Prepping for Less and for the First Time Prepper, by Becky Bear

Recently, because of some significant financial changes in our life (including moving halfway across country, one of us unable to find work and the other getting laid off, and then getting a job at 50% of the previous salary) we are no longer able to invest as we done in the past. However, because we invested in prepping prior to our sudden reversal of fortune, what would normally happen in this type of financial emergency merely became a financial irritant. Even without 75% of our previous income, we are still able to live well and continue our prepping effort, if only on a reduced scale.
There are several things that many of my non-prepper, and less well-to-do friends, say that prevents them from prepping. The top three excuses that I hear are:

  1. I don’t know where to start
  2. I don’t have enough money to invest in prepping
  3. It’s too late to prep; if I haven’t done it by now, I won’t have what I need when TSHTF.

These are the responses our family gives to those who don’t believe they can, or should, prep:

  1. Not knowing where to start is no excuse. Every person knows what he or she will not eat. Every parent knows what their children’s favorite foods are. Get your kids involved to let them pick their favorite foods and give them a chance to learn about food storage along with you.
  2. Start a list of what your family likes to eat. Pick favorite meals, treats, and drinks.
  3. Then create a customized list of items that it would be useful to have extras of in your home in an emergency.
  4. Use your customized list to check for sales and coupons at the grocery store, focusing only on those items that are 1) on your list and 2) on sale at that time. Buy only the sale items that on your list, and only buy items on your list when they are on sale. This will save you a lot of money over the long term.
  5. Start small. If you normally purchase groceries for only one week, then use the sales to purchase extra to create an additional week’s worth of food in your home. Once you have an extra week’s worth, then go for a month’s worth.
  6. Take a week’s worth of lunch savings and pick up plastic tubs or boxes at yard sales, thrift stores, or on Craigslist. Ask your local grocery store deli for any food grade buckets and lids they are normally throw away.
  7. Stock your extra food purchases in the buckets and prominently label and date the contents. (We use a lot of plastic “shoe” containers for under the beds at our house. Not only does that prevent the kids’ toys, clothes, and junk from getting shoved under the bed, but storing the items in airtight containers under the bed keeps them away from light and extends their storage life.)
  8. If space is limited, try these ideas in order to store these items. You can then create a shelf unit with the buckets as separators between the shelves, or stack the buckets and put a round top (cut out of plywood) on them to create a side table which is covered with a large round table cloth to hide the fact they are now storage.
  9. Remember to rotate your stored food. When you buy new items for your food storage, place them at the back of the storage area, and refill your regular pantry area with items from the front of your storage. This will ensure that your food doesn’t go bad and you don’t lose money. Failure to use your food storage through a rotation process has cost many a prepper lots of money in waste.
  10. A final note on not knowing where to start: If you are in debt, make an honest effort to pay off your debts before investing a huge portion of what you have in lunchtime saves in food storage. If you can avoid using credit cards, do it. If you can invest your sack lunch savings into paying extra, do it and get those credit cards down to a zero balance. Once you have done that, you will find you have a lot more money to invest in prepping. As I stated earlier, we have recently lost 75% of our previous income. However, the first thing we did as a couple was to pay off all debt – that included college loans and credit cards. We paid off our car loans and did not replace them with newer or fancier models. We were fortunate to pull our investments before the last big drop and use the money to pay off our home; without a $1,500 mortgage payment, we were able to transition to 25% of our former income. That and our three month food storage supply were great comforts while we were both looking for work.
  11. Prepping doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. There are ways to make your dollar stretch if you really want to prep.
  12. As I stated earlier, we have had a significant change in our income levels, and added an additional mouth to feed. However, because of our preparations we have stopped purchasing (temporarily) bulk food storage from online vendors and have been exploring the following food storage methods, and have had some very positive results!
  13. If you go out to lunch every day at work, take just two days and bring a sack lunch. Depending on where you eat, that will save you $10-to-$30 dollars per week that can be used to invest in prepping. (Now that we are down to a quarter of our previous income, with only one of us working, we avoid eating out at all, and bring lunch to work every day. This has cut our food bill by easily $100-150 per week between the lunches at work and going out to dinner twice a week. Not only that, but we’ve eaten better than we used to eating out and lost weight, which is a complete win-win in my book.)
  14. Take half the money saved by bringing lunch and spend an hour or two each week couponing and sales surfing. Hit the grocery stores during sales and with coupons, where you can buy the normal things you eat in bulk at the same amount you would normally spend on just one or two items. The 10 for $10 aisles are a great place to shop for food storage as well.

