Prepping for major disaster on a tight budget

Prepping For Widespread Major Disaster With Little or No Budget

Prepping for a widespread and long lasting major disaster. This goes well beyond ordinary prepping and preparedness. Attempting to adequately prepare for such a thing is difficult enough for those who have resources. But what about those who do not?

This question was posed to me within the context of “what if” there were to be an attack on our homeland. Lets say by way of cyberattacks that have taken down large sections of the power grid (among other infrastructure). Maybe even coinciding with a new bioweapon virus. Worse yet, nuclear.. In other words, we’re talking about a life-altering event or series of events that put everyone in ‘survival mode’.

How in the world could someone prepare for something like this without much of any financial resources?

“…not sure what I can do (on no budget lol). I think, food, water, cash, but really, how long does that last? Depends what happens too. I want to prepare but not sure what to do, not knowing what’s really going to happen.”

“I know it depends what happens! I have had a Rubbermaid tub full of dried foods like rice and beans. But water, I buy and then use. And even if I filled my five jugs, how long would that last?”

“Should I buy a filter so we can use the lake water? Or make a plan to be able to get water from my water pump? It doesn’t work without electricity.”

“I don’t have anything solar and cant afford a generator, or anything else for that matter…”

“In an emergency would we be going to work, or staying home?”

“Would grocery stores be open, would cash be useless?”

“So many unknowns.”

~ genuinely concerned

Okay, let me try and tackle this dilemma. And I’m not sure if there really is a solution. Plus, given the near infinite number of unknowns (everyone in their own circumstances, for example), there is no way to simply suggest “do this” or “do that” to survive through your new life “after” the event..

However, in an attempt to keep it simple and practical, lets stick to the basics. To survive, you’re going to need water, food, shelter, and security. Those are your primary concerns, at least at first. So lets focus on that.


Clean drinking water. Without it, you’re simply not going to make it. You are in massive good fortune if there’s a water source on your property, or nearby. That’s a huge big deal. Can I emphasize that enough? What an asset!

If this is you, well, you’re almost there.. Unless your water source is a clean natural spring, chances are that organic ‘nasties’ are in there too. And when you drink it, well, you’re going to end up expelling more water than you take in, if you get my meaning.. and this will lead to your demise. Clean drinking water is critical.

Despite being low on financial resources, there’s got to be a way to purchase a good drinking water filter. Preferably a gravity countertop water filter. While focusing on lack of financial resources (the thrust of this article), which water filter might you afford? Well obviously, that depends on what you can manage to afford.

Gravity Countertop Water Filters

Unfortunately, the king of the hill, the Berkey, is expensive. The replacement filter elements are expensive too (although they do process ~ 3000 gallons of water per element). As of this post, the total approximate cost of the Big Berkey (holds 2.25 gallons) is just north of $360. If you can swing it, this is my recommendation. However if you cannot, lets look at alternatives..

Note: USABerkeyFilters is one of our sponsors, though even if not, I would still recommend the Berkey.

Cheaper alternatives to Berkey? With that said, the following choices are just my own opinion, and I have no affiliation with any. I have not done in-depth filter specification comparisons of these against the Black Berkey filter elements. Rather, just going by brands I’ve known about, but cost a little less.

Alexapure. It’s still quite expensive. NSF/ANSI 53 and standard 61 certified. Looking on their site, approx. $279 as of this post.

Waterdrop. Evidently NSF/ANSI 372 certified. Approx. $199.

Pitcher Water Filters

Okay, those gravity countertop filters are all costly. But lets look at another way around this. Pitcher type water filters. They cost a lot less! (search amzn) However they won’t process nearly as much water before the filters need replacement, and obviously the water reservoir is small.

You would have to compare one against another for how many gallons they filter. However you’re looking at only spending $20 – $50. You’ll also need to buy a number of extra filter replacements, depending on how much drinking water that you want to get yourself set up for (depends on your risk tolerance).

Sawyer Mini

Maybe I should have listed this one first, given the context of little to no financial resources. This little water filter is quite amazing. It does not hold a reservoir of water, ready to drink. It’s not convenient like that. However, remarkably, Sawyer says that it is rated up to 100,000 gallons. It’s intended as a portable drinking water filter. I have several. It is an excellent brand. And the Sawyer Mini will keep you alive. This is my minimum recommendation for those who are truly budget limited, looking for something at home to enable safe drinking water for survivability.

