Basic Emergency Preparedness on a Budget

Are you ready in case of emergency? Achieve emergency preparedness on a budget with these affordable prep steps.

by Eric Nirschel
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According to FEMA, only about 10% of Americans are truly ready for a major emergency. Though more than half of all Americans have made some kind of plans for a disaster, most have stopped short of stocking up on things they may need in a crisis.

While a lot of people are under the impression that “it can’t happen to me,” many others have fallen into the money trap, convinced that they have to drop a small fortune on name brand supplies to be ready. But these steps can help you gather the essentials you should have in hand, even on a small budget.

Make Sure You Have These Inexpensive Food Essentials

A major part of disaster relief efforts are making sure people are fed. After Hurricane Irene hit, towns as far north as Vermont were cut off from supply trucks for a week or more as roads and bridges were washed out. By having food on hand, you not only ensure you have something to eat in an emergency, but also that those around you can eat as well (assuming you’re feeling generous).

Every person with their own food is one less person that relief workers need to feed! Here are a few simple steps you can take to get ahead of the curve without causing a disaster of your own.


Leon Pantenburg of says that their hardtack recipe is among their most popular pages and for good reason. The main ingredient is flour. Not only is flour a key component in a wide variety of edible foods, but also it can be consumed all on its own in the form of hardtack. Hardtack is a tough, crunchy flour biscuit that if stored properly, keeps nearly forever.

In fact, the National Civil War Museum in Pennsylvania actually has hardtack in storage that’s still good today.

The basic recipe is simple. It includes two cups flour, one cup of water, and five or six pinches of salt. Spread out the dough about an inch thick, poke some holes in it with a fork, and bake at 375 degrees for a half of an hour on each side. Each batch will cost you literally pennies, and can easily replace crackers bought from the grocery store.

Hardtack is a long lasting, hearty, versatile food. As an added bonus, you can even crush the biscuits back down and use them just like you would normal flour to make other dishes, making hardtack is a great way to keep your flour safe from those pesky flour beetles.

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Another solid staple is rice. Everyone knows what to do with rice. First, you boil some water. Then you toss the rice in. Finally, you wait for it to burn on the bottom because you forgot about it while watching TV.

Most people don’t realize that rice can be made without any heat at all (just soak the rice until soft). It can keep for a decade or longer if stored properly. Properly, most would assume, means in a vacuum-sealed, food grade storage container, but in reality, storing rice for the long haul is a lot more simple and less expensive than going to all the trouble of vacuum pouches and ten-gallon drums. All you need is a soda bottle.

Empty two liter soda bottles are already made from food grade plastic and feature an airtight seal when the cap is properly closed. The durable plastic won’t puncture easily, which makes it ideal for storage if you’ve had trouble with mice sneaking in and chewing through bags for a late night snack. As an added bonus, the bottles stack easily, which makes tucking them away somewhere a snap.

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Vinegar and This Non-Food Item

The last two things every emergency kit should include are plain white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.

In the aftermath of a serious flood, tornado, or earthquake, one may find that utilities will take some time to get running again. Without running water for sanitation, preparing food can bring with it a small measure of dread. With these two inexpensive liquids, however, you can clean a countertop far better than with an expensive detergent.

According to Susan Sumner, a food scientist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, a spray of each will wipe out nearly all salmonella, shigella, or E.coli bacteria on even heavily contaminated food surfaces. In truth, the combination is so cheap that it’s probably better to switch to it on a daily basis. Just be sure not to mix the two together, as the resulting mixture actually kills fewer germs.

There’s no way to be 100% ready for an emergency, but don’t be fooled that spending more makes you more ready. Thinking smart will!

Reviewed May 2024

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