Garage Sales And Prepping Supplies

Dec 5, 2010 by

Garage sales are awesome.  Who doesn’t like saving money, and getting to pick through other people’s random stuff? We sure do!  We try to go once a month, especially when there are neighborhood association sales, community sales or special event flea markets (not the every-week ones with professional vendors).

Yesterday Snake Eyes & I (I’m Sandy) put 50 miles of roadway behind us in our garage saleing adventures. This is what I came back with this week.

My favorite item, after reading post after post on about Dutch Ovens, is below. Thank you to the folks at Survival Common Sense for teaching me what to look for in a dutch oven, so when I’m out at a garage sale, I know what to look for. For example, dutch ovens with tripod feet are preferable to those that have no feet, as they can sit directly on coals and still pass air along to the coals underneath. My new purchase did not have the feet. I saw another one that did, for $55 more, and in much worse condition. Not worth the trade-off!

Almost New Cast Iron Dutch Oven & Griddle from Wenzel 1887
Look at this beauty! It just needs a little rust-removal, and a little seasoning, and it’ll be good as new. Actually… it is new. Used only once by the previous owner. Guess how much the set cost? $20. Yep.

12" Cast Iron Dutch Oven Campfire Pan by Wenzel. Needs to be Seasoned!
My spouse should be able to work some magic and take care of that water stain inside the pan. It’s a spacious 12″ in diameter.

Like New Wenzel 1887 Cast Iron Griddle
The griddle isn’t really so vibrantly colored – just the camera flash having its way with the metal. See the matching stand and lid remover? The whole set was $20.

The downside to this purchase? We found this in a flea market setting, at the booth the furthest possible away from the car.  I made it halfway back to the car carrying the set (and my other loot) in a large tub before Snake Eyes generously switched with me and carried the tub the rest of the way.  Very gentlemanly.  A good topic for a future post!

Garage Sale Tip #1: Look At the Oft-Neglected

Look inside boxes, crates, closed bags – anything you see and don’t immediately recognize, look at it closer.  See if perhaps there’s something inside of that container, or if there’s something really neat in that box under the table that everyone else passed by. The dutch oven and griddle were each in black cloth zippered bags – no labels at all. I wanted to know what was in there.. and look what I walked away with!

On that note, some garage sales have free boxes – whatever is inside is yours to keep. You know what I usually find in free boxes?  Candles. Big ones, little ones… fat ones, taper ones… free.

A box of about 50 tea candles.
I paid $2 for about half of these, and found the rest in Free boxes at garage sales. They burn for about 4 hours each, hot.

A shoebox of Taper Candles
These candles were all free. Do you have enough to last if the power is out for two weeks?

While we’re talking about “things that make light”, my second favorite purchase of the day (after the dutch oven):

A good condition kerosene lantern from American Camper.
This kerosene lantern was $4, but I bargained down to $3. I would have gladly paid $10 for something this useful and versatile.

Kerosene lamps are fairly easy to find down here in Florida at garage sales and estate sales. A good buy is anything else than $5. I passed up 4 lamps today that were priced at $20 or $10. I have 5 already, and would like to pick up more. But not for that much. But a kerosene lantern, now that’s a find.  You can walk with them in your hand, hang them outside, or burn them safely inside (with a low wick). Kerosene is also one of the safest way to make light that doesn’t involve batteries.

A tiny Coleman Lantern / Lamp for your Keychain
I know – cute! It’s a keychain lantern.  Needs a new battery, but it was free. Looks just like my big one!

Garage Sale Tip #2: Sunblock & Water

All the items above make light. You know what else makes light? Especially when you’re outside finding loot? Yeah. Take sunblock. It was 53 degrees when we were scavenging (yes, in Florida – it was 36 when we started the morning!), and the sun was out and shining brightly.

Practice your preps! Take water, stay hydrated. You can usually pick up nalgene bottles at garage sales in free boxes, or for a few quarters. Take them with you next time you’re out. Get into the habit of taking water with you when you’re out and about, or at the least, a water filtration bottle.

I like maps. A lot. Perhaps a little excessively. Does anyone else have maps dotting the walls of their prep rooms?  Another post for another day! But I picked up this beaut for the wall, thanks to Snake Eyes’ spotting something I missed.

