How to be Prepared Without Breaking the Bank

A couple months’ back we featured an article where we talked about preppng on a budget. Since then we have received a number of really good suggestions from our readers on how to prep with little to no money.

Here’s Some of our Readers Best Tips for Prepping on a Budget.

BudgetBecome a DIY Expert – 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.

Look for Sales & Use Coupons – I only buy when it’s on sale, off-season clearance or I have a coupon.
Penny Pincher

Barter – Don’t forget about bartering. I try to barter for just about everything. I’m a handyman so I can often trade my services for gear, food, or whatever it is that I might need.

Be Self Sufficient – 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 or look in to getting a couple of multi-purpose farm animals, goats, chickens, rabbits, etc..

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

Buy Generic – 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.

Prep With Knowledge -Those who prep with knowledge will be far better off than those who rely solely on their gear to survive.

Buy Multi-purpose Items – 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.

Live a Healthier Lifestyle – 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.

Prepping on a Budget ChecklistPrep for the Most Likely Disasters First – 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 preppers made sure that their heat sources weren’t all dependent 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.

Prioritize and Rearrange –  My family 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! 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.

Thrift stores, Craigslist & Garage Sales – 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.
Penny Pincher
Just make sure you know how to protect yourself when using sites like craigslist.

Cook Like Grandma – It just common sense to cook like Grandma did! I save hundreds of dollars a year by stocking up on staples and cooking with her Depression Era recipes.

We eat “stick to your ribs farm food.” You know the meals that provide energy for hard work, and filling enough to last you all day long. That is the kind of cooking people need to learn.


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  1. These are great tips. With so many people unprepared, and lacking the knowledge needed for possible SHTFs and such, this posts gives advice that is greatly helpful and needed. Prioritizing for what’s most likely to happen first is also key as stated in the article.

    The best part about preparation is that it need not be costly for most of the equipment. Also, learning new skill-sets can be fun with the family and kids. These skills could/would benefit greatly in possible future circumstances. Thanks for the post.

  2. Try to (gently) persuade friends, colleagues, relatives to prep just a little (water and canned/boxed goods for three days or a week). Since that is not too expensive and easy enough to work toward, they might catch on. The “whole deal” just overwhelms many people, but getting started doesn’t have to be hard.

  3. Many people believe preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse (ZA) is foolish. While the actual event that will likely occur may not be a ZA where the unprepared people roam on hordes looking for ‘stuff’ in order to survive that may even get to the point of cannibalism is unlikely; there will be many unprepared people in need of assistance, and the more prepared you are the less likely you will fall into the ZA category.

    Going back to the basic rule of threes – 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food; this should help you prioritize your needs.

    3 minutes without air – How likely would you be in or near a building that collapses or some other condition where the air around you would become so congested your nostrils, mouth and throat get clogged with dust and debris? Always carrying a bandana large enough to be doubled over and tied securely around your head covering your nose and mouth may be all you need to get out of that area safely.

    3 hours without shelter – Clothing is the first line of defense for immediate shelter, make sure you have adequate layers to accommodate your seasonal and regional environment to make sure you are able to maintain your proper core body temperature. Hypothermia and Hyperthermia are major killers in opposite directions of body temperature; learn the differences and how to avoid those conditions. A poncho or tarp will cover you quickly, get you out from under rain, and snow faster than setting up a tent or building a wilderness shelter. I always carry both, a poncho and a nylon tarp in my pack.

    3 days without water – I personally do not think I could go that long without water, but apparently records indicate this is a general period people can be without water and ‘survive.’ Various conditions in the hot desert, or the snowy mountains along with your activity level will determine how much water you need. You will need to find ways to obtain clean water for drinking, from tying a bandana around your ankle to capture and absorb morning dew, to building a solar still (not the best option), among other ways. I always carry a 1-liter stainless steel water bottle and one or two collapsible 1-2 liter bladder bags in my pack, with at least the water bottle filled.

    3 weeks without food – Here is another guide or rule I find difficult to address, but again, the though is around immediate survival as compared to long-term survival. There are many different ways to obtain food, including dead-drops on rodents, grubs from trees, snaring a rabbit… your imagination can go on and on. For a long-term situation, simply purchase a few additional items that you already eat and sequester those additional items into their own ‘hidden’ container; as your supply grows, then start to organize them better and separate them into different containers based on food group categories. You will be surprised how soon your ‘stores’ will grow, but don’t stop there; build up a 3 day supply for every person in your home, then it becomes a 3 week supply, then increase to a 3 month supply, then a 6 month supply…

    One thing that ties together shelter, water, and food is fire. Being able to make fire to keep your body warm, to boil water for purification and to cook food is essential. You should always have at least three methods to make fire; matches are the most common method, but they can get wet and become destroyed, a disposable lighter is another easy method, but those to can get wet and the flint not work until it becomes dry, or the lighter runs out of fuel because the lever was depressed and it all escaped. Flint and Steel or the more common ferrocerium firesteel with magnesium block is another method that can be used with a piece of a hacksaw blade. Learn how to start a fire using a bow drill, or a fire piston. I regularly carry 5 different methods of making a fire in my pack as well.

