Baby Steps to Build Your Emergency Supply Kit: Week One

Do you have an emergency supply kit for your family in the case of a disaster? According to a survey from Wells Fargo, only 46% of Americans have an emergency kit for everyone living in their home with enough supplies for several days after a disaster.

That’s less than half of the country. That’s terrifying! Especially considering that 84% of Americans live in areas that have experienced some form of natural disaster in the last few years, and 54% live in regions that have experienced severe natural disasters, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, or earthquakes. 

If that’s not crazy enough, 72% say they or their families have been directly affected by natural disasters at some point in their lifetime. 

Given these numbers, NOT having an emergency supply kit doesn’t make sense.

emergency supply kit stats

Back in 2013, I started a series of articles on baby steps for disaster preparedness. I based these articles on a 24-week preparedness calendar written by the Center for Preparedness Education based on recommendations from FEMA. I had prepared these articles for a client who sold preparedness products, but I thought that my readers would enjoy this information, especially given the world we face today. Everyone would probably feel safer if they felt prepared to handle disasters in whatever form they may take. 

I decided to start a new series of articles on baby steps for preparedness. Each week I’ll give you a short shopping list and some action steps to help you gradually build an emergency supply kit. We’ll also look at the cost of getting these items each week, and we may explore the value of buying higher-priced items when you can.

Week One of Building Your Emergency Supply Kit

So, since this is Monday, let’s start with Week One. 

This week you will start your kit at the grocery store and purchase the following items. 

  • One gallon of water for each person in your household. Remember water for your pets, too. 
  • One jar of peanut butter. If someone in your family has allergies to peanuts, obviously, you’re not going to make this purchase. But peanut butter is a good source of protein and other nutrients, so it’s good to have in your emergency kit if possible.
  • One large can of juice for each person in your family. Ideally, you will get 100% juice, not juice drinks that are loaded with sugar. If you need to survive for a long time, you want to ensure that your supplies are healthy so that you can stay healthy too.
  • Powdered drink mix, tea, and/or instant coffee
  • A hand-operated can opener. You can get really cheap can openers at the dollar store, and if this is all you can afford, consider getting more than one. Cheap can openers break easily, but they’re also not very comfortable on your hands. If you don’t have power and a hand can opener is the only way you can open your food, your hands may get sore, so investing in a higher quality can opener may be worth it if you’re able to.
  • Sharpies or other permanent markers. You’ll need these to mark the date on cans and bottled water so you know how long they’re good for, how long you’ve had them, and when you opened them.

Optional Items:

  • An extra bag (or can) of pet food if you have pets
  • An extra package of diapers if you have a baby
  • Extra jars of baby food if you have a baby

Before you go shopping, think about what you already have. If you have an extra can opener or already have a stockpile of juice, cross those off your list. Then put those items aside for your kit. 


The average family size in the US is 2.6 people. Let’s round that up to three because even if I can figure out what constitutes .6 people, you can’t typically buy .6 of a jar of peanut butter (or whatever).

There are a few things to keep in mind when calculating the cost of your emergency supply kit besides the size of your family. The cost will also be determined by where you live, where you shop, and which brands you purchase. I’ll give you a few examples (based on shopping for three people) to give you an idea.


Amazon: Who doesn’t shop on Amazon? It’s convenient and often cheaper to order your groceries and other items. But as I worked on this week’s list, I realized it can be difficult. For example, you may face item limits. I tried to add three jars of peanut butter to my cart but was limited to two jars. However, I did find a three-pack, so that’s what I opted for.

Also, I had a hard time finding large cans of juice. Most of the cans were either single-serve or the only option was plastic bottles. While plastic may be a cheaper packaging option, a can will have a longer shelf life. I did manage to find some 46 oz cans of tomato juice, so I added these to my cart because tomato juice is very versatile, even if you aren’t a fan of drinking it.

I also found an el-cheapo manual can opener for $4.58. However, I have used this kind of opener before, and I hate them. They are very uncomfortable to use. So you can certainly choose this option, but I opted for something that won’t hurt my hands. I found a “smooth edge” opener for a few dollars more.

amazon shopping cart total

My Amazon cart total was $64.36, plus $7.47 for the water. Water was separate because it comes via Amazon Fresh. That makes the grand total $71.83.

Local Grocery Store

grocery store total

Next, I used the same list at a local grocery store. The total was $66.23, but I was able to find some sale items. This doesn’t include a delivery fee (since I was doing this online).

Dollar Store

Finally, I tried my list at Dollar General. Their website is really annoying, so you’ll have better luck shopping in person. If the website itself isn’t annoying enough, I couldn’t find any canned juice, so that isn’t included in my total, which was only $34.75 before tax.

In 2013 when I first did this plan, I spent $22.86 at Walmart for the week one list, which tells you a bit about inflation.

Emergency Supply Kit Action Steps

Now that you have gone shopping, you have a few more tasks. First, go through your pantry and mark the expiration date on each item with the black Sharpie. Make sure it is easy to see when each item expires. Move the items that will expire first to the front of your panty, so you remember to use them first.

You may also find that some things are past the expiration date. Throw them away to make room for newer items. 

And finally, do a little research to find out what kind of disasters are common where you live. This will give you an idea of what you are preparing for and give you a clearer game plan. 

Here are three more action steps this week to help you better prepare for emergencies and disasters.

Step 1: Establish an out-of-state contact that you can call in the case of a disaster.

Step 2: Prepare a list of important phone numbers. This list should include out-of-state contacts, doctors, veterinarians, family members, creditors, insurance companies, banks, etc.

Step 3: Create a family disaster plan. I’ll talk more about that tomorrow. 

Are you ready to shop? Here is a handy checklist to help you. Let me know how you did!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.