13 Prepper Items You Should Look for at Goodwill

Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason May 6, 2019 08:08

13 Prepper Items You Should Look for at Goodwill

Prepping can get expensive. Almost all of us need to invest some money in equipment and supplies, and that can take a good bite out of our income. To keep prepping affordable, most of us are always looking for ways to save a few cents on every purchase – and as the Brits like to say, “look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves”.

There are plenty of ways to save money on your preparations. Walmart and other big-box stores are a great option for buying food, for example. Preppers often tour yard sales looking for bargains on tools. Ebay has also become a popular way to buy all sorts of useful stuff. There’s one option a lot of preppers overlook, though – the local Goodwill store.

Goodwill and other thrift stores can be real goldmines for a smart prepper. They carry an amazing range of items, and it’s always worth taking a good look – you never know what you’ll find collecting dust in a corner. Here are some of the common prepper items you’ll find at Goodwill:

13 Prepper Items You Should look for at Goodwill tools#1. Most preppers already have a pretty good collection of tools – but do you have spares? Hammers don’t break often, but that’s not the same as saying they never break. Saws tend to be more fragile, and most of us have mangled a screwdriver on a tougher than average screw. Thrift stores are a great place to pick up cheap tools to either round out your kit, or give yourself an emergency backup.

#2. If you’re cooking over an open fire you really want to be using cast iron cookware – but that’s become fashionable and expensive. Goodwill often has iron pots, skillets and Dutch ovens, though. Sometimes they’re unwanted gifts, often still in in their boxes; other times they’re old attic finds that will be as good as new after being cleaned and seasoned.

Related: 10 Advantages Of Using Cast Iron Cookware When SHTF

13 Prepper Items You Should look for at Goodwill clothes#3. Clothes are a big part of the thrift store business, and you can find an amazing variety. After Christmas is always a good time, as people unload unwanted gifts – but if you take a look in spring, as the weather starts to warm up, you can get some real bargains on winter coats, hats and boots.

#4. Spring is the time to look for cheap winter clothes – but the end of hunting season is worth remembering, too. Every year a lot of people decide to take up hunting, and kit themselves out with everything they need. Then, at some point in their first season, they discover that shivering in the woods waiting for a deer isn’t for them after all. A lot of that hunting gear – hides, camouflage clothes, binoculars – ends up on a shelf at Goodwill.

#5. Looking for some extra backpacks to make up bug-out bags for your family? Check Goodwill. You might not find the sort of premium rucksack you’d want for your main BOB, but if you’re looking for something to let the kids carry a few essentials, you should find something that will work just fine. Want an extra rucksack to make a car bag, or a get-home bag for the office? Something from Goodwill should be fine here, too.

#6. Thrift stores tend to have a good collection of candles. People get them as gifts, pass them on to the store, then you can pick them up for pennies. Even the ugliest ornamental candle will burn just fine, and when you need it to provide light you won’t care how it looks. Goodwill stores also sometimes have bags of stubs or broken candles for a couple of dollars; you can melt these down and recast the wax into fresh candles.

13 Prepper Items You Should look for at Goodwill blankets#7. Old-style wool blankets are heavy, bulky and slow to dry, so they’ve fallen out of favor with most people. Preppers love them though, because they’re also durable, warm, fire-resistant and keep providing insulation even when they’re wet. Goodwill is an excellent source of these classic survival items.

#8.  Hiking, like hunting, is an activity that many try but fewer stick with. You’ll often find tents, camp stoves and other gear at Goodwill. Sometimes it’s an older item that’s been well used and cared for, then replaced with a newer one. More often it’s been used exactly once. Either way, it’s a bargain for you.

#9. Who couldn’t find something to do with more canning jars? Well, quite a few people apparently, going by how many you can find at Goodwill. Preppers can always use more canning supplies, though, so take a look!

Related: Canning Amish Poor Man’s Steak

#10. A lot of families, seeing the kids permanently glued to some kind of screen, take their old board games to Goodwill. If you’re preparing for life after TEOTWAWKI you already know that the future – for example life post-EMP – might not include computer games. A stash of old favorites, like Monopoly or Parcheesi, will help pass the evenings when the games consoles are all gone.

