Today is a great day to grab a cup of coffee or tea and sit a spell while we chat some more about prepping on a budget. Where I live the stores do not allow double coupons. However several stores do allow ‘stacking’ a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon and/or sale. Most also do price matching from local competitors. It will take you a bit more time to prepare shopping lists by studying those sale lists along with your coupons but there are several online sites that help with sale and coupon match-ups for you.
One of the best tricks I learned was to set up a price book. It is a small notebook where I track the sales. I made a page for each favorite product such as ground beef, sausage, pasta, paper towels, toothpaste, soap, canned tomatoes, toilet tissue. Each page lists several columns: date, store, brand name, size, regular price, sale price. Soon patterns begin to show. Most stores offer sales on a rotation basis of about every 6 to 8 weeks. This will help you determine when to use coupons at your best advantage and also let you know when to plan for a ‘stock-up’ week of favorite items on sale.
As this journey continues you will begin to want to add non-food items to your stocks. Some of these items will be determined by the reasons you have decided to prep and store. Flea markets, auctions, garage and yard sales are all fantastic places to find items. At auctions we have managed to find lots of great items such as an extra large pressure canner that my budget would never have allowed us otherwise. These can be over $200 new but we paid only $15!
One interesting point to consider is precious metals as a hedge against any economic failures. Many experts say this is the way to have some form of currency later on. I am hampered here by our budget limits so I am not in a position to order from online gold and silver dealers. Yet I realized there are other ways to accomplish this. At estate sales it is not uncommon to find odd pieces of sterling spoons or forks or even pretty cake servers for sale. Several famous TV hostesses showcase country chic mismatched silver place settings as a neat way to set a table. Buying those mismatched silverware pieces can be a double win for you.
Surprisingly cast iron cookware is often found at these places too. Young couples seldom want grandma’s old cookware so you can usually find it at bargain prices. Many times it will have been left to get rusty and dusty in basements or garages. Don’t let that deter you though because it is rare that they cannot be cleaned up again. Scrub them out well and coat with grease and season in the oven to make them like new. Old cast iron is often a better quality than new ones too! Cast iron is a favorite if one needs to eventually cook on a fire pit or use some other form of outdoor cooking.
Garage sales can also be great places to find boxes of sewing threads, zippers, buttons, and even knitting supplies. Older generations knew the wisdom of cutting buttons off old garments and saving them. Often estate and moving sales are great places to find garden tools or regular household tools inexpensively. Consider having backups to your tools to be a good idea. Think in terms of where items are made today. Most seem to come from China or Pakistan. In the event of an emergency, it may not be able to find easy replacements. My son and I fell into a fantastic sale of hardware – every type of nut, bolt, screw, nail, washer, rivet, and anchor imaginable. The seller had taken clear plastic pencil boxes and labeled each one with the type and size item it contained. These boxes then stacked nicely in an organized fashion on workbench shelves. We were able to purchase over $400 worth of stock for only $45! We can do just about any home project without having to run to the store to buy nails or screws now!
Other garage sales have yielded more common prep items. My husband and sons love hunting and fishing so they work at building their collections through garage sales. Camping supplies such as tents, propane cook-stoves, grills, and lanterns will often be found at estate sales and moving sales too. Even candles are something to consider buying. It’s nice to decorate with candles that fit the color and décor of your home but in an emergency, any color candle will do fine. Save the fancy ones to look pretty but garage sale odd ones will be fine in any lights out situation.
Another trick is to always ask even if you don’t see something you want. I often ask if they possibly have any canning supplies for sale and will be told “As a matter of fact we do have some!” Then they will drag a couple of cases of dirty canning jars out of the attic or basement or shed out back! As long as the jars aren’t chipped or cracked they can be washed and sterilized in a dishwasher even later. Simply buy new rings and lids and you’re ready to go!
The most important lesson in all of this is to think outside the box – leave your comfort zone of only buying new at the mall. Don’t think you can’t save money or do all of this on a budget because it is easier than you think. You may ultimately decide you want to rethink your budget a bit to economize so that you have more money available to put towards your stock. If you’re more like my family you may have already cut a lot of corners in your budget. That is when you have to prioritize what is more important to you. Perhaps plan less frequent trips to the mall or fewer TV premium cable channels or fewer dinners out. Cooking at home is healthier and less costly so maybe entertain another couple for a quiet night in or plan family game nights instead of out to movies every weekend.
When you do go out on garage sale hunts, use a budget. Set a dollar amount that fits for your family such as $20 weekly. If you skip a week, tuck the twenty away until the next week so now you will have $40. If you do find one of the incredible deals that you can afford, go for it. Is your budget too tight to allow this? Have a garage sale of your own. You can clean out extras you don’t need cluttering up the house and make money at the same time. Or try listing on eBay or selling via Craigslist. Use wisdom and never meet up with strangers alone. Have fun with all of this and in no time you will find your stockpile growing!