My 72-Hour Kit on a Budget (With Printable Shopping List!)

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I’m probably not alone in my heartache for all of those that have been affected recently by hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes (and other crises) around the world. These events are always sobering, but for some reason social media made them seem so much more REAL to me this time! I think when we watch the news it’s easier to think “how horrible,” but detach ourselves from the situation. When we see an individual person’s take on the events, it makes it so much more personal.

Watching (via Instagram) a few moms like me deal with these situations really drove home the need for a little bit of emergency prep on my part. I’m embarrassed to admit that we had NOTHING in the way of disaster supplies. If we had to quickly leave our house, I would be a wreck (think how long it takes to get ready to go anywhere overnight when you have little kids!). And even if we didn’t have to leave our house, but were just stuck at home for a few days without power or heat or a way to get to the store to buy clean water, I’d hate to look at my cold, thirsty kids and try to explain why I hadn’t taken the time to work on this beforehand.

I hope this post doesn’t seem like fear mongering or a guilt trip. That isn’t my intention at ALL. I just always found things like this stressful and overwhelming, but I decided to just dig in and get a few things together, and I feel so much better now that it’s done. I’m a planner, so having a plan and some basics in place makes me feel way more confident! Here are a few things I realized as I tried to get a 72-hour kit together:

  • Start with the basics: We are on a tight budget. We don’t have $500 right now to drop on emergency gear and fancy emergency food and stoves and radios and tents and who knows what else. But something’s better than nothing! I set a budget for my kit ($100), and decided I’d add to it as we can afford to. I’d love to get a big lantern for light, but for now some candles and a little flashlight we already had on hand will have to work 🙂
  •  The possibilities are endless: There isn’t one “set” list of what you should have on hand for an emergency. That was another reason I avoided this for so long: I’d look at different lists and freak out because there were so many different suggestions and ideas! Don’t let that overwhelm you, just do a little research and then dive in. Again, something is better than nothing! You can always fine-tune things later. 
  • Consider your environment: There are also different scenarios based on where you live, and what kind of natural disasters you could be facing. We live in Utah, so earthquakes and wildfires are probably our biggest threats, or potentially being snowed in. It’s also really cold in the winter, so we need to think through ways to keep warm if the gas is turned off. I based a few of the things I bought on those possibilities. Obviously you can’t plan for every situation, but you don’t want to waste money and space on stuff you don’t really need. 
  • If we are prepared, we can reach out and help people around us! Just another motivator for ya 😉

I’m NOT an expert at this at all (even though I actually have to admit I kind of enjoyed learning more about emergency prep! It’s my inner Alaskan wilderness woman coming out…watch for me on the next season of Doomsday Preppers 😉 but here are some resources I found useful:

  • This site is how I got the idea to just break my kit into different categories.
  • This site has good suggestions for kids’ emergency preparedness stuff.
  • This is my state’s preparedness site. It has a good basic checklist.
  • This family’s experiences in the earthquake in Japan in 2011 were totally riveting to me. I probably spent an hour on their blog. She just gives a really realistic picture of some considerations to take in an emergency, even if your family is safe and isn’t affected too harshly. 

So without further ado, here’s what I bought! I bought almost everything at Walmart and Dollar Tree, with a few things from Amazon, which I’ve included links to below. I went a little over my budget, and my grand total was $117.  These are just ideas and what worked for us, like I said above, you’d want to adjust for what your family uses and would need. I’ll include the printable up here, and then scroll down if you’re interested in pictures and more detailed ramblings 🙂

Here is the printable version!

First Aid

For first aid we kept it pretty simple. We went with this little kit from Amazon because it had good ratings and a ton of stuff for how cheap it is! Making our own kit would cost more than just buying this one. I would have included ibuprofen as well but there is some in this kit. We also got children’s acetaminophen,  generic Pepto-Bismol (stomach issues are super common in emergencies because of a lack of clean water), and sunscreen. Add any prescription meds your family needs.

Hygiene

Next I did basic hygiene. I was trying to go cheap and simple so I just got big bottles of body wash and shampoo/conditioner at the dollar store. I also figured Dave and I could share a deodorant for 72 hours. I included rubber-bands and a brush because it drives me totally nuts to have my hair in my face, especially if it’s greasy and gross like it probably would be in an emergency. After this picture was taken I added contact solution for Dave, as well, so add that if you have contact wearers (or a spare pair of glasses)!

Warmth/Safety

I didn’t know how to categorize this stuff so this is kind of “miscellaneous safety supplies.” Again, this is where considering your individual environment and family come into play. I grabbed a few of these emergency blankets on Amazon (Ella ripped open one of the bags so that’s why it’s in a ziploc haha), and the dust masks are from the dollar store (these would come in handy with all of the dust and debris after an earthquake). $1 for 10 masks isn’t half bad! The whistle was from Walmart but here’s a similar one that’s cheaper, again, I was thinking earthquake since that’s a major risk where we live. And the Sharpie is the result of my own recurring nightmare I have of losing my kids in a chaotic situation. If we had to leave our house I would write their names and my name and phone number and address on their arms. This idea was a figment of my own worst-case-scenario daydreams, you’re welcome!

