When people talk about prepping, a lot of times I hear about the items they are acquiring for times of woe and dismay. Having the correct gear, in fact, a good thing to do while prepping, but having the right mindset is really important as well. I wanted to talk about Survival prepping on a budget. Certain gear is vitally important and we are going to talk about how we can find that gear on the cheap!
Prioritizing what you need
In order to survive, we need Air, water, Shelter, security, and food. Normally the atmosphere and our lungs take care of the air part of things for us so we are going to not add that to our shopping cart. What we are concerned about is Proper shelter, food, security, and water.
First things first, you need shelter. Having food or water won’t help you if you freeze to death overnight. Wet and breezy conditions can lead to hypothermia just as fast as freezing temps. Every prepper should have some kind of temporary shelter ready to go in case getting home or being home becomes impossible. If money were no option I would highly suggest a canvas wall tent like the one found here! The whole point of this article though is that money is a factor and we need to do our survival prepping on a budget.
The whole purpose for a tent is to separate man from the elements. You want a barrier between your physical body and the elements of the world. You might try to avoid sun, rain, snow, bugs, animals, heat, cold, even other people. The stronger the structure the longer it will last you. Hopefully, the use of such a structure would only be a temporary thing.
The other thing to think about when putting together a structure is the environment you are going to have to survive in. living where it is -20 degrees freezing, your temporary shelter would need to be at a whole different level than say someone surviving on the beaches of Hawaii.
Second, water is a must. You can go weeks without food, but not water. Lack of water can do you in within a matter of days. Big Berkey seems to lead the field in water purifying for larger groups like a family. A lot of people who don’t like their tap water use it year round sitting on their counter. The problem is the Big Berkey would definitely not be prepping on a budget or be wise for portability in the case of bugging out.
There are simply easy ways of getting affordable drinking water for survival. I am sure by now everyone knows that when things go bad or there is a natural disaster certain comforts may be lost. Prepping is designed to help us from having to suffer a total loss of our needs.
In an emergency, not everyone is going to have a pallet of bottled water sitting at the ready. It isn’t normally a practical thing to have sitting around and most of the plastics in the bottle break down, over time, leaching chemicals into the water. It would be in bad taste to make it through an emergency and then die of cancer.
Third, you have to have food of some kind or the ability to get more. There are hundreds of premade, just add water, types of foods on the market. You can look at hundreds of products on Amazon alone. Premade food items can be perfect to have on hand but they don’t always make for prepping on a budget. A single serving becomes a good financial decision only when the cost is broke down from buying in bulk. A single meal will always cost less if you buy 180 day supply versus a 30-day supply. We can take a look at other options.
Security comes in fourth because it is one of those things you may or may not need in an emergency. This is going to be totally based on where you are and what the emergency is. As always, make sure you are not breaking any of your local laws when adding different forms of security to your prepping plan.
How to find Shelter on a budget
Depending on your needs for taking care of your group will determine just how cheap you can go with shelter. If you live in Alaska and have a house fire ten miles off the grid during a blizzard, your needs will be dramatically different from someone living in Key West who suffers a loss of a home to an earthquake during summer.
So a few ways to find shelter on the cheap. Starting off, Tarps and rope make the most basic of shelters in a pinch. They are cheap, waterproof, provide shade, block the wind, and takes up very little space when rolled up. With quality tarps and rope you can make a shelter like a kid builds a fort. The downside of this is tarps aren’t really made to hold up to a lot of wind and can start tearing even after a very short period. The tarps do have other useful purposes I will get to shortly.
Cheap tents can provide you with the most bang for your buck. One of my favorite things to do is check big box stores during the fall when they are putting their summer items on clearance. I was able to snag six tents, that slept 4 people each, for $12.00 each one season. No matter what you are looking for, the clearance aisle is always the first place to check. When prepping on a budget we want to avoid cutting as many corners as we can, and the clearance section offers great value if you can find the right items there.
Craigslist is a preppers best friend. Check the free section daily as you never know what people are surviving get rid of just to free up space. Picking up tents, stoves, cookware, chairs, backpacks all can be found gently used and priced low in the for sale section. If you have other skills like landscaping you might be able to use the barter section to get some items you are looking for.
