Thrift Store Success--Preparedness Supplies for Cheap!

There’s a great deal of success for your preparedness efforts waiting to be snatched at your local thrift store, or a myriad of other places. And today I’m going to give you just few of those ideas. But before I do…

I know that many of you are anxiously awaiting the continuation of the water filtration article. It’s written (and, in fact I even accidentally posted it for about 8 hours), but out of respect for the expert whom I quote and resource in the article, I’m going to wait for him to approve the content before publishing. However, in the meantime, there are plenty of preparedness topics to cover and lots to share. So, just look at this article as a minor detour. *grin*

Preparedness Ideas for Cheap or Free!

I’ve always said that a person can get abundantly prepared for the future challenges for cheap or even free and I’ve been proving that to myself over and over again lately at my local thrift store.  As such, I thought I’d share with you some of the items that really are worth the time to stop and find through using second-hand resources whether they be garage sales, thrift stores,, or your local classifieds. I know that I will be more aggressive and diligent in finding some key items for my supplies this year. There’s just too much great stuff to find for pennies on the dollar. MY favorite addiction is my local thrift store, Savers, because every time I drop off a donation, they give me a coupon for 20% off of anything I buy. LOVE it!

Spiritual and Mental Preparedness:

Oh how I love finding great, old books that I’ve heard of for years but are hard to location because they are no longer in print. I rarely read fiction but my passion is not shared by many who discard their non-fiction books like they are head lice or something. I guess folks are looking for more of an “escape” nowadays and getting rid of their serious books. More for me! Homesteading, matters of the constitution, gardening, animal husbandry, cooking, cooking, and cooking. It’s all great and so very, very cheap. Some of these are such great finds that if I was ambitious enough, I’d buy these books and then place them on E-bay or Amazon for a profit. Instead I bring them home and prioritize when I’ll read them. *grin* But hey, it’s not a bad idea for some of you who need a little extra income.

Physical Preparedness:

I refuse to spend money on workout clothes. Isn’t it humiliating enough that I have to actually buy something that big only to know that the only reason I need it is so that I’m clothed while I’m sweating my brains out? So yes, the gently used store is the place to be. In addition to those kinds of things, I also find other tools to help in my physical preparedness such as wagons, compact dollies, and even some quality exercise equipment.

Medical Preparedness:

I have to say that aside from books, this is the area that I find to be the biggest treasure trove. It’s the best kept secret in my opinion. Keep an eye out for medical supplies such as walkers, ace bandages, braces, knee pads, and gently used bedding materials. These items are seriously expensive at full price or even coupon priced in the stores, but you really make out in the preparedness category, thanks to someone wanting to get rid of that pair of crutches. You’ll be strengthening your medical preparedness all the while, being ready for all kinds of possibilities in the future. I’ll worry about getting the pain relief medicines such as Tylenol and such when I can get it free at Target. *grin*

Clothing and Shelter Preparedness:

Boy, am I finding a lot of great stuff in this category! Great light bulbs (the good kinds), flashlights, gas/propane heaters, thick tarps, rope, hand tools such as crow bars, hammers, and saws, garden tools, gently used work gloves, etc. I specifically check at my thrift store once a week for both fleece and wool blankets. I’m averaging only 99 cents a yard for both right now—there’s not a fabric store in sight that can offer fleece or wool for that price! This past Monday my thrift store had everything 50% off so I stocked up with TWO entire carts full of fleece blankets! I then brought them home, laundered them, and then sealed and “shrunk” them in those space-saving bags and stashed them with the others. Co-axial wire…lots and lots of wiring. I've purchased LOTS of sewing thread, buttons, and other supplies that were marked way down. Now if I could just be lucky enough to find a Singer Treadle Sewing Machine there one of these days. Guess I’ll just have to hunt the garage sales aggressively instead.

I also need to mention the heavy boots I’ve found and lots and lots of camouflage clothing. In my opinion, you can never have enough of that kind of material. I also have a thing for denim, because when denim wears out it’s going to require more denim to replace or patch them. (Duct tape just doesn’t cut it sometimes!) Denim is a comfortable clothing for most and unless you’re foolishly spending money for the stuff that already has holes in it and is worn away, recycled denim stands up to hard work just as well as new denim does, so make sure it's included in your preparedness pantry.

