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) PreppersDailyNews.com, 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 Survival.com You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, 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 on her website, 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) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

  • Very encouraging article. It’s easy to get into thinking that because I can’t afford a generator or a huge water tank or a year’s worth of freeze dried food that I can’t do anything.

    My parents were young adults during the Great Depression and World War II. Most people who lived through it are gone now, but their stories are still shared. Look up first person narratives about how people survived. Books (the ones by Reiman publishing are good) and interviews on youtube are great sources. Also, ask family members who are the children of those survivors to share what they remember being told about those times.

    • Old timers saved food from harvest to harvest or traded for what they needed. you can grow food in many different places such as pots or flower beds and replace lawns with gardens. HOAs can be a pain but you can always inter mix decorative with edible and don’t forget the edibles that are really pretty too. I have tall narrow water containers made for camping. They fit in my kitchen along counters. Squirrels and such even in town are edible but may be gone rather quickly if things get bad. I’m in the country so there are more options. I make rugs and quilts of used clothing. My favorite jacket is a quilted mix of mostly denim. I have rebuilt a treadle sewing machine to supplement my electric ones. I garden and save seeds from my heirloom plants. I learned to pressure can and taught my children to do that also. Jellies, Jams, and pickles can be water-bath canned to seal them. So can tart fruits. The acid is a preservative. I dry many things in the sun. Using products like fruit fresh or a quick blanching in boiling water can help preserve the color if dark items bother you. Learn to crochet or knit and reuse yarn or soft materials cut in narrow strips. I’ve even made a thick, soft, waterproof mat to stand on while I’m cooking just by cutting up those horrid plastic bags everything seems to come home from the store in and crocheting in a circle. I knitted a winter scarf from soft tee shirts cut into 1 inch strips. At 77 I talked with my Grandmother: 1877 to 1970 and my parents: 1904 to 2000 and 1907 to 1990… and grew up with a lot of their saving ways. They were always looking at ways to make do or save things to last longer or go further. That’s a good way of looking at things. If grandma had something tough like an old hen or a not too young squirrel she seasoned it and fried it then smothered it in gravy to simmer and get tender. There is always something you can do.

  • getting more fit is at the top of my list, 64 -ugggg. some more sustainable water sources as well, ya got to have water. don’t they say 3 days without?
    if it’s not potable, don’t drink it without boiling the hell out of it first. you may not last 3 days with the puking and diarrhea that goes along with it.

      • Clergylady, look up “The Miracles of Rebound Exercise” written by Albert E. Carter. It would astound you, some of the things you can find out about how much it will do for you. We’re both 83, and my wife and I are blown away by what it has done for us! Just a simple little 3.5 feet diameter trampoline in the bedroom. Amazing!
        Blessings,
        Old Duffer

  • This should be the very first of your preps:

    The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

    • Not everyone who visits this site or who preps practices Christianity. I don’t come here to get preached at. It’s obnoxious and your smug superiority makes me even less likely to ever set foot in a church. I come here to learn about emergency preparedness.

      But hey, enjoy eating your Bible.

      • Then overlook it. Maybe some don’t come here for your rude smugness. There is always two sides to a coin, right?

      • What an ugly response! Do us all a favor and leave this sight. Everyone contributes in ways that are helpful to them. Sharing ideas is the name of the game. Don’t forget to pack some sunscreen since when your time here is over, you’re gonna need it.

    • Some take comfort in religion.
      Others do not.
      Some may not be religious but they are spiritual.
      Others embrace non-Western religions.
      To each their own.