Garage sales and thrift stores can also host some amazing finds. They offer up items because people want to get rid of them. One man’s trash is another’s treasure. What we normally treasure here is a price tag easy on our wallets. Thrift stores around my house will have a weekend sale where they put stickers on items making them only 50 cents. Check with the thrift stores in your area to see if such deals exist and if they do make sure you know when the best time to get to them are. You don’t want to lose out because the inventory is picked over when you get there in the evening.
There are several aspects to look at as far as water solutions. For starters, you have to have water whether it is ready to drink or not. A total lack of water, for instance, would make a water purifier completely irrelevant. Storing water that is drinkable is another way of going about it but water can become stale or corrupted if not stored correctly.
One of the local stores here had a sale on spring water for $1.50 a case. I picked up a pallet of it because it was the lowest I had seen that item priced for. Also, I am not the most practical person sometimes. A plastic bottle is great for short term water storage solutions. When it comes to long-term, meaning years, you want to make sure the bottles themselves won’t break down. Bottles should be BPA free as well. I used the water all summer long making sure to rotate out the stock. We keep a mini-fridge loaded with drinks at all times to keep from clogging up our main kitchen fridge.
Every household should have some kind of short-term water storage. That can be a case or two of water or even a few jugs of water. If an emergency happened you are going to need to have enough water starting out to make it to a point where you are able to obtain more water.
Rainwater collection has actually become illegal in some states. They don’t want a rain barrel for instance on the side of your house. They claim to collect keeps it from going back to the water table and could cause droughts. I am pretty sure the 55-gallon drum isn’t hurting the water tables considering the top of it is open and it can still evaporate. Also, by that failed logic swimming pools and lakes are keeping us from having rain.
When an emergency happens it is important to claim as much water as possible if the continuous flow of water is in question. Also, after an emergency, you should consider any water that isn’t in a sealed container as contaminated. If there is a major power outage or an earthquake you have no way of knowing if the water pumps kept working. Any backflow in a water system can cause contaminants to get into the water.
Claiming water can be done beforehand if you know there is a reason the water might stop. Like when a hurricane or major storm is coming you can fill a bathtub with water in case water quits flowing. Water can always be found in limited quantities after an emergency that causes water to stop. Check the back of your toilet and your hot water heater first for water in a worst-case scenario. I would treat both though before drinking.
The other useful purposes I was talking about for tarps come in to play when it comes to water. You can use tarps to contain water and collect the rain. You can dig a hole and line it with tarps and hold water like a swimming pool. Use Hay bails making a hole in the middle like an above ground pool if digging isn’t an option. The back of a truck lined with tarps can hold water as well. It is important to make sure there are no holes and you may want to make layers of multiple tarps.
Once you have water of some type you are going to need a way of purifying the water. This can be done in several ways. Boiling water at a rapid boil for several minutes can kill off germs and bacteria. If you are working with visibly dirty water you should allow time for the dirt to settle to the bottom of your container and pour the clean water on top through a filter like a towel or coffee filters to keep contaminants out. Several layers of coffee filters might be needed to get the desired effect.
Coffee filters can be found at a local dollar store and any used pot or pan can be used to boil the water. Normally when I replace my pots and pans for new sets I keep some old ones that are in still usable condition to use if I have to ever cook over a fire. Note that Saltwater and water with chemicals in it can not be boiled to a drinkable level. You will need to distill water that is undrinkable and in some cases, even distilling won’t clean out certain chemicals in your water. Know your sources of water.
The easiest way to distill water is to use a pot with an oversized lid. The steam rises and is trapped under the lid where it cools off and clean water drips off of the lid into a gathering container. There is a bit more to it than that so I would suggest checking out YouTube Videos on DIY distilling in a pinch.
Regular unscented chlorine bleach can be added to water in order to make it drinkable. Do not use color safe, scented, or bleach with additives. You only want to use bleach that is 6-8.25% sodium hypochlorite. For each gallon of water you want to add 8 drops of bleach for 6% chloride, and 6 drops for 8.25%. More bleach is needed if the water being purified is extremely cold, cloudy, or discolored.
