Disaster On A Dollar: The Dollar Store Emergency Kit Challenge!

Red Crossers here at home and around the nation have been responding to violent flooding, fires, and other natural disasters all Summer long. In our Central California Region alone, we’ve responded to nearly a dozen wildfires in the last three weeks.

If you live in the heart of a major city, you may never experience a wildfire evacuation. But you may not realize that your local Red Cross responds to hundreds of home fires every year. And with with thousands of acres burned due to wildfires, flash floods and landslides are still a real threat to many homes this winter. It’s important for every family, no matter where you live, to have an emergency kit ready to go.

But emergency kits can be expensive, sometimes costing hundreds of dollars. That’s why I challenged myself to put together a basic emergency kit on a budget of just $30. It’s something I like to call… Disaster on a Dollar!

And where would I go to find all the best supplies for my budget kit? Why, the dollar store, of course!


You’d be surprised what kind of great stuff you can find at the dollar store! Our first stop was the party aisle. Yes, you read that right! Glow sticks aren’t just for dance parties anymore. We grabbed some to use for emergency lighting when the power goes out. We also picked up a set of plastic silverware for eating our emergency food supply.

Next stop was the hardware aisle. This is the emergency kit JACKPOT! We managed to find flashlights, lighters, plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors, and more. I’m sure the cashier thought she was in an episode of Dexter.

Next up, hygiene. Make sure your kit has all the basics: soap, toothbrush, first aid supplies, and other toiletries. Again, the dollar store met almost all of our needs!

This is the face of a Red Cross spouse who gets drug on these crazy projects! Ben said we should get some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tissues. I agreed. Cowabunga, dude!
This is the face of a Red Cross spouse who gets dragged along on preparedness adventures. Ben said we should get some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tissues. I agreed. Cowabunga, dude!

Next we had to look at some special considerations. If you have pets, small children, or specific medical needs, make sure you include supplies for those as well. We have a dog and two cats, so we grabbed some supplies for them, like an extra leash and food.

We made a few final stops in the grocery section to pick up some food and water. Then it was time to check out. We had a pretty good haul! It was the moment of truth – did we stay under our budget?

Well, almost. At $31.17, we barely went over our $30 budget. But for that price, we were able to assemble a pretty good kit with all the basics! Here’s what we collected:

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FOOD – water, noodle cups, peanut butter, tuna, and plastic silverware
HYGIENE – 3 in 1 shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, band-aids, tissue, sand sanitizer, toilet paper, and ibuprofen
SPECIAL NEEDS – Cat food, extra leash, rawhide, and baby bottle
UTILITY – Flashlight, box cutter, multi-tool, duct tape, batter operated candles, lighter, plastic sheeting, scissors, glow sticks, and gloves


You don’t have to purchase these items all at once. Try picking up just one extra item every time you go to the store and in just a few weeks, you could have everything you need for a disaster. So don’t let the expense of a fancy emergency kit scare you away from being prepared for an emergency.

Click here for more ideas on putting together your own emergency kit.

Jessica Piffero
Regional Director of Communications

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