Exactly 1 month ago, I received a question from a reader of Survival Pulse’s daily news asking for urgent advice. Unfortunately, when I sent an email back to the address written into the contact form, the email bounced, and so there’s almost no way for me to find the person who this response was meant for to pass this information on to her.
Nonetheless, I find posting it here useful, considering #1 – by some lucky fluke I may be able to reach Mary, and #2 – I feel like this is a really great question that would benefit a lot of people who aren’t in the exact same position as she is, but who also worry as they want to start prepping even though they have little to no extra income to do so with.
Let’s start off with Mary’s question:
Mary’s Prepping Without Money to Spare Question
I am writing to you because at this point I am a little scared. I am a single mom with two girls in college. One of them is pregnant and due mid October. I have been reading the internet about buying special food and backpacks etc. however as a single mom, who just went through breast cancer, I don’t have money to spare. We would probably be the least likely to survive if we took off somewhere. We have everything working against us. I can feel it in my bones that something is ready to happen. With the possiblities of a nuclear weapon, and EMP, the financial market collapsing….. I don’t have too much hope right now. I don’t want to be a sitting duck either, but I think I will have to be whether I like it or not. I just wanted to know what you could suggest.
Our Response: Advice Prepping With Little to No Money
Let me start off by saying – with regards to surviving if you took off somewhere – don’t even bother to entertain the thought. There are many people who think about surviving in the wilderness with little to nothing if the SHTF – and quite honestly I do believe that not many of them would be able to do it. It’s much safer to bug in, and if you do desperately need to leave your home for any reason (because of intruders, say), it’s better to have a back up place to go to (this can be a family member’s house even!).
Concentrate on bugging in, especially when you’re first starting out. Later, you can work on a bug out plan, but if you don’t have enough to bug in for long, that’s where you should be concentrating your efforts. Chances are high that you will not be driven out of your home by intruders; and unless you live in a place that may be hit by really terrifying natural disasters (very bad hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.), it’s a pretty safe bet to make that you’ll be able to be at home when an emergency happens. Home is quite frankly the safest place to be unless there is a direct threat anyway – things are where you put them, you have access to a lot more goods and supplies than you can carry with you – there are so many advantages to bugging in so that, if it’s an option, I would recommend bugging in over bugging out.
With regards to buying food, backpack, gear, etc.: don’t do this. Not if you don’t have money to spare.
It’s very important if you’ve got very little to no extra money each month that that money you do have does not go toward expensive survival food and gear.
The very best way, and I truly do mean this, of making sure you’re as prepared as you can be when you’re first starting out, is not to go out and buy expensive survival foods and gear, but to go to the grocery stores, bulk stores, and wholesale stores near you, find the best prices on foods that will last nearly forever, take advantage of coupons, sales, discounts, and bulk buying, and forget about the overpriced items everyone’s pitching online.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a place in the market for expensive survival foods – there is – just not for beginner preppers. And I’m really and truly serious about this: even if you did have some extra cash lying around, I wouldn’t tell you to spend it on survival food packets, I would tell you to get your supply of long-term expiry date foods you can get in a grocery store to be pretty large first.
What kinds of food you specifically should be stockpiling are listed in this article here. I forget what I should be stockpiling, too, and often found myself buying things that would expire sooner rather than later (canned goods, pasta sauces, etc.). It’s why I have this list in the first place – so I can refer back to it myself. There are benefits to getting canned goods that won’t expire for another year or two, but there’s a much bigger benefit (you don’t have to worry about the expiry date at all!) for getting foods that have very long-term shelf lives. I’m talking about things like rice and honey – yes, they don’t taste as amazing as they once did after years and years, but they still remain edible plenty of years later, which is why you should want the foundation of your stockpile to be made up of these kinds of foods.
There are many kinds of rice that last aaagesss (white, wild, jasmine, basmati, etc.). I’d recommend stocking up on all the types of rice you’re happy eating, and ignoring the rest. As a rule of thumb, you want to be stocking up on something you’d be happy eating, and not something you’d only eat just for the sake of surviving – which is why those special food packs aren’t the greatest when you’re first starting out. Yes, they last so very many years – but you definitely won’t be as happy eating them over something else if you’re given the choice – and right now you still have a choice.
