24 Prepping Items I Don’t Spend Money On

By Diane July 21, 2017 11:37

24 Prepping Items I Don’t Spend Money On

By Diane Watkins
Prepping is difficult when you have very little extra money, and I’ve been living that reality for a few years. Initially, when hard times hit, we pulled back on prepping and began living off some of our stores. I admit that having a food supply really helped us, but eventually our supplies dwindled and we realized that we had to turn the situation around. We had to start increasing our stores again.

When this realization hit, I nearly panicked. We had used most of our food stores, just trying to survive from paycheck to paycheck and I had no money to replace them. The only way was to stockpile what I could find for free.

Related: 10 Great Depression Era Strategies For Saving Money

The first realization you come to is that prepping is a frugal way of life, or at least it can be. To prep for free, you need to decide that you will never waste what you can save. Sometimes this is difficult, but with an organized plan you can do it.

Food for Survival

Let’s start by discussing your food preps. If you decide to use every bit of food, never wasting any, you will save on your food budget. But most people don’t want to eat the same foods every night until it is gone. My old habit was to eat leftovers until we tired of it, then it eventually got thrown away or fed to the family dog. I realized that my leftovers were free food for my survival stockpile. Here are just a few of the ways I make this work for me:

  1. Dehydrate all leftover rice, pasta, and beans. We rarely eat these leftovers, and they work wonderfully well as dehydrated meals. Dehydrated rice and beans become the “instant” version that only need a few minutes in boiling water to become a tasty dish again. Many people make their hiking and camping meals this way. I just apply it to my leftovers. Once they are dehydrated, I use my food saver to vacuum pack them for storage.
  2. food suppliesCan leftover meats and some meat dishes. Did you have a quart or two of chili leftover from dinner? Put it in canning jars and pressure can it according to proper canning procedures. I usually save a pint or two here or there in my freezer, then when I have a canner load, I do them all at once. Of course, sometimes we pull it out and have it for dinner, too. Additionally, with the leftover fat you can render lard. Here’s how to pressure-can hamburger meat for long term preservation.
  3. Dehydrate leftover bread. In my area, local food pantries give away a lot of bread. I take what I can use, and extras are dehydrated and turned into “Instant Stuffing Mix.” You will find recipes for stuffing mix with a simple Google request. Experiment and find one your family likes. I use my food saver to create single meal stuffing mixes.
  4. I also attended a couponing class to learn the secrets of getting food for free. I became good at it, and am able to score quite a bit of free food. I’ve gotten pancake mix, cornbread mix, muffin mix, lots of free pasta, some frozen foods and lots more. I don’t go overboard, but I can tell you that when you stack coupons, you can get free food. I even scored a bunch of free mixes where I was paid 12 cents each to take them home.
  5. Free fruit from the neighbor’s trees. In our area, many yards have fruit trees. But often, the fruit will just rot on the tree. The family eats what they want, but they don’t bother with the rest. When I see a tree full of ripe fruit, and no-one picking it, I will stop and ask the owner if I can have a few (or buy a few.) Usually, they’ll reply to take as many as I want, as long as I pick them. I can fruit, make jelly, and sometimes dehydrate fruit that I get this way.
  6. Free food samples. Many of the food storage companies are willing to send you free samples to try their products. They are hoping you will try them out and order more. However, you can certainly order the free samples and put them in your 72-hour kit or bug out bag. Then, when you do have money to spend, try them before ordering.
  7. Condiment packs. Do you ever order takeout? If so, stock up on condiment packs to go with your order. I keep a gallon jar of condiment packs that I use in my kits. These don’t keep forever, though. You’ll want to replace them every year, at least.
  8. Yes, strangely enough, I find people giving away food on Craigslist all the time. A few weeks ago, a guy in my area gave away several 100 pound bags of navy beans, pinto beans, and red beans. Often, you’ll find free vegetables when gardens are overflowing. Can them, dehydrate them, or freeze them. Of course, be careful when meeting people you don’t know.
  9. Free formula. I signed up for a coupon list for babies when my grand-kids were born. One day I found free formula samples in my mail box. Those went straight to my prepping supplies. I don’t have any babies here, but someone will be happy to receive them in a time of need. I also get reams of coupons for formula which I pass on to young mothers.
  10. I save my drink bottles, wash them, and refill with water for storage. When we first moved to Florida, I would spend way too much money on gallons of water when a hurricane was nearby. We would keep them through hurricane season, then use them and buy more the next year. I realized I was wasting money on water that I could easily get for free. So, I just started refilling our drink bottles with tap water. We don’t drink much soda, but my husband works outside in the heat, so he drinks a lot electrolyte drinks. These are nice quart bottles for storing water and other supplies. Here are 30 smart ways to reuse things that you usually throw away.

Household Items

  1. Here is another place where couponing really pays off. You can regularly get toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, razors, and other personal care products for free with coupons. And don’t forget to ask the dentist for free samples when you go in for your checkups.

