Prepping on a Budget

Awhile back one of our readers emailed us with the following question:

We are your average Americans that want to start prepping but have a few things slowing us down. We have a mortgage, car payment, and both of us have health issues. We don’t have $200-300 to spend on just empty bugout bags. How about some articles on real frugal prepping for us regular folks?

First, I want to say that prepping can be done very successfully with little to no budget. In fact, I have said many times in the past but it probably needs to be repeated; those who prep with knowledge will be far better off than those who rely solely on their gear to survive.  In my opinion, knowledge it the key to surviving just about any situation. That being said, there are some advantages to being able to stockpile food, water, and some basic survival supplies.

Here are some tips on how to prep on a budget:


Take an Inventory of your Current Supplies

The first thing I recommend is to take a full inventory your current supplies. Most of us have more gear and equipment than we actually realize. Having a good inventory of your current supplies will prevent you from buying something that you may already have. It also helps you sort through all the junk you don’t need, allowing you to sell that useless crap on eBay or at a Garage Sale.

What items do you own that could be used in a survival situation? Tools, Pots & Pans, Blankets, etc…

Establish a Written Budget

The next step on your list should be establishing a realistic prepping budget. How much money can you safely spend on prepping? Are there other areas of your budget that can be cut or eliminated?

In my opinion, having a dedicated section in your budget for prepping is no different from buying home insurance or a health insurance policy.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

A lot of people think they need to do everything at once. If they can’t have it now, they often become discouraged or give up altogether. While most people don’t have the financial means to buy everything at once, that doesn’t mean you should give up on prepping.

Build you supplies when you can. If it means buying one extra can of food every time you go to the grocery store, then start with one can. Even buying that one extra can of food a regular basis will add up quickly.

You don’t need Commercial Survival foods

Some people make the mistake of thinking they need to buy expensive commercial survival food. In my opinion, you would be better served by stocking up on the foods that you already eat. Commercial survival food can cost thousands of dollars for a single person. Now add up all the members of your family and most people would be hard-pressed to find that kind of money just lying around the house.

In my opinion, most commercial survival food is a waste of money and a lot of it is simply inedible. Many first time preppers make the mistake of stockpiling foods that they would never eat in a non-survival situation. In a SHTF Emergency do you really want to start eating foods that may disagree with your body?

Buy When it’s on Sale, and Become an Extreme Couponer.

Well, you don’t have to spend hours upon hours clipping coupons, but you should take advantage of every chance you can get to save money. Most major food manufacturers offer money-saving coupons through their websites, local newspapers, Facebook pages or other online resources.

A few minutes of work every week can save you thousands of dollars throughout the course of a year.

Stock up on Knowledge

If you’re short on funds, compensate by stocking up on knowledge. By learning everything you can about the art of survival, you will ensure that you and your family have a better than average chance of surviving if things go bad.

Most survival situations can be prevented or survived by learning basic survival skills.

Spend Time, Not Money

Having a basic understanding of survival and knowing the techniques are not enough. While knowledge is a key aspect of survival, taking the time to practice your skills is a key part of the survival puzzle. Training is what makes the difference between success and failure (life or death).

To really be able to count on your knowledge when the SHTF, you need to run through your techniques in a number of scenarios and environments. The more you train in real world situations, the more likely it is that you will be able to perform your skills when it really matters.

Have any tips for those prepping on a budget? What recommendations do you have?

Shirts of Liberty

OFFGRID Survival book



  1. 1. I only buy when it’s on sale, off season clearance or I have a coupon.

    2. I hit garage sales almost every weekend. This is one of the best ways to grow your preps when you’re on a tight budget.

    3. Thrift stores & Craigslist.

    • Yes, CRAIGSLIST AND GARAGE SALES!!!! I also go every weekend…its my favorite thing to do now =)

      You don’t have to be “rich” to prepare… just be organized!

    • Stop and Shop often runs a Sale on 20 lbs of rice for $8.99. That is even cheaper than Aldi, and other discount stores. Price Rite has it for $12 bucks not on sale.Even at full price for $120. that is 200 lbs of rice. It has protein Vitamins, and carbs. You can live off it for a while. The Vietcong did. You can even put a mouth full in and let it soften over time with your saliva , and eat it, or let it sit in cold water for 6=8 hours to soften. Buy enriched white rice, Brown rice does not keep long.Put it in a old ct litter bucket(Cleaned) and add a hand warmer , then duct tape it well . The warmers are just like O2 absorbers , and even thought the bucket is not “foodsafe” , it will be ok cause the rice is in a bag.The dollar store has Vitamin c , which will be needed when eating just rice, and they have rubbing alchohol, peroxide, and many other preps for a buck.

