A recent trip to the dollar store got me to thinking about what kind of supplies I could find there. Many of the things in a dollar store are almost useless one-time use junk, but there are gems hidden among the dross, if you look close enough.
The first aisle I pushed my cart down had a large selection of candles. I am a big fan of candles since being without power for a week and seeing how well they lit and warmed a room. They had basic pillar candles and tapers available. They also had the scented candle in a jar available, along with the taller candle in a jar that I call a prayer candle.
They had packs of “emergency candles” that I passed on since the five-pack would probably burn less than one of the pillar candles, plus you had to figure out some type of holder for them. There were several types and sizes of LED flashlights to choose from. If you need extra flashlights to stash around your house, this is the place to get some inexpensive ones.
There were also lots of batteries, from AAA up to D cell. If you shopped, around you might be able to find a better deal somewhere, but the selection and price was not bad. I also picked up some canned heat that can be used for cooking, heating, or in the field as a survival fire source.
I was impressed with the multitude of plastic storage containers available. From tiny pill type containers, up to one or two gallon-sized containers of all shapes and sizes. I picked up a one gallon cylinder container that fits very well into my BOB.
They also had a plethora of plastic storage bags, from sandwich size up to garment or blanket storage bags. I looked closely at one of their laundry bags, thinking it would be a decent substitute for a backpack if someone needed to use it for carrying their supplies.
There were quite a few first aid items available that you could use to put together a pretty decent first aid kit in one of the aforementioned storage containers. With the Ebola scare going on right now I picked up a three pack of hand sanitizer.
While they didn’t have real work gloves, they did have several pairs of grip gloves that would be good for the field.
I picked up a 9×12 painter’s drop cloth. I like these cloths for shelter or bed construction. While they are not waterproof, they will shed water if set on an angle, along with blocking the wind.
I came across a three pack of jute twine, fairly small diameter and tightly wrapped. Jute twine is a handy item to have in your pack even if you have paracord. It can be unraveled and makes a wonderful tinder bundle, besides all the regular cordage uses.
I wanted to find a field knife, so I went to the kitchen knife section and looked through what was available. There were at least two knives that would not be too bad in the field. I made at least three trips up each aisle, trying to figure out survival uses for what I was seeing. When it was time to check out, I discovered a “Heavy Duty” rain poncho in the checkout lane, so I had to add that to the cart.
Some of the dollar store food is actually more expensive than your corner grocery store, so it is a good idea to have some idea of what things cost before you go shopping. However, if you are making a stocking up run and don’t want to run all over the place just to save a few cents here and there the dollar store can fit the bill.
My local store had a large selection of chips, crackers and candy. Only the hard candy should be considered a long term storage item. I found a bulk pack of sandwich cookies that will expire in about a year.
The canned meat section was pretty good. Tuna and sardines were more costly than elsewhere, but smoked mussels, Vienna sausages (2 for $1) and canned meat similar to Spam were about the same price as my local grocery. They also had small cans of beef in gravy that I have not seen elsewhere.
There were plenty of beans and rice on the shelves that I could have stocked up on if I needed it. I also picked up a couple five packs of Ramen (long gone are the days of 10 for $1).
The real find in the food department and even the whole trip was quarts of shelf stable milk. Hormone free milk that was dated out one year for $1 is a pretty good deal, I think. I picked up one each of 1% and 2% to see how the kids liked it, and they never knew the difference. The milk itself is worthy of another trip to the store.
As you can see, the dollar store isn’t a waste of time if you need to stock up on your survival supplies. They don’t have everything, but could get you through if you had no other choice.