How to prep on an extremely tight budget – even if you’re on food stamps…

This is a guest post by Raven and entry for our non-fiction writing contest.

I am on a really super tight budget – and while I don’t like it – I currently get food stamps and receive social security. I have learned how to budget these two in order to not only pay bills with the social security but take my food stamps and have food that lasts at least a month and a half in groceries. So I figured I’d finally write-up how I can do this and still be a prepper. To me, knowledge is power and I am going to give those who are making poor Abe on a penny squeal just like I am doing.

I say this since If we look at history, before all of our modern conveniences of today, look at how folks lived back, say, 1920’s and back. How did they live? How did they survive? How did they provide for their families? Learn those tricks and tips and you can survive anything thrown at you!

I have noticed that a lot of preppers have been talking about what you should and shouldn’t have when all hell breaks loose. I also noticed that there are a lot of “pros” out there that will tell you they can help you survive anything if you just watch this or that video and then buy their books to learn more. Well, I haven’t been able to afford these so called publications but I have actually found all their retold information on the web for free! You just need to look for it. I use Bing as my search engine which i have found much more information on then any of the others. Using key words or simple questions with bring up a ton of things you can use.

With that said, let’s get in to the nitty-gritty of my article. I have found, living in Florida, that every May the hurricane guides come out. Just for information gathering, look up “Florida hurricane guides”. you will come up with a ton of various news stations that publish these for free in PDF form. What’s hilarious to me is that these hurricane guides are basically an identical match to a simple beginning prepper’s guide for bugging out! Interestingly enough, the only things missing is the shelter, how to stay warm and how to cook.

You can also look up, “3 day tent camper list” — this kind of listing will show basically give you ideas on what you would need to take with you out in the woods. Compare these 3 lists, hurricane, camper, prepper, and you will have a great jump off point to start your prepping on a budget!!

Okay so far we have 3 lists to work from. Using these lists, make your own to tailor your family’s needs and comforts. Now for the next part of our budget prepping! Where we can cut costs to start prepping.

I have several avenues I like to use. One is that since hubby is a handyman, he struck up a deal with our landlord to do work in exchange of rent! this has been working great for the past 8 years! This has greatly reduced monies going out. If you have a skill (s) and are basically out of work, try this with your property owner. You can be surprised at how much this is pleasing to them! they get free work done and you get a reduced/free place to live! this is great if you don’t own your own house.

Since part of hubby’s jobs are to paint the inside of our property owners houses, he ends up with a lot of empty 5 gallon buckets from the paint. Now I know you have all been told to use food grade buckets only but paint buckets are just as good and I can teach you why. First. the buckets have a good strong seal to keep the paint from spilling out. The seals are made to be able to repeatedly open and close– we have tested several buckets and found about 233 times is great before the seals start to wear out. once these buckets have been cleaned out, by either rinsing them out with a hose if the paint is still wet, or just letting the sun dry the paint and then peal them out, these buckets are great for putting in your spare clothes, prepackaged foods, DYI MRE’s and so on.

They also hold bulk things like noodles and flour and what have you by just placing a non-scented generic white 13 gallon tall kitchen trash bag in, put in your bulk food, tie the top of the bag-getting out as much air as you can, and placing the bucket lid on tight. I have a paint bucket I did this with 5 years ago with sugar. I was able to put in 25 pounds in the bucket. To see if the sugar was still okay, I opened it a few days ago. It was actually a little hard on the top but about an inch down was still soft and still very edible! I didn’t use the moisture absorbers or anything like that. The only thing I did was keep it in a dark and dry closet. This part is totally up to you.

I have done this with dog, cat and bird food since I have these animals as pets. It can also be smart to do this with kitty litter since kitty litter has more uses then just for a kitty potty.

The next thing I like to do is be a sample hound! this takes about an hour a week/day to sign up for free samples off the net. join several groups/blogs/sites that list whose giving away free stuff. I have received in the past month, approximately $1000 in samples of all kinds for free in my mail box. This is not including the printable coupons for free products which I in turn saved almost $1500 in the past 2 months! This is not an exaggeration! This is real! I have received everything from foods, first aid, pet, cleaning supplies, and so on. I have also entered a slew of contests and have actually won things like Fix a Flat, knives, bb guns, a Winchester rifle, a year supply of dog food (a 40lb bag a week = 2080 lbs of dog food) a 25lb bag of bird seed, seed for a garden, and more. Again – all free!

So lets recap really quick on how much we have spent so far— about maybe 30 hours a week and $0! So far so good!! Right?!

Next we are going to deal with a food budget. I am not afraid to say that I am on food stamps. This actually does help greatly if you are able to get them. I have found that if you have coupons it will save a ton of money there too! I can use the coupons and get close to $1000 of groceries and spend maybe $150 of my stamps. I can defiantly prep stock like that! I shop places like Wal Mart, Dollar Tree and scratch and dent stores. I like to get the stuff that Dollar Tree has already on shelves that are compact, like their tuna and cracker lunch kits. stuff like that is great for your personal DYI mre kits, taking them out of the package gives you more space since the box they come in is bulky.

Use common sense while shopping. Try to get a bit for prepping every time you go grocery shopping. if you get 4 cans of say tuna- the get 6– the other 2 go in to your storage. if you use this idea then you will have your prepping stores set up in no time. Buying ‘off season’ helps too. Here in Florida, prices of things used for Hurricane preparedness actually goes up in May since June is the start of hurricane season. come December 1st, all these store try to get rid of the ‘hurricane supplies’ and deep discount things. This is when you buy!! Sales are also a great way to prep on a budget.

