8 Strategies for Prepping When You Have NO Extra 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)

by Daisy Luther

Given the economic circumstances in the United States, it’s unsurprising that a lot of people who would otherwise be prepping have found themselves at a standstill due to financial reasons.

Whether it’s because of a job loss, higher food prices, or simply no room in the budget, you can still prep. This is a perfect time to sit down and do some planning. Here are some strategies to help you get ready for the next few months.

Make a menu

Before you ever set foot in the store, it’s a great idea to make a menu so that you know what you need. One of the easiest ways to prep is by “meal” instead of by separate ingredients. If you set up a meal plan that includes some extremely inexpensive options for lunches and dinners, you can help your limited funds go further. You may not be able to eat your normal healthy fare if times are tough. Just make the best choices you can while still staying fed, okay?

Some ideas for inexpensive “filler” meals are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Beans and rice
  • Canned soup
  • Canned pasta
  • Ramen noodles
  • Eggs and toast
  • Fried rice
  • Cereal
  • PB&J sandwiches
  • Tuna salad with crackers
  • Pasta and canned sauce

I know – not very glamorous – but these things can be acquired in quantity cheaply, and they’ll feed you for about a buck a meal.

If possible, plan for one hearty and more filling meal each day. Use canned fruits and veggies as well as dry goods like rice, barley, and pasta to make that meal well balanced. These articles may provide some shopping inspiration.

Shop “doubles.”

Now that you have a menu, replace your normal fresh meat, dairy, fruits, and veggies with some of the less-expensive ingredients. Focus on getting as much bang for your grocery buck as possible. Use your normal grocery budget and buy as many inexpensive items as possible.

While you’re at the store, shop “doubles. Buy at least two of each item. Keep one in the kitchen pantry and put one back for later.

Add as many simple, inexpensive ingredients as possible to your stockpile.

  • Dried beans
  • Rice
  • Potato flakes
  • Pasta
  • Cans of sauce
  • Vegetable juice (makes a delicious and nutritious soup base)

Usually, I recommend quality ingredients but right now, people are feeling a strong sense of urgency to get prepared and I suggest you focus on quantity. Hopefully, things won’t be that bad and you can add more high-quality nutrients to your stash as time goes on. But for now – fill up that stockpile!

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.

Organize your supplies.

You probably have a lot more stuff on hand than you realize. Now is the time to go through your home and organize what you have. gather up all your food, medicine, first aid supplies, and personal hygiene supplies, and do a quick inventory. You may be in a better position than you realized. Here’s a great article about how to start prepping using what you already have.

Put all your first aid, over-the-counter medications, prescription meds, and medical supplies together so you can see what you have. Think about how you can improvise anything you’re missing.

I keep my supplies in kits. I have a power outage kit with candles, lighters, flashlights, batteries, solar chargers, etc. I have a pandemic kit I created back in 2014 during the Ebola scare with masks, gloves, Tyvek suits, booties, and other things specific to a pandemic. I use big Rubbermaid tubs for these kits but you can use anything: cardboard boxes, even space on a shelf.

If you bought a whole lot of stuff in a frenzy – and let’s be honest, a lot of us did – you may have them stacked in a precarious pile in some area of the house. Take the time to organize your food. You can go about this in different ways – put ingredients for meals together, put all the veggies in one area, all the grains in another area…however you decide to go about it, getting organized will help you see what you have on hand.

Get serious about home and family security.

As I wrote in my article about what I’m telling my family members, I expect crime to be on the uptick in the very near future. It’s time to get serious about security for your home and family.

Go outside and take a walk around your house. Are there things that need to be addressed to make your home more secure? Do you need to trim back some shrubs to keep the area under windows visible? Should you secure downstairs windows so they can’t easily be raised up from the outside? Can you put a locking latch on the gate in the back yard? Does your shed need a lock on it? Focus on the small tasks you may have been putting off to make your home more secure. This article has some tips using things you may already have lying around.

And don’t stop with your property – continue on to the people you love, too. Would your family members know what to do in the event of a home invasion? If not, you need to make a plan. Vulnerable family members need to get out of the way, and family members who are engaging the criminals need to know who is doing what so they don’t get in each other’s way. Place weapons and potential weapons in strategic areas around the home.