I’ve found sleeping bags and other great bedding in clean condition and so long as I always launder it, I’m going to be really happy with it. Another item that’s on my radar for my preparedness stash is camouflaged fatigues and fabric. Even if they are “ginormous” and don’t fit myself or my hubby, I’m still inclined to purchase it because it will either fit someone else on my team or will make great camouflaged tents and tarps. Let’s not forget the spare sets of clothing that can be found for both hot or cold weather that we can keep stored away without missing them in our regular wardrobe. A spare pair of socks or shirt, etc. in your 72 hour preparedness kits isn’t a bad idea. (I wouldn’t suggest buying used underwear though folks. Gag. If you have to break the bank, do it to ensure that your 72 hour preparedness kits have clean underwear in them.)

Fuel Preparedness:

I’ve hit the jackpot for candles with solid holders/bases as well as reflective mirrors to go behind them. Also a couple of propane heaters, steel wool, oil lamps. One shop gave me over 20 oil lamps for only $1.70 each! I even found a set of hearth tools which was perfect timing because we finally got our wood burning stove functioning. And I almost always find a gas-worthy container to use in my thrift resources, too. I consider those a great find!

Water Preparedness:

I’ve actually been finding a lot of Brita type pitchers at these stores. Now I can buy them brand new with couponing for only a buck about twice a year, but having more pitchers likes that enables me to filter the water through the new pitchers and contain the water in the nearly free pitchers. Believe me, you’ll want more than one or two when your free-flowing water stops. I also have been “lucky” in finding a lot of those narrow, square water bottles. I love those for squeezing in just a little bit more water in the spaces I still have available throughout.

Food Preparedness:

This is the primary reason I go in at least weekly now—to find all of the Mason jars I can get my hands on. I almost always seem to get a few, but there have been times when I’ve come home with enough to fill my entire dishwasher. Woohoo! I can never have enough canning jars! I’m also sure to check out all of the utensils they have to sell. Hand cranked beaters, rug beaters, whisks, large spatulas, metal serving or cooking spoons and lots of restaurant quality pots, pans, and accessories are also high on my list.

Financial Preparedness:

I have to admit that I do keep my eye out for items I might find that I know someone else is looking for. So I find it, sell it to them for a profit, but still provide a killer deal. Even better, though, is when I can find things in mint condition that make for great Christmas gifts.  This way I’m shopping all year long and it doesn’t put a strain on my wallet during the Holiday Season.  This past Christmas I was able to really stretch my budget even though I decided that I wanted to help play Santa to some of my nieces and nephews this year. Believe it or not, I found great hip, clothes and shoes that were worthy of the fickle fashion tastes of my nieces and nephews. I saved so much on that I didn’t have a single guilty twinge on the other gifts I purchased elsewhere—at a discount of course. I did so well I received the honor of Best Aunt of the year again. (That’s the only one I wear proudly.) It saved me a small fortune being able to do it this way and it sure made my husband happy for a change about how little I spent.

Communication Preparedness:

Well, I have to admit, I’ve found plenty of dead cell phones in the thrift stores—useless—but  I’ve also found old radios—the older the better. One of these days I know I’m going to find that old fashioned vacuum tube radio and I’m going to jump on it. Also, any older pieces, even though non-working can be used for spare parts. I also would suggest that you don’t overlook the more rudimentary methods of communication like books on foreign languages, Morse Code, short-wave radio use, and shorthand, not to mention the notebooks and writing instruments that will come in handy then, too.

Of course no one has room for ALL of these kinds of treasures, but I’m sure that there will be something there that will be of interest to you and your family.  I know that I feel 10 times better when I find what I’m looking for AND I get it for a penny and a song. It makes the whole act of preparedness feel that much more honorable and peaceful. One of the biggest benefits I get from all of this is that the less I spend on these items and the things I can get with coupons, the more I have to spend on other critical tools that you'll never be able to get "with a coupon." *grin*


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I love thrift store shopping also. Just this past weekend I found two stackable water containers and a charcoal starter. It is like a treasure hunt you never know what you will find. Thanks for reminding me of some other type of supplies I had not thought of to store.

