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Be ready for doomsday, for pennies

Emergency preparedness isn't paranoid -- it's smart. Yard sales are a great place to start.

By Donna_Freedman Jun 25, 2012 5:04PM
Image: Lightning (© Warren Faidley/Corbis)

Lisa Bedford, aka "The Survival Mom," recently posted a list of 21 things to look for at yard sales and thrift shops. She wasn't talking about baby items or frugal Christmas presents, but rather about items to help survive everything from a flash flood to an attack on the United States.

That's not paranoid. It's prudent.

You don't have to live in earthquake country or Tornado Alley to be affected. For example, about 175,000 Seattle-area residents lost power after a December 2006 windstorm. It took a week to get all the lights back on.

Have any idea how you'd stay fed, warm and clean if you lost power and water for a week in the winter? (Post continues after video.)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends having enough supplies to survive for at least three days after an emergency. Right now, while the coast is clear, is the time to go shopping.


Much of what Bedford listed is aimed at long-term survival. A few translate to short-term disasters: lanterns, camp stoves, sleeping bags, first-aid supplies and winter wear (if applicable to your region). To those I'd add:

  • A bucket. Instant emergency toilet after an earthquake or other infrastructure-damaging event. At one recent yard sale I saw a bunch of jumbo-sized cat litter buckets offered for free.
  • A saucepan and frying pan. A camp stove or open fire would soot up your prized Calphalon or Le Creuset pots. Look for a trashable pan or two; don't forget to check the "free" box.
  • A flashlight. Aim for at least one per room. If you can't test it first, don't buy it; the bulb might be kaput.
  • Playing cards. If the power's out, so is the video gaming system. But you can play Hearts or pinochle by lamplight or candlelight.

You can't predict hurricanes, ice storms, earthquakes or other disasters. What you can do is take even a few basic steps toward self-sufficiency. Do it frugally.

More on MSN Money:

Jun 26, 2012 1:43PM
Thanks for the timely post! It's that time of year when I start getting my hurricane supplies assembled.
Jul 1, 2012 7:34PM
I'm always on the look out at yard sales for emergency supplies, just yesterday I picked up a new 6 gallon water jug for $2 and a Ham Radio for $20. Last week I bought a wool blanket and a 5 gallon gas can, you truly can prepare for emergencies with just a little money so there is no excuse. As the old saying goes..."Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it!"
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.