#11. If you’re looking for entertainment, have a look at the shelves of books every thrift store contains. You can often pick up bestsellers for a dollar or less, giving you a cheap way to build up a good stock of reading material. Don’t forget to look for cookbooks and DIY handbooks, too – people often give these away.

#12. These aren’t exactly a glamorous item, but it’s almost impossible for a prepper to have enough buckets. Carrying water, foraging in the woods for mushrooms, providing emergency toilets in a fallout shelter… the humble bucket has many uses. Search your Goodwill store for them. They’re often in a storeroom or stuck in a corner at the back, so if you don’t see any, ask.

#13. No, you’re not going to find bullion bars at your local Goodwill (and if you do, please let us know where it is). What you might find is single earrings, broken necklaces and other old, discarded jewelry. That doesn’t have a lot of value in normal times, but if it’s gold or silver then it’s precious metal that will hold barter value if the dollar economy falls apart.

You may also like:

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The U.S. Army’s Forgotten Food Miracle (Video)

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7 Deadly Canning Mistakes Even Smart People Make

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Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason May 6, 2019 08:08
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  1. Hoosier Homesteader May 6, 11:17

    When I lived in the city, thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army were a regular place to go. Now that I have a homestead way out in the country, the closest Goodwill to me is about 50 miles away. They are a great place to save money, and if you have thrift stores close to you and you don’t visit them, you’re probably missing out on a lot of good bargains.
    Good post!

    Reply to this comment
    • GINO May 7, 10:20




      Reply to this comment
      • Hoosier Homesteader May 9, 12:50

        The Salvation Army was always my first place to go for the same reasons.

        Reply to this comment
      • Janeth November 21, 14:59

        Amen to that Gino! Goodwill is entirely profit driven and could care less if you don’t have a place to lay your head or a bite to eat. They especially do not do anything for active military and their families nor do they offer assistance for our returning soldiers. Bypass Goodwill at all costs. I seriously would rather purchase something at twice the price than to patronize them.

        Reply to this comment
      • Govtgirl April 28, 05:05

        I prefer organizations that help vets too BUT Goodwill offers work to people who might not be able to get a position anywhere else where they can feel useful. I know they do not pay min wg, but I met many people who gained a feeling of worth by holding down a part time job at Goodwill and learning the basics of being a worker sometimes leads to better opportunities for these folks. Just saying, don’t write them off entirely.

        Reply to this comment
  2. JJ May 6, 13:49

    I have read many articles about Goodwill and all were condemning. I don’t shop there–but do visit Salvation Army.
    Want an eye-opener?? Check out the salary of Goodwill director vs. Salvation Army!!

    Reply to this comment
    • BillH May 6, 15:38

      Salvation Army consists of believers. Mostly unpaid volunteers. Even their officers are, as you pointed out, not overpaid. IMO, the best place to give money for disaster relief (the Red Cross has high salaries and high bureaucracy). As well as thrift shops. Locally, you will also find small thrift shops run by local churches, staffed by believers. They are also places with low overhead. Disadvantage is they are typically small, thus less choice.

      Goodwill does hire people otherwise unemployable, which is a good thing. But as you point out, they are a large high-overhead operation.

      Reply to this comment
      • vietvet May 6, 18:14

        Goodwill hires the mentally slow and handicapped which is a good thing but the reason not so much, under federal law they are allowed to pay these people WAY UNDER minimum wage, like a couple bucks an hour

        Reply to this comment
        • BigRed November 21, 03:03

          They get TAXPAYER-funded subsidies from FedGovCorp. That is why they hire the slow and pathetic.

