Emergency Preparedness Kit: Pre-Made vs DIY

DIY Home Emergency Preparedness Kit

Catastrophist? Not me.

Believe what you want, but I think we live in a world that has never been more stable in some ways even though many things still lay outside my realm of control...

Like world peace.

One thing that's certain? People are very fragile creatures.

Without heat, food, water…we’re toast! (Pun intended.)

And so I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of Emergency Preparedness Kit I have kicking around the house, how prepared can I actually be if the “stuff” hits the proverbial spinning thing above my head?

Let’s not go to extremes here...

I’m not creating a bunker to get me and my family through a zombie apocalypse or a Brad Pitt Hollywood blockbuster depicting the end of times (those had zombies too I believe).

Rather this is an exercise in keeping the raft afloat and as comfortable as possible for 4 days maximum if the lights go out while everyone is still home.

Now the type of emergency preparedness kit you create depends a lot on where you live. I’m on the prairies, so what I’m looking at is one of three scenarios when it comes to extreme weather:

  • Extreme cold which knocks out the power for a long enough time.
  • A tornado hits and wipes out the house or power grid nearby.
  • A flood ‒ which turns the electricity off.

Related: 11 Ways To Lower Your Power & Utility Bills

Pre-made Emergency Kit Online

Scanning the web for pre-made kits, I found a family of four kits with meals or energy bars, first aid, and sleeping necessities that only Rambo would find comfortable.

The price of this kit a sold by Red Cross is $152:

  • water container,
  • 20 water purification tablets,
  • 9 food bars,
  • 4 light sticks,
  • candle & matches,
  • waterproof blanket,
  • flashlight,
  • first aid kit, and
  • more.

A comparable 4-person Costco emergency kit is priced at $270.

Also keep in mind that a basic version is also available at $75 price point at Red Cross as well.

You could go all-out with emergency preparedness and buy a backup generator if you have the money ‒ but for me, my home has a fireplace to keep the place warm if it came to needing heat. As for electricity to run the home, it would be handy, but think we can make do without it.

Related: Costco’s Crazy Return Policy

My DIY list of essentials

The Red Cross advises to be prepared for at least 72 hours (3 days) with emergency supplies, depending on what kind of emergency can hit where you live. I’m making mine 4 days, so there is an added day worth for added comfort.


Water is undoubtedly the first thing you need in a disaster.

The human body can survive a long time without food (speculative is weeks) but water is far more immediate. Considering we’re largely made of water, if there isn’t a clean supply with 24 hours you will be uncomfortable.

We need at least 4 liters per person per day, which translates to:

4 x 4 humans = 16 liters x 4 days = 64 liters of water.

That’s pretty heavy to carry around with you...

But there are water tablets you can add to water sources for purification. However, keep in mind that these purification tablets are only beneficial in removing bacteria and perhaps other micro-organisms ‒ but they can not purify chemicals and other harmful substances that could get into the water supply.


With no electricity there’s not much you can do to cook food. So a BBQ or camping stove (outdoors of course) is your best friend for cooking.

With limited water, you don’t want to be washing a lot dishes, so it’s best to buy canned goods. Just make sure you open it before cooking and also ensure the canned goods have not spoiled.

If the can is bulging, or under pressure, do not eat it ‒ it’s gone bad.

Here are some other food ideas:

  • canned fruit and vegetables (and a can opener)
  • dried fruit and granola bars
  • dry cereal ‒ let’s not go crazy here but if you have kids I’d suggest something with marshmallow shapes to keep it light and fun
  • peanut butter (non-organic version with longer shelf life)
  • comfort Foods
  • dried fruit
  • canned juices
  • non-perishable powdered milk (just add water)
  • canned protein this can be canned meats like ham or fish such as salmon or tuna

The ticket to all this is that you pick food which typically eat anyway. And even more importantly, pick some items that will make everyone feel some normalcy with unpredictable events.

Also don’t pack things that are high in sodium, remember your water supply may be limited, and salt makes you thirsty.

