How to put together an effective emergency kit
Acquiring Emergency Supplies
A Winter Emergency Kit
Putting Together an Emergency Kit
After a couple of days without power, I want to put together an emergency food box. I had battery light, candles, and bottled water, but besides tuna, are there any prepackage meals that do not taste like C-rations? What items should I stock?
There is a government site that should help. It's at Ready.gov.
Emergency Kit From Camping Gear
If you don't have a natural gas or propane range, then a camping stove would be quite handy in your situation. In fact, you may want to invest in some camping gear for the future (camping or not) so that you are prepared for situations such as this. If you own a grill, they also work great for cooking. "Baskets" are also made for some so that you are able to stir-fry. I have even baked cookies using a large gas grill.
For stocking food, I think canned or dried soups are good. They both last a long time. Some stores carry dried foods so that a variety of meals can be made. These include hummus, tabouli, vegetables, and beans. Often times, these are found in "natural" food stores.
When shopping, check out the soup aisle for the selection as well as dried foods. This way you will at least get an idea of what is available.
Prepared With My Emergency Kit
My husband and I put together three large Tupperware-type containers with emergency supplies in case of an emergency.
Include dried spaghetti noodles and canned spaghetti sauce with meat for extra protein, dried soup mixes, chili, canned soup mixes, dried beans, a few spices, and rice. Also have canned fruit mixes, canned vegetables, canned and dried milk, biscuit mixes, trail mixes, breakfast bars, nuts, jerky, juice boxes, and candy bars on hand.
Include candles, water-proof matches, oil lamps, oil, extra wicks, "Coleman brand" small propane tanks, Coleman camp stove or hibachi, clean burning propane camper heater, moon blankets, disposable rain jackets, small disposable umbrellas, warm coats, and emergency boots.
Have camper pots and pans, stove percolator coffee pot, wooden spoons, disposable plates, cups, flat ware, can openers, a good amount of bottled water, paper towels and napkins, hot pads, and hand towels on hand.
Include a first aid kit, flash lights with extra batteries, radio, toilet paper, personal hygiene supplies, baby wipes, over night toiletries and soap supplies, a set of clean clothes and underpants, pain killers, Swiss army knife, small battery-operated radio with extra batteries, emergency contact numbers, and extra cash.
Vegetarian Emergency Kit
I keep an emergency kit on hand at all times. As a vegetarian, it's not too easy to find prepared or easy to prepare foods to put in the kit. I have found a supplier of easy to prepare, great tasting, and nutritious foods. dixiediner.com. Dixie Diner has a marvelous variety of "add water and heat" foods. You add boiling water to the food and cook it in the pouch that it's packaged in! Great for camping, too!
Don't forget your pets; they need an emergency kit too! We have four cats, so I have a few disposable litter trays with litter, bottled water, and dry food in a waterproof pouch; I keep this in the back of my vehicle along with my other emergency items. I also keep a portable charcoal grill and a bag of charcoal there.
Backpacker's Best Kit
My husband and I are avid backpackers, and as you know, we travel light. We asked for a dehydrator for a birthday from mom and now we dehydrate everything. You can even do crab meat. We like lightweight snacks, such as Ramen noodles (natural food stores have healthier brands with no MSG), dried stuffed raviolis (in the pasta section), and dried milk or canned milk.
Try some of the dried soups to see which ones you like, but we like the "Bear Creek" brand. You should have sugar, salt and other spices handy for those boring foods. We double bag our dried food to keep things fresher. Remember to have some protein foods on hand. Also, consider how to cook the food like a Coleman gas stove and have plenty of gas on hand.
Iodine tablets will clean water if you were not to have clean water.
Emergency Kit for Hurricanes
There is so much more that you can add besides tuna. I live on the east coast of North Carolina, hurricane territory. So we have learned how to stock up for such emergencies. I try to start in the early spring buying a few things each payday, then hiding them in boxes so the kids don't eat them. In November, we open up the boxes and let everyone have a "hurricane" feast.
