Guest Post: Fast Food Store Bargain Hunter

Fast Food Store Bargain Hunter

by Jennifer S. in Sparks


There will be different opinions on the morality of this article once it has been read and I will accept that.  Some people will consider it stealing, while some will consider it borderline.  Others will agree with me and say go for it. Whatever your thoughts are, we all need to prep and get new folks into prepping and with the cost of food and other supplies where it is today, I believe this is a great way to get people started and to continue to beef up your own supply list without abandoning the idea entirely since the bills still need to be paid. My thought is that these items are built into the cost of our bill anyhow.


I went through a pretty nasty divorce about 8 years ago.  It got to the point that I had to move out of my own home in the middle of the day using a large u-haul and many friends.  A restraining order was put into place and I had to have my children stay with their grandmother.  I had lost my job due to the issues I had to deal with everyday and had nowhere to live.  I ended up moving in with my boyfriend (don’t worry; I wasn’t dating him until the marriage was over and he had nothing to do with the breakup).  We were pretty tight on money since I didn’t have a job.  My boyfriend was working of course but money was still tight.  That’s when I started to snag extra napkins at a fast food joint to save as extra toilet paper when we would order off the dollar menu.


I got back into the working world shortly after that, saved up and moved into an apartment with my kiddos.  I was only down for about 2 months which was great.  As a single mother of two (boyfriend and I were maintaining separate places at this time – not that serious yet), I felt the purse strings get pretty tight.   Once in a while I would grab an extra couple plastic forks from the fast food places when my kids would be treated with a happy meal.  This would help me use less water.  Little things like this seemed to help and just kept adding up in the kitchen.


Fast forward about 5 years.  That boyfriend of mine has turned into a husband and he convinces me that we need to start prepping.


Okay look, I’ve been through some rough times financially.  There is a huge difference not working, then working and supporting two kids on your own.  Then getting married and having two incomes and health insurance – BUT, once a poor single mom, always a poor single mom in the mind.  Prepping, while very well received by me, was horribly expensive and intimidating – I have built up a decent stock.  We have canned food, dehydrated food, water, frozen food (lets hope the power stays on!), extra medicine and medical supplies, I have even splurged and bought an army bag which keeps frozen food frozen for up to 5 days.  I’ve got a bug out bag for each of my kids with meds and enough clothes to last a week.


What about the smaller food stuffs?  You know, the necessities that we don’t really think about?  Oh no….I’ve reverted back to being a fast food store bargain hunter.


This is a list of items that you can grab to add to your preps – little things that add up and will make life a little more enjoyable – my children have embraced the prepper life and will grab some of these for me when they are out with their grandmother to add to our stock (what a wonderful way for them to get involved and feel prepared instead of scared!) – it’s also a great suggestion for people who don’t think they can afford to prep – get started small!


1.)    Napkins – We have already touched on this – napkins will be much better than newspaper or leaves when nature calls and you’ve run out of your rolls.

2.)    Plastic Silverware – Yup, we’ve touched on this one too but grab yourself a couple of extra forks, spoons, knives and even straws when you order out.  This is going to save your water usage so you will have more for drinking – wipe them off with your prepper napkins when your done and you are good to go!

3.)    Salt, Pepper & Sugar Packets – These are very necessary to add to your food preps.  Not only will they spice up your meals when you start getting bored but they will be a great barter item!  (I wonder how many pre 82’ pennies you could get for a packet of salt?)

4.)    Lemon Juice, Vinegar, Jellies, Salad Dressing, Soup Crackers – Yeah, we are not stopping with salt and pepper. Just think about all those little packets of condiments that are at different places when you go out!  Grab them up!

5.)    Wet Wipes! – This is one of my favorites – nearly every place to eat out at gives you wet wipes now a days and if they don’t, just ask for some – great for cleaning up when you are in a pinch.

6.)    Lotions, Shampoos & Conditioners – I gotta get off topic of fast food places for these last two items – whenever ever you are a hotel snag these items.  The soaps too.  Have housekeeping come in each day and replenish the stock and take those also – these are in fact built into the price of the hotel and if you are paying an amenity fee which is very popular in Las Vegas you are paying extra for them.  I’ve got a large shoebox full of these items and I’ll be getting more very soon.

