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Pantry packed with canned goodsOf all the articles that we’ve written, the one that is the most enduring favorite of our readers has been Grocery Store Prepping. It only makes sense. Most people make two or more trips to the grocery store every week. If the grocery store sells the stuff that we need and use the most, we should probably be thinking of it as our first resource for beginner preps. Once we get the basics covered, we can venture to a wilderness outdoor equipment store for the more exotic preps.

Besides grocery stores, there are other vendors in our neighborhoods that can also serve up some pretty good preps, and many of them at discounted prices. Today we’re going to focus our attention on dollar store prepping, but don’t ignore other options such as Goodwill or resale shops and the good old yard sale.

We are blessed to live in a rural area that is well serviced by a number of the large chain dollar stores, such as Dollar General, Family Dollar, and Dollar Tree. These stores have become our go-to places for certain items that we regularly use, and we’ve discovered that dollar store prepping can be a thrifty prepper’s best resource. These stores tend to be cut-rate general stores that stock a lot of what you need to get you through routine emergencies, such as a power outage or storm.

The impetus for this article was a one-day sale we found at our local Dollar Tree store that’s happening tomorrow. While you can save money prepping at Dollar Tree or any of the dollar stores any day of the week, you can save more money (or buy more preps for the same money) on Sunday, November 23 (2014). It’s Customer Appreciation Day at Dollar Tree and they are offering 10% off all purchases that total more than $10. That makes every item you would normally purchase for a dollar only…wait for it… 90 cents! (Yep, we can do basic math here at The Approaching Day Prepper.) To get the 10% discount, you need to print this voucher from their website and present it to the cashier.

We’ve found that the products sold at Dollar Tree are often off-brand, but off-brand doesn’t always mean inferior. Sometimes you’ll find a product by a little unknown brand that beats what you’ve been paying much more for elsewhere. Be adventurous! What the heck — it’s just a buck. But don’t be a careless shopper. Take a minute or two to read labels, making sure you’re getting what you expect. Packaging can be deceiving, so read the label to determine how many feet, ounces, or items you’re getting for your buck. Check expiration dates as well.

Here are some ideas of what you can buy at your local Dollar Tree store. (You can buy them online, too, but Customer Appreciation Day applies only to in-store purchases.)

Storage

  • Bins & baskets – You’ll find a wide variety of sizes and types. You may not have an immediate use for them, but you’ll sure find one soon.
  • Baggies – It’s always good to have a supply of baggies in various sizes – sandwich, freezer, snack, etc.
  • Plastic wrap, aluminum foil – Watch package sizes to be sure you’re getting a good deal.
  • Canning jars and lids

Food

  • Canned vegetables – Watch for expiration dates. If the dates are soon, perhaps you can use them immediately in lieu of pulling from your pantry. You’re extending the life of your pantry which is, in effect, extending your food storage.
  • Boxed foods (or as we call them, “cardboard food”) – Brands may not be those you’re accustomed to, but you can find some interesting items to try, including some imported items that you’ll never find in your grocery store.
  • Canned meats – We list these separately because many people forget about canned meats. They’re great prepper food. Think tuna, chicken, sardines, Vienna sausages, etc.
  • Candies – This is often an overlooked item in prepping, but let’s plan for a life with treats!

Emergency Items

  • Cords, twine, rope, clothes line — I can guarantee you that in a longer-term emergency you or someone close to you won’t begin to have enough of this stuff on hand.
  • Tarps, ponchos, vinyl table cloths, and shower curtains – Anything that you can use to keep things covered and dry outside.
  • Glow sticks
  • Clamps
  • Duct tape

Kitchen Utensils & Supplies

  • Pick up that extra can opener you should have. Look for utensils that can be used in outdoor cooking. Look for small items that can be put in your bug-out bag.
  • Baking tins for making your own cleaning products. I make some of my own cleaning and health products. They often require pans and utensils and I don’t want to use the same as those I use for baking. Cupcake pans, small loaf pans and cookie sheets all come in handy.
  • Grater – Both for food prep (you may not be able to use your electric food processor) and for making cleaning products.
  • Wooden spoons – Can you ever have enough?
  • Paper plates and plastic ware

Cleaning & Sanitation

  • Soap and laundry detergent, for less than what you pay elsewhere
  • Chlorine bleach (but beware that chlorine bleach doesn’t store for very long)
  • Cleaning wipes / wet wipes — especially if you have young kids
  • Towels & rags – I recently bought four good quality dish towels to replace the towels I put on my counter under my tea station and by our plant area. The old ones are permanently stained. I figured I could spend $4 to quit looking at the stains. If I had waited for this 10% off sale, I could have gotten them for $3.60. I might go buy more!
  • Sponges
  • Latex gloves – Both disposable and longer-use gloves.