Another way to get what you need is to join a group on-line that posts things others are giving away just to clear out their spaces. Here it’s called ‘freecycle’. See if there is one in your area and keep watch on it. I have seen people post things like tents, grills, camping stuff and everything else. You can also post things you need but be warned, don’t get to greedy on your ‘wants’ the moderators will ban you so keep the posts to say 3-6 a month and maybe post you have things to get rid of at least once a month.

Another good avenue is to hit yard sales. I have gotten 2 food savers, 5 dehydrators and 2 generators and hadn’t hit my $300 yard sale budget! I actually will put money aside in a special jar to yard sale with and go once every 6-8 months. I also like going to church rummage sales. There is always a good deal to be had there!

So, I have touched on several things so far of where to save money. I would like to touch on one more thing for you. i suggest that you invest in canning and gardening supplies. Having these and the knowledge of what to do with them if key in survival! If you dont like looking at the contents of what is in a jar – get creative and make a label with all the info on it! this will eliminate the idea of – i can’t eat that looking like that! Canning is the most tried and true method of preserving foods for storage. Our grand Parents and generations back have been doing it! I do know for a fact that stuff canned at home actually can last upwards of 50-60 years if kept in the right conditions for northerners a root cellar, for us in the south, a dark closet on the side of the house the sun doesn’t hit at all.

there are a ton of how to videos all over the web on canning various foods. there are also a ton of free kindle books on amazon about prepping cooking farming and canning. I have note books for each subject that i take notes down in. if there is a site to go with the video i go to it and get canning recipes and other information that pertains to me and mine. a case of quart jars at Walmart is like 8 dollars– combine that with your foods that you saved on and got in bulk and you have just prepared your family for at least 12 meals!

Learn how to can in various ways, wet canning – which is traditionally the way to can is great for like soups and pickling and stuff like that – dry canning can be done the same way as wet canning but you don’t add the extra fluid in the jars – this is great for canning cooked meats! you can also dry can things like crackers and dried stuff in the oven – be careful and follow the instructions from those that have tried and tested this method already! and vacuum canning– this is a great thing also for sealing crackers and pastas in jars.

gardening is also a great way to keep the food coming year round! depending on your area will depend on your garden. I totally suggest having a spot inside where you can do an aquaponic garden set up for the winter in the places with snow. I suggest aquaponics anywhere actually! this incorporates fish and plants for healthier and heartier produce and also gives you a meat protein in the fish– It’s a tad expensive to start-up but well worth it, once you get an idea of what you need you can use the idea of freecycle and other avenues along those lines to get the parts you need.

in closing i would like to mention that one thing all the lists do not include is your feet! stock up on good shoes you normally wear that you find comfortable for long periods of time – say for going to the park, going for a walk and so on– keeping shoes like that will save you a migraine later on when S.H.T.F. happy feet make for a happy body.

I hope I was able to help at least one person with this article– Stay safe and prepared!

Prizes for this round in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo  courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and 1 Case of Survival Cave Food Chicken with 12 14.5 oz. Cans courtesy of LPC Survival.
  2. Second place winner will receive – $100 off of your next order of Fish Antibiotics courtesy of, a Survival Puck  courtesy of and a Coffee Mug courtesy of Horton Design.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of and a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy

Be sure to read the rules before entering… This contest will end on March 17 2014


  1. Donna in MN says:

    What canned food did you eat that was 60 years old?

    I ate hard tack that was 40 years old and it was great, sealed since the Korean war. I also used 100 year old lye soap at the historical camps to be as authentic as possible and it worked fine.

  2. Many people are under the misconception, possible due to some of the blogs out there, that you need to spend a large amount of money to prep. You must have a goodly amount of disposable income, buy the best stuff available, and have it stored on your remote property in huge quantities, guarded by your fire truck. Not so. (And if you read it carefully, although all of the above are useful, even he does not say they are a requirement.)

    I have met, from time to time, what I call “Minimalist Preppers”. They did not have the resources to buy new. They did not own their own property. They did have 2 things; determination and a plan. Their vehicles were bicycles with carts/trailers. All of their equipment was multipurpose. They could make the best meals out of basic supplies. They knew their environment, understood what it had to offer, and make the best of it. The last couple were in their 50’s, considered themselves “vagabonds”, traveled in their well maintained, used equipment. They have financial resources (retirement incomes) yet they used very little of it. They were neat, clean, and very friendly. They usually gave charity versus looking for it. Well armed and well equipped, but not obviously so. I look forward to seeing them again.

    I do causing about storing food items in non-food approved containers. Almost everything is air-porous. You don’t want to inadvertently poison yourself during a time when medical attention will be rare at best.

    Thanks for the reminder and the memories.

    • It sounds like you could give a class on how to get the most out of food stamps.Maybe you should check into doing so. It could be a good way to get income and gain your independence from sound like a go getter,so I bet you would be very suucessful at this,or anything else you care to try.

      • JP in MT says:

        From my perspective, which is limited to observation only, most people that use “food stamps” don’t buy “bulk” staples. It’s a lot of pre-made, pre-packaged, quick-to-cook stuff. If you will make your own soups and stews, pasta dinners, etc. Your SNAP dollars will go a LOT father.

        Yes, she could teach a lot of people, us included, a lot about making our money go farther.

      • Mary in GA says:


  3. axelsteve says:

    I cash in my recycling and I keep a change jar. I once bought a used marlin 781 rifle with proceeds from my change jar.Sadly now it sleeps with the fishes since my boating mishap.I took my change jar to the local Safeway and poured it into a machine and I got a coupon for the cash minus a percentage for the machine. You can roll your own but I was excited and I did not want to miss out on the deal. I use my recycling cash for preps also.Sometimes I just get a few bucks then I spend it on preps at the dollar store.It is still prepping plus you get to stick it to the man being tax exempt cash. TDL is probably working on that.I always sign for the cash with a phony name anyway.The people at the recycling place knows me as James Page. I wonder who he is.

