Scavenging for essential items to survive thrive after a SHTF doomsday disaster should be a part of your weekly prepping routine and factored into the family’s self-reliance budget.
Most preppers stockpile preps to increase their family’s chances of survival, but that is only step 1 of the process. Tossing a bunch of seeds, powdered milk, and long-term food storage buckets in the garage is NOT a survival plan.
Think big picture when scavenging things to survive both during and after a SHTF scenario, unless your goal is only to live through the event and not be a part of the rebuilding phase during the aftermath of the apocalypse as the new normal evolves.
Now, I am not encouraging you to go out and loot. For the purposes of this article, we are defining scavenging as any manner in which you can source or salvage free or nearly free, goods.
Top Places To Score Free Or Nearly Free Survival Supplies
• The side of the road
• College campus rental neighborhoods at the change of the quarter or semester
• Craigslist Farm, Barter and Garden Sections
• Facebook local auction and online trading posts
• Flea Markets
• Junk Yards
• Yard Sales
• Farm Auctions
• Estate Auctions
• Local or Regional Freecycle Groups
• List Making – Create a list of needs and wants and then prioritize them. Divide the list into categories: Food and Water, Medical, Transportation, Tools, Livestock, Clothing, etc. List scavenged items in each category by order of priority.
• Get Organized – Create an inventory so you know EXACTLY what you have and when it expires. Use the table at the end of this article to help you organize both you new and existing preps.
• Stages – Once you have a list of your wants and needs created, divide them up into disaster stages for both storage and usages purposes: Initial Disaster Stage, During Disaster Stage, Post-SHTF Stage.
• Non-Tangible – Think outside the box when scavenging and stockpiling. Don’t waste time on the skills vs. stuff debate, do the smart thing and “stockpile” both.
• Barter – Include bartering items in your scavenging of stockpiled goods so you can trade for needed items you cannot produce or run short of. The prepper who creates a trading post during the rebuilding phase just might wind up being the king or queen of their region.
Scavenging For Post-SHTF – Multi-Purpose Items
So many folks have old tires tucked away around their property because there is a fee to get rid of them and they cannot be burned. Junk yards, as well as mechanics’ shops would probably give you as many as you want for free because they too have to pay a fee to be rid of them.
• Tires can be used as container gardens to enhance you growing your own groceries projects.
• The can be filled with sand, dirt, or concrete to help create a barrier to block entry to your road or driveway.
• Filled tires can also be used to form a barrier to keep livestock in place or to keep rabbits and deer (if you pile them high enough) out of a garden.
• Fill the tires with dirt or concrete and use them to make an LP/OP or emergency shelter.
• Cut the rubber into strips and use them as replacement soles for your boots and shoes – outerwear and footwear of all types will fall apart far more quickly during rugged SHTF use. Lay your shoe on top of a piece of tire rubber. Trace around the sole, leaving a 1 to 2 inch flap style piece on each side and the front and back so the flap of the makeshift sole can be sewn or tacked onto a pair of boots or shoes.
• Use the waterproof tires as a housing unit to hide valuables at the bottom of a pond or creek. Tightly wrap plastic sheeting, a tarp, or a plastic tub inside the opening, secure it in place with a mountain of duct tape, and you have an underwater safe.
• Build a barn to house livestock close to your home for their safekeeping from marauders.
• Build a barrier wall in front of your home, with covert openings to fire a rifle through, using tires filled with dirt, sand, or concrete.
Junk Mail and Cardboard
Save all your junk mail and start collecting it from everyone you know, ask stores for their cardboard boxes, and dumpster//roadside dive for any boxes put out as trash.
Purchase a paper log maker and start making your own quick-starting logs. The paper logs are better than firestarters or kindling. Even though they will not burn as hot or as long as wood logs, you should be able to heat a room or boil water using them in your wood stove.
Sure, you might have a ton of trees on your property and a big split firewood pile – but that might not always be the case. One forest fire, which will happen with far greater frequency during a long-term SHTF disaster could wipe out your entire supply.
You might not be able to go outside due to the nature of the disaster (which could also destroy some or all of your trees) or because of a man-made threat around your property. Making and storing the paper logs inside your home will help ensure your family will not suffer a winter night without heat.
The paper logs are lightweight, making them more portable and easy to store in a bugout bag and the vehicle you may use for getting yourself home or fleeing your bugout location.
To make paper logs, soak the cardboard and junk mail in cold water for at least two days if you rip up the material in about 6 inch by 6 inch pieces. If you do not tear up the paper or cardboard anymore than is necessary to make it fit inside your soaker, the pulp-making process usually takes up to about 14 days.
Next, you will squeeze the water from the material. Then, scoop up a handful and place it into the bottom of the paper log maker. It takes two or three handfuls to fill most paper log makers. Each manual machine functions a bit differently, simply follow the instructions to complete the process.
Turn A Junk Television Into A Solar Oven
There are several useful materials which can be found inside junk rear projection televisions, but the most exciting find will be its Fresnel lens.
A Fresnel lens is essentially a massive magnifying glass. You can create 2,000 degree solar oven with the junk television part.
