Prepping When Physically Disabled and Low Income, by Just A Dad

Each of us has our own trials, these need not keep us from accomplishing what is necessary. For the sake of you, the reader, my disability began when I was 11 years old with a major single-car accident. My spine decided to advance to Grade IV spondylolisthesis, it was not until I was in my late 20s that I found out it was congenital on my mother’s side. That said, after a few surgeries, months in the hospital, traction, full-body casts and learning to walk again, I decided to move forward with my life. I worked for close to two decades in a variety of fields, most including relatively hard physical labor. In 2007 my left leg stopped working and I was diagnosed with grade V, the end result is a fully physically disabled individual.

My wife and two amazing children have been a Godsend to my life. P is for the perseverance of the Saints, and in my experience perseverance is not limited only to one’s spiritual self. So, how do I prep for my family of four with a total income under $17,000 USD, annually?

Garden: your local area will have gardening groups, I use local chapters of the Extension Master Gardener –  we have limited space and therefore apply container gardening approaches whenever possible. We grow sweet potatoes as well as two or three other varieties of potatoes. These offer nutrition and generally large returns, regardless of location. In addition, we grow a few other items that help offset food needs. You really do want a good size (10 square feet) compost pit. This comes in handy for feed needs with chickens as well! We grow earthworms in the compost and encourage bugs as well, also, we put all food scraps into the compost. Not everyone will agree, but, the compost we have is quite rich and very healthy! Be willing to learn and adjust your approaches as needed.

Chickens, Goats or Rabbits

I cannot stress enough the importance of raising your own protein. For we who are limited in funds, chickens, goats and rabbits are pound-for-pound the best return on your money. They are also relatively easy to raise and keep even with limited space. We raise Amaracauna and Rhode Island Red breeds. However Leghorns are amazing as well. With one  Rooster and 6 or 7 layers we stay quite healthy. We also raise Belgian rabbits. With two breeders and a stud, our freezer stays quite full. If you are buying chicks or kits understand you will lose maybe 1 for every 5 you buy before they are large enough to eat. While a bit sad, it actually strengthens the warren or flock to lose the weaker ones.

As for care, there are dozens of freely available books on raising, feeding, and preparing this livestock. Due to current limitations in space we do not have goats, however, have raised Nubians and a few other breeds in the past. Overall these creatures are easy to care for, and produce quite well with decent feed. Let the older animals raise the young, unless you are starting from scratch, in that case raise them to 2-to-4 weeks old with regular checks and a good mash. Once they are adults, let them raise the next batches!

Dry goods stores, including food: Go to local farmers markets, and do as much yard sale, garage sale shopping as you can afford. We have found all of our sleeping bags, tents and most of our camping/alternative fuel gear by doing this. Any food you purchase that can be canned, and most can be, get to it! Canning is not difficult to get into, and while there are endless debates as to the benefits of water bath overpressure canning, our preferred approach is pressure canning.

Obviously, some things cannot be pressure canned, however, you can buy a relatively inexpensive canning setup for under $200. Ours was purchased more than 10 years ago and we use it several times a month during harvest season. There are several solid canning setups available, shop around, I believe there are some linked here as well! We do purchase canned and frozen fresh foods as well to offset what cannot be locally produced for us.

If you make sure cans are not dented and rotate them oldest in front, keep them in a controlled environment at room temperatures and you can eat them well after the shelf life mentioned on the cans. Purchase just $15 or $20 extra canned and dry foods every shopping trip and within 2 or 3 months you will easily have 3-to-6 months extra food! When I shop I always buy a few extra cans or pounds of rice/beans and more. I use older canning jars and lids for storage of dried foods, we found that regardless of location, mice will find a way to get your food. Glass prevents that.

I do also divide my flour into quart-sized containers simply to prevent infestation by weevils having lost 50 lbs of flour due to this at one point. Check the containers regularly and give the weevils that will pop up time to really fill the jar before giving it to your chickens! They will love the extra fun and your egg stash will grow exponentially as a result.


If you do not have an indoor fireplace, make sure you build an outdoor fire pit, we have both thankfully! Where we live you can get a free permit to cut marked trees in our local national forests. While I am unable to do this regularly due to my physical limitations, check around you, and utilize this available resource. Our approach is a bit different. Local businesses, specifically manufacturers, often have stacks of partially broken pine and sometimes oak pallets and crates. If you just ask, many times they will let you cart them away.

