There is  an art to living that doesn’t get enough attention, as we see it:  People don’t focus enough on effectively spending their money.

You see, once you have a roof over your head, the difference – particularly when asleep – between living in a MacMansion or a double-wide trailer is approximately zero given the same bed.  Provided the A/C and heat are dialed-in well, there’s no discernable difference.

So, once you have a car – and we still drive that old 2005 Lexus now almost14-years old – there’s not too much point into running out to buy a new one.  As Pappy used to say “Speed limits don’t change for new cars.”   Bills – especially insurance – do.

Clothes are that way, too.  How often do people really wear out clothing compared with how much waste there is in “Fashion?”  Fashion died a decade ago in case you haven’t noticed.  Part of the Great Stupidfication of Social Media.  God help us that successful people look that way.

It really comes down to a matter of what you buy and its Enjoyment Quotient or its Usefulness Quotient.  Divide a thing’s price by its real personal value and you quickly see what has a high payoff and what doesn’t.

Prepping is all  fine and good, but let’s not forget the useful stuff than makes like easier in good times and bad.  Here are some things I try never to run out of:

1. Cream of Mushroom Soup.  This is my #1 prepping food after the rice, oatmeal, and Chinese Egg Noodles.  Why?  Versatility.  Go to the store, buy some cheap cut of meat (beef, pork, poultry – it doesn’t seem to matter), toss it in a skillet and dump a can of cream of mushroom soup on it.  A generous dash of  tarragon, maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper and a tiny dash of nutmeg.  If the meat resembles beef, a teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet. Looks better.  Maybe a tablespoon of wine, too.   Serve with rice, potatoes, noodles, over toast, or whatever turns your crank and a glass of wine.  You are now fed  – loaded some resveratrol to fight aging – and it’s comfort food that will “stick to the ribs.” Under stress it doesn’t take much stirring or supervision or (and the important one to me) work.

By the way, try using oatmeal instead of the conventional pasta, rice, or potatoes as your dinner starch.  Surprisingly, it’s not bad.  Cheap as hell. Fiber out the….  With the right gravy it has something like the “mouth” of dressing.  Toss in a handful of sage and poultry seasoning and who knew?

2 Distilled Water: (The rest are in no particular order, by the way!)  We can’t count the ways, but the main uses are for a personal cleansing (fasting with water-only) and for filling batteries.  Howevert, distilled water is also great for a steamer, humidifier, and to use as a simple “emergency eye wash.”  Yes, prevents scaling in an iron, too.  Remember when people ironed clothes and took pride in appearance?

3. Fingernail Machine:  This has absolutely nothing to do with prepping unless you’re doing a TV show.  But, these new USB rechargeable fingernail machines are dirt cheap on Amazon.  Picked one up for Elaine – just $17!  A HAIRBY Electric Nail File Drill Machine, Rechargeable Manicure Pedicure Tool Buff, Polish, Smooth, Shine Fingers and Toenails (Include 6 Rollers, USB Charging). Damned if I can figure where to get replacement wheels for it, but the price was irresistible.

Tried it out on my nails, after all it is a power tool, right?  Why, I could pass in the Bay Area, lol!

What’s going on in the power tool world right now is manufacturers are ditching “wall-warts” for charging.  USB cables are cheaper.  For to the shop, I picked up the non-girly-girl analog, a $22 Tacklife PCG01B 3.7V Li-on Cordless Rotary tool – Three-Speed with 31-Piece Rotary accessory Kit, USB charging Cable, Collet Size 3/32-inch(2.3mm) – Perfect for Small Jobs.  Along with the supplied parts toss in an 80-piece buffing assortment and you can polish  anything.  That plus a tub of Dremel’s fine polish compound and you’re ready to restore old radio gear OR sport salon-looking nails.  The sanding wheels beat clippers for smooth finishing of ragged fingernails.  The Big Dremel is a bit much for such lowly work.  Although, in a “nail emergency” real men can use a belt sander with great care!  (Burns like hell, otherwise!)