          Reply to this comment
          • Teachers toy February 4, 19:00

            How long have you worked there BigRed? You seem pretty worthless and pathetic.im glad you were able to get a job.i know it’s hard for a special needs person

            Reply to this comment
      • vietvet March 20, 16:53

        goodwill hires the otherwise unemployable because under a federal law they can pay them WAY under Minimum Wage, like $2 an hour

        Reply to this comment
    • Randy May 6, 16:25

      I agree, he drives around in a Rolls Royce limo, makes millions, they have the best buildings, all because they get everything free then sell it at a profit.

      Reply to this comment
    • Dan May 6, 16:37

      Salvation army director gets like 15,000 a year goodwill ceo gets over a million

      Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 6, 16:44

      Financially managed, there is no question in my mind that the Salvation Army is the gold standard as far as how they spend their money. Of course, that is partly due to the fact that their salaries are modest.

      One of the richest men in our town was the owner of several Goodwill Stores. He was a curmudgeonly b _ _ _ _ _ d. I had always thought that Goodwill was a true charity, however it is a business and a profitable one at that. They do hire the handicapped who would otherwise be unemployed, but the government subsidizes the salary they pay, so they can pay less than minimum wage. The feds make up the difference between what Goodwill pays and what the mandated minimum wage is. So like so much in life, it is a gray area. They provided a structured work environment so that handicapped folks can have something to do to occupy their time besides watching the tube all day.

      We have young man in our neighborhood who should be in such a structured environment. For some reason, I don’t know whether the family is here illegally or what the reason is, but they turn him out of doors every morning to wander the neighborhood by himself. This has been going on for well over ten years. He follows the mailman around for company. Actually he know the route better than the mailman because we haven’t had the same mailman for any period beyond about a year and this young man has been walking the route 6 days a week for well over ten years. Except that he couldn’t drive the truck, he could probably deliver the mail as efficiently as the paid postal worker. So there it is. Yes, Goodwill is a money making deal for the individual store owners. But on the other hand it does good for folks who can’t hold a regular job.

      I tried hiring a mentally disabled person at the behest of the local employment department. It didn’t work out. He needed very close supervision to perform his work. It was almost a one-on-one situation. It didn’t matter how cheaply his labor was, it took a full time person to do nothing but supervise him.

      It would be so nice if life were simple.

      Reply to this comment
    • Janeth May 6, 17:43

      Yes, JJ you are correct. They are corrupt. I worked at their corporate office for three days and caught onto what was going on immediately. Lavishly decorated offices and bathrooms, a CEO making over 3 million a year and high salaries are NOT gotten off the 1% they claim runs corporate. Stick to local thrift shops and Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity ReStores and yard sales. Goodwill has the world bamboozled.

      Reply to this comment
    • none February 19, 15:39

      In 1958 I knew some of the salvation army folks. They worked very hard sometimes 7dys per wk. They stated that their captain (director) was the only paid employee and he didn’t have any control or financial interest in their businesses. I had a great deal of respect for all of them.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Wannabe May 6, 14:12

    If you cast Bullets and need a good source of tin you can buy old pewter items. Picture frames are a good source. Much smaller items to handle instead of big bulky pieces of tin off a barn.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 6, 18:49

      Hi Wannabe: I went to Wikipedia to look up pewter because I wasn’t sure what its composition was. Here is some of what they had to say about it: “Older pewters with higher lead content are heavier, tarnish faster, and oxidation gives them a darker silver-gray color. Pewters containing lead are no longer used in items that will come in contact with the human body (such as cups, plates, or jewelry) due to health concerns stemming from the lead content. Modern pewters are available that are completely free of lead, although many pewters containing lead are still being produced for other purposes.

      “A typical European casting alloy contains 94% tin, 1% copper, and 5% antimony. A European pewter sheet would contain 92% tin, 2% copper, and 6% antimony. Asian pewter, produced mostly in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand, contains a higher percentage of tin, usually 97.5% tin, 1% copper, and 1.5% antimony. This makes the alloy slightly softer.

      “So-called “Mexican pewter” is an alloy of aluminum, copper, and silica.”

