Top 15 Survival Items You Can Buy at the Dollar Store

I have often heard one of the limiting factors people run into when it comes to emergency supplies, is budget. I can certainly empathize with people in that situation because I have been there and done that more than a few times.

Survival Items You Can Buy at the Dollar Store

While I am a believer in quality products and getting what you pay for, there are a number of budget-friendly products that have a place in any survival kit. So if finances are a concern, sit back and take note of 15 survival kit items that can be picked up at a dollar store (like Dollar General, Dollar Tree, etc).


Between washing dishes, laundry, cooking, drinking, hygiene, cleaning, and flushing the toilet, we use more water on a daily basis than we realize. Whether you purchase it drums, jugs, or bottles is up to you. But make sure you have extra stored away, it’s pretty important stuff.


This is one of those categories that people struggle with. Storing enough food while at the same time not breaking the bank can appear to be a challenging task. This is why for many people purchasing canned goods is a cost effective option. Canned goods require no refrigeration, cooking and have a long shelf life. Of course that is just one affordable food option offered by this store. 

Utility knife

A utility knife is actually quite useful. In many emergency situations we all are not going to be chopping down trees and processing large game. The majority of the tasks come as light duty ones. Cutting through packaging, food pouches, cordage, clothing material, first aid applications, creating tinder, etc. You may not be able to chop through materials with a utility knife but the bonus is that most of them come with multiple blades, so no need for sharpening!

Water Bottle

Water is critical to life and depending on the circumstances, we can only go several days without it. So having a way to collect water and transport it is obviously quite important. But don’t stop there! If you choose a metal bottle, then it can be used to

  • Boil water in
  • As an improvised cooking container
  • A signaling device
  • A trap for insects or small critters
  • A collection container for wild edibles
  • A way to transport hot embers for a fire


Cordage, cordage, cordage! People love talking about cordage because it is incredibly useful stuff! And even cheap cordage can be quite useful and last quite a while. From replacing shoestrings, building shelters, making snares, tying down vehicle loads and so many more uses that I can’t list them all in this article. Cordage is so versatile that you really cannot have too much of it.


Lighters and matches are so cheap nowadays that it is incomprehensible to me if someone does not carry them. Load up on these affordable fire starters because being able to make fire has so many benefits. Some of which include:

  • Cooking
  • Boiling water
  • Singling for help
  • Making tools
  • Staying warm
  • Keeping insects and predators at bay
  • Relighting a pilot light
  • Igniting emergency lighting, i.e. candles and lanterns


This makes for an affordable disinfectant and a way of killing many harmful germs in water. Sorry for repeating myself but water is critical to life, sanitation, and hygiene. For the best and healthiest results make sure that the bleach is unscented and is at least 4% sodium chloride.

First Aid Kit

Any emergency situation calls for a minimal level of first aid skills and supplies. Many generic medications are just as effective as their name brand counter parts so this can be a more cost effective option. Plus, one item that is undersupplied in most kits are gauze and trauma pads. I have found that these types of stores offer a variety of options of this material that is quite cheap.


The last time I was in one of these stores they had an assortment of one hundred percent cotton bandannas for around a buck. Not only is this item cheap but is can be used for a ton of purposes or than a cool head wrap. A few of those uses include:

  • A water filter
  •  Collecting water
  • Keeping sweat out of your eyes
  •  Face mask
  • Carrying container
  • Pot holder
  • Make char cloth from it
  • A bandage
  • A washcloth
  • A signaling device
  • A clothing or gear repair patch

Duct Tape

Duct tape can be an invaluable resource to have during normal times as well during an emergency. It is so versatile that if you have the means and the space, I recommend picking up a full roll of name brand tape. Here are just a few ways in which this tape can be used.

  • Temporarily fix a leak in a container
  • Patch a hole in clothing or gear
  • Hold up a loose bumper on a vehicle
  • Make an equipment sling
  • Create carrying handles
  • Use as a fire starter (tinder) or as a way to collect and hold tinder
  • Seal up windows and doors
  • Make an arm sling

Trash Bags

Trash bags are often overlooked and are highly underestimated as a survival resource. I suggest buying thick, heavy duty bags that are unscented. Trash bags are great for containing trash but they also have a multitude of other uses. Here are a few additional ways you can use them for.

  • Rain poncho
  • Sealing up windows and doors
  • Floatation device
  • A pack
  • A food prep area in the wild
  • Water collection container


Herbs and Spices

I always like suggesting to people to make sure they have a variety of spices on hand. Sometimes, much of the emergency food that we store can be rather bland and create a boring menu. Other than taste, spices also have nutritional value and other uses. Salt for example can be used as a disinfectant, is a dietary need and can be used in preserving food. A few simple spices can go a long way in giving a dull dish some much needed zest.

Can Opener

I usually get a few eye rolls on this one but if the power goes out how are you going to open those emergency cans of food? Yes, there are a few methods for opening can good that do not require a can opener. But some of those methods can be frustrating and some of the contents can be lost in the process. Save yourself the frustration and make sure you have a, or several, manual can openers in the drawer.


Keeping yourself, your clothes and your gear clean is the best way to prevent the spread of germs and to keep your personal health in good condition. Choose whatever kind of soap you want but one of the best general soaps I like to use is Dawn dish soap.

Plastic bags

Plastic Ziploc type of bags are another often overlooked item to stockpile. They are not just a way to pack a sandwich in a sack lunch. They can be used for:

  • A dry bag for waterproofing items in a pack
  • Separating supplies to divvy up among a group
  • Water collection container
  • A way to transport water
  • Put water in it and it can be used as a magnifying glass to start a fire
  • A collection container for wild edibles, insects, and fire-starting materials
  • They can be used as improvised gloves to keep your hands clean when handling questionable materials
  • A way to keep food last longer

Wrap Up

There are many items to choose from at Dollar Stores that work well for survival kits. The above list is a small example of those items that I think work best in covering the bases for anyone’s emergency needs. So the next time you are at one of these stores take a moment to look around and notice the affordable options available in order to add to your emergency supplies.

Written by Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021. Read more of Bryan's articles.