I’ve been looking forward to the demise of “wall wart chargers” for a long time. USB cables offer lower parasitic load for those of us on solar or a mix.

4.  The Adhesive Collection:  Oh, yeah.  One small box with an assortment of Elmers white glue, a six-pack of metal-sealed super glues, some SuperGlue gels, some Duco or Testor’s model glue, and for woodworking, waterproof TiteBond. A tube or three of J-B Weld and a can of Bond-O, five-minute epoxy, ShoeGoo and contact cement are a good starter set. Fresh PVC pipe glue every winter for plumbing issues.

5.  The Picker-Upper:  I keep a squeeze-trigger “picker-upper” in my golf bag because picking up things off the ground in East Texas (play golf in the rough) can be a life-changing event; bugs, scorpions, and snakes.  The older we get, the less inclined to drop down on all fours to grab around for stuff.

If you’re married, better spring $39 bucks for the two-pack: EZ Reacher Outdoor Reacher Pro, 40″ L, 2 Pack.  Besides the golf bag, ours have fished out a million small screws from the shop floor, under the battery bank of the solar power center, small things in “sketchy” areas, and Elaine used it last week to fish part of the cat’s watering bowl out of the bushes.  Seems the hose got a little zealous…and spiders live in bushes.

6.  Hex-base Drill Bits:  Love my impact drill driver. And popping these puppies in – because of their hex-bases – it literally a snap. 

For $10-bucks, Bosch has a set that will punch in 9 of the most common sizes: Bosch 9-Piece Impact Tough Titanium Drill Bit Set, TI9IM.

7.  Hex-Socket Adapters: These too will change how you work on small engines (and big ‘uns, too):  Just $6: QST 8Pcs Socket Adapter Impact Hex Shank Drill Bits Bar Set 1/4″ 3/8″ 1/2″ Bits New(8P 1/4″ 3/8″ 1/2″).

It’s like having an impact wrench for everything – without the air hose and compressor noise.  Get the oversized battery pack for your impact driver, too, and you’ll be good to go.

8. Wart Remover:   People never seem to remember this when they kit out for prepping.  But, if you are planning for more than a month, and are over 30 or so, be sure to put in wart remover.  Warts love skin that doesn’t get washed all the time, and is hot and moist.  Which sounds like what you could expect in a number of prepping scenarios.

Should the SHTF for real, finding a doc may not be practical so a couple of cheap bottles of wart remover makes sense.  Most are made of an ether-base and evaporate quickly so plan on a 5-year rotation for this item.

9. Can Anyone Ever Have Too Many BandAids?  No! But, don’t forget to toss in another 6-pack of the SuperGlues sealed in metal because it’s faster to super-glue something closed than stitch it.  Burns like three shade of hell, but get’s the job done.  Also works to put a temporary patch on a pet injury – one of those Texas Outback secrets to get an animal stable before transport to the Vet in town for real doctoring.

10. 300-Foot Measuring Tape: This is one of those homesteading tools people don’t think much about.  It also gets a work-out around here for measuring low-band HF radio antennas.  You have no idea what a PITA it is to measure a 120-foot antenna with a 25-foot tape.  Screw that.  Step up with $21-bucks for an Open Reel Measuring Tape – 300 Foot Reel Fiberglass Tape Measure – Retractable Blade For Carpenter, Construction, Workshop, Building, Projects, Crafts, Handyman, Landscaping, And Hardware -By Katzco.

Piece of cake to lay out gardens and such.

BTW, how many preppers do you think know that to square-off four corners, you even-up the diagonal measurements?  No need to become a Mason to learn this one but it’s an important thing to know because if you don’t start with an absolutely square foundation the whole rest of the building will turn into a miserable task of endless cut-and-fit because NOTHING will be square.  If you get the foundation, floor and walls in square and right-angled, the rest of house-building’s a walk in the park.

Take your time laying out foundations or suffer forever.  Ask how I know….