Have you considered getting your amateur radio (ham) license?
It is easy and puts you in control when there is no power or phones.
I have been a ham radio operator for 50 years, and teach ham radio classes to those who would like to be involved in this great and useful hobby. We here in the Northwest have just gone through a big storm, with record snow falls and freezing rain. No phones, no power, and the ham radio operators were making emergency calls for those who had no phones or power. It happens everytime there is a crisis. The ham radio operators are there to serve. If you want more information, contact me via email or check out the ARRL on the web

I personally suggest that EVERYONE get their HAM license! It's a must in my book.

I have my ham license, Kellene.... Very active with our HRO down here in Houston... It's a necessity when the power is out... "When all else fails, ham radio is there"..... Just had to put in my plug.

Would love to get my ham License and learn how to use one.

What a timely post for this time of year as we have people cleaning out their excess and donating to thrift stores.
You mentioned many things that I had not thought of but I have to agree on the underwear comment! LOL
I think that fiction books make great entertainment in times of stress and the classics for children and adults would be a nice addition to my preparedness

For pet lovers, be on the lookout for leashes, collars, old blankets or quilts for dogbeds or to put over outdoor pet crates for winter protection.

Pretty used shower curtains can double as window insulation under regular curtains, as waterproof coverings for outside pet crates, or temporary "curtains" for a new house. Also use for dividers inside a tent, or around an outside emergency toilet area, for "closet" doors, etc.

I look for good used king sized flat sheets, which I nail up to my full length patio in the summer, to keep the sun off outside pets and provide a breezeway of cooler air between the sun and house. Look for the little girls pony tail holders from the Dollar store, to hold the sheets open when you want a view or weather is good.

Even found a large swimming pool filter, still in original wrapping, to use as a pre-screen emergency water filter (to filter out larger pieces of debris).

Found 50 white hospital bed sheets at one thrift store with extra pillowcases- never know when you'll have extra (emergency) guests, or can be cut up for reusable arm slings, large splint wrappings, washable bandages (cut and roll like an ace wrap), etc. Can also be used to cover furniture against dust, in storage, pet bandages, etc.

Always look for good used waterproof boots for adults or children at a fraction of new prices (what you don't use, you can always barter). BARTER is going to be the CURRENCY of exchange, when the economy collapses (and you don't pay tax either !) :)

Kellene & Barbara-GREAT ideas!-Thanks-makes me want to go thrift store shopping NOW

I love shopping at Salvation Army stores, thrift stores, etc. Just last week I found a great book to add to our library, a new rug for the mud room, and a wool poncho that's toasty warm. Of course, you have to make sure to really check things thoroughly before you purchase them. Make sure things like zippers or electrical or mechanical parts work, and make sure there are no chips or 'fault lines' in plates or other dishes. But it really is like treasure hunting!

Hi ...great Blog!!!! you mentioned free tylenol from do you do that???
maybe you should write a blog here about where to find freebies????


Glad you've found us, Mike. Actually, I've written several articles about how to further your cost-cutting measures through the use of coupons. And I've also provided a very thorough video and written tutorial on applying those measures in the "Enough and to Spare" course that's available under the "Prep Pro Classes" tab. FREE is my middle name--well, one of them. *grin*

Thrift stores ROCK! It is wise to ask if there are specific times that merchandise is brought out. At the DI (Deseret Industries) store near us the employees bring out carts of merchandise several times daily and larger items are typically brought to the floor as soon as they come through the back door. This week I found a Mantis tiller for $35 with three sets of attachments - about a $350 investment had it been new. Just what I need as gardening season quickly approaches.
A great idea for canning jars - after a swim through the dishwasher, fill them with water and put on one of the Tattler lids. These are lifetime lids and don't corrode like metal lids will. Now you have a supply of clean water in the same space where you were previously storing air. And the bottles ready for processing when you need them.
I found a great book this week - American Indian Food and Lore - 150 authentic recipes by Carolyn Niethammer (1974 Colliers Brothers). It has a drawing of each plant, information about the habitat and description and then several paragraphs about how the Native Americans used the plants as well as food and medicinal recipes. A great find for only $1.00 Did I mention a king size Ralph Lauren flannel sheet - superb quality - just $3? Toasty warm or it could be cut into squares for wipes - Ralph would be spinning if he knew.
Truly one mans trash is another's treasure at thrift stores. Thanks Kellene for your encouragement to support them and reap the savings.

