Prepping on the Cheap

1. Water

You’ll need a large quantity of water, which fortunately is usually pretty easy to come by. The trick is to use empty containers that could be recycled to meet your needs. Empty 2-liter soda bottles work nicely; they’re cheap and pretty  resilient. A good place to store them is in old milk crates, which can be stacked in a garage. The average person should drink 1.9 liters per day, so be sure to stock up on more water than you think you’ll need. A good thing to keep in mind when storing water is that you’ll never have too much water no matter how much you have. Don’t forget water for washing clothes and dishes. You’re going to need a water filtration system once you run out of your water supply, so consider saving your pennies and buying a durable water filter. Water collecting is a fairly simple task; all it really requires is a tarp and a container. Suspend the tarp on four poles over the container and poke a hole in the tarp then wait for the rain. Remember you’ll probably never have enough water stored, so keep collecting.

2. Food

Food is a little more difficult to stock up on because you’ll need to make sure to rotate it so it doesn’t go bad, unlike water which has a virtually unlimited shelf life. So get yourself a notebook and write dates down so you can rotate the food properly. The types of food I recommend are the kinds that can be saved for at least six months. Make sure you stock up on the kinds of food you enjoy or want to acquire a taste for. It’s not good to have two dozen disgusting meals that get wasted. There are three types of foods that are ideal for storing– MREs (meals ready to eat), dehydrated foods, and canned goods. MREs at sometimes three bucks a piece are a good idea because of their easy use. Or if you want you can save up and for $4,000 get a year’s supply of MREs. However, I only recommend that if you’re prepared in all other aspects. Dehydrated foods on the other hand can be saved for over 20 years. Canned goods are so inexpensive for a great amount of food, and most of them have a two year shelf life. Each type of food has its own pros and cons. MREs are rather inexpensive and have a vast variety of flavors, while dehydrated foods last for an incredible amount of time without spoiling. Then, lastly there are the canned foods, which in my opinion are the best choice because they can be bought at pretty much any store, along with the fact that they can be stored much easier than the other two. Plus, they’re super inexpensive! Now, don’t forget about proper food storage, because there’s no point buying a ton of non-perishables if it ends up getting damaged. What you should do is get some plastic garbage bins with lids; then fill the bins with your food and duct tape the lid back on. Then you just need to find a cool place to store them. Also, when shopping, don’t forget condiments like salt, pepper, and other seasonings, especially salt. You might want to get some plastic forks and spoons, unless you want to end up eating soup with your fingers. Make sure you keep rotating!

3. Fire starters

Fire is up there in the top three needs, when preparing for major disaster after food and water, because though it isn’t an absolute necessity it is quite helpful in many ways. For starters, lighters are a relatively inexpensive way to start a fire, but if they get too wet then they’re going to be most likely useless, so be sure to store them in a waterproof container. My personal favorite fire starter is a mini BIC lighter, because they’re easy to carry and store; keep in mind their smaller size means less times that they can be used. The bigger BIC lighter are really good too, though it’s a bit strange to carry them in your pocket all of the time, but they’ll be very useful in every other aspect. Sometimes lighters come with little child locks on them, which sometimes makes them harder to use, but they can be removed if you stick a nail or a knife blade underneath the lock and pry it off. Don’t worry if it’s done right, it won’t damage the lighter in any way. Now matches on the other hand are a lot of fun, if you get the right ones. Strike anywhere matches are much harder to find but are much more useful, because they don’t need sandpaper to strike on. When you get matches, check to see if they’re waterproof. If not, you can waterproof matches by melting wax then dipping the tips in it. Then, when you’re ready to use them, just scrape off the wax. Be sure to store them properly, too. Then, there’s a fire piston. It’s much more versatile than the others but harder to use. A fire piston consists of a hollow cylinder sealed at one side and a piston with a handle in one end and indented in the other end, where it forms an air tight chamber so when a piece of cloth or dry grass is placed in the indentation on the piston and rammed into the cylinder it causes the air to compress and creates a sharp increase in temperature in the tube (approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit) causing the tinder to catch, which then can be transferred to a tinder pile. Be sure to remove the piston quickly or else the tinder will use up the oxygen in the tube. Then, lastly, there’s flint and steel. The idea is kind of simple; strike the steel against the flint and direct the sparks into a pile of tinder. (Barbeque lighter fluid is helpful with this.) Some accelerants are helpful when starting a fire with wet wood. Isopropyl or denatured alcohol, and lighter fluid are all easily-used accelerants. [Editor’s Note: Of course NEVER use gasoline. The vapors are explosive and it is simply too dangerous–even when used in tiny amounts!] Be careful not to get any on yourself when you’re lighting a fire. Third degree burns are not fun in a bug out situation. Accelerants are just about useless without wood, so get plenty of it.