Related: Pointers On Building Your Stockpile

Other necessities

Other items to include in case you need to get mobile are:

  • radio / flashlight combo
  • 2 rolls of toilet paper
  • candles and matches
  • storage ‒ I have a Rubbermaid 68 L tote to store food and water
  • backpacks ‒ I have two in case we need to vacate our home

My running cost

Yours may be more scaled back or perhaps more in-depth than mine…

But here’s what it cost me to build my DIY home emergency kit:

Essentials Notes Rough Cost
  • Bottled water is convenient.
  • Water tablets as well in case we were on the move and needed to purify water.
$20 (tablets are expensive)
Food Food with long shelf life including:
  • 4 tins of chicken soup
  • 2 boxes of mac and cheese (add water to powder and turn it into "cheese")
  • 24 packages of instant oatmeal
  • 2 tins of canned vegetables
  • 3 tins of beans
  • 3 tins of ham
  • 2 tins of fruit and vegetable juice
  • 4 tins of mini Vienna sausage (kids like hot dogs)
  • 1 of bag of dried fruit
  • 4 tins of canned salmon and tuna
  • 6 packages of instant noodles
Plus some comfort food to make everyone feel a bit more normal…
  • 2 bags of chips
  • 4 chocolate bars
Can opener (1)   $1 I found this at the dollar store. Very basic, but testing it out, very effective
Flashlights (1) Mine is self-powered, you turn a crank to power it. $10
Batteries (4 AA)   $7
First Aid Kit (1) Very basic which includes bandages, gauze, and some Tylenol in there too. $20
Rubbermaid bin (1) I had one around. $0
Backpack (1) I had one around to use. $0
Subtotal   $118
Cash and small bills You never know how cash will come in handy. In all the other kits, cash isn’t in there but a stash of $50 should be able to get you some essentials if you forgot something. $50 (include $1’s, $2’s, $5’s and $10’s)
Total (includes the $50 cash)   $168

Related: Sneaky Grocery Store Tricks (And How To Avoid Them)

The bottom line

In the end, taking the time to create your own emergency preparedness kit could save you some money.

More importantly? It’s customized to your family’s needs and comforts. You get to pick what you eat and how you prepare your food.

It also gets you thinking in advance, versus panicking if something ever happened.

Finally, as a side note, this kit is really only made to last for a few years, max. It’s good to revisit your kit every 2 to 4 years as your family needs change. Also it ensures your food goes to use…it’s like a pre-packed picnic or something you can easily take camping during the summer to use after you refresh your supplies.

Your turn

Do you have an emergency preparedness kit in your home?

Anything I’m missing from my list that you put into yours? Or…

Am I just paranoid?

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JOAN MELNICK's picture

Can I suggest photocopies of you OHIP medical insurance cards...drivers licence..credit cards front and back...PIN numbers...Passports etc
Some VERY favourite photos of family passed and present
Phone Charger...Some sort of Camera

May 08, 2018 @ 1:36 pm
Maria Weyman
Maria Weyman's picture

Great idea Joan! 

May 08, 2018 @ 1:51 pm
Deborah's picture

I like both Stephen's and Joan's ideas.
I'd like to add a reminder to prepare an emergency kit for your pet/s.
I have a cat, and did live through the southern Ontario ice storm of 2013. For my cat, I had the following:
* small cans of food (they have pull tabs, so easy open) and his kibble
* small bag kitty litter (from the dollar store)
* cardboard "flat" (like from cans of tomatoes at the grocery store) - as a disposable litter box (it worked fine for the couple of days we needed it)
* his 2 favorite toys
* metal water dish and food dish (non-breakable and I prefer them in an emergency to plastic)
* harness & leash (if needed - it wasn't, but it is part of the kit)
* his up-to-date vet record

All these items I had in a duffel bag.

So I had him in his carrier and the duffel bag (and my emergency kit as well, which also contained a package of trash bags).

May 08, 2018 @ 8:55 pm
Marpy's picture

IMO - Your best bet by far is to buy a generator and a small quantity of additional items like water purification tables. Also, a bbq lighter may be a beter alternative than matches. Why the generator? Well when i look around my house, I always have at least a couple of large cans of gas with additive to extend life sitting around due to lawn mower, snow blower etc. and 2 cars with gas tanks at least half full so fuel is not a problem, the freezer always has a couple of months worth of food in it and the same goes for canned food and dry goods on the shelf. As such, a generator means that the furnace can be kept going the fridge and freezer can be maintained and the lights and tv can be kept running. Depending on generator capacity, you may have to alternate what gets power but you should be able to stay relatively comfortable for 3 or 4 days easy. No need to worry about expiration dates on food and stuff like that. A generator may cost you $500 - $1000 dollars, but if you use it only for this purpose and buy a decent one, it will last you a life time as opposed to having to replace expired products in your kit. A generator also lets you maintain close to the same standard of living you have at home regularly
JMO - But I would take the generator hands down any day.

May 09, 2018 @ 12:03 pm

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