Designing A SHTF Household: A List and Exploration Of The Basics

I read and write a lot of articles about preparedness. This has led me to think about how to bring all this together to create a household that runs well during an SHTF scenario or long emergency. How does one go about planning out their home so that they can keep everyone fed, hydrated, clean, healthy, and entertained?

This post explores the different areas of the household functions that need to be considered. While it is impossible to fit all possibilities and methods in a single article, I hope this overview helps you think about how to get all your emergency preps planned out so that you can maintain normality as much as possible.


Strive for at least six months of food with a year being better. Be realistic about calories needed. Some food buckets and kits state that they contain so many calories per day.

  • Consider that you will burn more calories if you have to do more physical labor
  • Kids need extra calories to grow and stay warm. If children have to do more physical work, they may need double what you might think!
  • Do you plan on taking in any relatives or friends?
  • Does anyone that is going to be part of your group have food allergies or sensitivities?
  • What recipes can you make with the food you have? Think about this now so you won’t be a loss when times get tough.


A gas stove is nice because at least the stove eyes will work with the power out. No matter what methods you prefer, you need to have a backup plan for cooking without electricity. I like the Camp Chef Outdoor Oven. I got one, and then my husband’s parents remodeled there house and borrowed it. They cooked on it for many months and loved it.

  • Outdoor grills work well, and if you have a few tanks of propane, you can cook without creating smoke, for a long time.
  • Basic camp stoves
  • Learn how to make a rocket stove
  • Purchase a tripod and cast iron pot for cooking over a fire


An excellent medical kit and medicine cabinet is something you need to strive for if you want to be a well-prepared household. I always tell people that they are probably going to want to get a good base kit and then add a lot of things to it. It is hard to find a kit that has it all, and if you do, they are very expensive. If you build your kit a bit at a time, it is much easier to afford and customize to your needs. Here are a few items I always notice missing from medical kits that I think should be in there.

  • Blood stop powder or bandages
  • Benydryl Liqui-Gels. These act faster than the tablets, and that can make all the difference if you are having an allergy attack. You can also apply them topically for fast sting relief
  • Steri-Strips or a way of closing a wound that is big enough to consider stitches. A lot of wounds can be held closed with Steri-Strips
  • Small surgical kit
  • Antibiotics in pill and ointment form

Personal medical needs must also be considered. Try to have an extra supply of medications and have a plan for what to do if they are not available. Some natural methods can at least offer some help.


Never make the mistake of thinking that hygiene is a minor issue. Sure you need food, water, and shelter, but if you can’t keep yourself moderately clean, you are creating an environment for disease and fungal infections to flourish. Just a few items can make a big difference. Here are a few thoughts on what to put back. Here are a few things I can think of.

  • Wet wipes. I know you cannot put enough back to do through a very long situation but having a few put back is nice and gives you a cushion for times when water and soap are not available for various reasons.
  • Feminine hygiene products. These are cheap now, but they will be difficult to get in a long emergency.
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Antiseptic mouth rinse
  • Food and toenail care kit
  • Soap
  • Toilet Paper ( Don’t go crazy taking up too much space with TP)
  • Bidet bottles help avoid some TP use, so it lasts longer


A good source of water and filtration is critical to your survival and SHTF household. Without water, a lot of things become more difficult or impossible.

How will you get water? What is the best main source you have? Will the water work if the electricity is off?

Remember that even if the water is running fine,  bacteria and contamination can occur that requires you to have a way to purify your water. This is why municipalities sometimes issue boil water advisories.

Water catchment 

A rain barrel or two can be a big help and make all the difference in an SHTF scenario. Untreated or filtered water that has no debris in it can be used as is to flush toilets or water pets and livestock. For drinking, you can scoop water out and use a gravity filter such as the HydroBlue or Lifestraw Family. Big Berkey’s and similar can also be used to filter water from your catchment system.

Springs, creeks, and rivers

If you have surface water on your property or nearby it can be a great source, but you will want to make sure that you filter it well. If you are in an urban area or someplace with a lot of agricultural run off you will want to have a filter that will get rid of viruses. Not all filters are the same so whatever one you choose, make sure you know what its limitations are.

Choosing the right water filter

The way I see it is that you should one or more gravity filters for general household use. A lot of people like Big Berkey’s but they are simply not large enough to accommodate a lot of households unless you get one of the really pricey and rather large models. You can also use a filter like the Hydro Blu Versa Flo or the Sawyer Mini, in line with a water source such as a 55-gallon barrel if you have to.

I also firmly believe that every person in a household should have their own personal water filter. A Sawyer Mini with a Squeeze Bag is under $25 and cheap insurance during a long term SHTF situation.

