I am a beginning Prepper. I am broke. This combination is presenting a lot of challenges that I am determined to overcome.
When I started on this new stage in life I did what many people do, when starting something new, I began researching as much as I could on the subject. The first layer of research came up with a wonderful array of web sites that were willing to sell me a years supply of food, pre-packaged and ready to go. The problem was the price tag. I could buy food or pay the rest of my bills.
My husband and I own our own small business and the income is sporadic and small. So here is the challenge: How to be prepared for TEOTWAWKI and still live within our means.
The next step was more research, this time going deeper. This included finding blogs on the subject and books on prepping that were not ads for products. One of the surprise sources was actually not on prepping per say, but cookbooks and how to books from bygone years. Our grandparents lived through the hardest economic times in US history. We have forgotten so many things about living off the land and preserving food, that were common knowledge in their day. Old cookbooks often have great sections on food storage and home remedies that still are great today. This is not to say I didn’t pay attention to the other research, just that things build up on each other. It was also through research that I found the things that I did need to save up for that I would need from specialty sources, examples: water treatment, long term storage container supplies, specialty foods. (I cannot can bacon).
I started with an assessment of current advantages. I live in a small town in mid America with four full lots on the edge of town( about an acre). My husband and I made the decision to prepare to stay here rather than a backup bug out location. There is plenty of room for a supporting garden (we currently garden in this space and have room to grow). We have nut and fruit trees on the property and are adding trees as we can afford them.
There is an old well on the property that is not currently in use so we are planning to get it going again, as we can afford to. Our plan is to put in a hand pump, not an electric one. That way we would have backup water in case of power failure. Our home was built in the days before running water and was converted to indoor plumbing. This will make it easier to convert back. We have rain barrels for our gutter system. The house was originally designed to divert the roof water into a cistern but the cistern is long gone.
Where we will spend our money? A water filtering system and getting the well up and tested.
Protection preparedness is well underway. Luckily my husband has always collected and shot weapons and was raised hunting. Military training was part of his upbringing. I was also raised in a hunting household and am comfortable with firearms. A large stockade style fence to define our property is on the long term list. How we will spend our money? Ammo and ammo storage. When funds allow, my husband is looking for same gauge weapons to cut back on the variety of ammo needed so we can concentrate on volume and fencing.
Heating and cooking is ready. We already can heat our home with wood and have for extended periods of winter (when our boiler went out and we had a two month wait for a part). We recently purchased a wood burning cook stove and are working on setting up our “Vintage Kitchen”. We found the stove via craigslist and spent only $200. Word of warning on this, check a used cook stove over very carefully, many of them are not worthy of use anymore. Be sure the firebox is in good shape and all the iron is solid, with no burn through spots. We have easy access to a wood lot that abuts our property.
Our lighting and backup electric is still in progress. We have a collection of oil lamps and have started on the stockpile of oil. How will we spend our money? I am saving up for a small solar generator system that can be added onto as we get funds. I have a few solar outdoor lights that have held up well under outdoor conditions for more than three years. They are a great inexpensive light source. Place them in a sunny window during daylight hours and they are ready for all night light as the sun goes down. Some of these lights are actually strong enough to comfortably read by.
Backup currency is started. We were lucky to inherit a small silver coin collection from a relative as a base for our silver stockpile. We add to this collection as we can. We even find coins during business and actually get coins from customers that we add to our collection. No coin ever gets put into the bank without checking the date. Pure silver jewelry is also added to the fund as we can. Slow and steady on this one, but getting there.
Lets talk food. I have added $75 a month to my food budget. Part of the budget is cutting back on convenience foods to be able to put more towards prepping. With this extra budget I shop very carefully to get the best bang for my buck. We have set up a long term pantry to our house with shelves for long term storage. When I am doing my regular shopping I check sales on can goods and storables. Canned spaghetti sauce is on sale for 77 cents so I buy five extra. I have a new habit of going to Big Lots as part of my shopping because I have found they are a great source for canned meat. I have set goals in each category of food so I can check things off as those goals are met. When I use up a product from my kitchen I go to the long term pantry then refill there so I am rotating stock. When we have a little extra cash or I have not used my monthly budget I purchase a large storage item like rice in 25# bags or wheat. We are using the mylar and plastic bucket method to store grains.
We have been gardeners for our entire lives and I have been learning preserving methods, canning, pressure canning, drying and root cellaring. Just this year we have begun growing heirloom only, when possible, so seed saving is part of our plan now. Just today I started my soup starter tin. Extra produce or produce that I do not have the time to can (I sometimes work 12 hour days and canning takes time) is dried and stored. This has been a wonderful discovery. I take extra produce and cut in small pieces and use a dehydrator to completely dry. All of it goes into the same big storage container: beans, okra, zucchini, peas, etc.. It is wonderful in the winter to take meat stock or tomato juice and throw a couple handfuls of the veggies in, simmer all day and you have a wonderful and nutrient rich veggie soup.
Medical preparedness is two fold. Stocking up on basic medical supplies is the same as food. A good first aide kit to start with is essential and then adding on. I have also been an avid herb grower for years. As part of my garden I grow a number of herbs with health uses. There are many books on this subject and are worth investing in. Being able to make a basic tea that can calm your stomach is worth the work of growing the herb. In this vein, we also buy extra vitamins for general overall health. A spare pair of eyeglasses for each of us is on the “Saving up for” list.
Communication with limited power can be tricky, we have a small CB Radio that can be hooked to a car battery and a hand crank AM-FM radio for now. We have a ham radio on our list but would be okay with what we have now.
We may have to bug out. We live 60 miles from two nuclear power plants (that are currently flooded). So bugging out may have to be a choice for us. Fuel is a huge issue that we have not solved yet. Small storage cans are all we have. Our “bug out bags” are at hand as well as easy access to our camping and outdoor equipment. We have a large vehicle that much of our food and water could be stored in. We have put an enclosed trailer on the list. A secondary location is hugely expensive. We are part of a large family so one location might work for the family as a whole but finding that safe usable bug out spot is a big problem. The location would have to be far away from our current home to be of any use. As of yet we have not found a secondary location so this option is still a bit scary.
So how to be a Prepper on a low budget? Take one step at a time. Always look for small ways to get ahead. Check sales on food and medicines, household items. Save up for the big and set a priority list. If something happens before my list is done I will still be better off than I was before.