Inexpensive Ways to Prepare for an Emergency

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jar of money on concrete by grassy lawn, with text overlay: Frugal Fridays.

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We’ve been talking about being better prepared for emergencies this month. While none of us wants to be put in an urgent life or death situation, it’s in our best interests and that of our children, to put a little thought into the what ifs of being prepared for fire, flood, or other natural disaster.

I remember as a public school teacher attending an in-service day where we got extra training on emergency responses. We also received a really expensive catalog of emergency supplies. I was stunned at the high ticket prices of the items involved.

Perhaps those were inflated prices. Or perhaps they were extra sophisticated supplies. I don’t know.

But, I do know that being prepared for an emergency should not be cost prohibitive. And while many of us can’t head off to the store and buy everything we might need, there are some inexpensive ways that we can get prepared.

Stock up on supplies over time.

I know, an earthquake could hit tomorrow. It could. I should be prepared today. But, I’m not.

Baby steps are better than sitting still.

1. Determine your needs.

Download a free copy of this emergency supply list. It has the basics of what you might need in a general emergency.

2. Gather the items that you already own in an easy to reach location.

This may depend on where you live and what kind of emergencies might be common in that locale. For some this might be in a basement. For others, like us in earthquake country, near the garage door might be a better option. I’m going to use a few plastic totes to house most of our emergency supplies as well as pack Go Bags for each of the kids, hubs, and me.

3. Look for sales.

As you go about your everyday life, keep your eyes open for the items that you don’t have. Scan the clearance sections of the seasonal items. So many summertime, back to school, and holiday items can be repurposed for emergency use. Camping items go on sale at the end of summer, back packs after back to school, light sticks after Halloween, candles at Christmas, basic household supplies and organizers after the New Year.

Food items to look for at low prices include:

  • canned and dried fruit
  • nuts and nut butters
  • canned tuna and chicken
  • canned soup and chili
  • granola bars and crackers
  • comfort foods (don’t forget the BBQ potato chips)
  • bottled water and juices

4. Shop wisely.

Remember not to buy food you will hate or wouldn’t otherwise buy. Just because it’s a good deal, doesn’t make it worth it. Sure, it’s food. And in an emergency, you probably wouldn’t care. But, at the same time, the emergency probably won’t happen. And hopefully, you’ll check the dates on your supply before the foods hit their expiration dates.

No, canned foods are not good for a million years. Only Twinkies are.

Put your savvy shopping to good use, not just for today, but also for the unexpected.

How do YOU save money?

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  1. I just added my old glasses and my son’s to our emergency kit, good tip! Also I would suggest people pay attention to the storage directions of anything that expires. My in laws spent over $2000 on emergency food supplies in those #10 cans that are “good for 25 years.” But the specifics are to store it at 65 degrees or less and they have it in their garage. So clearly the shelf life will be seriously shortened. Of course they have no idea how to use their vat of wheat berries anyway, but if you want to actually BE prepared and not just feel prepared know how to store and use what you bought!

    1. Excellent point! That is why I’m going to make my food stuff we would eat: crackers, sunbutter, chocolate, etc.

  2. Your emergency preparedness series has me thinking about we already have in new ways. I got new glasses last month, and usually I keep the most recent old pair for a backup, and then donate the oldest pair to the Lions Club. This time I saved the oldest pair for the emergency kit. I am blind as a bat and partial sight from 2 prescriptions ago would be better than none!

    1. Good thinking. Only one of us has glasses — and it’s a recent thing. I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Thank you for the reminder.

  3. Don’t forget garage sales! One of the things we want to stock up on for emergencies is wool blankets. My husband had been looking at used ones online, but they were still too pricey. I found a couple of wool/blend blankets at a garage sale in the spring (a used one for only $3, and a brand new one for $3!) You may also find candlesticks, candles, and lanterns at garage sales.

    I also found a pocket knife identical to the one I bought in Switzerland–for .25 (she actually bought hers there on vacation!) Mine was cracked and I was wanting another one.

    I’ve also seen shovels, work gloves, and other tools at garage sales.

  4. thanks for this post…our preparedness is a work in progress and I’m very thankful for your list. I’m curious about your thoughts on important documents…do you store copies in the emergency kit or the actual documents? In addition to our preparedness kits I’ve been thinking a lot about where/how best to store our documents…would be interested to hear your thoughts if you’ve got the time. thanks!

    1. On this post, there was a good discussion about that: One reader pointed out that you should store it online with a uber-secure company, so that you don’t get hacked. Emailing, I guess, is not considered safe and a thumbdrive is easy to lose. However, in the event of a computer meltdown, I think we need some way to have physical documentation. Haven’t completely figured that out. But, if all the computers in the world and the internet melted down, I suppose we would have bigger problems than just proving who we were.

  5. Thanks so much for the link! I was glad for the downloadable list.

    I posted a link to a post about GLUTEN FREE and SHELF STABLE foods (I know, they don’t quite look right together in a sentence, do they!?)

    Your linky is only showing the direct links, not the titles of the posts. Is that how it normally works? I don’t recall seeing that before.

    Anyway, have a wonderful day, and thank you! -Janelle

  6. Excellant post!! You have inspired me to start what I have been putting off for all too long now. When I think about it I already have a huge, empty plastic container in the garage. I will start today by filling it with what I already have on hand and I will work to acquire what else it needs ove the next few weeks. Thank-you!!

  7. I think something’s wrong with your Linky. It’s only showing the actual link, and not who wrote it or what it’s called. Or is it just me?

  8. My link today is for turnip and turnip greens soup–very frugal 🙂 I love figuring out how to use up what I have when it comes to cooking.

    I would like to think that I have good enough relationships with local farmers that we wouldn’t starve in the case of an emergency. Back when they thought the year 2000 would wreck all the computers, I remember feeling safe because at the time my Dad was a potato and onion farmer and we had a storage full of them, plus I lived across from my (now ex) in-law’s dairy farm, so there would be milk and meat. Also in our rural community almost everyone had a generator or knew where to borrow one since electricity frequently went out in severe thunderstorms.

  9. We live in tornado alley, so we have to be ready to take shelter in the event of bad weather. Our last big storm system taught us that we needed to be prepared to deal with extended power outages! I’m slowly but surely collecting the dynamo flashlights that don’t use batteries. I put the cheapest ones (under $3 from Harbor Freight) in everybody’s go bag. I put a more expensive dynamo unit that has a radio, flash light and cell phone charger in our basement. Batteries are a great short term solultion, but will leave you in the dark after a few hours!

  10. Your twinkies comment cracked me up!

    My rule about emergency food is this: store what you eat and eat what you store.

    I eat larabars and hide them from myself in the basement in case of an emergency (clearly there have been too many emergencies because I’m all out LOL!)

    Another example is almond butter. I keep one in the cupboard upstairs and another hidden in the basement. When we run low upstairs I add it to the grocery list. The new jar goes downstairs to the basement and the old jar goes into our pantry upstairs.

    In a perfect world (meaning if I were really prepared!) I would have several on hand and rotate my stock.