How to Prep On A Budget

June 18, 2013

Survival Gear

Don't bottom out your bank account on your preps!

Don’t bottom out your bank account on your preps!

Prepping Without Breaking the Bank

Prepping can be an expensive project. Many preppers buy a few things here and there as they can afford to, all the while feeling like they’ll never have enough food, water, emergency supplies, and gear to meet their needs when TEOTWAWKI arrives. How do you prepare for long term shortages when you have trouble making ends meet while ‘times are good?’ Here are some ways to save some green while you stock up.

Make your own Dried Onion Soup Mix to save money, stock up, and take control of the ingredients.

Make your own Dried Onion Soup Mix to save money on your preps.

Prep Smart

Before you spend your money, think carefully about the things you need for survival and the situations you expect to use them in. Do you live in the city and plan to get out of Dodge in the event of an apocalypse? If so, you don’t want to stock up on a ton of heavy gear that you can’t take with you. Focus on extra food and water supplies to get you through short emergencies, and stock dried foods, a water filtration bottle, weapons, and tools that will pack easily. Concentrate on your Bug Out Bag and the essentials. If you’re fortunate enough to have a survival retreat, store your heavy survival gear there and make sure you have a way to get to it.

  • Create a budget for prepping. Write down your income and subtract all of the expenditures that need to come out of that amount each week and month. Be realistic and give yourself a cushion before you allocate funds for prepping. Cut out unnecessary spending on things like that large mocha java on your way to work, eating fast food lunches, and buying the latest video games. If you want to prep for survival,  give up some luxuries so you can afford the gear you need.
  • Set an agenda for prepping. What’s most important for your survival? Put those items at the top of your list and purchase them first. Having a plan and prioritizing will focus your efforts so you don’t waste time and money on unnecessary items at the expense of what you really need.
  • Make a list of what you need and keep it on the fridge so it’s easy to add items. Choose a few items to load up on each time you go shopping. Do it in small increments so it isn’t such a financial burden. Watch for sales and clip coupons. Be careful with coupons, they encourage us to buy items that cost more or have a lot of processed ingredients. Don’t stock up on it just because it was a ‘good deal’, make sure you will use it.
Keep a list on the fridge and update it as you purchase items.

Keep a list on the fridge and update it as you purchase items.

Buying in Bulk

Buying through a co-op or Sam’s Club can be a great way to stock up on bulk items like rice, beans, oats, and other nonperishable items.  Be sure you store these goods properly by oven canning, vacuum sealing, or storing in mylar bags with co2 absorbers to preserve their quality. Extra fruits, veggies and meats can be pressure canned or dehydrated for later use. Don’t stock up on items you don’t know how to use or won’t eat.

Rotate your food stocks and make sure you use up items that will expire. Replace them as you can afford to, but don’t waste your money by purchasing items and having to throw them away. If you don’t want to eat them, don’t buy them. Store foods properly to make sure they don’t go bad before you can use them. Concentrate on non-perishable items that won’t spoil if the power is out.

Fill mason jars with dried goods for oven canning. Leave 1/2" of head space.

Oven can your bulk dried goods for long term storage and save some dough.

Craigslist and Freecycle

Sometimes people give good stuff away on Freecycle. Subscribe to their daily emails, check to see what people are giving away and be really nice when you email them. I’ve gotten a car load of canning jars, firewood, lumber, crates, and chickens for free this way. Don’t send out a gazillion requests for items, but if you think of something that other people might want to get rid of, that would be useful for prepping…go ahead and put it out there.

Craigslist also has a free section and I often see items like free firewood, lumber scraps, and old sinks up for grabs. Check through the farm and garden section for stock tanks, livestock, hay and feed, freezer beef, and plant starts. There are categories for materials (think building materials, cabinets, and other cool stuff), household (watch for storage containers, cookware, canning jars, and items that would be useful for your bug out retreat), and antiques (hand tools, gardening tools, lanterns, etc.) that could yield some pretty hot survival gear.

