21 Things a Prepper Should Never Throw Away

May 27, 2013 by | 95 Comments

Part of preparing is acquiring adequate supplies to survive an emergency, but an equally important part is making the most of the supplies you already have.

Every day we throw away valuable supplies that could be critical in an emergency; the key is knowing what to keep and what to throw away. Otherwise, you go from being prepared to being a hoarder. That’s both inefficient and unhygienic. Below, I’ve compiled a list of everyday items with  multiple uses that most people throw away:

  1. Broken crayons, candle stubs, and any other form of paraffin wax can be used to make new candles, or along with other items to make fire starting tablets.
  2. Dryer lint can be used as tinder, or when combined with paraffin wax or petroleum jelly, to make fire starting tablets.
  3. Cardboard egg cartons can be used to sprout seeds or as the container for fire starting tablets.
  4. All types of wood. Lumber can be used for construction and scrap wood (not pressure treated) can be used as fuel and in hugal beds/permaculture.
  5. Water jugs/soda bottles can be used to store water, rice, beans, etc.
  6. Rope—longer pieces can be used for climbing and shorter pieces can be used for lashing gear.
  7. Plant waste (fruit and vegetable scraps, yard clippings, etc.) should be added to your compost pile to create natural fertilizer.
  8. Certain fruit and vegetables, such as pineapples, carrots, and sweet potatoes can be regrown from scraps.
  9. Bacon grease can be used for cooking and lasts forever. Simply strain it through cheese cloth into a mason jar.
  10. Medicine bottles can be used to store fishing gear, tinder, and other small survival kit items.
  11. Newspaper can be used as garden mulch or to prevent weeds from growing, to clean windows, and as tinder.
  12. Cardboard boxes can be used to store the food you’ve canned, making it easy to grab and go if you have to leave in a hurry.
  13. Glass bottles and jars can be used to store food and liquids.
  14. Bins, bags, and buckets can be used to store/transport all sorts of things, and makes it easy to keep things organized.
  15. Spice bottles can be used to store the spices and herbs gathered from your garden.
  16. Outgrown clothes can be used as barter items, to give to needy families, as rags, or combined with a stick and flammable liquid, to make torches.
  17. Hair clippings (human or pet) can be used as fertilizer in your garden and to keep deer and other animals away.
  18. Small bits of used soap can be melted down and combined to form usable sized bars of soap.
  19. Lighters, even when empty, can still be used to start a fire using the flint and striker.
  20. Wire of all types and sizes can be used for lashing gear, transmitting power, and building expedient antennas.
  21. Twist-ties have almost unlimited uses, such as fixing eyeglasses, securing plants to stakes, and of course, sealing bags.

Is there anything you save that I don’t have on the list?

95 Comments

  • Mark says:

    Toilet paper and Paper towel cores can also be used as tinder. Mash them down flat and store in ziploc bags. That way you have both tinder and bags.

    • georgia says:

      you can mix vasoline and dryer lint to fill the toilet paper rolls and seal ends with masking tape as well, be careful where you store them though, vasloine is highly flammable, I plan to keep mine in an amo can. I read where a prepper used the wood shavings to do the same thing and she said it worked well for her….

    • Christine says:

      Toilet paper tubes can be used as seed starting cups for things that need deeper space for roots than just egg cartons. Cut four splits 1/4 to 1/3 of the way up, fold over ends, fill w/ dirt and seed. Paper towel rolls can be cut in half to do this. This would be good for plants that need to seed longer before planting outdoors.

    • Mick says:

      I don’t have anything but a AK, lots of mags and lots of ammo. I’ll get what I what when I what when the shtf……lol.

      It aint ever gonna happen, so keep saving your junk and keep on thinking maybe next week or maybe next month.

      • Jeremy Knauff says:

        Mick, do you honestly think that the rest of us don’t have weapons and ammo?

        As for your claim “It ain’t gonna happen” perhaps you should open your eyes. It’s already happened right here in the US several times in the last few decades. I guess you missed the L.A. riots, hurricane Katrina, and a slew of other incidents. Try spending a little less time on the XBOX and a little more time in the real world, sport.

        • Sandra says:

          Awesome reply Jeremy. I was going to say something close. And Mick is in for a rude awakening VERY very soon.