Baby Care

Birth certainly doesn’t stop during an SHTF situation. Baby supplies will be in demand so some people may put back some items for barter. If you have young kids or plan on having more, then baby care is something to consider. Choose versatile items to put back that can be used by babies of all ages.

Baby Formula

During a long term, SHTF scenario baby formula is hard to get and you have to be very careful about it being adulterated. There are people out there that think nothing of thinning down formula with whatever filler they can.

A Note on Diapers

Putting back a few boxes of disposable diapers in case of an emergency is a good idea, but sooner or later you are not going to be able to get them. It is not likely that you can put back enough unless you have a ton of storage space. Preppers need to get used to the idea of cloth diapers now. You can put these back 6 or 12 at a time. I will get into laundry issues related to this in the laundry section of this article.

Cleaning Solutions

People are a bit particular about what they use to clean their homes. I can completely understand that.  I am going to make a few suggestions but always remember to consider any sensitivities anyone in the house has.

  • Bleach. Even if you don’t use it regularly or like it, there may come a time when bleach is needed if you have to deal with anything too nasty or hazardous to your health.
  • Lysol or similar disinfectant
  • Sponges. Get the good ones that last a long time. You can boil sponges to sanitize.

Laundry Needs

I have done laundry some weird ways over the years due to circumstances when Matt and I were building our house. I used the concrete mixer we bought to do laundry more than once. The amount of laundry you do will decrease during and emergency because you will make sure to wear your clothing longer.

Make some laundry soap and put it back in a bucket for a long term emergency. Here is a link to my article, “Kirk’s Laundry Detergent For SHTF.”

I have a little Wonder Wash hand-cranked washer for emergency laundry. It is a mere $50 and does the job. There are a lot of different hand laundry tools out there


If you rely on electricity for heat, then you definitely need a backup source. I love our electric furnace, but we also use wood heat because we live where there are a lot of trees. For us, wood heat costs very little, but it is nice to have a thermostat when we can’t tend a fire or just need a little bit of heat. Here are some possibilities for back up heat and a few tips for staying warm.

  • Propane or kerosene heaters
  • Oil heaters
  • Wood heat
  • Sleep in a single room at night for warmth under extreme conditions
  • Keep lots of spare blankets on hand. Fleece blankets that are fairly nice are a mere $5.

Remember that plenty of heaters require electricity even if they use something else as the main fuel source.


While things may be tense and hard, there will be times when you need to have something to entertain yourself and the other people in your home. Make sure to consider the ages and abilities of everyone in the home. Here are a few basic ideas.

  • Board games and playing cards
  • Coloring books, crayons, pencils, and markers for all ages
  • A few giant pads of paper for playing games or drawing
  • E-readers, small tablets, and other low drain devices.

If you have some type of back up power or a way to keep AA batteries charged, then your options are not as limited during an emergency.


Having some backup power is nice during a short or long term emergency. Being able to maintain a power source and keep it charged up is another issue entirely. Anyone can buy a small power center and keep it topped off via their 110 outlets or a 12-volt outlet in their car. To keep some power on hand long term, you will need a solar panel or if you live in a windy area, possible a turbine. Hydroelectric is neat, but a lot of people simply don’t have the water flow required for such an endeavor.

  • How much power would you like to have? Do you just want enough to keep a few small things going and charge some AA batteries or do you want to run a whole household as normally as possible?
  • Do you want a backup system you can easily add on to over the years?
  • How portable does your back up power need to be?


I wrote a previous post on some easy rechargeable lighting options that you may want to take a look at.

  • How much light do you need for everyone in your home?
  • Do you have at least one good flashlight for each member of your household plus a few for general use?
  • How will you power your lights?
  • Do you require outdoor lighting between structures? Consider how light can draw attention when making this decision.
  • How many batteries do you have on hand and how are you going to keep them charged?


Walkie Talkies are a good way to communicate if you are within a reasonable range. Never believe what the radios say about far they will reach. Terrain and all the objects in between you and the person you are trying to talk to have an impact on just how far away someone can be and still come in clear enough to understand. Some people also use notes, code, and signals to communicate during an SHTF scenario. The important thing is to make sure everyone is on the same page and knows how to communicate well with everyone else in the group.


Keeping bedding washed will be a lot more challenging during an SHTF situation. If you can avoid going to bed dirty, that can help keep sleeping areas more hygienic. Clean yourself up before bed if possible, and even if you wear the same pajamas for a week just to sleep in, it is better than crawling into bed in filthy clothing.  Of course, if times are really bad, you may want to sleep in something where you can react quickly.

Putting bedding out on a line in the sunshine can help sanitize and refresh a bit if you have to watch how often you wash items. It is a good idea to have some cheap sheets or extra sheets just in case you have to burn some if someone is particularly ill.