      I don’t cast my own bullets. I have always purchased my bullets from bullet casting companies. Since the Greenies have gotten their panties all twisted over lead, it is becoming harder and harder to find lead products. Wheel weights, the traditional source of lead for bullet casters are now zinc or some other metal. Even the foil on wine bottles which used to be lead is now aluminum. I used to save the wine foil and give it to my brother who cast his own bullets. I don’t think he is casting his own any more.

      My position on lead foil on wine bottles has always been: If you are getting lead poisoning from the residual lead washed off the lip of the wine bottle, your problem isn’t lead poisoning, you are drinking way too much wine. It also might help if you drank out of a cup or glass rather than just chugging straight from the bottle.

      Thanks to the last regime’s green policies, we no longer have domestic lead available. All of our lead is recycled or comes from Mexico or China. But we feel good about ourselves because we are no longer producing that nasty stuff. Ah, well, enough ranting for one post.

      Reply to this comment
      • Wannabe May 7, 00:50

        Yea ten four left coast, I only use the pewter for the tin. I use range lead for new bullets.

        Reply to this comment
        • Ale May 7, 12:50

          Ever see that YouTube video where thery cast bullets from plastic and itnwas more damaging then reg bullets? They had two scientist working on it. Veru interesing video. Also i alwayz go to good will amd had no idea the company’ makes that much also. Wish i could find.toolz at my local one. I ise to.go on their website and bid on things but ataarted to become to addictin

          Reply to this comment
      • vman2020 May 7, 01:37

        Most electronic products have lead in the solder, it is lots of small dabbles, but if you are looking for lead source, look to Printed Circuit Boards.

        If you want High Energy Capacitors, look to the old tv tubes which were driven by capacitors strong enough to kill a person who touched the leads even after the set was unplugged.

        Reply to this comment
  4. Sherry May 6, 16:17

    You can also check your local thrift stores, we have trash and treasure that supports their food pantry with the money that they make on sales of items donates

    Reply to this comment
  5. Nord American May 6, 16:45

    Try a Deseret Thrift store as well. It’s run by the LDS church. If you’re looking for a place you can feel morally good about (unlike Goodwill) this is THE place.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Just Me May 6, 17:10

    I don’t shop Goodwill anymore as they have become commercialized in a sense. They are building brand new buildings and charge way to much for the donations that they are receiving. I might as well go to Wally World (Wal_Mart) Try your local thrift shops or the Salvation Army.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Spike May 6, 18:05

    Thanks for the comments. I always heard that Salvation Army was the bad dog.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Joyce May 6, 18:53

    I just replied to my email instead of coming in here and posting what I said in the email……it was, as a lot of you know, about GOODWILL……nonprofit??? don’t think so……I did my community service there years ago. And that is free labor. Plus their inventory is free. Just wondering because they have a store on every corner now, if the property owner gets a tax deduction for renting to them free and maybe the utility company too. No telling…….you can read on how much the top guys make through goodwill. I WILL NOT GO IN THERE AND SUPPORT THEIR RECENT HIKE IN PRICES, WHEN MOST OF THE EXPENSE IS FREE. I never hear about Goodwill stepping up in disasters and such. I can buy a NEW shirt at Walmart for the 6.00 they want for a used and sometimes really used shirt. Ok…done ranting…but go to Salvation Army or some other (and there are a million) discount store that really wants to help people…….GOODWILL IS NOT A NONPROFIT!!!!!

    Reply to this comment
  9. Graywolf12 May 6, 19:14

    ‘old discarded jewelry’. I have made fish lures from such items. A friend dismantles and makes new jewelry from these items. She has a resale store, so it increases her profits.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Rucksack Rob May 6, 19:48

    St. Vincent dePaul is also a worthy Christian charity and it beats both Salvation Army and the ‘noGoodwill’ in my area of the Northern Great Lakes, although I do shop at all three. Funny thing… the noGoodwill in my town always marks up name brand items such as a Northface or Columbia jackets from the regular $6.99 for their used jackets to $19.99 because of the name brand. One day I was in there and came across a Filson Mackinac Wool Cruiser in mint condition. new thy’re $250, I got it for $6.99 not the normal mark up of $19.99 because someone in the back didn’t know what they had… :>)

