Prepping Items You Can Find at Thrift Stores

Prepping Items You Can Find at Thrift Stores

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Maybe you’ve been interested in stocking up on supplies in order to be prepared if a disaster were to come your way, but you feel as though it’s something that you can’t afford. You’re absolutely right to question what’s needed and whether you can afford them.

Depending on what you feel you need to add to your preparedness inventory, prepping costs can add up, but that doesn’t mean that you should give up on your efforts.

Related: Prepping Items You Should Buy Used

Believe it or not, you can head to your local thrift shop and probably find several of those items that you’re looking for while paying only a fraction of the amount you expected.

We’ll discuss some prepping items that you should be able to find at your local thrift store, estate sales, garage sales, yard sales, or flea market. Hopefully, you can find what you want and not spend a lot of money while you’re at it.

You should be able to find a local thrift store by searching on the Internet. I think most communities have a Goodwill Store, one sponsored by the Salvation Army, or one called Deseret Industries that’s sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, In many communities, local churches will have their version.

Finding prepping items at the thrift store isn’t something new, it’s been around for ages. If you haven’t purchased my survival book, here it is: “Prepare Your Family For Survival” by Linda Loosli. I thank you from the bottom of my heart if you have purchased it. I hope you find it helpful as you go through the preparation journey and search for emergency and other survival items and related ideas.

Prepping Items You Can Find at Thrift Stores

Camping Gear

You’ve struck gold if you stumble across camping gear that’s barely been used. Many of you already know that tents and camp stoves aren’t cheap when you buy them brand new, but at a thrift shop, you’ll feel like you’re pretty darn lucky! Keep your eyes open for tarps, duffle bags, lanterns, and outdoor tools like axes.

Medical Equipment

What happens if you’re having to get around on foot, but are dealing with an excruciatingly painful sprained ankle? You certainly won’t be going anywhere too far. You may score big on medical equipment or supplies that can come in handy the next time you visit a thrift store or a local flea market.

Don’t hesitate to pick up a set of crutches, a cane, a walker, or even a wheelchair if you’re at that stage of life when you may be more prone to need them.  Another item to consider is a first aid kit. Yes, it may need to have some items replaced or updated, but that effort is certainly cheaper than a brand-new kit.

Backpacks

It’s a no-brainer why you’ll be needing several of these. If you can’t find any decent ones at your thrift shop, there’s sure to be a good supply of them at your local flea market. If you’re trying to put together a bug-out bag, the larger backpacks or overnight packs can prove useful.

Tools

You’re going to need a number of tools to get the job done after a disaster strikes. Do some hunting for screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, and other handy tools while you’re there. As you walk the aisles and survey the various racks and bins, they might also have some used power tools like circular saws, drills, jig saws, and more. If the tools come in a case, look to make sure all the accessories are included.

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Woodcutting Tools

You may even get lucky and run across an ax handle or an old chainsaw that just needs a tune-up. You’ll need these to cut wood to create a shelter, build a fire for warmth and cooking, and to clear the roads and yards covered with debris after a severe storm. 

Knives

Knives will be extremely important, especially if you wake up one day living in a post-apocalyptic world. Make sure that you have a handful of them in case one breaks or becomes too dull. While you’re at it, look for other utensils like regular kitchen knives, forks, and spoons.

Sharp knives are also a critical weapon if you’re put in a situation where you have to defend yourself or family members.  

Flashlights

Flashlights are an item that you shouldn’t have too much difficulty tracking down at your thrift store. They’re super cheap, and if you visit at the right time, you may even come across one or two heavy-duty ones as well. If you locate flashlights that happen to be solar-powered, you’ve really hit a bonanza! I love my solar flashlights and I keep them on my window sills all the time so they stay charged up.

Radios

Following a disaster, it’s extremely important to know what is going on all around you. If you find a small portable radio, don’t let that deal slip by. Like the solar flashlights mentioned above, if you happen to find one that can be powered by cranking it, all the better.

Having extra batteries for lights and radios is ok, but can be a hassle when it comes to finding them in an emergency. I still inventory a bunch of batteries, just in case. 