Best of all, we’re only looking at around $20 bucks..
(Sawyer storefront on amzn)

Cheap Food For Survival

Buying prepping and preparedness food on little to no budget. This pretty much means a do-it-yourself survival food plan on a tight budget. We need to look at cost versus calories. Getting the best ‘bang for the buck’ so to speak.. To list the foods that may fit in that category.

After that, the decision becomes how much of it to buy to survive a period of time that fits in with your personal risk tolerance threshold. If you can’t get more after it runs out, well, that’s it, you’re finished. There are too many hypotheticals and scenarios to debate what may or may not happen in this regard. Or how long it might take to re-establish any semblance of supply. It purely comes down to one’s own choices.

Rice and Beans

The very basics. Rice & Beans.

“The consumption of the two together provides ALL the essential amino acids, and it is no wonder that this combination is a staple of many diets throughout the world.”

~ Modern Survival Blog – Rice & Beans, A Survival Combination

And you will need a way to process it. Boiling the beans, and the rice. There are ways to conserve fuel during this process (linked below). Since we’re hypothesizing a major disaster, you need to ask yourself if you could cook at your home without electricity. If not, you will need to mitigate that as well (other methods or fuels such as a camping stove, propane, butane, over a fire, etc..).

[ Read: Cooking Rice in a Thermos to Save 80% Fuel ]

[ Read: Cooking Old Dry Beans with a Pressure Cooker ]

How many days of survival will rice & beans provide?

You can easily figure out how many ‘survival days’ it will last you. Here’s how..

Both rice, and beans, have about the same calories per pound (in their dry, uncooked state). That’s about 1,600 calories per pound. Here’s an example:

40 pounds of rice with 20 pounds of beans. That’s about 96,000 calories (60×1600). We humans need about 2,000 calories a day to survive (more or less depending on activity level). 96,000 divided by 2,000 equal 48 (survival days). See how that works? Now you can figure it out for anything. Just plug in the numbers.

Other Inexpensive Survival Foods

Again, given a very low budget, we need to keep it cheap. Calories versus cost. Here are some further examples. Remember, diversification. Try to avoid the potential of food fatigue.

Pasta. Spaghetti and Macaroni noodles. Similar to rice and beans, they have approximately 1,500 calories per pound. 40 one-pound boxes of spaghetti will provide 30 survival days. However, again, they need to be boiled. Plus, you might want sauce with that!

Spam. 24 cans of spam provide about 13 survival days.

Corned Beef Hash. 24 cans will put out 9 survival days.

DAK canned ham. Nearly identical with about 9 survival days for 24 cans.

Peanut butter. A 40 ounce (the big jar) of Jif has nearly 6,500 calories. 10 of those and you have about 32 survival days! Actually, peanut butter is an excellent survival food to keep around.

You can look into other possibilities on your own. It’s a matter of what you’re willing to spend, and how much space you have to store it. Note that some foods don’t store as well as others. But that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Shelter for Survival

The roof over your head. Your home. Where you live. Will you be able to stay there throughout the period? Depends where you live, right? Do you own your home outright? Even if you don’t, chances are that the bank will not have the ability to evict during our hypothetical disaster period. What about apartment dwellers? I would imagine the same thing.. god luck evicting..

Given what I just mentioned, your BIGGEST issue with ‘shelter’ for survival will be WHERE YOU LIVE. And this brings us right to the next category, SECURITY.

Security for Survival

Since we’re talking about a major widespread disaster whereby we may be without electricity and supply chains, those who have not prepared for it, WILL become a security threat. And WHERE you live will determine the extent of your security risk in this regard.

How can you prepare for security when you have little or no budget?

Gray. One of the best things may be to stay gray. Unnoticed. Blending in. Don’t let anyone know that you are somewhat prepared. Because word spreads. Quickly.

Your local region. If you live somewhat rural, you are in much better shape than others when it comes to security. You will not be immune from it, however your risks will likely be far less. Fewer people, fewer issues. But don’t let that put you completely at ease.

If you live in a population dense region (don’t think that you’re safe if you’re just outside by a few miles), then you are really in trouble in this hypothetical regard. It’s going to get ugly.

Firearm(s). In my opinion, the best thing that most can do, even on a tight budget, is to acquire a firearm for protection. You can get them pretty cheap, but still pretty decent. While the discussion of a ‘best’ firearm will never reveal ‘the’ answer (because there are so many things and preferences to consider), I’ll bet you can pick up a good used (or even new) firearm for a few hundred or thereabouts. Some on this blog may be able to help with advise if you ask in the comments below.