Go junk hunting for glass jars. Snag as many unbroken jars you can find to use for making survival candles and lanterns. Cooking oil, coconut oil, olive oil, and other non-toxic types of oils can be poured into the jar and a homemade cotton wick sunken in the middle to make a nearly free survival light source.
Corrugated steel – sheet metal, can be found in scrap yards, junk yards, and rusty but still usable full or partial sheets, tossed into a heap on rural farms.
Corrugated Metal Uses
• The corrugated metal can be used to build a temporary or permanent shelter for humans or livestock.
• As a garden barrier from rabbits, deer, and prying human eyes.
• To make a LP/OP.
• To make shields.
• To make house shutters.
• To build a barrier to protect the entrance of your house from marauders while providing firing cover.
• As patching material for a roof leak.
Metal or Plastic 55-Gallon Drums
Scour you local scrap and junk yards, as well as online auction and for sale social media pages, for free and cheap drums. Try to find food grade barrels, but plan on bleaching and cleaning the inside of each used barrel anyway, just in case some chemical was housed in it that could be harmful to the health of your family.
Use for Plastic or Metal Barrels
• Container Gardening
• Rainwater Collection
• Long Term Food Storage
• Livestock Food Storage
• As an underground hidden safe or cache for emergency survival supplies.
• If the 55-gallon drum is made out of metal, it could be used to make a BBQ grill, blacksmith forge, or crafted into a still.
If you can buy or barter for an old car that is no longer running, you have struck gold – valuable prepper gold, that is. So many parts of a seemingly useless car can be converted into useful preps.
Try to find a car or other vehicle that is the same as or similar as your own so you can pick it clean of still usable parts. Stockpiling repair parts for all vehicles and machinery could help keep your homemade biodiesel fuel powered vehicle running after nearly all others have stopped.
Even if some of these following parts are no longer in good working order, they can be repurposed into other valuable preps, if you have a junk car at your disposal.
• Wiring – can be used as cordage, restraints, to set snare traps, used for fence repair, for emergency repair on torn shoes, bugout bags, or outerwear, etc.
• Busted Headlights – The headlight plastic can be broken off and sharpened to fashion a knife.
• Window Glass – The glass can also be used to make a knife or similar stabbing or slashing weapon.
• Clamps – You can’t have too many clamps, right?
• Alternator – If it works or can be repaired, it can be used as an essential part when crafting a homemade generator.
My husband never, ever, under any circumstances, ever throws away a piece of scrap metal. The numerous uses for the free building and workshop material make the growing junk pile on one end of our property a source of great pride for my beloved.
Scrap Metal Uses
• Building Material
• Livestock or Garden Fencing
• Window replacement and shutters
• Tool Making
• Making Weapons such as knives
• Making An LP/OP
• Repairing Equipment, Vehicles, And Machinery
Check on the sides of the road where you live an online for free junk appliances and the like, even single wide trailers, that folks are giving away if you just agree to come haul them off.
As an added bonus when you scavenge an old appliance for the scrap metal, you should luck out with a few other usable parts and such as: hoses, metal pipes, valves, tubing, screws, clamps, nuts, bolts, wiring, etc.
Such awesome trash to treasure deals typically go quick, so make a check for scrap metal possibilities a part of your daily prepping routine.
Types of Scrap Metal “Junk” To Scavenge
• Washing Machines
• Empty Propane Gas Tanks
• Well Water Bladders
• Air Conditioners
• Shelving Units
• Junk Cars
• Air Compressors
• Fuel Tanks
• Propane Heaters
• Kerosene Heaters
• Outdoor Furniture
• Industrial Kitchen Tools
• Storage Cabinets
• Fire Extinguishers
In theory, if you are skilled, an ordinary fire extinguisher can be turned into a flamethrower.
PVC And Metal Pipes
Again, the uses for either PVC pipes or metal pipes are vast. Stockpiling as much as you before the SHTF should give you ample pipe to not only suit your emergency repair, maintenance, and weapons needs during the disaster, but leave you with extra pipe to use either far into the future to barter with.
In addition to using the pipe for enhanced rainwater collection and in small culvert making for water drainage, the pipes can also be used to make a deadly bow and to create an off the grid “humanure” septic tank system using 55-gallon drums or agricultural plastic and metal framed storage tanks.
Wood bits and pieces left over from home remodeling projects, torn out pieces from the repair work, etc. come in handy for obvious small structure and project building reasons.
You can also use the scavenged lumber to create barriers, fences, raised gardening plots, for firewood, and even to make a training weapon – that perhaps is filed sharply enough, could cause injury.
The that cans your dog food and veggies come in, can be used as seed starters, growing containers for medicinal herbs, as an essential part of a rocket stove or mini forge.
Aluminum cans strung together with their lids dangling on a rope or wire can be part of a low-tech surveillance system around the perimeter of your survival retreat.
The reflective nature of the can lid and bottom may also be good for signaling purposes.
