Guest Post: Preparedness on a limited budget…..

  I’ve heard many express concerns as to how they, on a small, fixed income like disability can possibly prepare when they barely get by now. I, too, am on disability. I get by on an income of only $720 monthly plus $200 in food stamps, yet, in only three months time I’ve managed to stockpile a 2-3 month food supply as well as a 6-8 month supply of toiletries. I’ve also accumulated the basic camping necessities. Where there’s a will, there absolutely is a way. The first thing you have to do is STOP WHINING, having pity parties, and saying, “I can’t.” YES, YOU CAN! Here are some ideas how to get started:
      Start living NOW as if you’re in a crisis situation and adjust your diet. Every month, the first $50 of my food stamps buys stockpile foods. I make $150 of food stretch for the month. How???  #1. Most of us eat way more than we actually need. Cut back now. Get used to rationing your food now. It’s a good way to shed those extra pounds put on from not working, and if something happens, you’ll be in better physical shape to deal with it. Eat smaller and simpler NOW. #2. Buy basics and cook for yourself. DON’T buy pre-made, processed meals which are very costly. Buy simple ingredients and make it yourself.  #3. Think ONE-POT meals. It’s more economical to buy the ingredients for a big pot of stew, soup, or casserole that will feed you for a week, than to buy ingredients for 7 different meals. THINK SURVIVAL NOW!!!  Think of your food as necessary fuel only and stop indulging your cravings and taste buds with impulsive purchases. You also can make several different pots of food, divide it into servings, and then freeze it. This way you can have some variety yet still save. Another idea I’ve made use of is meal sharing. You make the pot of food one night, freeze some and share the rest with a friend who cooks the next night. #4. Shop CLEARANCE. Buy the mark down meats. I’ve been buying “out-dated” meats for years and never have I gotten sick.  If it’s not marked down, DON’T buy it. Buy ONLY what’s on sale or clearance. Also, most dollar stores take food stamps now. Go there FIRST. Most stores have clearance shelves or tables. Go there FIRST.  #5. Make use of food give-aways whenever possible. Many churches and agencies like Salvation Army give out food on a particular day each week or month. This allows you to use more of your card toward stock-pile foods then. #7. If you live in a city, go to discount stores in the “poor” parts of town. Quite often, these stores are lower priced as they’re stocked with just- out-of-date lots bought cheaply. If it’s a shelf-stable item, who cares if it’s out-dated. If the packaging isn’t damaged, it’s still good and will continue to be dependable. I just bought 5 jars of off brand peanut butter for a $1 each at such a store. It’s dated Jan. 2012.  #6. BARTER!! If you’re low income yourself, chances are good that you know someone with several kids on welfare who’s getting a much bigger food stamp card than you. Offer to watch her kids an afternoon a week in exchange for $25 of food. And #7. LEAVE THE SODA POP FOR FOOLS WITH MONEY. Water is FREE.
     Now, as for toiletries. Again, shop bargain and dollar stores. Head straight for their clearance/reduced shelf first. Many items like denture cleanser or over-the-counter meds are dated, and end up on the clearance rack. If you’re able to, make it a habit of popping into these discount stores at least once or twice a week just to check the reduced shelf. Big Lots is a great store for this. Also, pay attention. Big Lots is the venue many companies use to initially market their new items. These items come out at Big Lots first at a can’t-be-beat price so we’ll try them. Two months ago I stocked up on a new deodorant by Sure for only $1.80 each. This same product is now $3.50. Another good habit to get into is to always look down. The cheapest items are on the very bottom shelf. The more expensive items that they want you to buy are at eye level. Flea markets are another good source for discount toiletries. Flea market guys do the same thing the discount store guys on the poor side of town do– they buy flats of just-out-of-date or clearance items from larger store chains and offer them for much reduced prices.
     Garage and yard sales are a great source of drastically reduced products as well as thrift stores. This past weekend I bought a brand new, never used pup tent and a nice, large Coleman cooler for $3 each. At Goodwill I found a never used campfire grid for cooking for only $4. Also, buy out of season. I just stocked up on warm thermal undies, socks, hats, and gloves for almost nothing at K-Mart and Walmart end of winter clearance sales. Go to K-Mart on Sundays when their usual sales are often even more deeply slashed as Sunday specials.
     If you’re thinking to yourself, “Where am I supposed to get the cash for even clearance things?” firstly, I want you to really, honestly look at how you spend the money you do have. First of all, do you smoke? That’s a HUGE budget breaker, but I bet you ALWAYS come up with cash for a cig. I know some folks always complaining how little they have, yet they always have a bag of weed for their “pain”. Do you? Do you have to have expensive cable because you can’t live without your TV? If S hits the fan, you may not have TV anymore. Detach yourself now and develop other interests like reading which is valuable AND free. How much do you waste in gas driving when you could walk or take the bus. How often do you buy a burger at McD’s or a pop or lotto tickets at the carry-out. Trust me, you’re not winning 200 million. At the time it seems like, “It’s only a couple dollars,” but those dollars add up quickly to ten or twenty in a week or month’s time. Do you know how much you could buy with that wasted $20 instead? 10 large containers of oatmeal or pancake mix, 30 cans of tuna fish, 20 1lb bags of rice or lentils, 20 tubes of Aim toothpaste, 10 grill lighters, 20 gals. of water.  How many animals do you own and feed? Having A pet is one thing, but having several you’re feeding while stressing how you’ll feed yourself when SHTF seems crazy to me.  Now I want you to look around at what all you already own. How much of it do you actually need? I bet most of it, you don’t need at all. It’s just filling up space and collecting dust. HAVE YOUR OWN SALE and get rid of everything but what you really NEED. Have a drastic down-sizing. Ask yourself this: If S really does hit the fan, how important will it be to own this item? If it has no survival value, SELL IT and buy something that does. I sorted through all my possessions and sold EVERYTHING but what I truly needed. The money I raised selling all my frivolous UNnecessaries bought prepping NECESSITIES. You simply MUST get your brain into survival mode NOW if you want to be able to prepare for a survival situation later. You must re-evaluate what truly is important and necessary. Most of what we think we need, we don’t at all. Another way I earn an extra $55 each week to put toward prepping is giving blood plasma. If you don’t have a blood bank near you, pray and ask God to show you what skills you can turn into cash. Can you sell baked goods to the corner mom-n-pop diner? Babysit? Cook a meal for a busy neighbor?
     If you truly want to get yourself prepared, there’s ALWAYS a way. Step back and take an honest look at what kind of steward you are being of what you already have. Most of us in America, even us “poor” folks have far more than we realize. 20 years ago I was blessed to go on a missions trip to Guatemala. That’s where I learned what poor REALLY looked like. I also learned what rich really is. I realize that right here in America are those living in the streets with literally nothing but what’s on their backs, but if you’re online reading this, that’s probably not you. To survive later you MUST get yourself in survival mode NOW. Re-think, re-evaluate, re-prioritize, and YOU CAN be prepared, too.
Julie S.