While we fortunately now and have a Dewalt reciprocating saw now, we did start with a hammer and regular pull cut wood saw. Take these crates apart, use the unbroken pieces to build your rabbit hutches, chicken coops, and garden containers. The rest, cut into fireplace size pieces and stack on another pallet or several as needed to help prevent rot. Lastly, local tree trimmers who do not have a chipper will often be happy with you taking the leavings from their tree jobs. We do this every year and have several cords of wood on hand at all times. Cooking, heating, and more are provided for free or a low cost simply by applying yourself and looking around.

Defensive/hunting needs

Here is where things get a bit difficult. After all we all have our chosen calibers and firearms types. We have been fortunate to be able to find solid defensive tools for relatively low prices. With very few exceptions most of these took a few months of saving. Local gun shops and pawn shops often have lower-priced, solid firearms available. At the moment of course this is not an easy task. Though recently we picked up another .22LR for under $100, a somewhat rough Marlin model 75, the carbine version of the Model 60, which we also have one of. With just a few minutes of work I was able to get it working flawlessly, it needed a new mainspring.

While our AR-15s are not top of the line, they are all reliable and accurate. Our carry handguns are Glock 19s and SW Shields in 9mm. We also have one pump 12g shotgun. Where we live these calibers are all that we need. In addition to this we have simple recurve bows and practice weekly. Our fixed blade knives are either Morakniv Companions or something we were able to find at local yard sales. The knives rarely cost more than $20 each, and, they absolutely work well and are reliable. Ammunition is purchased a little at a time and we tend to train using .22LR firearms more than the others.

Water storage & Filters

We have built a substantial water storage supply that would last us more than a month if for some reason we lost our access to water. This we did by purchasing old food safe 55-gallon drums and storing them in our shed. We use a tablespoon of plain unscented bleach every two years to prevent bacteria growth, and while this is not a great long term drinking approach, it will work in the short term if needed. We replaced one lid with a spigot and using pallets built stands for each, then filled them and now have a solid water supply for emergency short-term use. Add to this our use of Sawyer mini filters, one for each family member and two spares, again purchased over time or during sales. We are easily prepared for bad times, each of us has two single-wall stainless wide mouth canteens which allows us to boil water in them prior to drinking as well.

Camping Items & Other Needs

We go camping several times a year, in some cases we bring only our 3-day bags and try to stay out for a week or more. This has allowed us to adjust our bags individually and based on location. Each of our family members has specific abilities, and each of us has CPR training as well as trauma medical training. You can generally find free or low-cost training with your local community colleges or Red Cross facilities. Of course with my many surgeries they have all had the opportunity to change dressings and even work with infected flesh, badly healing wounds, and more. Not everyone gets this experience, so, get training and do it for free or low cost whenever you can.

Some minor things we have saved and spent good amounts of money on are as follows. Wool blankets, 90% or higher is essential. Good tarps, while I would enjoy having good oilcloth, we have settled with 10’x10′ 12-mil poly tarps. 550 cord and #18 bank-line are also very important. Fishing tackle is also something I willingly spend extra on, as we do catch a decent amount when at our local lakes and streams.

Lastly, medical supplies: Over the years we have amassed solid stores of non-perishable items for medical use. We firmly believe in having backups of backups! Clothing is found at local second-hand stores and in some cases box stores.

I am certainly forgetting some items and approaches and apologize for that. The most important thing we have done to ensure our prepping is complete is simply to maintain awareness of our surroundings and a solidly structured lifestyle that trains our approach daily! Well, that’s it. Thank you for reading!


  1. A realistic and excellent AmeriCAN (spelling intentional) Article. Note the power of a strong united family here.

    The making lemonade out of lemons from the weevil consumed flour to chicken feed is a critical attitude.

    Could you pass on what skill sets you’ve found most useful, please.

    I would be happy to have you as a neighbor.

    1. The ability to adapt to changes as they happen. While it is difficult the older and stiffer these bones become, and especially as the kids get older and more independent, we have been able to adapt and change with each change. This year found our house among few in the neighborhood who were not panicking over the various things occurring.

      Firearms training, I have been fortunate and have located several world-class shooters and several prior lifers in the Army Special Forces who have been open with their skills. My suggestion, make friends easily, trust carefully and check out your local ranges for the quiet older guys and gals who are just shooting groups. They are a veritable goldmine of valuable information.

      Building/plumbing/electrical skills, I absolutely love the old readers digest handyman books sets. We have two complete sets and have worn out one, it has really helped with our building abilities. Another book is the Americas Handyman Book circa 1986ish – As for books, we frequent our local area libraries and regularly pick up old books they are selling or giving away. We were able to get the first 4 foxfire books this way.

      There are many things, and in most, I guarantee someone else can do it better. However, I am willing to learn as is my family. So thank you all who share here! It is a wonderful resource!

