Preppers — aka survivalists — had been readying themselves for such a disaster for years, or even decades.
Cast your mind back to March 2020. For most of us, that month was defined by fear, uncertainty, frantic Google searches for “Covid-19,” and anxious surveys of our toilet paper supplies. For a rare few though, there was another emotion in the mix: Validation.
Preppers — aka survivalists — had been readying themselves for such a disaster for years, or in some cases, decades. They didn’t need to panic-buy milk. They already had it freeze-dried or knew how to make their own. One subset of preppers, prepper moms, was arguably the most well-equipped for the arrival of the pandemic. Elite homemakers, already experts in self-sufficiency and quarantining, were primed when Covid reared its ugly head. But who exactly are they? How did they prepare themselves so thoroughly? And how did they wind up navigating the last two years? We delved into this fascinating subculture and spoke to one of its most celebrated figureheads, The Survival Mom, to get some answers.
What’s a prepper mom, exactly?
As is the case for most phenomena that rise to notoriety online, there isn’t a 100 percent solid consensus — but there are strong common threads. Like traditional survivalists, prepper moms are proactively readying themselves and their household for major emergencies — be that a natural disaster, extreme political upheaval, or a pandemic. The difference is that while old-school survivalists often focus on protection against threats from the outside, prepper moms tend to frame their approach more in terms of alternative homemaking and self-sufficiency.
Mira Ptacin, an author and self-avowed prepper, described the difference between prepper moms and “traditional” preppers to the New York Times as she managed the tricky first phase of the pandemic. “Instead of embracing my inner Mad Max, I could channel my own mother and grandmother, and a bit of Survival Mom, to be a nurturing, resourceful, and resilient homemaker ready for anything,” she wrote. “If Mad Max is the yang of prep — the masculine, overt energy — then I wanted to tap into the yin of prep, the earthy, feminine energy.”
Ptacin took her inspiration from The Survival Mom — aka, Lisa Bedford. Ptacin sensed Bedford’s take on survival was a far cry from that of the male prepping community, much of whose focus appeared to be on prepping in case of civil unrest, which Ptacin sensed to be “code for brown and Black people.” Lisa on the other hand focuses on “another type of prepping: Ultimate homemaking and community resilience.”
How had prepper moms readied themselves for the pandemic?
As Covid cases rose around the U.S. at the start of 2020, prepper moms watched warily to see whether the general public might take heed of their example. A blog posted on The Survival Mom (last updated in mid-March 2020) offers some solid advice.
“My preparedness plan for a pandemic is simple,” it says. “I want to have the ability to close my doors and not go into public places for up to six months. (Four to six months is how long the experts believe it will take to create and deliver a vaccine to the public.)”
There were a few other useful nuggets — albeit ones predicated on the assumption that people have space to spare. “Stock up on medication and hospital supplies for your family,” it advises, and “understand how to create and maintain a ‘sick room’ in your home.” In the end though, most of the controversy was centered around supplies.
In a video titled “WHAT TO KEEP IN A PREPPER PANTRY” — which has nearly 380,000 views — Frugal Fit Mom says she’s been “training my entire life” for situations like the pandemic and offers her tips for food staples to have on-hand in case of emergency. While she’s fully capable of getting into the nutritional weeds (she notes that while brown rice is more nutritious, white rice has a longer shelf life), she can be comfortingly realistic, asking, “What makes more sense than pasta and sauce?”
The panic-buying backlash
As shop shelves emptied fast in March and April 2020, lots of people pointed a finger at preppers, and blamed their hoarding tendencies for the food shortage that followed. Preppers were quick to protest that such behavior is far removed from what they do — explaining that by their very nature, they were ready for the pandemic long beforehand.
“I call this the ‘nonsensical hoarding phase,’” Ben Hansen, the chief of media for PrepperCon, told the New York Times. “It’s when people say, ‘We’ve got a hurricane coming and the power might be out,’ so they start stocking up the essentials.”
In her August 2020 video “A WARNING TO ALL YOU NON-PREPPERS OUT THERE!” Prepper Princess addresses the claim that preppers were hoarding food. “So you thought it would be ok to blame preppers for the food shortage? Let me set the record straight,” she says, associating the issue with “non-preppers who got scared” — and adding that real preppers were already well-stocked.
