Update from Editor: Tricia wrote this article long before we realized how serious the COVID-19 pandemic would be. Unfortunately, many of the items on this list are sold out around the country. This is why you want to prepare BEFORE a disaster strikes. This is still good information, though, and you can still find many of these items online. (I don’t recommend going to stores anymore often than absolutely necessary.) – Alan
The photos show up in the media just before or just after every sort of disaster. We see images of people lining up to buy emergency supplies. We also see “sold out” signs and rows of empty supermarket shelves.
Clearly, the time to stock up on these items is not when you need them, but well before you need them. If you are embracing a preparedness lifestyle, you already know you need to plan ahead to protect your family. You certainly don’t want to be one of those people wasting time and precious resources trying to find survival items at the last minute.
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Whether it’s a natural disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake, or a human-made emergency such as an act of war, most essential items will disappear quickly from store shelves. (In many crisis situations, stores may not even be open to serve the public.) As you build your emergency pantry, here are 50 items to consider stocking up on now – before it is too late.
1. Aluminum Foil – Aluminum foil is an often-overlooked disaster supply item that is useful for all types of cooking and food storage needs. It also has many survival uses.
2. Animal Food – Don’t forget your pets and your livestock when it comes to stockpiling food. They will need water too.
3. Antibacterial Soap and Wipes – These will help you keep you clean while saving your precious water supply.
4. Baby Supplies – Do you have or are you expecting a baby? Diapers, wipes, and formula may be in tight supply during a crisis.
5. Baking Soda – This stuff is incredibly useful. You can use it for cleaning, deodorizing, and cooking.
6. Bandanas, Handkerchiefs – These items can help keep you cool and help breathe easier if air quality is poor. Bandanas also have multiple uses.
7. Batteries – Have a fresh supply of all the sizes of batteries you need. Rotate them out by expiration dates.
8. Bleach – Store the plain, non-scented kind with 4- to 6 percent hypochlorite for disinfecting items after a crisis.
9. Board Games, Coloring Books, Crayons, Playing Cards, Puzzle Books – Don’t neglect the fact that you will have significant time on your hands. Plan to have a supply of no-tech amusements available for your family. I recommend these board games.
10. Buckets and Containers – You’ll want food-grade buckets for collecting rainwater and other large vessels that are suitable for washing dishes, bathing and storing greywater. Five-gallon buckets are particularly useful.
11. Candles – Stock up on a supply low-burning candles. They are easy to store and have no expiration date. And here’s how to make an emergency candle.
12. Cash – If the grid is down, your debit card or charge card will be useless, and the banks may be closed. Have some money on hand at home to use in an emergency. Bartering some of the supplies on this list may also be an option.
13. Clothespins and Clothesline – You will need these items for their intended purpose, but they also may come in handy for use in building temporary shelters.
14. Cookstoves – You probably have one for camping, but you may want to purchase additional propane or kerosene powered cookstoves for use during an extended crisis. Don’t forget the fuel!
16. Extra Basic Clothing – Stock up on basic t-shirts, socks, and underwear in sizes to fit each member of your family. Sweatshirts and sweatpants are a good idea too.
17. First Aid Kits – See that you are well stocked in the following basic medical supplies.
- Pain relievers
- Rubbing alcohol
- Antibacterial ointment
- Band-aids, bandages and medical tape
- Safety pins
- Disposable sterilized gloves
- Gauze dressings
- Cold medicine
- Prescription medicine
18. Fishing Equipment – Fishing poles, lines, hooks, and lures will help put food on your table in an emergency.
19. Flares and Whistles – These items will help you attract the attention of rescuers if you need help.
20. Flashlights – You may want to purchase a few solar-powered flashlights as well.
21. Fuel – Fuel for your generator, vehicles, tools and your cookstove is essential to emergency survival. Lighter fluid, fire starters, and charcoal also will come in handy.
22. Garbage Bags – You really can’t have too many of these multi-purpose items. You can use them for storage, as make-shift tarps, as ponchos, and for many other things.
