Building up a stockpile from scratch can be expensive and financially demanding, but if you’re serious about prepping, it’s a financial burden that will have to be overcome. Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to lessen the blow to your wallet, even if you’re on a tight budget.
Treat Your Stockpile Like an Investment
Don’t like eating dried fruit? Don’t stock up on it! Prefer pasta over rice? Buy more of the pasta. Only like one type of shampoo? Don’t bother buying any other kind. When stockpiling, buy items that you would like to eat, drink, or use, and don’t be afraid to start going through your stockpile as you add to it. Rotating items in your stockpile is good. Eating through older food and continually replacing it with new food keeps your stock fresh and helps you keep track of any potential expiry dates (no matter how long into the future you think they may be).
You shouldn’t be picturing your stockpile as a large closet or room where you simply dump food and other products because you might need them one day. A stockpile should be a regularly used thing, accessed and utilized daily or weekly. A stockpile shouldn’t just be there in case doomsday arrives and the shit hits the fan so hard that everyone but you is starving. It should be a back up in case you just can’t go to the grocery store this week, in case you want to try saving gas money by taking less trips to the mall, or even, heaven forbid, in case you have some sort of emergency or have financially difficult times and can’t afford to pay for expensive grocery bills. A stockpile ensures you’re okay and well fed even if you hit your own personal rock bottom. It ensures you peace of mind – that even if all else goes wrong, at least you’ll never starve. You’ll always have food on the table, some medicine in case you get sick, and of course some extra toilet paper: because we all know living without that would suck.
So don’t think about your stockpile as though it’s an expensive tool you bought and stuffed in the back of the garage to gather dust simply because it “might come in handy one day.” Think of it as your own personal convenience store, combined with a small emergency scenario insurance plan.
There’s no rule that says you have to have a reasonably sized stockpile overnight. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to spend a lot on stockpiling goods, or even if you would rather be a little more frugal at the moment, say because you have quite a few big payments this month, don’t hesitate to take small steps instead of big ones toward building up your stockpile.
For growing your non-perishable food stockpile, I’d recommend trying to cover one type of food or household item per week: say buying an extra bag or two of rice per person the first week, an extra 5 or 10 cans of beans the next, etc. Try to circle around the food groups as much as possible, so that you don’t end up with too many carbs and not enough proteins, for instance.
Keep an Eye Out for Deals and Specials
This is by far the best way to make sure you get the most bang for your buck when working on your stockpile. It also goes well in line with the previous tip. Week by week, scan flyers and discount sites for any deals they may be having. Comparison shop if you have the time. If one or more items looks good to you, get a reasonable supply of those products. Wait for other items you may be interested in to go on sale, and in the meantime, spare your wallet the extra loss.
If you live in countries like the United States or Canada, sales can make a big difference, especially when buying in bulk, since products at times regularly drop to around 50 or 75% of their original price.
For household items like shampoo, bleach, soap, tissue paper, paper towels, and toilet paper, buy in huge bulk when there is a substantial sale, so that you don’t have to worry about purchasing these products between sales when they are more costly. Ideally, try keeping at least 3 months to a year’s worth of household products, and check your stock at least once a month to make sure it isn’t depleting faster than you expected. Buying in large bulk when an item is on sale not only reduces cost, but it also gives you time to wait for another good sale, in case sales are more spaced out with the product you want to buy.
Buy Quality Items
If you go through one-ply toilet paper about three times faster than two-ply toilet paper, you should really be spending the extra dollar to buy two-ply. Same goes for quality medical supplies or clothes. If you have to replace your Band-Aid once a day, but buying Elastoplast will keep your cut covered up until it’s healed, you might as well spend a bit more to get the box of Elastoplast. If your cotton socks are getting worn after two weeks of wear, but the expensive wool socks you bought have lasted a year and a half, splurge just the once and get the expensive wool socks. Saving in the short run isn’t wise when you can have bigger savings in the long run.
Don’t (Always) Buy Brand Name
Just because it’s brand name doesn’t mean it’s better. Of course, many times we will like a certain brand of food better than another, or find that a certain type of medicine is much more effective than the non-brand name alternative, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. The next time you’re in a grocery store, if you haven’t pledged your unwavering loyalty to Heinz Ketchup, try a cheaper brand, or a no-name alternative. If you don’t like it better, you can cut your losses and continue buying Heinz. Otherwise, you’ve made a decision that will make the rest of your ketchup-buying days cheaper.
With medicine, it’s relatively easy to find out which brands are important to the product, and which are equivalent if not better bought as non-brand name items.
If you really like buying brand name or you find that a certain brand name product is much more effective, keep an eye out for coupons online, in store, or in the mail. Many brands will give out coupons that heavily discount the price of brand name products, which can be very advantageous for a person looking to stockpile said items.
Prioritize Stockpile Purchases
If you’re just starting out and you want to eventually have a stockpile for food, household items, medicine, and tradable goods, note that not all of these categories should be set at the highest priority. Food should probably be the highest on the list, though household items, because they are relatively inexpensive and go on sale quite frequently, should probably be stockpiled at the same time as food items are.
Once you have a good amount of household items stockpiled, you will likely be able to neglect this category for extended periods of time (months or even years), as these items never expire and so can be stored without any consideration unlike most long expiry date food. After having acquired a good amount of food and household items for your stockpile (maybe about a month’s worth), you should start to look into buying medicine.
Unlike the other two categories, medicine will need to be replenished much less often, yet at the same time, it often expires much more quickly. You might find it better to begin to stockpile medicine as you need it, i.e., when you get sick. This will make sure that the expiry date is the latest it can possibly be. That being said, not all medicines should be thrown out as soon as they expire. Most medicines are fine to take after their expiry date, and simply get weaker (rather than more dangerous to take) with age. Do a quick check online if you aren’t sure whether or not it is fine to take a certain medicine after it’s expiry date has passed.
The last thing you will want to stockpile are tradable goods. Sure, you might feel like you’re investing if you buy a brick of gold once a month, but if you’re on a tight budget, that money would be better kept in a separate savings account as an emergency fund. What happens if the roof leaks and you need to fix it? That brick of gold is going to take a while to sell and trying to sell in a hurry will likely mean you’ll get less for it than you otherwise would have. Thus, until you’re completely happy with all of your other stockpiles (you have enough food, household items, and medicine to last you however long you want your stockpile to allow you to last), you should probably veer away from working on your tradable goods stockpile.