How The Survival Mom coped with the pandemic
For some firsthand insight on prepping over the last two years — and how the pandemic has shifted some preppers’ definitions of sensible precautions, KCM spoke to Lisa Bedford, aka, The Survival Mom. Bedford shares why she became a prepper in the first place and how this unique period in history has further shaped her outlook.
KCM: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
LB: We live in Texas, about 35 minutes outside of Houston. My kids are now 20 and 22, but when we began prepping 12 years ago, they were 8 and 10. My husband works in the energy sector.
When did you become interested in the prepper lifestyle?
Between 2008 and 2010, when the country experienced a severe recession. My first reaction was the desire to be proactive and mitigate any effects on our family. In Phoenix, other than intense heat, there are rarely any natural disasters, so my prepping was odd and out of place to family and friends. Very few of them saw the need to have on hand any more groceries than necessary. When I asked a friend if she had ever thought of stocking up on a few extra weeks’ worth of food, her response was, “Now why would I want to do that?”
By far, most survival and prepping websites were geared toward men. I gleaned a lot of information, but eventually had a lot of unanswered questions. Knowing the number of yards at which our home would be safe from rifle fire wasn’t nearly as important to me as knowing what to pack in an emergency kit in case we ever had to evacuate.
My research led to writing about it, which led to my blog, teaching live classes, developing online courses, my book — Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst-Case Scenarios — and a survival-training membership site for women.
There’s a fascinating post about pandemic preparedness on your site which says that ideally, you’d like to have the ability to “close my doors and not go into public places for up to six months.” Was that what you did in the end?
That article wasn’t written by me, and that wasn’t my own response when Covid arrived in the U.S. back in early 2020. In fact, we were outside as much as possible, knowing the importance of Vitamin D and maintaining strong and healthy bodies. We rode our bikes for miles every week, ate nutritious foods, and got plenty of rest. By the end of 2020, we were healthier than we were at the beginning of that year.
I reviewed the typical symptoms of Covid and made sure we had OTC drugs to deal with cough, congestion, body aches, etc. I had toilet paper on hand, but we stocked up on additional TP as much as we could. I also hadn’t kept up with our supply of dog and cat food, so as the weeks went by, I made sure we always had an extra couple of bags because there were times when our particular brands weren’t in stock.
Your advice is directed predominantly at moms — why is that?
This is very general, but more often than not, a man’s focus on prepping is on protecting the home and family and providing for the family. So the emphasis is on things like firearms and home security. Again, generally speaking, most women and moms will want to know, “How do I feed my family in an emergency? How do we do laundry in a power outage? How do I stock up on things like diapers and baby formula?”
Since I began this journey as a mom with younger children, those were among my own questions.
A well-prepared home and family will have all those bases covered: security systems, home/personal safety, food storage, power outage preps, seasonal preps, etc. Ideally, a family works as a team, with even younger kids involved with things like gardening, canning, and other practical skills.
Did you notice any changes in attitude from people, as a result of the pandemic?
My goal was always to provide sane, commonsense advice based on the best information available from trusted experts. As it turned out, those experts were not the ones on TV every night. But, yes, people who followed my advice have told me they were prepared for the pandemic.
Has your attitude to survivalism changed in any way as a result of the pandemic? Is there anything you’re doing differently?
We had Covid twice, and we all survived. My 80-year-old parents had Covid once or twice, and they recovered. I personally do not know anyone who died from Covid. What I learned is the importance of filtering out alarming headlines and nonstop fear-mongering. Those things lead us to make poor decisions, which is something everyone, especially prepper-minded people, should beware of. Fear leads people to do things they would never otherwise do.
Right now, inflation and food and supply shortages present a far greater threat to the average family. For example, the price of gasoline increased by 30 cents in my town in one week. Today’s trip to Aldi was nearly $90 for not even half a cart of food and household supplies.
Families and individuals need to focus on how these two crises — inflation and shortages — affect their everyday lives and plan accordingly.
Suppose someone has been stocking up on food, household supplies, hygiene products, and has been developing smart skills like cooking from scratch and cooking a meal without electricity. In that case, they have the foundation for surviving prices that are beginning to look like low-end hyperinflation.
It’s not too late to prep, but beware of taking your easy life for granted. Everything is the same until one day it isn’t. One lesson I hope people have learned is that anything can happen, and life can change in a moment. Family relationships and friendships are some of the most important things to cultivate right now. Being prepared is more than spending a lot of money on stuff: It’s also building a supportive and trustworthy community.