Hurricane Plotting Map for the Southeastern United States
This is a grid map for hurricane plotting. It’s just neat, and handy for when the power and Internet go out in the middle of a hurricane. Cost: $1

Garage Sale Tip #3: Maps & Locating Sales

Don’t trust your GPS. Or your cell phone. You should know where you are going, where you are, and how to get back – always. Keep paper maps in the car. Print them off the Internet before you go. Just don’t trust your electronics.  Particularly in Florida – you’ll often find your Garmin or TomTom telling you to drive right into a canal, or reroute 5 miles around the brush that is actually now a road.

So how do you find garage sales? Craigslist!  It used to be your local paper, but most folks (at least, in my area), have gone straight to where they can post for free.  If you happen to have a Smart Phone, there’s actually a Craigslist garage sale app that will plot out a map for you with the most efficient route between sales.  It’s neat. But try to find neighborhood sales, family sales, flea markets or other large events where you can hit up a bunch of vendors in one spot. It saves time and gas.

It’s Florida. Weather radios are a must-have.

Two NOAA Weather Radios
These radios were $5 each, both tested on site. They both operate with batteries or by plugging in to the wall. The little one on the left also has a working hand-crank rechargeable battery. It took about 50 revolutions to get enough charge to operate the radio on-site, without any AAs inserted. The battery also charges the built-in flashlight. I’ve had my eye on a new one of these for a few months now, and can now spend that $50 on more prep items.

Garage Sale Tip #4: Set a Budget, and Bring Cash

The day before, decide how much you are willing to spend when you are out at garage sales and yard sales. Go to the bank and get fresh cash in $10 and $5 increments. Ones also never go astray.  For this trip, I took $125 with me, and came back with $30.  I also always take my check book, in case there’s something large that I wasn’t expecting to find, but must have. For example, I never expect to find a firearm, but sometimes, you can get lucky and ask the right people if they have anything in the house they’d be willing to sell. Look for the folks with hunting/fishing/prep gear for sale, or even the folks with airsoft or paintball guns out for sale. It never hurts to ask.

Also, don’t forget to bargain. Most folks are quite willing to bargain, you just have to ask. See Tip #6.

First aid kits – everyone needs them. Lots of them actually. I need a large one for each car, a medium one for each bug out bag, and several smaller ones. Whenever I see one at a garage sale, I pick it up, even if everything is expired and crinkled. The container alone is usually worth the $1 or so you pay.

This Plastic First Aid Kit Was Made By Everyone Needs One in 1994
This plastic kit is from 1994, or so say the expiration dates on the antibiotic ointments. Don’t worry – those are being replaced. But there were still several useful items inside. Cost: $1

Interior Contents of the First Aid Kit
Why is it that most first aid kits seem to only contain band-aids in profusion? There are over 50 in this kit. And no gauze, pads or… don’t get me started. There will be much adding and replacing!

Pocket Sewing Kit
This is a little pocket-sized sewing kit I picked up next to the pocket-sized first aid kit (contents: bandaids). Always useful, and at $0.10, a good bargain.

Garage Sale Tip $5: Promotional Products are Useful

The little first aid kit and pocket sewing kit were both promotional products – products with a company logo stamped on them and given out for free at events and expos. If you own a company, a tiny first aid kit is a great promotional product to give out and maybe, just maybe, increase the survival awareness and orientation of your consumers. Or at least give them a band aid when they get hurt. If you’re a consumer, try crashing a medical expo now and then!

My last, and perhaps, cleverest purchases (thanks Snake Eyes for the idea), the topic of my next post.

A Franklin Covey Compass Planner Binder and a Lifescan Blood Glucose Monitor
What, oh what, can a prepper do with a Franklin Covey planning binder and a blood glucose leather case….? See my next post!

Garage Sale Tip #6: The End of The Day

The end of the day is both the best and the worst time to garage sale. It’s the worst because “all the good stuff might be gone”.  See Tip #1 about looking in often neglected boxes. Which brings us to the best time to shop – all those boxes left with heavy dutch ovens in them? They’re cheap. Really cheap. The seller doesn’t want to haul it back with them, and they just had that horrible realization that perhaps they should have been marking it down all along.. Then you come along, cash in hand, and throw out an appropriately low but acceptable offer. They’ll take it. You’ll get your box of goodies, they’ll get a little cash and one less thing to carry back into the house.

