Dollar Store Survival

by Erich

There’s no argument that prepping can be costly.

There’s food storage, weapons, ammunition, bug out supplies, emergency supplies for the home, fuel for cooking and heating, medical supplies, various training and so much more. The costs can become so high that it prevents people new to prepping from even starting because they think they will never reach a state of being prepared.

Don’t let the lack of money stop you from prepping!

It’s better to get started at least with some things and bootstrap your way from there.

For cost effective prepping supplies there is probably no better place than your local dollar store — sure, it might not be the best quality but you need to start somewhere. And when you have more money to spend you can upgrade a lot of these things that you get at the store for better quality supplies.

One warning though: there are many items that you can get elsewhere much cheaper. Some stores you can save a lot more when you buy in quantity from places like Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club.

In other words, do your due diligence as you’re shopping and you’ll be good to go. Aside from that, you still can get some pretty good deals at the dollar stores so check ’em out.

Here’s a gallery of items that I took pictures of from my local dollar store that should get you started with some ideas for emergency supplies for your home, for your car, as well as your bug out kits:

Around the beginning of gardening season you can find dollar stores selling vegetable and fruit seeds. I’ve even been able to find some heirlooms which will let you use and save the seeds from the veggies you grow.

Alcohol gels are a great addition to any bug-out bag or for emergency cooking in the home when forced to shelter-in-place.

18 liters of water for $1 is not a bad deal at all.

Bleach has many uses in a survival situation from disinfecting to water purification. Keep in mind though that the shelf life is only around 6 months at which point it starts to lose its effectiveness.

Fire from sun anyone?

Even though these socks are “death cloth” (cotton) having a few extra in your bug-out bag is not a bad thing when the ones you’re using to hike out to a safe place get wet.

Although I prefer a Shemagh (because they’re a bit bigger), bandannas still have a ton of survival uses from slings, to sediment filters, to tourniquets, to much more. They hardly take up any space and should be part of everyone’s bug-out bag.

Protection from the rain. This should last at least 72 hours which is perfect for a BOB.

Baby wipes and other sani-wipes are also great for around-the-house or bug-out bag cleansing needs.

People tend to forget the importance of entertainment and other morale boosting activities when in a stressful situation. Dollar stores have a lot of easy-to-pack games and activities that are great for your kids bug-out bags.

Although you can get them cheaper in bulk, I like the small supplies of over-the-counter meds that the dollar stores have for my bug-out bags since I don’t want to carry a full-size bottle.

Alchohol, Hydrogen Peroxide and other first-aid items can be found cheap at the dollar stores and are great to have around the house for emergencies.

Cotton balls and Vaseline (not shown) are great firestarters for your BOB.

Although they’re not Lithium, having a bunch of batteries around is always good until you can upgrade to some better supplies.

Mouse traps are not only good for trapping small game if bugging out but can be set up as early-warning devices around your bug-out camp.

LED lights both last long and are pretty sturdy. A must have in your home and BOB.

Steel wool and a 9-volt battery (also sold at the dollar store) can be decent firestarters in a pinch (although I’d much prefer a lighter or matches).

Work gloves are another important item to have in your BOB.

Steel wire is excellent for improvised animal snares (and human) while out in the bush and may be something you want to add to your BOB.

Drop cloths can make serviceable lean-to shelters.

Some type of cordage (preferably paracord) is a must have for survival situations.

Bungee cords are great for many things like binding kindling, holding items to your pack, securing shelter components and much more.

Dollar stores have surprisingly many food items that can be a great start to stocking your pantry.

Ramen is a great high-energy, lightweight meal to add to your bug-out bag.

Coffee filters are another great sediment filter for cleaning water prior to boiling it when out in the wild.

Although I would highly recommend NOT buying a knife from the dollar stores for survival use, if that’s all you can handle financially it is better than nothing at all.

If you’re packing your BOB with canned goods, don’t forget the can opener.

Matches, lighters, and other fire-making implements are always a very important part of survival.

Aluminum foil is great for cooking food in fires, as a heat reflector (like Mylar space blankets), makeshift water containers, as well as a signaling device.

These ziplock bags are great for using the SODIS method of water purification. They take up practically no room and are a great addition to your BOB.

After your water is purified, a straw makes it a ton easier to drink from a plastic bag.

These Sham Wow knock offs absorb a ton of water like a sponge. These are great for wiping the morning dew off of grass for water collection in a survival situation.

Trash bags are another multiple purpose survival item — again from makeshift ponchos, to water collection devices, to floating aids when crossing deep water, and much more.

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Comment by Tapi
2014-06-14 02:16:13

Dollar store rubbing alcohol are often only 50%. This will affect how well it will work to disinfect surfaces and as a fuel. 62% seems to be the magic minimal strength for sanitizing.