Buy cases of water. One-gallon jugs often come in cases of three. (Yes you can fill-up your own milk jugs, but you have to make sure they are squeaky clean or bacteria will grow and they may leak.) The AC won't be on and the jugs will get hot.
Buy canned foods or can your own food. Some foods we like to buy are soups, beans, chili, stews, fruit, salmon, Spam, tuna, chicken, corned beef hash, vegetables, and pasta dinners (like ravioli). Any of these can be eaten cold, right out of the can.
Keep a supply of charcoal briquettes, lighter fluid and matches handy, or bottled gas for your gas grill. Besides boiling water for your coffee or heating up your canned dinners, you may need to cook those meats you had in your freezer once they thaw out. Then you can keep them in your cooler for a while. (After a hurricane, folks come from miles away to sell ice to those of us without electricity.)
Cereals, nuts, dried fruits, jerky (homemade is cheapest), breads and other items that won't need refrigeration are good to stock up on. Ramen noodles only need boiling water.
Buy blue ice packs and keep them in your freezer, as it will help the cold last longer than regular ice. To keep my chest freezer cold, I fill clean milk jugs with water and freeze them. The additional "ice" helps things last longer. Avoid opening your freezer or refrigerator except when absolutely necessary and for the shortest possible period of time. The power may come on again in 12 hours or 12 days, you never know. You just need to conserve that cold as long as possible. Don't panic, as so many did in preparation for January 1, 2000. Just prepare. We are all subject to occasional power outages and should be prepared for any such emergency.
The Texas Emergency Kit
Living just outside of Houston on the Texas Gulf Coast, and living on Galveston Island and actually staying in our home during Hurricane Alicia, I know a thing or two about living without electricity for more than just a few days.
- A good gas or charcoal grill is a must. For a gas grill, always be aware of the propane level and make sure you get a new can as soon as the previous one is empty. For a charcoal grill, always keep several bags of charcoal on hand.
- In addition to a flashlight, you may want to consider a battery operated lantern. Wal-Mart and Radio Shack are a few places that I know of that sell them. They are rather inexpensive and work almost as well as a lamp.
- A battery-operated television/radio combination is your best bet, though a good battery-operated radio will do just fine. Because of our geographic location, a battery-operated weather radio is essential. Again, sporting good stores, Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target and Radio Shack are good places to look for good deals on these type of electronics.
- A fire extinguisher or two. You never know. Take it from me.
- As far as delectable and wholesome foods, your choices are limited.
Here are a few items we keep on hand at all times in a kitchen cupboard:
- canned fruit
- cheese/cracker packs
- baked beans
- evaporated milk
- Ensure health shakes
- canned vegetables
- canned chicken
- canned tuna
- bottled water
- salt and other mild seasonings
Remember, if you take medication, make sure you always have it on hand. Also, if you have young children or infants, always make sure you have a secret stash of diapers, formula and nursery water (not bottled water), which you can find at Wal-Mart. (Nursery water has the proper electrolytes and nutrients that bottled water does not.)
Additionally, a cell phone with a back-up battery that is always charged can be a lifesaver.
Red Cross Emergency Kit
As a community leader on a Y2K preparedness board back when it was a concern, as well as a prepared person in general, I have given this topic a lot of attention.
I have found, overall, that the Red Cross checklist is the best around for a minimum level of preparedness redcross.org. It is complete, and the Red Cross has many years of experience in dealing with emergency situations.
As for food, there is more than one way to go about it:
Totally use food that does not need cooking, such as tuna, deviled ham, chunk chicken or ham, crackers, canned fruit or fruit cups, individual juice boxes or bottles, etc. Think what you would pack for lunches for your kids and use items that keep well (crackers instead of bread, juice instead of milk, etc.) Remember to rotate them. Go through every 4-6 months and replace things with new items and use the old ones to keep them from going bad. Even Twinkies have a shelf life!