What a great idea on the jars! Why did it never occur to me to fill them with water until they were ready for another use? Thanks!

Hi Kellene,

I'm trying to find out if Britta's do a good job on filtering? I read that they are good for filtering 'metals'. Do you know how they are on bacterias and toxins, that sort of contaminants?

You'll need to look at their company's actual test results for that. I personally would not use them for anything other than filtering chlorine and such out of my water.

I have three great thrift stores near me that I shop at regularly. One charges a $2. fee to get in, then you can load your truck all you want. The other one takes a donation or not, it is up to you. Everything is free. The third one you pay for each item, but it is cheap.

My best find is my boots. I got a pair of rubber boots, the kind for farm work, that is high almost to my knees, they were brand new, never worn. Fit me perfectly. Two other pairs of boots and two pairs of rubber duck boots (the kind that look like shoes). They were all hardly worn, and almost new.

I love your blog! Excellent information.

When I no longer can wear my denim jeans, I cut off the legs and make drawstring bags out of them. I put camping supplies I need for my BOB (bug out bag) in them to protect the plastic zip locks bags I place inside with stuff from getting torn in my bag. I keep firemaking supplies in one, sewing supplies (including sutures) in one, dry kindling in one. They are handy for toting stuff that doesn't require a lot of room for the item(s).

Also, on books, I found a wonderful old leather backed medical dispensory in an antique store for $10 - it's huge and deep. I have found some of the Foxfire books in used bookstores. I always stop in antique stores, yard sales, flea markets and the like whenever I travel down to Florida. You can find wonderful stuff that no one else seems to care about, like you said.

I, too, look for hand powered tools and I'm now looking for a double washtub that I can keep in my workshop, if I ever have to hand pump my water to do laundry - oh, yes, I bought a hand pump, all the drop pipes, etc, for my deep well that 2 people can mount in a couple hours.

However, I'm getting tired of preaching the preparedness message to my family and friends with not just no response, but actual irritation. Only one friend - a local merchant - has listened and is excited about his preparations. He shares with me what he is doing and we can brainstorm.

Marg, consider this permission to take a break on the preaching, but you can't stop. You never know who's life you'll change and perhaps even save by doing do. It's a "good fight" and thus worth waging.

Sometime ago I was perusing the catalogue for Lehman's- a fantastic general store in Kidron, OH catering to the Amish communities. They offer many items that homesteaders and preparedness folks will find useful. But the little sidebar i found the most interesting was a reference to the Mennonite Central Committee (also based in Kidron I believe) using old denim jeans to make woven rugs. As I recall they were taking donations of old jeans. If you want to pursue this option, you would be best served by confirming that this project is still ongoing and that donations would be accepted. Yes, you would have to pay to send them to the rug makers. FYI- the Mennonite Central committee also has a program in place worldwide that encourages local native handcrafts. The project is called 10,000 Villages and there are several stores around the country as well as online offering the craft products.

I made a camp apron from a long denim skirt. It is a one-size-fits-all BBQ style apron with narrow but deep pockets that the guys can use to protect their clothing when chopping wood. They can put kindling size pieces into the pockets and carry the bigger pieces against their chest.

I also purchased at $1/yard an oilcloth-type fabric to make 2 similar aprons for keeping our clothes dry on laundry day. Big pockets hold wooden clothes pins.

I also purchased a cheap remnant and made a similar apron for in the camp kitchen. I made pocket-sized potholders that stick onto this apron with velcro so they're always available, and put a strap at waist-level so that a hand towel can be inserted.

Kellene, I'm totally with you about thrift stores except for one thing. Used bedding...think Bedbugs. If I ever wanted to buy something like that, it would go straight into a garbage bag and then off to the coin laundry. I wouldn't take any chances carrying something like that through my house to the washing machine. The little buggers are almost indestructable and it would only take one pregnant female dropping off into the carpet.

