Last Updated on January 16, 2021
Prepping is practical, but it can also be a costly endeavor. Not only do you need to stock up on food and supplies to last you an indefinite amount of time, but you must also acquire additional resources, which can be expensive in their own right. Purchasing and stocking firearms to protect your bug-out shelter, for example, will impact your wallet.
But there is a way you can mitigate the cost, or at least cut down on the number of supplies you’ll need to buy. The solution is to use the things you already have.
Step One: Take Inventory
You can’t formulate a strategy without first getting the lay of the land. So, the first thing you should be doing is itemizing and taking stock of your supplies. What do you currently have that can form the basis of your prepper’s cache? Do you have enough perishables? Do you already have seeds and garden supplies? What will you use to store the goods?
You’re not necessarily going to know everything you’ll need right up front, which makes the inventory process challenging, but that’s also why you need to consider everything and anything — from simple supplies like plastic storage bins or blankets to more important stuff like bottled water or non-perishables. Whether you create a handwritten list or rely on a spreadsheet, categorize everything and be sure you leave nothing unaccounted for. As a starting point, you can use the same process insurance companies recommend to take inventory of your home.
One useful way to handle this is to build a list of all the things you’ll need for your prepper supplies or cache. Then, work backward, crossing off any items you already own.
Step Two: Consider Locations
What is your overall plan? Will you be hunkering down at home? Are you planning to drive somewhere local? Make sure you have enough supplies to fuel that plan.
Then, once you have your primary plan secured, consider your backup plan. If your home becomes compromised and you need to make a quick getaway, for example, do you have backup supplies in your vehicle?
The fundamental thing to understand is that all these plans relate to a particular location or environment. If you plan to stay on the move in a vehicle, you need to stock up as thoroughly as you can with first-aid supplies, survival gear, tools, weapons, food, and water. To complement these, you’ll also need to ensure you have supplies to keep your vehicle on the road for as long as possible — we’re talking 200,000 miles or more.
Step Three: Storage and Packing
You’ll need a safe, reliable place to store your supplies, which goes beyond placing goods in storage bins or shelving non-perishables. Move all your gear to a central location that’s easy to access, especially if you’ll need to move it later.
For example, if you plan to hop in a vehicle, you should have some supplies in the vehicle already, but you’ll need to store the rest nearby, like in a workshop or garage. Furthermore, you’ll want to pack it in a way that makes transport and loading go much faster. Having hundreds of cans strewn about is not going to service a quick getaway
. The essential aspect is that you move your prepping supplies to a designated space or area. Don’t mix the goods you’ve set aside for prepping with your other food, groceries, or equipment. Separate it, so you have unobstructed access in the event of an emergency.
Step Four: DIY
Do you have a garden? What can you make or preserve yourself? The same goes for tools and equipment, as well. What gear can you construct or re-purpose?
It’s easy to forget you don’t have to buy everything brand-new from a store or supplier. Embrace the prepper mentality by making DIY supplies, foods or even equipment. Dehydrate leftover bread you have lying around, for example. You can also dehydrate rice, pasta, and beans, can or pickle preservable foods and freeze fresh vegetables and fruits.
Step Five: Source From Your Local Area
Often, if you browse classifieds listings or sites like Craigslist and Letgo, you can find people around you giving away stuff for free. They might be giving away clothes, old tools, and sometimes even food. People who have abundant gardens, for instance, will often give away free vegetables or fruits when they’re overflowing.
It should go without saying, but be careful whom you interact with and don’t be too trusting. You can check the safety of foods quite easily. Be sure to preserve or dehydrate any excess goods you acquire.
Companies often provide free, packaged samples of certain goods, which also serve as excellent travel or prepping items. Some survival websites will even give out gear for free, like paracord bracelets or multi-purpose tools. Take advantage of every opportunity and include it all in your cache. It cuts down on the list of supplies you’ll need to acquire.
Step Six: Stock up on What You Don’t Have
If you haven’t been buying items specifically for your prepping endeavors, you’ll end up lacking some essential supplies and goods. That’s OK. Make a list of what’s missing and prioritize it based on survival value. Water and food should be at the top of the list, along with first-aid supplies and medicine.
When you do go grocery shopping or have a little extra spending money, be sure to pick up something on your list. Work your way through until, eventually, you have everything covered. Don’t forget to use coupons, discounts and promotions to get low-cost or free items.
Prepping Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
The cost of prepping can get out of hand, yes, but only if you allow it to happen. There are plenty of ways to acquire free or low-cost supplies, but the best source will always be goods and gear you already own. Re-purposing existing equipment or packing canned goods you have sitting in your pantry can cut down on the total amount of supplies you’ll need.
The trick is to take inventory of everything you have first, compare it to what’s missing and then work your way backward from there. Cross things off your cache or supply list one by one until you have fulfilled all your needs.
Don’t forget supplies like fuel for your vehicle, battery backups for your tools and equipment or even ammunition for your weapons. When you make your list of “needs,” include absolutely everything you can think of.
You can make it work without breaking the bank.
Editor’s Note: Another guest contribution from Scott Hamilton to The Prepper Journal.