Practical Advise From a Mother, Wife, and Zombie Fanatic on Surviving After an Extinction Level Event
Part 3 of 4: Food & Water
A Soccer Mom’s Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse
by Casey Rostorfer
You have your fire. It’s safe and secure behind a tarp. Your camp for the night is set up and you are snuggly warm in your layered clothing, with your shoes and socks drying next to you. And then, your stomach rumbles. In addition, you realize you are completely parched. All right Survivors, it’s time to cover basic sustenance.
Your body can survive weeks without food, but without water you’ll be dead in a matter of days. Those of you with home fortifications may have stocked up on bottled water, which is fantastic. At least until that bottled water runs out. With no more water dripping conveniently from faucets or amply supplied in your toilets, (which I know you have all been smart enough not to use), you are going to have to eventually root out a water source.
Rain collection is a viable possibility, regardless of your shelter situation. Think before you drink, however. With communications down across the globe, you may be unaware of what factors have been unleashed into the environment. In addition to soot and ash permeating the atmosphere from fires burning out of control, you have to consider the possibility that nuclear weapons have been deployed somewhere across the globe and radiation has collected in the clouds above your head. The same policy applies to rain water as to any other source: you need to decontaminate before you quench your thirst. Drinking tainted drinking water is a recipe for disaster. A case of amoebic dysentery will not only dehydrate you to the point of death, but will put a serious cramp in any escape plan (pun intended). It’s difficult to run from a hoard of zombies while expelling fecal matter like a septic-tanker hose.
Fancy water purification systems are all well and good, but not everyone will have had the forethought to procure one ahead of time. On the fly, your best bet is always boiling to remove impurities. See Part 1 for fire starting and maintenance. Do not use the same container used to procure your water, as you use to purify or drink from. You have to consider your procurement container as contaminated as your water. Forget to haul pots and pans with you? No worries! You can use any fire proof container set on a fire to boil your water. If you are truly on the fly and don’t have a fireproof container handy, you aren’t sunk yet. You can boil water in a plastic bottle. However for the inexperienced, I recommend the rock method.
The rock method is as primitive as it sounds. Place rocks of the appropriate size into your fire long enough for them to thoroughly heat. Remove the rocks from the fire and place into your container of water. You will likely need more than one rock, depending on the amount of water you need to purify. Place enough rocks into your water to sustain a boil for the appropriate amount of time.
A general rule of thumb is that it takes 10 minutes of boiling to kill any bacteria in your container. Boiling it for longer can’t hurt, but at a certain point you have to worry about water loss from evaporation. The more clean water you can save the better.
Your boiled water will likely quench your thirst, but taste flat and stale. Try adding a pinch of table salt to your water for better taste and your daily sodium and iodine requirements.
In the beginning of the end of civilization, food may not seem as difficult of a prospect as water. Prepared families in fortified structures will have stores of dried goods to last them for months, if rationed properly. It is an eventuality though, that the food will run out and everyone will be forced to the same level playing field when it comes to scavenging for food.
Canned goods are wonderful. They have a long shelf life, pre-pasteurized, and are safe to consume without heating. There is, however, one huge, glaring drawback to canned goods, if you are in the wild: You likely didn’t think to bring the can opener with you when you were high-tailing it out of your home. This is where that handy-dandy Swiss Army Knife I mentioned earlier comes into play again. Your knife has a can opener imbedded in its options. It’s not the neatest or cleanest way to open a can, but it will absolutely do in a pinch. Insert the sharp end of the can opener attachment into the top of can to form the first hole. In a counter-clockwise motion, repeat pressing holes around the edge of the can until it’s complete.
Forgot that knife? Well, there is one last way to open that can and I’m not talking smashing it. There is a “survival hack” you can use and it’s pretty simple, providing you have a piece of concrete. By rubbing the lid back and forth over the concrete surface you can wear down the seal, and then squeeze the can open. Check out WikiHow to Open a Can Without a Can Opener for full details.
When it comes to pilfering canned goods, choose wisely. Your body needs vitamins and especially protein to sustain energy. While it may be tempting to eat nothing but cling peaches and fruit cocktail, your body needs things like black beans, vegetables, and canned meat. Tuna fish and SPAM are good choices, as they have a long shelf life and provide protein to keep your muscles moving. They also have high sodium content. Your body needs salt to survive. More wars throughout history have been fought over salt than any other substance known to mankind. Salt will likely become a precious commodity once again, especially in survival groups where trading for goods will replace useless currency. If you have a salt stash, keep it contained and cared for.
If you have chosen to take to the wilderness, food becomes more of an issue, as you have no choice but to hunt and forage like our ancestors. If you have weapons with you, guns in particular, this presents more of a problem than one would initially think. You have ammo, but do you choose to use your precious stock to hunt, or save it for self-defense? In the ensuing silence of an apocalyptic world, the sound of a gunshot could ring for miles and attract unpleasant attention from both the undead and marauding bands of heathen hoarders. Your best bet for both safety and stealth, is to set up traps for whatever wild critters are plentiful in your area.
Snare traps are not as simple to construct as one would initially think. They are touchy and dangerous to rig. Use snare traps with caution. We don’t want any soldiers losing hands, fingers or eyes trying to trap a meal. That would be counter-productive, and possibly deadly, due to infection and blood loss. We will cover how to deal with loss of appendage or limb in the last part of the series.
Keep your eyes peeled for a game trail of any kind. Look for tracks, burrows, waste, or any other signs that point to critter activity in your area. You want to set your trap along the game trail, while leaving as little trace of yourself as possible along it. You don’t want to alert your future dinner to your presence. Patience is a virtue when trying to trap your game. No animal is going to want to willingly fling itself onto your dinner plate.
Looking for some fresh fruit or vegetables to go with your rabbit or squirrel stew? Unless you are 100% sure that the plants, berries and especially, mushrooms, you are eating are not poisonous, do not put them anywhere near your mouth. Once again, this may seem like common sense, but in every group, there is always one person that won’t know better and will end up on the ground foaming at the mouth in acute organ failure.
People with established fortified homesteads, or living in survivor communities will have to think about sustaining a larger population and maintaining a large garden from seeds. This is where most city folk will be in for the biggest culture shock in the brave, new world. It takes a lot of work to plant and upkeep enough vegetation to feed a crowd, especially without the aid of gas-powered tillers, tractors and the convenience of running water. You cannot count on rain alone to water your crops; you are going to have to figure out a way to water them on a regular basis. If you use water that you have not treated first, all food grown on your own will need to be thoroughly washed and rinsed before eating, to avoid contamination. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to your food… unless, of course, that baby is a zombie!
For more information on water purification, you can read our article: How To Purify Your Water Supply.