      • I hit the local Asian market. I recommend tossing rice and other things in a deep freeze for a week to prevent the catastrophe that is grain moths. But, I can get white and brown long and short grain rice cheap and a ton of dried goods and noodles that have long shelf life. If you must avoid gluten, this is a massive budget option.

        Typically, if you’re not sure on brand, the one they keep stocked wide and deep is going to be the freshest if no dates.

        I have celiac disease (and live in a wheat state) so this is where I go to get my noodles and “pasta” and rice. A brand called Cereously sells quinoa (a whole food) at good prices online and my “test” runs using silica gel and an O2 absorber in 5 gallon buckets works well. If you wonder if something will keep, you can always make a small test bucket and check for freshness at intervals. Commercial food is just a waste if you have strategy.

  2. When buying food supplies, go to the stores that have a larger consumer base. The higher turnover rate of goods will get you fresher food than stores with a lower inventory turnover rate. Also, store brand foods are, in most cases, much cheaper than the national brand, and just as good. If you intend on buying a lot of something, test it out first though. But if you can’t taste a difference in one can of something over another, buy the cheaper one. Store brands are very often made by the national chains, and can be had for 2/3 or even 1/2 of what a name brand costs. The savings add up.
    Also, when buying items, look for things that can serve more than one purpose. Multi-purpose items like duct tape, bandanas, cordage, rubbing alcohol, iodine, and tarps have a huge number of uses, and are relatively cheap.

  3. A good way to prepare yourself, gain skills and save money is to find ways to be more self sufficient. You could plant a garden :D look in to getting a couple multi-purpose farm animals, goats, chickens.. Rabbits are a great choice if you have a small backyard or even no backyard, many people keep bunnies inside.
    Start doing more DIY things, instead of buying pre-made foods start making bread from scratch, learn how to make your own laundry soap, learn to sew or knit, rather than throwing broken things out, try to fix them.

    My family is doing most of the above things. We also minimized our monthly bills by getting rid of our cell phone plan, we were paying $250 a month, we now have a couple prepaid phones that cost $30 each a month. We downsized our cable bill by bundling it with our internet. Ultimately we cut our monthly bills by over $300 a month, just buy prioritizing and rearranging.
    We also took a look at our luxury items, for example, we had gaming systems and flat screen TV’s out the wazoo, we decided as a family to only keep 1 xbox 360 and 1 tv in the whole house. That was huge for my husband and kids! Lol
    We sold the rest on craigslist! So selling things that you don’t need might be a good
    way to get preps that you may not otherwise be able to afford.

    I definitely agree that skills and knowledge are much more important and more valuable than “things.” knowledge is power! :D

  4. GunLuvin is so right. Living a self sufficient lifestyle will help not only save money for preps but it will also help you prepare to live through a crisis.

    Growing your own foods, baking and cooking from scratch, learning how to fix what’s broken instead of throwing it away are all wonderful ways to be frugal.

    Other tips: Get rid of cable in exchange for netflix, learn how to sew, garage sales, bartering, canning.

    • The problem with the whole “self-sufficiency” thing is the apparent interest the gov’t is taking in “preppers” and off-grid livers. How many articles are on this website alone talking about how the gov’t went after this guy, or that guy, that was totally self reliant? People who live off grid, provide their own power, provide their own sustanance, etc, are starting to come into the crosshairs of the gov’t. Now, being able to become self-reliant, having the materials ready but not implementing, would not be a bad idea. Have the seeds available; have the solar panels and batt’s etc, in storage ready to set-up. But don’t actually put them out. Don’t sow your crops yet, don’t mount, and utilize, your solar panels yet. Otherwise, the gov’t may take an unwelcomed interest in you.

      Just a thought.