Health

  • Bandages
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Lip balm
  • First aid tape
  • Toothpaste, toothbrushes, toothpicks

Holiday Items & Decorations – While not a prepper item, per se, I think it’s important to remember to plan for the fun events in life when setting aside items for a time when life is less comfortable than we know it.

Happy shopping!

17 Responses to Dollar Store Prepping

  • anonymous says:

    Among all the other things you would normally check for expiration (food, medicines, etc) make sure you check your light sticks. They DO expire after about 1 year and are of no use after that. We found out the hard way when the power went off one day. Being confident in my preparedness I went and grabbed a handful of light sticks. They were only a little more than a year from purchase date old and they were all dead.

  • Dogboy says:

    Here are a few more dollar store items I’ve added to my bugout bags ….

    Garden trowels for each bugout bag (lighter than a shovel and better than nothing)
    Whistles
    small KJV New Testaments (lightweight reading, inspirational, and at worst can be used for tinder)
    note pads
    various first aid supplies including ace bandages
    minipads for wounds (less bulk than maxis but still sterile, add bulk with whatever is handy)
    multi-blade knife (poor quality, but for $1 it fills out a kit)
    single edge razor blades (for first aid kit and potentially other uses)
    disposable lighters
    Small containers, good or organizing bags and for holding water if needed.
    large kid’s crayons (for waterproof marking on the trail)
    tiny Ziploc bags for pills in the first aid section
    small towels
    canisters for storage
    drawstring laundry bags
    disposable tooth brushes
    gloves and dust masks
    tiny FM radios and earphones (haven’t seen those in a long time at dollar store)
    plastic sheeting

    Lots of other things, but with a $5 school backpack you can build a 3-day kit for two people mostly out of dollar store items.

    • Dogboy — Outstanding list. You point out that some of the items may be of poor quality, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be useful and a bargain. Nice to see that you’re not a gear snob. Not every task requires high-end mil spec equipment. Sometimes you can make do with a paper clip and a wad of chewing gum.

  • Illini Warrior says:

    If you travel or have that lengthy daily commute – you have to have that GHB ….

    Ever compile a GHB contents replacement list using common shelf items from a store like Dollar General? … good mental exercise for even the veteran preppers

    • I.W. — Good point. The contents of a GHB (Get Home Bag) don’t necessarily need to last a lifetime, so you can go cheap with some of that stuff. I think we might be doing a blog on bags for various purposes here in the near future. Thanks for helping to get the juices flowing.

  • Kesate Iyasu Batawi says:

    dollar stores here in NZ are pretty great, they sell all sorts of gadgets and unusual prep items, like tiger balm, to small first aid kits to lights, emergency ponchos, poly cord from 4 to 10 mm thick , small am/fm radios( extremely budget thou but never the less great for frugality ) things we don’t see in our dollar stores is usually food although we do have stores like those albeit a bit pricier such as clearance shed. Theres another one im trying to remember but for the life of me i cant quite seem to name it.

    • Kesate — Wow! We’ve got someone from NZ reading our little blog. I’m blown away. Sandy and I would love to visit your country sometime. But if we did, we might never leave. Thanks for writing.

      • Carol says:

        Am also from NZ and there are a lot of preppers here. We’ve been prepping for about 3 years since the big Christchurch quake where some people are still without homes. We get things slowly but surely. Our biggest threat at present are big earthquakes. Get them all the time. We have lots of bush with edible plants and fresh water streams and no snakes or bears etc so going up into the hills is our plan.Loving all these tips and ideas. Come on down. NZ would love to see you.

  • Grampa says:

    Many times we use items that will work for other things. We had an accident and my friend had quite a gash. A woman had a sanitary pad that we used with duct tape to stop the blood loss. the pads are sanitary and sealed in packs so they stay clean until needed now we see the dual use for items. I am sure others have some ideas as well!! They are at the dollar stores as well. Another is the metal pill cup that has a sealer ring that will hold matches and tinder for fire. four x steel wool will ignite faster than most tinder even wet a small piece in the top of the pill holder may start that wet tinder quickly. this also starts with the smallest of sparks. it also compacts and can be used to keep metal items free from rust. and don’t toss it away after using it to clean for it will burn clean or dirty.
    Grampa

  • Roberto says:

    I do a lot of shopping at the Dollar Stores (we have 3 different ones in my town, but please be advised that the majority of (non-food) items are made ‘west of Hawaii’ (yea, you guessed it…china!) and that includes most of the medical and sanitary supplies you might be purchasing, to include the name brand toothbrushes and toothpaste. So please check country of origin before buying.

We welcome your comments.

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