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.

Learn stuff.

Make the most of your time by learning new skills and acquiring knowledge.

Learn to make things, repair things, grow things, and take some time to look into old-fashioned solutions. This is a great time to pick up some new skills. Read some of those books in your to-read pile and check out how-to videos on YouTube.

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:

The more you learn, the better off you’ll be. Play through situations in your mind, read about them, and if these things actually arise, you’ll be able to act more quickly than the average person. This stuff costs nothing but your time.

Check your budget.

Take a long, hard look at your budget. Are there things you can cut right now to help you get better prepared for a long-term financial crisis? Slash unnecessary expenditures now. Call your insurance company for a better rate. Cancel subscription boxes. Put all of that money toward preps. Focus on buying things second-hand – you can often find great deals online but take care to avoid the scams that are rampant on the internet.

Of course, we’d all love to be able to grab a 5 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.)

There’s a lot more to prepping than simply buying stuff and piling it into a closet. The time you spend now on non-purchase prepping is also very important. It’s a whole lot easier to think things through right now when you are calm and well-fed than it is to try and figure them out when you’re under stress. This isn’t the time to sit around streaming Netflix or doing a crossword puzzle. There’s a lot of work to be done before we reach the point that we can’t do anything more. Here are four more tips to get you going.

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.

So close that Amazon window on your computer and get to work.

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.

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25 Responses

  1. I don’t have much extra money to spare either. I buy 40lb sacks of feed for our chickens. They also sell uncracked wheat and barley for about $10/ 40 lbs. Wheat lasts a really long time when it’s not cracked- decades. As unappealing as it sounds for a meal, Roman soldiers marched many miles on boiled wheat. Just an idea.

    I also stock up the first aid kit at the feed supply store. They have much cheaper gauze, wraps, iodine, etc. The quality is great.

  2. Yup good stuff
    Exercise. Almost every single scenario the survivability can be increased by being in better shape. Often the event can be avoided totally.
    We are all in different places in our lives but you can strive to be the best you that you can be.

  3. Hi Daisy,

    I work at the welfare office and what I’ve noticed with a few of my clients are they’ll visit the bulk stores like Costco and Sams Club when they get their food stamp money and stock up on food. I know not everyone likes applying for government assistance but if times are really tough and answering the “what to eat” question is getting harder, it’s worth looking into. You can always call us and request to have your benefits closed when you’re back on your feet.

  4. Under the heading of “Shop “doubles”” you can include BOGO (buy one, get one free) deals. We use them to increase our supply without spending extra money.

  5. Time is short, “Shut Down D.C.’ has a tactical plan on the web. Anyone interested in finding out what is coming should check out THE FEDERALIST , web site as they have the complete story of what is ahead .

    Daisey, only 8 days left, keep up the good work woman! You might want to do an article on the plan here too?

    stay safe and alert, and God bless y’all

  6. Sometimes supermarkets will have marked down produce that’s about to spoil. You can buy that and freeze it, or can it, or dry it. You can make fruit leather too. Depending on climate you may also be able to dry things outside, or in the back of a car parked in the sun. Some import stores have mesh drying frames to keep bugs off and they are pretty cheap.

    1. Gman – this isn’t the kind of commentary we look for here, particularly on an article for people who are already discouraged. If you can’t say something nice or useful, try saying nothing. If you can’t resist spewing negativity, your comments will all go into moderation. I hope we can come to an understanding.

      You have a great day.

  7. Another good thing to do with regard to food: take a good look at your fridge and freezer contents. Cook some meals out of what is in there and then refreeze in serving size portions.

  8. These are mostly LOW money suggestions.

    Here are a couple NO money ideas:

    1. Meet all your neighbors and find out what use you can be to them.
    2. Figure out a way to GROW food, and make other things.

    1. I like it! Got one or two other no money or next to no money suggestions:

      If you have any kind of arable dirt, try cutting a potato up and sprouting the eyes, then planting them. Potatoes grow pretty well indoors, so I could see taking an old plastic tote and making a tater hill in it. I know because I had a potato plant in my dorm room over 20 years ago.

