Checklist For Hard Times

January 29th, 2009 by Terence Gillespie

"The more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war."

– Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit

As we approach what many say will be the "Greatest Depression" I was inspired to combine lists into items needed in hard times. What follows is a list of lists covering areas that sustain the average family.

Most US families have no such checklist. Good times, as far as we can remember, don’t inspire planning for hard times. We’ve been immune from such worries for 65 years since the end of World War II. The average historical memory is probably only 20-30 years.

That lack of historical perspective is a handicap against what is currently happening to the US economy. And, the US is exporting their worst problems to the rest of the world. Ironically, ‘other’ countries are facing hard times now, before the US.

My interest in optimizing all things leads me to prepare for good times and bad. I’m a natural optimist and believe that our Creator gave us the ability to overcome all obstacles. Checklists like this are proof of that ability. It was wise, not pessimistic, of the Biblical Joseph to store seven years of grain before the famine.

To optimize one must first be thorough. When it comes to preparing for hard times that means making a thorough checklist. You may not have to purchase, store or do every item on the checklist. However, there are many benefits to making one.

If your family could check off all the items on this list as ether done, not applicable or have access to then you’ll be doing far better than average even in good times.

Benefits of The Checklist

Just making your own version of this checklist leaves you mindful of the many tools and things that sustain us. It will point out weaknesses not yet addressed in your normal "good times" life.

Another benefit is realizing you don’t need to own everything on the list. Simple access to many items is fine, and sometimes better, than ownership. That’s where friends and community come into play: We trade and share to make life easier and become smarter. Being smarter with what we have leads to needing less to begin with.

Still, essentials like food, water, shelter and clothing are probably best owned. And there are numerous benefits to listing and buying them, in advance:

You need them, anyway, so nothing goes to waste.

Buy them now, while they’re available (Below black market prices).

Buy them before inflation raises their price (And your boss doesn’t raise your wages).

Get bulk discounts.

Take fewer trips to the store.

The cost of not having essentials is always too expensive.

Thinking through essentials tends to optimize your approach to them. And, optimal usually means getting more with less.

Becoming more aware of your true needs gets your mind spinning on creative ways to fulfill them, in good times and in bad.

You might say this is a good list for good times. And it’s a great list for hard times.

Gold, Guns & Butter in Reverse

Gold comes last, not first.

"Before you buy gold, buy what you’ll need the gold for."

We still have division of labor. That makes everything needed in hard times available for purchase now. If we get to a time when gold is needed to survive many essentials won’t be available at any price. Distribution channels for things that are available will be crippled. That will make their price rise even in gold terms.

Also, it may be time to learn what our ancestors knew: Gold is for kings and Silver is for people. Imagine what it would be like to buy groceries in Zimbabwe with an ounce of gold in your pocket. Just getting change would be dangerous or impossible.

The Checklist

The only complete checklist is your checklist. Thinking through your own changes is a large part of the value of the list.

Getting to the end of the list can be elusive. A checklist is made in two dimensions and implemented in three: As soon as you start acting on an item it tends to split into multiple actions and expand the list. Another reason is that replenishing and maintaining items is an ongoing set of procedures: Becoming mindful of them is the only ‘check-off’ possible.

Making this list forced me to recognize my limitations. As much as I value self-reliance being the sole provider of every item would be hard, if not impossible. For any truly hard times I’d want my family and friends around, at least. Any kind of optimal living, however, would need to go beyond that. That’s why I recommend adding one of the most urgent and crucial items onto your list in the ‘personal’ section:

"Find people you can trust".

Medical & Health

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Alcohol for sterilization
  • Vitamins / minerals / herbs
  • Bandages
  • Hot water bottles
  • Ice packs
  • Sterile pads
  • Slings/splints (Or raw material to make them)
  • Tweezers
  • Hemostats
  • Sutures and needles
  • Clamps
  • Stethoscopes
  • Blood-pressure cuffs
  • Thermometers
  • Scalpels and blades
  • syringes and needles (Disposable and non)
  • Wound cleaning syringes
  • Iodine
  • Imodium
  • Anti-histamine
  • Aloe Betadine
  • “bag balm” (an antiseptic lotion)
  • Dental floss
  • Baking soda, instead of toothpaste
  • Personal medications
  • Augmentin / general antibiotics
  • Get dental work up to date
  • Painkillers, aspirin
  • Iodine
  • Anti-fungal spray
  • DIY dentistry kits (oil of cloves, temporary filling kit, extraction tools)
  • Burn treatment supplies
  • Minor surgery kit (inexpensive stainless steel instruments)
  • Physician’s desk Reference (PDR)
  • SAS Survival Guide
  • Gray’s Anatomy