I saw a lady at the local grocery store just this weekend buying huge amounts of items using the weekly mailer from the store. She had 10 boxes of spaghetti, about 20 cans of soups, even more canned fruits and vegetables, a bunch of boxed meals like Hamburger Helper, boxed side meals like Rice-a-Roni, and a large amount of powdered drink mixes in her cart. As I waiting in line behind her, I watched her grocery bill go back to normal with each coupon she handed to the cashier. Between the 10 for $10 and couples, her shopping cart – piled high with stuff that every family eats – cost her about $40 and change. That’s some good shopping!

  1. Take the other half of the money you saved by brown bagging it and shop the Dollar Stores. You can buy personal hygiene and cleaning supplies, sewing kits and patches, crackers and cereal, bottle water and juices, hard candies and travel toys (comfort items), first aid and over the counter medicines, and spices and seasonings (including bouillon) for a huge discount.
  2. Once a month, take the money you’ve saved from your sack lunches and invest it in thrift store shopping. Purchase camping gear, gently used warm weather clothing and shoes, backpacks and bags, blankets, pots and pans, and used books. We have been able to buy excellent travel bags in a variety of sizes. These bags have been used to create custom first aid kits, 72 hour kits for our vehicles, emergency kits for kids to carry in their backpacks at school (which were great when they were stuck sheltered in place during local emergencies), and barter/charity bags for use when TSHTF. Other awesome finds were a pressure cooker and a seal-a-meal, which we have been able to use to do home food preservation.
  3. Use the resources available on the Internet. The has great prepping information, as does and many others. Find your local agricultural extension groups and web pages, where they can help you identify the best local produce, growing seasons, and methods for preserving local foods. These web sites can also help you find information on local wild foods, good recipes, and other helpful bits of information to make you better prepared, even if you are completely unable to spend a dime on purchasing food storage at this time.
  4. It’s never too late to prep. Even if you are only able to afford to spend $5 a week, or $5 a month, the extra supplies you have on hand may just be the thing you need in an emergency. If you cannot afford to spend an extra dime, the knowledge gained from internet research can help you be more mentally prepared in the case of emergency. This can include where to find local wild foods, learning first aid, learning canning and food preservation, and other information that will be necessary to do more than just endure in an emergency.

We now live in a tornado prone area. While we are fairly safe in a sheltered zone (most of the tornadoes touch land around our area), we still have to contend with power outages, lack of water, and sewer shut downs. While these have only been of a two or three day duration, having ready to eat foods stored (prepared using canning how-tos found on our local agricultural extension web site), enough water stored to last for three days, and emergency hygiene capability (I love the bucket potty and doody-bags found on makes for a much more comfortable temporary emergency.

Even if you don’t have an emergency based upon natural disasters, there are other types of emergencies that can hit. Epidemics (or pandemics) can strike, where quarantines may occur. Temporary illnesses, such as a bad flu or strep throat, or even injuries can happen that may prevent the adults in the family from working, going grocery shopping, or even cooking meals. Having a supply of easy to prepare food in your pantry or 3-month storage will make it easier for you family to eat. Having extra hygiene products (including formula and diapers if you have infants and toddlers) will enable the sick/injured adult(s) to rest and avoid going to the store.
In this economic downturn, financial crises and emergencies are rampant. Many people are losing their jobs through no fault of their own, being forced to survive on unemployment or on part-time jobs. Having a one to three-month supply of food is a wonder safety net to have when this occurs. Having a full year’s supply of food is even better, but for the first time prepper or for those who need to prep for less, even a week of extra food may be the lifeline that is needed during a crisis.

  1. Prepping doesn’t have to been done by someone with a “Ph.D. in Prepperology.” Using basic common sense practicality to identify foods that your family will eat is the first step in getting started. Using free tools available on the internet, the library, and at local agricultural extensions will help even the newest prepper learn the basics and beyond.
  2. Prepping doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. There is no point in getting into debt to prep. Using practical approaches to saving money to use on prepping is the best approach, as is shopping sales, dollar stores, and thrift stores. Craigslist free pages are also a good place to look, as are local yard and estate sales.
  3. It is never too late to prep, unless you are dead. As long as you are alive, you can and should prepare yourself and your family for tough times. It doesn’t take a major SHTF scenario for your preparedness to be useful. Many times your preps become a major benefit to you and your family during a simple illness, injury, or layoff. The time to prep is now, no matter what your circumstance.