    • Awesome guitar player, I hear.

      One of the banks I use has a change counter and will let you bring in your saved up change without charging the fee like the machines at the grocery stores. I avoid using anything that charges me a fee to count my money, but I do understand the convenience.

    • Not a week goes by when I don’t sadly remember your tragic boating accident where you lost all your guns.

      Come to think of it, several of our beloved wolfies lost guns to boating accidents – 2 or 3 of you in the same week – tragic, really tragic. You’d think they’d make them so they could float! 🙂

      • Rider of Rohan says:

        Michele, I sold all of mine after the SH incident, and made a young fortune in the process. As a matter-of-fact, I have the notarized, signed statement from the guy who bought them, though he has since passed away. At times I wonder what ever became of them.

        • ROR,

          He probably left them to someone who took them out in his boat to shoot ducks or fish and lost them in a boating accident as well.

          Tragic how many good firearms are lost to boating accidents.

          • Encourager says:

            It is almost worth having a under-water metal detector to go after all those weapons. But the scuba gear, oxygen tanks, weight belt (I float!)…well, I would probably just break even.

            Let them rest in peace, I say.


          • axelsteve says:

            boating and fire arms do not mix.

      • JP in MT says:

        Actually they do make one, but we want to avoid evil “survival” rifles (Henry Repeating Arms is the current manufacturer of the AR-7 (more evil “AR”) survival rifle in 22 LR. It claims it will float when stored in the stock.) I’ve had 2, neither a Henry. One had “issues” with most ammo it tried. The other REALLY didn’t like anything but the original magazine. Of course, for a true survivalist, being able to function with multiple types of ammo and/or multiple magazines (and the fact that they were not all that accurate) should mean nothing!

      • axelsteve says:

        well I do not own a boat anymore. I learned my lesson.

      • They do make many guns that float. Also theres steps you can take to minimize the chance of lost gear/fun on the water. I trapped extrnsively from a boat and also hunted too and never lost a fun, traps etc. plan ahead. Keep the non floating firearm attached to te boat or.. Get an AR-7 or equivalent and gain peace of mind. Great posting here, love the frugal stuff.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      Sadly now it sleeps with the fishes since my boating mishap

      There is a LOT of that going around these days.

    • Ya know, preppers may be passably good at a lot of stuff, but preppers are the WORST darn boaters in all of Creation. I have never run into so many boating accidents as amongst the Prepper Community. Preppers could lose a 75mm howitzer on a humid day. Preppers could lose a Tiger tank if a cloud went by. Preppers could lose a Warthog just looking at a picture of a cup of water.

      Somebody oughta write an article about how to walk past a mud puddle without losing yer durn guns.

      Or….hmmmmm…..mebbe not. Preppers might chip in and put a bounty on the poor author’s head.

      • Cough, cough….we are also really good at spewing coffee all over our screens as well…. Dang… Ok, seeing this on the news right now… To repel mosquitoes, take a chunk of dried cow poop, light it with your handy lighter, set it in a terra cotta tray and the skeeters will stay away. Gotta try that one. And no… Dried cow poo doesn’t stink! And it’s about as cheap as you can get..

  4. I don’t want to start problems on here but. it sounds like you have a lot money to be getting food stamps. the money you say you have and spending you don’t need food stamps.

    • loren – you can buy a lot with $300 at yard sales. As I read it, it took 6 to 8 months to save up that money too. I see that Raven saved lots of money but only spent about $150 on food.

      You might want to read the article more closely – I see lots of savings for very little spending.

    • Donna in MN says:

      To qualify for food stamps in my state, you have to have a low income and assets are not counted IF you recieve a domestic abuse brochure first. (Bank accounts, cars, house, boats, riding mowers, ATV’s, cell phones, TV’s, pm’s, precious gems, guns, anything sellable is exempt)..They give you $150 a person per month last time I asked a former coworker who took them. So a wealthy person in assets and cash saved could buy all those supplies while on food stamps here.

      I don’t agree with the way people suck off the taxpayers this way, for I believe food stamps should be based on desperate need for survival, not additional money to buy food they could afford to buy themselves.

  5. You’re welcome Raven. I’m sure I speak for all the real taxpayers when I say we’re glad our taxes are able to help you and your husband (with his unreported handyman income) prep.

    • Zak – I understand your point, but there is still the possibility that the “barter” income is being reported.

      I had someone call me once to join a “barter” club on the idea that the “trades” for goods and services were not taxable. I quickly informed him otherwise. “Barter” income is technically taxable. The question comes in whether or not it can be traced. In Raven’s case, it appears traceable to the fact that they aren’t paying cash for rent, but still have a place to live.

      • I seriously doubt there’s any reporting of income going on by either the landlord or the tenant. I have mixed feelings about both the unreported income and the food stamps. But I will say this . . . . If you’re relying on the government for all your income . . . YOU ARE NOT PREPARED. And if you tell me you don’t need the government to survive, then why are you on the dole?

        • As a tax preparer I have to make a comment on this. One spouse can draw SS and the other spouse can earn some money and report the income and still get a refund especially if they have dependent children. Yes the handyman income is taxable but since you nor I have all of the info they could report their income and still get food stamps. It mainly depends on the size of the family. So bottom line don’t judge, you do not know their situation.

          • You’re right. I don’t know all the facts. So I can’t assume that Raven’s husband is not reporting his income. I just know from life experience how these arrangements almost always work. But to be honest, if someone wants to take the risk of cheating the government, I don’t really care . . . it’s going to collapse under it’s own weight sooner or later, might as well be sooner. The main point of my comment was that YOU ARE NOT “PREPARED” if you are totally reliant on the state.

