What should you use to build a cheap emergency survival kit? First, prepare an emergency budget! In the case you are struck by something and can’t pay to fix it, have an emergency budget planned out that will cut out as many expenses as necessary, and also have extra income options. For example, renting out an extra room in your house, picking up a part time job, etc.
Considerations when building a budget survival kit
- Assume the water and gas are going to go out as well. They most likely won’t, but if they do and you haven’t planned for it you’ll be sorry.
- Clean the tub and fill it up. This is your cooking and toilet flushing water. Drink it only in an emergency. Also good for wetting clothing to stay cool.
- Fill the freezer up with gallons of water. Fill up your kitchen too. 1 per person per day AT LEAST. What do you need for a week? Get twice that amount.
- Get a camp stove, if you can afford it.
- Get a cooler and and ice. Keeping a small space chilly is easier than keeping your whole fridge chilly. Your fridge and freezer WILL NOT stay chilly. Unless you have a chest freezer outside in 30 degree weather, give up on your freezer.
- Figure out where ice can be bought post-storm – if the army will be setting up in your neighborhood, if your corner store has a generator, etc.
- Clean out the freezer and get ready to cook all your frozen meat NOW. With no power, even full of ice blocks, a normal freezer will only keep your food cold for 2 days. Say goodbye to perishable goods you can’t fit in your cooler, and say goodbye to those when the ice runs out.
- On this tip, buy charcoal or kerosene for your grill. The first day without power is Grill All The Meat day! Do it on your front stoop and the whole neighborhood will bring their perishables too. It’s a meat spoilage block party!
- Hurricane food doesn’t have to suck. Hard cured meats and many cheeses don’t require refrigeration. Produce will go bad in the heat – canned is better here. Smoked oysters and sardines are my favorite hurricane food. Cooked pasta and rice can live in your cooler for a few days and be mixed with canned stuff and pantry items for different cold salads. Almost all our nonperishables were on 10 for $10 sales or cheaper. What do you think you need for a week? Get twice that amount.
- Buy food items with minimal waste/packaging. It took almost 2 weeks after Isaac for trash pickup to resume and my block STANK.
- Get a solar charger or crank charger for your phone, or a car charger if you’ve got a car.
- Get gas. All the stations will run out!
- Get a weather radio. This will be your only contact with the world outside your neighborhood when you realize that your phone you planned so carefully to charge has no signal.
- Buy or borrow some good books. Having no power in a city with no working infrastructure for a week is BORING, besides being uncomfortable. Find that deck of cards or scrabble set. Reconnect with loved ones by candlelight (watch out for the mosquitos.)
- Don’t forget bug spray, especially for children and babies!
Other Considerations when Preparing for an Emergency on a Budget
- Shelter – Would your home or a meet up point be of sound structure after a hurricane, tsunami, forest fire or earthquake? Having tents on hand ($20 at some stores or off season) are good if your home is a danger or if you have to travel. Even a simple $12-$20 tarp will do in a hard core emergency (but you’ll most likely need fire depending).
The trick if your home is still livable and its cold outside is to wear layers (hats and scarfs included), hole up in one room and shut all the doors in the rest of the house. Cover up drafts in doors with a towel.
The cheapo insulation trick for windows is a spray bottle a few rolls of bubble wrap. Get the glass wet and put up the wrap. If you have crappy windows, you don’t have to wait for an emergency to do this.
- Heat/Fire – If the lights go out how will you keep yourself warm if need be or cook food or worst case scenario boil water?
Most canned food is already cooked in the can when it’s processed it so you don’t need to heat it up.
Noodles, rice and other grains (oatmeal) do not need to be cooked they can be soaked in liquid for a few hours.
So if you can stand to eat cold food, do it often so as not to waste limited resources.
Having an old tea/water kettle around is going to save you a lot of trouble in an emergency.
Look on Craigslist in Sporting Goods for people selling their camping gear off season. A camp stove new or used can cost anywhere from $20-$40. Small Coleman propane canisters are $3-$5 and last forever. If you really want to be prepped get a $39, 3 gallon propane tank. You can get the tanks at most gas stations.
Other than that at least have a charcoal grill or receptacle that you can burn books, phone books and other types of fuel in.
Have waterproof matches in an emergency kit just in case.
- Water – Recycle and fill up water jugs or 2 liter soda bottles. You can also buy a 6 to 8 gallon BPA free water container in the camping section at most big box stores for between $10-$20. This can be invaluable if you have to leave and hopefully have access to your car. In an ideal situation each family member should have 2 liters of water a day.
The old saying goes “Never drink from the bowl!” meaning the toilet bowl. But you can drink, cook and wash up with water from the upper toilet tank.
- Food – A guideline is that each family member should have at least 10 cans each of meat/fish, veggie and fruit.
Next time you go grocery shopping set a budget of an extra $5 to $10 and hit up the bargain bins. Look for boxed food on sale or 10 for $10 (or less) in the canned food isle.
Spend an extra 10 minutes at the store and compare prices for sale items. An example is, in my area, the basic price for Progresso soup is around $2.50 a can. My neighborhood Target recently upgraded their store with a grocery section and Progresso is $1.10!
So keep an eye out for bargains on non perishables. There doesn’t have to be an emergency to stock up on food. If you or a family member loses their job or has a medical emergency, or money gets tight you’ll have food on hand and not have to worry.