4. Medical Equipment

Medicine is very helpful to have to fight various diseases without relying completely on your immune system. Get pills if possible, since they last longer and are easier to store. Good types of medications are ibuprofen, Nyquil and Dayquil, and benadryl. Oral health is almost as important. Toothbrushes and toothpaste are highly needed because it’s going to be hard to deal with cavities and infections. So you should probably take extra care of your teeth. Don’t forget floss; it’s one of the most useful items I’ve come across. Floss can be used for sewing and for lashing sticks together, and it’s also clean (but not sterile), so in extremes you can sew gashes and wounds shut with it. I’ll bet you didn’t know that toothpaste can be used for bug bites. Just apply the toothpaste on the wound and then wrap it. For burns, cool the burn with water and then add then add aloe vera. What you need is a little case in which to store all your first aid stuff. The types of things that should be put in a first aid kit are: Band-Aids, antiseptic wipes, Neosporin, pain relievers, needles and thread, and rubbing alcohol, which also makes a great fire starter. Keep your first-aid kit in a dry place and out of the reach of children.

5. Tools

Tools are a great help in a lot of situations, like building or bartering, they can even be used as weapons! If you do end up buying tools, make sure you know how to use them so you don’t injure yourself. First, get basic hand tools, like a hammer, nails, screwdriver, screws, scissors, saw and a hacksaw, different sizes of wrenches, and files. Keep these in a safe place but not out of reach. Then there are the bigger tools, which are hard to forget because they are really useful, like shovels, spades, rakes, and hoes. Be sure to check brands for good quality tools. Tool maintenance keeps your tools from rusting or wearing out. For this job, you’ll need sandpaper, rust cleaner, and old rags, so don’t throw any away. Axes and hatchets are amazingly useful tools when used correctly. They are helpful in clearing brush and getting firewood. They can also be effective weapons. When selecting an axe or a knife, check the reviews to find information on the tool. There isn’t much more to say about tools, other than keep them in good condition and keep them in a safe place so they won’t get stolen.

6. Weapons

Weapons are probably the most expensive topic, so it makes it a little harder to say. Firearms are the most effective (and expensive) weapon to buy; they can spit lead from a distance with little risk of you being injured. So you should at least have one firearm in your home at all times. The type you get is entirely up to your taste and ability. Keep in mind that you’ll probably be hunting with it as well as defending your property with it. Rifles are the best option for hunting, but pistols are easier to use in defending yourself. Since we can only pick one firearm due to budget constraints, then I think the best all-around is the .243 Winchester, because it can be used on small game but also is strong enough to take out a deer. I think firearms are one of the things that you just must be willing to pay the price for, but you’ll be thankful later. However, if you don’t want a rifle or can’t afford one and you’d rather just go with a pistol, then you should probably get a revolver, because they don’t jam and they’re easier to learn how to use, but they don’t have very many shots. Make sure to take a safety course on proper gun use and go to the gun range and shoot the gun a couple times to get the feel of how to use it properly. Ammunition is a problem, because it’s so expensive. What you need to do is find a proper budget set aside specifically for ammo. Store it in a very dry place with no humidity. Guns aren’t the only things on the weapons list; knives and axes are pretty important, too. Before you get a bunch of machetes and hatchets, get a multi-tool. I have a Leatherman OHT, which is really a tactical knife, but it’s really nice to have on hand. Go online and look at multi-tools until you find one that you like. Now, we can move on to the bigger blades, like a machete. A really nice one that I have is a Gerber Gator Jr. The only problem with it is it gets dull really quick, so you have to sharpen it every once in a while. Then there’s the Kershaw Camp 10. It’s more like a kukri than a machete, but it is wicked sharp, and it holds its edge for a long time. Make sure to pick up a sharpening stone to keep your weapons in good shape. You can use the sharpening stone on the tools, too.

