Let’s face it, prepping can be expensive. That one problem has kept a lot of people from prepping through the years. It also makes things difficult for those of us who have decided to go ahead and prep, even though it is a strain on our finances. Even so, there are many things that we can do to stretch our prepping budget and get the most for our money.
One way to get the most for our money is to shop at places where we can get things cheap. Granted, those cheaper things probably aren’t as good quality as the high-dollar ones; but it’s better to have something than to have nothing because we’re waiting to have enough money to buy the expensive one. With the rise of dollar stores and the wide variety of merchandise they carry, chances are we can put a pretty good bug out bag together at the local dollar store, without spending a lot of money.
What Do We Need?
For our dollar store bug out bag to be effective, it’s going to have to cover all the major areas of our survival needs. So, let’s take a quick review of what those are. Our primary survival needs are:
- Keeping warm – This includes shelter, insulation (clothing) and heat (fire)
- Clean water – This has to include some means of transporting water, as well as a way of purifying it
- Food – Probably the easiest of the three, but we’ll need some way of cooking it
Of course, to accomplish these things, we’re probably going to need a few other things as well, such as:
- First aid – If we get injured, we’ll need to patch ourselves up
- Tools – To be able to accomplish the three primary requirements, we’re probably going to need a few basic tools
I’m going to leave self-defense out of this, mostly due to the cost factor; besides, you really can’t do much about defense in a dollar store, except buy wasp spray. However, if you’re out in the woods, you can always use man’s oldest weapons, the stick and the rock. While they might not be ideal against someone with a gun, or even against a wolf’s teeth, they do qualify as weapons. A better one is a burning brand from your fire. That will scare off both men and animals when wielded properly.
The Bag Itself
All bug out bags have to start with something that holds and allows you to carry the gear and supplies you buy. Normally, we’d want to go for a nice backpack, but that may not be available from the dollar store. However, there are a few items which can be used for this:
- Children’s school backpack
- Barrel bag
- Plastic bin
While none of those are perfect, they will do the job. So will the plastic bags that they pack your order in at the checkout. Ask nice, and they might even give you some extras. Even if you don’t need them to be the bug out bag itself, those bags can be useful to organize your supplies, inside your bug out bag.
This is our number one survival priority and the most complicated to accomplish. Basically, keeping warm consists of three separate areas: shelter, clothing and fire. Fortunately, we can come up with all three of them at the dollar store; although I will have to say that you probably already have clothing, without having to go buy it.
Few people bother with a tent in their bug out bag, as it is bulky and expensive. But you can make a respectable tent out of an inexpensive tarp. Fortunately, that’s also something you can buy cheap at your local dollar store. I use the inexpensive blue plastic tarps and have found them to be more than adequate.
To go along with the tarp, I’d recommend picking up some light rope and some duct tape. I found small rolls of duct tape in my local dollar store, which are ideal for a bug out bag or survival kit. While I couldn’t find paracord, I did find clothes line, which is a good approximation. As long as I don’t try to put any heavy weight on it, that should work fine for making a tent.
We’re not going to get into a full wardrobe here, but there are a couple of things I would like to recommend you pick up. The first is a hat. If there is any article of clothing which will help you keep warm, a hat is it. That’s because a fourth of your body’s blood supply goes to the head. So in cold weather, your head could be radiating a lot of heat. Putting a stocking cap on will help keep you warm all over.
The other important thing to look for here is a rain poncho. You should be able to find one in most dollar stores. They won’t be heavy-duty, but they will keep you dry. That’s important, as when most clothing gets wet it will drain your body heat faster than if you were naked.
Your best and cheapest fire starter is a disposable butane lighter, available for a buck. With care, you should be able to start about 1,000 fires with the average disposable lighter. The only problem with them is that they don’t work well in the cold, so if you end up bugging out in winter keep it inside your clothing, where your body heat can keep it warm.
Some of the best homemade tinder around is cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly, both of which you can buy at the dollar store. Work about a teaspoon of petroleum jelly into each cotton ball, ensuring that it is thoroughly soaked. Keep them in an airtight container. When you really need to get a fire going, like when it is raining, use one.
Hopefully you’ll be able to find water along the way as you are bugging out. But you’ll need something to carry it in. Grab yourself a large sports bottle in the kitchen section of the dollar store to use as a canteen.
The other thing you’re going to need is some means of purifying water. One of the best water purifiers there is just happens to be chlorine – or in other words, chlorine bleach. Eight drops will purify a gallon of water. Just make sure you buy the cheap stuff and not the scented or color safe kinds.
There’s lots of food in your typical dollar store; but most of it is junk food. Nevertheless, I was able to find some great buys in the food department, which are ideal for a bug out bag:
- Granola bars
- Canned food in plastic containers (less weight)
- Peanut butter crackers
- Spam, tuna and chicken in pouches
- Instant coffee
By the way, you’ll need to make sure you pick up some sort of small saucepan for cooking in. I’d also recommend some disposable cutlery, as well as a plastic bowl and cup.
There are actually a fair amount of first-aid supplies in your average dollar store. You can get over-the-counter medicines, adhesive bandages and medical tape easily. They don’t have large bandages, but you can use sanitary napkins for that. They are sterile and designed to absorb a lot of blood.
Don’t forget that duct tape can also be used as medical tape. While not the most comfortable tape to take off, it does stick well, which is what you need.
You can also find a lot of personal hygiene products at the dollar store. While those may not be considered first-aid supplies by most people, keeping yourself clean is an important part of keeping yourself healthy. So grab a toothbrush, some toothpaste and a bar of soap, if nothing else.
You’re going to end up having to go rather light on the tools to keep in budget. Besides, the average dollar store doesn’t carry much in the way of tools. But there is one thing you have to have, and that’s a good knife. If nothing else, you can find a kitchen knife there. But you may be able to buy a multi-tool, which will include a knife.
So there you are. I didn’t actually add up the amount spent here, as a lot will depend on how much of each thing you buy, especially for the food. But the point is, it’s doable. This might not be your ideal bug out bag, but it will provide everything you need to survive. As time goes on, you can always add to this or even replace some items with better ones.
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