      • I agree! An element of discretion is key when it comes to preps. But I don’t think it should deter people from learning essential *real life skills* or meeting goals in self reliance.
        Simple goals like a little planter box garden, canning, practice making fresh homemade bread, learning to sew the holes in your socks rather than buying new ones right away.. Those are things a lot of people don’t know how to do.. Basic stuff that I’m still learning too. Things like this make you more self sufficient, save you money and gift you with new skills. And it’s highly unlikely it would draw any attention from the Feds.

  5. Hide in plain sight! Work on improving your health and getting off medications. You do not want to be in a position where you have to take 5-10 pills a day (or more!) just to sustain life.

    Developing the skills needed to survive costs very little.

    Work with others, family members, neighbors that you have known for years also discretely preparing for a rainy day. Have your ‘extended family’ work on different skills so more areas are covered as well as each others backs.

    Sure the time of the inevitable is always getting closer with every breath, and there will still be items you need to get or do when it actually arrives, just do what you can, while you can, with what you have to work with.

    Already mentioned… Craigslist, yard/garage sales, and when you go, don’t have all your money in the same pocket, spread it out in small bills with $17 in one pocket, $34 in another, $58 in yet another… whatever fits your situation, that way you can negotiate a price, only pull out from your $34 pocket and say ‘this is all I have… will you take this?’ Work on your negotiation and barter skills. If you find something better and get it, recycle the old on Craigslist or yard sale of your own, or keep it to use for bartering later when someone comes knocking on your door because they are not as prepared as you… or sell to your extended family at the family discounted price.

    There are still ways of getting what you need to survive, and testing your skills and the gear you do have will give you first hand experience to see if you need more or better. Do you really need five or six knives, no; I am sure three good knives of different specialty areas are more than enough. Do you need to have a pack that will hold two weeks food, water and seven changes of clothes? Not at all, but test the items you have to see where you might be able to consolidate into fewer more appropriate items or get rid of entirely.

    Work on the various skills and test what you have to make sure it will work for you. Add as you can, when you can, focusing on the primary items first, shelter, water, food, and security (some may debate the order and items… sobeit).

  6. I keep seeing SHTF…. what does that mean? I’m new to the site and want to know everything I need to know about surviving in a world that is almost complete chaos. If you can help, please post it with my name in it. Thanks.

  7. The advantages of the expensive foods are that they last longer than your canned foods. It is very important to keep an eye on the dates on canned foods. For the most part, they are fairly accurate.

    I recommend learning to grow a garden and can your own food. This should not be a problem unless you livein an apartment or something. If you do, see if there is a community garden in your area. I am seeing lots more of these lately. Fresh food tastes much better too.

    • I couldnt help it I had to respond. The reason you are seeing many community gardens in the cities is because the government is removing the farmers in rurual areas. It is called Agenda 21. When the s*** hits the fan, the government will own all the community gardens, they are not citizens gardens, they are government gardens.It is in every major city…..

    • Beans last a long time and are cheap they are full of protein. The bag kind are not cooked but they last the longest then can bags store better so it depend on what you can do. Can food you don’t have to cook. Bags you have to Cook. I am stocking up little by little every time I shop. if you get seed non gmo organic seeds by a pack or two every payday. invest on camping gear search for indoor garden set ups if you live in an apt.

  8. I’m new to all of this and am interested to know what sort of things you look for on craigslist.


    • First, I would be wary of contacts made on craigslist… unscrupulous people are everywhere.

      I would start with a self-inspection and analysis of what emergency situations you could experience in your location and what items you would need to deal with the situation, and then make a list of those items.

      You could search for those items, or garage sales in your area and go to them to see if any of the items you have listed can be found.
      As for items like long-term food supplies, personally I would only buy from trusted resources. You can search on freeze dried or dehydrated foods, some of which you could make yourself.

      Do you need a “bug-out-bag (BOB), there are a couple ways to approach that; 1) get what is on your list and then get a backpack to fit, or 2) get a comfortable backpack and get items that will all fit into that pack.

      While craigslist can be a viable resource, I would not dismiss other sources.

      Trial and error can get expensive, so it is best to do as much research as possible before you spend your hard earned wages.

      • Forgot to emphasize…
        Place additional focus on Food, Shelter, Water, and Fire as four of the primary items needed… some may add Security as a primary item too, and others may say there are 10 essential items like the Boy Scout 10-Essentials… which do not cover Security.