Top 20 Food Items To Scavenge For Post-SHTF
1. Sugar – Sugar will not only be a wonderful morale booster to have during and after the SHTF, but will be a great bartering item, as well.
2. Salt – Not only will you want salt to meet your basic cooking needs and for barter, but it can also be used to preserve meat (among other things).
3. Rice – This Asian dietary staple is inexpensive, has a long shelf life, and is surprisingly filling. A bowl of rice can be topped with naturally sourced items garnered while foraging to enhance its flavor and add extra nutrients to the dish. You can grow your own rise almost anywhere there is a pond or creek bed and in containers both large and small.
4. Water – Not a food but essential for any prepper stockpile. To scavenge a full water stockpile, buy bottles of water, set up a rain barrel collection system, dig a pond or well if one does not already exist on your survival homestead, buy Sawyer Minis and similar devices in bulk, a manual pump for the well if it has an electrical motor not powered by alternative energy, water filters and materials to make homemade water filters, as well as water purification tablets.
5. Flour – flour comes in many forms, do not limit yourself to just one. If you have oak trees on your survival homesteading retreat, learn how to process and grind acorns into flour. Growing wheat can take up a lot of space, but cultivating sorghum does not and is far easier to harvest and process into a usable flour substitute.
6. Powdered Milk – Even if you have a cow or goat for milk, the animal could die or stop producing long before your fresh milk runs out. Powdered milk (which you can make yourself from store bought or livestock milk with a standard household dehydrator) also makes a great bartering item.
7. Extra Produce – In addition to buying pouches or buckets of food with extensive shelf life, you can also make your own long-term storage food by canning, smoking, or dehydrating the garden harvest, butchered livestock and wild game, and eggs you raise on the survival homestead. Make sure to purchase or preserve as many protein items as possible.
8. Baby Formula – If you have a baby or someone in your household (teenage daughters included) are of childbearing age, stock up on baby formula in case the mother cannot produce enough milk due to low-calorie count diet, illness, or death, to feed the baby. Baby formula also makes a great post-SHTF bartering item.
9. Peanut Butter – This wonderful source of protein has at least a 2 year shelf life when purchased in the typical grocery store variety.
10. Protein, Power, and/or Granola Bars – These bars will give you both the nutrients and energy you need to keep going when the food stockpiles start to run short. They are inexpensive, lightweight, and will take up little space in bugout bag or 72-hour emergency kit. If your children attend government school and are not homeschooled, get in the habit of rotating a handful of these bars in their backpacks (along with a bottle or water and a Lifestraw) to make sure they can survive at least a day of being stranded at school or during what could be a long walk holme on foot from class, a practice, or an away ball game.
11. Vitamins– Keep a steady and rotated stockpile of vitamins to help yourself and your loved ones meet your daily nutritional needs so you can stay as healthy and strong as possible during and after a SHTF scenario.
12. Canned Fish – Stockpile oily fish because they boast a high content of omega 3 fatty acids. These good acids that help decrease inflammation and reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke, are most prominently found in tuna and salmon.
13. Dehydrated Fruits – You can buy preserved fruits from a variety of long-term food providers, or make your own. You can purchase a residential quality dehydrator for less than $100 or make a solar dehydrator from scrap materials for essentially no cost at all.
14. Dehydrated Vegetables – A bag of dehydrated vegetables (powder some for soup and stews so they take up even less space) is both lightweight and highly portable – making them a great option for bugout bags and if you are suddenly forced to flee your bugin location.
15. Whole Grains – In addition to wheat (both red and white) scavenge for good deals on rye, barley, oatmeal, and spelt to make sure you and our beloved are ingesting enough fiber to keep everyone strong an their digestive systems healthy during a long-term disaster.
16. Cheese – Learn how to dehydrate and preserve cheese in wax to ensure you are getting enough calcium (cheese has a surprisingly high protein count, too) in your post-SHTF diet.
17. Herbs and Spices – Not only will the contents of the little bottles add some greatly appreciated flavor to bland survival food and foraged dinners, but most also boast medicinal benefits, as well.
18. Cooking Oil – Stockpile coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil specifically so you not only have oil to cook with both also an oil with a potent amount of medicinal and first aid properties.
19. Honey – Raise your own bees to pollinate your crops and make your own honey. If you cannot raise bees where you live, scavenge as much raw honey as possible. Honey not only tastes great, is has substantially powerful infection fighting and first aid properties.
20. Pasta – Stock up on pasta (and again, learn how to make your own, it is not really that hard and doesn’t require a fancy and expensive pasta machine) for not only its nutrient properties but to serve as a basis for meals comprised of naturally sourced edibles and to turn the small amounts of veggies and/or meats you have, into a hearty meal.
You will not be able to call 911 for help during and after a doomsday disaster. You will be your family’s first-responder. In addition to learning how to identify trees and wild edibles, learn how to quickly identify venomous snakes in your region.
Some snakes are valuable to have around your home because they deter rodent infestations. But venomous snakes can take a life quickly, especially if a young children is bitten. Even the bit of a non-venomous of this copperhead look-a-like snake could cause a brief illness if it bites a child or infirm adult: