I look at the prepping lifestyle as getting your preps with as little cash outlay as possible. I spend enough of my cash just trying to get by in the world and don’t have a lot of extra left over for prepping.
I have found several ways to get many of my preps for little or no money. I’m pretty sure no matter your situation you can use one or more of these ideas to help you save money on your own gear and supplies.
I’ll start with the free stuff, because that is where you should start as well. I have found just about everything under the sun while dumpster diving.
If you want food, check out grocery stores. They throw away literal tons of produce. Much of this can still be used. You will find bread, rolls, bagels, pies, cakes, frozen entrées that are expired, dented cans and much more. You can eat it yourself, feed it to your livestock, cut it up and dehydrate it for storage food or even trade it to others.
Diving construction sites should supply you with all the building material you will ever need…Sure, you won’t find too many full-size sheets of plywood or full length dimensional lumber but you should be able to scrounge up enough for most prepper building projects. Be sure to ask the foreman for permission to go through the “Scrap”.
Business dumpsters are usually full of cardboard; if you have a use for that, you can get all you want for free. Sometimes you will come across store returns that have been tossed in the dumpster. Sometimes these are repairable or may not even have anything wrong with them in the first place.
Apartment dumpsters around the end of the month are usually pretty good to hit. They have everything that the tenants moving out didn’t feel like moving. Lots of times I have found boxes full of food where someone had emptied their pantry and set the box beside the dumpster.
You might get real lucky and have a friend who happens to work at the dump, and allows you to wander around looking for things during working hours.
In all this just keep an eye out for things you can use or sell. Aluminum, brass and copper still bring decent money and dumpsters are full of the stuff.
Dumpsters are a gold mine of free prepping supplies, or things you can sell to buy those supplies. I have even found ammunition, money, tools and military items.
There are several YouTube videos out there featuring the dollar store challenge. You get $10 and have to buy enough to get you through a night out in the wild, start a fire, and provide three meals.
After watching a couple of these I had my own ideas and headed to my local nothing over a dollar store.
I found your basic lighters and matches but also came across a 10×12 drop cloth used for painting which is compact and perfect for a bug-out bag.
If you were taking the challenge or had very little money, one of the chef’s knives for a dollar would make a serviceable survival knife.
But what really surprised me about the dollar store is mine has shelf stable milk for a dollar a quart. Most of it is dated at least six months out. There are also several other food items you might want to check out if you are keen on packing your own MRE type meals.
I have found thrift stores to be hit or miss. When they hit they really pay off and when they miss they tend to be kind of boring.
In the cooking section look for cast iron pots, Dutch ovens and skillets along with knives or other utensils that you may not have that would help you butcher, store or otherwise prepare storage food. I have seen many dehydrators over the years; if you get one, be sure it is one that has a fan to move the air. The still air ones do not work well (that is why they are in thrift stores).
If they have a camping section, look it over well.. I have seen lots of Coleman stuff there. I picked up my current two burner stove for $5.
In the clothing section, look for good work boots. I picked up a pair of almost new Chippewa insulated work boots for $0.45, yes that is cents. Camo and used BDU’s can be had if you look hard enough.
The last thing is to look at the books. I have seen where it looks like someone’s crazy prepper uncle died and the relatives donated all his books.
Thrift stores can have some really good finds for very little money. Here are 50 prepper items to shop for at the thrift store or yard sale.
Antique stores are great for finding that one item you want or need, and you just don’t want to spend money on a new one.
If a prepper needs a job done you can be sure that most likely someone 100 years ago needed that same type job done. What the old timers used to do that job will be found in an antique store.
Lots of us preppers like to rummage around a flea market looking for deals on gear and supplies. I have gotten way too many good deals to list but you can find things like knives, guns, animal traps, military surplus, farm and homesteading equipment, or even silver coins to invest in.
You never know what may pop up at a flea market.
Salvage Grocery Store
We have what they call a salvage grocery store a few miles from our house. We try to go every week to see what is thrown in the bargain bin.
These stores buy expired, close to expiring, damaged and overstock groceries by the truckload and make them available to the public. Here’s everything you need to know about expiration dates and what’s safe to consume and when.
Ours is similar to a regular grocery with its aisles only on the small side. Where it differs is that much of the stock turns over every week. One week they may have a great deal on coffee (lots of different brands real cheap) and the next week not have any at all.
We have found some incredible deals. A couple months ago we saw tuna packed in olive oil with oregano. It looked like high end stuff and packed in olive oil it should store for ages. We bought all they had at $.59/can. When we got home I looked it up online and found it was some European tuna that costs 5 euros/can!
These salvage groceries can be great places to pick up food you plan on storing, and sometimes if you are lucky you may get some real high end stuff for a bargain price.
I love local auctions. I have gotten lots of gear at auctions for much less than it would cost me even in a surplus store. I have picked up a shotgun for $20, cheap ammo, prepper and survival books, Backwoodsman magazines (primo stuff there) and lots of other things, sometimes by the boxful for a $1 bid.
Just be careful you don’t get into the auction frenzy and pay more than things are worth. Here are the 50 low-priced items that will be invaluable when SHTF.
I keep an eye on things like eBay and Craigslist when I am looking for something specific. I figure out how much I want to pay and don’t go over.
A couple years ago I decided everyone in the family needed a fiberglass hunting bow. It took me about a month but I paid less that $20 each for them and now we each have one along with a couple spares.
Shop around and be prepared to let someone else win that bid; it is not a competition.
If all else fails and you still can’t seem to be able to scrounge up your gear, you may have to bite the bullet and get a second job.
I have a friend who makes a comfortable living as an accountant. He also has a second job as a clerk at a convenience store. He puts all his second income into a separate bank account and uses it for mad money. Things like vacations and hunting trips.
If you took a similar approach for your preps and designated one stream of income or a portion of one to buying gear and preps you should be able to set a budget and plan how to buy any piece of gear your heart desires.
The big thing to remember is to always look for a way to get it cheaper or even free. If you see a great deal on something and can get more than one, get it, and then trade it for something else you need. In addition, always keep an eye out for things you can sell. You may not need it, but if you can sell it you will have that extra cash.
Our predecessors did okay for themselves without much cash. The Native Americans did okay for themselves with no money at all.
All it takes is the right mindset, and keeping your eyes open for ways to hold onto your hard-earned cash.
You may also like: