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When times are tight, we tend to want to stop spending money altogether. When you are a frugal prepper, this can pose some obvious difficulty. Being frugal can be challenging when you are trying to prep.
Sometimes it can feel counterintuitive to buy things that you do not immediately need, but preparedness items are like a savings account made up of material goods. If you run into tough times financially or encounter a crisis that keeps you housebound, you will be glad that you have a pantry full of food and a closet full of supplies.
A few months ago, a number of readers submitted budget friendly tips for the frugal minded prepper. I was impressed, so much so that I am sharing them with you today along with some personal favorites.
Budget Friendly Items for the Frugal Prepper
The following items are all inexpensive ones that you can add to your preps with each paycheck.
1. Rice: This multipurpose grain is a great way to extend a meal to feed more people.
2. Dried beans: These are very cheap, easy to store, and have a long shelf life.
3. Dry grains: Cheap and easy!
4. Ramen noodles: Admittedly, not the healthiest option in the world but definitely filling, easy, and calorie-laden.
5. $1 shelf storage milk: Where to get this? From the dollar store!
6. Pastas and canned sauces: A great way to make dinner for less than $1 per person.
7. Canned goods: These can be acquired a few at a time when they are on sale. Especially look for fruits, veggies and meats such as canned ham.
8. Peanut butter: This high-calorie snack can sometimes be found in small jars at the dollar store.
9. Salt: Also readily available at the dollar store. You can never have too much salt. It can be used not only to season food, but to preserve it. (In fact, here are 34 ways to use salt for preparedness.)
10. Tea bags: A cup of hot tea is one of the most frugal beverages around and can alleviate the boredom of just plain water.
11. Baking soda: Another multitasker that can be used for both cooking and cleaning.
12. Boxed macaroni and cheese: Not the healthiest, but kids love it and it will fill tummies.
13. Spices: These can jazz up bland storage food to make it more appetizing.
14. Paper plates, paper cups, plastic utensils: Don’t forget to stock up on disposable supplies to serve your food on. If water is limited, you won’t want to waste it washing dishes.
15. Powdered drink mix: Add them to water to make it more palatable to children. These are also useful if your water is a bit stale tasting, as long as the water is safe to drink.
16. Hard candies: These can serve as a treat for children, a sugar boost to someone with blood sugar concerns, or to assuage hunger just a little bit.
Survival Items (Medical, Misc, General)
17. Glow sticks: These are 4 for $1 at my dollar store, and they have lots of uses.
18. Cheapo firestarter supplies: Make firestarter tins with cotton balls, Vaseline, and a lighter.
19. Lighters: Not only can you pick one up for a buck just about anywhere, you can order 50 of them for $11 (this was the price at the time of posting.)
20. Bandanas: Use bandanas for covering your nose and mouth around foul odors or to protect you from breathing in particles like dust (or worse). They can also be used to filter sediment from water or to make a tourniquet. Here are more uses for the ubiquitous, and budget-friendly bandana.
21. Socks: You should always carry extra socks in your bag in case your feet get wet or you are getting blisters and need an extra layer of protection. After Christmas you can often pick up seasonal ones for a song.
22. Flashlights: The cheap ones may not be top quality, but they do work and are very handy and slip into a purse or pocket.
23. Can opener: Something you never want to be without. Keep one in your car kit, your bug out bag, and stash a few extras for good measure. This military type can opener is dirt cheap and takes up almost no space.
24. Zip ties: Zip ties are fantastic in their versatility. Use them to secure a makeshift shelter from tarps, to repair tents, to attach something to a belt loop, or to bundle items tightly together. Some recommend zip ties as makeshift handcuffs but in my opinion they are too easy to get out of.
25. Children’s Cookware: Reader’s tip: “The most budget-friendly item in my go bags is the following. I child’s kitchen cook set. A while back I found a tip about a stainless steel three pcs child’s kitchen cook set sold by Ikea. There’s a pot with lid, frying pan and colander for less then $10.00. Why spend a small fortune on a titanium cook set that you’ll use a handful of time or never?”
26. N-95 masks: Check the aisle of the dollar store with painting supplies – you can find N-95 masks there in 2-packs. You can learn more about the importance of masks in this article.
27. Coffee Filters: These items are so multipurpose I wrote an entire article dedicated just to them. A reader adds: “I plan to use SODIS to purify my water, so I need plenty of coffee filters. They are cheap. They would be used to filter the large particle of dirt, before using SODIS.”
