Prepper Shopping Sprees: Be a Smart and Frugal Prepper

Inexpensive Prepper Shopping Sprees


Preppers (and virtually everybody else) should always be on the lookout for good deals that will help them to save money. While the basic principles hold true for virtually everyone, the Prepper is probably going to have a different shopping list as opposed to the average person living in more concentrated urban population centers. Old Coleman camping gear, watertight and other storage containers of all shapes and sizes, cheap generators, heavy duty, and rugged clothing, tools, knives, books, camping gear, cast iron and other goods and supplies that are necessary for any Prepper Homestead can all be readily discovered in a few select locations. The key to successful prepper shopping is to know not only where, but when to shop.

Prepper Shopping on the Weekend

Most garage sales, flea markets, auctions, and other similar venues are best met on the weekends. Indeed, some of these Prepper shopping sites will only be open on weekends, though recent market trends over the last few years have been such that there are now some flea markets that remain open as a regular business throughout the entire week. Thrift shops, dollar stores, the occasional flea market, and other similar venues will generally be open whenever you have a little spare time available. One of the most important lessons to learn is to always haggle for the price whenever you can. It may not work at the local outlet mall, but even thrift shops are often willing to work out little minor details such as prices when dealing with a particularly charming and interesting customer.

Deals at Auctions

Auctions, despite some popular misconceptions, are not always held over the weekend. The most common Storage Facility Auctions will tend to be held on weekends, though this also generally means more people bidding. During such affairs, I have seen four and five hundred dollar generators sell for more than they would have cost new. On the other side of this, I have personally managed to secure some excellent deals, including a fifteen hundred dollar generator for only two hundred dollars. The leaky carburetor may have led to the cheaper price, but it cost less than ten dollars for me to repair. This, however, brings up another key point about auctions that it is imperative to remember.

Auction Warnings

Never get caught up in the excitement of the auctioneer or the people around you. The more money that an auctioneer can rack up during the sale, the more money he is going to make. As the prices increase, so will the emotional outpouring of a good auctioneer. This also will frequently lead to the people around you, bidding on the same items you are, to become emotionally charged up. Do not get caught up in the emotions unless you want to consider paying more for used items than you would for new ones. There will always be another auction and another generator, or lathe, or even complete machine shop. Try to focus on government auctions (primarily military and police auctions) that are open for review for a week or more before the actual day of bidding commences.

Auction Look-Fors

Take the time to inspect the materials up for bid carefully. Do not ever be afraid to ask someone to turn over an engine or to plug in a piece of equipment. The worst they are going to do is say no. Take extensive notes regarding the items that you want to bid on, accurate descriptions to the extent that it is possible, and the item numbers. Go back home, relax and wait until the excitement about what you have discovered has passed and then begin your research. Your notes should reveal much about the equipment even if you are not fully trained to judge at the same level a professional would be able to for the items in question. If an engine is full of branches and leaves, chances are pretty good that it has been sitting for a while and will not likely run. If there is fresh oil on the engine, it may need some repairs but it likely runs. Research these products online and get a better indication of what their actual value is. Even if you are paying the standard rates for some items, it may be better than having to shop around and wait for an eternity to find another similar piece of necessary equipment. Often times, especially during weekday auctions, these items will be sold for well under common market valued prices.

Thrift Stores

Thrift stores have always been one of my favorite locations for prepper shopping. It is hard to determine exactly what the best bargain I ever got there may have been, but certainly a selection of new Chemical Warfare Suits (which also make excellent cold weather gear) was among the most stellar finds, all marked for about five dollars each for pants and shirts. A set of Carhart coveralls was exceptionally nice as not only did I pick it up for ten bucks, but I found a hundred dollar bill in one of the pockets. The thrift stores are also ideal locations for finding cheap containers. Drawer sets, cabinets, nut and bolt boxes and other containers that are highly valued for the serious (and more organized) Prepper can frequently be found for a dollar or two or even less.

Pressure cookers and canning jars were also something I seemed to have discovered in the thrift stores, with canning jars generally running between a dime and a quarter each. Pressure cookers tended to be a bit more expensive, but certainly less expensive than they would be buying them new. The Thrift Stores are also a great place for occasionally stellar finds in regards to tools and even machine shop equipment, though I generally had better fortunes finding these items at the local flea markets.

Related: The $5 Prepper

Flea Markets

When I visit the Flea Market, I tend to prepare for at least two, and sometimes three trips to the location. My first venture in is early in the morning on the first day it opens, generally on a Saturday. If I see something that I absolutely must have, I can generally buy it before anyone else snatches it out from under me. While discounted prices are going to be difficult to come by so early on the first day of the Flea Market, it will allow for the Prepper to find some items that would otherwise disappear in short order. Likewise, if you have purchased something from one vendor already, the second phase of your well-planned Prepper Flea Market Foray may not work quite so well with that particular vendor, though the third phase may or may not work.

