How to acquire prep items quickly and inexpensively

This is a guest post by Orange Jeep Dad

Anyone paying attention to the news today can decifer the urgency to prepare for a coming crisis. If you think there is no chance of any crisis ever reaching your doorstep, I doubt you would be reading this survival blog. If you ARE aware of the possibilities of natural disasters, financial meltdowns, and partial societal collapse but you know others who are disbelievers, the best thing to do at this point is preparing to have a little extra on hand for them. If they haven’t figured it out by now, odds are…they aren’t going to.

Thankfully we aren’t in the stone age and we have some significant technology to use in our aid to acquire what we need to survive a potential life disruption. This post is written based on my first hand knowledge and use of technology to acquire prep items quickly and inexpensively.

If any suggestions here seem foreign to you, remember back to the last cell phone upgrade where you had to re-learn how to text, how to save contact information…all that stuff that you had learned so well with your last phone, but eventually re-learned. If you don’t have a cell phone, maybe you can relate adapting from your coffee cans tied together with string to your rotary dial phone? But I digress…

The following is a list of ways I have used to acquire a large portion of my prepping supplies.

CraigList. The biggest of the online garage sales. Not only can you search online ads from your computer desktop or laptop. With the invent of smart phones, you can use a specialized application to be notified within MINUTES of the buyer’s posting. I use an app called CraigsNotifica. I wanted an inexpensive clay pigeon thrower to practice my target shooting. I created a search for “clay thrower”, told it what zip codes to look for the item, input the price range I was willing to spend, I elected to only see posts that have pictures (I want to see it BEFORE I go look at it), and I tell the app to check CraigsList every five minutes.

With all these built-in parameters, If someone posts a clay pigeon thrower that meets MY criteria, I am notified within five minutes of that item being posted. That means I am mostly likely to be the first person to call the buyer and my odds of getting to it first are substantial. I have purchased a large portion of my preps with this method and still have several active searches on my Droid right now.

GPS, Mapping & Garage Sales. Garage and estate sales (foreclosure liquidations) are often published online in your local newspaper classified ads, ahead of the sale. Use your smart phone GPS Mapping app or desktop Google Maps to plug-in a handful of sales on an upcoming weekend. Use the maps to plot the shortest distance between each location which will also serve to move you quickly from sale to sale and save gas. Start early and take snacks for the ride. You’ll be amazed at what you find at these sales.

With all the foreclosures these days, folks are desperate to sell off their unwanted items quickly before the banks come take their homes. I came across one gentleman who sold me his backyard shed, large safe, children’s bedroom furniture, and a stand up freezer. After a little conversation, he threw in all his firewood, firewood rack and spare propane grill so he wouldn’t have to move it himself to a new location.

Online deal sites. There are numerous websites on the internet today that consist of a community of “deal finders” or people who report items on sale when they find them. Two such sites are SlickDeals and FatWallet.  Subscribe for free and become a member. This will allow you to do virtually the same thing as the CraigList app only you will set email alerts to notify you as soon as other people post deals. I wanted to stock up on honey last year. I signed in at SlickDeals and went to the User Control Panel. There you will see a section on the left called Deal Alerts. Click Add Deal Alert and input your info. I assigned the Keyword Phrase to “honey,” told it to send alert to “email” and notify me “instantly.”

Every time a member of the site posted a deal on honey, I was notified within an hour. There was a smoking deal on honey at Amazon one day and I bought Ambrosia pure honey from a Colorado supplier with free shipping. I bought enough to supply my family for a year and I didn’t even have to leave my house. Once you find the item you want, at the price you are happy with, you simply return to the deal site and delete your Deal Alert.

FreeCycle. This is an online free recycling website. Items are only allowed to be posted for free. You may find a used microwave or firewood for your winter stockpile. Since you can post things “offered” or “wanted,” you’ll want to set your filter to “offers only” to see only the items being given away. Be patient and see what pops up in your neck of the woods.

By using today’s technology of instant email alerts and blazingly fast search queries, you can systematically acquire the items you deem important to you and your family with minimal effort. No more driving to stores and paying retail prices. Put your request out there, at the price your willing to pay, and let the deals come to you. Happy Deal Hunting.

