Being Frugal: Strategically and at the Homestead, by Secret Squirrel

Some humble thoughts on the Economics of Prepping, from a well-prepared individual. You don’t need a ton of money, but you do need the motivation. Even if you’re just now waking up from the normalcy bias, there’s a lot you can do in a short amount of time. Preparedness is YOUR responsibility and there’s little excuse to not do at least something today to improve your position.

Everybody wants that shiny new Knight’s or Daniel Defense AR, or the newest and hottest high end Sig, or that brand new Cummins Ram. But not all of us have the cheese for those things. Some of us barely have the money to not live paycheck to paycheck much less have the opportunity for nice extras. So, with what is going on in the world knowing it’s going to get worse, what is one to do to be prepared and ready for the proverbial feces hitting the fan? Or, what if one just wants to be financially conservative and stay on a budget? You learn to be frugal in everything that you can. Hopefully I can give some tips on how to do that.

I personally have been dealt a crap hand of cards the last few years. Graduated in May of 2016 with a good degree and a minor. Always thought school was a good way to get to a good place in life. Whelp, I was wrong. After not getting a shot somewhere after my technical degree I decided to try for a trade, at least to get me back to work. Had some education benefits left so went back for some trade classes. I am now stuck between a rock and a hard place employment wise. Not enough experience for any of the jobs in my degree field, and over qualified for any trade or any other job within my realm of skills (I still can’t believe being “over qualified” is a thing now, blows my mind). So I have been shafted financially since I went back to school originally. Yet I still make sure I am mostly ready for whatever may come up. You always find a way and being frugal and smart about things helps to make it happen. I credit my father with ingraining that into me. He grew up in a very blue collar family, never having much but managing to get through. His dad was a veteran of WW2 and became a construction worker and contractor after the war. Always taught his kids to be a jack of all trades master of none. That was eventually passed to me along with the ability to make things happen with as little as possible. I use the concepts that were taught to me in my “prepping”, having been paying attention to the downward spiral our society and political system is in for a long time now. Whether it be firearms and gear, food, communications, things around the house, whatever it may be I have wheeled and dealed may way into sitting pretty good.
Something me and my Dad have always done is buy guns whenever we can. Doesn’t even matter what they were, if we had the cash we would pick them up. Back in the day when it wasn’t uncommon to see them at yard sales, grabbing whole lots if we could at auctions and estate sales, wherever we happened to run across them. We would hold on to the ones we really wanted and store the ones we weren’t worried about. Periodically we would gather the ones we were not worried about keeping, clean them up and resell them, often at a pretty decent profit for what they were. Sometimes it would be in trades. Something Dad always taught me was horse-trading. In the end we would have the pieces we wanted or had trades and sales to be able to get more of what we wanted. Just simple old country folk business. I have stuck with that, and nowadays with the plethora of technology at our fingertips it’s gotten even easier in a way. One way I have been able to get the pieces I want or need is dealing on Armslist. Apparently I’ve gotten pretty good at it, shocking some people at the deals I have been able to pull off. One in particular NCScout himself is still somewhat astonished I pulled it off.

