I'm doing my part to prepare my family for hard times. Hard times include everything from a couple days power outage to a total collapse of the US financial system or EMP. You have to start small and go with what will keep you alive for the short term, then expand your stores to include the longer duration emergencies. I belong to a local MSG "Mutual Support Group" that keeps everyone informed of deals, training, new products, issues they've had, etc. This group is invaluable for me and my resources.
If you have insurance on anything you own, you are a prepper. You are prepared in a minute way for something to go wrong. There's nothing wrong with being ready for something you feel is going to happen. 2 families in the group have dealt with long term unemployment without breaking stride because they have prepared. Many in our group have offered the families some of their stores that are getting to the long side of their shelf life to help them out, but other than that they have made it on their own.
There's no reason to take it to the extreme right now, we have some time before it all goes to shit. Even after it does, You don't need 3 years worth of food and a small army to survive. In a katrina situation, you will need 4-3 weeks of food and water to survive, half a year to thrive. Sandy situation, about the same.
Some people go out and buy a freeze dried years supply of food. It's a waste, that crap will give you sores in your mouth after a few days, let alone months. It's high in sodium and not as tasty as you would like. You're better off to buy and rotate the foods you eat every day. You can dehydrate or can what you buy and grow, you can put back rice, pasta, beans, LENTILS, and some freeze dried or MRE style food for when you can't take time to prepare a meal.
Become an expert in the disasters that affect your area. Prepare for those. In my area, tornadoes are a huge issue and several people in my group have shelter, food and clothing stashed in underground caches near their house. Not my bag, but they enjoy the security of being able to overcome that disaster.
Some people just buy guns. Guns are a tool that can be used for many purposes but I choose not to use it to rob or steal. They will be a deterrent and security force.
Supposed Experts say that in a huge disaster where help is not coming, after 8 or 9 weeks, only a militia or assembled group can survive unprepared. So for the most part, if you can make it past a couple months without help, you will outlive most of the lemmings and be more secure. At that point you can start living again and planting crops, etc. That is unless you move to a low population center that is more agriculture based in its economy. There you will have the best chance at repelling scavengers and keeping things normal.
I could go on forever but I'm not, you get the idea. Some web sites can help you get there, such as survivalblog. There are a ton of them out there with nutters and preppers alike so your mileage may vary. Teotwawki blog just ended a yearlong series on prepping on 40 bucks a week. It's a great idea for those who really can't afford much. They have fun and have some really good gear, book and food reviews.
Kirk is a total dick.