Please share your thoughts and  tips in the comments below..


  1. Here are two more sites worth watching. It only takes a minute to visit these daily. where I’ve gotten some of my best flashlight deals. They limit how many items you can get in one order, but S&H is only $5.00 for the entire order. displays items in 5 categories and changes every night at midnight eastern time. I’ve gotten some interesting survival items here like a stainless steel credit card size survival tool for $1.00 with free shipping, although all deals are not as good as that, and I sometimes go weeks without finding anything of interest.

    • @OhioPrepper I use these sites too. Woot off’s can be VERY rewarding. Nice add.

      • Woot is typically just a ripoff of

        Take an item, make a funny page about it, make people think it’s a good deal… and then unleash the slavejunk onto the credit-wielding masses.

        Why are names and emails required? Silly webpage.

        • nancy,
          I’d never heard of but have added it to my list. I’ve gotten some really great deals at woot and hopefully dealnews will work for more great deals. Thanks.

        • I don’t understand why you think Woot is a rip-off of From what I can see dealnews doesn’t sell anything, but aggregates a lot of deals from sites like Groupon and Woot that do. You have to know what you’re looking for and what it’s worth, but I have gotten some very good deals at Woot. Don’t take me wrong here, it looks like dealnews is still a great resource, but when buying anything we must remember caveat emptor, let the buyer beware.

  2. Spook45 says:

    SURPLUS STORES, Flea markets and yard sales. These are especially lucritiive if you live within 50 or so miles of a military post. Just a week ago I was walking through a flea market and found a Blackhawk Raptor X100 back pack on a rack and got it for $25! It was nearly new, had almost no wear on it at all, it is a jumpable pack and very large. I test drove it to see how it compared to my other pack and it just didnt work as well as what I had so I decided to keep my pack and Ebay the flea mkt find. It retails for $259 and they are selling used everyday on ebay for around $100!! This is just one example, I found coleman lanterns, high dollar knives and other various goodies at that same place time and time again. when I meet new people they always ask I can afford such high end gear and I have to explain. First, buy it when you find it, if it is good stuff and a good deal, it wont last long, if you come back later its gonna be gone! Second, know your gear, do your research so you can spot those items. Odds are, a lot of the time, people dont what some of those items are and that is to your advantage. Three wks ago I got a blackhawk single mag mag pouch for $5! It retails for right at 20 and it was new. Know what you are looking at so that you know wheather or not its a deal or even a fair price. Surplus stores buy two ways, they buy used gear from people ETSing(getting out) and they buy quantities on bids from DMRO(the military surplus extension where they get rid of stuff that has been replaced etc) Very often they pay pennies on the dollar for the tiems they are selling so dont be affraid to ask for a better deal and negotiate a little it works. Most of the time, if they are making a good profit they are happy so its no hard to get the price down. Yardsales are great too, people that have moved, changed lifestyles or upgraded thier own posititons will have good opertunitis to get things at a lower than retail price! Pawn shops are also a good source but you really have to KNOW what you are looking at a price vs value or they will screw you!

  3. Bellamotives says:

    Freecycle is great. You also forgot to mention asking for food-safe plastic buckets at grocery stores- the bakery section! Great for keeping thngs clean & safe, being a portable commode, or get two buckets & make a water filter!

    KV Vet Supply also has great deals on first aid stuff- yup, creative searching makes for great deals! Also going directly to wholesalers works too, as long as you meet the minimum order (usually less than you’d expect!).

    I also watch the clearance shelves at the big box stores for accessory items- backpacks, camping gear! These things won’t expire but new models are coming in to replace them. Back to school & right before is a great time to pick that stuff up!!

  4. I use thrift stores. In my area we have treasure chest and it is from the main thift store in our city, but it gets the items that didn’t sale or are slightly damaged so you can find great finds over there with most items being only a quarter. But they are only open the first and third friday and saturday.

    My tip is buy used whenever you can. But where I live most people leave their old posts up on craigslist and don’t answer their phones or emails about items they have for sale.

