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10 Smart Ways to Prep Without Spending Money

(Psst: The FTC wants me to remind you that this website contains affiliate links. That means if you make a purchase from a link you click on, I might receive a small commission. This does not increase the price you’ll pay for that item nor does it decrease the awesomeness of the item. ~ Daisy)

Author of How to Prep When You’re Broke and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

Are you convinced that you can’t prep without spending a whole lot of money? That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are all sorts of ways you can become better prepared without spending a dime.

The thing to remember is that there is a lot more to prepping than just feverishly filling mylar bags with food or stacking ammo to the ceiling. You need to think outside of the consumer mindset.

How to prep without spending a lot of money

Prepping on a dime is something I got good at by necessity. If you want to learn more, check out my paperback book How to Prep When You’re Broke. I know that it feels like prepping is a costly endeavor but there are so many things we can do and learn without spending money. You can’t necessarily buy your way out of a disaster or a collapse. Skills and mindset can be as important – if not more so – than physical goods.

Here are ten ideas to get your wheels turning.

#1) Fill containers with water

If you haven’t taken out the recycling yet this week, don’t!  You can use those empty two-liter soda pop bottles and gallon water bottles to stock up on a drinking water supply. Count on a gallon a day per human and pet. (Two 2-liter bottles are approximately a gallon).

But don’t stop there. If you have other containers that shouldn’t be used for drinking water, you can fill them with water for other uses, like sanitation, flushing the toilet, and keeping clean.

Add to your supply each week, and soon you’ll have a month supply, quietly sitting there in your basement. Here’s an infographic to get you started on safely storing water. If you want to be more serious about your water supply, I have a book about it that you can get on Amazon.

#2) Do a drill

The absolute best way to know what you need during an emergency is to simulate a crisis.  Get your family on board and spend a weekend without power and running water. Keep a list going for the entire weekend so that you can note what needs arose. (Leave the breakers on for the refrigerator and freezer – you don’t want to potentially have your food spoil.)

Can you make coffee and food? Can you keep warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Can you keep the kids entertained without the internet or phone service?

#3) Learn what edibles are wild in your area

Go to the library and grab a book on foraging. Then begin to explore your local area to find out what food grows wild there, formerly unbeknownst to you. Go on a nature walk and come home with goodies!

The fun doesn’t stop with just bringing the food home. Next, research how to best prepare the wild edibles you’ve acquired. You may find this at the library or you may be able to search for recipes online.  Be sure to jot down in a notebook what you found and how you prepared it.

#4) Put together important information

Organize your essential papers and documents into a folder so that you can grab it quickly if you ever have to bug out. Include things like medical records, veterinary records, deeds, mortgage papers, insurance policies, social security numbers, and identification.

Don’t stop at just putting it in a folder. You should also scan these documents and save them in the cloud. Here is a preparedness based article on the topic and another article on whether or not this is a safe action.

#5) Prep for an evacuation

Now you need to pack a bug-out bag. If budget is a concern, use bags you already have along with supplies that you already have. The important thing is to have this stuff organized and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. Have a list of last minute items so that you know what you need. It’s better to think this through when you’re calm, not when the clock is ticking towards disaster.

You’ll want things like personal documents, extra medication, comfort items for children, and survival supplies that could get you through 3 days away from home.  To take a look at the ultimate prepper’s bug out bag, look at this one from Graywolf Survival. Don’t forget sentimental items. They are truly the only things that could never be replaced.

Figure out where you’ll go. Is there a friend or family member in another area who would welcome you? Is there a pet-friendly hotel (if you have pets?) Where is the usual shelter in your area during natural disasters? Knowing all this ahead of time and mapping routes will help you to evacuate faster.