          • Shawn says:

            Mick you say you have an AKW lots of mags. Try coming to my house to get what you want. your AK will only get your in a real world of Hurt From the neighbors, police dogs, or the other may thing that will happen along the way. GOOD LUCK

        • Ole'Wolf says:

          Three words, Tropical Storm Irene. No road, no bridge, took a couple days for the river to drop to use the ford across the river. No power, no water, had telephone until the wire that was all that was holding up the pole over the river finally gave up the ghost… and that was almost two years ago during the GOOD part of the year. This year we’ve had 2 more inches then the Amazon gets per month each of the last 3 months. Heck, we lose power 2-3 times every winter on top of all that and I live in Vermont… the “civilized” Eastern US.

        • shell says:

          Let’s all try to be a little more gentle. Everyone is on his own path.

      • marites says:

        the preppers are well prepared, they are more stocked than you think, dont mess with them your ammo will run run out before them.Good luck if try.

        • Chris says:

          “Good Luck if you try”??? He’s talking about taking what he wants from people who took the time to prepare. I hope he gets shot by the first person he tries it with. That may save some innocent lives!!

      • George Boase says:

        Mick, YOU are the reason the rest of us are preppers. It’s delusional asshats like you who can’t see the facts in front of your face.

        Worse yet you are so self-serving as to think the rest of us “owe” you when the time comes. You’re like those gimme pigs after Hurricane Katrina still sucking from the government teat years after the storm.

        As for your choice of an AK-47 … I can put 00 buckshot in every square inch of a football field in less than 10 seconds … bring on that punk toy you have.

        WRONG ON BOTH COUNTS.

      • Terry says:

        Micky, I’ll be the one your begging for good and water. P.S. I’ll TAKE that AK away from you when your too weak to use it – hehe!!

      • Sad. If you think you are getting my stuff…you better get really good at extracting lead from yourself.

    • Mike Dube' says:

      Bleach, ammonia, alcohol, & sheets (for filtering, bandaging, weapons cleaning

    • Nancy West says:

      I also use them for storing extension cords. No more tangled lines

  • Stupid stuff like plastic bread bags to freeze meats and other things, bread ties to tie plants to garden stakes, pine cones for fires, shoestrings to tie things up, and other stupid little stuff

  • Will says:

    But not used toilet paper :)

  • Ana-Isabel says:

    We save, old prescription glasses, condoms and old shoes. I figure if SHTF it will be difficult to get a new pair of glasses, Condoms well I would not want to be popping babies every year, and shoes I’m sure it will take some time for people to develop the shoe making skills we need as a society.

  • Beat The End says:

    I would also so the altoid tins make awesome holders for pocket survival kits.

    Don’t throw away spent ammunition cartridges you can reload or sell them for a pretty penny.

  • Lesa says:

    I fold in the ends of paper towel/toilet paper tubes and keep them in my laundry room standing in a container.. I stuff the lint from the dryer into them.. when full, fold down the open end to seal it up and save it as a fire starter/kindling… I also use the toilet paper tubes or cut down paper towel tubes as seed starters.. fold in one end.. fill with soil and plant your seeds… no need to cut the tube off when ready to go in the ground.. it’ll decompose .. although, I’d open up the bottom end maybe… Best to All… ;) me

  • Lesa says:

    twist ties can also be stripped of the plastic and used to repair glasses if you’ve lost the screw

  • Sean says:

    Solid suggestions but I will take exception to #6. A lot of people think of rope as rope. This can be fatal. There is a distinct difference between utility rope and life safety rope that is used for climbing. Utility or old, almost discarded (since we are talking about things that might be otherwise thrown away) rope should never be used for climbing.

    The subject matter is too long to get into in this space. But I will strongly suggest that unless it is intended for climbing, and properly maintained, do not stake your life on any rope, especially if it has been salvaged in some way. Even a fall from a short climb can lead to non-fatal injury which in a survival situation could devastating results. Keep safe. I certainly like all of the other suggestions.

    • Jeremy Knauff says:

      I didn’t specify what type of rope, but that’s irrelevant. I spent many years in the Marine Corps climbing mountains with rope that was not specifically climbing rope, and people have done it for thousands of years before. Ideally, I’ll use kernmantle rope if it’s available, but if I need to get up or down in a hurry, I’ll use what I have available. Hell, I’ve climbed with 550 cord.

  • Bill K. says:

    Coffee cans. Good for storage or making rocket stoves.

    • Sandra says:

      Oh yeah! Look up rocket stoves. GREAT idea, and they have minimal smoke if any, so if you are in a position of needing to not be found…

  • Anita H says:

    Love the idea on starting seedlings with TP and paper towel tubes.

    I also save plastic wal mart/grocery/shopping bags. They have so many uses ranging from carrying stuff to insulation to water proofing. I’ve even seen them used as makeshift shoe coverings or shoved under clothing to help conserve body heat.