    2. Mixing diatomaceous earth (NOT the swimming pool kind) with your flour will kill off any emerging insects.

      Diatomaceous earth is harmless to humans, but the microscopic edges destroy insect larva as they ingest it with the flour.

      Most dry pet food contains it, which is why most will no longer develop insect infestation even when stored for a long time. Baked goods often do as well.

      You can buy 50 pound bags of it at feed stores.

      1. Food Grade DE is amazing stuff. Good for keeping dry beans bug free, helps keep intestinal worms under control in man and farm animals.

        If they put more in the Dog food maybe I’d not have to worm them so often, so I curious about that idea.

        “Gratitude,” said Cicero, “is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

        Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

        Thanks JW and Happy Thanksgiving Everybody.

  2. Thank you for writing this. We all can only do what we can. The rest is up to God. He gave you a lot of challenges but it appears you rose to meet and beat them back. Well done !

  3. Money Metals Exchange allows you to buy silver on an account, with a minimum purchase amount of a $100 dollars a month. You can receive your purchase monthly or set it up for every 3 months. If you can afford that amount monthly. It’s a good way to buy, and save.

  4. Beautiful and well written. Like so many, i too live on a humble income. But God’s given me favor to make friends in the region I live. In a short time I have neighbors I can depend upon and they depend upon me. That trust for a neighbor (friend) within 5 to 10 mi.²… Is a massive force multiplier in a survival situation. Just like critical first aid food, and firearms…. Just one key friend in a region can bring miracles your way.

    I’m so glad that I obeyed the Lord and relocated (July) to a remote, rural area of America. Most people still value honesty and honor out here. Anywhere where you hear country music about God family and faith…. And where you see American flags everywhere…. means you’re in patriot country.

    I am so grateful that we stepped out in faith and moved. From a bustling city where business was good (But the ethics were terrible and crime was off the scale).

    God can make up for the lack of funds we all sometimes experience. There are SO many honorable, God-fearing patriots in America! We’re all gonna come together and help one another in the times ahead.

  5. Thank you – this encouraged me today 🙂

    “The most important thing we have done to ensure our prepping is complete is simply to maintain awareness of our surroundings and a solidly structured lifestyle that trains our approach daily!”

    …. absolutely this! Without the mindset and the practice, piles of “stuff” aren’t much use. You sound very creative and resourceful and determined, and in the end those traits are worth more than most anything!

    P.S. I too have had my “medical practice” on family members. I can change surgical dressings, manage tube feeding including replacing the “buttons” into the stomach (for some reason people think this is the grossest!), and much much more. Amazing how fast you learn when you have to take care of one of your own!

  6. I embrace the concept of self-sufficiency, gardening, raising chickens and rabbits. It is very appealing. If the world ends tomorrow you could still feed yourself, or at least that is the goal. But I can buy chicken cheaper than I can raise it. If the problem you are dealing with is providing for your family on a very limited budget why would you pay more to raise your own chickens than you would to buy it ready to eat at the store. Again, I get it if nuclear war breaks out everyone else starves and you have chickens (Sarcasm). The bottom line is you are raising chickens and goats as a hobby just like my hobby of woodworking. It is awesome that your hobby puts food on your table while I have to go to the store and pay about half what your chicken costs. But, if your poor and trying to provide… why?

    1. I’ll jump in to share my thoughts on the cost of raising certain animals. When I had chickens I purchased organic grains for them (pricey). It still costed me less per dozen eggs than to buy free ranging, organic eggs. Free ranging chickens cost very little to raise, and eating “organically raised” (by virtue of the land) chickens and/or their eggs is very economical and healthier. I’ve never owned goats, rabbits, pigs, or beef cows, but know of many who have and do. The cost of organically raised beef is through the roof, so it does make sense, if you can, to raise your own. There’s a lot of very cheap food out there, but its nutritional value is questionable. For me, for now, I can afford to buy the higher quality foods from local farmers/ranchers. The quality is critically important for children and for those whose bodies need that extra boost of nutrition. That is my opinion.