Free Stuff for the Garden

  1. regrow vegetablesThe most valuable freebies in my garden are the seeds that I get from my heirloom plants. It is easy to save seeds from year to year. I vacuum pack mine and store them in a cool cupboard.
  2. Free plants, grown from the roots of your kitchen vegetables. We live in Florida, so we have a long growing season. I plant the tops of pineapples, root my celery and regrow it. There are a lot of vegetables that can be planted this way. One lady near me simply replants either the roots or seeds from everything they eat. She has a thriving hydroponics garden combined with quite a few fruit trees.
  3. Free plants from neighbors who have extra. Most herbs outgrow their space quickly and you end up dividing them. Ask your neighbors for roots or cuttings from herbs, medicinal plants, and edibles that you might enjoy. And, of course, share you own excess.
  4. Free compost and mulch. Often you will be able to score free compost and mulch from your county or from tree trimmers in your area. You need to be careful about these items, however. I’ve found that they are sometimes full of insects and other pests.
  5. Pine cones for fire starters. Pine cones burn quickly and hot. I collect them in the fall for use year-round. We don’t have many pine trees in my area of Florida, but whenever I visit relatives further north, I usually come home with a bag full. Here are 10 trees every survivalist should know and why.
  6. Sand Bags. Whenever there is a good chance of flooding, our county offers free sandbags and sand. You have to get there early, because they go fast, but it is a good addition to my hurricane preparedness.

Free Furniture and Shelving

  1. furniture on the streetThis can be a Craigslist or freecycle item, or you can just keep your eye out for discarded items awaiting pickup. When my last child moved out, I decided to turn his room into a pantry. It was perfect – right off the kitchen. I told my husband my plan and we started scouring the roadside for shelving and cabinets. You’re right – my pantry shelves don’t match. Maybe someday I’ll paint them all, but in the meantime no one but me sees them. You’ll be surprised how many useful items are put out hoping someone will cart them away. You need to look when the sun is shining, however. A good rain can ruin furniture and finishes.

Prepping Supplies

  1. prepping suppliesYou probably already know that you can get free buckets from commercial kitchens. Some places have caught on and now charge a nominal fee, but often you’ll see them sitting out beside the dumpster. I always ask, but they usually say to take as many as I want. Ask at delis, fast food restaurants, bakeries, etc.
  2. Popcorn tins. These are getting harder to find, but I love the 3- to 5-gallon size popcorn tin for storing foods. They are rodent proof and a convenient size for storing food in Mylar or food saver bags. I also use smaller tins in my pantry for my everyday supply of rice, popcorn, etc. You can often get these free at Christmas, but I also sometimes find them cheap at thrift stores (not free.)
  3. Flashlights, tarps, batteries and more. Harbor freight used to offer coupons for free items with no purchase required. Now the coupons require a purchase, but you still get a free item when you go in for other tools. I save these coupons and we use them for the small LED flashlights, headlamps, and tarps whenever we need anything from Harbor Freight.

Related: Prepping on a Budget – How To Get Survival Supplies When You Have Almost No Money

Prescription Medicines

  1. prescription-drugsMedicines are a difficult category for preppers, because your insurance company and doctor control your supply. However, it is possible to refill your prescriptions a few days early each month, so that you slowly accumulate a surplus. Be aware of expiration dates, rotating your supply. Over time you should be able to build up at least a few weeks supply. I personally have several prescription ointments that I use. I refill the prescription as soon as I am eligible every month, even if I haven’t finished the old tube. Over the past year, I have built up a two-month supply by squeezing every drop out of a tube before I toss it. Many pills can be managed the same way.

Related: Vet Doctor Shows You How To Use Veterinary Drugs Post-SHTF

Free Samples

  1. costco-samplesI’ve mentioned a few free samples that are available above, but you will find much more if you look. I’ve seen internet ads for free fire starters, free paracord bracelets, small multi-purpose tools, and many other free things offered on survival websites. Also, if you email companies with an honest review of their product, they will often send you a coupon for a free item. I never ask for the freebie, but it is often given as a thank you. This usually works with the large food manufacturers and household products.

Related: 50 Low-priced Items That Will be Invaluable when SHTF

Free Books and Information

  1. Don’t discount the value of the free information that is available on the internet. You can get free prepping books and cookbooks on Kindle (and you don’t need a Kindle device, use the app.) You’ll find lots of good advice and information on how to get started prepping.

Over time, it all adds up. You don’t need money to get started prepping, in fact all the things I’ve mentioned here are free, and I’m sure you will find more if you think about it. Some of you probably have your own secret ways to get free stuff. How about sharing your methods in the comments below?
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By Diane July 21, 2017 11:37
Write a comment


  1. Wannabe July 21, 13:12

    Many times when I get fast food I will grab some extra plastic utensils and a small handful of napkins and put them in plastic bags and throw in end of world supplies. When staying at a hotel I grab all the amenities the room has that I have already paid for and stock up on those. Toilet paper, shampoo and conditioner bottles, bar soap, coffee packets,etc. Amazing how much you can accumulate in time. I have many one gallon bags full of this for when shtf. Ask family members to collect this stuff when they travel or go to the occasional Big Mac. It all adds up. My family laughed at me at first but I think they see the value of stocking up on these things now.

    Reply to this comment
    • EZNTN September 5, 01:44

      Sounds like theft to me.
      Many a time I have seen people in restaurants grab handfuls of plastic ware, napkins, sugar, salt, pepper

      Reply to this comment
      • Shelley J May 16, 21:02

        One or two of something you may or may not use with that meal is not stealing. Taking hands full is.
        Sometimes I ask for 1 or 2 of something and a customer support person gives me a handful. That is not stealing either. You just need to be reasonable about it.

        Reply to this comment
        • EddieW November 1, 02:42

          When I eat at McDonalds, even when taking it home, I ask for extra napkins, and ask if I can have a few xtra straws…fearing their demise!! they always say yes!!!!

          Reply to this comment
      • DE September 3, 21:31

        In Restaurants, yes, taking more than you are using for your meal is stealing. But if you ask for some as you are ;leaving, they’ll usually give you some.