Comment by DaveM
2014-06-14 13:20:33

I’ve seen space blankets and compasses at dollar stores. NOT great quality compasses but they’ll work if needed. Also candles, monofilament line, multipacks of butane lighters, any sort of cleaner/disinfectant you can imagine, and decent-sized bottles of aspirin and ibuprofen.

LOTS of canned good of course, though do watch the price. Some are cheaper at the grocery store.

Insect repellant, every imaginable form of small container (I have seen day packs), I suppose the list could go on endlessly.

My local dollar store has 4 packs of AA and AAA alkaline batteries. Always useful! I add around $50 to my “hoard” each month, which amounts to a surprising amount of stuff.

Comment by John
2014-06-14 15:21:45

If you look carefully at the photo of the knives you can see that some of them have a full tang. This would greatly improve your chances of not breaking the knife or getting hurt when it breaks. I’ve had some success with the dollar store knives by carefully looking at them. Chinese stainless rusts more than any other metal I’ve dealt with. But with careful selection you should be able to get a decent knife for your camp. Be advised that some of these knives won’t hold a edge long. The “chef’s” style knife in the bottom right corner has held one of the best edges for me and seems sturdy. If nothing else some of these will make a great sacrificial knife. Think of making a spear or deadfall trap. There are many uses for cheap knives so you don’t waste your best knife. Live long and Prosper!

Comment by John
2014-06-14 17:16:21

Goto, you can get travel size items in everything from soap to food.

Comment by Ric
2014-06-14 20:18:10

Great article!

Comment by LBJ
2014-06-15 00:12:47

More Dollar Store goodies: 3′ mesh laundry bags, tins of sardines/clams/spam/potted meat/chicken, 5pks of lighters, generic immodium/dramamine/allergy meds, triple antibiotic lotion, muscle rub, self-contained heat or ice packs, eyedroppers, ear syringes, q-tips, cotton pads, tampons/panty liners for other medical use, saline nasal spray (kills sinus infections overnight!), cloth bandaids, anti-fungal cream, eye drops, allergy eye drops, saccharine (1/10th the weight of sugar in BOB), sponges with scotchbrite, temporary dental filling material kits, oral numbing gel, and dozens more. I keep finding things to pop into my stash every time I shop there.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-06-15 23:27:34

Love these lists. Keep ’em coming…

Comment by D.kelly
2014-06-26 16:14:28

For prepping you can’t beat getting six toothbrushes for a buck ( great barter item). Hand sanitizer also makes a fantastic fire starter.

Comment by Michael Randle
2014-06-26 18:52:04

Don’t buy bottled water. Use Iodine, bleach or boiling to sterilize water.

Comment by Deb
2014-06-28 07:56:15

If you happen to have a friend or co-worker who travels, see if they will bring back any of the hotel ‘freebies’ – shampoo, conditioner, lotions, etc. that the hotel provides. I store tons of this stuff for future use; i.e. bugging in place and/or barter, trade.

Comment by Tactical Intelligence
2014-06-29 16:01:58

That’s a great idea Deb and one that I use anytime I travel. Since I used to travel quite a bit I’ve been able to store up a significant amount of soaps, shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

Comment by Stephen Saunders
2014-10-05 05:47:37

good job putting this together…

Comment by Eribus
2014-10-10 15:51:23

I’m really suprised no one meantioned glow sticks. They don’t last as long as standard chemlights, but a buck for 4? I have about 25 of them in storage.

Comment by Linda
2014-10-10 21:14:48

The bleach at the Dollar Stores is very weak. We found out from our WA State Health Inspector that if we put the whole bottle in our container to clean our bar rags, it wouldn’t be strong enough to pass inspection. This is the only item on the list I would buy somewhere else.

Comment by nanci hey
2014-10-10 22:59:37

Eyeglasses would be helpful. Good for trading as well. I have bunches in all degrees. I for one would be lost without my reading glasses.

Comment by Signalsurvival
2014-11-01 09:49:34

Strongly agree with my friend Michael Randle for not using the bottled water. Beside there are many other survival weapons which should be added in bug out bags such as compass, bows, crossbows, knives, nets, ponchos, eye care drops, ear care drops, charger, lamps or many others. Thanks for great article.

Comment by Bill
2014-11-05 13:54:38

The problem with things like bleach and canned goods and such is unless your planning on bugging in they are too heavy to carry in a b.o.b. and take up too much room. Iodine or boiling make better sense. Dried foods in light packages where you add water to re-hydrate are better than heavy cans especially if your constantly on the move. The coffee filters are a great idea and steel wool and a 9 volt battery help to aid as a fire starter just keep them separated in your bag. Good article just think lighter.

