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Budgeting Tricks for Shoestring Prepping

April 15, 2019 3 min read

This post was contributed by Ken Lewis one of our friends from

As much as we don't want to admit it, when all is said and done, cost is the real factor dictating our disaster prepping efforts. Show of hands, who'd love to be able to plop down the funds to build the ultimate shelter capable of weathering just about everything thrown its way, stocked to the hilt with years of freeze-dried sustenance and all the emergency essentials your family could ever conceive a need for should the worst come barreling through?

Unfortunately, that little dream's technical goodies come strolling along, arm in arm, with a hefty price tag. In light of that particular issue, most of us have to temper the scale of those dreams but not the overall goal and that's where prepping on a shoestring comes in. All it really takes is trust in your own powers of prioritization and a well flexed imagination to do what price says you can't.

First Things First - My Disaster Budget. Actually write that at the top of the piece of paper in front of you. Make it official. Generally, we know how much we spend weekly or monthly on groceries and other necessities (some more necessary than others). But for this purpose we need some solid numbers. Go back through your finances and figure out what your average expenditures are for a given week. You might be surprised. This is where you'll find places where you can actually save money, money that can be put towards prepper supplies. This might be difficult as many of us these days live paycheck to paycheck but it can be as simple as buying an extra can of tuna, jar of peanut butter, bag of rice or a freeze-dried camping meal where your food stockpile is concerned. This may not sound like much but over time your emergency stores will pile up. But before we get too far into purchasing particulars there's a couple questions to ask next.

Second things Second - Okay, the budget is done. Spending is set out in black and white. Now we prioritize. Ask yourself what are you preparing for? Is your goal to prepare for those first 72-hours kits? Or do you envision amassing enough supplies to shelter the family in place, off the grid for a good two months? These are examples from either end of the disaster survival spectrum but answering those questions will enable you to better direct your budget to meet your goals. The nice thing about disaster prepping is that virtually everything is scalable, centered around a few base emergency essentials. Focusing on the essentials of food, water, shelter, medical supplies and a way to cook the food makes prioritizing manageable. When it comes to food there are a number of options to save money. Coupons! Take full advantage of manufacturer and store coupons but keep in mind, even with coupons brand name foods can still cost more than their lesser known counterparts, like store brand items. Make the clearance aisle or shelves a regular stop. Enroll in rewards programs, especially those that offer monthly coupons based on your purchases. Consider bulk bin choices, avoiding those stores that treat bulk bins as specialty items rather than generic foodstuff. Buy in bulk, but be sure to check the “per unit” price on the shelf labels to determine if the deal is as good as it looks. For long-lasting packaged foods consider freeze-dried meals. Online stores offer some great deals for prepackaged meals ready when needed for the first 72-hours, a week or a month or even a year's worth of food storage. Some of these websites offer calculators to help you customize your supplies and figure out how much each person needs for how long and what meals will meet those needs. Beyond food, as you seek out other equipment and supplies consider second-hand and re-purposable items. This is where the imagination begins exercising. Wander the aisles at thrift stores or yard sales and peruse websites like Craigslist for people selling everything from camping gear, storage containers, radios to stay in communication, tools, building supplies, spare parts to repair your own equipment and even opportunities to barter and trade for other supplies your family needs.