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Dirt-Cheap Survival Strategies

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Preparing for the breakdown of the grid or a potential crisis may seem like an expensive endeavor. This guide will show any individual how they can prepare for a sudden evacuation without having to deplete their savings account.

When you begin preparing, it is essential to note the five basic needs of human survival. Once these human needs are met, you should be able to survive most situations. The top five survival needs of humans are:

  1. Shelter
  2. Water
  3. Food
  4. Energy
  5. Security

Establishing Shelter

Shelter is the single most important need a human has to satisfy in order to survive. When we talk about shelter, we also talk about your clothing because it is the first barrier between yourself and the elements. Your clothes are the most immediate form of shelter your body can possess. In severe winter climates, hypothermia can happen in as little as an hour. In climates with extreme heat, you could get severely dehydrated or sunburned by being out in the sun all day. Establishing shelter is the most immediate need you must fulfill in order to survive.

Your clothes are important in a survival situation. Although it should be human instinct for you to bring the most appropriate clothing along with you for a survival escapade, you may feel the need to procure better clothing before you have to go into survival mode. A cost-effective method of buying survival clothing is to go to your nearest military surplus store and buy used BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform). Military grade clothing is designed to keep you camouflaged as well as keep you warm. BDUs can also be washed quickly, rolled up and transported easily in a backpack. BDU pants and jackets can be procured at surplus stores, thrift stores and online outfitters for under $20 each. At thrift stores, you can sometimes find BDUs for under $5. You should also procure a set of rugged boots that are pretreated with a waterproofing agent. These can also be found rather inexpensively at a military surplus store.

When you begin establishing shelter, it is important to first evaluate your options. Do you have a shelter already available? Perhaps you live in an urban area that will require you to flee the city? It is important to know what your options are in case you must immediately evacuate your living quarters.

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If you plan on enduring an outdoor survival, it is important to have the proper shelter so you are not succumbing to the elements. Be practical when setting up shelter. Evaluate your climate and surroundings. If you must evacuate your urban setting, go ahead and begin scouting out a location in advance. This location would ideally be near a body of freshwater such as a lake or a river. If you have secured a location such as a cave or an abandoned structure, you are at an advantage because you can begin storing some of your survival cache in these locations which will minimize what you bring with you in your survival bag.

At bare minimum, you should have a tarp of some sort that can act as a barrier between the elements and yourself. With a few branches, a knife and a little ingenuity, you can set up a tent that will repel the elements off of you and your camp site.  If you find carrying a tarp to be too cumbersome for your survival, a low-cost alternative would be a tube tent. For under $10, you can purchase an emergency tube tent which will allow you to easily set up a tent without stakes that can be transported and reused in different campsites. When you have a shelter of some shape or form, your chances of survival go up significantly. If you do not have a shelter, you will inevitably have to deal with rain, snow, extreme heat and other types of weather events which leave your body susceptible.


Solving your water problem could be easier than you think. As recommended above, it is suggested that you go ahead and scout out a location that has access to a fresh water source. This will enable you to collect water and begin using purification methods in order to bring it up to drinkability. If you are able to camp out near a fresh water source, it is recommended that you procure a personal water filtration system.

If you would rather build a cache of water, a frugal method of storing water is to reuse the milk jugs you are already buying at the grocery store. It is important to thoroughly wash these out with soap and bleach in order to completely sanitize out the inside. It is recommended that if you store water using this method, you may want to label the containers drinking water. Storing water in milk jugs is only helpful if you are able to store it at your shelter. It would be difficult to carry several of these jugs for long periods of time. Your individual strategy may vary.

Another frugal method of procuring water is by setting up a homemade rain catcher. In a traditional sense, a rain catcher is just a large barrel. Perhaps you are in a climate that is rainy and you could use the materials around you to rig up a means of gathering rainwater. Rainwater is safe to drink for the most part. The only exception would be if you are camping out near an industrial area that tends to put a lot of pollution in the air.

Note: If you believe you have water that is unsafe to drink, you should try to boil the water or add chlorine in order to kill the bacteria and pathogens.

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Food, Energy & Security

If you are a a single prepper, you can begin acquiring food with a long shelf life by adding a couple extra dollars to your grocery budget each visit. Five pound bags of rice and dried beans can be procured for just a couple dollars. These foods stay good for up to 10 years and provide essential nutrition such as carbohydrates and protein. Cornmeal can be used to make breads and tortillas. Oatmeal is also a tasty food that is popular to store because it can be easily transported and it contains nutrition that will give you energy. Granola mixes and nuts typically stay good for long periods of time as well. For under $20 extra per grocery trip, you can begin stocking up on these items so that you will have plenty of food in the event of a crisis.

In terms of energy, the most important energy source you will need is fire. While it is common knowledge that you can start a fire by using friction as taught in the Boy & Girl Scouts, you could always purchase an extra lighter or two here an there to add to your survival cache. If you buy lighters in bulk online, you can get deals where lighters can cost less than 10 cents each. Having fire on demand will be extremely beneficial to your survival as you will then be able to cook meat and boil water. You can also purchase fire starting kits for under $5 or begin stocking up on strike anywhere matches.

Security is a hot topic because you never know how much security you need until it is often too late. You can secure yourself in a variety of different fashions but the most cost-effective method of enforcing personal security is to begin training in martial arts, Krav Maga or some other self defense discipline. You will not have to join a gym or a dojo to begin practicing these arts because there is plenty of information freely available that will help you with the basics. If you require a weapon, you will want to use weapons that are multifunctional for your survival. For example, a Gerber knife can be used for stripping branches, cleaning wild game or as a weapon in case of attack. Non-lethal options such as stun guns and pepper spray can be acquired for under $10 from select online retailers.

This comprehensive guide is a breakdown of what to be thinking about in regards to formulating a frugal prepper survival strategy. When you begin prepping for yourself, please remember that each and every situation is different and you should account for that when you begin prepping. You will also want to begin prepping items that can be used for multiple purposes. For example, adding fishing line to your survival cache could help you catch fish but it could also help you keep items bound together at your campsite. Try to think in that mindset when you begin finding items to incorporate into your survival strategy. Begin scouting out your local terrain and start thinking about what makes the most sense in the terms of your personal survival. Remember to consistently practice your evacuation. When you practice your survival strategy, you begin to see what works well and what doesn’t work and you can make adjustments to your strategy accordingly.

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