Comment by Cindy Green
2014-12-15 03:46:51

Is there another reason you don’t like cotton besides how it is grown? Just curious…

Comment by Tom Nardone
2014-12-15 04:32:38

I love the dollar store. I have also seen canned foods, first aid supplies, butterfly nets (could be used to snare small fish), adhesives, and other great items. This was a great article. People assume you need to spend a lot of money to be prepared but you have certainly proven that you can do so on a budget.

Comment by Fred
2014-12-16 06:02:06

Votive candles usethem alone as firestarter or melt them up and dip cotton balls in them.wax saoked cotton balls burn hot enough and long enough to boil 3 cups of water in my solid fuel stove.

Comment by Kamiko
2014-12-23 22:17:31

checked out that site, by the time you ordered 3 of them, you paid more than the full size version. i can buy syrup for $1 in a full bottle, and the trial size is .68

Comment by James
2015-03-11 08:50:45

Crayola Crayons are great for candles. One kids Color will burn for hours.

Comment by Chad
2015-10-06 01:20:14

Cotton when wet loses all insulation ability and actually draws heat away from your body. Investing in a couple of good pairs reinforced wool socks is worth it. However, I am a firm believer that the best bug out gear is the gear you have. Some level of preparedness, even without your ideal equipment, is better than none at all. The most important piece of equipment you have is between your ears. A little ingenuity can go a long way.

Comment by pat
2015-10-24 15:03:15

Dollar store seeds have a low germination rate (from experience) Besides having very few seeds per package, too often very few of those seeds will actually germinate and grow. Same with cheap brands from Walmart. I once bought a small 20c package of lettuce from walmart and it actually had NO seeds at all in it!! One of the most reliable brands of seeds I’ve used have been from Agway stores. Pretty much every seed per packet grows.

Comment by pat
2015-10-24 15:06:27

Many/most Dollar store seeds have a very low germination rate. Besides having few seeds per package, many of those seeds simply do not germinate and grow. The same with cheap seeds at Walmart. I once bought a package of 20c lettuce seeds there and there were actually NO seeds in the package!! The most reliable brands of seeds I’ve used have been consistently from Agway; they pretty much all germinate and grow.

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Comment by Amy
2016-02-22 23:01:21

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Comment by Leah H.
2017-05-18 15:33:51

For storing nine volt batteries loose in a bag make sure to cover the working end with paper adhesive. If both ends touch something metal it can cause a fire.

Comment by Cat
2017-09-01 23:06:01

Cotton once wet stays wet. This leads to skin issues, harmful bacteria, and things like trench foot. Our Boyscout troop encourages all scouts to NOT use cotton while camping. Wool or a fast drying synthetic is better for being on the move/bugging out/camping. Cotton is fine for every day wear when you can ditch the wet ones in the wash as needed.

Comment by Kendra
2017-10-24 07:04:13

I am helping my 4 boys and myself put together our bug out bags. Should I use a standard backpack or a hiking backpack? My kids are 20, 17, 14 and 11… the older boys do sports and are trim and strong so they can carry more than me at this point (Out of shape Mom here, but actively working on losing weight and getting stronger). Seeing all the items listed above, I am curious how a person is to decide what NOT to bring, that is a BIG list. I am an over packer to being with! You should’ve seen my kids diaper bags, lol! It all may fit in a large hiking pack but certainly not your average sized one.

I didn’t see any weapons or extra protection besides what one may carry on their body. Any suggestions? I have been through Mt St Helens as a child (Stayed indoors) and an earthquake in Santa Cruz as a teen… now gearing up for the possible Cascadia quake up here in the NW. I have kids to protect now.

Comment by Me
2018-02-02 06:44:54

Who in there right mind has ever bought seeds, and did not shake the package?

Comment by Allie
2018-03-07 23:19:17

Dollar store can openers are too cheap. They don’t last and won’t cut very well.
Their plastic gears wear out. Spend the money for an “EZ Duz It” from Walmart, Publix or other outlets (under $10.) The last one made in USA of real metal by the guy who invented Swing A Way (before he sold it to the Chinese.)

Do shop around for supplies as you can often get a great deal on the same things at Dollar General, Walmart, and beyond. You might have to repackage it yourself into small snack bags or prescription bottles, but the cost per use goes way down.

I am not knocking dollar stores altogether, but the eyeglasses are inferior along with a few other things that should cost a little more than a dollar if it’s not a sample size. I do like some of their things.

Comment by pat
2019-12-16 17:53:29

use either a p38 or the larger p51. weight about an ounce and can be carried in billfold. I’ve had mine for over 50 years and have opened hundreds of cans. amazon has 1 each size for $3.99

Comment by Andy
2020-02-25 01:01:43

I thought the same thing. Some people just won’t survive…

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