        But in the case of hotels, the items in the room are included in the cost of the room and you pay for them. There is no moral reason not to take the soaps, shampoos, and toilet paper. You paid for it and they assume you will use it.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Dean July 21, 13:49

    I wish it was possible to print your articles

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck July 21, 14:17

      copy the article using select and command /copy. Paste it into a word processing program. I use LibreOffice. Edit it to remove extra spacing and to change the point size to make it more compact. LibreOffice has a choice called “Delete Formatting” I use that first on the piece. It deletes extra line spaces and changes the font to one that is easily edited. When you have made all the changes you want, then use your word processing program to print out the article. It’s a little time consuming, but that is how I print out articles I want to keep.

      Reply to this comment
    • Clem July 21, 15:06

      Look up Print Friendly. It adds a link to your browser so when you find a page you like you just hit Print Friendly on your browser and you’ll have the option of either printing the page or saving it as a PDF. Webmasters can embed Print Friendly links on their pages too, hint hint.

      Reply to this comment
    • goldendawne July 21, 15:11

      I have a tab on the website that allows me to print articles. I have started my own homesteading/prepping journal and add articles with good info for future reference

      Reply to this comment
    • CCTer July 21, 20:01

      Upper right corner at the start of the article is a print button. I save all the good articles as a pdf then cut and paste the info I want into a word doc. I print out some for a SHTF binder and leave some as an electronic copy for my library. Every couple months I download my electronic library onto thumb drives and keep in my Faraday box along with a other items. Good Luck

      Reply to this comment
    • Fizzlecat July 24, 13:53

      Highlight, copy and paste to a Word document and then print. These helpful articles and those from other sources are great for printing and organizing into notebooks for SHTF, when electronics and internet may not work.
      And thanks so much for sharing the information that you do, AskAPrepper!! Much appreciated!

      Reply to this comment
    • Magyarapa1956 July 27, 12:19

      If you download the “Print Friendly” Extension to your browser and it doesn’t work because you only get the comments and not the article, go to the top of the article, click onto the Print button and the “Print Friendly” icon will appear at the top of the page in the same browser location (you may need to expand the article side to side to see the icon).

      Reply to this comment
    • barbsrus March 15, 04:08

      Save it in your documents and then print it.

      Reply to this comment
    • Jill September 5, 09:57

      Click the “Print this article” green button at the bottom of any article. it’ll open a new page. Press “control and P” or right click your mouse, and select Print. Then change the destination from a printer to save as PDF. Then click save.

      Or download an extention. I use Print friendly & PDF on chrome, then I only have to click on the tab bar, and it’ll ask me if I want to save as PDF, print or email the pages to someone. I often email them to myself for easy reading.

      Reply to this comment
      • Patches November 3, 20:01

        I haven’t seen a print button top or bottom of articles for a while now. But I did like both Jill and Magyarapa1956 suggested and downloaded the Print Friendly & PDF button to my browser. Super easy to do.

        Reply to this comment
    • red November 1, 06:19

      Dean, it’s at the bottom of the article. If that doesn’t work, I copy the article and put it on a blank page. LibreOffice is a good, free program for writing. I like it better than microsoft now. It’s free! 🙂 And, because of researching, I always make sure the addy for the article is with it when I save. niio

      Reply to this comment
    • Anna March 13, 03:32

      Hit Control and the letter P at the same time. Voila, a printing dialog box. It’s a pretty big dialog on my Windows 10 laptop, and that hasn’t changed since at least XP. You choose the layout (landscape vs portrait) and maybe one of two other things. You can do all the stuff these folks say, and I do use Word myself, and I strip the formatting out of the article by pasting it into Notepad and then into Word. Control + A is Select All, Control + C is copy and Control + V is paste. This works for those pages that are “right click disabled” too. Just a warning, if you choose Control + P, you’ll waste ink and paper, but you’ll definitely get your articles, pics included! How I do it, I have to fiddle around with re-pasting the photos back in, but I leave it here for you! Hope this helps!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Annie July 21, 13:59

    I don’t remember how I found this site, but I”m addicted to it now! I have lived my life loving the environment and planting my own garden, canning and all. Your articles always help for the things I haven’t thought of. Thank-you!

    Reply to this comment
  4. Shiloh55 July 21, 14:20

    For the best free stuff check out tobacco companies. I have gotten flashlights, camp lanterns sunglasses, Zippo lighters Butane lighters, paracord bracelets, multi tools, full size jars of spices and sauces, work gloves, and much more. Just sign up for free! Skoal, Marlboro, Copenhagen, Pall Mall, Grizzly, Camel, L&M. Also check out a company called Minimus. They sell travel size everything. Prices aren’t bad and free shipping on $20.00. http://www.minimus.biz/

    Reply to this comment
    • Anna May 3, 17:14

      I checked them out and then spread their page far and wide! Thank you so much for suggesting that. They had hand sanitizer long after folks were spending $125 per for the same size bottles on Amazon! Thank you. ❤

      Reply to this comment
    • Val November 25, 02:54

      You pretty much have to be a smoker to get the reward points to get the free stuff. 😒

      Reply to this comment
  5. Softballumpire July 21, 14:41

    I saw no mention of Gleaner Groups. Here in Oregon, the groups are quite active. Some crops just can’t be harvested because the amount the farmer harvests exceeds his contract with the packer. Calling in gleaners allows for some crops to be harvested by hand and given away for tax credits. Small farmers markets donate unsold product each day to gleaner groups who then distribute to group homes elderly care facilities etc. Because of Oregon’s high income taxes, the credits are quite useful. The program is available in other states as well.

