$900 Challenge

What Preps for $900?

Today a friend asked me what preps I would buy if I had $900 free and clear.  Since I know his exact situation, what he already has, and what he needs, that wouldn't be of much interest to readers I don't think.  But what if a novice asked me the same thing? 

How about these folks?  A couple, he's early 40's, she's mid 30's.  They have a 10 year old son, and live in a subdivision on a small lot in a town of about 7,000 permanent residents, another 1,200 at the private liberal arts college in town.  They have a typical pantry of a few canned goods, some baking ingredients, and stuff in the refrigerator.  They are on municipal water, but there is a small creek about 1/4 mile away.  They own no firearms.  He commutes about 12 miles each way to work; she is a stay-at-home mom, and volunteers in the son's school, which is within walking distance.  The area is subject to ice storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.  Blackouts are common.  Crime is not a major problem now, but there is a fair amount of government subsidised housing in the town that could lead to problems if services ended.  If they asked how to spend $900 to prepare, what would I suggest to them?

For their beginning on the road to preparedness, I'd suggest they look at shelter, water, food and defense. 

Shelter:  First, I'd suggest a small generator.  A 4,000 watt genny will run about $375.  Three 5 gallon gas cans would be another $45, plus a bottle of Star Tron gas treatment is $8.  That's $428 so far, but that will give them lights, and they can run the refrigerator a little bit so as not to lose the food in it.  I'd then suggest a Mr. Heater Little Buddy ($59) and 6 1 lb cans of propane ($18).  $505 so far.

Water:  A Travel Berkey Filter System with three Sport Berkey bottles from The Berkey Guy ($220).  This gives them clean water in the house - they can fill it with creek water if need be - plus each family member gets a bottle to have clean water on the move.  $725 so far.

Food:  A Cansolidator Pantry from Shelf Reliance ($45) and $50 spent at the grocery store using coupons and sales to get enough canned and dry foods for the family for three days.  A propane single burner camp stove, they'll have to shop around yard sales and thrift stores to find one for about $10 or less.  It will use the same propane as the heater.  $830 so far.

Defense:  A $50 used 12 gauge shotgun, a 25 round box of #7.5 bird shot ($6) and a 5 round box of #1 buck shot ($5)  That leaves just enough money to get a book like Rawles' How To Survive The End Of The World As We Know It.

That is a pretty slim start, but it's enough to get them through 90% of what they are likely to experience with minimal discomfort or inconvenience.  If they could come up with another $350 ($1,250 total), I'd upgrade the shotgun to a used pump action with an 18-20 inch barrel, more food, a small everyday carry kit for the wife and a decent get home kit for the husband.  I still wouldn't steer them to long term storage food, but could get them up to about 2 weeks of regular grocery store food.  They'd then have to get into rotation.  A budget of $50 a month to add to their preps would get them up to speed pretty quick.

I think this is a reasonable plan for someone starting from zero, and in the particular situation described.  If a friend or relative asks for your advice, everyone is going to have different suggestions for the different situations and concerns.  There can be no blanket answer.


  1. Sounds like a pretty good start to me. In the current economy $900 does not go as far as it should. But the generator, food, water and security is a good place to start. When it come's to the generator I think this is often an overlooked item. People have no idea how hard it is going to be to totally go with out electricity all at once. I think it is better if you kind of wean your self off of it like a bad drug. Great post. Leaves me with lots to think about.

  2. Rather than spending money on a generator that they will need to worry about using and maintaining here's another option.

    First off, get a big, quality cooler ($50) to substitute for the frig. No, it's not as good but it's easier and is really hard to damage.

    I'd then upgrade that Little Buddy heater to a Big Buddy (better heat output) that you should be able to find for $100. The next step would be to find a good used or new propane camp stove ($50 guesstimate). For another $50 or less you can get a bulk 20lb propane tank to run it all off of (this way you can do a tank exchange too). You'll need a Propane Tree ($20-25) and a couple of hoses ($12 or so, get two).

    I'd suggest getting a good battery lantern along with a bulk pack of batteries. Say $25 for the lantern and another $15 for the batteries. Add three good LED flashlights and a bulk pack of batteries for them. Say $20 each for the lights & Another $15 for the battery pack.

    A good crank radio will run $50 but that will give them another light source (probably) but will also give them news and some entertainment. With a little planning there's a good chance that the flashlights will use the same batteries as the radio.

    At this point I'd put another $100 to put towards that shotgun. I suggest this as I haven't seen a $50 shotgun in years. For $150 you can find a good used one even though it'll probably have a hunting length barrel. I'd like a little more social ammo on hand, but that can be another box or two of buckshot, say another $10 into ammo.

    Definitely get the Berkey! I've got the Travel Berkey myself.

    The Consolidator Pantry sounds great. Put the rest of the money from into more canned goods for the pantry.

    As money becomes available I'd add a second propane tank so you've got a spare. A propane lantern might not be a bad idea either. Adding to the food supply should be a given.



  3. I didn't see a Food Dehydrator mentioned. I would think that is one of the keep points needed as you can reduce the need for keeping things cold, make jerky and other things.

  4. Oh man.......this could get fun thinking of different ways to spend $900.

    I think you made some good suggestions - although you may get away with a smaller and cheaper generator if the main things being powered is a fridge and a few lights/radio.

    I am gonna put some thought into this one.

    Good post -


  5. Since they aren't yet into rotating food I wouldn't buy the consolidator pantry. The food could be stored in a box or bag under the bed. I would start on the long term stuff. A couple of fruit trees along the fence in the back yard or start a garden.


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