Remington 700 .308 with Leupold Mk4

It is a Remington 700 Sendero 308 with a Leupold Mk4 LR-T that I have a grand total of $35 cash out of pocket in. People ask me how I do it and it’s really simple; it just takes patience, research and the willingness to strike when the iron is hot. The Sendero was traded for with a Marlin 1894 in 357 that came from a yard sale a while back. At the time it was not thought to be much so it was pretty cheap but it turned out it was a good one, pre-safety gold trigger JM stamped, made in 1978. It was little of nothing at the yard sale. Posted on Armslist and after some laughable offers one came through that was good. Straight trade for a Sendero 308 because he had an 1894 in 357 before and regretted parting with it. That deal was a no brainer. Didn’t even have to drive far for it. The Leupold took a little more though. It started with a Savage Model 99 in 300 Savage. Great piece, it was clean, it was a good shooter, pretty sure I only originally had $100 in it but it just sat in my safe. It was posted on Armslist for sale or trade. A real nice guy quickly emailed about it offering a nice AR in trade. This is where having a little research comes in handy. Knowing the AR market is flooded from the election scare (always happens like clockwork) and ARs were not and still not going for top dollar because the market was flooded made it a pretty easy yes or no. I passed on the AR simply because at the time it just wasn’t worth what the Savage was because of the market. New his AR was probably twice the value but not at the time. After turning down the AR he asked what else I would be interested in so I told him. Then he offered a Beretta 92FS Inox straight trade. That was well worth the trade so deal. He was happy and of course I was happy turning a $100 investment into several times more than that. I’ve since done a couple more deals with the same gentleman. I don’t like Berettas. So why did I make the trade? One, the value difference and two the fact a Inox 92FS is pretty easy to flip. So I went hunting for something to trade the Beretta on. Found a guy that had bought a Sig 226R new, put 2 magazines through it and realized he didn’t like it that much. He liked the Beretta so a deal was made straight trade. Too easy because Sig is always in high demand, much higher than Beretta, at least in my area. I like Sig but I won’t carry one because of the fact my firing hand thumb tends to ride the slide lever and will not lock back on last round. If I have a Sig it just goes to the range because there are plenty others I don’t have any issues with to carry. So I had been sitting on the Sig when the deal for the Sendero was made. It needed glass when I got it so back to scanning Armslist ads. Ad was found for a Leupold Mk4 LR-T claiming it had only been mounted on an AR and zeroed, nothing else except sitting in the safe. Offered the Sig and he bit. Meeting in person it indeed looked as though only mounted and zeroed, it was like new with the box and papers. He even threw in the Burris XTR rings it had been mounted in. Score. So I had rifle, glass, rings, and just needed a base. So I came out of pocket for an EGW 20 MOA base that I found on sale through Midway. All put together my Armslist trade special budget tactical 308 cost me a total of $35 out of pocket, about $250 to 300 total including original costs of the trades. And that Armslist special rifle shoots under ¾ MOA easy with handloads.

The Armslist rifle will shoot. Group speaks for itself, and the bottom shot was kind of a called flier, so it will probably do even better. Load was a Hornady 168 grain ELD Match over RL-15.

Not to mention the total value of that package now is ridiculously higher than my initial investment. If you take your time, learn your area market, and strike on a deal while it’s hot you can pull off some pretty good deals with little to no money because most of us have those old huntin’ rifles and shotguns that can be flipped. Even if you have to start off with something else just to get going. That old Honda CB 750 you picked up a while back looking to make a project out of it but never got around to it could be better served turned into $500 that can get you a decent AR on Armslist if you don’t have an AR. AR is potentially much more useful than that Honda project just sitting there (I used the Honda reference because I do have a 78 CB 750 project sitting in the yard). It’s not just Armslist either; you can make firearms deals in a multitude of places. Newspaper still has some ads every once in a while, another website is Gunbroker that has private sales; there’s even Facebook “yardsales” and marketplaces popping up now. All you have to do is look around. Also make sure transactions are legal. I and most everyone on Armslist ask to at least see a CWP or proper paperwork required by states (such as NC’s pistol purchase permit) before a deal is done. Last thing we want is another felonious idiot getting one and making legal law abiding gun owners take the hit for their actions. The market for used guns is a game. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose a little. But if you need some or need better; go ahead and ante up, get dealt in, play the game, and do some dealing. You would be surprised at what you can pull off.

“Lookie all muh stuff in muh bugout bag. Ain’t it cool?” DO NOT fall in to what is essentially a marketing trap that is the infamous “Bug Out Bag”. The concept is not very bright, grabbing a bag and going supposedly on foot to a perceived better location than you are at now. Every other vulture out there is going to want to try and do the same thing, like bug out to the mountains. Now I am originally from Virginia, and that poses two problems to me. One; having to fight the other vultures that are going the same way, and two; the mountains in Virginia/West Virginia are full of a bunch of peaceful mountain folk that stay that way until someone tries to encroach in on their holler, then you have no idea how formidable of a new enemy you have pissed off. Bugging out is just not smart anyway. By the time you think you need to bug out the time to have left the area and make it successfully has come and gone and you are already f**ked and in the fight whether you realize it or not. The time and money is better spent on preparing where you are at and networking with like-minded people in your area to create a fold that can stand their ground on the same ground. Don’t waste your money on bug out BS. A bag that can be useful though is a patrol bag. Something you can carry around your given area of operation after everything has gone down. If it be scouting for supplies, scouting the opposition, fighting the opposition, whatever it may be you will need sustainment while on these patrols. Extra ammo/mags, socks, some food and water, a simple sleep system, simple things that you will need on mission. And it will depend on where you are at as to some of the gear that bag will need. Such as for a sleep system you may need more if you are out in the sticks versus being in an urban environment. If you need to rack out in a city most likely you can find empty shelter of some kind and all you will need is maybe a sleeping bag. Out in the sticks you may need more. Whatever you may need wherever you are at, it can be found on a budget. Obviously old military surplus can be beneficial. The military sleeping bag system with bivy cover is a good modular system that has multiple pieces. Only take what pieces you will need to cut down weight, only buy what pieces you need for your climate. Somebody in Florida probably won’t need the whole system, just the lighter bag of it. That whole thing can be found many places like; Amazon, EBay, surplus shops close to military bases,, and many more. Or sometimes a cheaper option can be found. If you think about it, you really don’t need a brand new bag so find a used one. It will get beat up anyway and you most likely won’t be the cleanest person in the world crawling into it after a day’s worth of patrol. Hit stores like Play It Again Sports or similar, sometimes those stores have good deals. Scour Craigslist ads for that outdoorsy hipster that only buys high dollar stuff that is selling that $850 North Face bag for peanuts because it’s “worn out” and it has been replaced by a newer one. All camping kit you may need could be found this way. Do what you can to streamline what you need. For example, I would be operating in the sticks quite a bit and I would have the need for some kind of shelter in the field. The first thought many would have is probably a tent. While that is a viable option, the tents that are light enough and pack down small enough can be very expensive even used. In lieu of a tent I use a hammock. Packs in its own stuff sack down to almost the size of a softball and it weighs less than a pound. Quicker to put up and take down than a tent and can give you just as much shelter with a separate rain fly when you need it.