23. Garden Seeds – Growing your own food will be more important than ever after a crisis. Check your supply of garden tools and gardening gloves as well.
24. Gasoline Containers – Finding an open gas station will be sketchy in a crisis, but if you do, you’ll want to be able to bring gas back home or to a stranded vehicle.
25. Generator – Depending on where you live and your budget, you can choose from a permanent generator or a less expensive portable back-up model. (Also, make sure you have the necessary extension cords you need.)
26. Hand-Operated Openers – All those cans of food in your well-stocked pantry won’t do you any good if you can’t open them. Include hand-operated can openers in your emergency pantry.
27. Insulated Ice Chests – These coolers are suitable for keeping food and drink items from freezing in the winter as well as keeping things cool in the warm weather. Keep in mind that some of your essential medicines need to keep cool.
28. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lanterns – Speaking of fuel, those emergency lamps won’t do you any good if you don’t have the lamp oil to operate them.
29. Matches and Lighters – Look for the “strike anywhere” variety. You cannot have enough on hand.
30. Non-perishable Food – A well-stocked emergency food pantry should include rice, soup, beans, nuts, oats, flour, dried meat and fruit, and other long-lasting foods. Also, include sweeteners such as honey and sugar, cooking oil and basic condiments, such as salt and pepper. Here is a guide to emergency food storage for newbies.
31. Personal Hygiene Items – Feminine supplies, skin and hair care products – all will be in short supply after a disaster. Stock up on these needed items now.
32. Pest Control – Insects and rodents may be an increasing problem in certain disaster scenarios. Stock up on repellants, coils, and traps.
33. Portable Toilet – With a power outage and a water shortage, you will not be able to rely on your standard home toilet. A portable or pit toilet will make waste management possible. Here’s how to build one.
34. Propane – Just before and just after a disaster, propane cylinders will fly off the shelves. Stock up on what you need now.
35. Radio – With no internet and no TV, how will you get the news and weather information you need? A hand-crank radio is an invaluable piece of emergency equipment.
36. Rain Gear – Ponchos, waterproof boots and plastic sheeting are some of the supplies that will help you withstand rain and flooding.
37. Seasoned Firewood – Have a supply of dry wood for burning for warmth and for cooking.
38. Sleeping Bags and Extra Blankets – Compact emergency blankets are good to have in your car too.
40. Tarps – They are inexpensive and easy to store, and they will serve many uses in a disaster scenario. There’s a list of uses for tarps.
41. Toilet Paper – Yes, it’s a personal care item, but toilet paper deserves a line of its own. Don’t be caught short of this often-forgotten everyday necessity. Here are some toilet paper alternatives.
42. Tools – Keep your basic supply of tools clean and in good repair. You’ll want to pay special attention to the following items: saws, axes, hatchets, drills, screwdrivers and screws, hammers and nails, rakes, shovels, rope, twine, and wire.
43. Vinegar – This is an all-natural way to clean your home when you run out of cleaning supplies.
44. Water – We can only survive a few days without it. Yes, you can stock up on bottled water. However, for long-lasting emergencies, you will also need a water purification method such as treatment tablets, personal water filters, or a gravity-powered filtration system.
45. Weapons and Ammunition – Be sure you are well-stocked in supplies both for self-defense and for hunting for food. Pepper spray is another idea.
46. Winter Clothing – Since disasters can strike at any time of year, it’s a good idea to put aside a supply of warm hats, gloves, and scarves for an emergency.
47. Wringers, Washboards, and Buckets – You need these for washing clothes and towels. You won’t want to waste valuable fuel on powering your washer.
48. Writing Paper, Pens, and Pencils – If you’re used to using a keyboard, you will want to have “old school” methods of making lists, notes and reminders. You also may find journaling to be both useful and comforting during a crisis.
49. Zip Ties – Inexpensive to stock up on and so very useful in a crisis situation.
50. Ziplock Bags – Stock up on these bags in several sizes to keep food, medicine, and other small items safe and dry. These are also very useful.
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