June 24, 2017

Five Must Have Items, Each Under Five Bucks

Five Must Have Items Each Under Five Bucks

Stocking up on preparedness items can get expensive, so I thought I would give you a list of five items that you should have in your supplies that are less than $5 each. Remember though that “two is one, and one is none.” Even if you have one of these items, for the sake of redundancy, you might consider getting another.


We only use bleach for the occasional load of laundry and to clean the kennel from time to time. However, bleach can be used as a disinfectant and could be used for cleaning in a survival situation.

It isn’t my first choice as a water purifier, but unscented bleach can be used to do so.

If tap water is clear:
1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent (like lemon).
2. Add 1/8 teaspoon (8 drops or about 0.75 milliliters) of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.
If tap water is cloudy:
1. Use bleach that does not have an added scent (like lemon).
2. Add 1/4 teaspoon (16 drops or 1.5 milliliters) of household liquid bleach to 1 gallon (16 cups) of water.
3. Mix well and wait 30 minutes or more before drinking.

Keep in mind that this will only kill bacteria and virus and will not remove any other harmful chemicals.

Duct Tape

Duct tape is one of the items I don’t think you can have too much of. It can be used: to close small cuts, to repair a BOB, as impromptu handcuffs, to temporarily patch a broken window, for temporary automotive repairs and on and on.

In short, if it is moving or is leaking and it shouldn’t be, duct tape is often a solution.


Pack of Lighters

Obviously an item used for baking. (Chris has a nasty sweet tooth at times. ~Trudee) Ok, for starting a fire. Sure having the knowledge of starting a fire without a lighter is a good idea. However, while a bow drill, flint, and the other multitude of ways for making flame are effective, they are not nearly as efficient as a lighter.

I think there should be a lighter in each vehicle as part of a car kit, in each BOB and a few around the house.


Manual Can Opener

If you have commercially canned food in your pantry, you would be wise to have one or two of these around. They are not all made equal. I have used several and only think one or two were worth owning.

As with making flame, there are other means of opening a can. I have seen people use a hammer and screw driver, a concrete median and other ways, but in a grid down situation, a manual can opener is the most efficient way to get the job done.


Petroleum Jelly

This is another item that has many uses. It can be applied to very dry skin to moisturize, to keep skin from chaffing and it can be applied to exposed skin in cold or windy areas to protect it against the elements. When applied to a cotton ball it can be used to pack a bloody nose, or to start a fire!

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  1. Wonderful tips! I have all 5 items in stock on my prep shelves. And yes they are very inexpensive.

  2. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    I have moved and cannot find my bleach, but I have all the rest available. I do have the bleach somewhere in the 20 unopened boxes in the garage.

    I also use electricians tape; sometimes it is better than duct tape.

    • Chris Ray says:

      You’re correct on electrician tape sometimes being better, we have multiple kinds of tape, each for their own job. Duct tape is the one that gets the most use.

  3. Rev. Dr. Michael E Harris says:

    I found the site for Top Prepper sites, but I did not find a way to vote. I have a new computer and am using Chrome. I can try with Firefox or IE if that makes a difference.

    • Chris Ray says:

      You vote just be clicking the link, and then clicking on the link that says click here to enter.

      Thank you for voting!

  4. Walmart has supplied me with small tubes “travel size” of petroleum jelly at about $1.00, as well as smallish jars at low cost for First Aid Kits. The tubes go into double ziplockbagged cotton packing that I save from vitamin bottles as a way to start fires and have in multiples in all BOB packs along with 2 or 3 butane lighters each. The lighters?…CHEAP! I bought a display pack of 100 at the cigarette counter at Sam’s Club for about $11.00. I have them redundified all over the place and have gifted others with them as well. Walmart also has a $1.00 (throwaway) lockback in their camping supplies that serves as a utility blade in every pocket. (DON’T think of this item as fulfilling your need for QUALITY blades) Walk the store in Pharmacy and other areas and you can find much to add at reasonable sizes and prices.
    There and the Dollar Store are also sources for Feminine Products for BOBs. All sizes and kinds (unscented) can serve as wound dressings, impromptu facial air filters, emergency water filtering straw (tampon), not that I would want to have to use one – but it’s there.
    Amazon and eBay have small Tactical 300 and 400 lumen flashlights with clips, as well as some other features that you can get at about $3.50 – $5.00 each.
    Invest $25-30 and get several for all your stash places and purposes.
    Baruch Haba baShem Adonai.