            • Right now we are mostly reliant on the govt, my DH is on SS, I only work seasonal being a tax preparer. It is because of this that we started working toward being more self reliant. I do not care where your income is coming from after shtf you most likely will not have access to that income anymore.

              • Tactical G-Ma says:

                We all hear of so much fraud and misuse of social services and frequently get upset whenever there’s even mention of social security, military and civilian pensions, food stamps, welfare, medicade, etc.
                The Lord only asked for 10% and we are barely making a living wage, then the government comes along and takes 20% then there’s sales taxes and taxes to buy a car and taxes (tag) to drive the car. It costs a fortune to put a child thru public school. There’s nothing left after all the bills are paid and we supposedly make too much money to qualify for assistance.
                I am glad that services are there to help people in need, but it seems there are a lot of folks milking the system.
                I just wish we could get ahead.

          • I agree, it’s a leap suggesting they aren’t reporting all their income. Another leap is why Raven doesn’t like to admit she’s getting Social Security? No shame in that, unless…?

            Bottom line here – getting a tax payer subsidized monthly allowance so you can afford nutritious food I have no problem with, if you need it. If you use less money that month, at least save the balance and check the box on your IRS return to pay down the national debt with the extra you received above your needs. Prepping on somebody else’s dime isn’t prepping. Put 10% of the time and effort spent looking for free stuff (and writing a guest post), and you’ll find a job and get off welfare.

            • JungleMan says:

              Really? I work a full time time, 45+hrs a week as a manager of a restaurant. We still get food assistance. My wife stays home with the kids because we choose to homeschool. Before homeschooling, we were looking at her getting a job and putting the kids in daycare, but it would cost more in fees than she would make. Did you know that many people are working poor? Instead of insulting someone that is trying to survive, why not look and see the difference between someone that is using the system as it was intended, instead of using the system to fund their entire lives. I get pretty tired of this kind of stuff on here. There a different types of people that use assistance. Just like preppers and survivalist do not liked being lumped into the same category as some of the extremist preppers, people that accept assistance do not like being lumped into the same group as those that abuse the system.

              • Tactical G-Ma says:

                See that’s the rub. If you worked your way up from dishwasher without formal outside training in at least a two year school, employers may think of you as meerly a glorified dishwasher. I’ve seen it in retail over and over again. If you are formally educated you need to get with head hunters because you are sorely underemployed.
                Managers are now considered little more than gofers. You don’t make up the menu, you don’t choose your vendors, you don’t price the food, you don’t prepare the annual budget and stick with it. Now days corporate run restaurants, even franchisees, have all the heavy lifting done at the corporate level. They even have corporate conventions that teach owners and marketing reps how to work people at your level to death. Because there is always another dishwasher coming up behind. You are lied to, nothing is ever put into writing, and your boss may tell you frequently how they couldn’t do it without you.
                Read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad”. That will explain the philosophy of business today.
                This practice is no more Republican than it is Democrat. It’s greed. The rich get rich on the backs of the working poor. And now the working poor are supposed to support those who don’t work.
                Then the rich move their money over into off shore accounts so that the socializing of the U.S. can’t touch their savings.
                Slavery isn’t dead. It just has a new name.

                • JungleMan says:

                  Oh I completely understand and know how it is. This is why I am working very hard to break into that upper level. I do have a degree in business management. I also have worked for many years in this business and have more experience than many. I have done it all from McDonalds to Billionaire’s clubs. I know this business from the bottom up and top down! I also know that for a fact when I leave my current restaurant, that they will not be able to keep open unless they find someone else that can do what I do.

              • And you posted this from a public library computer, right JM? Or are the taxpayers helping feed your family while you have a computer or smart phone you could sell, and internet service you could cancel?

              • JungleMan. I certainly did not intend to lump everyone who receives government assistance together. If you are working 45+ hours per week, reporting your income, and still qualify for food stamps, I have absolutely no issues with your family accepting government assistance. By the way, you are very wise to choose homeschooling for your children. Chances are your kids will be much better prepared for the real world than their government-schooled counterparts.

                • JungleMan says:

                  Sorry, my mouse keeps jumping and I accidently push the Report Comment instead of Reply. Moderator, please ignore the Reports.
                  R2K, I really wasn’t directing that to you as much as to the general responses and comments that I have seen over the last several months about this subject. I hate the fact that I have to be on assistance right now, but I also will not let my pride get in the way. We are working hard to get off the assistance again. The world against us, you know. As far as homeschool, my wife and I both have experience in different schooling concepts, homeschool, public, and other, and we decided that homeschool was definitely the best option for us.

        • axelsteve says:

          ready2k. Most real estate folks are very cheap and want to report every expense that they can .They also do not pay much.

          • The lack of rental revenue on Raven’s unit counts just like an expense. Actually better than a wage expense because there is no reporting or withholding. So it is definitely in the property owner’s financial interest to keep it off the books.

  6. Tactical G-Ma says:

    You and yours will survive just about anything. Your determination and attitude is awesome. More of us need to understand that your skill to make-do will serve you well during and after crisis.
    Someone on here used to say what you add is more than you had. And it’s true, I love yard sales and the Goodwill.
    Do keep in mind that if you purchase shoes for future use as I do, our feet grow a little each year. I have hikers and combat boots that should last me the rest of my life!
    You should be able to find canning jars at yard sales and save a ton!
    God bless and keep prepping!

    • “Make do with what you have” is a phrase that most people don’t understand these days, but it was the key to survival and still is.

  7. loren, how are you getting that they have a lot of money?? Nothing I saw says anything like that.

    • Hi all, this Michele is not me.

      • Encourager says:

        I could tell…no cute, smiley picture!!

