How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

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? That’s why it’s important to have an emergency kit ready to go.

The last couple of years, I’ve been compiling my family’s 72-hour kits. I’ve picked up backpacks for each family member, added the essentials of food, water, shelter, warmth, light, and other items, 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, so I suggest setting aside a few dollars a month to purchase these items at a later date. And be sure to check out my ABC4 TV appearance about Building a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget.

First, head to a thrift store to pick up backpacks for a couple of dollars, or if you have a school backpack that is no longer being used, then use it for a 72-hour kit. Begin adding the items below into the backpacks.

This emergency food 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. The meals should be easy and simple such as just adding water, and they should be food items that you would eat. Be sure to include some protein items too. Below is a breakdown of what I picked up and the price points. For some of the products you might be able to find it for a better price, and some of the products could be divided into multiple 72-hour kits.

  • Starkist Tuna Pouch (On sale for $1, used $0.50/1 coupon = $0.50)
  • Skippy Peanut Butter (On sale for $0.99)
  • Vienna sausages ($0.43)
  • Slim Jim Jerky ($2.98 for 28 sticks = $0.10 per stick)
  • Lipton Cup of Soup ($1.20 for 2 pack = $0.60 per pack)
  • Instant Lunch Cup of Soup ($0.36)
  • Top Ramen (On sale for $0.13)
  • Chicken and Rice  ($0.84)
  • Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, 10 pack (On sale for $1.67 = $0.16 per bar)
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal, 10 packets (On sale for $1.67 = $0.16 per packet)
  • Trail Mix ($1.00 at the Dollar Store)
  • Energy bars (watch for sales and use coupons; received the one above for free from company)
  • Ocean Spray Dried Fruit ($1.88, used $1 off coupon = $0.88)
  • Dole Fruit Cups ($2.00 for 4 pack, used $1.00/2 coupon = $0.38 each cup)
  • Mott’s Applesauce ($1.98 for 6 pack, used $0.50/1 coupon = $0.24 each cup)
  • Pepperidge Farm Gold Fish (On sale for $0.75)
  • Raisins, 10 pack ($1.48 = $0.14 per box)
  • Graham Crackers, 8 pack ($2.50 = $0.31 per pack)
  • Candy (Place hard candies from Halloween in a ziplock bag = Free)
  • Gum ($0.99, used $1 off coupon = Free)
  • Pudding Cups, 4 pack ($0.50 = $0.13 per cup)
  • Minute Maid Juice boxes, 10 pack ($2.98, used $1 off coupon = $0.19 per box)

It’s recommended to have one gallon of water per person per day. Since that would be too heavy to carry, add at least 3-4 bottles of water to your 72-hour kit. Something is better than nothing. For our family, we also have jugs filled with water close to our 72-hour kit, so we can grab them and put them in the car if we need to leave quickly.

If you want tips on how to store water, read this Emergency Preparedness on a Budget: Water Storage post.


  • 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 brand new clothes to the kits. And if you purchase the clothes 1 or 2 sizes larger than what your kids wear now, then they can grow into them and you don’t have to pick up more clothes for a few years.

Check for clearances on the items below in the hunting and camping section of stores:

  • Emergency blanket ($0.99 at General Army Navy Outdoor Store)
  • Hand warmers, 2 pack ($0.64 at Walmart = $0.32 per pack)
  • Rain poncho ($0.88 at Walmart)


  • LED Flashlight ($1.00 at Harbor Freight)
  • Extra batteries (Watch for sales and coupons to pick up batteries inexpensively or for free)
  • Glow Sticks, 2 pack ($1.00 at Dollar Store)
  • Matches, 10 pack ($1.00 at Dollar Store = $0.10 each box)
  • Candles ($1.00 at Dollar Store)


  • Reach Toothbrush ($1.00 at Dollar Store, used $0.75 coupon = $0.25)
  • Toothpaste (Free sample from company)
  • Reach Floss ($0.97 at Walmart, used $1.00 off coupon = Free)
  • Deodorant (Free sample from company)
  • Shampoo and conditioner (Free sample from company; could get free travel sizes from hotels)
  • Lip Balm (On sale for $2, used $2 off coupon = Free)
  • Feminine hygiene products (On sale for $2, used $2 off coupon = Free)
  • Purell Hand Sanitizer ($1.00 at Dollar Store, used $1 off coupon = Free)
  • Soap Bar (Free from a hotel)
  • Toilet paper ($0.21 each roll) With sales and coupons, you should be able to pick this up inexpensively. 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


  • Bandages, 30 pack ($0.88)
  • Antibiotic Cream ($0.88)
  • Gauze ($1.47)
  • Tape ($0.96)


  • Small radio with extra batteries (Save up for this item to have it in your 72-hour kit)
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for younger children (Use what you have around the house.)
  • Personal Documents (Make copies of birth/marriage certificates, wills, passports, vaccination papers, credit card, license, pre-paid phone cards, etc.)
  • Cash (Small bills and change. 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.)
  • Medication (Don’t forget to add medications in if you need them)

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 and your family will need. What are other items you’ve added to your 72-hour kits?

How to Build a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget

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  1. Great tips but have you thought of getting a solar charger for mobile phone and a windup radio so you don’t need batteries? Batteries do tend to breakdown after a while (plus they get used up quickly if you have the radio for example on all the time to hear alerts and information) and can damage the inside of torches etc if left in them so always remove batteries from items.

    • A solar charger for a mobile phone and a windup radio would be a great addition to a 72-hour kit. I chose to place batteries in the 72-hour kit because it’s less expensive than the other options and most people have them in the house and can put them in their kits right now. Once a person has a basic 72-hour kit in place, then they can save up for and continue to add items to it like the charger and radio. Thanks for your tips!

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  1. […] You can see the TV segment How to Compile a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget by going to the ABC4 website or by clicking on the picture below. And for those of you who want more details, because I felt like the segment was so fast, and I didn’t have a chance to tell you everything I wanted, head over to my Building a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget post. […]

  2. […] These Starkist Tuna pouches are perfect to place in your 72-hour kits. Head over here to watch my TV segment on ABC4 about how to compile a 72-hour kit on a budget, and head over here to see specifics and a breakdown of how to compile a 72-hour kit on a budget. […]

  3. […] each person in your family. Last year, I had the opportunity to be on ABC Channel 4 to talk about Building a 72-Hour Kit on a Budget. This is a great way to start 72-hour kits when you don’t have a lot of money to spend. You […]

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