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  1. Nice post Julie S,

    I picked up a bunch of cheap peanut butter at my local store the other day too. I scored Jiff low fat super crunchy for $.79 each. They were being discontinued and cleared out. I don’t like the chunky version but at that price I had to have a few.

  2. Wow. Okay, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but seriously, wow. #6????? Do you know that that is illegal? It’s fraud. It’s what’s wrong with so many people. Do you realize that you are effectively stealing? Do you not think that maybe that mother needs that food for HER kids? I have to ask, is your prepper mindset really such that you think it’s okay to steal to build your own stockpile? Those benefits aren’t yours, and you shouldn’t advocate breaking the law just so you can get ahead. Maybe I’m the minority, but I can’t imagine thinking it’s okay to commit fraud–and give so many preppers a bad name, when so many of us are honest, hard working, and scrupulous. I know this isn’t my site, but I have a vested interest in making sure that it represents the values I find important, since my name is on the site on a regular basis. So you’ll forgive me if I’m overstepping my bounds. I just couldn’t let that go. I wouldn’t want a first time reader to think that preppers think stealing is okay. Because I’m pretty sure that in a SHTF situation, that mess will not end prettily for you.

    Such a shame too. Your post was good, with good tips, except for that one.

  3. I read some place that the human body could last several weeks to a months without food but that if S**t hits the fan that most Americans deprived of food would be dead in under 2 weeks because their minds could not deal with the change and they would just shut down . Thank you for this post it truly makes you think .
    Robert W

  4. Ms. Julie, I feel like giving you a huge hug! You have hit the nail right on the head with what I have to deal with in a normal day. It seems that many times when I mention stocking up on something to someone, they tell me that they just can’t afford to buy extra because money is so tight, yet I see how they are friviously spending their money on eating out, vacations, designer clothes….. I get so frustrated with these people and really want to point out that they will always be broke if they keep spending more than they are bringing in! Thank you for saying what I have been thinking for a very long time.

  5. How can this movement be for Ron Paul and limited government when its members use food stamps and live off disability? Massive hypocrisy :/

  6. I think all of these ideas are relatively common EXCEPT for the barter scenario. I hope that I speak for the majority of preppers when I say that I would NEVER take food out of the mouth of a child to fill my stash!! Not only is using some other person’s “welfare”, “food stamps” “ebt card”, whatever you want to call gubment assistance illegal, it is also immoral and unethical. This kind of behavior will give preppers a bad name AND is part of the problem with our society these days!! We do not need people like you promoting this kind of illegal behavior just to further your hoard! Will you next come after my grandmother and my parents who live on social security that they EARNED and rip them of for a few hours of cheap labor?

    I am sorry that you are disabled, but come on- taking food out of the mouths of children? That’s disgusting!

  7. There were no comments when I made mine, but then I saw yours Valerie. I am glad I’m not the only one who disagrees with her barter thought process. Makes you wonder what people will do. I wonder if she is planning on giving some of her stash to the kids she “stole” from when the SHTF?

  8. GREAT article! Way to go, Julie…kudos to you for getting the job done despite significant “roadblocks” (low income, diability). I hope that you continue to look actively look for for ways to improve your situation in life…hopefully to the point where you no longer need public assistance. I know that some people have taken issue with babysitting for food bought with food stamps. It IS illegal to allow someone else to use an EBT card, or to sell it for money. However, once the food has been purchased I think that it’s morally OK to use it as a barter item to benefit a family (of course, this assumes that the parent has assessed and met the basic food needs of the child first). Trading a small amount of food for an afternoon of babysitting is hardly the WORST thing in the world. However, I would encourage Julie to think carefully about taking food from food banks and charity kitchens. To me, that seems a bit questionable. The intent of the donation is to help feed people now, not to help them build up food stores. I would also encourage Julie to look into gardening as a way to better feed herself and prepare for the future. Obtain Mel Bartholemew’s book “Square Foot Gardening” from the library. Some dirt, water, and a few dollars worth of seeds can yield a LOT of “free” food. Get a second-hand food dehydrator and you have a way to preserve garden produce (I haven’t had to buy a tomato for over a year). Best of luck to you Julie!

  9. I keep hearing that people are cashing in on the government reverse mortgage to bolster their ready cash without having to sell or move. Maybe not such a bad idea. Leave the government holding the bag!

    They say you don’t have to draw it all out at once and you can wait till the time comes and then draw it out, no questions asked and they can’t cancel it once it’s in place.

    I’m looking into it.

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