Prepping for Cheapskates

by Amber Waldroup

Everywhere you look these days, you see posts, articles, and tips on how to prepare for the future—economic crisis, military takeover, environmental disaster, or whatever SHTF scenario you’re planning for. You can even find tips on prepping cheaply. For me, a $100 prep isn’t cheap. That’s a big deal for me. For me, prepping cheaply is something for $5. $1. $0.25. Or free.

What? You can prep for free? Why, yes, yes you can! It’s simple, but not always easy. It involves work, planning, time, and dedication. But I’m doing it. One freebie at a time. No, I’m not building a stockpile of massive proportions. But I’m doing what I can with what I have, which often isn’t much.

Here’s my background: my hubby works for a small, rural county. Not great pay, but a job nonetheless. And after losing his job as a computer guy for a local business, this job is great because it (usually, or, more accurately, eventually) pays the bills. I am a stay at home Mom. It’s cheaper than day care for the two kids.

One kid is about to start school, the other is a few years from that journey. We have cut the budget to the bare minimum. Groceries and household necessities like toilet paper, diapers, and soap. Gas. Insurance. Utilities. Mortgage. Eating out is a treat. Vacations are a thing of the past. Clearance and final markdown are required words for most purchases.

Yet, I have a small stockpile, though it’s no where big enough for my comfort, or for the comfort of the hard core preppers in my family. I have food, toiletries, and paper items stashed in closest and pantries in my house. How? Coupons and sales, that’s how.

Today, for example, the one of the grocery stores in my area had a sale on toothpaste and toothbrushes, $1 each. Not bad, though the toothpaste is not my first choice of toothpaste. It will keep until I need it, either when things get really bad in this country, or if something happens and I don’t know where our next dollar will come from.

Here’s how I spent $0.25 for 2 tubes of toothpaste and 2 toothbrushes. I had two $1 off coupons for the toothbrushes from a mailer I got. Toothbrushes for $2.79 on sale for $1 minus $1 coupon equals free toothbrushes.

I cut a $0.50 coupon from the Sunday paper for the toothpaste, and a $0.75 coupon from the same insert. My store doubles coupons up to $0.50, so that coupon became $1. One tube cost me nothing, and the other was $0.25. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Now, I’m not an extreme couponer by any means. In fact, they kinda make me a little ill.  I mean, shelf clearing, cheating, and faking coupons ruin it for everyone. I bought 1 newspaper, had 1 mailer, and only bought 2 of each item. That’s enough for me. Next month when the sale is on again, I’ll do it again.

How do I find such great deals? Easy. Facebook. I have a couple of savings sites that I like. I follow ones for my area and the stores that I like. I check out their weekly ad and coupon match-ups, print the coupons that are online and pull the ones from inserts out of my coupon binder. I make a careful list, and I know the rock bottom prices and what I’m willing to pay for something.

For example, I don’t like to pay more than $5 for a package of 12 double rolls of toilet paper. I also like to have at least one unopened package in the house in addition to the one we are currently using. ( I know, that’s not nearly enough for a SHTF scenario, but remember, we’re broke!)

During my reconnaissance for today’s grocery trip, I found toilet paper on sale for $5.99. I had grabbed a pack of toilet paper during my back to school shopping trip at the big box store last week, so I didn’t need it, and it certainly was over my personal price limit.

But wait one minute—is that a coupon I spy? Yes, and as a matter of fact, there were two coupons. I had a coupon that printed in the store a few weeks ago for $1.50 off that brand of toilet paper, and there was an internet printable for $0.50 off.

Remember how my store doubles? Now we’re within my price range. I decided to go ahead and get two packs, because I had the coupons, and toilet paper doesn’t go bad.

I had done well enough with my other shopping (thanks to coupons and sales) that I had the extra. One pack of good toilet paper cost me $4.99, the other $4.49. We’re getting closer to our goals, one pack of on-sale toilet paper at a time.

And as a side note, buying those two pack of toilet paper got me a coupon for $3.50 off my next shopping trip. That’s a little over 1/3 off my kid’s night time diapers—we’re potty training, so diapers are still in our lives—or more free toothbrushes, or a gallon of milk.

Either way, it’s more for me to use for my family. As another side note, I also got free body wash and a couple of bars of soap for $0.50, thanks to combining coupons and sales.

Each toothbrush, each tube of toothpaste, each roll of toilet paper, each can of beans, each box of noodles that you get for free or cheap is that much more insurance against an unsure future. Whether you think of your personal future—job stability, local disaster, etc—or the country’s future, it’s all uncertain.

