Pandemics are unwelcome visitors, but they can teach us much about our own goals and priorities. Hopefully, we have learned the importance and joy of real, quality time with family. Hopefully we have learned friends are important to our mental health and wellbeing, teaching us to be a better friend and neighbor. Most importantly, hopefully we have learned to trust in the Lord, to pray for His guidance and to experience the peace only He can bring.

What many have learned is how really unprepared they were for a self-quarantine and all that entails. Many have discovered birthdays and graduations still happen. Some, meals don’t cook themselves. Others, stores do run out of supplies. Still others, there is a good reason to have a substantial savings account. And, the idea that things happen to other people, well, sometimes we are the other people. Over the past 12 years we have addressed all of these here at Meridian and on the Totally Ready Facebook page, now it has happened. What have we learned and how will we move forward?

Special occasions happen even during a crisis. What is most important at that time? To know you are special and loved. A favorite dessert, homemade card, call from a friend or family, all these can be planned for and included in our preparations.

Cooking skills were invaluable during the pandemic. Now is a good time to collect recipes that are easy to make, use minimal ingredients and taste amazing. Over the past months we have published recipes at Totally Ready on Facebook. We have shared recipes for bread when you have no yeast, desserts when you have on eggs, and bread alternatives and delicious desserts when you have no flour. Take time now to collect and experiment with recipes and plan your food storage with those as well as family favorites in mind.

As I have spoken with friends and others who have contacted me, they have mentioned their lack of skills and their desire to master them. Some skills they included as needs were sewing, (we know how valuable that has been), auto repair, household repairs, gardening, and for a few, dealing with power outages. Now is the time to prepare by learning from those eager to help.

Wisdom tells us we cannot “let them eat cake” there was no cake, no flour. However, self-reliance is more than just storing food. Cleaning supplies, medications, eggs, flour, yeast, bread and yes, toilet paper have all been difficult to come by. Moving forward remember what you were lacking and store not just food but expand your supplies to include those non-food items lacking as well. There will be more challenges ahead. Remember the General Store in Little House on the Prairie or When Calls the Heart? Commit today to establishing a General Store in your own home, a place you can access everything you may need.

“Signs of the Second Coming are all around us and seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity. . . While we are powerless to alter the fact of the Second Coming and unable to know its exact time, we can accelerate our own preparation and try to influence the preparation of those around us. We need to make both temporal and spiritual preparation for the events prophesied at the time of the Second Coming” (Dallin H Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming”).

During, and largely as a result of the pandemic, food prices have risen. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic’s grocery bills rose the biggest monthly increase in nearly 50 years in April.  Although overall consumer prices fell 0.8% in April, households on average paid 2.6% more for groceries, the largest monthly increase since February 1974. 

As we sat home, many realized savings as they no longer paid for eating out, clothing for work and school, gasoline, child care, lessons, vacations and entertainment. What have we learned we can live without?

TD Ameritrade surveyed 1,008 Americans. This is what they found.

Roughly 57 percent of Americans spent more on groceries while quarantining at home. Some of this may be due to higher prices and some due to the family being home all day. Some people indicated to me their children never stopped raiding the cupboard. Each morning one mom had her children choose one fruit, one healthyish snack (such as nuts or low sugar granola bars) and one sweet treat to be eaten whenever they desired throughout the day.

More than half of those surveyed, 53 percent, spent more on cleaning products. Thirty-three percent spent more on takeout, and 32 percent spent more on streaming services. Could the increase in take-out be due to lack of skills in the kitchen or lack of food storage based on foods you normally eat?

With travel limited, working from home and restaurants closed, nearly 80 percent said they saved money on dining out while 75 percent said they saved on vacations.

There was also some good news. Approximately 74 percent of millennials, have increased tracking their spending and have committed to maintaining a larger emergency fund. A majority of millennials and Gen Xers have discovered their current emergency planning covered them for only three months or less.

I love this next statistic; 82 percent replied the crisis helped them realize that they don’t need to spend a penny to have a good time. I have just revised and released my eBook Pack Your Bags: We’re Staying Home, a guide to stay at home vacations. It is my hope I can help families with a fun vacation while also helping them maintain their commitment to saving more and budgeting.

No matter your seniority, level of education, expertise, local, or importance in the community you may find yourself laid off or fired, thru no fault of your own. Your place of employment may close. None of us knows what the next challenge will be. Now is the time to rethink financial preparedness.

I have facilitated the church’s Personal Finance for Self Reliance class twice. This is a great place to learn and share in a safe environment and gain skills to not only help you but to help you teach your children to practice and understand financial self-reliance. I witnessed amazing things happen for those who completed the class and then practiced what they learned.

“It is necessary to say a word about what is “enough income.” This is a materialistic world, and Latter-day Saints must be careful not to confuse luxuries with necessities. An adequate income allows us to provide for the basic requirements of life. There are some who unwisely aspire to self-indulgent luxuries that often lead them away from complete commitment to the gospel of our Savior” (Howard W. Hunter). 

Now is the time to assess what the Lord has been trying to teach us thru the pandemic and act upon it. He has warned us thru scripture and prophets concerning the last days and now further warned us by demonstrating what the world around us looks like when a pandemic and an earthquake and a severe flood and a tropical storm all happen at once. Now it is once again our turn to choose to prepare or not.

I love this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have”. Let’s get to work!

Visit Carolyn’s Totally Ready Facebook page and share what you have learned and learn from the experiences of others. New to preparing? This is the perfect place to ask questions and receive advice you can depend on.