Cookware

Take a look in their cookware and housewares section and see if they have a cast-iron skillet that you can purchase. Though you’ll be paying a little more for that than on other items like pots and pans, they’re versatile and can last forever.

Pay close attention to other cookware essentials that can be used over a fire pit like griddles, grills, and hot dog cooking rods and tongs.  

Kitchen Tools

Can-openers are an important item that every prepper should have. They may even have a meat grinder or food dehydrators and sealers that you’ll be needing. Consider both electric openers and manually operated ones since you might not have power.

Although not a tool, look out for canning jars and other canning equipment. A canning jar can come in all sorts of sizes, but the fact they’re used doesn’t diminish their usability.

Sewing Supplies

Sewing supplies can come in handy for a number of different uses. You’ll need them not only to repair clothing but possibly for suturing a wound or to use for fishing. You may thank yourself later for gathering extra needles and thread, as well as zippers and buttons. Emergency Laceration Kit

Rain Gear

On those wet and rainy days when you’re required to be outside, you’ll need rain gear such as boots and ponchos to keep dry. Just be sure to steer clear of heavy trees and fences that can tear or snag your gear.  

Winter Gear

Another group of items that you can find there are hats, gloves, and winter jackets. They even have snow pants on rare occasions. The best time to start looking is during the summer when they’ll be at their cheapest.

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Emergencies often happen during the cold seasons of the year. Stock up on blankets (see below), sleeping bags, an extra pair of jeans or two, ear mufflers, and other cold-weather items. Having extra towels is also a wise move.

Hunting and Fishing Gear

When you’re able to track down camouflage clothing, it’s usually something that’s barely been worn, especially when a hunter decides that they no longer want to use it. You’ll pay only a small fraction of what you would if you were to buy them at a place like the Bass Pro Shop or Dick’s.

You can even track down old fishing rods, reels, tackle boxes, and many other types of fishing gear. Depending on your local regulations, buying hunting weapons may not be an option, but they could have bows and arrows available in their sports equipment section.   

Gardening Supplies

On occasion, you may find rakes, shovels, and even manual tillers that can be used in your self-sustaining vegetable garden.  

Boots

Boots can be very expensive, especially considering how often you find yourself wearing them. But you’re going to need them if you’re ever left out in a winter snowstorm.

If you find a pair when you’re visiting, double-check to make sure that the soles have held up and that there aren’t any cracks or holes. You don’t want water getting in there and making your feet miserable. If they happen to be somewhat water-repellent or waterproof, all the better.

Blankets

After the power has gone out and it happens in the dead of winter, you’ll wish you had several more blankets. After all, you can never have too many.

Not only can they be used to keep your family warm, but you can wrap up supplies with them and tear them up and use them as bandages if you absolutely need to.  In case you missed this post, 6 Reasons To Store Blankets

Books, Playing Cards, Puzzles, Toys, and Board Games

Don’t be left without any entertainment and fun after the power’s gone out. Thrift shops are loaded with this type of stuff, and you’ll only be paying pennies on the dollar for them.

Why buy from a Thrift Store? 

Thrift stores often have “slightly used” items that could still have years of usage available. Unless you think you need the latest version, using old standby brands and variations can save you tons on your budget.

Some are actually non-profits and could possibly offer a tax deduction if you happen to be cleaning out a closet or two and making donations at a donation center. We all have garages that could use good organization and clean as spring approaches.

There also are thrift stores that will pick up items if you have a large quantity or if they are big and bulky. You just need to call ahead and schedule a time.

Many also are helping the community by offering some job training for the less fortunate as part of their missions to make a difference.

Final Word

Just because these items are on my list of prepping items that you can find at your local thrift store, does not guarantee that all of these items will be there. It may require you to be patient and visit often in order for you to find what you are looking for. 

While you’re there, think about how you could use these different types of items for emergency purposes. What are some neat prepping items that you’ve already stumbled upon that you’d be willing to share? I’d love to hear from you.

I hope you’re able to find some of these prepping items at a thrift store near you. May God Bless this world, Linda.

