You all know I'm cheap. I do not like spending money and rarely buy anything new. In the wake of the free canning jar episode, I thought I'd let you all in on some other methods of finding canning supplies without paying an arm and a leg, then I thought, heck, I've gotten gear outside of canning stuff using these sources also, so even though this post started with sources for canning supplies, it's grown to sources for preparedness gear in general. And now, after following my thought process for a good three sentences, the moment you've all been waiting for . . . some of my favorite sources for preparedness gear on the cheap:
1. Yard Sales, Estate Sales, Moving Sales, Farm Auctions, etc. The estate/moving/farm sales are especially productive as folks really want to unload volume and usually aren't that concerned at making a ton of money doing it. Sometimes people don't know what they have and are willing to sell good gear for cheap. I've picked up quite a few bargains at yard sales including a large water bath canner, volcano stove, reloading press and dies, snow boots, meat slicer, tools, and firearms. Really, a great source. I try to go without my kids since they are yard sale junkies also and always want to bring home a stuffed animal or book or lava lamp (yes, I've come home from yardsales with the kids with all three of those before). Do not feel obligated to buy something just because someone's having a yard sale. This can get you into spending too much on yard sale day. Make sure it's something you need and will use. It's okay to leave a yard sale without buying anything if there's nothing there you need.
1 1/2. Thrift stores. This is usually a good place to get canning jars in Utah anyway. A little harder to find them during canning season, though. Also I've found pretty good prices on candles and you can always have a few more of those in the storage. Thrift stores go along the lines of yard sales--there's a lot of stuff there and you can end up spending more than you planned on stuff you don't really need if you don't stay focused. Thrift stores usually collect from local people, so in better neighborhoods you will find better goods at the thrift store. Our "local" thrift store is mostly recycled Kmart stuff, so I don't usually find much there for preparedness. Also, the gear will be used so if it runs on electricity (like some kitchen gadgets) make sure to check it out in the store before you buy it.
2. Freecycle or Craigslist or other local advertising method. Put a "wanted" ad in these types of services and see what kind of response you get. In our little area there is a half hour program every morning on the radio where you can call in to sell, barter, and trade items and that could be a resource as well if you're looking for something in particular. Posting flyers at your post office or other community message board works as well.
3. Work, church, other social contacts. When they've asked for announcements at church, I've gotten up and said I needed pint canning jars or whatever and have usually gotten a response from somebody with too many jars or someone willing to trade something for jars. The good part of this system is it is often free. You could use this for learning something--"does anybody know how to knit? I'd really like to learn." You can offer to trade services or other goods for whatever you're looking for, or you can offer to pay them as well.
4. Word of mouth. This kind of goes along with number 3, but includes just talking with whoever. You know, "what have you been up to?" "Well, I've been canning a bunch of stuff from the garden this week." Then if those people ever come across a stash of cherry trees that need picked or empty jars or whatever they don't have a need for, they know who cans that would appreciate any excess.
5. Relatives. I got my pressure canner and some jars from my Grandma when she quit canning in her old age and I've already got dibs on my mom's noodle maker ;) Most people do get to the point in their lives where they won't be using that rifle as much or growing and canning a ginormous garden. Let them know what you're up to and when they don't need their gear, you might get some of it. :)
6. Ask for it. We used to have a better paying job than we do now and bought ourselves some fantastic prep gear for our birthdays and Christmas. Santa might bring you something you need or you could get it for your birthday or Mother's day or whatever. If it's a big ticket item, maybe your family could all give you gift certificates to the store that sells the thing you want, or cash donations is good also. I've seriously considered the collection deal for Christmas so I could afford the gift I really wanted, but didn't think of it until it was too late. But it's a good idea anyway.
What has worked for you?