    Reply to this comment
    • Anna May 3, 17:19

      The churches used to do this and my grandparents, in the 60’s I know and even further back than that always kept the corners of their wheat and cornfields open to those that came around, harvested it and then sold it, using the money to feed the poor. I was so proud of that and of them. I thought that was just so cool! Soybeans weren’t a thing back then but they’d do that too…if it hadn’t been sold off for a subdivision after they died…grrrrr

      Reply to this comment
  6. goldendawne July 21, 15:09

    This is probably one of the best, and fresh new idea filled, articles I have read in quite some time.
    Never thought about the dehydrating of leftover rice or pasta. GREAT idea.
    And the bread? Perfect! I usually cut into bite size pieces and bake to make croutons or bread crumbs- never once had I thought about dehydrating them! Will be trying this one out very soon.

    My kindle is FULL of ‘free’ ebooks on survival, gardening, herbs, homesteading, prepping, etc- I never ignore these. Full of repetitive info at times but still useful.

    My local Kroger store’s bakery will give me 5-gallon buckets every so often. Which I truly appreciate because they are invaluable to me.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 1, 17:03

      I dehydrate my bread on the toaster. I keep my bread in the fridge to prevent mold. However, I like it warm, so I put it in the toaster for a short while to warm it up, not enough to toast unless that is what I want. I bought a 3/8″-square cooling rack that is just the size of my toaster (accidentally fit the toaster) the feet on the rack fit perfectly on the outside of the toaster and hold it on. That was just dumb luck on my part no skillful planning involved at all other than small 3/8 square openings and the small size of the overall rack.

      The first time the bread goes on the rack, I put it on as the toaster is heating up. Later, after a session or two like that, I only put the bread on the rack after I have removed the bread I was toasting. There is still a good amount of heat emitting from the toaster as it cools down. That is sufficient to dry the bread but not burn it. I formerly dried it in the oven. That is a waste of heat when I use the toaster at least two times a day.

      After the bread is dried I keep it in two-quart mayonnaise jars. It is emergency bread to work as soup extender and whatever else comes to mind. Sort of light weight hard tack if you will. I have been doing that for a couple of years now and it seems to hold up well. There is no trace of mold in the jars. I use a sheet of aluminum wrap as a gasket under the lid to help keep moisture out.

      After the end of the world, if you are wandering from door to door seeking food for yourself and your kiddies and you don’t have any skills to offer or trade, your kiddies will get the dried bread soaked in bacon grease as a freebie. Perhaps as you watch them scarf that delicacy down, some offer of work for food will emanate from your brain to your mouth.

      While you may scoff at bread soaked in bacon grease, Frank McCourt wrote that he survived on that as a meal in post WWII Ireland among the Irish poor. Not the most nutritious food around but provides carbs and fat for energy and body heat. I actually consider sourdough bread soaked in hot bacon grease to be gourmet eating. Must be the poor Irish in my family tree.

      Reply to this comment
      • Govtgirl May 2, 06:42

        Great idea, LCC. We ate a lot of bread pudding and bread in stewed tomatoes when I was a kid and here I must pitch 3-4 end pieces away every week. I’ll try this. Thanks!

        Reply to this comment
  7. wa2qcj July 21, 15:59

    Batteries, that is almost always listed, but few know how to keep them useful. That information is on the web, and can be found if a person knows what to look for. Get the chemicals needed to build your own Alkaline batteries. Lithium might be a bit harder to do, but Alkaline is a lot easier. Lead acid batteries, IF you are careful, can be emptied of the acid solution, disassembled, cleaned, rebuilt and new acid poured in. There are also “rejuvenator” chargers that will revive a battery, or restore one that is beginning to go bad. These things are staples for all of us. Solar panels, if it really becomes every man for himself, then remember where those road side sign boards are at. If it comes down to the truly strong survive, then staying inside the box is not going to work.

    Reply to this comment
    • Older prepper July 21, 19:30

      wa2qcj I don’t bother with batteries any more. I have three items you just crank, and it gives you light. You can plug in the one flashlight or crank for your light. I keep one on my bed. I have a radio like this too, for my bug out. Maybe, I don’t know the down side yet of these items, but so far I like them. Just a thought.

      Reply to this comment
      • Darkstar July 21, 19:54

        I invested $58.00 at Amazon and bought the Big Blue 28 watt solar usb charger for my various devices and items like flashlights and tools that are usb chargeable now. It can charge 3 items at once, comes with a few cables, and does an amazing job at a fairly fast pace for free sun power. I camp a lot so this is an invaluable asset to my gear when I’m out in the middle of nowhere Oregon. Everything I buy now for camping or emergency situations like a power outage, is usb chargeable. I’ve revamped some of my gear just for this purpose, like camping lanterns that have their own solar panel on them and are also usb capable. It’s a great backup source of power for small items and not a huge investment.