While there are some basic concepts of defense, I cannot stress enough how much you need to hone your defense plan to your unique circumstances. Defense often comes down to the following

  • Situational awareness and observation
  • Weapons, including firearms
  • Barriers
  • Traps
  • Your location in general and the exposure level to others
  • Road access

I discussed some defensive methods in greater detail in my previous post,  “Home Defense and Theft Prevention: Firearms, Dogs, Cameras, Natural Barriers & Beyond During Good Times & SHTF.”


I think it is important for people to keep their mind sharp at all ages, but if you have kids, then they will need to be taught some things. During a real SHTF scenario, the emphasis is not going to be on education, but that doesn’t mean kids should not be taught some things. Remember that public and private schools don’t necessarily make the most use of time. A lot of kids switching to homeschool are surprised when they find they can get the same amount of school work done in a few hours that takes all day to be taught in a traditional classroom.

There are a lot of things taught in schools that kids really never use much as an adult. When was the last time you had to do advanced algebra in your daily job? Here are a few things to keep on hand for educational purposes.

  • Lots of paper, pens, and pencils
  • E-readers loaded with books. You can charge an e-reader with very little power
  • mp3s of educational books and the classics, and some music too! I did an article over at The Organic Prepper, “How To Make An SHTF Music Box to Lift Your Spirits During Dark Times,” that can help you get started.

Faith and Spirituality

If you are a person of faith or a very spiritual person than you should consider how you and your family will take care of these needs during a long emergency. If you attend weekly services or have your own rituals, it is a good idea to try to keep this routine up at home. This can help ground you and those around you by maintaining a better level of normality.  People of faith are often able to maintain a better level of morale and strength if they don’t give up on it due to hard times. Put back a few supplies to practice your faith, whatever it may be.

Mental Health Needs

If you take medication for mental health issues, then I recommend keeping an extra month of medication or more if you are allowed to. I also encourage you to look into natural alternatives and treatments in case you or someone in your household cannot get medication during a long term SHTF scenario.


A lot of vices will be in high demand during SHTF. People tend to drink more during hard times. If you like to have a glass of wine or a liquor drink here and there, then you should put back some booze.

A vice doesn’t have to be a mood altering substance either. Maybe you like to have a bar of chocolate on occasion?  A vice is an indulgence that gives a sense of normality during SHTF. You have to be careful with vices, but you should still plan for them since they can be a welcome comfort.

Also, consider how to handle it when people in your house run out of vices. Hopefully, it doesn’t cause a lot of trouble, but it is better to plan how to deal with that now than be too overwhelmed later.

Tools and Household Repair

During a long emergency, there will be a lot of instances where things will need to be repaired. Everyone should at least have a basic household tool kit. A small battery powered drill is also nice to have for basic household needs, and it is easy to keep them charged even if you just have a little power.


The climate you live in is the most major factor in planning out what you need for a long term situation. If you can make do with lightweight clothing due to living in a warm place that is great, but a lot of us live in places with very distinctive seasons. Where Matt and I live it can get down to -10 F with the record being -20F, but in the summer it stays in the 80s and hits the high 90s some years. We keep a lot of clothing that is easy to layer and some additional very cold weather gear that only gets used a handful of times per year.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when planning out your SHTF wardrobe.

  • Include a few adjustable belts. During a long situation, people will lose weight and get into better shape. Some smaller people may have to wear pants that are too large for a while.
  • Put back items that a lot of people can wear of different sizes. Packs of cheap t-shirts and socks are good examples. Kids can use adult t-shirts for sleepwear for example, and athletic socks are made to accommodate a lot of sizes.
  • Inexpensive knit caps or ball caps
  • Gloves. When in doubt get a few different sizes.

Todd at the Prepper Website did a podcast of my article on clothing for SHTF if you are interested in more detail on clothing to put back.

Pet and livestock feed

Remember to plan for your dogs, cats, and any livestock. You may have to get rid of or butcher off a lot of your stock if you don’t have food to feed them. Dogs and cats are easy to plan for. Fill heavy duty plastic storage bins or barrels with pet foods, a little diatomaceous earth, and a few moisture absorbers. There is some freeze dried dog foods that may be an option for the owners of smaller dogs that don’t have a lot of space. They are not economical for those of us with really big dogs.

Livestock feed may not be a problem for you if you keep a lot of hay in a barn. Grains to feedstock may be hard or impossible to get thought so having a few barrels full of grain can help you have something to feed your chickens for a while.

Do you have anything to add to planning an SHTF household? Do you think about how to bring all your preps together to create a functional life during a long emergency?

Samantha Biggers can be reached at