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Any good post-apocalyptic novel is going to talk about scavenging after society falls apart. But I think scavenging has a place right now, while the lights are still on. There are lots of opportunities for picking up free, or nearly free, preparedness items if you know where and how to look. What follows are ten things that are easy to find and yours for the taking.
1. Buckets: Food grade buckets are very expensive and they are generally overkill unless you plan to store food for 20+ years. I have a lot of them but I find they have some drawbacks. Besides the price (ouch), six-gallon buckets are heavy. Unless you invest in the gamma lids (double ouch), getting the tops off is a problem. You also need to purchase a good mallet and a lid lifter. For most of us, regular food grade buckets with snap on lids will work just fine. You can get the buckets that frosting comes in anyplace that decorates cakes or donuts. Call ahead, speak to someone in the bakery and ask. I have gotten dozens this way. They will need a good cleaning but that’s a small investment for what you get. The buckets are smaller which makes them easier to handle. If you want to put something up for longer-term storage just add a Mylar bag.
2. Candles: I never turn down free candles. I find them often at tag sales and even in boxes on the side of the road. I even take the ugly seasonal candles. When the zombies come banging on the door no one will care if your candle has a ghost on the side. Even candle stubs can be melted down and repoured. They won’t be the same as a lovely beeswax taper but we are talking free here.
3. Books: Buying books can poke a hole in your budget mighty quickly but there are ways to get books for far less money or even for free. Check out the used book sites. I have gotten books for as little as a penny plus shipping. Tags sales and thrift stores have lots of books. Don’t forget to ask about a better price for taking the whole lot. I joined a group that started their own lending library for books related to preparedness, resiliency, gardening, and any topics related to this life style. Your library can order any book you are interested in. At least you can preview it to see if it is worth the investment of purchasing it. Set up a book swap. Get rid of the romance novels and replace them with a good preparedness handbook.
4. Canning jars: I find canning jars in free boxes on the side of the road several times a year. Offer to help clean out the basement of a neighbor in exchange for the jars they were going to recycle. If you don’t belong to a Buy Nothing or Freecycle site, join one. You can ask for what you need but don’t neglect offering too. These sites work because people are good neighbors. Make good on any promise made in terms of pick-up and always thank the giver profusely.
5. Sewing supplies. Ask. Facebook, your friend who sews, the people down the street who are downsizing, it never hurts to put out the word. Sewing and crafting supplies are one of those things that people get carried away with and have to purge on occasion. I have gotten fabric, patterns and all kinds of notions from people who just want to pare down.
6. Perennial plants: In the spring and fall, people are separating and thinning plants. Strawberries, currants, raspberries, rhubarb, asparagus, blackberries, all kinds of plants need thinning or can be propagated from cuttings. Swap labor for plants if you need to. You might make a new friend as well as get a start on your own Eden.
7. Firewood: Some state forests allow for the gleaning of firewood if it’s from downed trees. Much is available after a storm. You offer to do the clean-up form the tree that fell in exchange for the wood. When utility companies are cutting trees they often leave wood stacked. If it’s on someone else’s property, move on but if it’s on public land it’s yours for the asking. I often see people with their trunks full of wood they have gleaned.
8. Food: Speaking of gleaning, lots of food is available for free if you know where to look. Get a good guide to foraging and don’t gather anything you aren’t certain of. You can also check into gleaning programs at local farms. We got a winter’s supply of butternut squash that was perfect but didn’t meet commercial standards. We also got grapes in exchange for helping with pruning at a local winery. If money is tight check with your local food pantry. Often, the things you want (dried beans and brown rice) and left behind because people don’t know how to prepare them or have no way to cook them.
9. Information: The internet is full of great information. For the cost of ink and paper you can run off critical direction, recipes and instructions right now. Copying fees at your library are minimal if you don’t have a machine at home. Fill a binder and you can have a preparedness resource guide full of information that can save your life.
10. Training: I have taken the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training at our local fire house, a weather watcher’s training, first aid and CPR classes, and attended dozens of workshops and seminars on many topics I wanted to explore. Nothing you buy will be as valuable during hard times as information and skills will be. Do you want to make soap or prepare herbal salves and ointments? You can learn to butcher a chicken, preserve food, keep bees, or gather mushrooms by asking around about classes and clubs. My husband learned about bee keeping just by attending the free monthly club meetings. He is often gifted supplies and equipment by other members.

The important thing to remember about gleaning and scavenging is to never be afraid to ask for what you need, express gratitude for what you receive and pass on the gifts to the person who needs something from you. The best thing you are likely to receive is a new friend.


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