Frugal Prepping: 30 Survival Items You Can Get at the Dollar Store

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By Tess Pennington

This article first appeared in 

Preparing for disasters can be costly if you have to purchase everything at once. Many preparedness enthusiasts prefer the less stressful route in prepping a little at a time. That said, our monthly budgets sometimes do not allow for expensive, top of the line purchases. That’s when you have to get creative.

When my family rode out the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008, we were off the grid for two weeks and used many emergency items purchased from the Dollar Store. At the time, we were paying off lofty debts and didn’t have the money to buy brand name items. Many of the items I purchased, I outlined in the first week of 52-Weeks to Preparedness, but there are many more Dollar Store finds that I wanted to list today.

Check out this checklist for suggested items to store for short-term emergencies

Below, are thirty prepper-related items you could easily find at your local Dollar Store or Dollar Tree. The listed items are supplies for one person, so if you have other family members to consider, multiply some of the supplies by the amount of family members. This calculator could serve as a starting point for items you may want to keep an eye out for.

      1. Paper plates and plastic utensils
      2. Zip-loc storage bags
      3. Water (1 gallon per day)
      4. Salt and pepper
      5. Spices and condiments
      6. Cereal
      7. 2 jars of peanut butter
      8. 3 cans of juice per family member
      9. 7 cans per family member of canned vegetables and fruit
      10. 7 boxed dinners (macaroni and cheese, hamburger helper, etc.)
      11. 7 cans of meat per family member (tuna, salmon, chicken, Spam, etc.)
      12. 7 cans of soup or stew for each family member
      13. 3 non-perishable items such as saltine crackers, graham crackers, oatmeal, granola bars, pasta, etc.
      14. Hand operated can opener
      15. Multi-vitamins
      16. Flash lights
      17. Batteries
      18. Weather proof tape
      19. Trash bags
      20. Soap
      21. Cleaning sponges
      22. Bleach
      23. Toothpaste/toothbrush
      24. Crisco (can use as makeshift emergency candles, fire starters, etc.)
      25. First aid items such as antibiotic ointment, band-aids, gauze, elastic bandages, tylenol
      26. Toilet paper and paper towels
      27. Feminine needs
      28. Cigarette lighters and/or matches
      29. Candles
      30. Canning jars

In addition to prepper supplies, discount stores also have storage bins and canvas totes you could purchase for additional organizing needs. As well, if you are a bargain hunter, check out weekly ads in newspapers. Sometimes there are some great deals at the Dollar Store that you could utilize. Here are some other tips to consider when shopping at discount stores:

  • Expiration dates – It’s best to find items that have expiration dates that are 1-2 years away from expiring, unless that item is used frequently in the home, and can be rotated frequently
  • Items on sale – Go for the deals.  Larger sized canned goods generally have better deals.
  • The serving amount in the food
  • Vitamin content in the food

As well, don’t forget to include these items in your supplies:

  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Multipurpose tool
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance cards, immunization records, etc.
  • Extra cash
  • Map(s) of the area
  • Extra set of car keys and house keys

The purpose of this article is to show you that you don’t have to break the bank to prepare for disasters. These frugal shopping tips, checklists and food calculators can help you pay less than $50 for a week’s worth of prepper supplies.

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

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