7.)    Coffee packets & oatmeal – these are two food items that I pick up at hotel stays as well – the coffee packets from the hotel room and the oatmeal from the continental breakfast.  Great shelf life on the oatmeal and the coffee packets are in their own little filters so you don’t have to worry about filtering your coffee in a SHTF situation!!!


There are tons of other things that you can take a few extra of each time just to stock up on.  One that I left off is taco sauce – seriously, you can have a stock of hot, mild, medium  and green sauces – I actually washed out 3 old spaghetti sauce jars and labeled each one hot, mild or medium and I keep a regular sauce of extra packets in my kitchen and use those instead of buying sauce from the store.  Ketchup?  Mustard?  What other things can you think of?


For me, this is a great way to beef up your existing stock with supplements to barter with.  It’s also a great way to get a new prepper into it because they will be amazed how fast it builds up which can inspire them to get a tad more serious and it’s a great way to gets the kids involved!

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: Fast Food Store Bargain Hunter”

  1. Jennifer,
    First, I applaud your resilience and your honesty. Sometimes we all make mistakes and sometimes life is simply not fair; however, if we take every adversity one step at a time it is possible to come out on top. It may take a while, but most problems can be worked through if you’re willing to put the effort into it.

    Second, I agree with you that most places have the extras built into their pricing structure – not every place, but most. I still remember my college days when my room mate and I would hit up the McDonalds for Ketchup packages and the Taco Bell for Salsa. If I remember the proportions correctly we used 24 Ketchup and 6 Salsa to make one serving of “tomato sauce” for our spaghetti. Noodles were (and still are) relatively cheap. We also shot squirrels out of the trees around school with pellet rifles for the meat. Our toilet paper came from campus restrooms. Beer was 55 cents a bottle at the local pool hall, so every penny counted.

    I too take the little bottles of shampoo from my hotel stays, not so much for economy or because I believe I paid for it, but they are really good amenities for our guest bath and our cabin in the woods. I also tend to snag a couple of extra packets of raw sugar when I hit the local Starbucks – 2 in the coffee cup and 2 in the pocket.

    Not judging (I think it’s actually a pretty good tactic), but I haven’t ever taken any oatmeal from a continental breakfast – an apple for later almost always, but no oatmeal.

    I certainly don’t condone outright theft, but where my grandkids (and maybe the kids, depends on my mood) are concerned I’ll get them fed even if that means stretching the pantry with unconventional items.

  2. You are an inspiration to all Moms, Jennifer; your kids are lucky to have you for a Mom! Bless you.

    And, yes, you ARE paying for those little extras in your hotel/motel room; I used to accumulate those (DH travels a good deal) and donate them to the local homeless shelter. I now keep most of them as “bartering tools” for when IHTF (“it”).

    Personally, I believe it is wrong to take more than you need from fast food places, but when it’s put on my tray, they will throw it out – they have to, so, I never leave these behind. Just my opinion, nothing more.

  3. I don’t see anything wrong with taking these extra items seeing as how you’ve been in and bought the products they are served with. Only if you had walked in off the street and pocketed them and then walked out again would I consider it theft. I’d say you were maximising the perks.

  4. Jennifer,
    Great to hear your store. Good job getting out of a hole.

    I always take the shampoo, both soap, pens, etc from hotel rooms. I have several boxes of this stuff. I figure if IHTF (I like this) I will not only have barter but can make little packets to give to people in need if I would like. As for ketchup, taco sauce, etc they include the cost of the packets in your meal. If they put it in your bag or on your tray- well waste not, want not.
    Good article. Thanks for sharing.

  5. My husband and I made a conscious decision not to eat at fast food or other restaurants. We only very occasionally have to stay at a motel, if I have to see a doctor who is out of the area. In my opinion at least, the outrageous prices these establishments charge negate any savings. I was at the grocery store last week, and I saw a box of plastic forks for 69 cents, which I picked up and stored back.

