Emergency preparedness is not cheap. That is not to say that it has to be extremely expensive, but with more people living paycheck-to-paycheck, it is becoming more difficult for some to keep extra food on the shelves and make headway in other areas. This set of circumstances makes having free resources not only beneficial, but important as well. The types of help that can be found vary from free supplies to a wealth of information that can be helpful for almost anyone.
Emergency Food Samples: There are a plethora of companies that seem to be operating in the emergency preparedness space these days. One great advantage for those who are looking to gather emergency food resources on the cheap is that several of these companies that sell emergency food supplies will offer free food samples to those who request them. The only catch is that the “free” samples that I could find are all accompanied by a shipping/handling fee of some type. I went ahead and listed the best information that I could find about these fees.
Coupons: There are coupons for all kinds of things that can be found in stores, papers and online constantly. While not all of these coupons will lead to a free product, there are some that will. Even a buy one, get one free coupon will help stretch your dollars if you are purchasing something that you need and would purchase anyway.
Plenty of websites feature coupons and free tips where complimentary items can be snagged. Many of them I refer to as the “mom” sites because they particularly cater to moms that are trying to be as frugal as possible while ensuring that their families are taken care of.
The opportunities do not stop there though; manufacturers and suppliers will sometimes feature free samples that can be requested from them online and other companies will offer free items with a coupon if you come visit one of their stores. One such example is Harbor Freight Tools where they regularly publish a coupon for free items like flashlights, screwdrivers, etc. that just have to be redeemed in store to get the free item, no purchase necessary.
Buckets: Durable, waterproof and useful for so many things, buckets are an invaluable resource for emergency preparedness. Even better, they can often be found for free, or in some cases, for a very low price.
One of the most popular options when it comes to free buckets is to try to locate food-grade buckets from restaurants and bakeries. If finding food-grade buckets is not a concern for you, other buckets can be located from industrial and manufacturing sites. Paint companies and painters are also a good opportunity to find free buckets as they are constantly going through them and they are not typically reused for anything.
Low-cost buckets can be found from some establishments. The best example that comes to the top of my head is Firehouse Subs who sells their empty pickle buckets with a lid for $2 with that money going toward their charity that provides funding to emergency services organizations for necessary and life-saving equipment. If you do not have a Firehouse Subs in your area, then online re-selling sites might also be a good option.
If for some reason you find yourself having to buy buckets at full price, most hardware stores sell branded buckets for a fairly reasonable cost. My experience has been that they usually cost somewhere around $3 to $5. One thing to look for when purchasing buckets is whether or not a lid is included in the price of the bucket. If it is not, the price can increase by as much as a few dollars at some places.
Barrels: While I think that the days of finding free barrels easily are behind us, there are still some who say that food and non-food grade barrels can be found for free. Some potential sources where you can check for free barrels are food manufacturers like those that produce pickles, olives, soft drinks and cheese as well as places like car washes, industrial plants, warehouses, feed/farm stores and government offices.
If free barrels cannot be found, online re-selling sites can be a good source for lower cost used barrels and containers. As an example, in the area where I live, a used 55-gallon steel barrel that was originally used for motor oil can be purchased for $10.
Pallets: As valuable as pallets can be, there are a lot of businesses that don’t have a good way to use them, sell them or they build up faster than they can otherwise dispose of them so they offer them up for free. This is another area where scouring the common online classified sites is the most effective way to identify potential sources of free pallets. These ads will typically give the location and instructions for how to come pick these pallets up.
There are plenty of potential uses for pallets when it comes to emergency preparedness. Some of my favorite uses are:
- To put down on the floor as a way to keep supplies and equipment off the ground as a way to protect them from water and pests.
- Break them down to use the wood for other projects or for firewood.
- Put them together like a fence for small animals like goats or pigs in a homestead setting.
- Use them to build walls for a shed or other shelter for storing supplies and/or equipment.
- Lastly, they can be set up as a three sided “bin” to use as a composting area for gardening.
One thing that is always important to remember is to be courteous and follow instructions when picking pallets up as most of these sources are places of business and would prefer that you don’t interfere with their business operations and also there may be safety risks in some areas.
In addition to the supplies that I already listed, a thorough search online will reveal several potential sources of free samples for foods, beverages, cleaning products, pet foods, etc.
Emergency preparedness websites are constantly featuring sources of free information like online training courses, webinars, manuals and helpful articles. Some of the big information sources that can be found on these sites are the manuals that can be found like the LDS Preparedness Manual, military manuals and government emergency preparedness guides.
Unfortunately, some of this information is only good for entertainment as it can be wildly inaccurate, harmful and/or even just plain made up. Careful scrutiny while reviewing information is always highly recommended so that only helpful information is relied upon. A safe guideline to follow is to lean more heavily on published guides from credible sources and articles from well-known and well-established websites.
Personal Liberty’s On Your Own section is a treasure trove of information on survival and emergency preparedness. Another good site that I cannot recommend enough is prepperwebsite.com. Not only does PrepperWebsite feature a wealth of emergency preparedness knowledge itself, but there is also a grossly comprehensive listing of other related websites where free information can be found.
In an effort to be very clear up front, I do not advocate that any person agree to volunteer or become part of an organization for the purpose of receiving any type of free or reduced training.
With that being said, there are some opportunities where individuals can get free training that can potentially be useful for emergency preparedness like CPR and First Aid. Some of these opportunities include volunteering in medical facilities, schools and even as a firefighter. Like I said, only volunteer for opportunities that you are passionate about and would do even if there were no free training involved.
There are additional opportunities for very affordable training that can be found from private organizations, educational institutions and some government agencies. A great educational opportunity that is available locally for us is a home canning university that is put on by the local extension service where participants can receive two full days of training in how to preserve food with the use of water bath canning. The cost for this class is only $25.
This is probably the area where you have the smallest chance of actually coming up with something in the end but someone has to be the winner so why not give it a shot? Searching online can help you locate many contests that are free to enter. One of the areas that I see a lot of free contests is firearms and related companies but I am sure that many such giveaways can be located by a focused researcher. I guess my thought is that it never hurts to try. Following companies on social media can be a great opportunity to find out about free contests.
If you have a knack for capturing your ideas through writing or by creating a video, there are also many emergency preparedness websites that have ongoing contests where contributors can win free supplies and equipment that are useful in being prepared for an emergency or disaster. This is another area where searching online can help you locate potential sources of these type of contests.
All in all, there is not one location that contains the entire goldmine of resources where one can become completely prepared for all scenarios free of charge, but there are some ways that a person can start or enhance their preparedness with minimal cost.
If you have another free/low cost resource that I missed, please include it in the comments so that others may take advantage of it.
— Thomas Miller