  • David B says:

    A used nail is better than no nail. With little effort they can be straightened and repointed.

  • Tam says:

    70% or higher rubbing alcohol can be used for heat in small areas.And can be used to cook on. Also even the 50% can be used as bug repellent. Alot cheaper than anything you buy in the stores.
    Tarps can be used for help with shelter. Even the old, holy ones. Some is better than nothing at all.
    Rain barrels are great for catching water, to at least flush the toilets when no electric or water. Use a bucket or old milk jug, with top cut off to scoop water to flush.
    There are so many different things that can be used in so many different ways. Use common sense, and be creative.

  • Sandra W says:

    egg shells used as seed starters and also crumbled and put in garden. Calcium is good for the veggies.

    • Mistie says:

      Eggshells should also be kept, baked at about 200 until dry, crushed and fed back to your chickens. These are an excellent alternative to crushed clam shells.

  • Tim says:

    I took an empty paint can quart size. Stuffed in a roll of toilet paper and all the alcohol it would hold. I have a portable stove that does not produce smoke and very little odor. It is also easy to put out. Put the lid on.

  • Dave says:

    Empty shotgun shells filled with wax and a string wick make great fire starters, and are easy to carry.

  • Jessica says:

    We make fire starters with snack zipper lock bags filled with cotton balls covered in vaseline. We obviously take it out of the bag before we use it. It works amazing! Just one little spark needed. Also save aluminum foil, and dryer lint too.

  • Debbie A says:

    You should not sure lumber if it is treated. The smoke that it gives off is very toxic. Learn to make rocket stoves and save small limbs and sticks to burn in them.

  • Debbie A says:

    That should have been use treated lumber to burn.

  • Sandra says:

    I watched a video just yesterday with a really good idea.

    Straws…they can be used to hold almost anything!!! The guy even put vaseline on cotton balls and stuffed them in there, using only 2″ of straw. He also put a fishing kit in one, medicine, spices, whatever you can think of that will fit. They are light weight and can fit in almost anything.

    He crimped the edge with needle nose pliers and ran fire from a lighter on it. It seals the edge and it is WATERPROOF!!! For ones that need to be opened and closed, he bent one side over and put another piece over it. But these are resealable (just use the fire). If you are in the field and won’t get ahold of what you are using again, then resealing won’t matter. And then it stays waterproof with each use.

    • Ole'Wolf says:

      They work to hold 22LR rounds as well and can even be used as speed loader for rifles that use a tubular magazine.

      • Thomas says:

        Great idea for speed loaders. I’ve used old arrows that were bent. I cut them with a tube cutter to size and I get little corks from the hardware. The make durable speed loaders and are reusable but the straws are a great idea.

      • lene says:

        That is a great idea, wish I’d thought of that but no matter…I’ll certainly be using it. :)

    • Mike Dube' says:

      I like that idea. It’s like a mini-dry bag.

  • Connie says:

    I use/do most of whats listed plus Popsicle sticks( washed/cleaned w bleach + soap water & dried) for splints, to wrap odd bits of wire/string on, kindling or just about anything. Try plastic lids off milk/juice containers with melted extra wax/string for mini candle/fire starters too.

  • Morrigan says:

    Empty dish and laundry soap bottles. There is always some left in the bottle. Fill it with water and store it. Allows you to clean dishes or clothes with very little extra water.

  • Mimi says:

    #8 is partialy wrong. Carrots CANNOT be regrown. Only the green carrot TOPS regrow.

    • Carolyn says:

      That is correct, but the carrot tops are where the seeds come from. Longer process but still works. You can also regrow celery, bok choi, onions, pineapples, and avocado from scraps!

  • Angela says:

    Cut the bottom out of tins/cans and flatten. Punch two holes with a nail and screw onto a long piece of wood.
    Keep adding till you have a gutter made of free metal. Overlap each can an inch.
    Good for water collecting if you have to Get Out Of Dodge in a tent too.

    Plastic potting compost bags; half empty, put in chitted potatoes.

    Wooden frozen lollypop/popsicle sticks for plant markers.

    Urine for veg plants for potassium, etc. (Don’t store, just use asap.)

    Butter wrappers in a bag in fridge, for greasing cake tins.

  • Janely says:

    worn out bobby pins…lots of uses

    like all the ideas up above

  • Kellie says:

    Bread bags or any other type of plastic bag packaging. Excellent resource for all sorts of things! Hamburger can be placed inside in small amounts, tied in small bits, then cut off as needed. Too many possible uses to list.

  • Heather C. says:

    Old t-shirts make great cloth diapers. Wool sweaters and fleece anything are great for diaper covers.