eno hammock.jpg
ENO CamoNest XL with Petzl screw lock biners. NATO mag for size comparison

I actually just got a new one recently; it is an Eagle Nest Outfitters (ENO) CamoNest XL. After doing some looking and research I found it very cheap on Amazon. MSRP is close to $100, found for $38 on Amazon. Now one thing I will say about the camping hammocks, the carabiners that come with them can be a little flimsy. ENO is an excellent company well known for their high quality hammocks but the wire gate biners it came with while perfectly fine for most I felt better with a more beefy biner. I’m a bigger guy so I opted for Petzl locking gate climbing biners, MSRP over $20 found for $10.49 on Amazon. Been finding a lot of good deals lately on Amazon. There may be more that you may need in your kit or maybe less, just take a common sense logical approach to it then think outside of the mainstream box on how to get those items. Clothing is another piece of gear that is often over thought. This is reminiscent of conversations with NCScout years ago and he may have written about this already. One thing that has been found in combat, especially in recent conflicts, is if you can’t identify your enemy it’s that much harder to engage them. Such as on a mountain in Afghanistan you look over and see a guy walking on the opposite face. Is it a goat farmer looking for his herd or is it actually enemy tracking your movements? It can be impossible to tell sometimes until the lead is already flying. So why draw unnecessary attention to yourself here? If you live in a more urban area, say outside suburbs of Atlanta, why would you want to be dolled up in full multicam looking like the current Tactical Tailor model? You see a guy in a post SHTF situation in full multicam with a military rucksack it’s almost inevitable that person is a combatant, but in the same situation a guy dressed in Carhartt with a hiking backpack looks nowhere near the same. For the majority of situations non tactical attire can be even more effective than being soldiered out. Tough pants like Carhartt or Dickies, and a similar shirt or jacket can and will blend into those areas. A plain hiking or camping style pack doesn’t scream combatant either. Yet you can stay fairly well at the ready with that look. Concealing a handgun in the waistband with the rest of your high speed bang bang gear in the top of that pack ready to deploy fast can allow you to hide pretty much in plain sight.

Teton Scout 3400 and its packed with everything I need for 3 days in the field. Food, water and water treatment, my full sleeping system, even extra socks. 16 inch AR and chest rig is staged in the top for rapid deployment.