I really, really feel that one’s security will be so very important during a time of terrible collapse. You could have done everything right with prepping and preparedness for food, water, energy, shelter, etc.. and all it takes is someone (or some group) keen on taking your stuff. Mad Max. This is why it’s so important where you live. And your neighbors. There is power in numbers.

I don’t have any easy answers. But by thinking about it, you are way ahead of most everyone else who never does.


  1. Skills.

    Water: Learn how to build a sand filter. Keep written instructions. If you don’t have sand, there ate other kinds of passive filters. Do your research.

    Food: Start gardening, even if it’s just a pot on your windowsill. Learn how to build and use a solar cooker.

    Shelter: Learn to do your own repairs. That roof over your head isn’t going to do much good if it’s leaking.

  2. I feel nothing beats a Sawyer All in One water filter for price. Last time I purchased one it was $50 and will filter one million gallons. These have been used in third world countries for many, many years. This is what you buy if you are short on funds, along with a handful of 5 gallon buckets. You will need the buckets regardless to fetch water to filter and hold filtered water. We also have a few of the Sawyer mini units and have given those as gifts to family members for their Safety Bags.

    To get the other items such as canned meats, rice, beans, pasta, potatoes – start eating differently and better. Purchase Whole Food items and learn to cook. That will allow you the extra money to buy more food that will keep you healthy. There is so much crap in processed foods that our bodies cannot assimilate which is probably why so many of us are or were unhealthy and required medications. Read the label next time you pick up an item if you really want to scare yourself.

    Slowly change your lifestyle to cut out truly unnecessary items. Eating out is extremely expensive and should be cut out entirely. Get together with friends and play cards or outdoor games. Snacks can be homemade brownies and coffee or tea that you brewed. Learn to make bread even if you use store bought flour. Pop your own popcorn. Change morning cereal (another hugely expensive food filled with crap) for pancakes, oatmeal and or eggs. Replace trips to the movie theater with hikes to enjoy nature and get in shape.

    You can afford to fill your pantry with food that will keep you healthy if you approach the problem thoughtfully and have the desire to take action. The toughest part of this equation is that it takes time …..and every journey begins with that first step. You can do it!

  3. Knowledge, skills, mental/physical fitness and attitude will be required in addition to store bought items. This can be developed today and only requires effort and initiative. Buy books on subjects that you are not familiar (plumbing, electrical wiring, masonry, canning, gardening etc.) along with some basic tools that may be needed to accomplish these tasks as Youtube and Google must likely will not be available. Pawn shops, yard sales and thrift stores are great places to find tools at a cheap price.

    Central heating and air conditioning which was a luxury 60 years ago has become a necessity as the vast majority have become accustomed to a perfect environment while at home, in the car, the store and at work. The vast majority will be unable to cope with the extreme temperature change they will face and it will have devastating results on the population within a week or two.

    You will need to open your windows in the summer to cool down but do you have metal bars or expanded metal to put up over the opening to keep intruders out? Build them now and have them ready to go up. The more you learn and do today, the better off you will be to deal with an unknown future.

  4. On a limited budget the first two items I got when I started were the Lifestraw miniature camping water filter and a pack of BIC lighters. Next was upgrading / adding to my First Aid Kit, then fire-steel, and a good pair of binoculars for my country location.

    As others have said, it costs you next to nothing to research various skills to learn, medicinal plant ID, where to find stuff among other things to print off in your manual x 3 copies. This blog has many interesting articles that I combed through all 164 pages, etc to print off into a highly valuable / useful book. Thanks Ken J, you’re doing humanity a great service as you may possibly save 1000’s of lives through collating and sharing all this info.

    Consider : guerrilla gardening, planting food forests of plants that the vast majority of ppl don’t recognise (and won’t become a rampant weed). It’s a consideration if I find myself not able to buy, sell or keep anything including a home.

    Also (depending on your locality) geocaching of Gamma Lid buckets (or anything waterproof) of emergency goods in various locations well away from flood, fire, and theft. I would keep vege seeds in among this if space allows.

    1. Ah, memories. The first item I bought when my journey began was a case of green beans…around 2008 or 2009.
      I put them on a shelf in an unused bedroom…..That bedroom is now called my food storage room.
      I also have an unused bedroom that is a freezer room.
      Lost one 5 cubic ft freezer and expecting a new one I got for $150 and free shipping.
      I plan on putting my chicken breasts and ground beef in new one to allow space in other two—-corn, green beans, and such.
      I love rural folks.