Always bargain. Even if you think you’re getting a fantastically AWESOME freakishly good deal that’s unbelievable – how can they not know how much it’s worth????  Bargain anyway. Because clearly they don’t know how much it’s worth to you, and it’s certainly not worth that much to them, or they wouldn’t be selling it. That first aid kit I paid $1 for? I could have tried $0.50, and I probably would have gotten it.  But I violated the Correct Change rule of bargaining. Always have the correct change. If the item is priced at $3, and you ask for $2, and they accept, don’t hand them a $5. Hand them $2. They feel bad if you give them a $5, and it puts you and anyone you came with in a poor bargaining position for the remainder of that sale. It makes you look cheap. By having the exact change, it looks like you offered them only exactly what you could pay, and they walk away feeling like they did you a favor selling it to you at that price. You want everyone to be happy. Think win-win, and have exact change. Including quarters!

Garage Sale Tip #7: Take an Opposite

My last tip – take a buddy when you garage sale. Preferably a prepping friendly buddy, or they’ll ask why you are taking home 50 tea light candles…

Take a buddy who is your opposite, or who sees things you do not see. Someone who sees the potential in an object that’s a little outside of the box.  For example, on our last trip, I saw a small black purse. I don’t need a small black purse, so I moved right along to look at a chainsaw. But where I saw a purse, Snake Eyes saw the truth – it was a small black binocular case. We walked away that day with two pairs of great, high quality field glasses for $2 and $8. I never would have noticed – they look just like purses.

If you are an outdoor, sporty sort of person who likes their tools, guns and taxidermy supplies, go with someone who will recognize that a pressure cooker is actually a canner, and that you can never have enough mason jars. Next time you are out at a garage sale and you pass by a section you would otherwise dismiss, go back and take a second look. Look at each object and quickly identify its potential uses as they relate to survival preparedness. How can object that help you survive and thrive?  How can a blood glucose case help you stay safe every day? Stay tuned!


  1. Avid Camper

    Great blog!! Good camping supplies you found here. I will stay tuned 🙂

  2. The Seven S Team

    Great survivalism blog here.. It’s hard to find good new prepping blogs like yours. I really appreciate reading about other survivalist teams and people, just going about their daily preps for when TSHTF. Thanks for the blog!

  3. Jack Stein

    Good ideas on prepping supplies. I like the first aid kit comments you made, and the dutch oven. My dad and I used to take one out to the woods when we went camping when I was a kid. Great buy! How much does it weigh? Is it realistic to carry one with you if you had to bug out?

  4. Hurricane Anne

    Nice find on the hurricane map. I live in Florida too, and when the power goes out and your reception goes down, and all you have left is your emergency weather radio, it would be nice to have a wall map to chart wind patterns on. Yours looks like it covers a more broad area though. Thanks for the blog!

  5. Hi Jack! The dutch oven is NOT realistic to carry with you if you had to bug out. I haven’t put it on a scale, but I’d say it’s about 12-13 pounds. You could carry much more valuable things with you in a bug out scenario. But for camping or keeping at your retreat, it’s a great find and a great addition. But stick to regular mess tins for bugging out – the light ones!

  6. Bear Johnson

    I went to a garage sale last week and found a guy selling 4 good condition ammo cans, only $4 each. Good deal, right? great deal! But I examined them, pointed out the rust and missing rubber gasket seal on one of them, and bargained down to $10 for all of them. Better deal! I agree, always try to bargain. The worst that can happen is that you pay what they were already asking.

  7. Ralph Hester

    I’m looking forward to the post-holiday sales. There’s always good bargains in the stores thatll probably end up in garage sales in Jan. Thanks Sandy.

  8. Peter

    Does anyone else notice that most first aid kits have nothing in them but bandages? Looking forward to a post about what you should really keep in a -real- first aid kit.

  9. Sarah Jackson

    Nice! Looks like you had a good day of yard sales. Unfortunately for us, we’re up north and it’s a little cold right now. There’s only a few months in the summer where we can go to garage sales to find survival items or prepping supplies. Any suggestions for us?

  10. Jeff Stevenson

    Hey Sarah – try indoor flea markets or church sales. In my town, there’s always a church rummage sale at least every other week. It’s indoors, cheap, and if you go early, you can still find good supplies. Before the holidays I picked up a nice water proof case that might make a good cache container. – Jeff

  11. Paul Night

    I gotta get off my butt and get out there. It’s easy to let days or weeks go by without doing anything to prepare. But I bet the wife would like garage saleing. And maybe I can pick up a few new fishing poles…

  12. Alan Wrench

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just get a digital hurricane map?

  13. Jeff Miller

    The digital map isn’t going to work when the power goes out. I was right in the middle of Hurricane Ike, and when the power goes out [which it will], it isn’t coming back for awhile. That said, I’m also not going to be standing there in the dark with a marker, plotting points on the wall map. I’ll be listening to the radio from the bedroom closet with the wife and kids. Safest place in a hurricane.