        Reply to this comment
        • Dakota Crone March 12, 20:00

          I found a gadget that has a hand crank which will charge flashlight cell phone etc. Some smart guy might rg a wheel so a dog can tern the crank See old fire place gadget that turns meat on spit. medieval history? anyone

          Reply to this comment
        • Anna May 3, 17:27

          So it works long term and most important – repeatedly? I’ve been looking for a solar charger and all seem to have a high ratio of 1 stars to 5 stars. I don’t like those ratios. That’s not all I go by, but I do look at that. Too high is almost always bad juju. I read the one’s first. That way, if there’s a major problem with whatever, it will show immediately. Works every time so far! 😁

          Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck July 25, 02:52

        @Older Prepper: Those crank up devices are battery operated. You are charging the battery just like a solar device, only you are using a hand generator like the old fashioned bicycle lights to charge the battery that is in the radio or flashlight or whatever. While that is fine during a short term emergency, if you are preparing for the ETOW, eventually those batteries will go bad. They may last for a couple of years or even five years but eventually you will be left in the dark. Woe is me! What will I do? That is when you turn to the very oldest source of lighting, the oil lamp. You can burn olive oil, sunflower oil, vegetable oil (you may not be able to get blood from a turnip, but you can get oil from corn and other veggies) You can burn peanut oil. all you need is a container and a cotton wick. I only buy 100% cotton underwear. First of all, Like it better than the mixed content underwear, and, secondly, I cut the seams off when it is no longer serviceable and the seams go in my oil lamp wick container. They will serve as wicks for my smokey oil lamps when the lights go out for good. Until we get 18th century commerce going again, things like candles and clothing, light weight athletic shoes, boots, rubber goods, all will be gone. We will be making sandals out of old left over tires, clothing from skins, and burning oil that we squeeze out of plants for light. It’s good to have a supply of items as you mentioned to stave off the day when you have to switch to burning oil from the fat of the wild pig that you managed to kill or grease from the bear that fell into the punji pit that you dug but keep in mind that eventually the day that all your devices die is the day you will be back to the early 18th century.

        Reply to this comment
      • kt March 12, 21:30

        what are they?

        Reply to this comment
  8. Older prepper July 21, 19:27

    OH, this is very nice, and I hate to be a downer, but about 99% of these things to do is common sense. My parents did this and more and I picked up the habits. Mom asked a neighbor who had a horse, if she could have their ‘manure’. She got a wheel barrow, 5′ tall and acted like she had found gold. This is excellent fertilizer for your garden. One should not use cow, as it has too many weeds in it. Still enjoyed reading this, but doing 99% for YEARS. Mom would not trow away used wash cloths. She would sew them together, and use as new washing tool for the kitchen. So many thing I could write. Being Frugal was a way of life. I learned them, just by being around my parents. ♥

    Reply to this comment
    • CCTer July 21, 20:02

      Upper right corner at the start of the article is a print button. I save all the good articles as a pdf then cut and paste the info I want into a word doc. I print out some for a SHTF binder and leave some as an electronic copy for my library. Every couple months I download my electronic library onto thumb drives and keep in my Faraday box along with a other items. Good Luck

      Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady July 22, 15:12

      hi Older Prepped. Our parents must have attended the same sensible life skills classes. 😁we saved, repurposed, made do, gathered wild foods and medicines, canned, gleaned fields and orchards (sometimes free or a small charge), sun dried fruits and some vegetables, made jelly and jam, baked all our own breads, made our own mixes to keep in gallon glass jars, cooked from scratch, gardened, and when we finally owned land planted fruit s and berries and sold organic produce to restairants and at farmers markets. We composted trimmings from fruit and vegetables, collected free manure, and shared the excess we didn’t sell, can, or dry for future consumption. We had a root cellar and rows and rows of colorful jars.
      Once when a truck load of onions was involved in an accident we contacted the owner to clean up the onions. We had every bed sheet spread out sun drying chopped onions. Canned some, froze some and shared with Neighbors. Same with a load of large ripe tomatoes. Dried, canned, made seasoned sauces, shared.
      It just seemed like normal sensable life.
      At 70 I still live like that just perhaps a bit slower and in lesser quantities.

      Reply to this comment
      • MikeyW March 13, 18:39

        That “sensible life skills class” our parents attended was called the Depression. It’s amazing what you can become capable of when you have to. Then, though, most people were still connected to farms, at least through their grandparents. Today, it’s only we preppers who even think about what to do without electricity and the internet.

        Reply to this comment
    • PugetSoundPrepper July 23, 05:16

      Absolutely! Unfortunately, many people are lacking in this because of either not being exposed to it by family or having a mindset that contradicts it. (Why are you hunting! Why can’t you get your food from the store?)
      I was at a Lowes looking for canning supplies and asked the employee (who looked around early 20’s) where they were and she said, “What’s Canning?”

      Reply to this comment
      • JJ July 23, 14:30

        I remembered one better than that–next door, 23 year old, naive as heck, said YEWWW!, when I told her I only use bleach for one thing…a few drops in my water before pouring into the Berkey filter.
        Yes, she did!!!
        Like her water hasn’t been bleached!!!

        Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck July 23, 19:30

        Worse yet, I was at Home Depot and had to ask three clerks where the kerosene was before I found one who actually knew what kerosene was. The first two had no idea what I was talking about even when I described it to them.

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    • Govtgirl July 25, 02:53

      i recently ordered a book re how things were done 150 years ago as much Prepper stuff is relevant like this is as this is the world we live in, but if everything failed, we need to go old school. I used to make fun of my Depression Era parents and grandparents, but this article was a great reminder. Scored some napkins and jelly at McDonald’s. Thanks!

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      • Debbie in MA July 4, 00:41

        What was the book you got? Did you find it useful?
        Debbie in MA

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        • govtgirl July 5, 17:36

          The book is The Lost Ways. It was written by a consortium of people and edited by Claude Davis (Askaprepper.com). The book covers just about anything you can think of from navigation to filtering water, trapping and making soap or snowshoes. There are many priceless articles- trapping, waterwheels for power, making gunpowder. We all have the modern books that talk about radiation, urban survival, EMPs. This belongs next to them. I have the third edition. My only criticism is that it seems a bit top-heavy in recipes though a justification could be that there is most likely a recipe for almost anything one had access to. I would like a bigger section on water, like where to look for it, how to tell if it is foul, a few additional pages on basic shelter construction like lean-tos and pole buildings to accompany the excellent section on constructing a semi-subterranean roundhouse. Also, would like a page on building and using fish traps added to the trapping section.

