If you live in an area prone to floods, earthquakes or hurricanes, it's always a good idea to be able to grab a backpack and hunker down somewhere until the worst is over.

Even if your area isn't inclined to suffer natural disasters, there are always instances of prolonged power outages for one reason or another. In such cases, wouldn't it be comforting to know that you could provide the basics for your family for a few days?

Even if you're on a limited budget, dollar stores make it possible for you to put together an emergency kit for a lot less than you might think. A recent flier from 99-Cent Only Stores listed 21-plus items that it carries for a buck or less.

Here's a sample of a few of the essentials available at dollar stores:
  • bottled water -- a gallon jug is just under 80 cents
  • bandages and gauze roll
  • antibiotic ointment
  • rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide -- under 60 cents each
  • pain relievers
  • hand sanitizer and pre-packaged moist wipes
  • matches and candles
  • toothpaste and toothbrushes
  • flashlight and batteries
  • face masks and disposable gloves
  • bathroom tissue
  • canned food and juices
  • extra pair of reading glasses
  • bathroom tissue
  • whistle to signal for help
They also sell small nylon backpacks for $1, which would make the perfect place to store first aid and/or food supplies. Pack food items like beef jerky for $1, Chicken of the Sea tuna for 80 cents and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee pastas, and don't forget to include a can opener.

You could also add one set of camping silverware for each member of the household. I can buy these for $1.25 each at Dollarama and melamine plates and cups for $1 each piece.

At Dollarama, a backpack costs $2, as does a sturdy can opener. Among the food items I found: a Hereford brand canned ham for $2, Burns 5.5-oz flaked ham for $1, a 5-oz tin of chunk chicken for $1 and Holiday 10-oz tinned luncheon meat for $1.25, as well as bottled water for $1 each.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, (FEMA) has more on emergency preparedness and a full list of things you will want to include in an emergency supply kit.

Marlene Alexander is a freelance writer and dollar store diva. She writes tips and ideas for home decorating using only items from the dollar store.

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