  14. Berne L.

    I love already, and you guys are new! It sounds like you and Snake Eyes had a grand time out garage saleing. But how do you get your wife you to with you – that’s the question.

  15. Dave Miller

    I’ll never be able to look at my Franklin Covey planner the same way again!

  16. Daniel Carola

    I leave the wife at home – it’s too early for her. Occasionally the teenagers will join me, or someone from work. The kids like it because they can get new stuff on the cheap, and I like for the satisfying start to my weekend. Getting a good deal after a long week.. good stuff.

  17. Juan Valdez

    My wife, she comes if I make her coffee. A bit pot, made before she gets up, and she’ll follow me anywhere!

  18. Shari

    Anywhere? Hmmm.. TMI I think! 🙂 Just kidding. I go with my gal pals a few times a year. Sometimes it’s the only time we really see each other between work and the kids. And they’re not really into any of my other “hobbies” like going to the range, camping or testing out freeze dried food. But they’ll bargain hunt with me any day!

  19. Sorka

    I just found this blog – I got this exact dutch oven for Christmas from my brother. He didn’t say what he paid, but I’d say you found yourself a good deal Sandy. Keep up the posts would you?

  20. Anna Bolka

    How long do tea lights burn, anyone know? I’ve seen these too at yard sales, but always figured they’d burn out in an hour and weren’t worth picking up.

  21. Sanya

    Anna: they burn around 4 hrs. my boy friend uses them when he wants to romance me, and leaves them burning at night. theyre always out when i’m up again 4-5 hours later.

  22. Baley Joe

    Winter sucks. We’re up north and there won’t be any garage sale shopping for us for at least another 2 months!

  23. Phillip S.

    Sandy, some advice? Swap out the thread that came in those sewing kits with embroidery thread. It’s strong enough to do temporary sutures if needed. And make sure you have a few needles with big eyes for sewing jackets or canvas.

  24. Jackson

    De-usting tip if you haven’t done it already – use concentrated packets of Koo-Aid in the kitchen sink and soak the cast iron in it for awhile – it’s like acid, rips the rust right off.

  25. Thanks Phillip! That’s funny – I have an EDC kit (every day carry) with embroidery thread and a selection of needles already. I mostly buy the little sewing kits because I can’t seem to help it when they’re a quarter! I’m not sure yet what to do with them all. Keep one at each office I suppose. 🙂 We’ll talk about EDC kits soon too!

    • Beth

      sewing needles are great even the ones with the smallest of eyes in them. In a pinch they can work as a compass when placed in water. (tip make sure you know what end faces north before hand)so keeping some with your maps is a good plan

  26. Muriatic acid works wonders with rust. Available at any pool supply store. Just make sure you have plenty of water to rinse the acid afterwards, because it works in seconds. Also, be careful in handling it, since it is highly corrosive. I dont know how well it would work for the unaffected areas of the cast iron. You might want to try a spot test first. I picked up a machete at a garage sale for a buck because of the massive rust issue. 15 seconds in an acid bath, quick water rinse, air dry and a couple of coats of flat black Rustoleum spray paint later… Better than new!

  27. Florine Wloch

    I want one of those mini-coleman lanterns so bad!

  28. Marina

    Great idea with the day planners. I have one that’s a little too small for my 1911. I don’t carry it every day, but maybe a smaller gun would work in mine.

    • It’s hard to find a planner that fits a full size 1911 without looking pretty conspicuous. Consider a conceal carry briefcase or day-pack perhaps, or a smaller firearm.

  29. SD

    I just picked up a bunch of leftover christmas candels at a garage sale last week. Score!

  30. Seaman Ortie

    Nice. I just found your site. I like the idea of garage saling for apocolypse loot a lot.

  31. Tech Educator

    I know you posted this awhile ago, but I just wanted to second your comments about taking a person with you who will see things you don’t see. I always go with my wife. She tends to see things like cast-iron cookware and extra candles, where I see useful electronics and CB radios. Between us, we make a great team. I’m looking forward to the summer garage sale season – I know there are good deals out there with my name on them. And my wife’s.

  32. Nestor79

    I live in the South too, and enjoy a good deal at garage sales throughout the winter. This morning I picked up a new 22 Ruger. Good day in garage sales today.

  33. Otty

    Nice stuff you found here!

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