28. Matches: Stock up on matches. I like the longer ones that come in a box as opposed to the flimsy ones in a matchbook.
29. Petroleum jelly: Petroleum jelly or Vaseline has a multitude of uses that don’t include putting it on your skin. It’s a great accelerant for fire-building, keeps machinery protected from rust, can be used to make flypaper, lubricates hinges, and can be used to soothe painful chapped lips.
30. Cotton balls: Add Vaseline to turn them into a firestarter. Use them for first aid to clean a cut or scrape. Pad an area that is getting a blister with a cotton ball secured by a band aid. Soak one in clove oil and apply to a painful tooth. The list could go on and on.
31. Homemade fire starter: “Our most budget friendly items in our survival kit are paraffin/dryer lint/egg carton fire starters.”
32. Solar garden stakes: Leave these outside in a flower pot as a decorative display. When the power goes out, simply bring them in and place them in vases around the house for a warm glow all night long. I stock up on these from the dollar store and Wal-Mart at the end of the season.
33. Water: You can pick up 1-gallon jugs for a dollar or less to beef up your water storage. As well, you can fill your own containers for free right from the tap.
34. Garbage bags: You can never have too many, and they aren’t just for trash. They can also be used as makeshift tarps or to haul something.
35. Duct tape: Of course. This is one of the most useful preps around. Here are 50 ways to use it.
36. Plain Chlorine Bleach: You can pick this up at the dollar store. As long as it is unscented, it can be used to purify water. You can also use it to clean up messes that could make you sick, like spoiled food or sewage. Be warned, the shelf life of bleach is only about a year, so plan accordingly.
37. Utility knives: “Exacto” style knives are incredibly useful.
38. Baby wipes: Not just for babies, these handy wipes are good for a quick clean of the counters or for washing your hands.
39. Toothbrushes: Stock up on lots of extras. Not only will you be prepared for an unexpected overnight visitor, you will also be ready to clean hard to reach areas or to replace the toothbrush of a family member that has been ill.
40. Mousetraps: Often in the aftermath of a disaster, rodents seek shelter too. You don;t want them doing it in your house.
41. Bungee cords: These are invaluable for makeshift repairs or securing a load in a vehicle.
42. Aluminum foil: You can use it for cooking over an open fire, for lining cookware so that you don’t have to waste water washing it, or for reflecting heat. (And according to some, preppers like to make hats out of it!)
43. Candles: Look for votives and jar candles at the dollar store. Since they are self-contained you won’t necessarily need holders for them.
44. Hand Sanitizer: Not only can you clean your hands with it, but hand sanitizer also makes a great fire starting accelerant.
45. Vinegar: Vinegar is one of my favorite preps because of its many uses. It runs the gamut from cleaner to first aid item. (Here are 50 ways to use it.)
46. Jigsaw puzzles, cards, and board games: These can be fun group activities to pass the time when the power is out. Kids are always much more entertained by something new during a crisis situation, rather than the same old toys they always play with.
47. Crossword puzzle, word search, and Sudoku books: If you prefer a solitary pursuit, a puzzle book can keep your brain active.
48. Coloring books and art supplies: This may sound like it is just for the kids, but personally, I love the relaxation I find when coloring. Stock up on both children’s and adult coloring books, pencils and crayons for children and children at heart.
Here is a budget saving hint: order the ebook version of a coloring book. Virtually all of them include a link where you can download the pages and print them out yourself.
49. Mylar blankets: “Space blankets” are good for a lot more than a way to keep warm in an emergency. They are also good for deterring birds from your garden, protecting plants in the hottest part of the day, or being strategically placed to increase heat output in a room. (Here are more ways to use Mylar blankets.)
50. Garden gloves: These can nearly always be found for a dollar, and the kind with the rubber grips will protect your hands with other types of light work, too.
51. Garden tools: Small hand tools for digging and planting will be useful in pots or raised beds, although they may not be very helpful for a larger garden plot.
52. Watering cans: If water is not abundant, it is important to direct it only where you need it to go – to the roots of your plants.
53. Seeds: In the spring, they are everywhere. But don’t just get the cheapest ones you can find. As one Backdoor Survival reader said: “I think heirloom seeds deliver a lot of bang for the buck. Buy once, learn how to save seeds (and actually do it), and you can get food for the rest of your life.” (Keep in mind the cheap ones could be good for barter, though.)
54. Splatter screens: The kind of screens you use to keep bacon from making a mess in your kitchen are perfect for air drying the seeds you want to save for next year.
