How to Be a Prepper on a Budget

by Ragtimelil

What is a prepper? Why do they store food and supplies? Should we be doing this too? Here’s some answers to questions about being prepared.

I’ve always liked the idea of being self sufficient. I have grown some of my own food and learned to can and dry the produce. I learned to live off the grid without electricity for lights or water. If I had a choice, I’d be back on a little patch of land where I could keep a few chickens and animals. For now, I’m not able to do that. There are some things, however, I can do even without much of a paycheck.

The Girl Scout's Motto: Be Prepared

What is a prepper?  The best definition I have found of a prepper is from the website, They give the definition as:
“An individual or group that prepares or makes preparations in advance of, or prior to, any change in normal circumstances or lifestyle without significant reliance on other persons  or without substantial assistance from outside resources in order to minimize the effects of that change on their current lifestyle."

We've all seen the news of disasters over the past few years. There seem to be more big storms and fires that devastate people's lives.There are government websites, and, devoted to helping citizens prepare for catastrophe. Preppers are just people who prepare for emergencies.

Survivalist vs. Prepper

The term “survivalist” has gotten a bad rap in the media lately. They’ve become synonymous with white supremacists and crazed people living in the woods and stockpiling weapons, but the original meaning of the term was exactly the same as prepper. There is really no difference between the two. People who say they are preppers are trying to be politically correct by keeping the focus on natural disasters, but they prepare for other disasters too.

My sister lives in Hawaii. Tsunamis are a very real threat there. Fortunately, they have a good alarm system, they have high ground to go to and they are prepared with survival kits and supplies. They are preppers. They live a normal life, working and raising kids, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also do a lot of things survivalists do.

Interestingly enough, while FEMA supports preppers,  the Department of Homeland Security sees them as a threat to national security. There has been a lawsuit filed again the DHS when several web sites dedicated to prepping discovered that they had a number of visits from homeland security. Private individuals who had viewed the site were being tracked and monitored through their social media.


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Food Shortage

One thing that really scared me was learning how little food the grocery stores actually stock. If the supply line from the distributor was cut by something like a lack of fuel for the trucks, the stores would be out of food in a matter of days.

There are other threats to our food supply including the lowly honey bee which is a major factor in pollinating crops. The feral honey is almost extinct. Theories for their decline are the use of high fructose corn syrup and insecticides.

Other threats are the use of hybrid seeds that are not capable of reproducing true to form and the use of commercially produced fertilizers

The Mormon Church

The Mormon Church has been advocating prepping for many years. They teach classes for their members on food storage and preparation. They have booklets outlining methods of food storage and even sell boxes of food that can be stored for emergencies. They do make a good point in that when you have an emergency, it is too late to prepare. They recommend that everyone store enough food, clothing and provisions for shelter for a year. If you think about the recent disasters in the world, this doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. It even could prevent disaster just for an individual or family experiencing a job loss.

This is their definition of Level 1 readiness

Level 1: Can Survive Two Weeks of Minor Emergency (such as ice storm)

  • Have sufficient food and water for two weeks of emergency
  • Able to heat their home for two weeks without relying on the power grid by use of kerosene heater or fireplace
  • Able to cook their meals for two weeks without relying on the power grid
  • Has a first aid kit

Do you have emergency supplies?

A Bug Out Bag

One suggestion that all these groups agree on is an item called a bugout bag. It’s nothing more than a backpack, duffel bag or even a pillowcase with supplies and items for an emergency.  If you had to leave the house because of a tornado, or fire or some other emergency when you wouldn’t have time to pack, this bag could be a life saver.

There’s a good list and explanation this article Basic Disaster Supplies Kit.

Here are some additional things that have been recommended:

  • Water purification supplies
  • Cooking supplies
  • Disaster plan – location of centers, meeting points, evacuation routes, etc.
  • Basic camping gear
  • Cash and change. ATMs and banks may not be available
  • Fixed and folding blade knife
  • Duct tape and parachute cord
  • Plastic tarps for shelter and water collection
  • Small game hunting equipment
  • Compass

The WakaWaka light has gotten outstanding reviews by campers and preppers for its sturdiness and effectiveness. It was designed to replace kerosene lanterns in countries where electricity is scarce. It produces 16 hours of light after 8 hours of charging.

Great Resources Online

Prepping on a Budget
The best blog I've found on low budget prepping

Is Corn Syrup Killing the Honeybees
Interesting article by a bee keeper

Food Storage Made Easy
Has a free food storage calculator


Storage is always an issue unless you live in a big house.  I live in a 25 foot camper so storage space is almost non existent. I’ve learned a few tricks. There is no “under the bed” here. The bed is on a solid platform over the wheel well. I’d have to rebuild the bed to make storage there. I plan on doing that someday.