  • Whole House Water Filter (Chlorine)
  • 3-stage water filter under sink for drinking water
  • Atmospheric Water Generator (Water from the air)
  • Rainwater catch from roof
  • House downspout (Redirected with sheet metal into barrels)
  • Water Containers for rainwater
  • Clorox hypo chlorite bleach for sterilization
  • Berkey Water filters for rainwater/travel/car
  • Charcoal, sand and barrel to improvise filtration
  • Water containers for car
  • Nalgene Water bottles and strap for every family member
  • Water containers for barter


  • Choose & Order 6-month supply of Freeze Dried food for entire family
  • See Water section for rehydrating freeze dried food
  • Decide on Storage Solution (Freeze dried makes that much easier)
  • Purchase containers to store the food
  • Designate cool & dry space for food storage
  • Purchase DVD canning instructions
  • Consider supplementing Freeze Dried storage with:
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Canned goods
  • tuna
  • salmon
  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • soup
  • chili
  • milk – evaporated
  • beans
  • rice
  • peanut butter
  • popcorn
  • Dried pasta
  • olive oil
  • coconut oil – Best for long term storage
  • coffee
  • beer
  • wine
  • whiskey
  • pet food
  • protein bars
  • baby food/formula
  • spices (Makes all other list items taste better)
  • salt – sea salt and some iodized

Food Preparation

  • backup stove – BBQ Grill or portable Coleman or the like
  • fuel for backup stove – 6 propane tanks, sterno, white gas
  • Grain mill if using flour or require grain grinding
  • pots, pans, utensils, dishes
  • paper towels
  • Mylar bags
  • Aluminum foil – Heavy (Can also be used for barter)
  • Wax Paper
  • pots and pans
  • buckets
  • mops
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • metal mixing bowls
  • baking sheets
  • roasting pans
  • cleaning brushes
  • canning jars with seals and lids
  • baby food jars (excellent for storage)
  • thermos bottles
  • can openers
  • potato peelers
  • spray bottles


  • Toilet Paper
  • Paper Towels
  • Razors
  • Toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • lotions
  • Soap (hand, dish, laundry, cleansers)
  • Shampoo
  • Hairbrush
  • Ladies’ supplies
  • Toothpaste (or powder)
  • Floss
  • Q-tips
  • Home Depot buckets for toilet refills
  • Sunscreen


  • Electricity Generator
    • consider solar panels
    • decide on which source of fuel (gasoline, diesel, natural gas/propane)
    • prepare city approval plans
    • decide on contractor or self-install
    • Consider only installing transfer switch and renting during emergency
    • install generator
    • test generator
  • house inventory of tools and box contents
  • garage sale items
    • sort out what needs to be stored
    • sort out what needs to be sold
    • inventory box contents
  • decide on storage for box contents
  • Decide on barter storage space
  • store barter items
  • pellets for winter
  • firewood
  • LED lights for all rooms in the house
  • Map out circuits matching breakers with outlets and lights
  • Know how to turn off gas mains and have tool ready
  • Know how to turn off water mains and have tool ready
  • lighters


  • Socket sets
  • Wave Multi-tool
  • 4-inch folding pocket knife for each family member
  • Several full-tang utility knives
  • Kukri knife or machete for chopping
  • wrench sets
  • drill bits
  • chisels (wood and metal working)
  • files
  • Allen wrenches
  • screwdrivers
  • driver bits (with manual drivers)
  • cutters (side-cutters, end-cutters, snips)
  • clamps
  • hammers (of all sizes)
  • pry-bars
  • shovels
  • rakes (the heavy gardening type)
  • handsaws (hacksaws, crosscuts, etc.)
  • axes
  • oil
  • grease
  • WD-40
  • graphite grease
  • Gardening tools
  • Auto mechanics tools
  • Welding
  • Bolt cutters
  • Woodworking tools
  • Gunsmithing tools
  • work gloves
  • wire of various gauges
  • duct tape
  • chain
  • nails
  • nuts and bolts
  • weather stripping
  • glue