Copyright Images: Thrift Store AdobeStock_48826431 by trekandphoto 

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44 Comments

  1. Canning supplies like water bath canners, jar lifters, canning jars can frequently be found at thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales & estate sales.

    Garden Wagons, bicycles, trailers that attach to a bicycle for carrying small children can often be found, too.

    Candles…..tons of candles, holders & even decorative oil lamps inundate thrift stores around here.

      1. After looking for a 6 gallon bucket and a snap on commode seat, I was appalled at the price! $60 – $90. I was at our local Goodwill and ran across a bedside toilet chair, complete with chamber pot and lid. $5.98. It was mine. It’s in my shed with plastic bags. Best buy I ever made at a Goodwill.

        1. Hi Melody, oh my gosh, that is the best buy ever!!! Yay!!! Good job! I too am appalled at the prices of things these days. We must check garage sales, thrift stores, etc. Love this find!! Linda

        2. Score! Another way to get a potty is to get a 5gal bucket and slit open a pool noodle. Put it over the rim of the bucket and you have a cushy seat! Better than nothing!

        3. LOL Melody, I was about to post a similar thing about finding a bedside commode at the thrift store. A lot easier than building one and easier to use as well.

          Another find would be a wheelchair. If you have a child who is too big (or thinks they are too old) for a stroller, a wheelchair from the thrift store might be a great answer. You can pack bedding in the wheelchair and let the child ride when too tired to walk. Or even an older person who doesn’t have a lot of stamina.

          Plus, you never know what could happen. You may need the items yourself after a car accident. Or when you are older. Or if you have to bug out, there is always a chance of injury to a member of your family or traveling party. Then again, if you end up not needing them, they could become invaluable bartering items.

          1. Those are all excellent ideas. Something to consider. And I do like the bedside commode over buckets. Easier on my knees at my age.

          2. Hi Melody, I had one after I had my knees replaced. Someone borrowed it and forgot to return it. I need to get another one. They work great! Linda

      2. I prep for long-term disaster, so I pop in thrift stores every time I go to the doctor in the city and look for replacement clothing items for my family. Found 3 pairs of name brand men’s hiking boots barely worn in the right sizes just in the last month (because if the grid goes down, we will be outside farming, tending livestock, or hunting). I have bought 2 sets of crutches. I always look for super large pots so I can cook for 12 to 15, if I needed to, as well as extra long ladles and spoons. I have found super large platters and serving bowls, larger than anything in my kitchen. I picked up an assortment of melamine dinner plates because, if you hand wash dishes in a grid down situation, you are going to break some. Metal trivets and book ends (I have a HOW TO book library and a recreational reading library) are two other things I look for. There are a lot of HOW TO books in thrift stores that have book sections. You can find a Foxfire book every now and then. I just got 5 more Louis L’Amour westerns and 4 more Outlander books this week at the Goodwill book store just in case NO GRID=NO KINDLE.

        1. HI Angela, way to go, REAL books because we know the power grid will go down at some time. We will be ready. Oh, I love thrift stores! You found some good stuff! Linda

  2. I regularly shop at our local thrift stores. I have even found prepping books at them. I also shop at the Dollar stores for different items. I have a backpack I bought new at the beginning of the school year, several years ago. Hubby has one that has rollers on it. He used it when he was working. If/When we travel again, we’ll be using backpacks and carry on luggage. It’s much easier than trying to find luggage on a carousel. Faster, too.

    I have a total of 3 backpacks. My travel one is pink, the others are black. In a bug out situation, I don’t want to stand out.

    1. Hi Deborah, if we can save money we will do it! The pink backpack! LOVE it! I have a black one, but I would LOVE a purple one. I would never use it but it sounds awesome since purple is my favorite color!! Linda

      1. I’ve seen numerous people carrying backpacks. I guess they use them for a purse. Mine is a little large for a purse though. You can use if for a picnic if you go on them. There are many uses, but I don’t think of them right now. LOL Old age is the pits.