      1. You could be right about the cost of free range eggs. But I can buy a dozen eggs for .98 cents and I doubt you can feed chickens and everything else that goes with that and get eggs for 98 cents a dozen. If someone is poor and having trouble feeding their family and insists on indulging the fantasy that a free range egg at $3 a dozen is a better choice than 98 cents a dozen I would question their intelligence. There is a popular meme; How do you know if someone is a vegan/vegetarian? Easy, they will tell you in the first ten minutes. It’s essentially showing off to say I only eat free range eggs or grass fed beef. Who cares and why should they. I only eat Hagen Das ice cream, I can’t afford to fed my kids but only the best ice cream is good enough for me…

        1. I in no way would ever insult anyone for buying .98/dozen eggs. Ever. I was left by my husband, with no support, no where to live, and a very old car that kept breaking down, when I had 4 very small children and I could not feed or clothe them properly. I, of all people, get it. I bought the cheapest food I could find and I could stretch a single (cheap) chicken into 3-4 casserole dishes for 5 people.

          The reason I choose the foods I do now is because it’s a lot cheaper than another go round of $350,000 chemo, and I can afford to do so. There may come a time when I won’t be able to do that. I do believe it makes a difference. I am humbled that I am able.

          I think my response regarding the cost of raising chickens was only to point out that it is possible to break even should anyone reading here want to try it. I, “essentially”, was not “showing off”, I was only offering an opinion about the topic. I in no way meant to offend. Please forgive me if I did.
          God bless.

    2. I will ditto everything that SaraSue said above and everything RickS said in his comment below. More specifically, let me focus on the following that SaraSue mentioned: “There’s a lot of very cheap food out there, but its nutritional value is questionable.” This is very true and also commonly overlooked in short-term saving money versus longer and more sustainable savings in health care costs. Some friends of mine have chickens that they let go free range style. In the spring, summer and fall the birds are able to find enough on their own that the feed cost for those three seasons is zero. Only during the winter do they have to feed them, but they buy feed in bulk so the cost is minimal. They still have fresh eggs for a cheaper price than store bought and their own eggs come from chickens that have not been fed any antibiotics or artificial growth hormones so they are healthier than commercial eggs from factory farms. And on “my own side of the fence” I produced over $1,400 of garden produce this past summer for less than $40. That cost includes fertilizer, seeds and field preparation with a tractor. My labor was in my free time so that was not included in the cost. I’m obviously not charging myself a fee to eat “the fruits of my own labor” either. No transportation cost. More environmentally friendly. I win. The people that choose to be thrifty and self-reliant are also choosing to be on the winning side as well and Just A Dad happens to be one of those people. Thank you sir for a great article. Happy Thanksgiving.

    3. Sorry I forgot who, but someone wise said:

      “There is no such thing as cheap food.
      You will pay now, or you will pay later.”

      Crack open both a cheap, store bought egg and a home raised free range egg side by side in dish.
      A quick visual comparison will prove which egg is obviously more nutritional.

      Way to go, Just a dad!

  7. You show wisdom and creativity using limited resources. We also have limited resources, but love garage sales and second hand stores. My wife calls our home decor “early garage sale.” The Lord has provided for our needs many times.
    God’s grace and peace to you.

    1. LOL! In college, ours was “early American thrift store.”

      Now it is “Toddler Deco.” It would be utter madness to purchase any new (or even used) furniture or to paint any walls now, when markers and pencils and crayons are wielded much faster than I can catch them! (Plus I’m way outnumbered) 😉

  8. Great article, another self reliant person who knows how to provide for himself and his family.
    We have had a garden for i don’t even remember how many years now and it is still a learning experience as well as raising chickens to which i can speak to with some experience too.
    I would like to comment on the benefits of raising your own meat, after a number of years of having layers on the ranch (fresh eggs daily) and along with raising meat birds too, the return on investment far out weighs any low cost price point paid for from a corporate giant who’s only concern is to get into your pocket every week.
    Besides gaining knowledge and animal husbandry skills you also have a great bartering tool, we are in cattle ranching country and the wife’s of these ranchers love to have chicken as an alternative to red meat and we gladly trade fresh eggs and chicken for premium grass fed beef!
    The relationships that have been formed,the knowledge that has been gained,the purity of the meat grown IE: no chemicals,hormones etc. the security of having the ability to provide for ones family and to others you sir are a very wealthy man indeed.

  9. As to raising chickens. If you have the space to raise quite a few they can pay for themselves. We have around 40 layers. I sell the eggs ( non gmo fed)for 3 dollars a dozen . Also we have 7 layer ducks. I get 4-5 dollars a dozen for their eggs. The last 2 years I have made enough pay for their feed, to buy new layer chicks and purchase 40 meat chicks. I was able to raise both kinds on the money i made selling eggs. ( yes, there is a fair amount of work involved). So, we end up with free eggs and free chicken meat. I freeze the breasts, drumsticks and thighs. I then pressure cook the remaining meat down. I clean it up, strain the broth and can both the meat and broth. This way we get a lot for our efforts and know how our chickens lived and what they ate. There are many ways to live much cheaper than most. They do tend to require more work but then you usually end up with a much healthier product.