      • Be very careful when buying or selling on Craigslist. We had a young man here who posted an ad on craigslist to sell his pick up truck. A teenager responded and took a friend to meet the seller. They ended up kidnapping him and killing him. Then stole the truck. Whenever you meet with someone to buy or sell something please always take someone with you and use extreme caution.

  9. Hi Everyone,
    I am a fairly new prepper also and thanks for this most valuable site. I found a wonderful resource that may help those on a budget and of course, those who are not. It turns out that the Mormon Church has canneries in nearly every city and also an online store. For $22, you can get one of their online Starter Kits. I just received mine today which contains the following (all in #10 cans): 2 cans of white Rice, 2 cans hard red wheat, 1 can of quick oats, 1 can of pinto beans. All contents are dried. I also purchsed the Oxygen Absorbers (100 per pkg) which cost $12. Its a LOT of high quality food in those cans and it even comes with free bread and soup recipes. You do not have to be a Mormon to shop online and I know that at some of the canneries, you have to be a church member, but many will let you in even if you are not. They have much more variety at the canneries, including potatoes, carrots, dried apples, etc. It is REALLY, REALLY CHEAP either way and for under $100.00 could give you a generous food supply to start out with! The online store is at Click on Menu and under the Church heading if you look all the way down, you will see Store. Click on that and you can see all they have to offer. Even water purifying kits. They are WAY into prepping :) Hope it helps.

    • hi everyone,
      I wanted to comment on Lisa’s post. I looked at the website just now and the starter kit is there. It doesn’t say how many ounces a number 10 can is, can’t tell if it’s a 16oz can or bigger. Also, it is now 31. dollars. I won’t buy it without knowing how big a number 10 can is. Thanks for sharing that though!

      • The #10 size cans are roughly the same size as a gallon paint can. You’ve probably seen #10 size cans of vegetables at your grocery store.

        Some of the LDS stores will let you borrow their can sealer(metal cans like the #10 size), but you have to buy the empty cans and lids from them. You can also buy bulk quantities of wheat, for example, in 50 pound sacks and repackage it into mylar or the metal cans yourself. Something to keep in mind if you’re storing grains, like wheat, you’re going to need a grain mill to grind it into flour or meal.

  10. Although many would disagree, when it comes to survival and prepping gear, having something is better than having nothing. I say this within the context of one’s budget.

    There are times when we simply do not have the cash to purchase the best. In that case, owning a cheaper, budget version will do just fine in my opinion. A good example is a flashlight. Sure, a $40 tactical flashlight is optimal, but if your budget only allows for a $5 LED, go for it. Later, you can save up for the higher quality version.

    By the way, there are lots of inexpensive preps you can pick up at the Dollar Store.

    — Gaye

  11. Although many would disagree, when it comes to survival and prepping gear, having something is better than having nothing. I say this within the context of one’s budget.

    There are times when we simply do not have the cash to purchase the best. In that case, owning a cheaper, budget version will do just fine in my opinion. A good example is a flashlight. Sure, a $40 tactical flashlight is optimal, but if your budget only allows for a $5 LED, go for it. Later, you can save up for the higher quality version.

    By the way, there are lots of inexpensive preps you can pick up at the Dollar Store.

    – Gaye

    • First time visitor here but closet prepper or edc’er. I agree, there are a lot of good stuff that can be found at the dollar store. Anti-bacterial gel, band aids, cold compresses all for a dollar..great little store. That and the 99 cent store.

  12. Here is a little craigslist story…. I get free roosters all the time. I name them all stew or Deep Fry. Got a male goat for free and traded it for one that will be ready to butcher this fall and I do not have to raise it.

  13. Many beginner preppers spend a lot of time and money on non-essentials, or in other words gear that is only practical in a certain survival situation. The moneywise prepper will analyze the potential disasters or scenarios which are most likely for their location and build around that model first. Example: when in lived in Alaska the greatest danger was long term power outage combined with extreme subzero temps. The wise prepper made sure that their heat sources weren’t all dependant on electricity and that their food stores could be frozen and thawed out without destroying them. In most places longer term (1 week to 3-4 months) power outage is a very real threat. First think about the likelihood of the proposed scenario happening and cross it with the severity. Red dawn is a scary scenario but probably (IMO) not as likely as hurricane/flooding/power outage on the east or gulf coast.