Flea Market Purchasing Strategy

The second phase may actually be one or two parts in nature, as some vendors will only show up one day or the other. Towards the end of the first day, I try to get back to all of the individual vendors who had items I was interested in, but thought I would probably be able to get a better price on if I was willing to wait. Understandably, most vendors are hesitant to grant too much leveraging ability to hagglers if there is another full day to wheel and deal. Those that said they would not be returning the next day, I would make my offer based on what I thought was a fair value for the items in question. If they accepted it, I would take those items home. Sometimes they don’t, then I would generally ask for an email address or a phone number so that I could contact them later. If they were going to be back the next day, I would generally make an overly lame excuse about needing to get more money or something equally as frivolous, and then work my way towards the exit.

More Flea Market Strategies

Part two of phase two generally occurs early in the morning on day two if I decide there is a good chance more vendors will be there only for the second day. I arrive early, make my rounds, pick up anything I cannot live without and leave. I return a few hours before closing, keeping a fair eye on those vendors that do have that little something that I really want but want to get a better price on before I buy. There is a risk of losing out on some deals this way, but generally, the money I have saved has been more than it has ultimately cost me, so it all balances out fairly well in my favor regardless. As the vendors begin packing up their vehicles, I will approach them and make my last ditch offers. Generally the haggling is a little more intense, as the sellers still want to get the best price they can for their wares, but they also keep in mind that it is a few dollars more in their pockets and a little less to unload when they get home, so better deals are to be made at these times.

Dollar Stores

I have been enthralled with the Dollar Stores since the first time I happened across one. Just remember, never go in asking what the price is when you are shopping at the Dollar Store. All it will do is alienate you and earn you more than a few “You’re a Special Kind of Stupid” stares from anyone within hearing distance. I believe it is fair to say, that neither my father nor I ever made a trip into town without stopping at the dollar store. Just from the name alone, this may not seem to be the preferred place for Prepper shopping, but in fact, these stores have a great deal to offer the average and even the most thrifty Prepper. (Hint: They are one of the very few places you can still find large volumes of incandescent bulbs that are invaluable to the prepper)

Dollar Store Finds

I use an obscenely large amount of kitchen equipment according to my first wife. Large pots and pans for rendering fat and making lye soap, small frying pans for everything from cooking eggs in the morning to reactive targets on my rifle range (at a safe distance of course) to using them for draining oil from vehicles, canning and a host of other uses. Coffee cups are something that one can never possess enough of, along with plates and glasses. A good portion of all of my cookware and other kitchen dishes were purchased at the dollar stores. Candles were another pressing concern, as were batteries, both of which come in a multitude of colors and varieties in the dollar stores.

Dollar Store Books

From time to time, there are some pretty interesting and relevant books on display in the dollar stores. While these offerings tend to be limited in regards to relevancy, there are times and occasions when books such as those covering Holistic Medicine, herbs and spices, natural plants for food and medicine, geological information and a few other very meaningful titles will show up on the shelves. It is always worth taking a look, even if nothing makes its way into my cart.

Dollar Store Containers

Containers for all of the small pieces and parts are very common in the dollar stores. Living as I do, by the “Junkyard Principle” as taught to me by my father, these small containers are excellent for storing smaller nuts, bolts, needles, full sewing kits, seeds, buttons, heavy duty thread, fishing lures, even ammunition. While I am not in any way a hoarder, I do believe in not wasting materials and I certainly believe in breaking those materials I do save, down into smaller and more manageable and organized storage units.

Dollar Store Food

If there is anything I really love about the dollar stores, it is the selection of foods. Show me a man who works his land day in and day out, and I will show you a man that can eat his weight in groceries, okay, maybe not all in one setting, but you get the picture. Canned meats are among my favorites, as are the many varieties of cookies, cakes, and other sugary foods. There is no shortage of canned soups and stews.  While I appreciate the canned soups since they are great for stock, the canned stews never appealed to me very much. Whether you are stocking up on canned goods for your pantry or just snack foods for munching while working, the Dollar Stores are sure to become one of your best friends as a Prepper.

Related: Dollar Tree Prepping? Smart Preppers Are Doing It!


M “WC” Tipton is a former Homesteading and Prepper Consultant, former Hunting and Fishing Guide and now mostly a Freelance Writer writing about any of his many different passions for fun and for profit.
For author or article inquiries, please feel free to contact
His work on Amazon can be found here: Amazon Books by MWC Tipton

This article first appeared on Ed That Matters.

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Todd Sepulveda

I'm the owner/editor of Prepper Website, a DAILY preparedness aggregator that links to the best preparedness articles on the internet. I'm also a public school administrator and a pastor. My personal blog is Ed That Matters, where I write about preparedness and from time to time, education. Connect with me on one of my social media outlets below.

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  1. Linda S November 4, 2018
    • Todd Sepulveda November 4, 2018
  2. Clem November 9, 2018

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