  5. Dare Tuitt says:

    Great article! All easily found for $1 each at a local dollar store. If you can spare an extra $5, $10 or $20 a week to go “prep shopping” at a Dollar Store, these are the things I would also buy: sewing kit, bottled water, canned meat, aseptic packaged milk, glow sticks, leather gloves, paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, lots of medical and first aid supplies, zip ties, flashlights and batteries – just to name a few items. Good for stockpiling for use and barter. Can you think of anything else?

    • Julie Anderson says:

      Vinegar, baking soda, and salt

      • Chris Ray says:

        three good ones, thanks for adding them.

        • I think the salt is very important. Food preservation, and tasty. My advice would be to repackage as soon as possible in air tight plastic containers. Check with food services at schools, nursing homes, and restaurants.

      • There are a lot of different kinds of salt. If you are a canner (I am), then you need to use canning salt that doesn’t have additives. That is important. If there is a SHTF scenario, you might want to be sure to have iodized salt because everyone needs iodine in their systems. I think salt is one of the most important things you can save – and it is cheap! Costco sells salt in the 25 lb bags. I put it into plastic tubs to use for whatever is needed when the need arises.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I have gotten plenty of our gear from the dollar store. Some items are worth paying more for higher quality, but there are still plenty of items worth buying.

  6. Great list I think we have plenty of these but I better double check.

  7. Oh, how easy it is to forget the basic, simple items. I have all of them, but will add to our supplies b/c of this article.

    We don’t keep much bleach on hand, though, b/c my understanding is that the shelf life of liquid bleach is relatively short -a few months. I do keep some solid, dry pool bleach on hand, b/c it lasts a very long time.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I have heard the life is much longer, but I can remember the source. Do you remember where you heard the shelf life was short?

      • I googled “how long can bleach be stored” & found these, but u can find more answers:


        Bottom line: liquid bleach is good for 6-9 mths,, then gradually gets weaker.
        IF/when u get solid pool bleach, be careful where & how u store it, as it will make any metal things nearby rust. I put mine in sealed plastic in a sealed canning jar (yes, the lid will rust, but I’m open to other ideas) on a wood shelf in a shed, w/ no other metal items w/in 18 inches.

        • Chris Ray says:

          very nice, thanks for looking it up.

          You could put it in plastic buckets.

        • I stored my pool chemicals in our pool house that had copper plumbing pipes going to a water heater. It wasn’t very long until the fumes had deteriorated the copper pipes and they began leaking natural gas fumes! Be careful how you store any of these chemicals. I have some powdered/granulated pool bleach now that I will use to purify water. It came in a plastic bucket with a sealed plastic lid. I will leave it in that until I need it in an emergency. It might be an idea to call a pool chemical store and ask how to safely store it. Just don’t leave it around any metal stuff!!

        • Buy the white plastic canning jar replacement lids at Wal-Mart for replacing the metal lids. They aren’t for “canning purposes” where food is being preserved, but are great to replace the metal lids with for anything that has been opened and needs to be refrigerated, or, in this case, to use instead of the metal lids for storing your “pool bleach.”

    • pool bleach is not for human consumpsion/poision

  8. Nearly every time I go to a dollar store or Big Lots, I get a few cans of meat and sardines.

  9. At Walmart I also buy the lighter pack of 7 for $1.95 and the one dollar knifes which are very good. I buy many of the knifes which you can give to family and friends that do not save anything.

    Walmart also has many thing in there camping area for under five dollars. The Coleman waterproof camp matches four boxes for $2.95 and the Coleman two pack large glow sticks for $2.95.

    The can opener is very important for all the can foods we are saving.

    With the duck tape I also buy the painters plastic rolls for $2 to $5. The plastic can be used to cover a window or door to protect you from a FLU or any other air borne viral/Bio problem.

  10. Water, water, water! It can be free and kept in glass containers that you have emptied of other food and washed well. I boil my water for 15 minutes on the stove, fill my clean empty jars, and store away till needed. No cost except for the cost of your tap water. If you take this water and put it canning jars and pressure can it, it will be sterilized and great for drinking, but especially great for medical use. Again, all it costs is the price of your electricity or gas to operate the canner and boil the water. Water is the very most necessary thing you need in case of any emergency. I have many jars that I will use for canning this summer, but meantime they are filled with clean, boiled water. I never know if a catastrophe will happen before I expect to use the jars.