      It’s also possible to sprout birdseed, and actually even plant it to get millet and sunflower seed plants – they have to be pesticide free. You can sprout it for eating, or plant it for the plants. I actually got a few nice black oil sunflowers out of some old ratty birdseed.

      Also, if you have neighbors with unpicked fruit or nuts, you can offer to clean up their yards for them and preserve the fruit.

      Lastly, exercise is free, and you might also want to try an intermittent fasting habit. Less food eaten equals less money spent or less to put by. Or do what I’m doing this afternoon, I’m boiling a big pot of beans to have for a few meals. It’s good practice for using your preps, it’s healthy, it’s cheap, and the money saved on those meals can go toward preps.

  9. I like trying to stretch my food dollar so that I can take a buck or two or even five to put towards preparedness when there isn’t a lot of money in the account.
    Grabbing whole chickens for instance gives one meal for the meat, and one meal for the bones.
    In other words, double duty from the one purchase.
    Eggs are a cheap protein source and breakfast for supper can be a cheap way to feed the family.
    Foraging for wild edibles is a possibility if you’ve learned about plants.
    One can always recycle metal (aka scrapping metal) to generate a couple bucks here and there.
    Sometimes useful survival stuff can be found when tearing things down.
    For instance I grabbed the stainless steel rod from inside a broken printer and turned it into a stabbing jig for picking up pop cans. Can picker upper, or self defense tool? You decide. It was almost free. I used some dollar store epoxy but every other component was salvaged from the trash. To sharpen it I just ground the rod down on the sidewalk.
    The Depression era saying “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” should become the mantra of those who always seem to have more month than they do cash.
    Learn what you can, think outside the box, be adaptable, look for free stuff, and divert what resources you can to the areas you have prioritized for preparedness.

    1. Prison shanks definitely have a place in the arsenal.
      In the absence of proper weapons for a variety of reasons be it money, restricted location such as prison or cruise ship, availability etc. your only limits are the resources and mind.
      A $4 machete from Harbor Freight can go a long ways to defense, game processing and shelter builds.
      I’ve seen many guys stabbed with a number 2 pencil in the neck. Sheaths can be made from a little tape and a toilet paper roll. Tape n shredded cloth go a long ways into making a handle.
      Your not going to tackle an issue the same as a guy with an AR and kit but don’t overlook things due to lack of money.

  10. Thank you Daisy for the useful info! Much appreciated! Not much time left but can do what we can do, right. Thanks again.

    1. This is for people who have no extra money to spend, as I explained in the article.

      I know this may seem off-message for a website like mine. Yes, I always prefer organic foods. Yes, I’m the “Organic Prepper.”

      But I’m also a sensible prepper who is rooted in the real world. I’ve been too broke to buy any food, much less organic. If someone has an extremely tight budget, just adding some calories to their pantry is what is the most important right now. If you had a choice between 3 organic suppers per week or 7 non-organic ones, which would you choose? Would you opt for your kids to skip dinner 4 days a week because it’s not organic? That is legitimately the situation people are finding themselves in right now.

      My goal is to speak to the situation, not preach the gospel of whole food regardless of circumstances.

  11. It always settles my mind to get up and DO something. If nothing else, go through all your kitchen cabinets. I suggest taking one at a time and removing everything in them then wiping them clean. As you put items back remember to check experation dates. I use canned goods a year past the date stamped, but use your own judgment. It often results in having more room for storage.

    Who ever dreamed back in March that this pandemic would last so long. I went through all my cabinets, closets and storage back then and it not only gave me insight into what I have and need, but also makes me feel better prepared for whatever this winter brings.

  12. This article is perfect for anyone with or without extra $’s. Lots of great ideas from the other folks, too.
    A project of mine is building some shelves with found and reclaimed wood. Even a small set of shelves will help in reducing the footprint from the clutter as you mention in your Organize Your Supplies section.

    The dollar store is a great place for puzzles. I was at a book store the other day and a comparable 300 piece puzzle was $10. Also, used bookstores and thrift shops are great for books.

    Lastly, if you haven’t done it already, you are a bit behind… time to add the additional warm clothing and gear to your go bags and car-kits.

    I know, I know. I’m preaching to the choir again.
    Thanks Daisy.

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