11.  Ammonia, Chew, and Old Spice:  Ammonia is one of the backwoods treatments for bug bites.  I mentioned last week, so it chewing up some tobacco and smearing it on (though it looks like you’ve had an “accident” lol.)

Old Spice aftershave, smothered on pant legs discourages chiggers from hopping aboard.

Some chaw and Old Spice in your kit?

12.  50 Packs of Microfiber Towels: You can pick this up from Amazon and use them for everything.  In the Office which includes the ham radio and electronics benches, I use them for cleaning, keeping camera optics sharp, wiping down the silicone work surfaces (with isopropyl alcohol which cuts rosin leftovers from soldering).  When you buy the BIG packs, the 11 by 11’s are cheap enough so that you don’t feel bad throwing one away when you, oh, use it to wipe up caulking….

$20-bucks for Best Microfiber Cleaning Cloths – Pack of 50 Towels.  Elaine got her own pack…

13.  Bar Mops:  Another household cleaning item that’s cheap is bar mops.  I don’t know why people buy spendy towels when these do everything in the way of shop projects:  $17 for Utopia Towels Kitchen Bar Mop Cleaning Towels (12 Pack, 16 x 19 Inch) – Pure Cotton White Kitchen Towels, Restaurant Cleaning Towels, Shop Towels and Rags – Bulk Bar Mop Set.

I’ve learned two things:  Buy a separate set for the wife (so yours don’t ‘evaporate’) and keep the shop towels in a used bin of their own and wash when the wife’s out shopping or lunching…Delete evidence of washer use, of course. Dry before SHE gets home.

14. Solvent Kit:  There are all kinds of solvents for all kinds of problems.  You may have a few of these, but a really completely prepped home has one or more of each:

  • Goof-Off
  • Mineral Spirits
  • MEK
  • Acetone
  • Gasoline
  • Diesel
  • Paint thinner
  • Crown JD.M.64 Qt Japan Drier
  • Whiteboard clean
  • PVC Cleaner (the ONLY thing that does a good job of picking up spilled PVC  “purple primer” that seems to create gravity anomalies whenever it’s used).
  • Krud-Cutter
  • Lamp Oil
  • Dawn soap
  • Borax – which is a good lathe lubricant for some metals
  • And Washing Soda.  Washing soda and a battery charger removes all rust when used with a sacrificial anode.

There are more, but the point is there are lots of solvents and they should all be stored in a non-moist area, locked up, and no smoking or sources of sparks (including light switches, grinders, and outlets) nearby.

15.  A Great Bathrobe and Slippers:  A couple of years back, I got Elaine and I both lab coats for our various projects.  These run under $25 each and you can look at something like the Professional Men Lab Coat (White, Medium) For Laboratory With 5 Button Closure, 41 Inch Kick Pleat – Poly Cotton Material.

They are also available in kid sizes, so if you’re turning the little darlings loose with paint sets and they aren’t changing into grubbies, this might be a way to save money on replacement wrecked clothing.

Lab coats are OK in summer as bathrobes, but in the winter step up for something big, bulky and fuzzy.  A man’s bathrobe to my way of thinking ought to be extra long, with a hood and 100% terry to absorb water.  But these are matters of personal taste, just saying now’s the time to keep an eye out for winter comfort.

Good time to by wind-blocking fleece, too..

Key Points: 

When you spend money, buy something that will make your life better or easier.

Don’t buy logo-brand goods.  I think the only logo brand item I own is a Lincoln wire welder than has some kind of NASCAR sticker on it.  Doesn’t matter a damn bit when welding and no, I don’t have delusions of being a pit boss.  How utterly ridiculous.

Sometimes, like with a 5-pound great bathrobe, you may have to pay $100 bucks for something really good.  Relax – take the pleasures where you find ’em and will get some use out of them.

Is that any kind of a “prepping” ‘tude?  You bet.  Given all these items, even if the times become uncertain, we’ll be warmer, safer, more grounded, more productive and well-fed.

Write when you get rich,