Not everyone can afford spending hundreds of dollars a month on extra preps. Even I don’t. Like I said before, don’t let prepping consume you. Don’t let it take over your regular day to day life. Never let it drive you into debt. In fact, being in debt goes completely against the prepper philosophy. Clearing your debt should be part of your day to day prepping.
The first rule for prepping on a budget is, look for sales. Walmart generally has semi-regular sales in their canned goods aisles. A can of food I’d say is about a dollar on average. During these sales, the prices drop maybe 30 cents or more. I remember picking up an entire case of green beans during one of these sales for 74 cents each. Not too bad. Although I don’t shop all that much at Walmart, I haven’t seen many sales on canned meat or soups. Maybe I’m just missing them. On the topic of sales, look through your flyers for coupons. In my area, Stop and Shop and Food Mart are the two top grocery chains. My house gets regular flyers to both stores and we clip out the coupons and use them regularly. It’s a big money saver; saves us money to put towards other preps.
Big store chains like Walmart and grocery stores aren’t the only place to get preps for cheap. Every area of the country has its own small chain stores that sell food for cheap and other preps that preppers would be interested in. Look around, you know your area better than I do. Don’t think just because it’s a not-so-well known store that their products aren’t good. Give every store a chance, look around, test out their products, see what’s good and what’s not so good.
Warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco are great for buying in bulk, which in my opinion, is the best way to go. Buying in bulk saves you money. I regularly visit my local Sam’s Club and pick up the 50lb bag of rice for less than $20, and the 25lb bag of flour for less than $10. All your basic cooking ingredients can be found at Sam’s Club for incredibly cheap. Pancakes, bread, pizza; it can all be made from what can be found in Sam’s. I don’t know about you, but I love home made pizza and bread, the quality far surpasses ANY local bakery or pizzeria. Plus, you know exactly what has been put in your food. You are in control of every single ingredient. Also, my local Sam’s has a gigantic selection of various spices to add a nice flavor to your meals. Salt can also be had for 98 cents per four pounds. Easy and very cheap way to stock up on salt.
This is already obvious enough to seasoned preppers, but, stop dining out. Eat in. Stay home, cook up your own meals, save yourself lots of money. A $5 meal at McDonald’s could be put towards cooking at home, and that $5 could feed you all day, for even two days. Six meals for the cost of one McDonald’s meal? Yes please.
Start gardening. Apartment dwellers: you are limited on what you can garden. If you don’t have a balcony on your apartment you’re pretty much out of luck, for the most part. I have a local nearby farm that sells small garden plots for about $20, they give you a 10×10 plot, clear it out for you, and you’re free to grow whatever you want. Contact your local farms and see if they offer something similar. For those of you that own your own home and land, garden to your heart’s content. This year, I plan on clearing a garden plot larger than I ever have before, should turn out to something in the realm of 40′x10′ or so. I’m looking into growing wheat; from what I understand, wheat is the simplest crop to grow. I have never grown wheat before, only vegetables. I also plan on stocking up on large quantities of seeds. The idea is to fill up two gallon buckets with individual types of seeds, mylar bag and seal them in with oxygen absorbers.
People often complain about not being able to afford adequate food storage methods. There really is no cheap way to go about food preservation. The general cost out there is pretty much what you’ll have to pay. Dehydrating food CAN be done in your oven at home, but it IS more difficult and time consuming. If I ever actually dehydrate food in the oven, I will post a how-to article. Not exactly something I have in my foreseeable future plans, though. An electric food dehydrator is honestly a great investment, you can’t go wrong with it. Dehydrating adds years and years onto the shelf life of foods, depending on what you dehydrate, of course. Dehydrate 50lbs of bananas (my favorite cereal topping) and you’ll be all set for a season or even longer, depending on how addicted you are to banana toppings on your cereal.
Canning is a hobby I’ve gotten into recently and have the feeling I am going to enjoy once I really get going on it. Every prepper should have a canner of some sorts. I would go with a pressure canner, because it can also double as a water bath canner. Pressure canners are a NECESSITY for canning low acid foods. Attempting to can low acid foods without a pressure canner will put you at risk for becoming infected with botulism. Not a fun thing to have, from what I hear. Food safety should be your number one priority. Anyone with any sort of budget can afford to have good food safety habits. Do yourself and your family a favor and get a pressure canner. I got mine for $80 on Amazon. There’s other more expensive pressure canner models out there in the range of $200-300, mainly for their larger size and larger canning capacity. They also come with a few extra gadgets which are in my opinion, simply a luxury.
Canning jars can be found on Sam’s Club’s website for about $20 per two dozen. This is where I’ve gotten mine from. I saw my local Walmart’s canning jar selection and it wasn’t the greatest. The packaging was open, one of the jars was broken, not very appealing to me. A Sam’s Club membership in case any of you were wondering, is $40 per YEAR. The $40 will pay for itself once you start buying in bulk and saving money. There are three components to canning jars; the jar itself, the lid, and the ring. Everything is reusable EXCEPT the LIDS. The lids need to be replaced after every use. Luckily, lids can be found inexpensively online and in stores. I heard of an end of season sale last year where a local store had canning lids for $1 a dozen. Great deal, pick up as many as you can during those sales. You can never have too many canning lids. My personal long term goal with canning lids is to have enough stocked to fill an entire 18 gallon plastic tote. With this, I should have a few thousand lids which SHOULD last me quite some time. Of course, I’ll have a better understanding on how many I’ll need after I actually get into more canning.