    The freecycle in my area the stay at home parents are the ones that snatch everything up. So if you are depending on the internet you might be disappointed especially if you are one of us that don’t believe in carrying a cell phone on your hip or having the lastest and greatest items like black berries or iphones.

    And if you truly want free drive around on trash day morning. Lots of great finds on furniture and electronics. We use to walk around when we were kids to find furniture for our club house. It was insulated with wall to wall carpeting furnished with a used sofa bed and we had a coffee table and extra sofa cushions for practicing our jumps off the roof.

    On groceries shop by sales in my area Kroger is having a sale on Tang, $1.29 each buy 10 save $3.00 or get them for 99 cents each. Good deal for getting your recommend amount of vitamin C. Use coupons to save even more money.

    Hope I added a meaningful comment.

    • I wonder if the date on Tang is a “Best By” date, and, does it ever go bad? Is it good forever?
      Also, what is the longest date for Tang?
      I’ve only been able to find them with 1 yr left to go, seems to me they should be a 12yr kind of thing.

      BTW, nice club house, Allie. I had nothing like it while growing up, every jump was onto a hard surface… roll with it.

      • Since vitiman c is water-soluble vitamins should be discarded after their expiration date. You should be able to find it for a 2 year shelf life. Once they expire, they begin to break down chemically and lose their potency. So while it may still be good it will lose some of its vitamin C. I say by the third year it will no longer have any nutritional value. Stores put the newest stuff to the back they use the first in the first out so dig.

        Yeah we had a pretty cool club house. My mom bargained with us, we cleaned out the garage we could have the back half for the club house

  5. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    BUSINESS SECTION OF NEWSPAPERS. Whether you read your local newspaper online or the old fashioned way, you can check the Business Section or the Community News Section for GOING OUT OF BUSINESS news. It’s a fact that one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure. While I am not happy to see any local business close its doors and people lose their jobs as a result, I am happy to get a great deal when they do.

  6. lilmorse says:

    And ebay! Don’t forget ebay.

  7. Great search tips! Thanks so much!

  8. Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

    Off topic: to all our Canadian friends, HAPPY CANADA DAY!

  9. gartersnk says: is very much like craigslist. Not as widely known but easier to use, you can look at all of one sellers items with a click of the mouse, as an example. As a seller, relisting items for sale is also much easier. Another option – the more places to look the better.

  10. I’ve found free and cheap stuff on Craigs List. I got a futon with frame for like $80, and so now I have a furnished guest or rentable sleeping room. The lady getting rid of it had a nice house and had just run out of room from buying other stuff. So no bedbugs changed hands.

    Also, I finally found the local feed store that sold feed grade wheat berries. You’d think in the Midwest there’d be more of these stores, but being in a city I find them oddly lacking. Since it’s not seed-grade I can probably eat it; otherwise I’ll just plant it. Haven’t opened it up to look at it yet. It might need to be picked thru a bit, dunno.

    While I was there, though, I found mixed nuts for squirrels for about $1/lb. They don’t seem to have anything wrong with them and it was not peanuts at all – it was all Macadamias, filberts, cashews, and Brazil nuts. I brought them home and ate a few, then put them in pantry storage. (if someone knows any CONCRETE reason why I should not trust these aside from they were packaged for feeding squirrels, let me know. I am guessing these just fell on the floor at the nut factory or something like that, and they’re probably fine)

    They also had my brand of cat food (for my cat!) for a couple bucks cheaper than Kroger.

    • Penny Pincher said, “They also had my brand of cat food (for my cat!) ”

      I don’t know why, but after the squirrel food question that seemed kind of funny.

      On a more serious note, I sometimes wonder about nuts in general, it’s too late at night for me to recall or look up, but it has something to do with a chemical they use to treat the nut, tannin or something like that. Not good stuff. Sorry I can’t be of more help, my batteries have plumb wore out for the day/night. I’d just be wary of eating animal food unless you must, similar to the rice that looks just like People food only it was meant for glue so it had tons more dangerous pesticides on it, then some got mixed up with the People food. Or so I read. Nuts go rancid too,… how do you tell besides it taste bad? I don’t know.

