Surviving An Economic Collapse: What to Prepare Now

August 1, 2021

In the first part of this two-part blog series, we discussed signs to look for that could be a precursor to an economic collapse.  Warning signs like civil unrest, unemployment, cost increases, homelessness and housing affordability, food shortages, and more are accelerating and growing in magnitude.  They could quickly be approaching a tipping point.

Nations rise and fall.  They seem invincible and immortal when they are riding high, yet they may hide a rotting core.  No country is eternal, and no economy is invincible.  An economic collapse is not confined to a small area.  It is a global crisis.  Suppose the economy of one major nation fails. In that case, the fragile connections it has between importing and exporting countries dry up, and the economic drought can spread around the globe leading to the failure of more economies.  In this blog, we’ll examine the fundamentals of what you need to survive the lengthy collapse.  I can’t cover every essential in one blog, so I hope to give you the basics here to get you moving in the right direction.  When the house of cards collapses, will you be prepped and ready?  


Easily the essential prep in your inventory is food. When shortages hit, nothing will be more valuable than food.  The failure of the food supply chain and the grower’s ability to get their product to stores, manufacturers, and restaurants will plunge millions into instant hunger and desperation.  The average American eats out 4 or 5 times per week by conservative estimates.  This results in dependence upon prepared food sources and a decrease in food-on-hand in kitchen cabinets and refrigerators– especially the non-perishable kinds of foods.  Almost 50% of Americans don’t have emergency supplies to turn to when the food supply chain is severed.  Those that do typically only have a standard 72-hour kit, or they’re thinking the cans of soup and bag of rice they have in their cabinets but never touched will get them through.  For a short duration disaster with a swift recovery, it probably will.  That 72-hour kit could last you a week if you stretched it out and combined it with your drawer of ketchup packets and restaurant hot sauces.  You could run at a caloric deficit for a week, but what then?

As you prepare for a prolonged economic collapse, think of food in three ways: sustenance, time, and as a commodity.  First, you need enough to sustain yourself.  While you will be scaling back your caloric consumption, as your current diet is probably too calorically rich to begin with, your first way to think of food is calories and nutrition.  Do you have enough calories and nutrition for you, your family, and your animals?  72-hours worth will get you through many natural disasters because that can be stretched, rationed, and you can even run at a caloric deficit for a week or two.  That buys you sufficient enough time to make it through many natural disasters with a swift recovery, but a nation’s economic collapse is different.  The uncertainty, chaos, and implosion of food supply chains will leave most of the population dependent upon and fighting over whatever government relief efforts materialize.  To see what that looks like, you only need to see the relief trucks overwhelmed and riots for food and water in any third-world country.  That’s not a position you want to be in if you want to survive.  So, make sure you have the calories and nutrition you need to sustain you and yours for 3-days, then build it slowly to 3-weeks, then 3-months, then a year.  I have other blogs on this site where I break down How to Build 1 Year of Food Storage.  On my website, there are spreadsheets you can download to help you work towards this goal. Because once you have the calories stored for a year or more, you also need to consider the shelf-life and duration.

You can likely stretch your supply out if you know how to forage, hunt, or fish, and there are periods where you can safely do this.  You’ll need to develop those skills now, which I’ll talk about later; however, here I want you to consider the duration of an economic collapse disaster.  The great depression lasted about a decade.  Very few of us can store up that amount of food, and, as I said, you will probably be able to stretch and supplement your supplies even with the increased competition for resources.  When others are fighting over the last bean or last grain of rice at the store, you could be buying up the sunflower seeds for planting or harvesting broadleaf plantain and dandelion from the wild.  Think of food as a resource that you will need to stretch out and resupply outside traditional ways.  When you stock your shelves now in preparation for a possible economic collapse, do it with an eye toward the longest shelf life possible.  Freeze-dried foods like vegetables and fruits can provide you vital nutrients for several decades when the store aisles are barren, and farmers are no longer planting or harvesting.  Plus, they retain their nutritional value, taste and can last an incredibly long time.  A soup can, for the sake of comparison, is great to have in your inventory, but it will only last for two to five years and takes up considerably more space.  12-ounces of dried vegetable soup mix yields approximately 208 ounces of soup when rehydrated.  The difference is noticeable when you consider that 208 ounces of freeze-dried food take up about one can’s worth of space and weigh 12 ounces versus the equivalent 17 cans of soup, which take up 17 times more space and weigh in 13 or more pounds.  Make shelf-life a consideration.  Calories, time, the amount of space required, and portability are all considerations.

You should also consider replenishable food sources.  Can you raise fish or chickens?  High protein sources like fish and eggs will sustain you longer into an economic collapse.  Can you grow or sprout anything?  Every day spent growing anything is another mouthful of food.  You probably can’t store the decade of food you would need to eat every day through the worst of economic collapses, so consider how you might replenish your food sources and begin to develop those skills.  Cultivate your knowledge on how to feed yourself outside of the food supply systems you currently rely upon.

Beyond those considerations, though, you have to begin to view food as a commodity for exchange.  Food has portability, high-value density, shelf-life, scarcity, usability, and the essentialness factors that, as with any commodity, will determine its value and level of demand.  If you need a new pair of shoes and currency is worthless, somebody will trade for 9 ounces of butter powder before they accept a thousand dollars of worthless money when the government is defunct, especially when you tell them that rehydrated, it will equal two sticks of butter.  They’ll be drooling and begging you to make the trade as they think of all the things they could do with butter they haven’t had in weeks or months.  Food was one of the original currencies, and it will be again.  Foods that will be the highest values as commodities will be seeds, especially those that will germinate and grow and not just be eaten.  Other highly valued commodities will be salt, instant coffee, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, bouillon cubes, tea, alcohol, sugar and honey, and spices.  These are also relatively inexpensive right now, can be stored in large amounts for an incredibly long time, and will be the first items depleted off the shelf once a prolonged disaster like an economic collapse occurs.  You should be adding a little of at least one of these to your inventory each payday until you have what seems like a ridiculous amount.  If nothing ever happens and you find yourself ten years from now with 40 pounds of sugar, you will have only been out twenty dollars.  After the fall, though, those 90 cups of sugar will be worth more than 90 ounces of gold to you.

I have dedicated so much time here to food because it is, hands-down, the most precious resource you will have.  It will be the first resource to fail, and it will be the first resource coveted and depleted.  But, there are others.


When the utilities fail, so too will the municipal water systems.  After an economic collapse, you can’t rely upon government and non-government entities to deliver water bottles to your community.  As with food, you need to make sure you have stored up at least 72-hours’ worth of water to start.  Then make it into a 3-week supply.  If space permits, make that into a 3-month supply.  For a family of four, that’s a thousand gallons, and that just isn’t realistically possible for most people.  The 4,380 gallons of water a family of four would minimally need for a year is also not a realistic option for most.  So, in addition to the maximum amount of water you can store, you will have to turn to alternate resources.  You can deploy in an apartment with a balcony a precipitation collection system.  You could even rig a system on an exterior window.  Your gutters on your house can be sent to drain in a collection system.   A 15 by 30 foot residential pool will hold about 13,500 gallons of water for you if you know how to treat it and purify it for drinking now versus later.  Many will turn with empty containers to municipal lakes, ponds, and hydrants, and many will make themselves sick or further damage the supply systems and levels.

Even if you are sitting on an abundance of stored water, you have to have the means and the know-how to replenish, treat, filter, distill, or render safe to drink other water.  Think of your stored water from the physics perspective of potential energy.  It isn’t in use now, but it will only last for so long when it is.  A Mini-Sawyer, Life Straw, Berkey filtration system, a Kelly Kettle for rapid boiling, a hand pump to tap irrigation lines, or even a homemade charcoal, sand, and rock filtration system will mean the difference between dehydration possibly leading to desperation and death or sustaining yourself enough to get through a prolonged economic collapse disaster. 

Water will be the most precious resource and commodity, truth be told, but you are already in dire straits if you have to trade water for anything.  You will want to hold onto as much of it as you can.  Make sure you have a stored supply to last you as long as you can.  Make sure you have a means of collecting and acquiring more, even if you have an abundance.  Make sure you can treat thousands and thousands of gallons of it.  Make sure you have the skills and knowledge you need to protect, acquire, treat, and purify this most essential of resources for as long as you can.