Once the bleach is added you should stir or shake the water to mix and then let is stand for 30 minutes. Sniff the water. It should have a faint chlorine smell to it. It may remind you of the scent of a swimming pool. Do not drink swimming pool water without treating it yourself first with a boil! If you do not detect the smell of chlorine then redo the same dose and wait 15 minutes or so to check again.
If you end up adding too much chlorine to water you can help filter it out by pouring the water back and forth in clean containers like a bartender mixing drinks. Also, let it sit several hours in the sun. More information can be obtained about making water drinkable from the EPA.
Knowledge and learning are the cheapest ways to take care of this necessity. Learning what plants are edible, or how to fish and hunt, are skills that just might save your life. If you are reading this you have access to the internet and therefore you should check out fishing and hunting blogs and videos. Learn what animals are native to your area and how to trap them.
YouTube is the cheapest and most informative way of seeing step by step how to do almost anything you might want to know. You will also find amazing people and rich characters putting out great content here. Well worth scrolling around.
Knowing the proper handling and cooking of animals can keep you from getting sick, but more importantly, keep your belly full. You might have rabbits running around everywhere and they can be delicious, they can also give you a fever if not prepared correctly. Not knowing the edible plants can cost you your life eating the wrong berries off a Bush. Here you can learn more about that.
I wrote a page about survival food that can be found here! That will help cover what types of foods might be needed but we want to work on getting food on the cheap. Once again clearance aisle will come in very handy with helping us stock up on food. Don’t go for the dented cans if you can avoid it as the dents in the cans can lead to faster bacteria growth inside the can.
Items go on clearance all the time just because the company changed the label and rolled out the new stock. These are the types of items you should be on the watch for and stock up when you find them. Saving money for holiday and end of season sales is a good idea as well. Getting turkeys for less than a dollar a pound during Thanksgiving beats paying full price for it the rest of the year.
You might be saying to yourself that a Turkey may not be that great of an item to have in an emergency but I beg to differ. They are great to use as big giant ice cubes in your deep freezer to help keep the rest of your food cold during a power outage.
Fire is the first item I would list as a must in the category of security. It keeps wild animals at bay as well as offering warmth and light. Fire sterilizes water and cooks your food making it safe. Lighters are very inexpensive. For a few dollars as well you can buy flint and steel. Lighters are great but you always should have backups for critical areas of need.
Have lighters, and flint and steel, for backup in case your lighters get wet. Gaining proper knowledge of how to use a lighter and flint and steel is a must. You would think that having a lighter is enough to get a fire going and it is one of the simplest ways of making fire, but proper fire making skills are needed to make sure the fire doesn’t go out. I plan on doing a post on fire making strategies so please check back soon.
Post after post could be written on security in a doomsday scenario. I am just going to skim the basics at this time to help with planning and getting the thought process going. Security items include any or all of the following:
- Gas Mask
- Body armor
Finding these types of items doing survival prepping on a budget can be a little harder, or at least cost more than some other items we are surviving put together. These also include some items you are going to want to put the extra money into to have quality items. That doesn’t mean we are going to pay retail for them.
Army surplus stores are a great way to find items like gas masks or body armor. Police trade-ins are the best way to find a good discount on quality firearms from your local firearms dealer. There are several points of view about what firearms are best based on caliber or brand name. The bottom line is they just need to work when you need them. I don’t know too many people who have had a firearm pointed at them taking the time to check the brand name or caliber.
Slingshots or bow and arrows are a cost-effective way of having an item that can damage from distance. It makes hunting easier to have something that releases a projectile because walking up on prey can be a hard thing to accomplish. Slingshots offer the convenience of making almost anything around you into a projectile. They make slingshots that shoot metal balls, rocks, or even arrows. They are lightweight and can send a rock flinging through the air at several hundred feet per second.
Breaking the bank does not have to be a reality when survival prepping on a budget. Getting supplies also does not need to be an overnight acquisition. It can take time to get supplies together on a budget but knowledge should be acquired as much as you can as you go through life. We are in the middle of the age of information technology and have the world at our fingertips. Now is the time to acquire skills and knowledge that could help us in the future. Keep coming back for new stories coming all the time. Feel free to comment below about ways you have found to prep on a budget! Thanks. D.W. Mann