        1. I use backpack style purse, luckily they are very common now days. I have to use a cane or walker to move around and it’s a lot easier to wear a backpack than carry a purse. Plus you can carry a lot more “things” in an organized way. My backpack purse has lots of pockets inside, places for pencils/pens, zippered pockets to hide hairbands from my cat (who eats them and can open my purse), places to snap my keyring in place, outside pockets to hold water, and so much more. I’ve seen several at thrift stores, my sister scored a Vera Bradley backpack purse for $3 last fall.

          When I started making go-bags for my family, I used the backpacks we had on hand. One of which is a Scooby Doo backpack one of the kids used for school. I had a Bob the Builder one as well, but my then-college aged daughter bought me a brand new backpack to trade for it and used it to carry her books to college classes. She’s the one that we did the whole thrift store thing to find everything for her freshman year dorm room after she said that nothing in her room could match. She had a blue dinosaur comforter, a pink mirror, a red clock, etc. When she was a junior, she wanted to buy all new things for her room saying “I’m older now and as a FCS (formerly known as Home Ec) major, I should be color coordinated.” I miss the kid who didn’t want anything to match and painted her bedroom to look like a forest in the twilight.

          1. I was thinking about your comment on a wheelchair, and wishing I had one now. I have to wait one month for an injection in my knees. I don’t take anything for pain, so it is going to be a difficult month. I also have a talented daughter, with a degree from RIT. We outfitted her college apartment from garage sales which had her roommates thinking we had $$$$….. lol.
            We purchased our current home from our daughter and son-in-law. Whimsy is alive and well since our bedroom is painted aubergine with a silver glaze and has stars on the ceiling. . As our daughter informed us…” aubergine is dark purple that went to finishing school….lol…..

          2. Chris, Are you using anything topical on your knee? I’m a major fan of biofreeze. I have severe osteoarthritis in almost every joint in my body, somedays biofreeze is the only thing that allows me to get out of bed. I have knee replacements in both knees and a shoulder replacement. I am working to lose weight so I have have a hip replacement. My youngest once asked me how many joint replacements do you have to have to be considered a cyborg. I think I qualify.

  3. I regularly shop at thrift stores and have found a number of really great bargains.

    One thing I would caution when looking at tools – if it is an electric tool or a chainsaw – if you don’t have any expertise in repairing these things, use caution. My local thrift shops do have a way to test out the electric tools like saws, drills, etc. but no way to check out a chainsaw or other “engine” type tools. So you might be looking at spending quite a bit more to get that chainsaw repaired if it IS repairable. Case in point: my husband, years ago, bought a really nice chainsaw at a garage sale. The seller lied about it still working but said there was no gas in it so we couldn’t try it out. Hubs bought it and brought it home – I think he paid $20 for it but that was like back in the early 90s! He put the requisite fuel/oil in and tried to start it. Nothing. Left it sit for a day or so, still nothing. He was not mechanically inclined so he took the thing to a friend and the friend said there must be something seriously wrong with it. So he took it to a repair shop and it ended up costing us $60 to repair. So, that bargain turned out to be not so much a bargain – still less expensive than a new one but still, be aware that you may not be getting the bargain you thought!!

    Also, on some of the camping equipment, you may not be able to check a tent or sleeping bag out thoroughly so that is also a concern. I saw a cute backpack that I thought about getting for my 7 1/2 year old granddaughter but on inspection, there was a zipper that was stuck, one of the seams was not secure and it looked like there might be more work than it was worth! I don’t like replacing zippers so there is that!! LOL. Still might have been a good deal if I had zippers just lying around!

  4. I got real lucky and picked up a pull behind bike trailer for $10. Cheap because of the flat tire. One patch repair kit later and it was good as new.
    We live in a very small county (30k people) but it also has dozens of state parks, lake, and skiing within 20 miles. We get 10’s of thousands of visitors a year and they are great at taking their one and done supplies to our thrift stores.

    1. I so agree! I live in Northern Nevada = Burning Man! Our local Walmarts have all instituted No Returns on Bikes (especially), coolers, etc. between certain dates (Burning Man) so no one can return them. You should see what the vehicles look like coming back from there…soooo incredibly dusty its a miracle they can see out their windshields! I’m going to have to check the thrift stores this Fall to see what the Burners leave behind! Great idea!

