How to assemble affordable emergency supplies

Acquiring Emergency Supplies

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Emergency Supplies

Buying Emergency Supplies

I'm looking for a cheap way to collect items in a timely manner for an emergency. Many states have websites that urge people to prepare. We're told to store the items needed in a disaster, but it is so expensive! Do you have any suggestions on how to get emergency supplies without busting the budget?

Shop Garage Sales and Thrift Stores for Emergency Supplies

I look for emergency supplies at garage sales and Salvation Army stores. I've found Sterno on sale at the grocery store after camping season. And I usually look for battery sales at the local hardware store. As for food for emergencies, I know they say hotdogs are good because they can be eaten cold or hot, but they must be refrigerated. I prefer cans of meat (tuna, salmon, etc). For emergency rations, I've bought canned veggies and fruits on sale and have stocked up a pantry. I've also made jams for the past several years. This year, I will start canning my little victory garden I've planted. You don't need to buy all your stuff at once either. Buy one or two thing each payday.

Put It Together One Piece at a Time

Your first move would be to get a listing of what an emergency kit should contain and set aside a place for your emergency items until you can afford totes for the kit. It can be a shelf, closet, etc.

Gradually purchase one extra item at a time. Look carefully at your list and choose to purchase first the items that have an extended expiration date. The first items we put in our kit were paper products, soaps, scissors, tape and medical and personal clothing items. These items went in one tote.

I have a shelf with food items that expire, and by rotating those items, we keep a full stock. Occasionally, I will replace some of the paper items also. I keep another tote nearby and everything can be stacked in it at a moment's notice. We eventually purchased a wind up light and radio. It took us awhile, but we are now ready for whatever happens.

Purchase in Parts

Make a list of all of the emergency supplies or items for a first aid kit that you feel you need. Then start purchasing one item a week. Look over the weekly sales flyers and then decide which item will be purchased that week. You might even find some items on a Freecycle list.

Help on the Internet with Emergency Supplies

I, too, am putting together emergency supplies. During my search for information, I have found gems at,, and These three websites show how to store using everyday materials. The LDS family has calendars that help you prepare bit by bit throughout the year.
Kim R.

A Few Dollars Each Week

I keep a large plastic tote in my closet, and when I shop, I pick up one item at a time. I buy things at Goodwill, lawn sales and dollar stores. I spend a few dollars each week until I have a good amount. Some of the emergency supplies I have include:

  • A homemade first aid kit that includes tablets to purify water
  • A crowbar and tool kit from tools I picked up at thrift stores
  • A change of clothes for everyone (sweats) and extra underwear
  • Newspapers (many uses from insulating clothing to starting fires)
  • Plastic food handler gloves (bought at a restaurant supply house)
  • Backpacks that I bought at a lawn sale
  • Rope, Bungee cords, and a tarp (blew across my yard on a windy day!)
  • Duct tape rolls
  • Lots of single serve sizes of food that I buy on sale (every 6 months I use and replace these)

There are lots of lists online and in books that will tell you what to take in emergencies. You don't have to buy it all or all at once.

My cousin was a minister in Louisiana. When the Hurricane Katrina floods hit, people barely escaped with their lives and the clothes on their backs, but a few had to survive in their homes several days before rescue came. They said that flashlights, batteries, candles, and matches didn't help much but were good for morale! Apparently even a dim light is better than darkness.

Just $25 Per Month

It is wonderful that you are ready to take some steps to be prepared. After our oldest finished his Emergency Preparedness Boy Scout Merit Badge, he had lists and ideas, so we started. No, I could not purchase everything all at once, but it has been several years now and we are in good shape. Yes, you can try to do in a shorter time frame, but some of the things I found that I thought I wanted were not things my family would actually eat. Some of those dried, packaged soups are great, and some are not. We took time to try them before I purchased in bulk.

Our goal now is to maintain a one-month supply of food that is as close to what we normally eat as possible. I was shocked to learn from my son that very few people have even three days worth on hand! Most places suggest maintaining a two-week supply. Whatever you choose, even having enough for an extra two days is a great start.

For our family, we were able to budget $25 per month to put towards this goal. I purchased food, water, medical items, etc. My "pantry" in our emergency prep area is my backup, so rotating food just takes a check of both shelves. It took about six months to completely stock up what I wanted to keep on hand. The hardest items are fresh dairy and fresh fruit and veggies. I figure if it is truly an emergency, powdered milk, dried fruits, and canned vegetables will work.

We had purchased a generator quite a few years ago. Having livestock meant we needed to be sure we have a working pump to get water for them, power or not. It is not a huge one, but it is large enough to run either water and refrigerators/freezers in the summer or water and furnace/blowers for the fireplace in the winter.

If you store food, you will need to figure a rotation system that works for you. It takes some time to get the pantry going, but watching for what is on sale and stocking up on those particular items (flour, sugar, coffee, Gatorade, pastas, dried beans, canned veggies, dried and canned fruits, condiments, and any other packaged product you routinely use) as you can. I started by purchasing an extra can of coffee, 12 cans of mandarin oranges, some instant potatoes and a few extra packages of assorted pasta. Don't forget the water! I believe it is one gallon per person.
Lucinda in MN

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