I have a Teton 3 day trail pack that can be packed with everything I need for a patrol and have room for two AR halves or a folded Yugo underfolder AK and appropriate chest rig staged at the opening for a rapid deployment if need be. It may not be 100% perfect but it’s a helluva lot better than walking around like a neon sign that says “shoot me”. Better yet that clothing can be had anywhere fairly cheap. The packs can be found same way as the other camping gear mentioned above, the clothing pretty much anywhere they sell clothes. I love my local thrift and consignment shops. I find Carhartt and Dickies all the time for pennies on the dollar. I even found a pair of $85 Duluth Trading Co Firehose pants with the tags still on them for $3.50 at one of my favorite thrift shops. Sometimes you can find new with the tags still on them, sometimes yeah they are used. Even if they are used so what? They will either A: Get beat all to hell working in them anyway or B: Get beat all to hell training or actually operating. So what if you are in the sticks and you would need camo to do your deeds? Still don’t need to spend $238 on Crye Precision pants. Some of the military camo patterns work well in the US depending where you are. Multicam and A-TACS work pretty good, with A-TACS FG being very good in my neck of the woods. And if you can get that or afford it that’s great. But something to look at is would the average hunter in your area wear it? $50 plus for A-TACS FG pants versus a pair of Walls Realtree I saw in wally world last time I was in there on sale for something like $35? And the Realtree could be even better than the A-TACS FG in the field. So cheaper and better. More apt to find hunting stuff in thrift shops over more expensive camo as well. You don’t have to look like a catalog ranger to be plenty effective in the field. One thing that a little coin may need to be spent on is things like chest rigs, holsters and so on. But not always. NCScout has mentioned before the Chinese 4 pocket for AK is excellent, and I completely agree as he put me on to it years ago and after trying it it’s as close to minimalist perfection as cheap as it gets for one that runs an AK. And it’s $10 to $15. For others you may need to look around. Think about if you really need that full plate carrier or just an open front chest rig. Do your homework and find quality gear as inexpensive as you can. I would be remiss to not mention one company in particular I like that is inexpensive. UW Gear makes an OUTSTANDING product that is well thought out. I have had the pleasure to do some field testing with NCScout on some of their equipment and in no way did I find it to be lacking. For a minimalist lightweight and sturdy rig I really like what they have to offer. My next rig will most definitely be one of theirs, probably the open front Swamp Fox.

This will be a pretty short section because if you are on Brushbeater and not reading what NCScout has to say about radio communications then you are all sorts of wrong. He has forgotten more than what most of us will learn about radio fieldcraft. All I will really say is there are inexpensive radios out there that can and will get you going. You can find them all kinds of places like Amazon and EBay. The really good ones, like a Yaesu 817 or 857 for example, will not be cheap. Keep your nose to the ground checking Craigslist, Gigaparts and Universal Radio’s used section, Hamfests, or anywhere else you can run across good radio equipment. I’m not about to spend a whole lot of time on this when he has already done so much and then some.
Food and water as we all know are 2 of the 3 keys to sustaining life. Water is arguably more important than food. Starting to concentrate on these key elements even before anything happens can be extremely beneficial. Look around your area, in close proximity to your home. Is there reliable water sources anywhere close? How could you collect and keep water if need be? If you have your own piece of land, see if there are any freshwater springs on it. If you don’t have a piece of land any size there are other ways to collect water without paying for it. Something our fold is doing that anybody living in a house can do is collecting rain water via rain barrels under gutter downspouts. Rainwater is some of the purest natural water that can be found. Just grab some decent barrels, preferably plastic, and set them up. I would recommend that any open spots on the barrels like top bungs be covered tight with something like mosquito netting to keep bugs out. The barrels do need to breathe but the last thing you need is mosquito larvae swimming in your water. After you collect your water it is always smart to go ahead and boil it to clear it before it is stored. Empty 2 liter bottles, anything that can be sealed up pretty tight can be used to store. Recent hurricanes in the South have given an opportunity for folks to use their abilities to store water; emergency and/or disaster events can be good ways to see just how ready you are. By the way, if any readers are from those areas affected by the storms I sincerely hope all is well and everybody made it through OK. Honestly there ain’t too much I can give to be frugal with water, it’s pretty self-explanatory and a lot of common sense practice, but the point is go ahead and do it.

A simple DIY raised bed, really easy to do. Picture courtesy Google

The same could be potentially said about food, but there are some tips to share if anything to encourage folks to go ahead and try it even if they already know about them. If you or at least someone in your fold are not doing a regular vegetable garden then you are wrong. It is too easy to do and so beneficial both now and after a collapse. Don’t have a natural green thumb? No problem, there’s a multitude of info online or in print publications to get you going on the right track and keep you going successfully. You can even take horticulture classes if you like. If you have the land go ahead and set aside a piece to cultivate and grow, it’s a no brainer and it’s not that hard or time consuming. Now some people may have the problem of not having the space to do an in ground garden but that’s OK, it can still be done with little space it just needs to be a little more creative. Raised beds are a cool way to pack several plants into a smaller space and can be perfect for smaller yards. They can be made with old railroad ties, landscaping timbers, even just plain old logs. Basically it’s just a built up square or rectangle filled with quality topsoil. It may not sound like it offers any advantage over regular ground planting but it really does. It makes it easier to rotate plants and refresh the soil to replenish the mineral deposits needed to grow and it can be easier to keep critters out of both above ground and burrowing critters. There’s lots of info out there about raised beds. Less space than that needed for raised beds?