Also – the pricing of these is inhibitive when you’re first starting out prepping. When you could buy three absolutely massive bags of white rice, jasmine rice, and basmati rice (total of 30 pounds of food!!) for the same price as just one case of 14 SoPakCo MREs (meals ready to eat), who in their right mind would advise you to go for the MREs over the rice? Unless 1- You’re going to be bugging out (which I’ve already explained is less favourable than bugging in – unless you must), or 2- You’ve already got food that will last you for the next 5 years and you want to start extending the shelf life of your stockpile to 10 years+, you shouldn’t be buying these kinds of survival food packs.
Not only that, but you’re really not missing out on much in terms of taste, I promise. The SoPakCo MREs taste pretty dang bad, as most MREs do. And while there are MREs that taste a lot better than others (we actually really like Valley Food Storage products for taste; their Mango Habanero Chili was great!), are they as good as a home cooked meal? No! Of course not!
Have a garden? Start planting apple trees, grape vines, lemon trees, berry bushes, pear trees – anything and everything that gives fruit or vegetables you like that preferably will grow by itself with little to no attention from you. This may cost you a little, this may cost you nothing (if you have friends that are willing to let you take parts of their plants or cuttings from them), but one thing is for sure – in the long-run, you’re getting free food, and you’ll continue to be able to get this free food even after an emergency strikes. The free food should also be able to help you cut down your grocery budget over time, especially if you start making jams and canning the excess fruits and veggies, which will help you to be able to save for other preps in the future.
Need more tips on how to stockpile when you don’t have much money? Read these 10 tips for stockpiling on a budget and try to implement as many as possible. Also, do yourself a favour and learn about how you can build up your stock of things for free or next to nothing – there are a lot more ways than you might think.
You see, while everything may be working against you, there’s always room for you to wiggle your way to being more and more prepared.
Preparedness happens slowly. So slowly! It takes most of us years before we even feel a little more prepared. But one day you will be able to look back and be proud of the time you took your worry, your fear, threw it out the window and just started prepping.
With the little money you have, you’re going to have to be very smart about how you prep – looking for ways to get things done that are either cheap or free. You are going to have to be very cautious with your money indeed, but it’s totally doable, I promise.
While it may feel like you need a slew of amazing survival gear products, and all these amazing long-living survival food products that are on the market, and while those help exponentially when you get to a certain level of prepping – you aren’t there yet! And so you don’t have to worry about buying them.
The most important thing you can do right now to protect yourself and your family is to get a food and water stockpile going, and that’s more a matter of being vigilant and stalking stores flyers for sales and discounts and making sure you buy things with very long term expiry dates that are available in regular grocery stores, than it has to do with money. I promise you don’t need much.
Start with a water stockpile – that should be near free. Then start with a food stockpile – concentrating on rice, dried pasta, dried lentils, and dried beans as your base. Once you have enough food to last you and your family around 3 months – you will feel so much relief. Extend that to be able to last you 6 months and you’re honestly in good shape. Even if it takes you 3 months to get to the point where you have enough stockpiled – who cares! That’s not a lot of time.
If something bad is on the horizon, it will likely take many months to escalate. You have time before things get bad to stock up. Right now, there’s plenty of time, even if things start to get bad in the upcoming months. You have time; really you do! Even if something is brewing. Take advantage of the time you’ve got while you still have it!
If you have a survival, preparedness, or gear related question you’d like us to answer, don’t hesitate to let us know! Find out how to reach us via the contact page. Although we don’t publish every question we’re asked on the blog, we try our best to respond to each and every one we receive.
In case you’re interested, you can also view our past responses to reader questions here.
Been there says
Sometimes you can learn a new skill and help your budget by helping others. A neighbor asked for help canning tomatoes. I’ve only canned once before and would like to become more proficient, and I know it’s a hard job for one person, so of course I said yes. My daughter and I spent 5 hrs helping her can today. I learned a lot, and as a thank you she gave us quite a few jars! Time well spent.
Elise Xavier says
That’s great :). Actually love learning skills by watching and practicing under the guidance of someone who knows what to do. It’s so much easier than teaching yourself any other way, in my opinion.
When you’ve got a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This is all good “how to start prepping for the average person” advice. But this isn’t the average person. She certainly has significant stress in her life, and sounds at least down, if not suicidal. If “get in the best physical shape you can be” is part of a general prepping strategy, shouldn’t “get in the best mental shape you can be” also qualify?
