Where we live in upstate, NY, we are fortunate not to have many emergencies, but we do get snow. Lots and lots of snow and ice, which can snow us in and make somewhat of an emergency. These snow storms can happen a few times each winter.
In 1991, however, we had an ice storm that halted our city for close to two weeks. Most of us had no heat or electricity and many businesses and schools were closed while we waited for our city thaw.
Memories such as those have made me take a little extra precaution now that I have a family of my own to take care of.
Today I’m talking about how I prepare our emergency supplies, along with my best tips for planning and budgeting for these extra expenses.
Our supplies can be broken into three groups:
- Food and water
- Emergency supplies (Flint, NOAA radio, flashlights, etc.)
- Medical Supplies
Please note that I am not an expert on emergency prepping. Each family will have their own needs and climate emergencies that may look differently.
I scoured emergency preparedness websites and read many articles and posts (many of them pinned on my Emergency Preparedness Pinterest board here) to learn about what I needed. FEMA is also a great resource for emergency preparedness.
Types of Emergency Preparedness
There are several approaches to being prepared for an emergency. Some people have kits or backpacks together of supplies that they can grab and go if they need to. This would be necessary if you lived in an area that was prone to flooding or hurricanes and you needed to evacuate the area.
Since we don’t live in a place where evacuation is common, Tom and I keep our supplies on these shelving units that he built in our storage room. They were simple and cheap to make, and they keep our emergency supplies off the floor and in one place.
This big shelving unit on the longer wall holds our flashlights, candles, and the other emergency supplies bedsides food. FEMA’s supply list has a great printable to start building your supply with.
Some things we store in the bins on the big shelving unit are: flashlights, extra candles, batteries, oil lamps, flint to make a fire, and an NOAA emergency weather radio.
This smaller shelving unit holds the food and water. Our emergency medical supplies box is on the floor under it. Eventually, I’d like to fill backpacks and keep them in this room as well in case we need to leave suddenly, but this is a good start.
You can read all about how to put together an emergency medical supplies box from one of my favorite bloggers, A Bowlful of Lemons. I followed Toni’s posts to put together our box after I gathered our emergency food and water supplies.
Building an Emergency Supply on a Budget
If you’re just starting to build your supplies, it can be a pricey investment to get started. Here are my best tips for saving money and pacing your purchases.
- Go to Costco or another whole food store and see what they have in bulk. Usually you can get large canned goods and huge bags of grains for little money. I buy the enormous cans of potatoes, vegetables, and peaches for under $5 each.
- If you’re on a tight budget, buy things a little at a time at each grocery shopping trip. When I’m stocking up on water, I add a gallon or two each week for a month to stock up.
- Try challenging yourself to eat out of your pantry and freezer one week, and then use your grocery money to purchase your supplies.
- Check out thrift stores for supplies like oil lamps, flashlights, and candles. Two of my oil lamps were found while I was out thrifting at Goodwill. You can read more about that here.
Here are some staples I keep that are self-stable:
- Canned fruit and vegetables (peaches, pears, green beans, corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots) – I buy the huge cans from Costco for a few dollars and they store perfectly for a long time.
- 5lb. bag of rice
- Assorted family packs of pastas and sauces
- Granola bars
- Ramen noodles
- Pop tarts
- Apple sauce
- Trail mix
- Dried fruit
- Beef jerky/pepperoni
- Dried fruit – apricots, raisins, blueberries
- Canned tuna, chicken, salmon
- Canned soups and chili
- Dried beans
- Peanut butter
- Sugar, salt and pepper
- Water (1 gallon/person/day for 3 days is the goal)
- Hot chocolate
- Coffee (and filters) – Trader Joe’s has pre-packaged instant coffee with cream and sugar already added.
- Powdered milk
- Cartons of juice boxes
In the event of a potential emergency that I know is coming like a snow storm, I will make a run to the store for fresh foods that store for a longer time like:
Every year in the fall, I write in my planner a reminder to refresh our emergency supplies and check the expiration dates.
Many of the foods keep for 2-3 years, especially the canned goods. Some of the crackers and dried fruit last only a year, though. Depending on what the item is, I will bring it upstairs to eat before it expires, donate it to the local food cupboard, or toss it.
The water only lasts a year in the plastic containers. Anticipating this, I try to use the gallons when we have parties and make large pitchers of drinks. That way they are replaced frequently.
We do sometimes use our emergency supplies, especially the cereal and oatmeal, because they are staples. I just try to make it a point to jot down whatever I take from the shelves and replace the next time I go shopping.
As we bunker down in New York for a cold winter, being reasonably prepared to take care of my family in an emergency give me a sense of peace at night. I hope that sharing this will inspire you to begin this process as well, and have that same sense of peace.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or any tips for building your emergency supplies, too!
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