  11. Looking for free or cheap stuff is something i don’t do enough (except in the grocery store and I can sniff out a good deal there between coupons & buy one get one free deals).

    Thanks for the suggestions!

  12. Flea markets are also good for gear on the cheap , never know what your going to find in one , found several things at flea markets for next to nothing , 3quart canteen for $2 ( not the faggy modern plastic square ones , a real one ! ) , US army issue linstatic compass for $4 , etc. Garage sales , especially now when folks are sadly getting rid of all but needed items . And Ebay ……yes ebay . Ebay can be great BUT you do need to do your homework first ! . See what the manufacturer wants for the item plus shipping and what the price is locally , then begin your search . I have several leatherman multi tools I got on ebay , they were in the used category but honestly , when I got them , i couldn’t tell , and for half what they wanted locally . Be patient and you can find a lot of good gear . Ammunition is another thing that I hear people complaining about shortages in their area . Horseshit ! never a shortage on line ! Matter of fact , you gan get cheap ammo from the big warehouses with shipping sometimes cheaper than you can locally for the same amount .
    Here are two I use , and . Happy prepping .

    • I would like to also add that there is specialty ammunition that can only be had on line . I live in AZ , and Northern Arizona Munitions corp only sells their ammo on line , so I cant buy it even though its made in Prescott and I live here ! they sell tracer and incendiary rounds , Go figure :/

      • T.R said, “Ammunition is another thing that I hear people complaining about shortages in their area.”

        Is this Still going on?
        In my area the shelves are all fully stocked up, so much in fact that I expect there to be price declines in spite of everything else, I mean, the shelves are stocked to the top, totally. I can’t imagine ammo being scarce anywhere else if it’s not the least bit scarce here too.

        • Not in my area either , some of these people must live in a ” one horse town ” . In a city of 4million people , I can get pretty much anything I need here in Phoenix , the drivin just sucks . I still hear that ” shortage” complaint now and again on some other sites but again , these folks must be VERY rural ….but they obviously know how to opporate a computer so I dont understand why they dont use it to help them get what they need .

          • T.R,
            Four million people – thats a lot of people. When are you moving?

            • LOL , actually , its a long story but funny you should mention it . I am moving to Tucson shortly , but not ( just) because Phx is so big but because of a better employment opportunity . Both places are shit-holes in their own way , but at least Tucson is cooler , less crowded , more places to go outdoors and closer to Cochise County , I could always take the dirt back-roads to CC if I had to . Once in CC you can take the ” ranch roads ” where you want to go .

        • Shortly after Obama was elected, but even before he was sworn in, people were worried about potential limits on firearms and ammunition. That issue coupled with the large volume of ammunition being consumed by DOD caused a real shortage across the country that lasted for 12-18 months. Most of the ammunition manufacturers’ added personnel and shifts, and started cranking out ammunition. In the last 3-6 months I’ve seen many stores go from nearly empty shelves to fully stocked, and online suppliers like displaying a banner that states, “all ammunition is back in stock”. Some of the less popular cartridges like .380 may still have small shortages on occasion in some areas, but this is primarily due to the increased demand for concealed carry holders, and the fact that lines that run ammo like .380 are generally not dedicated, and run for a few months a year to create a stockpile that is sold the rest of the year. This was some of the cause, but I suspect manufacturers now have better projections. I’m also seeing more reloading components like primers readily available. During the shortage, all of these components were being used by the manufacturers to create ammunition which has both a much higher appeal and better margins.
          I generally dollar cost average my ammunition purchases, buying a little more each pay, unless someone has a really great deal, in which case I stock up. In recent months, ammunition of all types has been readily available both online and in local stores, at least in my area.

    • Also try: where the advertised price includes shipping to the lower 48.