If you bought your home in the last fifteen years, it’s not likely that you actually own it.  The bank does.  If it isn’t paid for entirely, it isn’t yours.  If you are a renter, and 35% of all homes in America are rentals, and there are 140 million apartment housing units in America, your shelter security is even less.  After an economic collapse, you may be forced out of your shelter.  If you aren’t, hundreds of people in your surrounding community might be.  Many homes built for a family of four will now house eight or more people as families and friends come together.  This increases, not decreases, competition for resources.  When a house of eight is sending four people to get a supply, and you can’t afford to send one person from your home, you won’t get any of that supply.  There are three factors when considering your shelter: security, stability, and mobility.  If you live in an apartment, your ability to step outdoors may be hampered for an extended period.  While you may be temporarily secure locked away in your tiny one-door and one window apartment, your access to replenishable resources is hampered.  If you live in the suburbs or exurbs, your security may not be good either, unless you’ve hardened off your perimeter and entry points.  If you live in a more rural setting, you’re very secure because of a smaller population density, but less so when a migratory band of a hundred people or more descend upon your neck of the woods, creek, fruit trees, garden, or fields.  How would you be able to defend that much land by yourself?  When you consider your security, consider how long you can stay safely locked into your dwelling and how long you can protect it from people, fires, martial law, and natural disasters that might also occur.  Being forced out of your shelter is always a probability, no matter how secure you feel.  Factor that in as you evaluate your shelter situation in preparation for an economic collapse.

After security, also consider the stability of your shelter situation.  As I said, if you’re an apartment or condo dweller as millions are, you probably won’t be able to stay put forever, as you simply can’t store and secure all the resources you would need on land you don’t own.  Many people have already realized this after the economic downturn that the shutdowns of 2020 caused.  Chronic homelessness increased by 15% between 2019 and 2020.  There was a 7% increase among individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness, marking the first time more individuals, that is, people living without families, living unsheltered than in a shelter.  Those are already dramatic increases in more vulnerable populations, but they would pale when compared to the numbers in the fallout of a nation’s economic collapse.  The Great Depression gave rise to massive waves of migrations, work camps, and government resettlement programs that sought to relocate struggling urban and rural families to communities planned by the federal government.  The then Resettlement Administration, with its four divisions of Rural Rehabilitation, Rural Resettlement, Land Utilization, and Suburban Resettlement, could happen again.  Even if you are rurally located with abundant resources, the government could claim eminent domain over what you have for the people’s good.  If the government implements martial law, as could happen from any rising civil unrest, a state of emergency could be declared.  Executive orders 10998, 12656, 12919, and 13603 all allow the government to come in and take your food and water preps and resources for redistribution or reallocation.  So, genuinely consider how stable your shelter is in a complete financial meltdown.  If you are forced out, you will also need to have considered the third aspect of shelter: mobility.

I always see comments about people who cannot bug out if necessary for health reasons.  I also know people who staunchly claim they will defend what they have with their last drop of blood.  When an army shows up at your door to seize your supplies or force you to relocate, your chances of survival just dropped to zero.  Leaving your shelter may one day be a necessary move on your part.  Accepting this means you need to take as much as you can with you to a safer area.  Consider how you will do that.  Do you have a sleeping bag, portable shelter, tent, or even a tarp to make a makeshift shelter if you were forced out into the elements?  Do you have a mobile shelter of any kind, even if that’s a vehicle with a bit of fuel left in it?  Then, do you have another location to go to?  Do you have a rural or wilderness area off the beaten path to retreat to?  Do you have the skills and tools you need to survive there?  Do you have family or friends you can band together with to form a makeshift community?  It is much easier to steamroll over an individual than for a faltering government to bully a banded-together community.  Even if you claim you aren’t mobile, or you aren’t budging, you need to develop a plan to have at least one means of escape.  You need to have at least one location to retreat away to.  You need to maintain some type of shelter for yourself.  It’s helpful if your plan is in concert with someone else, too.  As I said, your odds of survival increase when you are part of a like-minded group.  In a post-recovery era in the U.S. where the government, police, and military lose total control of some areas, expect citizens to band together in their own makeshift militias.  Laws on the books will be primarily ignored out of ignorance of them.  Rights and protections are relinquished.  That isn’t to say that they won’t one day return, but you shouldn’t expect them to be fully restored even in the recovery phase of a nation’s collapse.  The biggest and strongest shelter you can build is the shelter of a community.