Bale beds are too easy. Set with twine wraps to side and open sides pointing up and down then load them up. Picture courtesy Google

Bale beds are a very interesting concept I discovered years ago that is very successful. The only space you need is for a couple hay/straw square bales. The seeds or seedlings are planted directly into the bale and you can get a surprising amount of plants in one bale. The bales can be found very cheap, although I will say straw bales are a little better for it than hay and straw is normally a little higher than hay. When the grow cycle is done with the bale it can be discarded or even better set aside to be turned into compost. It can be done on a porch or deck, or even on an apartment balcony. Have no room at all outside, say in an apartment with no balcony or front stoop? Window boxes and planter pots even done strictly inside can produce just fine. Some plants may need some extra care to be done this way but it can still be done. There is no reason to not grow SOMETHING. My personal favorite and probably the most efficient producer of any option is the greenhouse. Yes you may need a little space outside and not all will be able to do one but if you can the greenhouse is the way to go. Done properly it can give fresh produce year round. Big fat red beefeater tomatoes with 3 foot on snow on the ground, it’s crazy to imagine. A 10×12 greenhouse can produce enough for two households, even more when perfected. A grow system that maximizes production is hydroponics. I have a lot of experience with hydroponics (no not from weed). Growing up I helped my Dad build and run a hydroponics system that had never been done before, and with the help of professors at VA Tech and UVA he eventually got a patent on it. We did it on a commercial scale but the same principal can be done on a personal scale. We had two 150 ft. greenhouses that produced 75,000 pounds of tomatoes each per growing season. That could be done in the middle of winter when price per pound for tomatoes were at ridiculous peaks.


Not everybody wants to be a vegetarian so other sources of food need to be found. Obviously hunting and fishing are easy picks. If you don’t hunt, try it. It is not very hard at all, if I as a young dumb kid could learn how to be a good hunter than anybody can. Just do not fall into more marketing BS and buy more than needed. Hunting tactics are infinitely more important than hunting gear. If you know what you are doing you can hunt in a pair of jeans and a plain jacket without needing to spend hundreds on full camo this or camo that. Camo doesn’t hurt at all, just making a point. If you have no experience hunting, talk to a hunter you may know. Most hunters are good folks that would be happy to help a newbie get started and teach what they can. Many that follow Brushbeater are hunters, and I have no doubt that these good folks wouldn’t hesitate helping someone to get started. All one needs do is ask. Fishing is not much different than hunting. Not hard at all from a sustainment standpoint and makes an excellent hobby. Yes it can get complicated, if you are targeting specific species or fishing tournaments ect. To fish to eat is stupid easy. A trot line for catfish. Cork fishing for bream or crappie. Old school easy fishing. Cheap equipment is all you need. A Zebco 33 combo at wally world is like 15 bucks and its more than what you would need just to eat. As far as where, just pay attention to the water quality. Some of our precious waters have been destroyed from pollution and as such should not be considered safe to eat out of. Other than that most any bodies of water out there will produce fish. If you would like to maximize your catch potential I do suggest a boat of some kind. Bass boats are great but expensive and not practical post collapse. For budget conscious fishing look at canoes, kayaks and Jon boats. I love to fish as a hobby and I personally love kayak fishing. You have the ability to sneak up on the fish silently and they are very easy to maneuver. I feel a kayak has the edge over canoes and Jon boats in that they are easier to handle by yourself both in and out of the water. My boat is a FeelFree Lure 10, and it is a top notch boat specifically set up for fishing with probably the most comfortable seat system on the market. I even have it set up with electronics like a Garmin fish/depth finder. The downside is it was not a very cheap setup being in the neighborhood of $1500 all said and done. For someone like me that fishing is a way of life that cost maybe is bearable; but for those that only want to look at a kayak for sustainment fishing the Pelican or Sun Dolphin boats found at wally world, Dick’s and the like are fine examples of budget friendly boats that serve their purpose and get you on the water.

Another source for some but not everybody is livestock. Cattle, goats, anything like that can give you some serious sustainment either by meat or from byproduct like milk. What I and my wife have now are chickens. Chickens don’t require the room that most any other livestock needs with a small yard being enough to raise them. You also don’t need ridiculous numbers to provide either.

