Now is the Time for a Prep on the Cheap

 If you could buy an insurance policy for $1 that had the potential to add significant food – pounds and pounds of it – to your family’s larder should something dramatically bad happen in the next six months … would you do it?

Well, fellow preppers, you can; and the time is now.  Now, in the gardening departments, when they’re clearing out the remaining seeds to make way for the orgy of selling that is Christmas season in Retail World.  Seeds aren’t usually kept over to sell the next year, as it takes at least a little environmental control to keep them in good shape, and even then germination rates will drop.  That means the seeds that were $3.98 a pack in April are 10 for $1 now.

This is about fifty cents worth of seed this time of year. Now that’s a low-cost prep!

There are admittedly some drawbacks to this plan:  Not every seed from this year will sprout next year due to that germination drop.  Seeds are alive and they do die if they don’t sprout, sooner or later.  The seed stock should be replaced every year for this reason; you could get buy with every second or third year but really, the seeds are dead cheap so why? Also, the eventual food will still need significant investment of time and effort, plus some space, tools, and skill.  Varieties that are available are more limited this time of year as these are the leftovers.

Upsides are more abundant.  $10 would get enough seed to plant a BIG garden.  While they do need some protected storage space, seeds take up very little room so you can put a whole bunch in a small space.  For many plants, you plant more seed than you want plants anyway and expect to thin, so the lower germination doesn’t leave holes in your garden.  There’s no prep you could make that has the opportunity to produce as much food for as little cash investment.  It’s also something of a stealth prep.  Buying closeout seed is entirely unremarkable after all.

As for the tools and skill, those are very valuable preps in their own right, and the tools requirements are modest…and tools for gardening also tend to go on super-sales this time of year.  (So are the barriers needed to keep the pests out of your food; and see some of my earlier posts in the ‘Beans’ department with the gardening tag to hear about that issue.) 

Gardening tools are also very cheap this time of year. How prepped are you if you don’t have a shovel anyway? Important for hygiene, too, if power’s out for very long.

But what about those ‘gardens in a box’ they sell for preppers?  They come with several varieties of seed, heritage varieties, sealed in a humidity-controlled and airless packets so you can freeze them and stay viable for years?  Nice enough idea; we’ve got one in the freezer ourself.  They’re expensive though and you’re limited by what the producers want you to have.  I wouldn’t buy one if I had it to do over again; as this plan’s way cheaper for more seed and doesn’t require freezer space.

Pro tip:  Read the labels to find varieties marked ‘heritage’ where possible, and make those labeled ‘hybrid’ lower on the preferred list.  “Heritage” varieties means they’re the sort our great-grandmas planted.  While they don’t have some of the nice qualities of newer varieties, they have the invaluable (to a prepper) quality of producing viable, true-breeding seed.  A Cherokee tomato seed will give you a Cherokee tomato plant.  Hybrids tend to be the best growers and producers, but their seeds have lesser or no viability, or they don’t breed true.  A Best Boy tomato is likely to give you good food for a year, but you have no idea what kinds of tomatoes, if any, its seeds will produce if planted.




  1. The garden sections around here closed out long ago for back-to-school stuff. Maybe next year.

    • Most of ours did too, but they often have a little close-out rack near the entrance of what was the garden section; or wherever the store puts their out of season closeouts.

  2. You aren’t kidding. That was just about the cheapest prep I have ever done, and I feel pretty darn good about crossing that item off of my list. Thank you for telling us what heirloom means. Now the fun part of growing the stuff begins.

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