    • Chris Ray says:

      I believe you only need to bring water to a rolling boil, as all pathogens are killed at that point. There is one school of thought that says at higher elevations you need to boil it for 5 minutes.

      I hadn’t thought of storing water in canning jars, clever idea.

      • First, there is no need to boil the water if you are going to pressure canning it. It doesn’t hurt, but it a wasted effort, as the water will reach temps above (240 degrees at sea level) the boiling point (212 degrees at sea level) in a pressure canner.
        Second, boiling is not required to make water safe, it only needs to reach 158 degrees to make it safe to drink. Boiling is a visual indicator that the water has reached a particular temperature, again, 212 degrees at sea level.

        I’ve used this explanation :
        As it explains water safety in the simplest way I’ve seen.

        Just saying.

        As to storing water in jars, it is a fantastic idea, if space is available.

  11. Santa Walt says:

    I agree that you should have Petroleum Jelly on hand, however, NOT for moisturizing your skin. Petroleum jelly will actually dry your skin. Most of us have noticed how we get dry pealing lips when we use a lot of Chap Stick. Seems the more we use the more we need it. The petroleum product is just drying your lips and making them worse.. A much better skin moisturizer is a mixture and 3 oz of coconut oil and 1 capsule of astaxanthin. Use gloves when mixing the two because the astaxanthin will stain your skin and will not wash off. The mixture will have an orange color but will not show on your skin when using it. Since coconut oil is solid at room temperature, it should be warmed up enough to become liquid before mixing. You might be able to use fractionated coconut oil since it is always liquid, I have not tried it and don’t know about the results of using the liquid. I would rather use this mixture than anything I have ever tried.

    • Chris Ray says:

      While I don’t think it should be used on a constant basis, I know people who’ve had good success with using it on very, very dry skin.

      Your idea is interesting. Wheat do you store it in?

      • you can buy chapstick containers from thecontainerstore.com or tins with slide off or lift off lids. you can also buy tiny plastic containers with twist off lids. all are good. adding some beeswax will keep it from melting in your pocket. there are recipes online for homemade lip balm to get the proportions.

  12. Cristy Ray says:

    We purchase several other items from the Dollar Store: extra toothbrushes, dental floss and picks , Q-tips, and they sell Cotton Rounds for make-up removal that work excellently as covering for wounds, or washing your face (with witch hazel) when there is no running water, waterproof and paper first aid tape. There are so many items available at these stores, no one should have an excuse to be totally unprepared.

  13. For can openers, I go with P-38’s and P-51’s since they take up almost zero space, can be thrown in every box of canned goods, are HIGHLY portable from their size, and for the about half the cost on the least expensive crank can opener I’ve ever seen.


  14. Great ideas, Chris.

    Do you recommend a particular brand of can-opener that is easier to use than others?


  15. A savvy person can get all these items at a dollar store, as long as they are not partial to any brand names and inspect the ingredients prior to purchase. In any case a person can get all five items for five dollars!

  16. @ Chris, you were correct first. Your article IS titled Five Must Have Items, Each UNDER Five Bucks.
    I was just trying to point out an alternative purchase point. Great article BTW!!!

  17. The large bic lighters are much better than the others.
    More expensive than cheap ones but 100 times better.

  18. Good article!
    I am a big fan of the low cost preps.

  19. I like the inclusion of a can opener.
    I have several friends with the typical cans of prepper food. On one occasion, my wife asked where the can opener was. People looked around, went ‘ahhh…, hmmmm…’
    I bought a couple of those P-38 military one for a buck at a gun show. The next time, I’m planning on buying a whole passel (maybe 5 dollars worth?) to gift.

    I did not really think of Vaseline, prior to reading this.

  20. Stephen Titus says:

    I was at Wal-Mart the other day and found a 12 pack of LED flashlights with batteries for $10. Good buy and great to have for emergencies

  21. I have been ordering free samples from just about everyone I can. Travel sizes of shampoo, toothpaste,hand lotion, feminine hygene products, antacids, etc. They are great for my BOB and to have on hand for barter!!

