I just love yard sales, don’t you? You can find all kinds of treasures for a lot less than they’d be at the store. Just last weekend we scored a few great finds when we stopped at a couple of yard sales in town. I got a full set of sheets (fitted, regular, and pillow case) for $1, a nice child’s winter jacket for $1, a brand new pair of boys long underwear (still in the packaging) for $1, and a flushing camping potty, which was also brand new, never used, for $15. Even though the clothing items were a bit big for our children, it was worth buying them now at such a great price and saving them for when they do fit.
I don’t get to go yard sale-ing very often, but there are a few things I always like to keep my eye out for when I do get to go. Preparedness items are high on my list of things to look for. Being prepared for emergencies doesn’t have to be expensive. Picking up a little here and there as you come across unbeatable deals is a great way to prep on a tight budget.
Here are the top 13 preparedness items I keep an eye out for at yard sales…
TIP: When shopping at yard sales, ALWAYS ask the seller if they’ll take any less for the item of interest. It never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is no, right? And more often than not you’ll at least be able to dicker them down a little. Give it a try!
1. Oil Lamps
Often you can find oil lamps for $2 or less at yard sales. These are definitely worth picking up. If you can find lamp oil and wicks, be sure to grab them up as well. Lamps are a great item to have in case of power outages.
Many times candles go for as little as 10 cents a piece at a yard sale, and sometimes you can even find them in the “free stuff” box. Even if they’ve been used, candles with quite a bit of wax left on them most likely still have a few hours of burn time remaining. Keep in mind that you can always melt down small candles to make a new candle, so anytime you find free ones don’t pass them by.
3. Sewing & Knitting supplies
Materials, needles, thread- these items could be extremely useful and valuable in a long term emergency situation. You can never have too many needles and thread… think bartering items. If you don’t have a sewing machine, keep your eye out for one of those as well. Even if you don’t know how to sew, it may be a skill you are forced to learn one day. A treadle sewing machine (one that works by foot power instead of electricity) would be a great find. Items such as yarn and knitting/crocheting tools would be equally as handy to have.
I don’t think you can have too many blankets on hand. You never know when you might come across somebody whose life depends on the warmth of a blanket to get them through the night. They can also be used to black out windows. Look for good quality items only. An electric heating blanket might also be a good item to have. It’s much cheaper to heat your bed at night than to heat the entire house just to stay warm while you sleep.
High quality boots in good condition are definitely worth keeping an eye out for, in kids and adult sizes. Even if you come across a super good deal on a nice pair of boots and they aren’t a size you need, they can always be used as a bartering item. Don’t go crazy spending a fortune on boots, but if you see some really good ones for $4-$5 or less, pick ’em up.
6. New Socks/Underwear
Sometimes you might happen across a brand new, unopened pack of socks or underwear, especially child’s sizes. Socks are absolutely worth stocking up on, and it wouldn’t hurt to have extra undies as well. Even if it’s something that would need growing into, if they’re super cheap (I’m thinking a dollar or less for a pack) I’d totally scoop them up. I’m not opposed to buying used kids socks either, for no more than 10 cents a piece. The price of cotton will only continue to climb, better get it while you can.
7. Winter Coats/Accessories
Nice, thick winter jackets can be very expensive when buying them new. It’s much wiser to pick them up, even several years ahead in size, when you find them for a steal. With the weather as crazy as it has been, you never know how bad the next winter will be where you live. Warm hats, good, thick gloves, snow boots, long underwear, ski masks- these are all things I would be interested in finding. I’m not a scarf person, but you might look for them as well. Just be sure that what you are buying is GOOD QUALITY.
8. Camping Gear
If you don’t have a tent big enough to accommodate you and your family, look for one. You never know when you’ll need a temporary shelter of some kind. Sleeping bags, camping cooksets and mess kits, backpacks, water bottles/thermoses, flashlights, cots… I’m always looking out for these types of things. I actually found a Snugli hiking baby carrier (normally over $100) for $5 not too long ago. Super nice. All I had up until then was a front baby carrier and a sling, which would get very heavy if hiking a long distance with a little one strapped to me. The hiking carrier that fits on your back like a backpack was a great find.
9. Medical Supplies
It isn’t often that I come across medical supplies at a yard sale, but you can at least look. Bandages, splints, slings, ankle supports, and wrist guards are all things you might look for. I particularly look for good quality hot water bottles. When I was pricing the new ones, I was shocked to find they typically run $10 (for cheaper ones) to $20 (better quality ones). Finding a good one for $1-$2 at a yard sale is MUCH better than spending that kind of dough on a new one.
10. Tools (Gardening and Woodworking)
Again, you want to gravitate toward GOOD quality tools. Cheap junk won’t do anybody a bit of good in an emergency. Look for gardening tools, such as shovels, hoes, rakes, etc. and woodworking tools, such as axes and hammers and saws. Non-electric models are a better investment, as well as things that don’t require gasoline. Not too long ago we picked up an old fashioned lawn mower that has the blades that rotate as you push it, which requires nothing but man-power to work. We paid twenty bucks for it, and even our six year old can “mow” with it.
11. Fishing/Hunting Gear
Camo, bows, guns (if you can find them), fishing rods, tackle boxes- all great things to buy second hand when you find a good deal.
12. Canning Jars & Supplies
I never buy canning jars new anymore. With a dozen pint jars running around $14 at the grocery store, it’s a no brainer to pick them up for .25 cents or less a piece at neighborhood sales. I never pay more than $3/dozen for regular sized canning jars. Half-gallons, on the other hand, I’d pay up to $1/each for those because they’re harder to find.
Water bath canners are also a great item to look out for, as well as canning tools and lid rings. I wouldn’t recommend buying a pressure canner at a yard sale unless you really know what you’re looking at. Many models have gaskets and gadgets that could be damaged and you wouldn’t even know it until it was in use.
13. Cast Iron Pots and Pans
You can never have enough cast iron! Yard sales are a great place to find these items for super cheap. Rusted cast iron can be restored by baking and greasing it, so don’t let that scare you away from a good buy. Just make sure it isn’t rusted through. What I’m on the hunt for right now is a large “chicken stew” pot. You know, the kind that looks like a witches cauldron, that either sits over a fire or hangs from a stand. I’d love to have a couple of those huge pots handy for cooking and for boiling water in if I needed to.
I’m sure I forgot some important items to hunt for. Can you think of anything you’d add to this list?
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.