    • Red dawnis a good movie and I beleve that socioty will totally colapse AT LEAST in the U.S. in the next 20-30 years.

  14. I am finding that most people think we are all nuts. However, if they would just take the time to check out posts like these, I believe many would change their tune. That’s one of the things I love most about the prepper community, you’re sure to find an intelligent conversation.

  15. Don’t forget to grab candles which can be found cheap or free at yardsales, the .99 cent stores are a great idea for prepping on budgets. I love Harbor Freight, I have gotten lots of basic preps from them including solar items (lights and chargers)and even a single plug generator for under $100.00. If you don’t have a HF in your town they have a website, just google harborfreight.

  16. remember native americans survived for thousands of years on only what they knew. no big box stores back then. i know most people don’t have my advantage of being taught traditional knowledge. but the knowledge is still there. you just have to look for it. this knowledge and a few modern supplies and a person could live quite well during an emergancy.

  17. Hi, I am new to this too, but have always felt in my gut that there would be a need to survive some event. I first remember seeing Red Dawn in late 90s and it had a huge impact on me. I lived in CO at the time and remember planning what we would do in such event. I also have spent most my life in CA and thought about how to survive a major earthquake, especially if things turned ugly and people came to take what we have. Now I also think about gov. turning on us, civil unrest, and economic collapse. I am trying to start really putting to action the things I had only thought about before. But I am paralyzed with indecision, I don’t know which scenario to prep for. I need a push. I have started with water and flashlights. I am in condo so gardening and livestock not an option at this time I am so glad you are here and you have offered and shared much valuable information. Sometimes I feel dumb because I am thinking about prepping.

    • @ dr prepper
      What you should prep for depends on your area. Water, food and security are the most important. Escpecially security because all the preps in the world won’t help you if someone can come in and take it. Also prepping isn’t dumb in the least, there’s a good chance nothing will happen and if that’s the case you spent your time with a hobby that could have potentially saved your life and others you care about.

    • Do not feel dumb!! Who will be the dumb ones if the shtf? If nothing happens, then you have extra food and don’t need to make a trip to the store. If something does happen, they will come knocking on the “dumb” persons door asking for help.

  18. I am new to this prepping idea- at first, I scoffed at it when a reality show was on last year. However, I can’t shake this genuine feeling of unease for our species’ survival. Rather be known as that goofy old lady down the road than the one banging on my shipping container doors for assistance later on! We have the 66ha farm, shipping containers and off grid system (here in Australia, my friends in state government say they are thinking of taxing off grid houses. This is no joke- they’ve been wanting to tax farmers for their dam water for a while). And our gun laws are so tight, you so much as fart at a copper and they revoke your gun licence. No semi’s/ full auto’s, handguns or bigger artillery. (All are annually re-registered -$$$- and kept under lock at your gun club. If you don’t practice a certain amount with your weaponry at the club, they go to the smelter. Well, allegedly, lol).
    If I was in America, my first prepping priority would be stocking up on ammo and guns while you still can.

    • Down Under Huh? We live in Arizona U.S.A. high desert heat and all, but we live @ 4,800ft high desert close to the hills.
      As for prepping I am glad you are realizing it’s no joke as my parents lived through the great depression and ww2 rationing. Be it nuclear attack, terrorism or a natural disaster having a back supply of food and water on hand makes the difference between running around like a chicken with it’s head cutoff looking for supplies, or resting on the porch taking it easy.
      As for weaponry just look at what the native people in your country have used for millennia, they are cheap if not free, silent and effective with a little training. And how about mice traps, they are cheap and a few fat mice in the stewpot is better that nothing.
      I’ve hunted, fished and consumed just about every critter found here in Arizona and at 60 I’m still kicking. Does you government regulate air rifles if not they are a good thing to have around as they are capable of taking game 20 pounds and under with ease in .22 caliber using pellets.

  19. On the subject of food, we buy it on sale, and grow our own then my wife & I can and/or dehydrate the majority of it.
    Here’s a hint; If it’s canned or dehydrated in the store you can do it at home with a little practice, my wife even figured out how to can meatloaf and other meats, vegetable/dishes and even Mexican meat dishes as well. Here’s the plus = you know what’s in it because you’re the one who did it!

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