Three of our hens with the rooster

We have 7 hens and a rooster (You can do fine without a rooster, sometimes I wish we would, our loud sonuva bitch gets annoying still crowing ALL DAY and sometimes I picture myself taking the biggest piece of artillery I have and turning his ass into a cloud of feathers, but he does his job of protecting the hens…) that produce more than enough for us with dozens left over to pass to others within our fold. They are not as expensive as some think they are with chicken feed being very reasonable. They also are pretty easy to keep being pretty self-sustainable. As with any animal keep them with food and water daily and collect eggs as often as possible. Coops and runs can be made very cheaply with scrap lumber and some wire fencing. If you do consider chickens, resist any urges you may have to slaughter for meat. They have much greater value as egg layers and many will lay for several years reliably, only after they have run their course as an egg layer should slaughter for meat be looked at. After a collapse they can still be tended to fairly easily with no need for any special feeds. Do a little research on chickens, if it is a viable option for you I highly recommend them. Look at any options for food sustainability. You may find you can do a lot more than you thought you could. What I have wrote about here is just things I have experience with, there is more out there.


Around the house and home
The ultimate in frugality at home is being completely off grid and self-sustainable. That means things like generating your own power through means of solar, wind or other energy production processes. While this is great and we should all strive for that, energy production at home it is expensive on the scale it needs to be to run a household. The technology is getting cheaper by the year and in just the last 10 years I have watched the cost of photovoltaics, wind turbines and geothermics steadily decline with photovoltaics seeing something like a drop to half what it did cost. Even with that it is still expensive for the average family, so in this article I will not go into it but for sure keep these technologies on your radar. The number one thing to help you be frugal and prepared at home and in the community is find other like-minded people and work together. This is exactly what I mean when I have been saying your “fold”. None of us will be able to weather the storm completely on our own, so always have strength in numbers. It not only multiplies your capabilities but expands the knowledge base exponentially. It’s just not smart to not do it. With that said, be particular of who is let into your fold. We all know what to look for and what not to let in. Some problems are better left not confronted. The next best thing for the homestead is education. Learn everything you can, seriously. If you don’t know any trades learn them. Check your local community college for classes like carpentry, electrical, plumbing, welding ect ect.

steel target
Just an idea of something that can be done after learning a trade skill. I don’t buy steel targets. This is after completion. It’s a simple rimfire swinging challenger. Scrap tube and ¼ inch mild plate. Dot sizes go from 4 inch down to ½ inch. Fun to challenge each other at the range and good for remembering shooting basics like trigger control. That ½ incher is hard to hit 100 yards and beyond.

Anything you can do on your own saves you money and builds a skill that can be priceless post collapse. I said at the beginning of this article my Dad had carried on the tradition of teaching how to be a jack of all trades. There is almost nothing I can’t do at my home. Carpentry work to build coops and things for the chickens or repairs around the house. Any electrical or plumbing I can handle. Any technical or computer related issues I take care of. I have a love for metal fabrication and as such I am finishing my last semester of formal welding classes now so I can have that piece of paper and certifications. If I may toot my own horn for a second, I’m a good enough welder that even not being finished with the program yet I was hired by my lead instructor to be an assistant instructor part time (It ain’t much, only 6 hours a week but I am finding out with it something I never knew about myself, I actually like to formally teach and I’m actually good at it. I never would have guessed). The skill has come in very handy. I carry my kayaks and Jon boat on a two tier kayak trailer I built out of scraps and pieces of a Harbor Freight kit. Being able to do your own wrench work on vehicles or equipment goes a long way. Anything you can think of, do it. Learn the skills even if you have to try and learn by watching someone you know do it. Have the tools needed to do such things handy, and while power tools are great and I’m not saying don’t get any, make sure you have the equivalent hand tools available for when there is no power. Tools can always be found at yard sales, flea markets, thrift shops, auctions, and many other places pretty cheap. If you don’t need to buy a tool new, don’t, just get a used one. Most of the time tools from yesterday are built much stouter than newer ones anyway. Along with trade skills craft skills can go a VERY long ways. My wife has steadily learned more and more over time as she gets time to learn. Now she can make things at home that most don’t think about post collapse. Things like soap, laundry detergents, toothpaste, antiseptics, and all kinds of things. They can be made out of everyday materials and the recipes for them are all over the web and publications. Even candles are made pretty easy at home. Know how to sew and have the supplies to do so. Craft tools are widely available but there are two that I recommend finding and getting simply because they are incredible to have. I bought my wife a KitchenAid stand mixer and it is a Swiss army knife of the kitchen, no joke. It’ll last a good while too; it is not plastic by any means and is made very solid. The other is a sewing machine, even if an antique foot powered unit which is not a bad idea anyway to have when the grid goes down. Learn how to use it; it will come in handy more than you think it will. The topic of vehicles runs wide and deep. I’m a huge gearhead so maybe I will eventually do an article on vehicles, but for now all I will say is keep it reliable and it’s a good idea to keep one around that is stupid simple. Something like an earlier diesel, all mechanical and could potentially run on just about anything. Similar to vehicles is reloading. It’s not a bad practice to get into, but it won’t always save you money and is not necessarily an option post collapse. Again, considering the vastness of the topic I may do an article at a later date on reloading. Basically, whatever you can do at home yourself then do it. If you need to learn how to then learn. There’s no reason not to.