  • Puddin says:

    All I can think of that’s not here is safety pins, shirt pins ( the kind that come in dress shirts when you buy them),sewing needles, and paper clips .

  • Yolanda says:

    Save up heels of bread that you might otherwise throw away tightly wrapped in the freezer… they can be used for bread crumbs for frying, to stretch ground meats, to make croutons and bread pudding.

    If you have milk that might be getting a bit funky, make yummy ricotta like this: Heat the milk gently to 195 degrees. Into a gallon of it, add 1/4 cup vinegar, and stir it in. Remove from heat. Allow to sit for 15 minutes. Then using a slotted spoon, scoop off the curd into a strainer. After the excess liquid whey is gone, put the curd into a bowl. Add 2 Tablespoons of real butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda. Stir in thoroughly. Eat warm, or store in the fridge. Use within a few days. It’s great in lasagna, on tacos, added to salads.

    • wisconsin_minuteman says:

      Just strain it through cheese cloth, tie the curd in cloth. place on a plate and put a weighted plate on top. Place a fork under one side of bottom plate so it sits on an angle ,let drain for 1 hour then the cheese will be a solid chunk. Use as Paneer in Indian cooking or crumble as needed.

    • Just a Mom says:

      Save the whey, too. It’s good for lots of things, like making oatmeal.

  • Chrissy says:

    Wonderful info

  • Ann Marie says:

    bread bag tabs ( the little square things), they can be wrote on to label stuff and clipped on, and can be used to label the garden as well. Also some dog food bags are made out of tarp material. They can then be re-purposed into a tarp when need be. Just wash before storing.

  • Merl says:

    Straws and popsicle sticks can also be carved into found pins

  • KKM says:

    The membrane inside the eggshell is good for covering burns ….. I found other useful things for it also at this website ~ http://tipsandhintsforyou.blogspot.com/2009/07/6-tips-using-egg-shell-membrane.html

  • wisconsin_minuteman says:

    I save all the paper mail,newspaper or anything that has personal information. Run it through my paper shredder, stuffit in empty t.p and paper towel rolls. Pour in either used shotening, bacon grease, or melted wax/ broken crayons. and use it for fire starters.

  • Echo says:

    Really new at this so I don’t have a lot of ideas but a I do keep a few things around that I wouldn’t want to do without. A rain suit, a good heavy duty poncho and a tarp. Even if you get a hole in any of them you an do a quick repair on them with duct tape. Oh, and extra grommets, a grommet tool and a pocket flint with striker.

    Even if they might be holey and old they are better than nothing in the long run. They will help you stay dry and can help you stay warm.

  • Make sure not to use hair that’s been treated with anything but soap/shampoo into your food garden. Cosmetologists have to be licensed for several reasons but one of the reasons is because of the danger of the chemicals we use on human hair in the name of beauty.

  • DanF says:

    I am surprised that I haven’t seen steel wool & a 9volt battery suggested. Even with a minimal charge, a 9 volt will cause the steel wool to heat & ignite.

  • Jake says:

    Keep old phone books to use as toilet paper.

  • Cynthia Brennemann says:

    Cans, like soup and vegetable cans. Take the tops and bottoms out of them and you can flatten them to make shingles for knock together sheds, or use the hollow cans for biscuit cutters, cookie cutters and the like. The tops and bottoms can also be put to use as shingles on smaller areas, overlapped like fish scales.

  • Jodi M says:

    Save old OTC medicine bottles to save seed in. You can never have too many. When times get very rough you will have many loved ones that won’t listen now that you will want to help with open pollinated seed, we may not be able to run to the store to buy envelopes or baggies. This one comes from my mom.

  • Michele says:

    Feathers and hides from butchered animals can be used to make clothing, hats and gloves. Hair from grooming your pet dog and cats can also be saved in baggies and felted to make clothing also.

  • Louise says:

    Juice bottles, and large soda bottles. I use them for cascading window gardens like this http://electrictreehouse.com/urban-farmers-unite/

  • Shayla clough says:

    Be sure to also save things like hard candy. Things like chocolate and honey can last for a long time. Chocolate was used in wars because of the quick energy boost, m&ms and smarties were especially convenient because of how it was less sticky and messy.
    Animal fat can also be used to preserve food and to also make candles

  • richard says:

    Where will a person be storing all this waste products for future use. Boxes, bottles, pill bottles, egg cartons, rope….etc