Girl, if the bedding had bedbugs in it, then every other item would have bedbugs in that store as well--so just staying away from bedding will do no good to avoid bedbug issues. Everything that we all bring home from thrift should indeed be properly cleaned.

2 hurricane lanterns (1 still in package)

bottle of lamp oil

pair of rain boots

various dvds and books...less than $20 at a local thrift store!

I have in the past, shopped the thrift stores for coach purses (I REFUSE to pay 100+ for a purse) and wool sweaters. I read your post and checked it out.

I am still in shock, I found the thickest, wool full sized blanket with a lovely binding for 5 dollars..excellent condition. I hesitate to buy bedding with the bedbug threat these days but I grabbed the blanket, threw it into the dryer on high for 50 minutes and then washed it.

I can thank you for the idea!!!!!

Keep the great ideas coming Kellene:)

My latest "find" was an electric grain mill. I paid a whopping $4.00 for it.

Kellene, did you ever find a treadle? I've found several on Craigslist. I have them all over the state now~my home in town, cabin, my son' You can pick up a decent treadle for under $50~I pd $100 for one, but it had a unique cabinet design...still it was too much but it was my first. I've learned since. :)

@bonne131313 As dumb as this sounds, I keep forgetting to look for one in the classifieds when I have spending money. I've got to put a post-it note on the fridge or something otherwise I'll spend all of my discretionary funds at Honeyville Farms, or the thrift store. :-)

@bonne131313 Hi I am new here and saw your post about a treadle machine. I hurriedly scooped up one for 125.00 that had been converted to electricity but had all the treadle and parts to convert it back.. nothing fancy about the cabinet, but the original owners manual and all the extras were with it. I am sure I could have found a cheaper one. I even saw one where an Amish man had taken a more modern machine(with a fly-wheel) and adapted it to an old treadle cabinet.. I was ok with what we spent because it was a birthday present, but I am sure if you are patient a good deal will come your way.

I have a silly question. If I am looking for a rug beater, hand mixer, roller washing machine and other such items, what are good prices? Anything I should look for like the things above that I can't think of off?

@Abledsoe When I'm getting ready to purchase an unfamiliar item I let the internet help me judge on what one should expect to pay for them. After all, the last thing I was is to create anxiety about how much I paid for an item that's supposed to give me more peace. :-) Look at classifieds online, ebay, antique stores online, etc. Then make your decision from there. You could also take advantage of and post what it is you're looking for (do it item by item instead of everything in one post if you want it read). :-) Good luck!

I am really happy to be referred to your site... I have been practicing preparedness for many decades now, and it all started out in Cali with earthquake preparedness. Then moved to the midwest and had to pretty much start all over again, having sold our long term food storage unit (still had about 8-10 yrs on it) and wanted to share that we have a Good Will outlet center here; the last stop before the rest gets carted off to the landfill.

Many things are .99 cents(lots of great pieces of luggage.. the rolling ones work well for storing some things, small electrics of all types) and most other items are in bins at a per pound price... the more you buy the cheaper it gets. I have gotten many pots, pans, baking pans and sheets of all types, as well as board games, food containers, baskets( these are handy for lots of things) Books and the list goes on..

I got a huge number of Christmas decos( I know, seems trivial, but it does something for my spirits in the dead of winter) for a song.

And learned something recently.. make sure you have one or more of the old fashioned phones ( not cordless) that require no electricity to operate, just the phone jack, because there may be times when the phone service still works but electricity is out..

Since we live near two medium size towns, I photocopied the thrift store pages from the two different phone books. Then I typed up that information for each town with the business name, address and phone number saved it to my word(leaving out the duplicates). It produced about 20 different thrift stores that I could go to for items that I might need for the future without the great cost of buying new. I have friends that are also looking to the future for what I call the JIC(Just in Case). I thought that this information might come in handy to them so I made extra copies to be shared. It saves on time searching for these stores since you know where they are. My next step will be to produce a paper map that they can keep in their car, not all of us use GPS. I find them rather annoying.