  5. Gotta say, that picture on top?
    You know some ppl will be stunned into complete stupidity.. far beyond the normal and literally watch their imminent death come right at them doing not a damn thing.
    I suppose, like they are watching tv.

    Sad but in my view they didn’t deserve the life they had, a waste.

    1. Horse,
      There’s an old saying that there are 3 types of people in the world.

      Those that make things happen. (5% of the population)
      Those that watch things happen. (35% of the population)
      Those that ask “what the hell just happened”. (60% of the population)

      I have zero sympathy for that 95% and have no intentions of helping those that refused to help themselves when the could have.

  6. Ditto on the sawyer water filter, I like to attach in-line to the drinking straw on a camelback water carrier…..this works GREAT, plus I store 6 of these at the casa and one in each of the vehicles. It’s a 50 buck option (for both the filter and camelback) cheap insurance that you can grab and go with.

  7. Ken brings up the topic of firearms in this post…. more specifically, firearms on a budget. While not the norm, this past week I had several instances where I needed, and used, firearms here on the mountain…. four different firearms, four different calibers. Ken also geared this thread to low budget preps, so I’ll speak to the cost of the firearms involved.

    First was a young, mange stricken black bear. Had become a nuisance, was emaciated and most likely would have not made it till winter. Game Warden had given me his blessing to take it out next time I saw it. Opportunity presented itself, one shot using a 255 grain .45 long Colt semi-wadcutter load (of my own loading) from a Rossi Circuit Judge .410/.45 Colt revolver carbine. Cost $399.00 years ago at Wally World (about twice that now). One DRT (dead right there) as opposed to having to track it.

    Next was a coon I caught in a trap set for bobcat (it happens). One shot to the forehead with a .22 short rimfire from a Heritage Rough Rider revolver at about 4 feet. Cost $129 brand new (can still get them for around that…or cheaper on sale). DRT.

    Next was a feral boar hog (one of 9 that was rooting up my pasture). One shot from my old 30/30 bolt action carbine I bought used years ago for $50. Shooting a 130-grain hollow point load of my own loading using the back door frame of our home as a steady rest….75 yards…DRT.

    Last, an armadillo at about 50 yards with a bolt action .22 magnum rimfire rifle. First shot seemed to have no effect…just stopped moving…second shot, still not moving. Walked out to him…first shot had killed him instantly evidently…4 holes, two entry, two exit. Gave $80 for that rifle, used, years ago at a pawn shop.

    Firearms needed? Of course. Do they have to be expensive to do the job? Nope.

    1. Most of mine over the years came from pawn shops.
      I have no problems with a decent tool at a significantly lower than MSRP.

      I happen to like ruger, some don’t.

  8. Dennis,
    Excellent point. So many people purchase high-end firearms thinking the higher the price of the firearm the better shot they will be figuring money can buy accuracy. Good shot placement takes a lot more than shooting a couple of boxes of ammo at a paper target once a year. Better to have a budget firearm with lots of ammo to practice with than a high dollar safe queen with a couple hundred rounds that just collects dust.

    Gonna toot my own horn and say I won 2nd place in Rimfire today in our Lever Action Silhouette match shooting my Marlin 39A that I’ve had since I was 14.

    1. Romeo Charlie,

      Congratulations on your 2nd place finish. Folks would be surprised at the quality of the competition at these matches. Ending up in the top ten is quite an accomplishment.

      You’re right…. a Jerry Miculek with my $129 rough Rider would shoot circles around 99% of the Colt Python owners of the world.

  9. Romeo Charlie…

    I agree totally with this advise and sentiment. I also have done exactly as you have, without any reservation or regret.

    We are not dealing with those, who deserve “the benefit of a doubt,” here. They are the enemy, whom we give nothing to…and when met in struggle…take everything from.

    No tolerance whatsoever.

  10. R/C
    i agree 100% with you. i had suspicions about some people for a long while, but during the COVID plandemic i saw for sure who was who. they are no longer in my life. former friends and inlaws. i have kicked em to the curb.
    i still speak and listen to them when i see em, but only to gain intel. i don’t tell em sh*t. they are no longer welcome at my place. if they were to come here looking for a glass of water, i’ll tell them the well has run dry.
    i may be wrong about this, but i have been through with people in general for a loong time now. i’m fortunate to have good people in our very small community that think like we do.

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