But for me, a couple of tubes of toothpaste, a few toothbrushes, and some toilet paper that I paid almost nothing for stand between me and that murky future.

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10 thoughts on “Prepping for Cheapskates”

  1. Excellent info, Amber! Thanks for sharing.

    With just a few subtle changes in our spending habits, we can save a significant amount of money. Or as my wife, Laura, put it in a post over on our site “Finding Money”, you can reclaim a lot of money that is going out the door without any forethought.

    Have you ever used a site called My wife likes it a lot; helps her to plan and save money at the grocery stores. It’s a subscription site but it pays for itself (we’re not affiliated with the site in any way other than being subscribers).

    Thanks again, Amber!


  2. Great post and great information. I try to tell my co-workers and family members exactly what you are saying. It doesn’t take much to be ahead of the curve. I live in Florida and we have a lot of storms that don’t make the news. You don’t need a huge stock pile of stuff. A small store of things can help you to not be those folks out there competing for resources at the last minute. I see people at the stores on the news fighting over the last piece of plywood or package of toilet paper. You don’t want to be those people. Eventually you’ll have a significant store of stuff, just keep up the good work.

  3. I recently came across a pretty good price on white rice – our local Dollar Tree stores had 3 lb bags of white rice for $1.00. They usually carry 1.5 bags but for some reason had the 3 lb bags. I picked up 40 bags over the course of about 3 weeks. Just thought I’d share that with you in case your Dollar Tree store has a similar deal.

  4. This was a fun post! I’ve been having issues of late picking up on sale items for stock. Not sure why…..time to get my butt back in gear.

  5. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for the comments (everyone else too!). I haven’t used that particular site. I’m a fan of and They show ads with coupon match-ups, list freebies, and have other great info to help me plan my shopping trip. I follow them on Facebook, because that’s easier for me than subscribing to email feeds–they’d get lost in all the others! There’s also another page on FB that I like for its other sales, like at drug stores and the like. It’s local for me, so my suggestion for anyone is to find a similar page or blog and follow it for the best deals in your specific area.

    I hate the idea of being someone who fights for the last loaf of bread or last gallon of milk before an impending storm. Where we live, we aren’t generally impacted by storms that can be predicted in advance, except for winter storms and the remnants of hurricanes–no such luck predicting tornadoes with accuracy yet. And believe me, when we do get snow in my part of the South, the shelves are CLEARED! I like knowing that I don’t have to rush out at the last second, and that I am prepared in advance.

    Doing what you can, no matter how little it seems to be, puts you ahead of the game in so many ways. That one freebie/cheapy that you found may mean a lot more to someone who doesn’t have it than you could ever imagine.

    Jennifer, I know it’s hard to get going again–I had slacked off my couponing because of the time involved, but I just feel like I don’t have the time to NOT do it, since I don’t have the funds to do what I want all at once. Good luck getting back in the saddle again!

    Thanks again, everyone. I appreciate the positive feedback!


  6. Thanks for the info. Nice well thought out article, very well written, and easy to follow. This gives me a good starting point without breaking the bank.

  7. Great info!! I have never been much of a “couponer”, but maybe I should give it a serious look again! Toothbrushes AND toothpaste for 25 cents?!!!! What a thrifty shopper you are. We all need to watch every penny these days.

  8. I follow the same techniques. And I am fortunate enough to live within 5 minutes of each of the major grocery stores, so I check the flyers, and make my list. I subscribe to some coupon sites, and follow a blogger in the next city who tracks the major sales and coupons from the same places I shop at, and she is a great help.

    I’m a prepper, but I disguise my preparedness with the folks at work by telling everyone that I’m a cheap bastard. I hate to pay full price for anything. So when something is on for a good price, I will buy it. Just today, the grocery store close to where I work had “ready to serve” soups on clearance for 60% – 70% off the regular prices. Smokey Bacon Clam Chowder, Teriyaki Beef Vegetable Noodle, and Southwestern Chicken and Bean Soup.

  9. I can’t stress enough the importance of stocking up from places like ALDI or Save-A-Lot.

    I just stocked up on more canned food today, and paid approx. $0.59/can for 15 oz cans of potatoes, mixed fruit, etc.

    Considering the same food costs $1.00/can at the major grocery stores, that’s almost double the number of cans I can purchase, staying within the same budget.


  10. I’m getting back into the whole couponing thing…a bit more seriously this time. Thanks for showing me that stockpiles are built “one sale at a time.” 🙂


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