Becky-I love your JIC (just in case)-that's what my Dad has always said & saved things back for-JIC! love it-also it might be better received from my friends & family when talking to them about preparedness-I have never said SHTF

I used to have one of those treadle singer sewing machines, but unfortunatly my brother left it (as well as a bunch of hand tools) at a house we moved out of. That still tickles my nerve. But shopping for preparedness at a thrift store is a great idea.

Even when I lived in an 800 SF apartment, I still found room for my preps...thought admittedly it did require a full-sized U-haul to move all of my stuff, but my friends never suspected that I had all that stuff in there. :-)

My biggest problem is finding the room to store all the wonderful finds. We have considered putting in an extra shed just to hold stuff but I worry about the weather changes affecting some stuff. It's just amazing how fast the preparedness stuff seems to pile up. I keep it as organized as I can but there is only so much room in the house. hahaha

Cotton isn't tough enough to endure hard work, it's the reason why jeans were so well received when they were first sold and why they are still so popular amongst manual labor workers today.

Recommend avoiding cotton (like denim). Go with wool, wool-blends, synthetics and the like. When cotton get's wet, it takes forever to dry and can present a very real threat of hypothermia.

At a preparedness seminar I attended recently the speaker said "Ladies, ditch the jeans. They take forever to dry!" I had JUST purchased a couple pair (which I only did at my husband's insistence 'cause I seldom buy myself NEW clothes) so I am perplexed. What kind of pants SHOULD I put into my bug-out-bags???

There's a reason why old timers relied so heavily on jeans--they could wear them forever and ever and they would also hold up to being patched over and over again. The key though was that they had TWO pairs of jeans each so that they could wear the other pair while the others got washed and hung to dry. I'd say this person has missed the merits of a piece of clothing that will hold up to hard labor abuse. (Thats' why I only look at Wranglers or Levis, because they are the heavier jeans. Using them for tenting, they hold up well with a tarp over the top of them most excellently.

One day a week at the main Salvation Army store in Dallas near the medical center all clothing and shoes is marked down 50%. The prices are great to begin with but having a further discount is most appreciated. The venue is not elegant but all proceeds go to support the adult drug rehab program. Check at your local Salvation Army stores for any discount days.

The Goodwill store nearest to my abode offers a seniors discount once a week at which time a senior receives 25% off everything. Goodwill also offers sales several times a year- check the website for dates or call a local store. I have been told that they occur 3-4 times a year. Great place to find books at unbelievable prices- $.20 for paperbacks and less than $1 for hardbacks.

ebay searching for prices - be sure you click on the "Completed items" somewhere on the search page will be that label, to click it will tell you what items in your category sold for during the previous two weeks. a lot of prices on ebay for ongoing listings never sell for the prices on the listing. so use the completed items tab and you can find the real prices and if things are actually selling in that category at all. just thought you might wish to do this to get a true value. lots of places show what items are listed for sale for but its not the true picture. thank goodness ebay has the completed items feature, its the only place that does.

Thanks for that heads up, Glenda!

Great info! i recently watched a video on youtube that you posted about the very same topic and i loved it and i took plenty of notes! These are some great tips i will be working into my thrift routeen! i have always loved the thrift shop and it has very recently become a place of popularity! no more dirty looks when i say, " Thanks i got it at the thrift shop" lol. I really hope to see another video of some more tips you have to offer on this topic! thanks!

If you have a St. Vincent de

If you have a St. Vincent de Paul store near you, they are great as well. Each wk, they have a 'color' of the wk tag. Anything w/ that color price tag is 50 % off. Also have different specials each day.
Mon.- Sr.Citzien. Day, 50% off for Srs clothes/purses/shoes/also all linens./--- Tues - Kids Day all kids stuff 50% off. /---Wed. Ladies Day-same off/--- Thur-Upscale Day- all better 'Name Brands' 50 off./--- Fri. Mens Day 50 off./--- Sat - All 'Color of the week' items are 99 cents each!!
Quarterly they have a sale on ALL items in the store, including furniniture...half off..... I'm there at least once a week. Oh, and they have 2 days a week, (days vary so you don't know when it will be) when they give out Dollar off coupons for your next shopping trip... Check 'em out. May be one near you.....


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