      • axelsteve says:

        Luckygunner and cheaper than dirt sells ammo online also.I hear our kenyan in chief is trying to ban ammo sales online.Steve

        • I mentioned , they are out of Kentucky and the gun prices are fantastic ! I got a new Ruger mini-30 with the 20rnd magazine for not much more than $650 , with no sales tax because its on line in another state and free shipping . Only thing you need on your end is a FFL guy to receive it for you . This saved me hundreds of dollars for what the locals wanted for it . $800+ for a mini 30 …. no thanks . My next one from old Bud im going to get is a 1911 45 , i saw some great prices , and again no tax .

  13. Only Me says:

    Great info – thanks so much. I have found a lot of goodies at local auctions. Visit and you can find auctions in your area by zip code. Ofter the “early bird” auctions that run about an hour before the main one have boxes of old country kitchen items, canning jars etc. that you can get for a song along with lots of old-time tools. Find a few locations nearby to visit regularly since the early auction items usually aren’t even listed because they’re considered “junk” – yes, boxes of canning jars, meat grinders etc are “junk”. You can spend $10 and get literally boxes of goodies. Go figure.

  14. axelsteve says:

    Garage sales in my area are great.You can find good stuff for low prices.I get my misc camping stuff at the local yard sales.A lot of them are retirees who are downsizing and getting rid of some good stuff.Not much auctions in my area except for storage places.I can get older but usable rod and reels for 5 dollars.I got a box ox 12 gauge shells for 5 bucks and my crossbow for 12 dollars. kinda fun looking around also. Steve

  15. Good article and great comments. I have found many things for low prices at most of the places listed. Yard sales close to quitting time offer unbelievable bargains sometimes. I have picked up high carbon steel knives, hand tools, gardening tools, fishing gear, snow shoes, wool sweaters, wool gloves, etc. for mne

  16. Sorry. I was typing “next to nothing.”, when it suddenly posted.
    Patients in locating items may mean large savings.

  17. axelsteve says:

    Spook 45 just reminded me of a place.Salvation army thrift stores.There is a big salvation army location on the north end of Healdsburg California.They sell normal thrift store stuff. They also sell donated autos,campers, boats,and sometimes Motorcycles.they also sell furniture and appliances and even pianos.You can get a good bugout vehicle there such as 4×4 trucks and etc if you show up regulary. I once found a r.e.i. backpack there for 20 bucks or so.

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      Hey Steve, do you ever go to the little thrift shop that sits beside the Community Church in Cloverdale? I haven’t stopped in there for several years because it’s usually closed when I’m driving through that town, but it used to have some really great bargains on camping gear, fry pans, etc. The prices were always low and the quality of the stuff was high. Like I say, haven’t been there for years so maybe it’s not so good now.

  18. I love this ! everybody pulling together with links to aid their fellow preppers get the job done !!!!!!!

    • Lint Picker (Northern California) says:

      It is very cool, isn’t it T.R.? And the goobermint isn’t forcing us to do it – we do it because we CHOOSE to do it.

  19. WOW! Very informative! I sent the article link to my 2 nephews, 2 sons, son-in-law and brother-in-law. I wish the women in my family were more interested in this type of thing but I won’t go there. I am and that is what counts right now. Good practical post!

  20. I wish somebody would start remaking the US Army field ration D again . be good for a BOB ( fortified chocolate bar )

  21. Yes I know so many hate Wal Mart, but for me anyway they have what is needed. I grocery shop at a Wal Mart and am pleased with my selection of food items there. The best thing is I can budget an extra $20 to $25 a grocery visit to get more prepared. They certainly don’t have it all, but what they do have is less expensive then so many other stores.

    100 Rounds of 12 Gauge ammo for 22.99? Yeah its clay shooting material but that makes for good practice. Their camping section is decent, and they have a good bulk food by the bag selection that is less expensive then Costco. My garden is 100% walmart down to the cheap tools they get from China (I assume) – I mean 4.97 for a full size shovel and the same for a decent rake? I know the quality isn’t there but I take care in using it so it doesn’t break.

  22. This may not be a way to get stuff cheaply, but, my wife recently pointed out that our HSA (Health Savings Account) could be used to purchase first aid supplies. So, when the end of the year rolls around and if we haven’t spent all of what we have accumulated, I intend on a little shopping spree of my own. Now, where is that darn debit card, anyway. :) Of course, check your own plans.

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