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  9. Eric the Red July 22, 15:13

    Need a few general purpose 5 gal. buckets, hit up the local garage. We usually put 10 or 15 a week in the dumpster. That is how we get ATF. Granted even after cleaning i would definitely not store food in them but things like charcoal should be fine. Also pallets. Many different shapes and sizes. When we do warrenty work it is usually a cut out part. Think engines, trans, rear ends. Which come shipped on pallets.

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  10. Linda S July 22, 20:36

    Even feeding leftovers to the dogs is a good frugal habit. Obviously you have to learn the foods that are harmful to dogs & omit those but I save/use green beans, peas, carrots, yams, rice, etc. along with meat scraps to supplement the dog food. All my dogs seems to live to a ripe old age.

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    • left coast chuck July 25, 02:39

      When I was a kid, long, long ago and far, far away, nobody fed their animals pet food. They got scraps from the table. The garbage disposal was the dog and the cat. They never turned their nose up at what they were fed either. On the farm the cats never got fed. A hungry cat made a better mouser than a fat cat.

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      • red November 1, 06:38

        My dachshund is the neighborhood terror on rodents. So few mice are left, even the coyotes gave up. Try to get him to eat dogfood, even canned, he gives you a sad look, then goes hungry for a few days till he can force himself to gag it down. There was a rat in the house, people are moving here to get out of Tucson and Phoenix, but he waited. He didn’t even leave blood to clean up. He likes any veggie that’s cooked, even chilis, and fruit is good any time. Citrus he tends to chew till dry than spit out the pulp. He’s a very old-fashioned hound and keeps the garden free of ground squirrels and rabbits. Quail are demonic to him. they cheat by flying over the fence, but he dreams of the day those stubby legs will finally run down a jackrabbit. 🙂 niio

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  11. JJ July 23, 14:27

    I was reorganizing one storage room and counted the water bottles…over 100 gallons in 1/2 gallon and gallon jars…like vinegar, bleach, juice.
    I can use most for filtering and drinking–for the other, many uses if the water supply has been compromised.
    EVERY plastic or glass jug here gets filled with water.
    I have two bedrooms not used, so am not lacking for space–most don’t have that. But, not storing all you can wherever you can, regardless how un-homey it looks…is asking for trouble.
    It’s your responsibility to care for your family.

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  12. Lucy July 24, 03:25

    This article has the most new-to-me helpful advice I’ve read in a long time! Thank you!

    Nobody knows everything all the time. Been around a long time, learned a lot along the way, but I am always excited to learn something new. Well written, succinct, clear. Good job!

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  13. Fizzlecat July 24, 14:06

    My family was never fond of too many left-overs. To combat this, I frequently pour veggies left over from meals into gallon zip lock freezer bags or plastic containers and freeze them for vegetable soup later on. I guess you could thaw and pressure can them when you got enough for a canner load, and then you wouldn’t be out of luck if the power went out!

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    • left coast chuck July 25, 02:31

      We make a full rice cooker of rice every time we make a new batch. We then divide what we don’t eat at that meal into serving size balls of rice, wrap them in stretch wrap plastic and freeze them in the freezer. When we want rice with a meal I take two balls out of the freezer and nuke them in the microwave covered with a wet, not damp, paper towel for 2-1.5 minutes segments each. At 1.5 minutes I take the rice ball from the nuker and break it apart with a fork, cover it with the now hot, wet paper towel and nuke it for another 1.5 minutes. It tastes fresh and moist. I grew to prefer short grain rice when I served in the Far East lo these many years ago and that is what we cook 100% of the time. The method I outlined above makes perfect reheated short grain rice. We have been doing that for years.

      I also take crusts of bread and keep them in the refrigerator until I use the oven for something else. When I am done cooking whatever, I cut the bread with a cookie cutter large enough to fit the mouth of the jar I am using. I spread the rounds on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven and set the oven for 100 degrees. I use the excess heat left over in the oven to start the drying process and leave it in for an hour or so until the bread is dried out. What you wind up with is neither Melba toast, Zweiback or croutons, it is just plain dried bread. I then put it in a jar and it gets stored away as trading goods for when ETOW shows up. It is sort of like light weight hardtack. It can be soaked in coffee, soaked in bacon grease (favorite dish of the Irish poor. Read Angela’s Ashes) for a nourishing high energy food or used in soup stock or bouillon to extend it and make it more filling. And if you are hungry, you can chop wood for an hour in return for a jar full of bread and some bouillon to feed your family or run down to the ocean and bring back ten gallons of clean salt water for me to process to use to make the bouillon. No free lunch after the end of the world — not that there is really a free lunch now. Somebody somewhere is paying for it if you aren’t.

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      • Govtgirl November 25, 12:53

        How do you process ocean water for usable water? Also, if you take ocean water and leave it out in sun to evaporate, will you end up with salt?

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        • Clergylady November 25, 13:29

          Ocean water left in a sand walled shallow pond will indeed dry up and leave sea salt for you. Ocean water if not poluted is salty for light salt cooking.

