Note: This article was contributed by Dan F. Sullivan of SurvivalSullivan.com. To learn more about Dan you can see the About the Author section at the end of the post.
Let’s face it: if we were to buy every survival item we read about online or in books, we’d have to spend dozens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars on preps. That’s a lot of money!
Prepping and living frugally go hand in hand and it was only a matter of time after I started prepping myself that I started to look for ways to minimize my expenses. In what follows I want to give you nothing but ways to save money prepping, starting with the obvious ones (that you may already know) and finishing with the ones that may surprise you.
What a shocker, right? Everybody knows about coupons but, the fact of the matter is, you can only buy certain categories of products that are also relevant to survival. Look for:
- hygiene products
- Ziploc bags (these will be very hard to find post-collapse, by the way)
- batteries (for your flashlights etc.)
- pet food
- insect repellents
Couponing is an art and it has its own tips and tricks that are out of the scope of this article.
Buy in Bulk
Another obvious tip but here’s the not-so-obvious part. Start your bulk buying efforts with things you know you’ll consume anyway in a reasonable amount of time. What I mean is, it makes more sense to buy a lot of floss instead of a one year supply of beans because you can start using it instead of just looking at it. This is a great way to get your feet wet with bulk buying.
Rotate Your Stockpile
The subtitle should actually read: make survival food part of your daily diet. That way you’ll never throw away a single ounce of food that could expire if you don’t eat it in time. In fact, a lot of survival foods do expire before you expect them to, particularly if they’re not stored right.
This, of course, has the side benefit of you and your family getting used to survival food, trying out different brands, comparing prices, taste and so on.
Buy Raw Ingredients Instead of Whole Foods
There are numerous advantages to that and the downside is obvious: you need more time to get all of them and more time to cook. Other than that, buying ingredients is great because:
- you save money (you don’t get charged for the actual making of the product)
- it’s healthier because you don’t get many of the preservatives and additives found in most foods
- and, most of all, raw ingredients have a much longer shelf life than the actual cooked foods
Raw ingredients also allow for versatile cooking. You can change the seasoning and add new ingredients to a dish to pack in more nutrients and cater to your family’s tastes.
Monitoring Your Food Supply
When investing in stockpile of food, you will want to protect your investment. Take into consideration the shelf life of your preps and start collecting those that will last the longest. The most common are rice and beans and for good reasons. They are inexpensive, have long shelf lives, and are relatively easy to store. Here are general guidelines for basic foods and how to store them in order to make them last as long as possible.
|Food Item||Form||Average Shelf-Life Beyond "Best Buy" Date||To Increase Shelf Life|
(instant and regular)
|Dried||4-5 years for best nutritional value|
Indefinitely if kept dry and cool
|Keep temperature low
|Brown Rice||Dried||6-8 months |
8-12 months if refrigerated
Because it is a whole grain, the extra nutrients and fats cause it to spoil more quickly than white rice
|Keep temperature low
|Beans||Dried||2-3 years before vitamins begin to degrade|
After 5 years, vitamins are completely gone, though protein and minerals are still present
Indefinitely ok to consume if kept dry and cool
|Store in vacuum sealed mylar or #10 cans
Keep temperature low
|Beans||Canned||1 year||Keep temperature low
The higher the fat content, the sooner jerky will go rancid
|Store in original packaging in the freezer|
Must be stored below 75 degrees Fahrenheit
|Keep temperature low
1-2 years if refrigerated
Indefinite in the freezer
|Keep temperature low
|Fruit||Canned||1-2 years||Keep temperature low
|Vegetables||Canned||1-2 years||Keep temperature low
|Pasta||Dried||1-2 years||Store in original packaging
Presence of dried fruit may decrease shelf life
|Store in cool, dark place
|Cereal (steel cut oats)||Dried||2-3 years||Store at a steady cool temperature
Because of the broad range for most foods, it’s important to also know what to look for to make sure the food is safe to consume. Watch out for cans that appear bloated or rounded on top. This is caused by gases released during decomposition and means that the food is spoiled. Also avoid cans that are rusted or leaking because once the seal is lost, the food will spoil.