55. Twine: The rustic looking brown twine can be used in many ways in the garden. I particularly like it for tying plants to a trellis or other support.
56. Spray bottles: So many uses in both the garden and the barn. You can use this to mist animals during a heat wave, to spray medication on a wound, or to gently mist seedlings.
57. Epsom salt: Not only can it ease sore muscles, but it can also be used as a soil amendment.
First Aid Supplies
58. Bandages: Be careful with the dollar store bandages because sometimes the adhesive doesn’t stick very well. You can often get name brand ones at Wal-Mart for a dollar.
59. Pain relievers: Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Acetaminophen will reduce pain and inflammation.
60. Gauze pads: Get a variety of sizes
61. Tensor bandages: Good for sprains or extra support for weak joints. You can also use them to hold a splint in place.
62. Hydrogen Peroxide: Good for a multitude of uses like disinfecting wounds, as an antiseptic mouth rinse, healing boils, and killing foot fungus. As well, peroxide can be used for cleaning.
63. Rubbing alcohol: Cools and relaxes muscles, gets rid of bacterial growth under the nails, heals cold sores, and can be used to disinfect medical instruments.
64. Alcohol wipes: Clean a wound, wash your hands before treating a wound, or wipe down instruments before you use them.
65. Triple antibiotic cream: Always apply this to even the most minor wound to prevent a possible infection.
66. Tweezers: Not just for your eyebrows! Use tweezers to remove splinters, pull off a tick, or removed debris from a wound.
67. Witch hazel: This natural substance can help fade bruises faster, can relieve inflammation in varicose veins, eases a sore throat when you gargle it (don’t swallow it), can be swished in the mouth to relieve painful or bleeding gums, and is the primary ingredient in many hemorrhoid pads.
68. Magnifying glass/strong reading glasses: These will help you see more clearly if you have to remove debris from a wound or find a splinter. Reading glasses are a good no-hands solution.
69. Wrist supports: Be sure to get one for each wrist, since they are usually hand-specific
70. Ankle braces: A twisted ankle is a very common injury. An ankle brace will support the joint if you must continue walking.
71. Cold and hot packs: Look for the instant ones that don’t require heating or refrigeration to work. These work with a chemical reaction, which makes them an excellent off-grid addition to your kit.
72. Hydrocortisone creams: This will soothe the itch from rashes and hives.
73. Benadryl/Antihistamines: For minor allergic reactions, bee stings, or bug bites. Be sure to stock products for both children and adults.
74. Calamine lotion: Dab this on mosquito bites, poison ivy or other itchy spots to tame the discomfort
75. Sunscreen: Prevent a sunburn before it happens
76. Aloe Vera Gel: Sooth a sunburn or minor kitchen burn
77. Superglue: In a dire emergency, it can be used to close a wound.
78. Sanitary Napkins: These aren’t just for feminine hygiene. They can be used as a compress to stench bleeding.
79. Chapstick: Not just for your lips – you can apply it to your face or other exposed skin to protect from windburn.
80. Antiseptic spray: Use this on scrapes and minor cuts to help prevent infection.
81. Lavender essential oil: One of the most versatile essential oils, lavender essential oil can be used for slowing bleeding, disinfecting wounds, or mixed with a carrier oil to relieve dermatitis. Its aromatherapy uses are as a sleep aid and for calming stress and anxiety. Learn more about this Swiss army knife of oils in The Miracle of Lavender Oil: 25 Amazing Uses for Survival.
82. Antacid: An antacid like Tums is good for relieving the discomfort of heartburn and indigestion. As well, it can pull double-duty in the garden if you dissolve it in water and treat the roots of tomatoes with blossom end rot.
83. Antidiarrheal: The generic brand can often be found at the dollar store.
84. Toothpaste: This inexpensive prep is not only good for brushing your teeth. A little dollop can help clear blemishes and can also soothe the itch from bug bites.
85. Paint stir sticks: What? In the first aid supplies? I’m not crazy. They make good splints for a child, a wrist, or a pinkie finger.
86. Saline solution: A bottle of saline solution meant for contact lens wearers is excellent to have on hand for flushing out eyes if you come in contact with an irritating substance or get something in your eye.
87. Containers: The dollar store can be one stop shopping for containers for your first aid supplies. Pill boxes, bottles in travel beauty kits, and pencil cases can all keep your supplies organized at a discount price.