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          • Govtgrl November 25, 17:17

            Thank you. Isn’t all ocean water close to inhabited land polluted? I live 3 blocks from north Puget Sound. Am pretty sure it is polluted. I guess you would run it through a good purifier and hope for the best. Haven’t bought a purifier yet. Very confusing as each says it’s better than the last and many have cartridges. Long term thinking would lead me to believe a more basic approach would be better. Sorry to be so ignorant. Maybe this site should have more than one fading group!

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    • left coast chuck July 25, 02:37

      If you have a charcoal barbecue, you can still can food after the power goes off. If you run out of charcoal, you can burn wood. Our ancestors used wood for fuel for many thousands of years before they discovered coal made a better fuel. I had a charcoal barbecue. My daughter gave me a smoker which is a charcoal burner and I inherited a charcoal barbecue. I almost sold two of them, but then I read about CMEs and EMPs and decided that they would stay. They are my standby cooking source when the Coleman fuel is gone and the butane tank is empty. With all the empty homes from folks who got caught away from home or who were living day to day with life-sustaining medical devices or medicine or who get killed one way or another, there will be lots of spare wood around. Just be sure when you are knocking joists out of a wall they are not load bearing or you will become one of the 90% who didn’t make it.

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      • Govtgirl July 25, 03:05

        Bought a thing called a rocket stove a couple of years back. Pretty heavy for bugging out, but that company was making lighter ones for nomadic people in Africa. You can cook a whole dinner on a 1/2 in diameter, 2 foot long stick. You’ll never look at downed sticks in your yard again the same. We walk to a local park several times a week and I usually bring back a stick , dry it out and put away in basement. I try to avoid evergreen and mossy, but otherwise good. A small bundle can cook your food for a week. One person I knew used her rocket stove for canning.

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  14. happy ble July 25, 15:02

    keep 9 bricks and a bag of charcoal briquettes in your shed or garage, not only will the charcoal absorb any odors like gasoline or moldy smells, but you can use the bricks to fashion a quick emergency stove on the cement floor of your driveway, and you can use the charcoal for starting the fire. If you pick up a small metal grill from the Goodwill pots and pans section and add it to the bricks you have a neat homemade grill. One other thing, I only grow what I know I will eat and I grow basically “peasant survival food”, cabbage, carrots, onions, garlic, dry beans, sugar peas, tomatoes, spinach, squash and corn. Wish I could find potato SEEDS.

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    • Govtgirl July 27, 03:20

      Like the brick and charcoal idea and especially appreciate the veggie garden idea. Planning a containerized garden next year away from the deer. When I look at seeds, will remember to only plant what we will eat and not plant what we oughta eat. Good reminder.

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    • left coast chuck July 31, 04:00

      I keep all the trimmings from all our bushes in our yard. I cut them in lengths short enough to fit into my rocket stove. I store them in 1-gallon milk containers. With the lid on they will stay dry no matter what the weather. If the milk container finally deteriorates from the sunlight, I just switch to another. I’m already paying for them, so why throw them away. In a ETOW scenario, they can be used to collect raw water for purification. I wouldn’t want to use my pure water containers to collect raw water. I estimate that without any further collection of wood I have enough wood to last me at least a month for cooking and water purification. If the piece of wood won’t fit in the mount of the gallon milk container, I spilt it until it does fit. This has given me a lot of experience in batoning wood for use in a rocket stove. You are getting advice from a master batoner if I do say so myself. Knots that just will not fit through the opening of the milk container get stored in plastic coffee cans. Knots will make great charcoal when needed for water purification and other purposes. I leave the milk cartons in the sun without the lids until no more moisture collects on the inside of the jug. If it is a foggy overcast day I put the lids on so that moisture can’t collect inside the jug. I am not particular in the least what type of wood I collect. There is enough of a mixture that one species does not dominate. I have found that it is easiest to cut the wood when it is green rather than wait until it is dry. Most brush saws are designed for green wood rather than dry. When I have to cut dry wood I use a hacksaw with an 18 teeth per inch blade. It is a little fine, but cuts well on dry wood and most of what I am cutting is less than an inch in diameter anyway, so it is not a problem. I would prefer to use a 12 or 10 teeth per inch blade but I can’t find them in a hacksaw blade at a big box store. I store larger wood in the trash cans I have left over from when we had to put the trash out in our own cans rather than the trash service cans.

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      • Govtgirl July 31, 14:55

        Wow, Chuck! This is a real eye-opener. Here I am looking for the perfect stick on my walks and you are reminding us that EOTW requires moving the window to see all the possibilities. I remember reading an article written by a man after one of the hurricanes up East. He said you can never have enough wood, no matter how much you think you are prepared in that area. He also said you’d be amazed at how quickly your family will turn on you if they when they get cold or hungry when you thought you’d done your best preparing. Thank you, thank yo for the wake up call

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    • Greenie October 31, 23:33

      If you grow potatoes you should have (at least ‘some’) potato seeds. They grow in tomato like shape on top of the plants after flowering. It will take 2 years to get a crop from the seeds….the first year will get you a small potato that will grow a decent crop the second year. I get some on my potatoes every year.

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    • Anna May 3, 18:00

      I had a grate that was originally a store shelf, probably from the meat dept. Lasted for years and was as good as the day I found it (minus the chrome of course!), as it was the day I gave it away for the same use. Heavy thick and good load bearing weight. That and the cut away quarter barrel. It was cut in half side to side (as deep as you want your grill high) and then a third of it was cut away from top to bottom. Worked like a charm for 10 years and was still good for use when my kids got it! I regret us losing it, but they’ve made some since too. Primo usage! If I wanted the flame higher to the grill for charcoal I put a thin cinder block in mine.

