There was a time, not too long ago, when it was a normal fact of life to learn and become proficient at one or many trades. It could be anything from baking, sewing, gardening, hunting, construction or otherwise.
These were considered necessary skills back then, as people didn't have the modern conveniences we have today.
Today, if you need to eat, you go to the store and buy pre-grown, healthy fruit and vegetables. If you need meat, you go to the butcher and buy clean, pre-dressed and prepared animal meat. If you need a table, you go to the local furniture store and select from dozens of pre-built options. Even if you get a tear in your pants, you can go to a seamstress and have it mended. Little jobs that don't take more than a little while to do yourself are now done for you by others, and it's a dangerous position for people to be.
In the event of social breakdown, the grocery stores empty, the butchers close, the conveniences are ransacked and the servicepeople won't be around to do things for you. Not seamstresses, not builders, not anyone.
Now, one person can't become proficient in every skill - that's too big of an ask for any one human being - but it can be valuable to get in some rudimentary knowledge in as many fields as you are comfortable. In the other areas? It can't hurt to get books on the topic. Books require no power or maintenance, don't expire, and can be studied at your own convenience. They don't replace practical knowledge and experience, but it can help round out an otherwise minimal skillset.
However, if you do have it in you to try learning some good old fashioned skills that have since been lost from day-to-day life, consider the following. I've even provided some good starting points to help you get a head-start:
Baking BreadHere is a very simple, dairy-free, white-bread recipe that is incredibly easy to make with very few ingredients.
WoodworkingHere is a great walkthrough of some of the basic tools and principles behind woodworking.
And here are a few great beginner woodworking projects on which to try out your new skills, all of which can easily be extrapolated into larger projects with a bit of trial and error.
Dressing Wild GameThis video is quite graphic for those with a soft stomach, so please be warned. It is a harsh thing to learn, but if you plan on doing it, it's something you'll need to get used to eventually.
Growing CropsHere's a great quick-view of the process:
A very thorough and handy book on the subject which is quite commonly available is the Yates Garden Guide (ISBN 9780732289867) and is well worth picking up as a reference volume.
HuntingHunting is an ancient art, and very much varies from region to region. How you will need to go about it will depend entirely on where you live and what type of game you are hunting, but the core skillset remains the same. This topic is so steeped in tradition, and so handed-down, that it is hard to find sources of reading or viewing material to adequately cover the topic. Your best bet is to go on a hunting trip with someone who is experienced, and learn everything they have to teach you.
In the meantime, here are a few things to get you started.
Firstly, this is a good collection of tips and tricks:
Secondly, here's a great video to get you building your own traps:
SurgeryWound assessment and debridement is the most commonly needed surgical procedure that requires no specific expertise:
Clean amputation is another common one, which requires considerably more patience and skill:
One of the best books I can think of for this topic is "Where There is No Doctor" (ISBN 9780333516522)
Pharmacology/HerbloreFirst off, familiarise yourself with which medications are for which conditions:
Once you're done then, learn to grow and recognize plants that actually sythesize these drugs. We actually did an article on this not too long ago:
CookingLearning to cook is very important. Not only will good food keep your morale up, but properly cooked food minimizes the risk of food poisoning and toxicity.
Cooking is just chemistry. Once you learn the theories - even if it's in a nicely laid out kitchen - they can be applied to any cooking method, be it campfire, alcohol stove or other.
Here's a couple of videos that go over the basic theories:
An excellent book that covers pretty much everything you'd need to know to get you started is written by Jamie Oliver, called "Cook with Jamie" (ISBN 9780141019703)
SewingSewing is a crucial skill, whether it be mending what you have or creating new garments from scratch. Also bags, sacks and the like can be made with the right skills.
Most people think "I can run a needle through fabric! I'll manage!" but that won't hold or last for any decent length of time or be durable enough to survive what you may have to put it through.
There are two main types of sewing. Hand sewing and machine sewing.
Here are some easy basics of hand sewing to get you started:
If a machine is available (provided you have power) it's worth learning to use one of them, too:
Bushcraft/WoodloreI can't think of a better resource for learning bushcrafting skills and woodlore than The Pathfinder School, run by Dave Canterbury, which you can find here:
Other than that, there are two great books that you should invest in if possible:
The SAS Survival Guide (ISBN 978-0061992865)
Bushcraft: Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival (ISBN 978-1551051222)
Also a good investment would be books (pertinent to your region) on identifying edible and medicinal plants in your area.
Weapon Crafting and UseThis is a great YouTube playlist of various weaponscrafting videos that are worth watching:
Another good channel to look at is Joerg Sprave's Slingshot Channel, where he builds rubber-powered weapons of significant power.
Finally, Backyard Bowyer is a talented young man who shows how to build your own high powered bows:
SmithingMetalsmithing will become an incredibly valuable resource in an SHTF scenario, though it is one of the more difficult professions and difficult/expensive to obtain the proper tools.
If you do, however, manage to get the equipment, here is a video outlining some of the basics of the trade:
Get as many of these into your skillset - even in a basic form - and you'll be that much more prepared not only for a SHTF scenario but also day-to-day life. A skilled person is a useful person!
Be prepared, not scared.