How to Prepare for Severe Weather {on a Budget}

How to Prepare for Severe Weather (on a Budget)

Threats of severe weather are usually a boon for home improvement stores. When Hurricane Sandy was barreling toward the East Coast, Home Depot and Lowe’s couldn’t keep generators in stock.

People wait in line at the grocery stores for hours, filling their carts with everything under the sun.

But these kinds of stock-ups can cost a small fortune. Are they really necessary to say safe and sound during a major storm?

The frugalist in me says absolutely not!

While I’ve lived through tornados (not much advanced preparation for those, however) and snow storms, I’ve never experienced a major tropical storm (Kansas and Ohio are pretty land-locked, people!). So to write this post, I turned to my best source of information – my readers.

The other day, I asked you on Facebook what you do to prepare for a storm or severe weather. Your answers inspired me to do some of my own research, too. Here are the results of that collective brainpower.

How to Prepare for a Storm (on a Budget)

Babies | Stock up on diapers, wipes, extra formula (if you use) and bottles/nipples, baby food and squeezie tubes (older kids can eat them, too). Even if you use cloth diapers, grab a stash of disposables in case you can’t do laundry.

Even if you don’t have babies, a few packages of wipes are a good thing to have on hand, as these are great not only for babies’ bottoms, but also for washing up the rest of the family if you can’t use your water.

Batteries | Have plenty of batteries for your flashlights, lanterns, and battery-operated radios. Stick lights (aka snap lights) don’t require batteries and will stay illuminated for up to 12 hours.

Car |  Fill your car’s gas tank – and if you have a generator, get gasoline for it, too. In the event of an evacuation, be sure your trunk is loaded with “worst case scenario” supplies: Bottled water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, sleeping bags and extra coats, and kitty litter (for extra traction if you get stuck).

Cooking | If you don’t have a gas stove or grill, consider purchasing a small charcoal grill and the needed supplies. Store your matches in a ziploc bag (just in case you get water in your home).

First-aid supplies | Make sure you have at least a basic first-aid kit, with bandages, pain relievers, alcohol wipes, and antibiotic ointment. Also, gather all your family’s prescription medications, inhalers, etc.  Store them in a ziploc bag or a small plastic tub.

Food | Check your stockpile and then hit the stores for non-perishable items, including:

Protein: Make sure you have peanut butter (or almond butter or sunbutter if you have allergy issues), canned tuna and salmon, canned beans, nuts, and shelf-stable milk – if allergies are an issue, get rice or almond milk. Keep a non-electric can opener with your supply.

Produce: Apples and oranges will last for a week or longer outside the fridge. Dried fruit is another good option.

Carbs: Sliced bread and tortillas should last for several weeks on your shelves. Crackers and dried cereal are good snacks for kids.

Freezer | Move your frozen meat, chicken and cheese from your kitchen freezer to a chest freezer, if you have one. In the event of a power outage, your items will stay frozen for up to four days in a chest freezer vs. one day in upright (see Tip #6). You can also layer in extra ice (see below) to your chest freezer to insulate your stored items.

Ice | Dump out your freezer’s ice cubes into ziploc bags. And/or buy store-bought bags of ice (if they aren’t already sold out). Store them in your deep freezer, and fill up your cooler chests. Medications that require refrigeration will last up to four days in an ice-filled cooler chest.

Laundry | Got a laundry hamper full of dirty clothes? Wash them all now – you don’t want to run out of undies in the midst of a power outage. Makes sure your sheets and towels are clean, too.

Mobile Devices | Charge up your cell phones, laptops, and tablets. Download videos and games for your children (and yourselves), since Internet service will be spotty. You may want to consider getting a solar charger – if the power is still out even when the storm ends.

Personal Care | Grab a few packages of wipes to help with personal hygiene if you can’t use your water. Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper and tissues, too.

Pets | Check your supply of food and litter – have enough for two weeks (worst case scenario).

Water | Stock up on bottled water. Gallon jugs (and paper cups) are a lot less expensive than individual bottles. You can also purchase water-purification, iodine-based tablets from camping supply stores.

And here are some more tips via readers on Facebook on preparing for severe weather

My favorite disaster safety tip with kids – Buy glow sticks, glow necklaces, etc. It makes a blackout a lot less scary, they never need batteries, and they are much safer (no open flames). One glowstick on the bathroom counter provides enough light for kids to use the bathroom at night. We use them all around the house. We always have some on hand, just in case, so my kids look forward to blackouts now. ~ Adina

As someone who lives in a hurricane prone area (SW LA), you can never have too much water or canned tuna! Make sure you have a battery operated radio & plenty of batteries. Pick up anything outside that could become a missile thru your windows, and have plenty of things to do to keep your kids occupied. ~ Charlene

When we were without power for a week, I brought the outdoor solar lights in each night. They really lit up our house. ~ Lori

If you have an icemaker, set it on HIGH and dump the ice into gallon zip loc bags and put them in your freezer. Just keep doing it until you have filled the freezer with food and zip loc bags full of ice. The last time the power went out here (for 6 days) our freezer kept cold for 4 days. ~ Yitzchak

I am buying instant coffee in case our power goes out & my coffee maker doesn’t work. Priorities, you know. ; ) ~ Amy

We’re also checking all our downspouts and gutters since it’s autumn; lotsa leaves have to get cleaned out. ~ Chana

If your kids are fans of juice, get juice boxes or small bottles because you don’t want to open your fridge with power out. ~ Rivka

If you have a car, be SURE you fill it up with gas! I failed to and it was CHALLENGING to find a station with gas! ~ Alysa

Note that while many of you suggested candles (such as yartzheit candles), a few of you warned against the fire hazard. If you plan to use candles for lighting in the event of a power outage, please exercise caution.

If your city orders you to evacuate, please check out this helpful post by Greenbacks Gal on Emergency Evacuation Kits.  And when this is all over, and you need to restock your food supply, here are some tips on Restocking Your Fridge After a Power Outage.

Are you bracing for severe weather? Please feel free to add your tips in the comments. Most of all, stay safe.

This post originally appeared in October, 2012 inspired by Frankenstorm. I’m resharing since the advice is still very relevant today – especially with winter approaching.


  1. This is our expertise. If anyone has any questions feel free to shoot them to the Jewish Prepper.

  2. Make sure to have a can opener handy with your stockpile!

  3. We have filled gallon-size storage bags with water and placed them in the chest freezer to help keeps food cold, and then we have the right amount of water per person on hand too.

    Also…be sure you have enough water for your pets too.

  4. This is a great post, and very reassuring to see that we’re doing all the right things.

    Just a quick addendum that many kids who are allergic to peanuts are allergic to tree nuts too. Even if they’re not, allergists usually caution them to avoid tree nuts anyway, because peanuts & tree nuts are all processed on the same equipment.

    Sunflower seed butter or soy butter are safer alternatives for peanut allergy (unless, of course, you’re allergic to those too.)

  5. Fantastic ideas. I grew up in hurricane prone South Texas and I would advise readers with children to remember to stay calm and as cheerful as possible. Kids will take their cues from their parents and it will allay their fears.
    If there is one more trip to the grocery store, it will be fun to relax any strict rules and pick up a few treats.
    Terrible weather events are survivable – planning, stocking up and a sense of humor are keys.

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