Winter likely won’t skip this year, no matter what else is going on in the world. Being prepared with a family emergency kit can help with practical needs if something happens, and it might make you feel less anxious about the possibilities now.
Jenny Martin, the money-saving expert behind Southern Savers, said there are plenty of ways to save money and still get prepared for emergencies. Here are her tips for getting started.
· Decide what to buy for emergency meals by making a camping plan, even if you don’t camp. Get items that can easily be cooked on a camp stove or grill. “Think about what you would take and put those meals in your kit,” Martin said. “Pick things that are simple and easy to cook.”
· Consider what is specific to your family. Do you need diapers and wipes? Pet food and a slip leash or carrier? Prescription medications?
· Don’t buy every item at once. When canned goods, dried pasta, broth and other items with a long shelf life go on sale, buy an extra one or two for your kit. “Put them away,” Martin said. “Don’t add them to your pantry. If we keep them in the same location, we use them and forget that they have a purpose.”
· Plan for water needs. Martin said bottled water is most often on sale during the summer months. If you do buy it by the gallon, be sure to note the dates. “Water bottles do end up leaking,” Martin said. “Every now and then, grab a gallon, use it and put a new one in its place.”
· Remember the tub, too. (But kept little ones safely away.) “As soon as you hear the alert that something could be coming, you need to be filling bathtubs,” Martin said. “That is water and I can use that to flush toilets. We can even boil it and drink it if we need to. And that’s really no cost.”
· Flashlights still need batteries, so keep some on hand. Martin said Office Depot regularly (as often as twice a month) offers free – or 100 percent back – batteries as part of its rewards plan. Other stores, including Staples, offer them as well.
· Make sure flashlights and other items stay with the kit or are returned to it after use. Martin said an important part of preparation is educating everyone in the house about what the items are for and why they are needed.
· Consider personal care needs, including toothbrushes and wipes. Martin said many items can be obtained for free through deals at stores like CVS and Walgreens.
· Keep a basic first aid kit with your emergency supplies. Martin said drugstore deals can make a simple first aid kit free or cheap. She advises starting with basics, including bandages of various sizes, antibiotic ointment and pain relief, then adding to the kit over time.
· Remember to keep a long-term plan in mind. “We’re not trying to stock this in a week,” Martin said. “Have a plan with your family, which is no cost but it is priceless.”
Learn more and get a checklist and even online games for kids at ready.gov/kit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises adding masks (for everyone ages 2 and older), soap, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes to your kit to reduce the spread of COVID and other illnesses.
Get more information from Martin and learn how to save on food, clothes and more at southernsavers.com.