  10. Hey Just a Dad,

    Sounds like you’re a man after my own heart. I much enjoyed your article.

    “Lastly, local tree trimmers who do not have a chipper will often be happy with you taking the leavings from their tree jobs. We do this every year and have several cords of wood on hand at all times. Cooking, heating, and more are provided for free or a low cost simply by applying yourself and looking around.”

    One of my favorite characters in The Great Escape was Jame’s Garner’s role as “The Scrounger.” As you’ve mentioned, there are so many things you can get for free just for the asking. Yesterday I got half a pickup load of oak logs, cut into 16″ pieces left over by some tree trimmers at a friend’s house. Not sure why they don’t save it all for a side firewood business but I was glad to take it. I’ve made $250 worth of treated lumber beehive stands from 2 x 4 x 48″ boards I get for free from the lumber yard, and they also give me all the kindling I could ever use as well as free tarps. Those three items are just the waste products leftover from when they unload a stack of lumber fresh form the mill.

    “We go camping several times a year, in some cases we bring only our 3-day bags and try to stay out for a week or more. This has allowed us to adjust our bags individually and based on location.”

    If TEOTWAWKI hits next Tuesday, I think one of the biggest regrets preppers will have is that they didn’t do as you mentioned, test out your gear and our preps. Nothing gives us a better idea of how to prepare than doing that. We get an idea of how something in our preps ought to work, and then when we actually try them out, we often discover that it just doesn’t work that way.

    Thanks again for this article and if everybody in this country had your attitude and determination to make things work with what you have, it’d be a whole different country.

    1. Saint, Back in the day, we Nic-named our youngest son, “The Scrounger,” after the James Garner character. (watched the movie a bazillion times)

      As a small child, he had this innate ability to find things. If you lost something, you asked _____ to help you find it. If you needed something, he knew where to get it. Many times, we would come home from an outing, and _____ had found money or other valuable things on the ground that no one else noticed.
      It is a peculiar gift he has, but it has been very handy, to say the least!

  11. I’ve gone to the super market and realized they sell certain vegetables in large bunches. More than you can use before they go bad. ( leeks, green onions, rosemary, and others) These I plant in my hedges and they last all year or more. Also a stockpile of hearloom seeds. I grow tomatoes every year, saving seeds from the best produce for the next year.
    God bless us all.

  12. Very inspirational: I am encouraged by your perseverance. It is worth noting the benefit of your more self sufficient life style that seems to escape Anon: all of the skills that you have developed including gardening and animal husbandry have a steep learning curve. Anon apparently assumes that he will be able to instantly acquire the skills (and materials) if the present efficient supply chain is interrupted (a questionable and dangerous assumption) whereas you are already living the life. Keep up the great work! I aspire to emulate your example.

  13. I am not able to respond to every comment, however, I do want to extend a heartfelt thank you for the encouragement! Certainly, there are some items that can be had for less. Our decision to raise chickens and rabbits, and occasionally goats are based on a layered ideal. we use the compost pile as a feeding place for the chickens who love the bugs and extra items that find their way in. Food for them is actually not extremely expensive locally, and like many things we purchase in bulk and maintain a full 55-gallon drum of it that could without refilling last easily a few months. My children now have animal husbandry skills and are aware of where the food comes from. I truly believe that the relatively small extra cost to do this is well worth the added benefit of the knowledge.

    For all the others who have or do use the “ask because you never know approach”, this article and response was typed using a laptop and monitor setup that was acquired in parts and out together as a family project.

    One added benefit I do not think I addressed in the article. my children are amazing and regularly seek out small jobs locally to be able to gain the things they want. With no cable television to pipe endless amounts of doodoo into their heads, they both are doing very well. Of course, that is my individual bias speaking.

  14. Excellent article and a reminder to us all that you don’t need the latest gadget or technology to prepare for unforeseen events or provide for your family on a daily basis. Working with the basics is often times more than enough to survive during difficult times.
    “JustADad” did a great job of demonstrating the power of perseverance and a positive attitude while successfully prepping on a limited income.

  15. Recently, USDA did a study and found that on average, it costs $3.12 to produce a dozen pastured chicken eggs. I shake my head at the utter stupidity of people who will either… 1. Sell their pastured eggs at a loss, and 2. the cheapskates who think farmers are running a charity and should sell their eggs at a loss.

  16. Many pallets are treated with toxic chemicals above and beyond copper pressure treated solutions. Use caution — wouldn’t recommend for cooking food or many other diy pallet projects…

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