I also added some cash (one thing I hadn’t thought about but learned in my research is that you can’t buy anything with a credit card when the power is out, which, duh, I hand’t thought of!), and a list of our friends and families’ phone numbers, including some out of state, so even if our phones were dead and we didn’t have access to our phone contacts (because….sadly we have almost no numbers memorized anymore!),  we could get in touch and let them know we are safe. 

Sanitation

I read that keeping things clean is a huge concern when the water is turned off, and sickness can spread quickly so sanitation is super important! This was another area that was super intimidating for me because I saw all of these emergency toilets and who knows what that seemed way over my head. I read that in an emergency when the water is shut off, you can wrap your toilet bowl in a garbage bag, secure with some duck tape, and voila–a virtual potty palace! Or if things get real you can use said garbage bags with a bucket. Sorry, sorry, just the unpleasant issues that need to be addressed. We also added diapers and wipes because we will probably be needing those for the next 139292 years, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer (Dollar Tree, 3/$1) and Clorox wipes to help things stay as clean as possible.

Light

This was one area that I wish our budget was a little bigger right now. This combo light/emergency radio/cell phone power bank looks insanely cool and useful, or here’s a cheaper hand-crank flashlight that has good reviews. For now I used a flashlight we had on hand (I need to grab extra batteries though) and some dollar store candles and waterproof matches from Walmart. I read a blog post (one of the sites I listed above) that said candles were way better for sustained light than flashlights. Kids love messing around with flashlights and the batteries die quickly so they’re only really useful for looking around outside or if you need concentrated light. Candles on a plate, on a high shelf of a bookcase reflect off the ceiling and light up a room if you are sitting in the dark for a while.

Food/Water

What you decide to include for food is so totally open-ended that you could fall down a rabbit hole looking for ideas on the internet (trust me!). I decided to go with a mix of ready-made and some prep necessary foods. The main this is choose things you and your kids will actually eat. I did some shells and cheese, applesauce pouches, and oatmeal as well as more calorie-dense options because my kids will for sure eat those without a fuss. The tuna, peanut butter, and re-fried beans are all easy and filling and can be scooped up with those crackers or just a plastic spoon. I added some Gushers because those would be a nice treat for the kids if they’re scared/stressed (funny story, all I remember from our 72-hour kit growing up was the “treat”–Jolly Ranchers. I used to sneak out to the garage and get into our kit and eat all of the watermelon ones when I was like 11. I wonder if my mom ever noticed). If you wanted to keep things real simple, you could buy freeze-dried meals, but you’d have to consider how much water you need to prep them and include that!

For water I bought water bottles, but also included a pot and stove (see below) as a way to prepare more drinking/cooking water if need be. You can also buy water purification tablets online, I was just trying to streamline and figured a stove could be used to purify water and to cook. For water you need 1 gallon/person/day, which works out to be about 8 of the standard sized 16-oz water bottles per person, per day.

Food Prep

This will depend on the food you bought. I got the can opener at Dollar Tree (and it works! I wouldn’t want to use it every day but it’s fine for a few cans), the pot for $.75 at a thrift store, and the little emergency stove on Amazon. I just grabbed disposable dishes at the dollar store too.

Clothing

I realized I didn’t get a pic of our clothes, but it was pretty basic: I figured I’d go with layers, and err on the side of warm, and if we get really hot and desperate we can cut off our pants and make some awesome sweat-shorts haha. Dave and I just threw in old stuff we wouldn’t miss, I put hand-me-downs of Ella’s in for Penny, and for Ella I grabbed her some stuff from the Thrift store that was in good shape but not necessarily super cute. I did a t-shirt, sweat pants, and a hoodie for all of us, as well as underwear and socks. I’d love to also have hats and gloves for everyone later. Ella is the only one I’ll really update for, as whatever she grows out of I’ll just pass on to P. 

Random Notes:

One thing that was confusing to me was how to store everything. I know a lot of people do backpacks, but honestly my kids are too little to really be responsible for their own stuff anyway, and big Rubbermaid storage bins just seemed easier to sort through and update food, clothes, and medicine as needed. Bins are also easier to store stacked on top of one another, and more water/kid-proof. To assuage my worry about what to do if we did need to carry stuff on our backs, I stuck a few old backpacks we had laying around in the top of one of the bins 🙂

I wrote down expiration dates of all of the food and medicine, and literally just taped my ugly hand-written notes on the outside of the bin, so I can glance at it and update things as necessary. I also made a short list of things I’d possibly want to grab before we left, but didn’t have room/money to buy extras of, and I stuck that to the outside. My list was tent/sleeping bags depending on scenario, coats, hats, boots, and driver’s licenses. Basically shelter and cold-weather clothes, and ID. 

Lots of 72-hour kit lists encourage copies of important documents like birth certificates and passports. Honestly I just didn’t get to that, but something to consider adding! I plan to update our kit every six months as needed, and as we have new babies and need to add clothes or formula, etc. 

If you’ve stuck through this whole thing you’re a champ, and I hope this helps you sort through what you want to include or add to your emergency kits. Every family’s preferences and environment is so different, but I’d love to hear things that you’ve found handy in an emergency, or your ideas in the comments!