  • Alarm System (Connected via wireless cell, not land line phone)
  • Connect alarm system to smoke detectors
  • Keep portable spotlights in bedroom
  • 3rd Party (ICE) contact for separated family members
  • Handgun
  • Shotgun
  • Rifle
  • Ammunition
  • Magazines, speed loaders
  • Gun cleaning kit
  • Spare parts for all gun tools
  • Gun Safe(s)
  • DuraCoat
  • eye and ear protection
  • Baseball bats
  • golf clubs
  • batons
  • pepper spray
  • Slingshot
  • Paintball gun (Get rid of, and paint, pesky thieves – Thanks to Michael E.)
  • carrying cases


  • Fire Extinguishers
  • Upgrade to a metal roof?
  • Clear brush around house
  • 2” water line from gravity-fed storage tank (large water volume for firefighting)
  • List bug out items in advance
  • consider fireproof safe
  • Smoke and CO Detectors

Business & Finance

  • Decide now on computer and hardware upgrades
  • Decide now on software upgrades
  • Pay all vendors as far in advance as they will accept
  • Pall all subscriptions (internet, software upgrades, etc.) in advance
  • Pall all service providers in advance
  • Pay off all high-interest loans within reason
  • Keep money in a range of currencies or gold/silver
  • Reduce exposure to US Dollar as much as feasible
  • Consider 2nd backup business if primary is vulnerable
  • Read The Hyperinflation Survival Guide: Strategies for American Businesses
  • Spare copy of all crucial documents
  • Upload web available copies of crucial business files
  • Backup crucial docs to handheld USB Drive(s)
  • Create succession plan for temporary continuity of business


  • Water (From atmospheric water generator)
  • Eggs (Freeze dried)
  • Milk (Freeze dried)
  • Salt
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Cooking spices
  • Ammunition (9mm, .38, ,.357, .40, .45 acp, .44 Mag, .223, .308)
  • Rope
  • Para cord
  • Candles
  • Flashlights
  • Batteries
  • Wine
  • Duct Tape (Camo or Olive Drab)
  • Whiskey
  • Lighters

Personal & Family

  • Find people you can trust
  • Make separate list for everyone in house
  • Prescription and nonprescription medications
  • Passports for everyone
  • Spare copy of all crucial documents
  • Backup eyeglasses
  • Backup reading glasses
  • sunglasses
  • Keep dentistry up to date
  • Any elective surgery that you’ve been postponing
  • Work off that gut
  • Games and Reading Material


  • jeans
  • belts
  • warm durable jackets
  • wool sweaters
  • wool work clothes
  • T-shirts
  • Jean shirts
  • underwear
  • work gloves
  • boots
  • sneakers
  • sandals
  • baseball caps
  • hats for sun protection
  • Web gear/Bullet proof vests?
  • towels


  • Bible
  • Physician’s desk Reference (PDR)
  • Gray’s Anatomy
  • Carla Emery’s "Encyclopedia of Country Living".
  • Favorite novels
  • SAS Survival Handbook
  • How Things Work type books
  • Recipes


  • Batteries of all types
  • pencils and pens
  • paper
  • Mosquito repellent
  • sleeping bags for each person
  • flashlights
  • penlights
  • Escape route maps
  • Topographic maps of your area
  • ICE – In Case of Emergency contacts for reconnecting with family members
  • Safe room areas mapped out for your house/neighborhood
  • Home Invasion procedures & guidelines
  • Spare Masterlocks


  • AM/FM radios (crank power)
  • short wave for local communication and monitoring
  • long wave for backup communications
  • police band monitoring
  • backup your cell phone data/contacts
  • List of frequencies used in area


  • advance maintenance for cars
  • replace tires that will wear out within 1 year
  • make sure have spare tires for all cars
  • emergency kits for each car
  • Bug out kits and backpacks for each car
  • Make sure bicycles are in shape





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