Use items that require a minimum of preparation. You can get a sterno rack and a package of three cans of sterno fuel for under $10 at Wal-Mart. If you plan well, you can make canned soups, stews, and simple throw-them-together dishes in just a few minutes. Why eat something that tastes like wet cardboard when you can dish up a bowl of steaming clam chowder and crackers? If you choose items that are heat-and-eat, pack a pot and lid, and include sterno and a rack with your emergency supplies, you won't have to worry!
Do you camp? We do. In an emergency, it's a simple thing to pull out the camp stove, camp oven, and extra propane and go to town. When we went four days without power a few months ago, we still ate spaghetti and meatballs, beef stroganoff, and chicken tortilla soup. My kids hardly noticed that there was a problem. We even had freshly baked muffins with scrambled eggs one morning. Since we had to quickly use what was in the refrigerator before it went bad, we barely even touched our emergency supplies. Above all, don't forget water! Always have one gallon per person per day on hand. Don't forget pets. It's easy to forget how much a dog can drink each day until you only have a limited amount of water on hand and it's your water that he's drinking. I keep a combination of a large plastic jug (mine is 7 gallons) and individual water bottles for drinking water. If you use tap water, treat with bleach (5 drops per gallon) to prevent bacterial growth in your water. Or use commercially sealed bottled water. In either case, don't forget to rotate your water as well. Every six months, replace your water.
Emergency Preparedness can be really simple, and it's important to make it an every day part of your life. You carry car insurance, homeowner's insurance, medical insurance, and life insurance to protect against "just in case." How hard is it really to put a little planning into protecting your family against tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, snow storms, thunderstorms, or even a budget crisis!
Protein In Your Kit
Be sure to have proteins (peanut butter, nuts, protein bars, cereal bars, and granola bars), juice boxes, and bottled water (not the expensive stuff, just the grocery store brand will do). These things have very long and stable shelf life and therefore will be fine for a long time in a cool dark place. Protein keeps you full, digests slowly, and keeps you alert.
Experience Using Emergency Kit
My family and I lived through the 1989 earthquake in the East Bay Area of Northern California so I know first hand how scary it can be to be without services for a while. We were fine but lots of folks were not as lucky as we were.
Make sure that you have enough water for cooking, drinking, and for your pets, if you have any. Canned foods are really great, as they don't expire for a long, long time. Keep veggies, fruits, beans and meats on hand. Make sure to get a variety.
Other things you might want to have around are extra candles or maybe even an oil lamp, books and activities for the kids (if you have them). A first aid kit a bit beyond what you would normally have with extras for special needs (again, if you have them). Keep things such as asthma medication, cold medications, stomachache medications, and pain and fever medications in your first aid kit. Buy baby wipes for sponge bathing and no rinse soaps for heavier cleaning. I would also put aside toothpaste, toilet paper and paper toweling. We have a portable toilet that I purchased at Wal-Mart for $25. It has never been out of the box. We can always use it for camping. Make sure you have lots of garbage bags if you purchase one of these toilets. And of course, don't forget extra batteries for radios, flashlights and those "special" toys that your kids can't live without for a day or two.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
More Money-Saving Tips for Your Home
- 6 cheap, effective home security solutions
- 5 frugal ways to expand your living space
- Top 10 DIY mistakes made by home 'handymen'
- How we saved $34k in interest on our mortgage before closing
- Buying an insurance-friendly car
- Tips for painting a basement floor Readers' Solutions
- This week's Readers' Tips
- Should I use a HELOC for home remodeling and repairs
- Find the best mortgage rates in your area
- 3 ways to use a mortgage calculator
- Mortgage calculator: Calculate your payment and more
- Home equity calculator: HELOC vs. line of credit
- How much can additional payments save me on my mortgage?
- Who offers the most home insurance discounts?