Underground bunkers, private islands, seed vaults, pallets of freeze-dried food, preparing for emergencies is easy when your bank account is flush but that’s not the reality for most people. However preparing is not just achievable with limited resources, it’s critical. Families facing financial challenges are the most vulnerable to economic, climatic, and geopolitical upheaval. So how does one manage to put aside extra when the necessities are hard enough to come by? What follows are ten strategies that can help.
- Little and often: Just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you can’t do something. When canned tomatoes are at their lowest price get two cans instead of one. Keep track of what goes on sale when so you can make better use of your grocery budget. Keeping a price book lets you know when something is a screaming deal. It will be worth it to commit to a “cereal for supper meal” once a week to have a few extra dollars to put toward canned tuna when the price is lowest.
- Don’t buy water: The water in most of the US it perfectly fine to drink right from the tap. Ask around for empty juice and soda bottles, clean them well and fill with water and a couple of drops of bleach. Kept in a cool, dark closet, water will keep for quite some time. If you rotate, you can always have a fresh supply for no cash outlay.
- Join your local CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)): You will get valuable training, basic supplies and a connection to a community with an interest in disaster readiness.
- Check out gleaning programs: It is often possible to connect with farmers willing to let locals pick up the harvest left behind when the mechanical harvest is finished. You can fill large bags with squash or potatoes, foods that store well for just the cost of your labor.
- Swap labor for skills, tools and supplies: Offer to help with the weeding for a row in an aging neighbor’s garden. Spend an afternoon canning tomatoes in exchange for some sauce or the use of a canner. Help stack wood in exchange for access to a great apple crop. I have several young families who come use our cider press. They bring the gleaned apples and press for us while going home with gallons of terrific cider. It’s a win all around.
- Volunteer at a food pantry: No one wants to be the recipient of charity but if you volunteer at a pantry you’re providing a needed service while getting help you need during hard times. Often, food pantries have a hard time getting rid of the kind of food you need. Dried beans and whole grains are only good if you know how to prepare them. Make sure you know how.
- Start a food co-op: It isn’t as hard as it looks. Food co-ops get you rock bottom prices and if you do the work you can get a further discount. Start small. Perhaps a church group, play group, neighbors of family will provide the core. Our homeschool co-op has a small, very efficient co-op.
- Intentional thrift shopping: You have to be careful. It’s easy to get carried away at tag sales and find you spent more money that you intended because it goes out in such small amounts but those small amounts add up. Go with a list. If you are looking for hurricane lamps and sleeping bags, don’t come home with a fish tank and CD’s. Be flexible; there is no sense in passing up an excellent dehydrator because it wasn’t on the list but stick to the goal of being better prepared. Don’t be afraid to haggle. People expect it and it never hurts to offer less.
- Forage for free: What grows where you live? Here, in the Northeast, there are abandoned apple orchards everywhere. The wood are dotted with blueberry bushes and walnut trees drop nuts in late fall. If you can beat the squirrels to them, all of this food is free for the taking. learning about your local flora and fauna should be at the top of any skill building list.
- Connect: You best and most frugal preparedness supply is your community. Connect with your neighbors, perhaps get involved in local politics. You are not going to be the only one with concerns about the future of struggling to keep up with the bills. Make sure you lend as well as borrow, help as well as ask help, listen as well as talk. When we wanted the cider press I mentioned, we were discouraged by the price tag. It was way out of our budget range. By mentioning it at a gardening group meeting, we connected with four other families willing to split the cost. It’s a pressing co-op and for 7 years it has been such a blessing. I have a lot of food preservation equipment. Lifting the canner has gotten harder so I have a young woman who helps me with that in exchange for using the canner when I’m done with it. We have a swath of land that we weren’t using for anything. Two neighbors are sharing the cost of feed and helping with the chores. Now three pigs are in the space and we will all have freezers filled with pork in the fall. Another neighbor lets us keep our chickens in his coop. We buy the food and he feeds the birds and collects the eggs. It works really well.
I’m sure I have not covered all the way you can prep on a budget. What are your best strategies? Share them with me. I have as much to learn as I have to teach.