        To the second Michele with no picture, call yourself something else, like Michele2. Okay??? And welcome to the Wolf Pack.

    • M.D., will you check the IP address on this comment to see if its our regular troll posting under another name. I hope you blocked the ass-hat who was causing trouble last week.

  8. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Zak has a point. If your DH or you are working off book for your rent, or anything else, you may not be eligible for subsistence.

  9. Raven,

    You have some good ideas, and one bad one. Trash bags are not food grade – probably not a good idea storing food in them.

    Since you are also using paint buckets, you might want to consider 5 gal mylar bags. They are more expensive than trash bags, roughly $2 each in groups of 10, including shipping on ebay, but worth it especially considering you are storing 5 gallons of grains/food in it, and your health will be worth more than you can even know after TSHTF.

    Did you know you can buy vegetable seeds with food stamps? If you buy heirloom seeds – they will keep on giving as well!

  10. Ed Coumo says:

    Can anyone recommend groups/blogs/sites that are good for getting free samples as discussed here? Thanks, Ed.

    • Sorry, I tried two different ones and found there wasn’t much “free” and email was filling up with such trash that I still haven’t been able to get rid of.
      For everything you have to fill out a form or a survey and now the emails I’m getting have nothing to do with the item I was trying to get for free.
      All I ever got was a $2.50 coupon for mr Clean (not sure if that makes the produce free or not, I haven’t used it yet)

      Maybe Raven could share the sites she uses to get so many coupons/free items.

  11. Am I the only one who doesn’t put much stock in the “prepping/survival” advice of someone who is totally reliant on the state for survival? If Raven’s husband is a good handyman, shouldn’t he be able to earn more than rent? Of course, if he took a job with reportable income, the food stamps might be in jeopardy.

    • JP in MT says:

      If we look past the “negatives” we will find a lot of nuggets of good information in Raven’s article.

      I treat personal experiences, and fiction books too, like a buffet table; I take what I like and leave the rest for someone else.

    • Chuck Findlay says:

      Mellow out a bit. You are going to bust a vain or something.

    • Mary in GA says:

      Ready2K, no you are not.

      • Mary . . . How do you know?

        • Mary in GA says:

          Ready2K, I don’t understand your comment, “Mary…How do you know?”, I was just agreeing with your above question, “Am I the only one who doesn’t put much stock in the prepping/survival advice of someone who is totally reliant on the state for survival?”. I was saying that I also wonder about putting stock in this. I am not being rude to Raven at all, but most people who submit entries come back and answer questions in the comments, the one time I submitted an entry, I know I did and it seems like most people do. R-Me specifically asked Raven if she could share some of her sites where she finds free stuff, but in 2 days, Raven hasn’t responded to that request. I don’t recall Raven as a past post commenter but maybe she is.

          • Sorry Mary. I misunderstood your post.

            I suspect there may be some issues raised in these comments that Raven would rather not elaborate upon. But I could be wrong. Perhaps, she’s just taking a spring break with the kids.

  12. I really appreciate this article. Great information and from someone who experiences it. I will study this article more. Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. HEADS UP!!!!!!!!!

    I will mention this again on tomorrow’s WDYDTPTW so more people see this but I just saved $204 on scripts at China Mart by using my AAA card. The price went from $219 to $15 for three months worth of my scripts. My dh saved $10 on an $18 script.

    • BamBam:
      Now that is some mighty dollars left over for more prepping goodies.

      • BamBam;
        Forgot the smiley face…..watching wheel of fortune with dh, he enjoys it, it is a left over from being stuck in the hospital.

    • was it a ‘transferred prescription’ or is that where you regularly get the meds? we have AAA.

      • Wasp,

        It was where we regularly get the meds. I check out the AAA pharmacy discount program and members save on average 35 percent on scripts, sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. But we hit the jackpot this week.

  14. raven, thanks for the ideas.
    i just got medicare and soc sec . i am grateful for it because the month ended after the money ended. especially hard those 5 week months.
    a friend of mine lost her job and started couponing. she was saving on gas and other job expenses while actually making an ‘income’ from the grocery savings.
    even tho you don’t have a job you are certainly working!!
    on the garbage bags, i take it the food is stored in the original packaging and then put in the bags??
    does that make it safe??
    whatever anyone has said it is very hard to get a job. i’m no spring chicken and i did find a job with an inventory company. but i could not take the physical demands nor could i keep up the pace necessary. i had to quit. and the pay was so puny and the exhaustion was so great, i think you are doing the best thing. especially if you have to care for children in any capacity.
    thanks for the ideas.

  15. Curley Bull says:

    Howdy Pack,

    All I be gona say to yu all is; read the message, use what you can from it and don’t try to kill the messenger with out knowing a damn thing about her other than what you suppose might be the story.

    I paid SS and IRS for over 50 years and no one hates a freeloader worse than I so. Some are too lazy to work and some work harder trying to get something for nothing than they would have to work at a real job helping me pay the taxes!

    There are those that truly need a helping hand and don’t try to make a lifestyle out of it. I don’t have enough of the facts to make a judgment on this person, so therefore WILL NOT JUDGE!


  16. Pack
    When did the Pack become judge and jury? Lately there has been so much judgement toward people who submit articles, suggestions, comments.
    At this rate, no one will contribute any information. Get over it!
    Gleem what information you can or want/need and forget the negative comments.

    Raven, thank you for your time and effort to share with the Pack.


    • JP in MT says:


      My guess would be the pressure most are under do to changing political conditions and life circumstances they feel helpless to deal with. Most of us, as humans, feel better when we can find fault with others. It keeps us from having to look at ourselves, seeing many of the same “faults” but they “aren’t as bad as that”.