I’m sure there are plenty of things among the various topics I am forgetting. Even with what I have here it only really scratches the surface of most topics. With any luck I have mentioned something in this article you may have not heard of and it can be beneficial to you. If I only help one person I have done what I have set out to do. I also realize many of you that follow Brushbeater are probably aware of everything I have written about, and if that is the case I would still love to hear comments. Maybe you could bring up something new that I don’t know about and help everybody including myself. I never claim to be a supreme wealth of knowledge and I make it a point to learn something new every chance I get. As I wrote somewhere above, I would be delighted to speak more about anything if anybody would like to hear more detail about something. In the meantime, keep your heads down, stay safe. Have a wonderful day guys.
—– Secret Squirrel


20 thoughts on “Being Frugal: Strategically and at the Homestead, by Secret Squirrel

  1. Mike

    Outstanding article Mr. Squirrel. You really hit one out of the park. I’m guilty of putting too many resources into stuff instead of skills. Thank you.

    1. Secret Squirrel

      Mike, thank you for your comments! I too have been guilty of the same before, and I thank NCScout for giving me the proverbial “Gibb’s smack” to the head to realize I had more skill of value instead of materialistic items.

  2. Chris

    Thanks! Great read.
    As you have suggested….get busy!
    and whatever level you are at….get busier! Time sure seems real short but “I can do all things thru Christ which strengtheneth me”
    Small Ax
    SE Ohio

  3. Blackthorn

    Excellent info and a lot of it! The straw bale gardening info is right on. I did several of those this year and had the best tomatoes and peppers ever. I’ll be continuing that. Many thanks!

    1. Secret Squirrel

      Blackthorn, thank you for your comments! I learned of the straw bales years ago when friends living in apartments wanted to grow but didn’t have the room. I’ve always been amazed how fruitful the process is.

  4. PRCD


    I’m a veteran of the tech industry and would be happy to help you get started in your job search. Read “The Employment Game” as a good first start. Modern job search is….complicated to say the least. At best, it’s completely dysfunctional.

    Also, read this.

    1. Secret Squirrel

      PRCD, thank you for your concern, any advice is welcome and I will read those. My biggest problem is timing. I’m close to an area known as Little Silicon Valley or Silicon Valley ver. 2.0, but halfway through my degree there were thousands of layoffs thanks to mergers and changes in the industry. So it flooded the employee pool with bunches of experienced tech folks. As a friend thats been a network engineer for 20 some odd years said, me with a degree and no experience looses to one with X years of experience every time. I have some promising opportunities coming, such as the campus IT dept where I am at now wanting me, but as you said it being complicated to say the least having to wait for positions to be listed is frustrating. I know something will come along eventually bit it is damn frustrating. I’m no spring chicken and not getting any younger.

    2. Thanks for the link to my book PRCD. I am going to update the links and drop the price. Also will offer a free promo soon so you can get the book for no cost. The free 60-page sample available on my blog is enough to get you started for now. If anyone finds it useful a review on Amazon would be most appreciated.

      Just this past week I went through another brutal round of Employment Game and it looks like I am getting the gig. Where I have failed is when I violated the very principles I advised in my own book. I will write up the particulars in an upcoming blog post at

      As for prepping, I lived through a Houston flood last year and had to assemble bugout bags for my wife and I. It was becoming probable that we would have to vacate and fend for ourselves so I had to consider all possible situations. Another day of torrential rain and we would have had water in our rental house. No I didn’t envision living off the land with my tactical flashlight inkpen/blowgun but a couple nights in the woods instead of a dicey mass shelter was a serious consideration. Just enough to survive and relocate without major trauma. That also meant backing up my work data to the cloud and having passports, cash, and other essentials. All while keeping the weight of the bags as minimal as possible. Just used a couple cheap daypacks we already had. But it is a lot of work putting it together. Then of course this year it was even worse but we had moved to the midwest, which often has its own crazy weather.