And finally, here is some miscellaneous wisdom from you, the readers:
88. Knowledge: I fear for the safety of my grandchildren, so any knowledge I can pass along to them is a great thing
89. I try to pick up books, clothing, and other items at thrift shops and garage sales.
90. I would say the most budget friendly items in my kit are the recharged AA batteries as they only cost a fraction of a cent (cost of electricity to recharge them)
91. 3 budget friendly items… Water. Water. Water.
92. Budget friendly items are matches, candles, water, canned food.
93. Don’t forget to shop secondhand! Thrift stores and garage sales can be economical ways to pick up camping supplies, cast iron cookware, etc. “The most budget friendly items in my kit are the items I found at a garage sale – headlamps for $1, which work perfectly,” wrote a reader.
94. My most budget friendly items are the numerous free samples that I’ve amassed. The individual aspirins, vitamins, food bars, etc. are packaged perfectly to fit into a BOB or first aid kit.
95. Homemade repurposed things like dryer lint fire starters, old t-shirt bandages, etc.
96. Tape, string and fix-it items you can keep stocked for everyday use or for emergencies.
97. Most budget friendly items are all the things I buy when they are on sale, the lint I save from my dryer that along with empty TP rolls form my fire starters, and all the free and nearly free books I get on kindle to increase my knowledge. (I just need to spend more time reading them.)
98. I like shopping for items at yard sales. Books are a great source of information you can use to enhance your skill sets
99. Most of my budget preps are repurposed or homemade. From knives made from old two man saws, to fire starters made from scrap products. I also find cheap treasures at yard sales, auctions, and flea markets. Some of the best are items you can swap for at flea markets with your own extra stuff.
100. It seems that the most budget-friendly item for everyone should be the means of storing or obtaining water should the supply of drinking water ever be threatened.
The Final Word
Getting prepped doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task that costs a fortune. Focus on items that can be acquired inexpensively and have multiple purposes. Remember that the greatest prep is information, so use the internet as your resource. You can find many excellent articles to help you get prepped without going broke, but be careful to use trusted sources. This article will help you find information from reliable websites.
In addition, here are some articles to get you started:
For more information on getting prepped when you’re on a budget, check out the following books:
The Penny-Pinching Prepper: Save More, Spend Less and Get Prepared for Any Disaster
Prepper’s Survival Hacks: 50 DIY Projects for Lifesaving Gear, Gadgets and Kits (Most of these projects can be made entirely from things you have lying around the house.)
The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget
The bottom line is, stop waiting around!
Even if you only purchase a little bit at a time, you’re going to be further ahead than if you wait until you have the money to make huge purchases all at once. Every little bit helps! If you have some frugal preps that I missed (and I am certain there are many), please share your suggestions in the comments.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Below you will find the items related to today’s article.
Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): I do believe in helping my neighbors in the community so a supply of these will be handy to hand out to those in need. You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.
Dozen Bandanas, 100% Cotton: These are the bandanas I own. They are a top seller in the bandana category. I think that beats Wal-Mart and flea market pricing. They shrink very little and are perfect for my needs.
50 Cigarette Wholesale Disposable Lighters: You can’t beat the price on the pack of 50 lighters. As of this writing, comes with free shipping (does not require Prime).
GI P38 & P51 Can Opener Combo Pack: This is one of the army’s greatest tools. They can be used for dozens of jobs: opening cans, cutting a straight edge, cleaning grooves, screw driver, fingernail cleaner, seam ripper and many, many more practical uses. For a couple of bucks, they are a good deal for very little money.
4 Inch Premium Glow Sticks – Assorted: These 4” glow sticks are fantastic! Each stick glows for 8-12 hours, and comes with a pre-attached hook and lanyard. They are well priced and hold up well when packed around in a pocket or handbag. For more information about glow sticks and chemical lighting, read 10 Reasons to Add Glow Sticks to Your Survival Kit.
Coloring Books for Grown-Ups : I hope you don’t think I am being silly because there really is something quite relaxing about coloring books. Don’t forget the crayons or Colored Pencils.
Note: Virtually all eBook versions of coloring books include a link where you can download the pages and print them out yourself.
10 Pack Mini LED Flashlights: What a great deal on 10 mini flashlights on a key ring – button batteries included. I happen to like a more sturdy ring so I remove the one that comes with and use a small bit of tie-wrap (zip tie) instead. The included battery seemingly lasts forever and at this price, you can stash them in the car, purse, pocket, tool box and by the circuit breaker box, and still have some left over for other uses.
Spring Hinge Plastic Reading Glasses (5 Pairs) Includes Sunglass Readers: I bought these and am very pleased. Five pairs for $18? Honestly, the quality is outstanding given the price.
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