Remember, canning is something that extends the shelf life and preserves the food for an additional 1-3 years, or more depending on the item canned. Always check with a reliable source for shelf life of home canned goods. It’s a cheap method of storing what you grow in your garden. You could spend a hundred dollars a month on vegetables from the store, or you could grow your own in your own garden and can up what you don’t eat immediately. A common misconception I hear from people quite frequently is the belief that you can only can “one” type of food in a single jar. Not true. You’re able to home-can just about anything you can find in the canned goods aisle of your local grocery store. Soups, meat sauces, meat itself, mixed veggies, etc etc. My suggestion to you is to purchase a canning book that includes tons of canning recipes. The one I bought with my pressure canner is, “Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving,” for $13.23 with free shipping as I am an Amazon Prime member. I’m pretty sure it can also ship for free through their “super saver shipping” method or whatever it’s called. Standard shipping, of course.
What should you do to start off your prepping on a budget? Look through your flyers. Clip out coupons. Remember to keep your preps in balance. Don’t prep too much of one certain type of food. Having a hundred cans of green beans and five cans of soup will not be too fun to eat. Balance them. During your regular trips to the grocery store, ADD one to everything that has a decent shelf life. For example, you’re buying a can of corn, green beans, and soup for yourself. Buy an additional one can of each of them. Put the additional cans in storage with your preps, and eat what you bought for yourself.
Remember to ROTATE, ROTATE, ROTATE. All too often I hear about people not getting on board with prepping because they feel they will “never eat all of the prepped food”. This is either complete ignorance, or total stupidity. Eat through your preps. Add your baking mixes to your daily baking. Don’t be scared to eat what you prep. There’s no sense in stocking a years’ worth of food, and then STILL going to the grocery store every week to buy more groceries for you to eat on your own. Eat your preps. Rotate through your preps. First one in, first one out. Date everything, store everything by date. Put the oldest in front, newest in back. Tell your family to keep their hands off the preps. I’ve heard horror stories of preppers’ families messing up the organized prep-filled shelves after they started not taking the oldest food, rather, the newest. The entire shelves had to be re-organized. Absolute nightmare to do that if you have a fair amount of preps.
To add a bit more on people not having adequate funds for physical food storage (ie: buckets, etc), I believe you’re over-thinking it. Yes, buckets are expensive especially online with shipping costs figured in. I recommend buying only a few FOOD-GRADE buckets online. The rest can be bought from Home Depot or Lowes. They are not food grade, and I would NOT put my un-protected/un-mylar-bagged food in them. I would use them only after putting my food into mylar bags. These buckets at Lowes and Home Depot are perfectly safe to store your food in as long as they are bagged in mylar, and heat sealed. These stashes would be labeled for long term storage, not for immediate usage. Once you run out of your immediate usage food in your food-grade buckets, cut open one of the LTS (long term storage) buckets and dump it into the immediate usage buckets. Then, be sure to restock your buckets. Go stop by Sam’s Club and restock that mylar bag with some more flour, or whatever prep it was you used.
A better explanation of bucket transfer:
Long term storage buckets – Lowes/Home Depot buckets with gasketed lid. Everything inside HAS to be in a mylar bag, with an oxygen absorber, and heat sealed. The plastic on these buckets are NOT food grade and chemicals can and will leech into your food if they are unprotected. The mylar protects your food from this occurring.
Immediate usage buckets – Are from reputable sites like US Plastics (where I get mine from, never had any problems with them, great company). These do not necessarily need to be mylar bagged, as long as you plan on using them within a short period of time (couple months, give or take). It would also be a good idea to invest into gamma seal lids for these particular buckets. A gamma seal lid is simply a lid with two parts. First part gets hammered into place onto your bucket, it is the adapter ring. Next, the lid literally screws onto that adapter, allowing you to unscrew it and screw it back on as frequently as you need. This seal creates an AIR-TIGHT seal. I have extensive experience with gamma seal lids, they are extremely reliable, albeit somewhat tricky to get on your buckets. I will post a how-to on how to install gamma seals later this week.
To reiterate the deal with Lowes and Home Depot buckets: YES you CAN use them to store food. BUT, you need to wash them out with soap and water, and your food needs to be inside a mylar bag. This way, chemicals inside the plastic bucket will not leech into your food, the mylar will PROTECT your food. The bucket acts as an outer shell against pests, rodents, insects and air. The bag protects the food from being in contact with potentially harmful chemicals. If you can afford it, I’d almost always go with food grade buckets instead of Lowes/Home Depot buckets. If you cannot afford it, having food inside Lowes/Home Depot buckets is PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE AND SAFE, provided your food is stored inside a mylar bag, inside the bucket.
I would get a gamma seal lid for my regular use flour bucket, salt and sugar at a bare minimum. The great thing about gamma seals is there is no more prying the lid off to get to the contents. Just un-screw it with a twist of your hand and you’re already inside your bucket. Over time, as funds permit, I plan on replacing ALL of my bucket lids with gamma seal lids. Gamma seals will last much longer than your regular lids will. I always feel as if my lids are cracking, about to snap in half as I’m prying them off with a wrench. This is bound to happen eventually. Not with gamma seals, though. Regular lids are great for keeping on those LTS buckets, the ones that you won’t be touching very frequently at all. They are a TERRIBLE idea for buckets you plan on accessing every day. Do yourself a huge favor, get gamma seals for your buckets. They aren’t very cheap unfortunately, tending to cost more than a bucket itself. You pay for convenience, as with everything. Just do a quick Google search for gamma seal lids and you’ll find some decently priced ones eventually. Even if you are on a budget, I highly recommend having at least a few gamma seal lids. You can always get more over time, again once funds permit.
There you have it, prepping on a budget. Not as hard as it seems now, is it? Feel free to leave me some comments if you have any questions, I’ll get back to you ASAP.