Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Building 72-Hour Kits

We regularly hear tragic stories of people who are affected by hurricanes, floods, fires, tsuamis, and the list goes on.  A disaster can happen to anyone at any time, and it’s important to be prepared as much as possible. How would your family cope immediately following a disaster, especially when you won’t be able to rely on anyone to help out for days?
The last couple of years, I’ve been compiling my family’s 72-hour kits (yes, it’s taken me a few years to do this). I’ve picked up back packs for each family member, added the essentials of food, water, shelter, warmth, and light. And I’ve placed them where we can quickly grab them and go.
Below is a list of what I’ve compiled in my 72 hour kit, as well as some tips on how to do it on a budget. There are some items that are hard to find on sale. If that’s the case, then I suggest setting aside a few dollars a month to purchase these items at a later date.
First, head to a thrift store to pick up backpacks for a couple of dollars. Then begin adding the items below into the backpacks.
This should be a 3-day supply for each person. Include foods from your stockpile that you already have or that you can pick up inexpensively. Ideas include the following: 

  • Protein: Canned items such as tuna, chicken, beans, soups, Vienna sausages, turkey, and beef (don’t forget to throw in a can opener).  Also consider tuna pouches. They are light-weight and have a long shelf life. 
  • Granola bars, energy bars
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit, fruit leather
  • Crackers
  • Cookies, candy, gum
  • Pudding cups
  • Peanut butter
  • Raisins
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Juice boxes

It’s recommended to have 1 gallon of water per person per day. Since that would be too heavy to carry, at least add as much as you could carry. Something is better than nothing. 

  • Clothing – Make sure to have a complete change of clothes for each family member. This includes short and long sleeved shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear, etc.  Head to a thrift store to pick up second-hand clothes inexpensively that way you don’t have to add new clothes to the kits. And if you purchase the clothes 1 or 2 sizes larger than what the kids wear now, then they can grow into them and you don’t have to pick up more clothes for a few years.
  • Emergency blanket, Hand warmers – Check for clearances on these in the hunting supplies section of stores.
  • Rain poncho


  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries – Watch for sales and coupons to pick up batteries inexpensively or for free. 
  • Glow-sticks – Head to the dollar store to pick these up. 
  • Matches
  • Lighters
  • Candles

Personal Hygiene 

  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, deodorant, shampoo, lip balm, feminine hygiene products – You can grab these items for free by watching sales and using coupons. And a lot of times you can get free deodorant and shampoo samples online from companies.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Soap – The soap samples that you pick up from hotels are perfect to throw into the kit.
  • Toilet paper – With sales and coupons, you should be able to pick this up inexpensively. Here’s an additional tip: to make more room for other items, take the cardboard tube out of the toilet paper and squish the roll flat in a Ziploc bag


  • First aid kits 
  • Small radio with extra batteries
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for younger children
  • Personal Documents: copies of birth/marriage certificates, wills, passports, vaccination papers, credit card, license, pre-paid phone cards, etc.
  • Cash- This is one item I slowly started to add to each month. If you think about it, in the event of a power outage, bank ATMs will not work, and debit and credit cards will not work at grocery stores or gas stations.

Remember that certain items will need to be rotated each year. So mark a date on your calendar to do this. These are just some of the basics that should go into a 72 hour kit. And with many of these items, if you watch for sales and use coupons, you’ll be able to pick them up for a better deal and not pay full price for them. After you get these basics together, because something is better than nothing, then you can focus on adding other items to your 72 hour kits that you feel you will need. What are some other items you’ve added to your 72 hour kits?

Another article you might be interested in reading:
Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Water Storage

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