The Emergency Bucket Gift – the ultimate preparedness gift for family and friends

What's the ultimate gift you can get for your family and friends? A PREParedness gift, that's what! Find out how to make this Emergency Prepared Bucket that's prefect for Christmas, newlyweds and kids moving away from home at Momwithaprep.com

We all know those family members and friends who don’t pay any attention to their PREParedness needs. They scoff at your efforts, they have good intentions but never follow through, or they always look to you for help when things come up.

But you always want to encourage them to become more PREPared. You just have to figure out a good way to do it!

The DIY 5 Gallon Emergency Bucket Gift

So, for Christmas this year, give them a helping hand with this DIY 5 gallon emergency bucket. This is also a great way to help newlyweds or even your kids moving out on their own or into a college dorm. It’s the ultimate gift of PREParedness that you can give them to help them if you can’t be available or if you want them to learn for themselves.

Don’t feel like you have to spend hundreds to get this going, but think of it as a basic necessities kit to get them through. Pick and choose the most basic supplies, or fluff it up a bit with the extras to help them along the way. Consider this a family gift to all of them, even if they turn up their noses at it. Hopefully, they’ll put it in a closet and have it for the next time something drastic happens and they weren’t prepared.

Note: While I’ll provide links to Amazon or places where you can purchase items or get a better look at their descriptions, don’t feel you have to spend a ton. Get them from your own sources, or even pull from your own supply if you have it to get the buckets started. Remember – you aren’t trying to PREPare these families with years of supplies, but use a good 3 day rule to get them through the most basic of needs. 

What to include in your Family Emergency Kit Bucket Gift


  • 1 3 or 5 gallon bucket. You can purchase them for about $5 from the DIY home stores or purchase them from bakeries, restaurants (some will give them away for free, but many are starting to charge almost a full, unused price for a used bucket). If you do go this option, be sure to check the lid fit. You want a tight fitting lid that doesn’t pop off easily.
  • 1 Gamma Lid Pick red or green to be festive (or even blue for Hannukah) or white as a wedding gift. This gives an airight/waterproof seal for their kit, and can be used for food storage. Alternatively, you can use a toilet seat lid  so that they’ll have an emergency toilet that might give everyone a good laugh or freak some people out. That’ll be your call. However, they are not waterproof or airtight, but useful, nonethless. The reason the Gamma lid is a good option is that a special tool isn’t needed to open the lid, which will inevatibly get lost, and sometimes, those storage bucket lids are really hard to pry off. A Gamma lid can just be screwed off. While not a necessity, it is super-handy.


  • 1 Room lantern. I recommend this one . It’s our family’s favorite one. It tucks away easily, is easy to use, and doesn’t require a learning curve like an oil lamp requires, plus is a little safer to store in the bucket. Another option is this solar-charged, inflatable light. It is awesome, too, and packs into a small bundle – however, it needs to be charged before being usable. An oil lamp is great, but if the family you’re giving this gift to is like the families I envision, a battery powered lantern is your best option.
  • Glowsticks. These are great for personal lighting, for the kids to play with, etc. They are cheap and will be handy. You can get them at dollar stores, in post-seasonal sales, and even in bulk. While these fingertip lights don’t really let off a lot of area light, they are perfect for the youngesters in a family. They’re great to keep them occupied in the dark for a long time, give them a little bit of glow for themselves, and make perfect stocking stuffers, too.
  • Flashlights – even with glowsticks and a room lantern, flashlights or headlamps are a good idea for personal use as well as walking around the area. But don’t buy the cheapest flashlight you can find. Those usually don’t have a shelf life worth buying.These are our favorite personal flashlights. The batteries are excellent in them and they are SO bright and adjustable. One in the bucket will serve as a great traveling flashlight if someone needs to go to the restroom or outside to check things. Headlamps can be great if you are working on a project in the dark. If you have a Harbor Freight in your area, keep an eye out on the prices for these. You can often get them for free or just a few dollars during one of their promotions. This is a great hands-free alternative for light.
  • Candles, tea light candles and matches – This is a very inexpensive option for general lighting.


  • Hand and Foot WarmersThese can be handy for cold weather to tuck in boots and gloves. They are available everywhere now days, including the dollar stores, sporting good stores, etc.
  • Gloves/Scarves/Socks/Hats – If you’re crafty, you can make some, or you can tuck away inexpensive ones you get at thrift stores, dollar stores, etc. Consier including a pair of work gloves as alternatives, just in case.
  • