Ten Useful Prepping Items under $20

When you first get started prepping for various possible emergencies, the wealth of information on this topic can be overwhelming. But what is also overwhelming is the cost of buying various items as part — and only part — of that process of becoming well-prepared. You could spend a large amount of money, buying a second home to retreat to in case of severe disaster. If we take things down a few notches, you could still spend quite a bit of money on home security, personal security, large stores of food, water, and supplies, and much more. But what would happen if we took the cost of prepping all the way down to a bare minimum.

If you are just getting started, gaining knowledge by reading various prepping books and survival blogs is your best first step. But once you start buying some necessary items, what would a low-cost beginning look like? This simple post is my suggestion for 10 useful prepping items, each under $20.00. The usual pricing cautions apply here. Prices vary, are subject to change, and are not guaranteed. So don’t be dismayed if some items cost a little more in your area, or at some point in the future, beyond the publication date of this article.

1) Light Sources

1 – 100 Hour Plus Emergency Candle Clear Mist by Emergency Essentials
10 – green light sticks

I bought these items online. You could get 2 of the 100 hour emergency candles for under $20. But I opted for 10 of the green light sticks and one candle. This emergency ‘candle’ is actually liquid paraffin in a container with a wick. It lasts much longer than many of the solid emergency candles on the market (which are also inexpensive). The best light sticks are the green ones. The white sticks are much less bright and do not last as long, in my experience. Here’s my Emergency Lighting Product Review from a few months ago.

2) Alcohol Stove

If you are without power for a length of time, you will get tired of eating cold food. Also, certain types of foods need cooking in order to be palatable or edible, like pasta, rice, dried legumes, etc. Alcohol stoves can cost under $20.00. Some models are a little more expensive than that. But you can also make your own alcohol stove (like this popular ‘penny stove’ design) for even less money.

I am working on my own design for an inexpensive versatile alcohol stove. More on this in future posts. In the meantime, see my recent article, Alcohol Stoves for post-SHTF Cooking. And Butch’s more general approach to the topic: Post SHTF Cooking Options and More On Cooking Post SHTF.

3) 29 gallons of least expensive bottled water
$0.68 per gallon x 29 gallons = $19.72

I know that there are many different methods of water purification out there. We have reviewed some of those methods here at Prep-Blog, and we will continue to post on the topic. But nothing beats the convenience and security of having a whole bunch of gallons of clean safe drinking water, for thirst and for cooking.

The price of this item varies a great deal. You might want to spend a bit more per gallon and get distilled water (purer and so probably keeps longer). You might prefer a brand name. I priced this from the store brand of water — but I didn’t buy 29 gallons. I already have bottled water stored up in sufficient quantity. The figure 29 gallons comes from the price limit of $20. It’s not as if I think that 29 gallons is the exact right amount of water to store. You be the judge of how much water you need. Experts say you need a gallon of drinking water a day per person. I suggest at least a week’s supply, if not more.

4) Tarp and paracord

Here’s my previous article: The Usefulness of Paracord. More than string, but not quite rope, paracord is very useful and inexpensive. Get the high quality 550 paracord, with seven separate double-twisted nylon strands inside of a nylon sheath.

Tarps are inexpensive and can be used for many purposes. Here in Florida, after one particularly bad hurricane season (2004), many homes had roofs covered with blue tarps to stop leaks. It was a common sight because it is a quick and easy way to deal with a leaky roof, until you can get a professional roofer.

You can use a tarp and paracord to make an emergency shelter. You can use the inner strands of the paracord for fishing line. There are dozens of uses for either/both of these items. Very useful and inexpensive.

5) .22LR ammunition

I’m cheating a bit on this one. Of course, for this item to be useful, you need a good .22LR gun. The least expensive, high quality .22 rifle is probably the Marlin Model-60. But it is still well over $100.00

On the other hand, if you own a .22 handgun or rifle, some extra .22LR ammo is inexpensive and very useful. You can use it for hunting small game. You could use it for self-defense if you absolutely had to do so. However, .22LR is not powerful enough to be considered optimum for that purpose. You could possibly barter the ammo for food, water, or other necessities.

You can get 200 rounds of top quality .22LR ammo (CCI brand) for under $20.00. (I priced it at Walmart.) Less expensive brands and types of .22 ammo exist. But I agree with Butch on this point: the more expensive .22LR ammunition is still very inexpensive, so there is no reason to skimp: The Often Overlooked Twenty-Two.

6) Multivitamin/mineral Supplement

Whether you are storing food or growing food, or trying to buy food in a post-SHTF economy, you need to consider macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). It is easy to get enough protein, fat, and carbohydrates from stored, bought, or even grown food. But all the micronutrients are hard to account for, especially if food supplies become disrupted. A good multivitamin/mineral supplement takes the worry out of this basic need.

I priced a brand-name supplement at 100 tablets for $7.97. But the store-brand ‘equivalent’ (or near equivalent), offered twice as much for about the same price. If you have kids, you might want to focus mainly on their needs for this item, and spend about $20 on chewable kid vitamins. These are fine for adults also, if the need arises.

Store them in a secure locked cabinet!! I’m very serious about this point. All these kid vitamins are colorful and tasty, just like candy. But consuming a large amount would be deadly. So especially if you are stocking up, you will need to lock up the kid vitamins.