      • JP in MT
        Totally agree with your comment.
        In everyday life, I’m seeing more and more hostility amoung people.
        Have we prepared ourselves with physical necessities, ie food, water, defense items, shelter, medicines, etc…BUT neglected to prepare to our minds ?
        Part of preperation includes mind, soul, and heart.
        Thank you for your comment.

      • LittleAnniePrepper says:

        My husband calls it an increasing lack of civility in society. I have to agree.

    • Lyn;
      Thought I was the only one who noticed the increased sniping at the heals of the other members. I realize that the full moon is out, but this has been going on for awhile. It has become more apparent since I have finally had time to set and read the blog. Where is our compassion for fellow members? Is it due to the “trolls” as you refer to them.

  17. mom of three says:

    Thanks for the information, we have been very fortunate that we did not have to take food stamps, ourselves. Believe me there were times I only had $5.00 to our name. I can make two buffalo nickles,squeal if I had to. We should not judge, and try to help each others out with what information we have to pass on. As far as free sights I did coupon cabin, but some of the stuff you had to be a member to Costco, or some of the store’s were not in our area. I did get samples of toothpaste, eye solution, pads, cereal bars, tea. One place is Start Sampling, you sign up and get free products.
    I’ve been with them for 8 years,the last two not to much they have
    changed the program. Box Tops, for education sign up to help your areas school, too they let you print coupons some are higher values then you can get at other sights. Kellogg’s, has a program if you get their product’s to earn points, but you have to earn a lot to get anything so far I don’t have enough to really get much. I hope this helps.

  18. I take it that she is buying sensible food, looking to the future. She could be purchasing popped popcorn and pizzas and never look to future wants and needs. I did worry about her getting caught if her husband’s barter is not reported. But, that is her problem. I don’t know why she is eligible for food stamps, but she probably buys ingredients for cooking not boxes of prepared food. This will be one less family that is needy in the future since she is preparing for that.

    Stop storing in those paint buckets. That is just plain foolhardy. Store clothes, tools, cooking utensils, matches and such in those. Good post.

  19. Curley Bull says:

    Tracker & Tactical G-Ma,

    Thank you so much, the decision was made yesterday; if there is no change by Monday, unplug. As Joey said, “Mom wouldn’t want to be held prisoner in her body”. She is one of two adopted sisters I have and the only one that thinks like I do. I know she can hear me (don’t care what the Doctors say), and I asked for a favor; at the end of this journey, look up Mary (my late wife), because I want them both waiting for me when I make the journey.

    Again, thank you, and the rest of the pack,
    With a brother’s love,

    • Tactical G-Ma says:

      Curley Bull,
      I have been in that same place as you and Joey. I hope her transition is quick. The comfort comes in knowing she will have Everlasting Life. But I have the deepest sympathies for you and your family and your loss of having her here with you. God bless. You are in my prayers.

  20. Hi pack
    Haven’t written in a while
    Because of many difficulties in last month(and last year) have not been reading or writing much.
    Had to stop working for a while which really hurt money wise then have been trying to find job.that hasn’t worked so have to go back to job that caused the health issues…..oh well
    Anyway, what I have been doing is decluttering. Getting rid of things that are and won’t do me any good.I have been selling them on Amazon, Craig’s list and Facebook. Also discovered bartering on Craig’s list and Facebook……I still need money to get ourselves debt free but once this is done, I think we can live pretty well.
    We have a good here (small) of cows going. Butchered our first this year and figured out a garden big enough for nearly a year of veggies.also have tapped into market of people willing to pay good money for grass fed beef to pay taxes etc
    I have joined free cycle too and Facebook has lots of local groups for selling, bartering and free stuff I wanted to add to this post
    I see the point people are trying to make about we but this last year, if it wasn’t for my aunt moving in and her as check and her paying some of the bills we would have lost our home….we didn’t realize how close to the edge we were……
    Anyway, I am more organized, the house is cleaner, I am actually using and eating what I store and replacing them( we did have to live off them for a while)
    Here is hoping 2014 is better personally but world wide I think it is going to be bad….there are little signs around here that are showing……

    • mama,
      hi. just reached the golden age for soc sec in february. thank God. very grateful for it. kept being told that my generation would never get any of it.
      my mother moved in with us about 5 years ago and needed surgery. it is her soc sec check that kept us going especially as daughter’s meds that keep her alive were expensive and gas was threatening to go to 4$$ per gallon.
      now that we have my soc sec, be it ever so little, less than 400 per mo., my goal is to pay off all debt in about three years. then there is one big debt i hope to make a dent in before one of us dies!!
      it is not getting any easier and had a scare at Christmas–car threatened to die and not paid for. thanks to God it was not the worst case and bro sent money for the repairs.
      so we are breathing a bit easier for now and it looks like spring might be thinking of being less shy here in the frozen and blizzard afflicted north. God bless you ,mama and prayed for you a decent job.

  21. Donna in MN says:

    Where is Raven? I get frustrated when someone submits a personal article, makes claims, and doesn’t answers questions raised by the pack…..

    What canned food did you eat that was 60 years old?

    Where do you find your coupons to save money? Give us a hint.

    Or will we hear crickets? Come on, Raven….:-)

    • Theres a website called krazy koupon lady

    • Mary in GA says:

      Donna in MN, agreed.

    • umpalumpa69 says:

      How do you expect someone to answer when she just took the time to write a very good article and all any body focuses on is that she is on food stamps. Some people who are on food stamps actually need them, get over it!

  22. axelsteve says:

    60 year old canned food was probably c or k rations. Brought to you by ww2.

    • read where jackie clay, my hero [eat your heart out martha stewart], ate beans from an anasazi site that were hundreds of years old. she also uses her home canned goods beyond recommended dates but she knows what she is doing and how to store it. she does say that food will lose some nutritional value over time.

  23. While I applaud the efforts of Raven to prep, I find myself questioning if all of the freebie efforts and reliance on gov’t assistance might be better spent in becoming resilient.

    Developing an actual good or service that she and/or her husband can provide that actually benefits the whole of society rather than accepting handouts and/or relying solely on government… It doesn’t take much of a personal time investment to develop $50+ per hour freelancer/contractor skills that still allow one a considerable amount of free time. Even in (partial?) retirement.

    And to be clear, not criticizing SS, but I am criticizing relying on resigning oneself to/being proud of reliance on giveaways before SHTF — stuff like foodstamps if you have a $300/month yardsale budget…

    • You need to read more carefully – the yard sale money was after saving for 6 to 8 months, not per month.

      • Yes, I confused the OP and Brenda. Realized after that they’re two separate people. If anything, that makes my concerns even more profound…

        Take MD. He lives a low-cash lifestyle in a place where he’s able to produce food.

        The OP/Raven lives in a presumably urban area in a free apartment, and is likely very limited in her ability to produce food.

        That said, living low cash flow (how IRS income) by choice in my opinion isn’t the same as living in actual poverty — what foodstamps are intended for. I guess that’s my issue. And it sounds like the OP does maximize her foodstamps, so I have no issue with how she allocates resources.

        But the reality is that those of us (and all of our future children/grandchildren since we don’t have a balanced budget) who don’t receive these gov’t services pay 2 times what she actually receives (b/c gov’t isn’t efficient) from our taxes to provide these food benefits.

        $150 isn’t a lot and IMO is really intended for children that can’t provide for themselves. The OP never mentioned children, so I’m assuming that they aren’t a factor. Sub-school aged children are the only scenario I see as excusable for any extended period of time to rely on gov’t food, housing, and income benefits…

        My take on prepping is that it is about self-reliance. Gov’t benefits are entirely in conflict with that perspective…


        • *Fundamentally, I question the comfort with accepting the status quo reliance evident in this article.

        • RSR . . . I agree completely. You are making the same point I tried to make above, you just articulated it better.

  24. beachbm61 says:

    I got into “finding” stuff. We live in an area of Florida that is “upscale”. The night before trash pickup day we ride our bikes around the neighborhood. The stuff these people put out in trash makes us cringe. Some of it goes home with us. Also, have you seen the items you find along the interstates tha have fallen off vehicles? Turnarounds or stops have gotten us many prizes. I once picked up a toolbag full of Dewalt cordless tools!

  25. what I take away from this article is:
    1) There is more than one way to prepare for the future
    2) All people low on cash are not lazy people
    3) There is no shame in living off the excesses of other people providing that you are not taking away from someone less fortunate than yourself (dumpster diving, company freebies, freecycle etc.)
    4) Those of us with an income at them moment should pay close attention – we never know when we could be in the same shoes as the author

    diversity in life is important


    • I don’t know if you ever read the Survivalist Series by Angery American. If not I highly recommend.

      In that series, there’s a scene where the main character gives some supplies to his neighbor, a cop. Well, others saw that cop carrying a couple 5 gallon buckets of supplies to his place and a mob shows up at the cop’s house when he’s not there and assaults his wife trying to take what the neighbor (the main character who prepared) had given to the cop.

      For all intents, our government is that mob ALL THE TIME. It forcibly takes a percentage of labor from those of us who work and manage to make a living wage. It takes a percentage of profit from every business that makes money. It borrows against the future of multiple generations. Etc. Bottom line, living off of excesses is dumpster diving and curb collecting — it’s not rely on theft/income redistribution by gov’t to provide.

      My belief is that anyone can find a niche where they make in excess of $25 per hour, $50 per hour if they develop SKILLS. Both John Robb in resilient communties and Chris Guillebeau over at art of nonconformity go into how one puts those skills into action to generate a living wage.

      My hope is that people in the author’s shoes decide to think outside of the box and become self-reliant instead of resigning themselves to “the system.” IMO, the system isn’t much different than folks who follow bad laws/illegal orders just b/c they are the laws/orders. (And though I hate the analogy and whenever anyone brings up the Nazis I stop listening, I can’t help but mention that the pattern of behavior, in an instance we all recognize, is very similar to the slippery yet long slope that led to the Holocaust.)

      • Edit: it’s blog I was thinking of, not art of nonconformity. Apologies for the confusion.

  26. Go to a bakery and hit them up for their old buckets. Any place that would use lots of icing or glaze. Donut shops, Krispy Kreme, you get the idea. Rather than wasting gas, call around first, get an agreement and follow thru, you’ll get all the buckets you can handle!

    • Walmart’s $3 white 5 gallon buckets in the paint section are food grade last I checked. Never bothered to check the slightly cheaper blue ones…
      More here:

      Ultimately, there’s a big difference between being cheap and being frugal. Being frugal, you maximize value. Being cheap, you minimize expenditures…

      • Encourager says:

        RSR, I get free buckets from Sam’s Club and Walmart. Go to the bakery area and ask for them. Then ask for a trash bag to put them in, as they will be messy with frosting residue. Take home and wash. I have gotten 5 gallon buckets there but usually they are 3 gallon size. Easier to move filled. Oh, and don’t forget the lids!

        • Walmart, cake bake shop, and the Amish baker, and donut shop do not give away buckets. WM must throw them out. The other two sell them for a prime price and the gamma seals do not fit. You must measure the top and get a 12″ bucket.

          • PP
            Try your major grocery stores that have a large bakery in your area. Out in our area Winco…….you have to purchase FG Buckets that they sale along with the lids.

            Bel Air/Albertson’s/Fred Meyers all have large bakeries, check with the staff. When I check with them early in the morning or way after lunch time.

            Never Never during the rush lunch bunch hour(s). I have made acquaintances with the staff, visit with them have even taken homemade jam to them with a thank you card for being so helpful. Learn to smooze with them, they appreciate someone who treats them like a person, not a personal servant. I have other places that are wonderful……now go out an smooze the bakery staff. 🙂

          • Encourager says:

            PP, it must just be in your area that WallMart does not give away their buckets. There is a WM about 60 miles from here that we are near maybe every four months. They actually WASH the buckets before they give them to you! And our local WM and Sam’s Club give them away but they are pretty sticky from frosting.

  27. Brenda,
    Please stop using used paint cans and plastic trash bags for your food storage. Both leak cancer-causing chemicals into the food. And there’s no way to cook-out these chemicals. Rather than using these, please re-purpose your bottles and jars from other foods. That’s what I do, and I’m on a very limited budget. The food will keep well in a dark, cool, dry place. If you fill the jars/bottles to the top, there will be no need for oxygen absorbers as there will be very little air to begin with. Most of all, they are free because you bought them for the food.

    As far as seeds, make sure you only buy heirloom seeds so you can keep the seeds and replant them, insuring the plants will be the same, rather than hybrids sold at Wal-mart. Hybrids will not come out the same as the plant before because they are a mixture of plants and you never know which will be produced from the seed.

    As far as getting off government assistance, I don’t believe we should expect Social Security recipients to for-go the retirement savings plan our government forced Americans into, and who have planned their retirements based on this, not knowing the government would spend the money. Instead, especially if you use, you can start your own web site very cheaply to inform others about saving money and you may be able to make a little money on advertising.
    Good luck to you.

  28. Brearbear says:


    “How to prep on an extremely tight budget – even if you’re on food stamps…” I sure ain’t gonna get into judgin’ no one…
    But ‘dis ‘ere
    title has sure got me thunking hard as anything survival
    and civil defense related kinda stuff usually does…

    Now… as sure as I’m a Canadian I ain’t never been on dem der feed stamps…and am sure certain I ain’t never will…
    We is got our own thang up here. But that I ain’t gonna go into…
    But I dang sure feel the pinch as far as $ goes…

    Like I said it’s got me here thinking and so I just gotta try and give my 2cents…on dis here issue.

    “How to prep on an extremely tight budget”…
    …how I read dat article…

    How about some collecting news paper and rolling it up and making fire logs? Collecting used plastic bags? Collecting dryer lint?

    Collecting old fabric for patches and for gun cleaning? Going for walks collecting tinder/kindeling/and bring home a tarp full of dead fall cut to size? Along the way trying to learn how to identify some wild edibles?
    Go and find a beer/pop can and practice making a beer can alcohol stove …master doing that thang…and gift it to someone and also teach THEM how to do it?
    Go to the bottle depot and collect some 2litre plastic bottles. Bleach them out so ya can at least use them to wash dishes if you don’t want to actually drink from them ?
    Uhm….try and find and collect 5gallon metal containers and #10 coffee cans so you can make homemade hobo stoves?
    Read up on what those in the depression had to do in their hard times?

    …I could go on and some of these ideas might not be great but there are lots of cheap or free ideas that just might help in the future…

    So…the jist of this article folks is great!…
    Would love to hear them ideas of yours…as I is craving knowledge…

    …and although I some times make good $…
    I sure ain’t rich…
    And there is Just SO DANG MUCH TO PREP FOR
    …that yes…I am prepping on an extremely dang tight budget!
    …any one else have some positive ideas?

    God Bless!

    • BrearBear
      You can use food stamps to purchase vegetable seeds and plants from the stores, it is a part of them wanting you to eat a more healthy lifestyle. Thought you should know if you were unaware.

  29. Brearbear says:

    Ten lost years: 1929-1939
    Book by Barry Broadfoot

    “His historical research consisted of interviewing various Canadians from all over the country about their memories of their lives during specific historical periods such as the Great Depression and World War II.”
    From wikapedia
    (I had this book as a kid highly recommend it)…

    The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, and Other Affairs of Plain Living
    By Eliot Wigginton

    (I just found this book in a ValueVillage store for cheap! Love it!)



  30. Brearbear says:

    “How to prep on an extremely tight budget”…

    I just want to add one more thing trying to inspire folks to think outside the box and NOT despair!

    As much as it would be great to have the worlds BEST camping gear…
    Also think and learn skills of simple, cheap,or used (thrift store)…free things…
    To help keep yourself alive!

    (You might loose that $700.00 Marmot insulated parka…then what?)…

    Some quotes from:
    Ch. 15: Improvised Clothing and Protective Items

    “The girls slept on newspapers spread about an inch thick over the gravel floor of the trench. When sleeping on cold or frozen ground, it is best to place newspapers or other insulation on top of a layer of small limb-tips or brush, so that drying air can circulate under the bedding. A sheet of plastic under bedding will keep it from being dampened by a wet floor but will not prevent it from being dampened after a few days by condensed water vapor from the sleeper’s body.”

    “Newspaper and other paper through which water vapor can pass are such good windbreaker materials that they can be used under any loosefitting outer garment even one through which air can pass quite readily. They also provide good insulation.”

    Footwear soles can be made from car tires…newspaper wrapped around the foot with string or tape for insulation…etc.

    Think outside the box!

    • Making car tire/newspaper shoes would certainly cut down on some of the need for money. Then, they could get off food stamps. Brilliant!

      Camping and sleeping on newspaper and twigs would make a house unnecessary. That would take a strain off the budget that must pay for electricity and gas. Knowing how to make a hobo stove would be as asset here. Another good tip!

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