    • I think that we aren’t going to keep EVERY one of those items .. I know we keep a couple hundred egg cartons here because we have hens and we sell the eggs and they stack well and are easy and light to store. Boxes fold flat just 10 or 20 folded flat fit under a bed and are easy to assemble don’t go overboard just think of a spot and don’t fill more than that little area for (maybe) items, ropes well I have a farm they have a spot as does chain etc too precious not to keep when you farm same goes for feed bags here. God knows when you need one and don’t have one it is a real pain. Pill bottles we keep about 5 empty each per prescription that we have and 5 per person in the household. YEah we will run out but we will have a small supply for the short term, I also use them to dose animals as well as make essential oil and herbal remedies for neighbors and they take the bottle with them. We live this lifestyle already and use lint blocks to start the wood stove and toilet paper rolls for starting fires anyway it is just something you incorporate into your daily living being less reliant on corporations and more on yourself.

  • Woody says:

    I have friends that do not prep that that have said when the SHTF I’m coming to your house.
    I look them right in the eye and tell them you do And I will shoot you right in the head!
    I prep to save my family not for you to just come over and expect me to take care of you,
    Then I show them that each tree on my property has a colored band on it and that is my range marks for shooting !!

  • john erickson says:

    I save just about anything. I’m not a horder because it is organized, cataloged.and kept clean and dry. Imagination is your friend. Check out garage and farm sales for old hand tools.That’s my tip.

  • Chris says:

    This stuff is great!!!

  • pill bottles ( seed storage, junk silver, making med bottles for others out of your stock and they float in water ) egg cartons ( seed starting, making candles , molding wax, making lint fire starters for easy one use at a time ) ANY rope or chain pieces,burlap and plastic feed bags for cold storing onions, garlic, wearing over clothing in rain , storing things using for barter , insulating things the bang and make noise. Paint sticks and pop sicle sticks.. (garden markers, stir sticks for food , fire starting wood) junk metal to melt down into bullets, old crappy stainless steel pots and pans for making soap, waxing cheese etc ( you don’t want to ruin your good ones!)

  • jesse says:

    good advice all and heres some i never saw on the above lists yes if using urine on your garden is good fertilizer when fresh however it contains large amounts of ammonia which when the urine is allowed to sit open on warm days concentrates out to the point it can remove bloodstains from clothing, also tampons great firestarters , for nose bleeds, their obvious intended use, hacksaw blades that have broken can be sharpened to the point they are like scalpels great for saving your heaftier blades for heavier jobs or as your flint striker , thread of any kind a piece just an inch long for sutures (after soaking in alcohol for 20 min. to prevent infection) and its thousand other uses , lead and lead solder for repairing everything from radio antennas to radiators and smelting for bullets, small batteries(aa,aaa, etc.) to power your lights then when the bulbs burn out you can use them to start fires by arcing the ends using a thin piece of wire or even fish hooks ive got hundreds more too many to list in one post but i will give ya’ll some references such the boy scouts hand book full of good info making knots catching fish starting fires shelter building etc. but most important survival tool anyone can own is your brain use it keep it sharp exercise your common sense and trust your instincts
    sorry bout the lack of periods im terrible with this typing thing

  • Marquita Martin says:

    I save old shower curtains that I have washed. They are great for tarps.

  • Bill says:

    This is to mick and anyone like him. Although I don’t believe a zombie invasion I do believe we will hafta fight off zombies, but not the kind tv shows It will be the zombies like him who thinks they can rob and rape and cause havoc to good folks just trying to survive bring that ar here boy I need one I’m sure if my 9mm carbine don’t get ya first then my boy on the hill with the 270 will set ya down so I can have me a new ar haha.

  • Melissa says:

    Clothing that has been ripped, ruined, or is damaged beyond repair. Remove any notion such as buttons, zippers, eye hooks, lace, etc. to use on other clothes. You can use the good parts of the fabric to mend other clothing, make new items, break into strips and make a rag rug, or even emergency candle wicks (in the case of white 100% cotton material).

  • Tsandi Crew says:

    Cans. Wash’em and store’em… to cook in, to carry water in, to make stoves for heating, etc. Some are the right size to use as a cup. A bowl. One of you said get creative. When cans were made of tin, we used to put them into the compost heap. Too bad they’re not tin anymore. They also work as flower pots… grow some veggies in them in the winter.

  • Nora Flaherty says:

    Between all my family members we have a lot of old prescription eyeglasses. They would be good to have because it’s a good bet that many people will be without. I just have a slight word of warning about saving boxes and other cardboard/paper. You have to be very careful about storing these items. They are a breeding ground for roaches and mice. Better to store these things in a detached garage, barn, shed, carport, etc.

Share Your Thoughts...