  6. HEY… what do you think they put that stuff out there for!!?? If you patronize an establishment and take some (not all) of the things that are put out (to be taken) so be it… If you have ever worked in the food/hospitality business you would know that the amount of stuff that gets thrown away or wasted is mind blowing… Jen God bless you for having the guts to put it out there… when it comes to feeding my loved ones or not, I will do WHAT EVER IT TAKES… Keep Stack’en :- ))

  7. It disheartens me to read an account such as this. Have you heard the adage “penny wise and pound foolish?” Focusing on mustard and ketchup packets is not the best way to invest your time. If you were to collect jars of such items, it would take up valuable real estate in your home. And I think we all help ourselves to hotel toiletries, extra salsa packets and the like as it is.

    I meet so many people investing their time foolishly, it really is troubling to me. I’ve wasted hours on eBay, for example, going back and forth with someone nitpicking over a couple dollars. I know my time is much more valuable than $2, and if that amount of money means that much to that woman (yes, it’s always a woman) then she has no business even being on the site. She needs to go out and get a job. But I digress.

    You are thinking like a poor person by your own admission. I understand the mindset produced by tough times. Most of us have been there. It is better to learn from it and move on now that times are better. Look up from the $2 savings and see all the opportunity around you. There are 1,000’s of dollars to be made all around you. There really are. You just have to see it. Choose to stop being destined for eternal poverty by refusing to think like a poor person. You owe it to yourself, and more importantly you owe it to your kids. Namaste.

  8. If someone has the money and the somewhat wasteful mindset to frequent fast food joints, then taking a few packets, sporks, or napkins is ‘ok’. But is is pure irony that someone who is hurting for money would *ever* pay for fa$t food in the first place. It is infinitely more affordable to buy and prepare your own meals, always. Purchasing fa$t food KEEPS poor people poor. Even dollar menu items are not frugal enough unless you have a solid paycheck.
    So, yes, if someone pockets an extra sugar at $TARBUCK$ of all places, that person easily has enough money to buy every darned thing s/he needs more inexpensively in the market, not in a chain food/drink place.

  9. WOW! Having never been homeless or in need of food or toiletries, I feel blessed. I have seen the homeless Veterans come into our Hospital Canteen and pocket items for use later. I also try to slip them a few dollars when I think it will help them out. I hope I never have a need to walk in their shoes, but isn’t that why we PREPARE? Yes, we will do whatever is required to care for our family including riding shotgun on a Budweiser truck if needed. We live in a land of plenty, but not everyone has access to it. We all are given the opportunities as they present, but some follow a different path. Feel the Bliss yet?

  10. I have begun to prep during the last two years. One thing I had already started prepping without realizing it was those ‘extras’ at the fast food places. I would save these and the cheese and pepper packs from pizza. If we ran low on ketchup before payday I opened the packs and filled the bottle(s). Same thing goes for the grated cheese bottle, etc…

    After I started thinking about the ‘life after…’ I cleaned out the drawer were these were stored, divided them and put them in our BOBs. I figured if we were only able to find one bag after the earthquake or ‘life after..’ we would have a way to flavor our food or something to use for trade.

    On the few occasions I have stayed at hotels I have taken the complimentary soap and shampoo. I normally put them in my toiletries bag to use for my next trip. That way no matter how unexpected the trip I know I have the supplies without the bulk of normal sized bottles. Since I began prepping I have also included these into the BOBs.

    Obviously our bags are for short term use. I have tried to include as many things as we might need. The bags are too heavy right now and need to be repacked and lightened.

    Any item that is free and there for my use and I can use for my prepping, I will. So much of these items are thrown away and wasted because of the way the laws are written. I would rather take and use them than have them go to the dump. More power to all my fellow preppers!

  11. I do it all the time. Packets of Miracle Whip or real Moyonaise, ketchup.mustard, salt&pepper. Its all good and can last indefinately.It’s not stealing if they come complimentary with meals, plus a few extra on the way out. I have boxes of them and plan to continue till the SHTF or not.

  12. Now i know why a lot of fast food places no longer have this stuff out.Sure i have some packed and keep some in the cars. But as a prepp item its not for me.


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