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  15. grandee July 25, 16:40

    Don’t forget about good old pickling. Pickled yellow summer squash this week as we have so much this year. Used a recipe found on line and wondered thru the comment sections for extra colorful suggestions to pickle in with the squash. Delicious and pretty jars sit on my counter.

    Pickling was a good source of food preservation in those good old days. If its a veggie, you can pickle it. Recipes are everywhere on the web.

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  16. Govtgirl July 27, 03:14

    Isn’t pickling really canning with brine? I am afraid I’ll poison my family with botulism. Even if I went to the occasionally-offered community classes, I’d be reluctant to try.

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    • CCTER July 27, 03:39

      GovGirl, Canning is perfectly safe if you follow all the rules. Go to one of the classes and get the Ball Blue Book and watch some videos on youtube. I can all the time. If I make a bunch of Fajitas..I can a jar or two. Meat Sauces to pour over my rice or noodles. I make meals in a Jar that are easy to prepare. Good Luck and Enjoy.

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  17. Magyarapa1956 July 27, 12:12

    For medications: it will take awhile to build up a supply this way, but it works. Normally your doctor’s prescriptions are for a 30 day supply while your pharmacy and insurance company will let you refill your meds on the 25th day. If you’re consistent and refill your meds every 25 days (or less, if possible) you will amass 5×12=60 pills (or 2 months supply) every year. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for samples when they refill your script. They, more often than not, will give you a 5-10 day sample pack (if necessary, just tell the doctor it’ll be few days before you’ll be able to get to the pharmacy and being the good patient that you are, since you take your meds everyday, just as you are supposed to, you will run out).

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  18. Jim October 27, 17:14

    It’s not really a “prepper thing” but most Star Bucks will give you free used coffee grounds in a big garbage bag.
    It’s great fertilizer. That will help prep your garden for the
    bad times. Don’t forget your roses.

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  19. Debra' Pantry March 13, 17:10

    Would like comments on canning water. Plastic jugs and bottles spring leaks and water costs money in stores. So I have canned some water in quart jars. I have well water and I water bathed for 20 minutes to deal lids. I have alot of jars and have give it a try. I put a little salt in jars too. It taste like well water to me. Any comments you have I would appreciate it.

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  20. Glamour Girl March 13, 21:07

    Great storage, free containers are big litter containers. I have two cats and have been saving these for years. Mylar bags, cheap from Amazon, and 50 pounds of rice will fit into a couple of them. They stack well, sticks will fit in them for rocket stove. Ace bandages and other medical things are washed and stored.

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  21. Johnny Reb March 14, 01:41

    Information that will in time become more valuable than Gold, Silver, and ANY other precious metal or Gemstone!

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  22. Sam April 4, 09:42


    I loved your site and would like to contribute a well written article that your readers will love.

    Would you be keen for this?



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  23. LOUIS C August 6, 11:26

    of an ancient spice.


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  24. Patrick September 10, 05:11

    #23 Prescription meds can be “fudged” In Mexico one does not need scripts to get most meds. (FYI Music legend Johnny Cash was busted bringing pills over the border which he purchased legally from Mexican Pharmacies.) I am not advocating anyone going south of the border and smuggling pills over the border, (ICE/Customs will still arrest you if caught) but it is an easy source if one is desperate.

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  25. Clergylady May 16, 22:04

    Every Sunday my husbands favorite treet is a sausage Mac Muffin. Ok I buy two and 2 cups of coffee for our 100 mile drive. They always offer sweeteners, creamers, stirrers and napkins come in abundance. Creamers I leave on the counter at church by their coffee pot and they get used that morning. Extras of the rest go in zip lock bags for trading. The extra napkins stay in a zip lock bag in the vehicles. After that extras go in a storage bin of odds and ends. Sometimes used from but mostly saved. I figure Some day extra napkins may be very handy. If they out live their useful days they will go in a fire in my rocket stove.
    My rocket stove burns from small twigs up to 2″ diameter sticks 3 ft long. I use it with a pellet hopper so I can use chips from my wood chipper and bags of pellets. Its goid for heating, cooking and I keep a 3 gal pot of water on part of the flat 16″ top.

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  26. Govtgirl November 1, 01:27

    Thank you for this information. I thought you had to cut the potato up after eyes grew on it then plant the pieces.

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  27. EddieW November 1, 02:44

    Thank you!!!! you have given us trememndous suggestions!!! I really appreadiate this!!!

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  28. red November 1, 06:15

    Yes! Been there, done that, and got the scars t’ prove it.
    We always freeze leftovers when possible. They can go in a sopa seca, a dry stew or used when we make something similar. I am finally back in God’s country, Arizona, I have to invest in glass and time and make a solar food dryer. We always shop for bargains, so when we get sweet corn or fruit on sale, it should be dried. Same with those leftovers, which can make good snack food.
    Dried bread can be rehydrated by steaming it. Because we’re all gluten-intolerant, corn flour is a less expensive way to go to make ‘bread’. It’s precooked, so some water and lard, and roll out the dough to heat in a frying pan with a little oil. If it dries out, dip in water and reheat. Corn noodles, 2 cups cornmeal of ‘flour, 1 of corn starch, water for dough. When the soup is about ten-twenty minutes from done, roll out the noodles or make dumplings.
    10) Here, it’s common for people to set things back in the alley they don’t want. I got a good steel double kitchen sink, brush and mulch, buckets, wild fruit and some grain, and much more treasure hunting.

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