Communities survive because multiple people have a broad range of skills and knowledge, not just because they have more manpower and muscle.  You need to be that person with skills and knowledge in a post-economic collapse world.  If your day job now disappears, what will you do?  What other things do you know?  Can you sew or knit, cook, maintain and fix equipment, hunt, fish, grow food, forage, know medicine and first aid, know how to brew or distill, know how to ferment and preserve foods?  What skills and knowledge do you bring to your or your community’s table?  Most day jobs don’t translate into usable occupations in a post-economic collapse nation.  People aren’t scrambling for resume writers, cashiers, bartenders, waitresses, sales associates, clerks, bookkeepers, truck drivers, or software developers in a post-economic collapse society.  So, it’s great you have a job now, but what else can you do?  I’ll post a link in the cards above discussing skills you can develop now that will serve you well in a collapsed economy.

Your skills and knowledge need first to serve yourself.  If you know a skill that will bring resources to your table, your chances of survival just went up.  If you have skills and knowledge that can create an abundance of anything for you, you can translate those into tradable commodities.  Also, unlike your hundreds of pounds of food and water, nobody can take skills and knowledge from you, and you can weightlessly take them wherever you go.  Set a goal to learn one new thing, even if you don’t see any immediate applicability in your everyday life or you only try it once.  Learn a new knot.  Make sauerkraut for the first time.  Read how to forage and identify edible plants.  Learn how to build a fire pit or smoker.  Learn something new, and you instantly increase your odds of survival.  Put that new knowledge into practice even once, and you’ve cultivated a skill through the application of practice.  Instead of being frozen and confused when seemingly insurmountable problems come your way, you will be more likely to figure out a way through or around them.  If you only end up more competent and more skillful, and nothing bad ever happens in the world, which isn’t likely, you will still have lived a richer and fuller life.  Think of skill and knowledge acquisition as also building your mental stability and confidence.  The more you know and the more skills you can put into practice, the more you can bury yourself in the work of surviving and remain mentally stable enough to weather the absolutely horrific effects of the collapsing world around you.  Skills and knowledge make you calm, level-headed, and more capable of surviving.

As you seek to gain skills and knowledge, you will also find like-minded people.  As you join groups or take an extra community class or attend a free workshop, you will find people whom you may be able to rely upon after a massive economic failure.  As you become stronger, you are also beginning to build your own community–your own mutual assistance group.  As your skills and knowledge increase, so to will your network.  You have much to gain from seeking knowledge and skills, and you have absolutely nothing to lose.


When a nation collapses, it breaks in very specific ways.  The tales of how people survive and what they did to make it through provide us with a clear path to follow to enhance our own ability to survive.  As dismal and hopeless as currency collapse, unemployment, homelessness, and the rest of the aspects of a nation’s economic collapse may be, there are ways you can survive and even thrive comparatively to others.  The reality is that most people, even those claiming to be prepared, are not ready for what it will take mentally and physically to survive the challenges of a disaster that can last for years.  While I couldn’t possibly address everything you will need, every decision you will be forced to make when those days and years come, I can provide you with the basics of what you will need to survive.  Consider your food, water, shelter, skills, and knowledge as the tentpoles you will need, and start building upon those now.  Get those in line now.  Calculate and plugin solutions today to strengthen your odds of survival in the future.

Prepping for a non-natural disaster like a massive economic collapse is different than prepping for natural disasters.  You might easily be able to make it through your typical short-duration natural disaster with your preps on hand, but a massive economic collapse will require more than what’s on your shelves.  You’ll need those tentpole things I reference in this video, but you will also need to begin building some form of network.  You’ll need some plan B.  You’ll need to think about your home now, but also your future possibilities.  A disaster like a nation’s collapse has some type of eventual return to stability, even if the major players change faces, as they often do.  Focus on these primary things to ensure your future stability.  I’m sure you agree that there are many aspects to surviving a collapse of this magnitude.  Personal defense, electricity, a means to cook and create fire, and so much more go into your complete survival picture, but hopefully, this is enough to give a framework to start from.  What do you think?  Is there an essential I should have considered in the mix of what I put forth here?  

As always, please stay safe out there.

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Kay Jake
Kay Jake
2 years ago

Just watched this on UTUBE on TV and you mentioned you have Spread Sheets to help, but I can’t find them? Great article! Been slowly Prepping quietly and had enough Toilet Paper to get thru the Pandemic. Hubby bragged about that and even adds TP, Paper towels and water when he makes trips to Costco.


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