Prepping on Pennies: #5 Learn one new skill this month

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Sometimes we get too caught up on stocking up on this and stashing away that, all of which cost money.  When money is tighter than tight, there are still ways to be better prepared.  One of those is to learn practical skills.

image by timetrax23.

Often a new skill is as close as your public library.  No special training is required to learn about medicinal herbs, for example.  Other skills can be learned by watching free videos on YouTube.  That’s how I learned some of the trickier knitting stitches.  Some of the videos I’ve watched recently are a treasure trove of preparedness knowledge and skills.

Canning chicken breasts

How to can ground beef

Building a shelter in the wilderness

Camping in comfort

See what I mean?  Free information is out there, everywhere.

One approach that works for many families is to find and learn a skill that involves everyone.  Orienteering is a great life skill for kids and parents alike, and one that might save a life someday.  Geocaching combines the great outdoors with navigation skills, and of course, target shooting doesn’t have to cost a ton of money and is a great sport. Our kids have trained using inexpensive .22 rifles whose ammo sells for less than $20 for 500 rounds.  4-H clubs teach kids, and families, important agricultural and homesteading skills and provide a new circle of friends with similar interests.

Grab a phone book and browse through the various government agencies in your area.  They’re supported by your tax

image by GoodNCrazy

dollars and many of them have free resources.  The Game & Fish Department often has low-cost and free training available to would-be hunters and sharpshooters.  Cooperative extension offices, run by the USDA, offer an amazing assortment of free information on everything from food safety to disaster preparedness.  You’ll find them to be a source of hundreds of articles, perfect for your Survival Mom binder.

Another source of free training can be found in your circle of neighbors, relatives, friends, co-workers and their circles of friends and family.  Just find someone who is completely nutty about their hobby or interest, and believe me, they’ll give you all the information and training you could ever want!

A few years ago I was a knitting maniac and started a homeschool knitting group, made friends with other knitters, and spent tons of money and a lot of time at the yarn store.  I loved nothing better than to help someone learn how to knit.  Now that I think of it, people began to avoid me when I took out my yarn and needles…hmmm.  But my point is, by asking around you are sure to find hunters, fishermen, home canning experts, piano tuners, and experts in all sorts of areas who are passionate about their special talent and would love to mentor an enthusiastic learner.

Skills and Knowledge are an important area of preparedness.  Your dollars might not be stretching as far as they used to, but in tough times, others may be willing to exchange food and other goods for what you can do or for what you can teach.  The best thing is, you can develop many of these skills and gain massive amounts of knowledge without spending a dime!

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 9 years.

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13 thoughts on “Prepping on Pennies: #5 Learn one new skill this month”

  1. Thank you so much!! I watched the youtube video about canning the chicken breasts, but I don't know if I'm quite brave enough for that yet. But I then watched her next video about canning butter and am so excited. I'll be putting up some butter before the weekend. I bought one case of the Red Feather canned butter for my long term storage, but ouch, it was expensive. Thanks to this article, I can now do-it-myself! :~)

    1. Chicken and all meats are one of the easiest thing to can and the taste is fantastic. Don't be scared of doing it!

  2. Wonderful post. I'm a big fan of the library – use it equally for fiction and fact. If I find a resource book at the library that I know I would use over and over – then I'll look for a used copy to buy. Our library offers lots of free classes too – for kids and adults. The gardening classes with identification of wild plants are my favorite.

    The same goes for the Cooperative Extension. I once worked for them in FL – taught classes in using donated foods – what was given before food stamps. Many had never used anything but purchased mixes so one of the best received classes was making homemade Bisquick. We also taught simple gardening using seeds and peat pots donated by various businesses and houseplants from vegetable scraps like carrot tops and citrus seeds. Made quite a hit. And truth be told, I learned as much from the older clients about ways to save money, make money from crafting, etc. as I taught them.

    Since municipal budgets have been cut nationwide and usually library budgets are based on use I hope more people use the library – books, CDs, DVDs, the internet all can be found at the library – not being used may result in not having this resource at all.

  3. If you're involved in Scouting, you can take classes through them as well.

    I just bought a Rocket Stove and want to try that out so I know how to use it, and the new Dutch Oven I got. I've started going to free Cooking Technique classes at Williams Sonoma. Of course, they're showing off all their cool gadgets hoping you'll buy them, but it's also getting me to try some new things. I actually made corn fritters for the first time, and I'm at least not afraid that jam would be too hard to make now that I've seen them do it. I just may try making it with my oldest.

    I'm also trying to learn how to best preserve the herbs I've planted in my garden so I know before autumn gets here. To my delight, I've realized that there are already several Echinachea plants in addition to the one I added! But none of them will do a darn thing if I don't learn how to harvest and use them. (If anyone knows good books, videos, etc, just let me know….) And I plan on actually using some of the kitchen herbs I planted. I learned from the Williams Sonoma demos that you need to be careful chopping herbs (use a rocking motion without lifting the knife, I think) so you don't bruise them.

    I guess overall, I'm working on cooking and related gardening. It's nice to learn something new because I know you're exactly right – we need the skills as well as the stuff. More medical training beyond basic first aid / CPR / defibrillator use will be next up during the fall and winter. Hopefully.

  4. I discovered canning meats a few years ago when I got concerned with the lack of choices in the grocery stores and the high cost in the emergency supplies market. Now I love doing it. I prefer to brown almost all meats before canning. I just like the taste better. Home canned pork roast makes the best Hot Open Faced Sandwiches! Bacon looks like a mad scientist project gone horribly wrong, but tastes just fine. Don't let the kids see it before you open that jar.
    As for preserving herbs, I freeze dry them. I use a cake rack with a paper towel laid on it. Place a single layer of herbs, and another paper towel over the top. set it in the freezer flat and warn everybody to treat it gently while rummaging for ice cream. I use clothes pins to hold it around the edges, or every time you open the freezer they will fluff around. About 3 days, everything will be dry and flaky. Put it in jars (baby food jars are perfect). and keep in the cupboard, or leave in the freezer if you won't use it quick.

  5. Canning always seemed complicated to me, but after watching the chicken video I have the confidence to try it. Thanks! I've recently realized what a terrific resource my own parents are. They just moved here and I've discovered that my mom can make some super tasty meals from really basic ingredients, and that my Dad can fix almost anything. They both grew up in the country so they know the "old fashioned" way to do lots of things.

    1. I've canned sauces and am confident about any other canning experiences I may face. The Joy of Cooking has great sections about that topic, and many many more. My next home cooking purchase is going to be a pressure canner so I can move on too proteins and not worry about microbes.

    2. Melinda, your parents sound like some really good sources from which to learn. When I get the chance to pick things up from the previous generation, I go for it!! Some of them are just soooo cool…..

  6. Speaking of prepping for pennies: I was whacking some overgrowth near my spring's overflow basin, and found some wild growing spearmint!

    I did a write up on it on my blog, but I'm so happy about free resources, I had to share.

  7. Great stuff here! I love the idea of exchanging stuff for your skills!

    (Love the pear image.. glad you used it!) 🙂

  8. I recently subscribed to Mary Janes Farm magazine and her website is It is loaded with all sorts of goodies! You can also join the chat and talk with other people about various things… But the magazine ranges from farming, to gardening to sewing and cooking… Loaded with tons of practical tips… the website also has videos, as well

  9. Try Google books (website: You can get books with expired copyrights on topics such as farming, outdoor life, cooking, canning, etc. Also look for USDA/government guides. The government spent billions of dollars researching various topics and released publicly available guides. They can give you new skills or allow you to recall just how and why grandma did that.

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