  • I’ve done most of the things on the list. Routes through this part of the country are very limited East, West, or North. To the south there are two ways you could go. To the North is a mountain over 11,000 ft elevation without any through roads to anywhere. The Snow is too deep in areas for even a snowcat to open trails,.
    High Mountain Desert makes for more limited forage, but some edible things exist. I have the books that are available for this area. I’ve planted wild edibles and Medicinals on my property from this region and seeds from similar areas elsewhere.
    I get food from a local community pantry. Anything extra, I can it. That has included butter, meats, vegetables, apple sauce and apple cider vinegar, sour kraut, homemade Bone broth, and soups. It comes in handy when money is nonexistent but most has been saved for future needs. I also garden and sun dry or can a lot of that. I do have lettuce and green onion scraps growing on the kitchen window sill and things to be planted in spring downstairs living in front of windows till planting time. I have seed starting areas with grow lights and warming mats and lots of saved seeds.
    I watch sales on and off line for canning jars and have picked up many dozens cheap or free to add to what I already have. I save glass jars from groceries we use. I store dry foods in them. I also have sourdough starter in a couple of jars. Thick plastic that drinks and juices came in as well as 5 and 6 gallon water containers all have water stored in different areas of the home. Water for handwashing or flushing is stored in the bathroom. In the kitchen drinking water is stored in 4, 6 gallon; 4, 5gallon; and 5, 2 gallon containers =54 gallons of potable water. They are used and refilled completely about every 6 months. I use them up doing laundry and refill each container as it is emptied. Then they sit for the next 6 months. I have extra homegrown herbs, teas, and medicinals stored in light proof large containers in the laundry room. I don’t use a dryer so they are never too warm. They keep a long time that way.
    I do have three friends beside family that I work with and trust. We’ve made a verbal agreement to help each other set aside money for needed things and new plantings to benefit us all. 2 of us have some land with an extra dwelling. The third is a friend of almost 50 years who is living on my land as caretaker. Mom is my longtime friend, I’ve known him his entire almost 50 years and his three young children. In lieu of rent, he does any needed repairs and they pay their own living expenses. I do pay my property taxes and keep a garden on the property. I live on the other friends property and cook for us, do most of the laundry, and we both keep the houses up. I have been preparing a large garden there and I’ve planted many fruit trees, hazelnut bushes, berry bushes and vines and have 75 new strawberry and 9 new raspberry plants ordered for spring planting. He pays for the heat and groceries on his property. I pay for new trees and plants. He also had a ready to use fenced in chicken pen and large coop. I added the chickens and moved my rabbits there. He’s added drip irrigation everywhere and water to the coop in heated pans. In cold weather I fill them. In less severe weather his drip line keeps it filled. Dividing it up this way has made it possible to do more. My dog is with his dogs with heated water and heated dog houses but at night they come inside to their crates.
    I save water bottles in odd sizes to mostly bury them next to things that need to be watered that aren’t yet on the drip systems. I cut off the bottom of the bottles so I could fill the bottles with a hose and let the water slowly seep into the root area through holes in the caps. That works great. For the rest of the property, drip irrigation is a real labor-saving way to go.
    Settling on a definite group to trust and work with has worked out great for our little group. We can do far more and each one is better off. We all look for bargains to stretch our incomes and each property is responsible for heat, food, and water for their site.
    I’ve taught my kids what I know.

    One in my estimation would have a hard time but she’s levelheaded. She handles emergencies incredibly well and has ridden out two hurricanes in Florida so you never know… One in a large city is as prepared as you can be in a city. One in the country is prepared and can do most anything or repair most anything. Because of distances I’m in for whatever comes with friends who are also too far from family and must be prepared where they are. Both places are rural. Within 30 miles of each other. And quite able to be self-sustaining. If it were necessary we could all live on either property using the second home in each place.

  • Daisyyyy , I enjoy nearly all of your articles but this one is particularly good! Scrounging useful but cheap – even free – items is actually good fun when one gets into the mindset. And it isn’t just about acquiring preps but preparing what yy ou alread have or may need to take with yy ou in an emergency . Thank y you for your cheerful guidance, Daisy !

    • If you believe that, you are on the wrong website. Obviously we all want to build bunkers on our fertile farms stocked with ten years of food and enough ammo to take over a small country. But very few people are in a situation to do that. We miss each do what is within our capability to Thd best of our ability. We must have the right mindset. And we must have hope that our skills can carry us places we cannot stock up for.

      I really dislike disparaging comments like this. Not because you didn’t like my article. I can’t make everyone happy with every article.
      But because you are so discouraging to people who are doing the best they can. I hope that nobody takes youf comment seriously and gives up because of it. Please think about the effect you may have on strangers.

  • #4 Absolutely WRONG. NEVER EVER save any personal info or data in the CLOUD. Put all of your info on External Hard drives and save and store these back up hard drives in alternative places. You can buy a few Tera byte drives for like $60 or less. What happens in a grid down and there is NO Internet? Boom you just lost all your important data and documents forever. BTW/ there is NO actual Cloud, its some isolated building with huge data storage devices in some city in America run by a company that could burn to the ground or be Nuked. #1 Rule. If you don’t hold it in your hand, its not yours. The cloud is hacked all the time and all your data and info stolen could be shared and could create all sorts of problems like identity theft Even in a grid down, you could access your hard drive and print up the docs you need with out any Internet. Stay away from ALL GOOGLE products and Apps. They hack everybody’s info and data. Also get rid of your cell phone. Its just a Big Brother tracking and data mining device. Wake up people. THINK!!

    • My iPhone just updated itself to a new OS. It keeps asking me to agree to the new terms and conditions for I cloud use. “Not now”…

    • You are absolutely correct, sir the cell phone is a tracking device. The system knows where you are,
      where you have been, and who you have been near.

      It also records every text and every phone call.

      The cell phone has become almost a necessity due to our new lifestyle of having instant communication with family and Internet, access for information and the location of a gas station in a strange town.

      The surveillance aspect of the phone can be temporarily stopped by putting it in an mylar antistatic bag that electronics are shipped in or the foil bags that coffee comes in.
      Phone calls and text are not received and updates can be prevented if they are scheduled while you have it in the bag.
      I found that even plugged to the charger you can slip your phone in the bag and then into a second bag open end first and seal it the best you can with the charge cord coming out and it still works.