#6) Bookmark some websites

The internet is a wonderful place, and best of all, this knowledge can be found for FREE! The more you know about crisis situations, the more ready you will be to face them. Some sites are friendlier to beginners than others, so if you stumble upon a forum where people seem less than enthusiastic about helping people who are just starting out, don’t let it get you down. Move on and find a site that makes you feel comfortable. Following are some of my favorites, and the link will take you to a good starting point on these sites. In no particular order:

#7) Learn a skill

A huge part of prepping is your skills. In a big enough disaster or one that lasts much longer than expected, there’s every possibility your supplies will be destroyed or run out. Knowing what to do then is vital to your survival.

Your public library and the internet are great resources. I learned to run a homestead with videos from YouTube. Seriously, there’s nothing you can’t learn to do if you have access to these things.

So think about a skill you’d like to acquire that doesn’t require expensive equipment. I already mentioned foraging but there are loads of other things to learn. A few suggestions:

  • sewing by hand
  • mending things
  • repairing things that are broken
  • building a shelter using found items
  • cooking over a campfire
  • grow food from scraps
  • trapping with a snare
  • cooking from scratch
  • research first aid and basic medical information
  • learn to upcycle the things you’d generally throw away into something useful
  • take free classes

You get the idea. Anything that is an old-fashioned skill would come in handy during a survival situation.

#8) Map out your local area

It’s a good idea to locate important resources in your area well before you need them. Here are a few reasons why:

  • You may plan to travel or may unexpectedly be required to travel to another location during a disaster, which may require you to use alternate routes. You can use maps to determine these routes for yourself rather than just following the crowd
  • You may want to determine the location of dangerous weather (tornados, hurricanes, winter storms, etc,) in relation to where you are
  • Determine the location of resources that you might want to travel to and alternate routes to get there (Part 4 will provide more information on this topic)
  • Determine locations and direction of travel of mobs, crowds, or potential enemy forces that you might hear about on the radio or TV
  • Locate military intelligence type information about potential or actual threats to your location that you might discover talking to fellow travelers (source)

There are many free maps available for download. You can find them with a quick internet search.

#9) Meet like-minded people

Now, when I say you should meet like-minded people, I’m not necessarily talking about preppers. There’s a broad array of folks that could be the makings of a fantastic survival community.

  • Get to know folks in your area who garden.
  • Meet your local farmers.
  • Make friends at the shooting range.
  • Members of local homesteading groups are already independent thinkers
  • Community watch members on social media
  • Attend free county extension office classes on canning, gardening, and food preservation

As I’ve written before, you are shortchanging yourself if you think only preppers will be likeminded. Here’s an article on finding a community.

#10) Get fit.

One thing preppers often overlook is the importance of their physical abilities. Even if you are disabled, there are things you can do to improve your fitness and stamina.

Search for exercises online that you can do whatever shape you are in or limitations you have. And, if you DO have disabilities, you need to figure out smart ways to work around your limitations. (Find more info for disabled preppers or those with a chronic illness here.)

The easiest way to start your journey to fitness is by lacing up your most comfortable and supportive shoes and going for a walk. You can begin to challenge yourself to lift and carry heavier things. You can stretch using an online yoga video. The big goal is to just get started. And, if you are carrying around too much weight, you may want to work on losing a few pounds to make things easier on your joints during a crisis situation. (If you are really serious about getting fit, here’s a great book on the topic, written just for preppers.)

You can prep without spending a fortune. You just need to be smart about it.

Don’t let your budget get you down.

Of course, we’d all love to be able to grab a five year supply of freeze-dried foods, load up on guns and ammo, and move to our fully-stocked bug-out retreats in our Hummers, but for most folks, that isn’t at all feasible. What IS feasible is focusing on the things we CAN do. (If you have a little bit of money to spend, check out this article on $1 preps.)

The most important ways to prep are to keep learning, keep organizing, and be alert. If you do those three things, even without spending a lot of money on supplies, you’ll be far, far ahead of the unprepared masses. Sometimes I think those of us who live with a very tight budget may just be better off when things go sideways because we already know how to sacrifice and get by on less.

Do you have any other ideas for free ways to prep? Are you prepping on a tight budget? Share your suggestions and ideas in the comments section.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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