  22. It was my understanding that it you wet skin a bit then put Vaseline on it, it will seal IN the moisture. Old beauty trick

    • Chris Ray says:

      I have heard the same about baby oil, so that makes sense. Good luck rubbing it in though, don’t do it if you need to leave in a hurry lol

  23. Duct tape certainly is a go to fix all indeed, but if you want something that will out stick and out last regular “duct tape”, you will do much better with “Gorilla Tape” which comes in a number of sizes and colors. It costs more, but when it comes to possible life and death matters, a few extra dollars does not matter to me. At the very least get good “Duct Tape” and not that cheap junk called “Duck tape.” You get what you pay for especially when it comes to tape.

  24. would like to point out a couple of things to consider…1. when u buy duct tape buy heavy duty not reg. strength( i bought reg once…won’t even keep a cardboard box closed)…2. the cheap lighters r the same ( as a smoker, i know)..too many times the flint will pop out and u r left with a lighter half full of unusable fuel…i have switched to using a Zippo, and keep several Bics on hand as well as matches as back ups….3. CHEAP can be good …just remember u get what u pay for…..4. this goes for almost everthing….Would u buy cheap canning supplies to save a buck????

    • Chris Ray says:

      I think sometimes you absolutely get what you pay for. I tend to go for price points in the middle of the road.

  25. Patrick Flynn says:

    Good article with solid info. My question is this: how can I store bleach long term? I bought a couple of gallons 12 months ago and stored them in my prep. I checked out my prep area recently and found that the plastic bottles from the grocery store had degraded and leaked. I had to toss them. I’m concerned about storing bleach in certain types of containers at this point. Can anyone here advise me on how to store such an important chemical for the long term?

    Pls email me at Patjflynn@bex.net

    I appreciate your input! And….Happy New Year!


  26. This doesn’t rank up there with bleach and duct tape but if you can find quality strike anywhere matches buy those as well. The Diamond brand red and white strike anywhere matches are going by the wayside by my understanding. They are being replaced by a “safer” strike anywhere of lessor quality. Lighting lanterns, camp fires and many other things outdoors are made somewhat easier with a strike anywhere match. Throw some in a waterproof container and you’re good to go.

    Thanks for the great article and opinions.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Good idea as well. I remember people flicking their thumb over a strike anywhere match, they’re not as easily lit anymore.

      • I buy strike anywhere matches at a locally owned old fashioned hardware store. they have everything from delicate china and silverware to casserole dishes to garbage cans and plastic buckets with lids to bulk seed. if I can’t find it anywhere else I go there and they always have it. I don’t know what I’ll do if he retires or dies. he has no kids.

        • Chris Ray says:

          I wish I had a store like that near me. The only strike anywhere matches I can find are the newer ones that are hardly strike anywhere.

  27. Butane lighters will stop working at some low temperature – I don’t remember precisely so look it up. I think it’s around 20 degrees. So if you’re going to depend on a butane for your campfire / heat source, carry it next to your body under your outer clothing. Or you may find yourself trying to learn how to use a bow drill under extreme duress. Honestly you’re better off with a firesteel and some homemade fire cubes.

    • Chris Ray says:

      Like I said knowing how to use a bow drill, or firesteel is great knowledge, but no reason not to carry an easy to use, inexpensive item that can get flame faster.
      I haven’t ever owned a butane lighter so that is good to know.

  28. In regards to the manual can openers, I would say to go to a thrift store and get a full size swing style. First, they are just easier to use. If you ever get into a HTF situation, those tiny ones (I have them in my BOB) are a bugger to use and if your hands are cold, even worse. Second, a child can use the bigger one too, if necessary.

    I stopped buying regular duct tape a while ago. Even extra strength. I’ve switched to Gorilla tape and never looked back. Waaaay more expensive than duct tape, but it’s strength and stickiness is unparalleled (in my opinion).

    I keep both lighters and matches. Matches go into small mason jars with the strike slip on the lid or inside.

    The point is to get started! And this is a quick and cheap way to do it. Thanks, Chris!

  29. I have found that Gorilla glue brand of duct tape to be much better in all aspects. It costs more but is worth the price. It is much stronger, lasts much longer and stays where it’s applied. No other brand of duct tape works as well. Some of the lower priced stuff is real junk and is a waste of money, even at 99 cents, it would be a waste of money.

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