7. Homesteading

This can be a problem if you live in the city, but it’s not impossible. There are a lot of ways you can do most of the homesteading stuff in the city. Unless you have an unusually large back yard, you probably won’t be able to keep livestock in the city, but there are some alternatives, like chickens or rabbits. Now, depending on the type and the quantity, you could probably feed these animals with just scraps from your dinner table. Make sure not to get more than you can handle, and keep a close eye on them to see if one of them is sick or wounded. Take careful thought when getting rabbits; otherwise, your next problem will be getting rid of them. For chickens, you’ll need a little more than a cage. You’re going to need sunshine, water, grass, roosts, laying crates, and chicken wire. (You can use five-gallon buckets cut in half filled with straw for laying crates.) With chickens you have to check for eggs often or else they might end up eating their own eggs. Gardening is a much simpler process. All you need is sunshine, water, dirt, and seeds. All are very inexpensive items, and all are easy to use. Just get some old milk jugs, cut them in half, fill them with dirt, water them when needed, and watch your plants grow! The easiest types of plants to grow varies in what type of climate you live in. Just check online to see the easiest types of plants to grow for your climate. Don’t forget a compost pile. You can put that in your makeshift garden.

Budgeting from the Shopping List

I’ve come up with a list of items, most of which I’ve mentioned, with their prices listed next to them. The list is solely for the purpose of starting your list of tools and equipment wanted for preparation. Some of the prices show typical prices of USED weapons and tools. Keep in mind that these are all rough estimates and prices change. The first price listed will probably be the lowest you can get for that item with good quality. The prices of course will vary depending on the state/area you’re in, but the prices should be pretty close to the realistic price, but may not be exactly the correct price. Remember, that I have put these items in what I believe is priority with water, food, and fire at the top of the list for short-term emergencies, followed by medical, tools, weapons, and then long-term homesteading supplies. You will have to decide what your budget and priorities are. Here’s the list and pricing I’ve put together as a reference to help you in planning:

  • Water:
    • Water Jugs (empty milk jugs) $2-$4
  • Water Filters:
    • Life Straws $20
    • Bottle Filters $25
    • Water Purification Tablets $7-$15
  • Food:
    • MREs $4$-$50
    • Freeze-dried Foods $10-$50
    • Canned Goods $3-$10
    • Plastic Totes $7 (Walmart pricing)
  • Fire Starters:
    • Lighters $5
    • Matches $4-$40
    • Fire Pistons $15-$20
    • Flint and Steel $7-$13
    • Lighter Fluid $8-$15
  • Medical Equipment:
    • Band-Aids $6-$10
    • Neosporin $5-$8
    • Rubbing Alcohol $3-$6
    • Prescriptive Meds (varies)
    • Non-Prescriptive Meds (varies)
    • Toothpaste $4-$20
    • Toothbrushes $2-$10
    • Floss $5-$10
    • Bandages $4-$8
  • Tools:
    • Rakes $12-$20
    • Shovels $10-$20
    • Hammers $5-$20
    • Wrenches (Set) $7-$120
    • Screws (Pack) $6-$20
    • Nails (Pack) $6-$20
    • Hoes $9-$30
    • Axes $12-$80
    • Hatchets $10-$60
    • Wedges $13-$20
  • Weapons:
    • Rifles $100-$400
    • Pistols $100-$500
    • Knives (Everyone has different tastes and there’s a large variety, but you could probably get a good one for between $30 and $60.)
    • Machetes $20-$60
  • Homesteading:
    • Seeds (Heirloom) $40-$50
    • Gardening Pots $7-$20
    • Gardening Soil (in bags)$5-$15

I hope you learned something from this, because it is hard to deal with the lack of funds for preparing for a major collapse. The key to inexpensive prepping is to spread out your buys, not just buying the cheapest stuff, but by getting the correct tools that will not fail you when you need them. There are many more categories that I could have written about, but I just wrote down the ones that I felt were most important. One last thing, getting prepared in your mind is almost as, if not more, important than getting ready with buying things. Your mind is probably what’s going to keep you alive in a major disaster, even without the tools. You should have most of the information in your head. The ultimate goal is to be able to live in a self-sufficient way without having to rely on electricity and unstable energy. The whole point of this essay is to help the people who don’t have a ton of money and still want to prepare for the inevitable major disaster. Thanks for the opportunity to express my thoughts concerning this topic.

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