but feel better for having it.

  4. For people new to preparedness, I’d suggest they buy a good book on the subject as that will list everything they would need for cooking, washing, bathing and hygiene, and how to create a good medical kit. While food and water are big priorities, we still need to go to the bathroom, we will need tools and supplies to feed ourselves, to maintain ourselves and our environment to avoid getting sick from germs. This means paper towels, wet towelettes, toilet paper, tissues, tampons, a bucket toilet and kitty litter or a portable chemical toilet. You’ll also need hand sanitizer, bleach, maybe Lysol and isopropyl rubbing alcohol. The person planning must know how much fuel will be needed to cook with and how much of everything else will be enough.

    You may also need lighting, thus flashlights and lanterns and lots of batteries. Oil lamps and candles are also viable, but require caution in their usage. A hand crank/solar radio is a welcome item to keep informed and entertained plus many can charge a cell phone.
    I’ve been thru several power outages after hurricanes and you always think “I should have bought….” Planning is everything.

  5. sly156, just in case you by chance check back here…
    the modular white plastic can storage system used by AlaskaGranny was/is sold on the internet.
    Since the Cansolidator can be configured to most small sized cans, storage of pretty much whatever canned products you want are easily possible.
    Larger cans such as #10 cans of freeze dried food can be stored in the larger Thrive Life free standing and mobile storage racks.
    I have both of these systems and they work quite well.
    Perfect for FIFO food storage (First In First Out), without having to rearrange everything periodically in order to achieve the same results.

  6. Couple cases of MRE over here. Mountain house meals over there. Beans in that cabinet, canned goodies in the other cabinet. Cases of drinking water to rotate through. Sawyer water filters. The mini (sp105, I think). Perfect for any situation. A good .22, or pellet gun in the city, can help secure fresh protein and not attract too much attention.
    Doesn’t take a lot of money. More presence of mind and one can be worlds ahead of most other folks. As one commenter said below, share the knowledge, but I would do so carefully of course. An anonymous forum such as this is fine, but in person, nope.

  7. I’m with you on my dog. I love my dog more than some of my family. I will shoot and eat my neighbor before I kill my dog. Just saying. =)

  8. Prepping is an incredibly broad topic which usually leads to convoluted feedback which can quickly spin so out of control that it overwhelms and scares off otherwise willing beginners before they even get started prepping.

    Let us keep in mind that we preppers do ourselves a service by helping and encouraging others to get on board. The easier we make it for others, the more apt they are to get started. This benefits all of us because the more people we convince and assist in becoming self-sustaining leads to less encounters of otherwise starving, violent, and thieving masses once the SHTF. So yes, it is highly advisable to hide your predatory storage stocks from the public, but not your knowledge.

    With that said, I know it is a free country where anyone can post anything they feel, however I ask that in keeping with the spirit of properly encouraging future preppers, that we stay as close to the exact subject matter as it is presented throughout this series of articles over the coming weeks. This week covers Food and Water, so let’s please stick to that this week.

    My input this week is that we often forget about the incredibly specific needs of newborn infants, toddlers, and children. Most often their Food and Water is one and the same as it is derived from baby formulas. Whether pre-made or powder-mixed with water, please add in this unique consideration when estimating your family’s proper Food and Water supplies.

    Aside from dry formulas, consider the additional Water stores required for powdered milks and powdered drink mixes that include vitamins. Outside of Water needed for consumption it is also required for keeping the younger more vulnerable babies clean along with their soiled diapers and sanitizing baby bottles and nipples.

    Even if you have a good supply of disposable diapers and wipes, eventually they run out and thereafter Water is required to clean babies each time they are changed to prevent the spread of bacteria from their developing immune systems.

    As for Water storage, the author already mentioned water heaters as a potential source. Add to this toilet water. If water supplies become cut off, do not use or flush your toilets as this water will not be replenished. The amount of water from each toilet can yield 5-7 gallons between the bowl and tank. If you never use drop-in cleaning agents the water may be purified and consumed. Otherwise it may still be suitably used for other basic sanitation purposes.

    Emergencies that do come with forewarnings such as impending hurricanes allow for more preparation time. For this there are durable bathtub sized water bags for sale as low as $19 that fit in your bathtub holding 100 gallons of water and include a hand pump to dispense the water as needed.

  9. Too many “preppers” worry about guns and ammo and even food, but they forget about water, sanitation, antibiotics to treat infections, etc. You need to branch out and look at the big picture.

    1. Lets branch out—-

      T.P. and baby wipes. Disposable diapers are clean absorbent and good for dressing wounds, you need no tape. TAPE!!! lots of it in different types.

      Hard Booze — As a fire starter (151 rum,ever clear), mild sedative, germ killer, keep granny quiet.

      Condoms– to keep things like matches dry. And to keep rain mud sand out of your muzzle-a old GI trick. Oh ya, and just because SHTF it don’t mean you wont get lucky. Refer back up to “hard booze”

      Dog food– When all else is used up you can eat the dog. Half the world does!

      Seeds– for fast growing high out put crops.

      This just keeps going. Got to go feed the dog.More latter.

    2. I hear ya, but, My dog is a member of my family. If it got down to that my dog and I would starve together. I would never sacrifice my dog. Your response to my comment might be that I dont know for sure what I would do in that situation until I got there but I am sure of what I say, so with that, Love Your Dog.

  10. Food– Remember that when SHTF you probably won’t have electricity . That means NO fridge. If you open it you need to eat it before it goes bad.

    Buy small cans of stuff you already use NOT the big cans. That way you rotate them every week not just when they swell and leak! You can only eat so many beans at one time and not blow up!

    Most of your prep overlaps from one disaster to the other.

    Get your kids involved even if they are small. They need to know this stuff because YOU MAY NOT BE HOME!!!!

    1. @ OLD & GRUMPY.

      NO REFRIDGERATION. 3-D Food Printer (Protein Resequencer), Textured Vegetable Protein as Medium. About an 8′ x 4′ x 4′ Closet Space and about 1-year output, maybe longer “guesstimate”…

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