I did discover that I have a few drawers that are under utilized. I found I had room for a few cans and bags of food in the back of some of them.  I also use a shelf to store canned goods in my closet that was pretty much used to store junk. I’d like to build some narrow shelves,  one can deep and line the closet with them. There are plans online for making your own rotating can storage box out of cardboard.

Good totes with tight lids or new, clean metal garbage cans make good storage containers too. They can be left outside most of the year if not in direct sun or subject to freezing.

Putting Food By

Preparedness doesn’t have to be a strain on your budget either. If you go grocery shopping on a tight budget, just try to buy one item at a time for your storage. If most of your food comes from a food pantry, put just one can of food away in your food storage every time you go. Start building your 72-hour backup. Then gradually increase it to two weeks. As you get your system and storage down, you can enlarge your stores. 

Be sure to rotate your supplies once a month to keep the food fresh. Making a list of what you need and what you have is important.  Don't forget to keep on hand non-electric items such as can openers, mixers and mashers.

This is the way our grandparents and great grandparents lived. They had pantries full of produce from their gardens and farms. They were prepared to weather the lean times with supplies stored in the kitchen and cellars. In early times just getting through the winter required planning and preparation. Doctors and emergency rooms weren’t always available and they didn’t have the communication devices that we have today. They had to stock remedies and supplies to keep someone comfortable, or even alive, until the doctor could be sent for. They had to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

More on Prepping

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Be prepared, ready to respond, recover and mitigate emergencies with a disaster recovery plan.
Being prepared for emergencies allows you to enjoy daily life while knowing you are ready if something goes wrong.
Updated: 03/25/2014, Ragtimelil
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Suggestions for Being Prepared

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Ragtimelil on 06/14/2014

You are so right. Thanks for adding your suggestions. There are so many things we can do to be prepared.

mr eman on 06/14/2014

i love ideas on prepping on a budget. It can even save you money.
1. solar path lights are cheap and can be brought inside for emergency lighting. I have a flower pot on the patio table full of path lights.
2. solar path lights have a rechargeable battery. some are AAA and can be used to keep other devices working. keep extra AAA rechargeable batteries and use the lights as solar rechargers.
3. Knowledge is both free and weightless. learn about wild foods, how to find water etc. instead of planning on carrying everything on your back if you must leave on foot.
4. Shop yard sales,, craigslist (free items) for camping gear and learn to improvise.
5. store emergency electronics in metal cookie tins etc. No need for fancy emp proof cabinets.
6. If you have a camper install solar panels on it and a gridtie invertor. It can lower your power bill and supply power when camping and for emergencies.
7. consider a diesel powered car or truck. mine will run on used oil if there are no stations open and a mix of diesel and used oil saves on every day fuel costs. No mods to vehicle needed.
8. shop at Harbor freight if available, don't be bashful about using there coupons for free items like gloves, batteries, lights, tarps, ropes etc.
9. Plant a perennial garden
10. think and learn to improvise.

frankbeswick on 02/26/2014

If I am thinking of survival I have to think of us rather than me. Living near me are my aged parents-in-law-law and their son, who is being assessed for a liver transplant. All are too old and/or sick to care for themselves; and my son [who lives with me] works with the mentally handicapped, and as a person with a strong conscience he would not leave them in the lurch, nor I leave him alone to care for them.

Ragtimelil on 02/25/2014

My main concern for myself is losing power. If we did lose power for a length of time, we'd have to be concerned about water, food and cooking. I wouldn't have any place to "bug out" to either. My sister lives on an island that is prone to tsunamis. For them, having a safe place to go to is critical.

frankbeswick on 02/25/2014

I think that preppers need a realistic assessment of the threats that they will face. Where I am in the UK I have little threat from natural disaster,and social unrest is not a major problem. Planetary disasters such as asteroid strike and volcanic eruptions aside, I am most likely to be at risk from terrorism. A major issue in the future will be food shortages, and for this there can be preparation.

You have to think your response. In the UK there is little land to bug out to, so if anything goes seriously wrong the best bet for me is to stay put and defend what I have and those close to me.

kimbesa on 10/19/2013

Being prepared is always a good idea. You just never know what you may have to deal with. Thanks for all the info!

Ragtimelil on 10/17/2012

Thanks. I'm doing what I can with what I got, as they say.

AngelaJohnson on 10/17/2012

Great tips and great links for more information.

Ragtimelil on 09/29/2012

Thanks, Jan. Good tips!

Jan on 09/29/2012

Really good article Ragtimelil! Never seen the Waqawaqa lamp but it's now on my to-buy list of prepping items. And another really low-cost way to store canned foods is to use a 12-pack soda box, partially cut out one end to load the cans and you got a can-dispenser at no cost. Works for me. I'm definitely a frugal prepper. Also anyone can buy food storage basics at their local Mormon Church Home Storage Center. Costco and Sam's are good places to stock up as well. Don't forget to store water too as you can only live about 3 days without that.

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