How to Stock Up in Case of an Emergency

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An unexpected emergency could take the form of a layoff, illness, natural disaster or something else entirely. In any case, it never hurts to stock up your home in an effort to be prepared.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become more clear than ever that it’s crucial to be ready for anything in terms of home essentials and your finances. In this article, we’ll look at five categories that you should keep stocked up as well as specific tips for getting started. 

How to Start Stocking Your Home

No one can fully anticipate when a disaster or emergency will occur. For that reason, it’s important to stock your home with essentials like food, first aid supplies, cash and more.

To start preparing for any emergency situation, follow these steps:

  1. Shop for Nonperishable Food 
  2. Stock Up on Essential Products
  3. Stay Up-To-Date on Medications
  4. Gather Emergency and First Aid Supplies
  5. Build Your Savings Account

1. Shop for Nonperishable Food

Your first priority when it comes to any emergency is making sure you have enough food to feed your household for up to two weeks. That works out to 42 meals, including breakfast, lunch and dinner. While that sounds like a lot of food to stock up on, you can follow these tips recommended by NerdWallet to keep it all fresh and organized:

  • Make a list of two weeks’ worth of meals that would feed your whole household. Stick to as many nonperishable options as you can for entrees, sides and desserts. Choose things like peanut butter, pasta, soup, canned fruits/vegetables, etc. Don’t forget to account for snacks and drinks as well; as a rule of thumb, the American Red Cross recommends one gallon of water per person per day.
  • Shop for your groceries and begin storing your stockpile. Be sure to figure out where you’ll be keeping the food before you head to the store. Even if you have to get creative with storage, staying organized and making a list of everything being stored will go a long way. On your list, be sure to include each item’s expiration date for easy reference.
  • Use and replace your stockpile regularly so that your food doesn’t expire. If you’ve built an emergency food stash of 42 meals, you can make and replace one meal per week for a completely fresh stockpile in just under a year. To make sure you’re rotating through everything in your stockpile on time, look over your list and choose the next meal to be replaced based on the expiration date.

Be sure to consider the needs of each family member while preparing. If you have a baby in the house (or if you’re expecting one soon) you can roughly follow the above steps to prepare an emergency stockpile of formula or baby food. Similarly, make sure any pets in your household have enough food and water to make it through an unexpected emergency.

2. Stock Up on Essential Products

Once you’ve made a plan for building your emergency food stockpile, you’ll want to consider what essential products you and your family need in the case of an emergency. Keeping a reasonable amount of essential products in the house is a great way to prevent panic buying and make sure your finances will be free for other priorities.

To get started, make a list of products that your household uses daily; these are the products you’ll want to stock up on. Consider having at least one extra bottle or storage container of your most frequently used products.

While those products will vary from household to household, here are some examples of products you’ll most likely want to keep on hand:

  • Soap
  • Paper towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Tissues
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Toothpaste
  • Contact lens solution
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Other personal hygiene products

Whether you find yourself in an unexpected financial strain or aren’t able to make it to the store for an extended period of time, having enough of your essential products to hold you over during an emergency can be a lifesaver.


3. Stay Up-To-Date on Medications

In addition to food and essential products, you’ll want to stock up on common over-the-counter medications. Of course, if you have any prescription medications or necessary medical equipment, you’ll want to have those readily available in an emergency as well.

When it comes to nonprescription medications, you may want to have some of the following on hand in an emergency situation: 

  • Pain relievers
  • Fever reducers
  • Cough medicines
  • Antacids
  • Laxatives
  • Benadryl
  • Dramamine
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Other common OTC medications

You may also need to have infant or child formulations of some medicines available as well. 

Be sure to also stay up-to-date on current prescriptions including insulin, heart medicine, asthma inhalers, etc. If you use any at-home medical supplies like glucose or blood pressure monitoring equipment, be sure they’re in working order with a backup power supply ready if necessary.

4. Gather Emergency and First Aid Supplies

Another important step when it comes to stocking up on necessary essentials is building your emergency and first aid kits. In addition to your food, water, products and medications, you may find yourself needing a few basic tools or medical supplies.

According to the American Red Cross, you should consider having these items in your emergency kit: 

  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Copies of personal documents
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Emergency blanket
  • Map(s) of the area

When you’re building your emergency kit, consider the needs of everyone in your household as well as disasters that are common in your area. Your emergency kit may contain games for kids, pet supplies, matches, candles, rain gear and more.

As far as your first aid kit goes, you can buy a pre-made one or create your own. If you decide to put one together yourself, the American Red Cross has a full list of what to include in a first aid kit. The list includes essentials like adhesive bandages, a breathing barrier, an instant cold compress, an oral thermometer and more.

Once you’ve made your emergency and first aid kits, be sure to store them somewhere safe and easily accessible in case you need to evacuate.

5. Build Your Savings Account

In the midst of stocking up on everything you need, don’t forget you should be building your savings account as well.


Whether an emergency situation arises in the form of a natural disaster, a layoff or a broken appliance, your savings could make a huge difference. For a quick idea of how much a small emergency may cost, use this table as a reference.

At minimum, try to have at least enough to cover a $1,000 emergency expense. Ideally, you’d want to have enough put back to pay three to six months of expenses. In any case, the more money you have put away, the more secure you’ll be in any circumstance.

In addition to your savings account, you may also want to keep some cash on hand in case there’s an emergency that affects the banking systems. To figure out how much cash you keep at home, money expert Clark Howard recommends looking at how much you would need to cover an average three-day period.

For tips on how to build your emergency fund, be sure to read our guide on how to start saving money. You’ll find a step-by-step walk through including how to create a budget, reduce your expenses, set goals for yourself, build your emergency fund and more.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s most important to prioritize when it comes to building your emergency stockpile. 

First, you’ll want to make sure you can feed yourself and your family for at least two weeks. You’ll also want to ensure you have essential products readily available. Keep your prescriptions up-to-date and stock up on common over-the-counter medications. Lastly, be sure to build an emergency and first aid kit, as well as your savings account. These things could be lifesavers in the face of disaster. 

We never know when an unfortunate circumstance will present itself, which is why it’s so important that we’re always prepared. By following these five steps, you’ll be able to rest assured that your home will be stocked up in case of an emergency.

Emergency Stock Up Steps

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