  5. I don’t use a purse. When I was in the Navy I used what was called a Itty Bitty Diddy Bag. It i s a small bag you put around your neck and put your money and credit cards in it. It keeps you from having to use a big purse which screams take my money. My son found a leather one for me many years ago and I need to get a new one for me and the girls. You simply put the string around your neck and put the little bag between your breasts and no one can see it. I dare someone to try and take it off of me. They won’t get it.
    As for shopping at thrift stores I not only look for clothing and dishes or other things like that but I also buy Candle holders and Coal oil lamps and put them up to use in a emergency. They are great when the power goes out.

    1. Hi Jackie, I gave up the big purse years ago. I have a small one although it’s not leather, it works. It’s so fun when you find a really good deal at the thrift stores! Love this! Linda

    1. Hi Ray, I love thrift stores, some cities have better items than others based on what I’m looking for. What a great buy on your American Harvester food dryer! That is awesome! Linda

      1. My sister and cousin spend 3 weeks with me every fall. Other than hanging out with me and hubby, their goals are to visit someplace they haven’t been before (field trip!) and visiting thrift stores. They bring just a few days of clothing with them and plan on leaving with a car filled with goodies. Evidently my thrift stores are better than they find at home.

  6. Don’t forget to look at diaper bags when thrifting. The ones now a days are like stylish, slightly over size purses and they can hold a lot. In fact I used to get teased about my “diaper bag” purse but I could carry a lot in it, some may say was my EDC, (Everyday Carry) that others talk about. I had a small sewing kit, the P38 my dad gave me amongst other things besides my wallet and keys in it. My “stuff” came in handy one day as one of the guys I worked with had a mishap with his tie just before he was seeing his client. Whipped out my kit and fixed it for him. Unfortunately it bit the dust a few years ago and I haven’t replaced it yet.I use a nice tote type purse when I go out now, doesn’t carry a whole lot but it functions well.

    1. Hi Kathy, I love this story. It feels so great to have something someone needs at the last minute and we can help them. My Benadryl has come in handy so many times, I’ve lost count. Linda

      1. No kidding Linda. I have to carry an EPI pen with me as I am highly allergic to bees and wasp stings. Never know when THAT may come in handy , not only for me but anyone else who would need it in an emergency.

        1. Hi Kathy, wow lucky you were able to get some. I heard the prices have skyrocketed for them. We are waiting for some eye drops for Glaucoma that is out of stock at Costco. Glad you some EPI pens! Linda

          1. Knock wood I can get them in the coming years. My pens are good for 2 years before they lose their efficacy. I know the hubs had a heck of a time getting his meds for his anklyospondinosis(?). We had to call around to the different pharmacies in town and then they gave him the wrong type of pen. We had to go back and get the correct one. He takes a small dosage and the pen is adjustable so he can get 4 doses in each pen. The pharmacy was able to swap the pen for the correct one but I’m worried that we won’t be able to get his refill soon.

          2. Hi Kathy, I’m very concerned about prescriptions for everyone that needs them. Luckily your husband noticed they gave him the wrong one and you were able to get the correct one. I know there are a lot of sick people needing Amoxicillin and it’s been hard to find. Crazy times, Linda

  7. Garage sales are our good weather go-to. From clothes to furniture to unused toiletries. We have gotten beautiful antique ladders that my husband turned into blanket racks. An antique wooden sled for our porch. We have bought numerous like-new backpack/picnic bags that we have shared with many people. We even bought skis and dozens of wreath over the years for an outside decor. Brand new solar lanterns. Kitchen appliances, electric heater, candles galore, baskets and totes of every shape and size. 20…..yes 20, unopened Bath and Body works shower gel and 12 foaming hand soaps for $1 each. (My toiletries pantry looks like I am obsessed). Even found a 8 pack Bic Firestarters still in their packaging.

  8. ……My husband just reminded me when shopping from your lists we bought a portable Gas grill brand new in the box for $10 and 2 mulitools for $2 each….(one for us and one to share)

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