Be sure to rotate your food preps and use the old packages up before they expire.

Be sure to rotate your food preps and use the old packages up before they expire.

Discount and Dollar Stores

You have to watch the prices and quality at these places, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find some deals. Stock up on food, health and personal care items by shopping the off brands and discount aisles. Toothpaste, soap, deodorant, antibacterial ointment, bandages, rubbing alcohol, twine, garden seeds, nonperishable foods, and much more can be found at lower prices. Make a list of what you need before you go and set a budget so you don’t go nuts on canned peas (yeah, right) at the expense of your medical kit.

Bring the best identification guide for your area.

Learn to forage for free food in the wild.


Learning to do things for your self is always a good investment in time and funds. Knowledge can’t be stolen or left behind, so even if you are separated from your stuff, you’ll still find food and shelter in the wild, if you learn in advance. Carefully choose books that will teach you the skills you need to survive tough times. Start a garden, go hunting, and learn to forage for free food. Practice food preservation and cooking skills so you can save the harvest for later. You can also preserve sale items from the store if you have the equipment and know how. Invest in a pressure canner, canning jars, Tattler reusable canning lids, tools, water filtration systems, hunting and fishing gear, and other items that will help you become more self sufficient. Don’t sit on the couch dreaming about doing this stuff, get out there and learn while there’s still a safety net to catch you if you fall.

My Dutch oven doesn't have a flat lid and rim for keeping hot coals on top...but it works pretty well just the same.

Request practical gifts, like this Dutch oven, from your family.

Ask For It

If you have friends and family trying to find birthday gifts for you, let them know that you’d really like a Swiss Army knife or a Dutch oven instead of a new tie or dvd. Some of my friends put together Bug Out Bags for their kids for Christmas a few years back…and they were thrilled! If your family is interested in outdoor activities it will be easier to give the kids fishing poles and tackle, canteens, hunting knives, or survival sleeping bags.

Save Some Green

Prepping can be time consuming and budget draining. Don’t get caught up in the moment and make unwise choices that will cost you a bundle. Be sure to read reviews of products you are interested in before you plunk down that hard earned cash. Look for items that will do double, or even triple, duty and see that they are well made. Buying the cheap ass crap will  get you in trouble when you really need it for survival, so save up and invest in the good stuff. It may take longer to accumulate all the preps you need and want, but it will serve you well in the the long run.

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About Lisa Lynn

I grew up on 400 acres of farm and woodland, foraging for wild edibles, learning to preserve food and raise livestock. My favorite book was my Dad’s army survival manual. Everywhere I’ve ever lived I started a garden, stocked up on non-perishables, and planned my escape route. My husband, Tom, and I spent way too much time in the purgatory of suburbia before moving to a small agricultural property. Here we’re learning new skills to survive without the infrastructure that most people take for granted. We plan to move to a larger, off grid property where we can expand our efforts in self sufficiency. It’s my mission to share what I learn with likeminded individuals. I’m sharing my preps with my peeps here and on The Self Sufficient Home Acre

View all posts by Lisa Lynn

3 Responses to “How to Prep On A Budget”

  1. ESP Says:

    Hey, Really like your website. Thank YOUuuuuuuuuu for all the great info. especially on oven canning. Take care, I’m going to try and do some winter camping this year in my little bit of what I call heaven up here in N.H. O’Ya.


    • Dave Says:

      Thanks! I’m glad you’re enjoying it! There’s a lot to learn, so it’s hard to not get overwhelmed by the burdensome feeling of how much money it’ll take… it’s a never ending process to just keep plugging away.

      Please let us know how your winter camping goes, far too many people only do “bug out rehearsals” in fair weather…

      Thanks again!


  2. mike the gardener Says:

    I absolutely enjoyed this article. I have set a budget, created a list and set a time table to complete the list. If you stick to it, it really works and you will be far better off tomorrow than you are today. Great advice in this article!


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