If you have kids and you don’t have a secure place to lock up all of your more dangerous prepping supplies, forget about the $20 price limit and the various items on this list. First of all, buy a locking cabinet, or a locking trunk, or a safe, or put a secure deadbolt lock on an out-of-the-way closet.

7) First Aid book

My picks:
American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care
and/or
ACEP First Aid Manual, 4th Edition
I have both.

But this book is essential if you have kids: First Aid for Babies & Children Fast

8) Freeze-dried coffee plus tea bags

I don’t know if you drink coffee or not. But I not only drink several cups a day, I consider it an essential survival item. I would get two large containers of freeze-dried coffee, brand name, one with and one without caffeine, for a theoretical total 360 cups of coffee. The packaging says “up to 180″ cups of coffee. I’m sure if you carefully limit the amount of coffee you use per cup, you can reach that limit. But realistically, I’m getting more like 100 or 120 cups, rather than 180.

If you are a tea-drinker instead, you can get a package of 100 tea bags, brand-name, for only a few dollars. You might want to get some of that sweetened instant tea powder, too. If you ever have to drink water that has been purified by chemicals or filters, you will want to improve the taste. Turning the water into tea or coffee is a big improvement.

9) Gardening seeds

I’ve seen packets of see for as little as 20 to 50 cents, but the more common pricing is in the 1 to 3 dollar range. Some of the more unusual seeds, purchased online, can be quite a bit more expensive. But if you can still get quite a few different types of seeds for under $20.

I’ll list a few of my top picks for growing macronutrients in your garden.

Legumes: peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and yardlong beans. These are all excellent sources of protein and easy to grow. I would suggest growing some beans and peas to dry and store, and others (like snap beans or snow peas) for fresh eating.

Hulless pumpkin seeds (recommended cultivars: Kakai or Styrian) are great sources of dietary fat and protein. Pumpkin flesh provides plenty of beta-carotene and some carbs as well.

Potato and sweet potato are easy to grow sources of carbs. But growing potato from true seeds, rather than from seed-potatoes is tricky. See this article on the subject: Survival Gardening: potato and sweet potato

Quinoa: my favorite grain (though it is technically an achene, not a grain or cereal). Easy to grow and harvest, quinoa needs no hulling after harvest. Just wash off the bitter saponin coating, and cook: Survival Gardening: growing quinoa. Quinoa is high in protein (14%) and has all essential amino acids in ideal proportions.

For vitamins, minerals, fiber and just plain enjoyment: tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, cucumber, eggplant, carrots and other fruits and vegetable are excellent. The seeds are easy to find and inexpensive.

10) The 20-dollar 20-day DIY emergency food kit

See my next post for this macronutrient-complete set of foods that store well and are inexpensive: 20-days’ worth of emergency food for a dollar a day. As always, prices vary and are subject to change. But I actually bought all of these items at the stated prices: $19.96 for 20 days’ worth of food. I estimate the kcal/day to be about 2500, with a fair balance of macronutrients, for a total of just over 50,000 calories.

– Thoreau

3 Responses to Ten Useful Prepping Items under $20

  1. Solar outdoor lights for lighting maybe, I’ve seen them 4 for $10 with cheap Ni-Cad batts included. They could double as AA battery chargers.

    Cheap AM/FM radios, if you can find one with an external antenna jack even better. Won’t find one for under $20 (unless used maybe), but a fire/police scanner would let you know about local threats in near real-time.

    Gardening tools, potting soil, seedling/plant containers, and fertilizer to go with the seeds maybe.

    Multi-voltage auto adapters (like this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0057OO13G/) could be used to power most items that use a 115v AC wall-wart from your car, or off a spare auto battery. A spare auto battery to charge in parallel when your car was running might be good too. Cheap DC/AC inverters, spare fuses, small gauge copper wire, soldering iron, crimp-on electrical connecters, and a multi-meter for measuring voltage and testing continuity. Having the ability and materials to improvise alternate means to power / recharge small electronic devices would be a great bartering skill.

    On the “ammo as barter” option, I see that mentioned often, but I’m not so certain. Between neighbors early on maybe, but if they change hands more than once I just don’t see them holding their value. No way to determine if they’d been exposed to water at some point, or even if the powder was removed and refilled with dirt and the bullet re-crimped. In any extended emergency, the ones deemed ‘best’ would be kept and the suspect ones used for barter, Greshams Law. I’ve had some rolling around in my glovebox for a couple years, I know I’d be trading them first. Same for liquid fuels, or non-factory sealed booze – too easy to dilute it, and no easy way to determine if it has been. Just my .02.

  2. I expect that most people would try cooking and eating quinoa a time or two before deciding to use it as an emergency staple. Just a word of warning, however. While touted as a wonderfully allergy-free product, a very small percentage of people have extreme stomach cramps and vomiting starting about 15-20 minutes after eating it. After having this happen to me twice, I checked out what the web had to say and found that there are definitely other people describing identical symptoms. The “malaise” lasts about 2-4 hours and then there’s some recovery time. Unpleasant enough under the best of circumstances. In the middle of a major emergency, I would think it might be the absolute last straw. And one last caution: it was actually only the 4th and 5th times that I ate it that this happened. Unfortunately, this corresponds very closely with the known “sensitizing” period of allergens, so I’m not risking trying it again. Just thought I’d mention it, because it is so widely billed as a type of “miracle food.”