    Speaking of tying things together… let us not forget cordage! Carry at least 50 feet of cordage; ¼ inch nylon rope can work and is cheap, I prefer the military grade “550 7-strand Paracord” or mountain climbing perlon cord, better yet, both.

    Some items you do not want to skimp on quality and I believe the knife is one of those items. I believe a good multi-tool like the Leatherman Wave or Gerber equivalent would be a sound option for a multi-tool. In addition to a multi-tool a good straight blade sheath knife is also a needed item. The Swedish Mora is a good quality and inexpensive carbon steel knife, Gerber, Cold Steel, Bark River are also a few knife companies that made good quality sheath knives.

    In summary, having a few items in a daypack can mean the difference between life and death, but just having them will not be enough… you must know how to properly use each item you carry and to do so effectively under various conditions including the best weather to extreme adverse conditions, like being able to start a fire in the rain or snow. This works on increasing your skills too.

  4. In my post above, I quickly covered the Rule-of-Threes and adding to those critical considerations the making of fire, cordage and knife. For a long-term preparation without breaking the bank you should focus on life sustaining items starting with food and water.

    Water – Since water is such a large percentage of our body, it is the most critical item to make sure you can gather. Collapsible containers are wonderful for carrying in a backpack and portability, but in the home they may be something more to fill up at the last minute. There are many long-term storage methods and many posts about them all over the Internet. If you have a basement, you can purchase large plastic drums with a pump. Myself, I prefer smaller and more portable methods with my largest container being 35 gallons, but most are 5-gallon containers stored in a closet or under a bed. To start cheap, you can reuse 2-liter pop bottles as they are quite durable, just make sure to clean them thoroughly before reusing them. I WOULD NOT recommend reusing milk jugs as those tops are not as durable and neither are the walls of the container; I would ONLY milk jugs as a last resort / last minute need for filling them for initial use. I also like the 100-gallon collapsible water bladder tanks that fit in a bathtub. These last two items are primarily for when you have minutes to get as much water as you can before the grid goes down and the municipal water supply quickly is becoming unavailable.

    Food – This is another area with many concepts, but the focus on not breaking the bank, I would suggest every time you go to the grocery store for your regular shopping, pick up two or three (more if you can afford) items that you normally eat. Get a extra can of tuna, a bag of beans, a container of honey, and a can of veggies, whatever you prefer; then place these extra items in a container up in a closet shelf. Do this every time you go shopping and your ‘stores’ will grow quickly, as the items continue to grow, then you can start to better organize what you have and fill in the blanks with other items like salt, powdered milk, sugar, rice, whole wheat, whatever the items you would normally eat. You could also look into purchasing bulk, but then rotation could become an issue, or not depending on your resourcefulness and ingenuity. Others would add getting a supply of non-hybrid seeds for gardening to supplement your stored items.

    Supplies – Tools and gear are another area for consideration. Having some good powerless hand tools for household repairs and gardening would be a good idea to start accumulating. Sleeping bags or sleep systems would be another group of items to research and investigate. The Wiggy’s FTRSS (Flexible Temperature Range Sleep System) or similar army surplus 3 or 4 piece sleeping bag system would be a good option to consider. I have bought one for $150 rated down to -30 degrees, which is cheaper than getting a -30 degree bag from a sporting goods chain store.

    These are just some of the more crucial items I believe one would need to start accumulating for a long-term survival scenario.

    Defense is a very subjective topic; which I do not plan to discuss, as there are almost as many opinions on that subject as there are people.

    • P.S.
      I forgot Water Filtration in the water section. There are a number of water filters available, the Big Berkey and Katadyn Pocket Microfilter are two of the more highly desirable filters, of course they are also some of the more expensive. To me, since water is such a critical item, I would not want to skimp in this category, but there are other methods and filters out there at a cheaper price. Just remember, you get what you pay for.

      • Lifestraw is a great option if you are looking for extremely effective and low cost portable water filtration. It’s a person filter which will filter about 1000 gallons, which is enough for one person for about a year. Best part is that it’s only like $20 – $25.

  5. I can’t seem to get a question answered about water. How do you store water? My aunt moved into a house years back that belonged to Jehovah’s Witnesses and they had 30 1gallon containers of water down there, but they were all in differing states of integrity. Some looked as if they had just been filled and others had just drops of water. What can you use to store water for such an occasion?

    • Another item for storing water that I have not seen here on OGS before is the “Water Brick”

      These hold 3.5 gallons of water full, so they are easily transportable, they can be stacked, placed under beds, and can be frozen (so long as not filled higher than the freeze line allowing for expansion).

      They can be bought is various increments 2, 4 , 8, 10… whatever meets your needs to maintain OPSEC from leering neighbors.

        • Great info Mike. Love the waterbricks. Have wanted to store some and not depending just on being able to fill containers at the last minute before the supply stops.

  6. In addition to canning food, drying is also an inexpensive way to prep. Both ways preserve food for a long time and neither are dependent on electricity. I have some apples and tomatoes that I dried about 5 years ago that are still very much usable and some canned tomatoes that are 15 years old and were doing fine until we moved and I had to store them in the light (they’ve discolored).

    Think backwards a little — to a time when there was no electric grid — and preserve and prepare food the way it was done historically.

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