      If anybody has a way to confirm this, but I actually recording on another device what the phone is transmitted in receiving please respond to Daisy, and perhaps she can do an article on phone security.

      One prep that will take varying amounts of money, depending on how elaborate you get is ham radio.

      Daisy has several articles in the archives and there is plenty of information on the Internet.

      Best deal out there is the BaoFeng UV-82.

      Amazon has a five pack for 150 bucks.

      You will need a software called chirp that you can download for free on your computer to program them
      I think you have to be Chinese to use the keypad

      These radios will transmit in both the ham radio bands, and some free unrestricted frequencies that do not require a license.

      Without a license, you can listen to him, but you cannot transmit except during an emergency.
      One key point about programming these little dudes that took me a while to figure out is it each radio must savage unique name so number them one through five And download each one’s program into Sharp with the unique file name

      Set up the program for radio number one
      And clone it into the other four, maintaining their unique file names.
      This way, when you tell the group to go A new channel or a code to Designate a channel everybody shows up at the same spot.

  • Survival rule of three’s
    Learn this
    Water Filter LIFE SAVER
    22 RIFLE cheep 22 ammo cheep
    Can opener and buy the cheapest can goods at the cheep stores

    GAS and keep lots of Glass bottles
    LEARN how to use these two and a Match
    This simple combo cheep
    Even with old gas it will even the odds agains a MOB

  • Random question…does anyone recommend those large square plastic containers surrounded by metal (forgive my ignorance) for any emergency water type storage??

    Would that be a good outdoor water source backup for flushing or maybe my garden?? We have a well btw.

    • I had a food grade one when I lived in California. It was my backup water supply and I never had any issues with it. I used it a few times for livestock when the well pump went out and also tasted it and it was fine.

      If you get food grade it’ll be a-okay. I recommend storing it in a garage or under shelter if possible just to protect it from the weather. If not, it’ll still last a long time.

      • Plus, if you’ll put 2oz 10ppm Colloidal Silver per gallon, you’ll keep it pure i.e., without stagnation. (Just like a silver coin in the bottom used to keep barrels of water pure when our ancestors rode across the plains in covered wagons.) And silver is much better than clorox or iodine.
        Blessings,
        Old Duffer

  • I expect a serious emergency that will cause a temporary situation where stored food and supplies will be how one survives. After that will be the long slog that will last years, rebuilding what can be rebuilt and making do otherwise. It is during the rebuilding phase that the hands-on skills will become important.

    As far as bugging out is concerned, I’m responsible for an elderly parent who cannot hike, therefore my choices are either to abandon said parent (no way) or drive. The best option therefore is to bug in.

    I have two sets of water stored, in gallon containers, mostly for washing. Drinking water (de-ionized) is in better containers. I figure we can last over a month on stored water.

    When it comes to the rebuilding phase, I already have many of the skills needed, just from a lifetime of living. I took a class on machining, but now do more 3D printing (the hardest part is mastering the design software). I can cook (the first step in making bread is to grind the wheat) usually from scratch because it was affordable, sew, construction (foundation to roof), plumbing, basic electrical circuits, camping, a jack-of-all-trades but a master at none. Unfortunately, where I now live, nothing edible grows without irrigation, and I don’t have a reliable source of water should SHTF. Relocation is definitely in the cards. What bothers me is how few people have even some of those skills, how will they survive?

    A note about electronics: unless they are plugged in to the mains and running, they most likely will survive an EMP unless the EMP is very close and powerful. That means that your car will continue to run, because it’s off grid. In order for an EMP to become destructive, it needs to be connected to an antenna—the grid is one humongous antenna. Your refrigerator/freezer may become toast, but if your computer is running off battery, maybe all it needs is a reboot. However, hard drives, otherwise known as spinning rust, will be wiped clean unless in a Faraday cage.

  • I buy gallon jugs of white vinegar to use for cleaning; when they’re empty, I give them a rinse, fill them with tap water, put in a few drops of bleach, write the date on the label, and put them in my HVAC closet or under the bathroom sink to store as water for washing, cleaning, and bucket flushing. I also refill Gatorade and other bottles this way.

    Over time, I’ve put aside a few dozen gallons. This is in addition to a dozen gallon bottles of drinking water I’ve tucked away.

    • Do you store yours inside or outside? I have very very limited indoor space. We don’t have harsh winters here in north Texas, but it does get below freezing. Do you know if that would be a problem?

      • Carla, leave about a 2” head space from the water to the top of the bottle for expansion in case the water freezes and you’ll be fine. I’d also write “non potable water” on the jug, that way any children or grandchildren don’t take a swig from it. It can be made potable again, if necessary, by running it through a good gravity water filtration system, or at a minimum, boiling for a few minutes.

  • You Need More Than Food to Survive
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