Every family should get a kit of emergency supplies together. You probably already have many of the things you need around the house. If you spend an extra $10 each time you go to the store, you can accumulate many emergency kit basics quickly without feeling much of a budget pinch. This article proposes a way to build a emergency kit for only $10 a week.
Obviously, you need to assess your own family situation: where you live, your vulnerability to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, and other disasters, the supplies you already have, and the supplies you need most urgently. If you live in a coastal area likely to be affected by hurricane storm surge or if you live in a flood-prone area likely to be affected by heavy rains or if you live in a mobile home, you will want to focus on building a bug-out bag and preparing your vehicle for an evacuation. If you live in a substantial home away from the flood zone, you may be able to board up your home and hunker down for the storm. Whether you evacuate or stay put, you’ll still need a disaster supply kit. Your disaster kit should contain water, food, a first aid kit, a battery-powered AM/FM/Weatherband Radio, and extra batteries. At a minimum, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends you have three days of food and water for each member of your family.
Week 1: Bottled Water. Basic utilities are often affected by disasters for an extended period of time. For example, you may not have safe drinking water for a couple of weeks. Your emergency kit will need to provide drinking water for each family member and your pets. For drinking and basic hygiene, you should figure on a gallon per day per person. For drinking, it’s convenient to accumulate a supply of bottled water. With the beginning of hurricane season, you can count on big box department stores, grocery stores, and drugstores having good deals on cases of bottled water. For example a case of 24 – 16 ounce bottles of water is available for less than $5. I found gallon jugs of water available at Publix for only 69 cents. Of course, you can also store tap water in clean containers and pitchers. For non-drinking purposes, you can also store water in your bathtubs and sinks. If you are building a cheap emergency kit, start by adding $10 worth of bottled water to your grocery list.
Week 2: Food and a Can Opener. You don’t want to be hungry and miserable in the wake of a hurricane or other major disaster. Since you may not have electricity, you’ll probably want foods that can be stored for a long time, don’t require refrigeration, and can be eaten cold. For starters, I’d suggest five cans of ravioli (about $1.25 each) and a manual can-opener ($1.50 to $4.00).
Week 3: Portable Radio. During and after a disaster, you may find yourself without electricity. However, since you’ll still need to get news and weather information, you’ll want to get a battery-powered AM/FM/Weatherband radios. I found a portable radio for $5 at a south Georgia Goodwill store. The radio included a flashlight and could be powered by batteries or hand-cranking a dynamo. If you aren’t comfortable thrifting, the Innovage AM/FM/WB battery free crank radio offers similar features for only $10 at my local drugstore. The important thing is to have a working portable AM/FM/WeatherBand Radio by the end of your second week of disaster kit building.
Week 4: A Flashlight and Batteries. Without electricity, you don’t have light. Without light, your family members will all go bump in the night. For indoor light, you’ll need to add flashlights in your emergency supply kit. Most people already have several flashlights around the house. While I like quality flashlights like the Mini Maglite LED, you can also get inexpensive Chinese-made flashlights if you are on a tight budget. Harbor Freight was recently giving a small LED flashlight to each customer with a coupon for free. Walmart featured similar flashlights for $3.50. The big box retailer also had hand-cranked flashlights for less than $10.
Week 5: First Aid Kit. Whether you stay or go, you’ll want to have a first aid kit available for your family. In the aftermath of a disaster, medical and ambulance services may be busy or unavailable. Since disasters can leave many things with sharp, jagged, edges, you should be prepared to provide first aid for cuts, scrapes, and other minor injuries. The Johnson & Johnson Safe Travels First Aid Kit sells for about $7.
Week 6: Lanterns and Batteries. Small battery-powered LED lanterns are available for less than $10 at big box retailers. I recently found several like the Ozark Trail Mini LED Camp Lantern for $5 at Walmart. The Mini LED Camp Lantern meets the FL1 Standard for lanterns and puts out 7.5 lumens of light that is visible for about 3.7 meters for up to 76 hours. The lantern requires 4 AA batteries and puts out light from 1 red LED, 3 white LEDs, or 6 white LEDs. I found this Mini LED Camp Lantern put out a relatively low level of light. But, the long battery life may prove help during the course of a disaster. Of course, when you find batteries on sale, stock up. You can also accumulate plenty of batteries quickly for only $5 at a time.
Week 7: $10 in Cash. In the wake of a disaster, Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) may be without power or without money. If you routinely stash a $10 bill every few weeks, you will soon accumulate a small emergency fund.
Week 8: A Grill. After a big storm or other disaster has passed, it sure would be nice to have some way to cook outside. If you look hard, you should be able to find a cheap drugstore hibachi for about $10. Walmart.com offers Coghlan’s Camp Grill for $9.98. It’s a folding grill that fits over a campfire. At Publix, I recently found inexpensive grills at end of the summer sale prices of 2 for $10.00. Disposable one-time use charcoal grills were also available at 2 for $5.00. If you have a means of cooking outside, you should be able to cook a wider variety of food.
Week 9: Canned Food. Since you’ve got some kind of grill, you can cook all sorts of things. You can throw canned peas into a pot and cook it over a grill. You can get all manner of canned vegetables for less than a dollar per can. If you spend $10 building up a stockpile of non-perishable food, you’ll be able to sustain your family for a few days during and after an emergency.
Week 10: A hygiene kit. If you ever have to evacuate in a hurry, you’ll want to have basic hygiene and health supplies readily available. You’ll want toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, extra toilet paper, feminine hygiene supplies, and other necessities in your kit and ready to go. Even if you hunker down and take shelter during a disaster, you’ll still want to have your hygiene supplies ready. In a pinch, wet wipes can be used to wash up when showers are unavailable. Remember, civilization doesn’t end until you run out of toilet paper. If you look for sales and buy carefully, $10 should go a long way towards providing basic comfort items and necessities.
In ten short weeks of following this plan, your family will have gone from woefully unready to started down the path to preparedness and you’ll barely miss your gradual $100 investment. Most importantly, you’ll have developed a prepared mindset. I would urge your to continue investing $10 per week in emergency supplies for several more months. You’ll want to continue preparing for a disaster by building your emergency cash stash, food supplies, and bottled water stockpile until your family can survive for several weeks following a major disaster. You’ll want to customize your kit for disasters you’re likely to face in your area. You’ll also want to check FEMA and Red Cross recommendations and round out your kit with supplies they suggest. Somewhere along the way, you’ll also need to get some duct tape.You can supplement your first aid kit with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide or antibiotic ointment for another couple of dollars.