As far as stocking up and preparing for emergencies... gaining knowledge is the least expensive priority. While I have a few good books on the subject, I often prefer what is available online.
My favorite resources tend to be those written by homesteaders... for homesteaders follow much more a pantry lifestyle.
When I used to stock up, before switching from an emergency preparedness mindset to one that involves a pantry lifestyle, I would take other people's lists to the store and purchase from them.
Then when we had to use everything in our pantry, I found money had been spent on items we wouldn't use or eat. And these past few years my budget has been such that I can't afford to put something on the shelves that we cannot use.
Instead I found lists are good for guidelines, kind of a "cheat sheet" from which to remind me of something I may have forgotten that we do need. But by keeping a running list nearby to write an item when a need comes up, I eventually had my own basic list that is true to my needs... and those have shifted since becoming empty nesters.
Some items in my pantry are still a priority although I don't stock as deeply as I once did, not only due to financial limitations but now there are only two of us. Well, two and Victoria so kibble is always at the top of any list). ;)
I think through what I need the most should I be stuck at home unable to get to the grocery store whether it is from a national emergency or as in this very longest of winters... snow, snow, and more snow.
They include baking essentials (and perhaps a couple loaves of bread in the freezer), milk (and a few boxes of shelf stable milk in the pantry that I use for cooking), eggs (I always try to purchase one or two dozen when I am down to two dozen for they last a long time if kept in their original egg containers), what I need to put together some basic meals, root veggies that store well, canned items like tomatoes and chicken stock and salmon and veggies and fruit and... well you get the idea, ummm... etc.
Of course a priority is given to items like TP, paper plates and cups and plastic utensils (if you have no water you will be very happy you have these), paper towels even if you do not usually use them (ditto with the no water thing), trash or garbage bags, dish washing liquid, etc.
And I will mention again... kitty kibble. And kitty litter. And doggy chow. And gerbil chow. And lizard chow. I think you get my drift.
So having said the above, go through the lists and then make your own. Do not take someone else's list to shop from. Or to stock up from. If you do not eat it now, you will probably not want to eat it in an emergency.
Now... as to emergency preps.
Think first of what you need. Lighting. Food. Water. A way to stay warm in winter. Food that requires no cooking and/or a way to cook food. Etc.
Then think of your budget. For instance, an inexpensive flashlight is better than no flashlight. So have a few on hand and extra batteries for them. Then as finances permit, add a better flashlight. Then perhaps a camping lantern. I used Amazon credit to purchase a really good LED flashlight (thanks to YOU!).
I do have plenty of candles as well as two glass hurricane covers to place over candle sticks (since there is the whole curious kitty thing). But I have found through the years that candles are not always the very best way of lighting due to safety concerns.
I will say this, I have two or three bags of inexpensive votive candles for I have found them invaluable when the electricity is off. You will be surprised at how a little light will help... and they are relatively safe to keep in areas like on a kitchen or bathroom counter.
There are liquid emergency lights you can use and I have found them very helpful in the past, as shown in the Amazon Associate's Link... here.
Think of your lifestyle. If you commonly use oil lamps then stock lamp oil, and parts for your oil lamp. Do not save oil lamps just for an emergency if you have them for they do require a basic skill to use them correctly.
You never want to have to go through a learning curve during a crisis.
Think about a way of getting information should there be no power. The least expensive way is to have a battery operated radio and go up from there. One can purchase a solar powered radio with shortwave radio and all the other bells and whistles, too. But once again... do not let it sit on a shelf until you absolutely have to use it. Use it now. You should always have backup batteries for everything which requires them, anyway.
Keep a priority list for items you believe you will need for an emergency and then as funds become available, make the purchase and cross it off your list.
You see, if you have thought ahead of time about possibilities then you are not one of those people standing in line for flashlights, batteries, etc. during a winter storm warning... or items needed to board up your windows in a hurricane. My dear friend who lives on a coastline stored plywood under their double wide mobile home so if they can store it... you can.
As I've written before, you can make emergency preparations fun for kids when there is no immediate threat. Prepare a fire drill for your family and see what needs tweaked and practiced. Have the family prepare where they would go during a tornado warning.
Talk about hurricane preparations and earthquake drills. Let the kids make a list of what they think should go into a 72 hr. kit. And then you will know if you have to flee your house for a forest fire or flood that your youngest put their blankie at the top of the list.
For the most part, anything practiced ahead of time helps alleviate fear and failure in the main event. Oh, the flight or fight genes will set in but preparation will help your brain to stay clearer.
Any advanced preparation and knowledge will help. Since the pipe in the garage burst, we now know to check the pipes in the crawl space the next time Hubby changes the well filter. Who me? I'm so claustrophobic just thinking of the crawl space causes shivers. But you can see where I am going with the suggestion, even if it will be accomplished by someone less phobic. There are spiders there, too.
Below are some links I hope provide some good information for you. I will continue to be on the lookout for information each week I can link to on Saturday.
- My How I Stock Up Series gives a lot of advice on what I have learned through the years... here.
- Building and Stocking Your Pantry by Jackie Clay... excellent article!!!!... here.
- 100 Things that Disappear First in a Disaster is a very good list... here.
- I think it was Manuela who mentioned Little House in the Suburbs is having a Prep Along at the moment. You can find them... here.
- Mary Jane had some excellent suggestions for putting together an emergency kit for your car... here.