    Reply to this comment
    • Janeth February 5, 16:35

      St Vinnie’s rocks. When we had extremely little money (we were POOR as church mice) but needed bedroom furniture we found it at St Vinnies, it was cheap but they also gave us 50% off. Things are better now and we donate there. SAVERS is my shopping place of choice to this day. I cannot even bring myself to spend $17. on a pair of jeans at WalMart when I can get nice ones at Savers for about $6.00. Its all about repurposing, recycling and giving back, Screw Goodwill.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Boadicea May 6, 22:07

    I Donate and Purchase from Animal Welfare League here in OZ.
    Humans have fallen down my List of Priorities as a Species we have Screwed Up our Custodianship of this Beautiful Planet.
    Few could Boil Water if we had another Carrington Event.
    Darwin Award! 😉

    Reply to this comment
  12. Grammyprepper May 7, 02:49

    If we had a Salvation Army thrift store locally, I would certainly shop there. I only donate to them anymore for all of the aformentioned reasons. I’ve had some good luck with purchases from the local GW (I wa on the hunt for an old fashioned percolator, didn’t see any for the longest time, then ended up buying 3 Corningware percs that showed up! gave one to my SIL and kept the other 2), but I never seem to find any wool blankets. Could partly be because we are semi rural, and the locals know the value. Guess I need to branch out, LOL

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  13. DennisC55 May 7, 04:53

    I have seen used canning jars priced very nearly the same as new canning jars and new canning jars have new rings and lids as well as the jar. Yes, you can find good deals at Goodwill; but be very careful and observant of the condition of the item. Goodwill is also very aware of the recent popularity of “prepping” and prepping merchandise and tend to up price these items. The last day or the last few hours of most estate sales will net you much better deals than thrift stores since the items for sale are items that the surviving family members want to get rid of.

    Reply to this comment
    • Illini Warrior May 7, 12:32

      in regard to the canning jars and the auctioneers >>> make contact with the ones that do home cleanouts and auction out of their own facility – canning jars are a losing proposition for them – they’ll make you a great deal for handling that part of the clean out …

      Reply to this comment
  14. bruno May 7, 12:36

    i work at a local Goodwill. It is a retail business…. but it does help physically and mentally handicapped people. In fact 1 in 7 employees are either with a disability, are aged like me 70 yo…..immigrants…or are a convicted felon….not easy to get a job if u are a convicted felon. Goodwills are locally owned and operated. the one I work in has stores in two states and consists of 32 stores. My store is in the top ten in efficiency and profits. Yes, the store does have to make a profit as we all are paid the min wage. Managers make more but not a lot more. I have experience working in banks and I quit in disgust after our quota for referrals was raised to an unobtainable level. I quickly discovered the reason for doing this was that in your annual review…they graded your over all performance and said “oh you didn’t make your quota of referrals for X months so your raise is only going to be 25 cents per hour”……I quit after 3 years working there becasue I saw how ruthless they are. I make less at ooodwill but at least I don’t see the ruthlessness of the financial industry. Just Google the charges against the Wells Fargo bank and u will see what I mean. Of course Banks are notorious for breaking the laws. Look up Bank of America and u will see how many times they have been fined by the SEC…..they don’t care they just pass on the fines to the depositors in higher fees….So I would rather work for good will that has people with handicaps working than working for a lousy bank. I have experience with Red Cross and even thou they do good work with disaster relief….i know for a fact that their salaried people and CEOs make tons of money….way more than other charities…..Salvation Army is more spiritual but Good will does good works. We have people who are mentally challenged come in. They come in with two “trainers” who help them do their simple tasks of hanging clothes, sorting by color,etc. We know a 32 yo woman, the daughter of a friend who works in a sheltered work shop like that, They work a limited number of hours and make some money, have some exposure to the “normal world”…and they seem to have a good time of it….I would rather work at goodwill than in the bank…there are independent ratings services for 501c charities. Do your own research and decide where u want to shop…

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  15. Queen PooptyDoo May 8, 04:35

    I have managed to find many “Manual” kitchen items at our local thrift store. Manual Meat Grinder, Tomato Juicer, Coffee Grinder, Stove Top Percolator, Foley Food Mill, cone Potato Ricer, Hand Mixer, some cast iron skillets… The list goes on and on. When the rest of the world is starving, I’ll be cooking up meals fit for a king on an open fire or camp stove.