  5. PRCD

    “As far as where, just pay attention to the water quality. Some of our precious waters have been destroyed from pollution and as such should not be considered safe to eat out of”

    Steve Rinella did an episode of Meat Eater on Louisiana catfish. The fishmonger he interviewed demonstrated a way to clean the fat layer off the catfish that contains all the PCBs and mercury. I personally doubt that mercury is dangerous in the amounts found in our waterways. SCIENCE! has made everything out to be dangerous even in trace amounts through questionable studies and bad statistics. WM Briggs blogs about this all the time.

    I just finished building a 12′ wooden boat. It’s almost always cheaper to buy a used one but many factory-made boats lack features you can build easily into a wooden boat. Wooden boats can usually seat more people than fiberglass boats built over a factory mold. Jim Michalak and Sam Devlin have written good books on cheap plywood boat building. Michalak’s boats, in particular, can be built very cheaply and quickly. For paint, use a two-part floor/porch paint from a big box hardware store instead of marine paint. Another great, dirt-cheap option for canoes and kayaks is “skin-on-frame.” Look at Dave Gentry’s designs or Kudzu Craft

    1. That’s really cool on all accounts.

      We purge all catfish- leaving them in salt water for at least 24 due to the amount of silt around here just to make them taste good. But then again, there’s not too many ways to make a mud cat taste good. Blues are where it’s at.

    2. Secret Squirrel

      I mentioned watch the water quality just from personal experience in our area. The Dan river in NC and VA has been hit very hard from the Duke Energy coal ash spill, and a river I absolutely adore the New River in VA has been affected for years by the Radford Arsenal dumping into it. Some water is perfectly fine, some still needs to be watched.

      Handbuilt wood boats have always fascinated me. I have a lot of family from the Tidewater area of VA and for many many years (and still to this day for many) the preferred work boat of choice was always the Chesapeake Bay Deadrise. The solid wood planking, stainless nails, classic lines, old school diesels, I’ve always seen them as works of art. Sadly many of the old boat builders have passed on. There are still some hard at work building in some of the old hotspots like Deltaville, and they are amazing to watch work. So because of that I’ve always wanted to build my own wood boats, just never have the time or the place to build one. One day I will do it. I’d like to see yours if at all possible, love to see wood boats from 10′-12′ skiffs to the old 50′-60′ Deadrises to 100′-200′ plus sails.

      1. PRCD

        SS (or anyone else),

        Email me at [email protected]. I’ll send you my build log. I used the ‘stitch and glue’ construction method pioneered by the Gougeon brothers and expensive marine plywood. No mold was used. Lapstrake construction is still common but uses the ‘cold mold’ technique. The result was a 12′ boat that rows/sails/motors with a 2.5 hp Tohatsu, seats 5, and weighs about 100 lbs. My wife and I can pick it up easily. You can use cheap plywood that absorbs more epoxy for a heavier result that works fine. Boats built with cheap plywood should be glassed to prevent checking.

        For employment issues, I’d have to see a lot more specific details. However, I went to engineering school with a guy who quit 5th group after 15 years to get an engineering degree in his mid-30s and he did fine. You have a lot of irons in the fire so trying to get a contract position is a good idea as explained in The Employment Game.

  6. Doc

    “He has forgotten more than what most of us will learn about radio fieldcraft.”

    I wouldn’t know, but I would more than agree. This is a fantastic article and thank you for taking the time to write it!

    Further thanks to our great host who’s awesome articles motivated me to pass my Technician license test today. Thank you, my friend… you’re efforts added yet another. 🙂


    1. Secret Squirrel

      Doc, thanks for the comments, and a big CONGRATS! Welcome to the wild weird wonderful world of amateur radio!

  7. lineman

    Man my field is wide open for work right now but you would probably have to do a little traveling so might not be an option for you…Also don’t know your age so maybe your past the age of wanting to start out in a different field but sounds like your a guy who likes the outdoors and can work with your hands so would be a good field for you that will provide you with enough to do pretty much whatever you want…If you want more info NCScout has my contact info…

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