When you’ve got problems, talking to someone who has been through similar things can help. There’s probably a cancer survivor group nearby, unless you are very very rural. There may be a single mothers breast cancer survivors group, if you’re in a bigger city. And, if you’re heading more in the depressed kind of way, call your oncologist. He or she is used to dealing with all sorts of problems related to cancer, and clinical depression is certainly one.
Elise Xavier says
Good advice, John. Something I really didn’t think about.
Angie Frank says
Totally understand the concern,fear that Mary feels regarding having lack of money for prepping.Ask around if anyone has canning jars they aren’t using and put to use.Buy in season fruit,veggies until your own garden starts producing sufficent,and can as much as possible.When making that chicken stock,make some extra and can.Even if you can a few jars everytime you make chili,soup,etc. over a few months you would be surprised.Find pressure canning in small batches very easy .Lots of literature and recipes out there on the internet or available at your local library.Be frugile,learn to sew,mend,crochet,knit,recycle,reuse,to save money.Buy at thrift stores.rummage sales.yard sales-keep lists of what is a need and what is a want.Learn to forage ,an early spring dandelion salad is delicious.Educate yourself,read,ask for advice from those who survived the depresssion.Look at your monthly bills and see where you can cut back,cut off the cable tv and make a commitment to learn a new skill,to read resource books etc.Once you take a close look at what you are doing you would be surprised what you learn about spending habits etc.It takes time is a learning process but you can do it!
Elise Xavier says
Thanks so much for sharing your advice. And yes, I toootally agree about the cable TV. Making that one change has really increased the amount of time I’ve had for other things. It’s not even that you don’t watch TV shows anymore, just that you spend time watching things when you want to – and don’t waste so much time on adverts! YouTube is a great replacement, too. Plenty of interesting documentaries even and things that can actually help you online if you’re willing to just put in a little time and energy.
Anyway, thanks so much for dropping by with your advice Angie. It’s very good advice :)
Sgt Mom says
You should be able to actually save money from your food budget by prepping. Buy extra of the things you use when you find a good sale/coupon. Buy extra large size bags/boxes of rice, noodles, beans, sugar, salt, etc. You’ll find some items that you never have to pay full price for and as you rotate food from your stocks, you’ll see how much less you paid, as the prices will just go up. Buying in larger packages (I repackage into smaller containers) you can save a ton. Also saves some of those trips to the store when “you have nothing to fix”. Learn to cook from scratch, use dried beans, and of course grow your own from heirloom seeds (so you can save seeds for the next year-saving more money).
Elise Xavier says
Oh yes – very true. In the long run it does save you money, though the upfront cost is I think what most fixate on.
Really wise words!
Very good article. Two things I would add is to not get overwhelmed, break it up into small manageable goals. Start with enough food and water for 24 hours, then 72, then a week, and so on. Make every goal small and attainable to avoid getting frazzled. Also if you don’t have any money on a given week, make your goal be something like- learn a skill, or to work some soil for a garden, work on your own physical fitness, or take note of common hazards in your area and start thinking about what would you do when they happen. The other big thing is this- if you’re broke – Start looking at your spending. Is there anything you can cut? In my case we slashed the cable, we cut way back on cell phone plans, axed the land line, never ever eat out-(do the math on that just once and you’ll see what I mean), never use a credit card, shop sales and buy in bulk. No time for a second job, your new second job is saving money by clipping coupons and comparing prices. For example I have a spread sheet comparing the 5 major grocery outlets in my area. I know where I can get the best price on things I use most frequently. Always do your math- if I stop grabbing a coffee every morning and brew my own at home, how much will I save in a week, a month, or a year. If ground beef is $4.68 a lb in one pound packages and $2.69 a lb in the 5lb family pack and I use a pound a week how much will I save over a month, a year? I pass these things along as someone who needed to learn them myself. Remember- keep calm and prep on :)
Elise Xavier says
Thanks for these tips! Very valuable, especially for beginners!
Michael Rasmussen says
hi, another possibility would be to visit the food pantries in your area. The folks that I know here would be happy to help out a single parent that is struggling. They typically have a lot of products that would be a great start to your preps.
Berean Betty says
If you use food pantries, be sure to place the rice and grains in the freezer for a week before consuming. This will kill any bug eggs in them.
good advice. i understand it is better to store white rice but i wonder how long sealed packets of rice can be stored for.