In dried foods, like grains and beans, check for insects, mold, and fungus. Color and smell are also good indicators- if you open a can and see brown spots or catch a whiff of an ammonia-like smell, do not consume the contents. Spoiled food should be discarded immediately and the container cleaned thoroughly to prevent spreading to other parts of your food supply.
Save Money Prepping With Brand Research
Just because a brand is reliable and has lots of reviews, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a better deal somewhere else. There are always small brands that offer competitive prices as a way to get a slice of the marketplace. All you have to do is find them, do your due diligence and get the one with the best price / quality ratio.
Research can take a lot of time but, hey, if you don’t have the money, you have to compensate for that with time. Fortunately, you can do most of this online.
Focus On Your Skills
If you already have your 3 week emergency food supply, maybe it’s time to consider upgrading your skills or fitness level instead of going for a 3 months’ supply. These will be extremely important when disaster strikes and it’ll give you a chance to “delay” spending more money.
Honing your camping skills, like fire-making, shelter building, and outdoor cooking can all be done in your backyard at little to no cost. Put down the matches and try different ways of starting a fire from natural materials. For six fire-building methods to practice, CLICK HERE.
Spending a day in the backyard building a shelter is a fun way to teach your kids this important skill. There are many types of shelters that are simple and provide protection from wind and rain. Top off the day with cooking dinner over an open fire and you will have practiced three major survival skills without spending a penny.
Make Things Instead of Buying Them
I’m talking about things around the house such as chicken coops, solar panels, fences, safe rooms, nightstands, furniture – you name it! This can be really fun, particularly if you involve your children.
The same goes for home repairs. Learn the basics of carpentry, plumbing, and electric work through hands on experience in your own home or helping out friends and family. Take advantage of opportunities to acquire new skills by volunteering in your community.
You should also keep in mind these DIY skills are going to be golden post-collapse when everyone’s going to want to fix their homes.
Barter With Other Preppers
Well, as long as everyone’s buying in bulk, why not trade stuff so you can all be more prepared? You can increase the variety of your preps while still taking advantage of bulk prices. This will also be a very good lesson about how bartering works.
Trading skills can also help you become more prepared. Maybe your neighbor is great at canning vegetables and you’ve mastered building a Dutch oven. You can both benefit from each other’s knowledge. Learning from someone with experience can shorten the time it takes to acquire a new skill.
Do It Right the First Time
If you’re afraid to make mistakes or if you want to be prepared for a 3-day emergency ASAP, you’d have to make a lot of compromises: buying MREs, getting a backpack with a non-metallic frame and on and on. When you avoid buying overpriced stuff, you save money long term because you’d eventually have to buy the real deal sooner or later (not to mention a quality tool can last you a lifetime).
Do Your Shopping Without Your Car
This will obviously save you money on gas, it will help you lose weight as well as tone up. Tip: instead of carrying your groceries home in bags, put them in a backpack. This will be an excellent practice for when you’ll be bugging out with your BOB.
Be Realistic (And Creative)
Don’t lose sight of the goal: to prepare your family for survival during a crisis situation. That may mean making substitutions for expensive items or repurposing items you already own. Garage sales can be a gold mine of camping gear and other useful preps. Keep an eye out for businesses that may be getting rid of unwanted items that you can repurpose. A little creativity can go a long way.
Well, those were it. Can you think of more ways to save money prepping? Let us know in the Comments section below so we can build the biggest money-saving list pertaining to survival there is! And if you’re looking for something a little more structured, I strongly suggest your read my article on the basics of prepping right here.
About the Author
Dan F. Sullivan runs SurvivalSullivan.com. He describes himself as:
My dad was military. My grandfather was a cop. They served their country well. But I don’t take orders from anyone. I’m taking matters into my own hands so I’m not just preparing, I’m going to friggin’ war!