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  16. Shela May 8, 16:22

    Great post. I was checking constantly this weblog and I amm
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    Reply to this comment
  17. billy May 9, 02:54

    Some of thes people complain about the highly paid CEO of Goodwill or other store. If you don;t expect to pay thes guys well what do you get ? some idiot that runs the company in the ground. The NRA , animal protection organisations are run by well paid people it what you have to do to get competent administrators. Quite being jealous and help these organizations.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck February 20, 02:12

      Billy: You would be amazed at how many really high paid CEOs have run the company into the ground: Montgomery Ward; Sears; Penny’s, Grossman’s just to name a few.
      MG and Sears were the original mail order companies. They had a huge head start over Amazon and every other mail order company but their executives not only blew that lead, they lagged far behind in the on-line aspects of the business. Penny’s also had a good sized mail order business and let it lag far behind. It is a joke now, listing many items that they haven’t carried in a couple of years.

      Too many people equate excessive pay with competency. That is an erroneous equation as is exemplified by far more examples than I have listed.

      The executive salaries of huge European and Japanese companies is nothing like the salary of American executives, Carlos Ghosen excepted, but then he was stealing from his employer, an excellent example of what I described.

      Reply to this comment
  18. Clergylady May 16, 18:47

    I’m getting ready to open a small secondhand shop a few hours a day, a few days a week. Working to reroof a mission church here and save a well built building that has lost shingles to time and winds so the ceiling is also a mess. Still it’s salvageable and I aim to see it done.
    Lots of secondhand items at good prices and jewelry recycled or remade from broken or old pieces. Should open by next month. Aiming at Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays so working folks can shop there also. Looking for older cookbooks for pre mix recepies. Grandmas asking for them as gifts for granddaughters. Too many newer books call for mixes as shortcuts. May try for food sales. Church bakesales aren’t regulated here. See how it goes.
    Some families here make a fair living selling tools and household items at a flea market 30 miles from here. Probably a good thing but with my husbands Alzheimer’s diagnosis I’ll try working closer to home.
    I drive 100 miles every Sunday to pastor a tiny country church. I’d like to reopen the one here and get a retired preacher living near the other church to take it over. We’ll see how that works out. Might keep Sundays there and a Bible study night here. Its just that getting my husband around with time to get there is really getting hard.
    We need building supplies here but I often get things given to me that aren’t what we need. I still occasionalky find cast iron items or camp items very cheap at a storage unit sale in my nearest town. My neighbors will pay a fair price for those if I clean them up. Most families here still cook with older cast iron as everyday cookware. Its surprising to me that grandkids have never been shown how good cast iron cookware truly is.
    By the way are old tire weights good as lead for casting? I found a large coffee can full of them. I’ve only used lead a small fishing weights. I don’t reload or cast bullets. If so… I’ll throw them in the sale if I find them in the shop again.

    Reply to this comment
    • Govtgirl November 22, 16:10

      I admire your efforts. Have one suggestion. Where I live there is a program I participate in where they give out a recycle bag and folks fill them. The bags are collected every other month and the amount donated to the food bank is unbelievable. Thousands of pounds. I do not suggest you do the same, but it is clear that a key to success where donated goods are concerned is to make it as easy as possible to give stuff and publicize it at get-togethers, free weekly papers, anything you can. Perhaps boxes at a few places people can put things in. No doubt you have considered some of this. Wish you much success.

      Reply to this comment
  19. Graywolf12 November 22, 02:41


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  20. Graywolf12 February 6, 00:56

    #13. Those flashing items can be used to make fishing lure for now and if we do have to go underground.

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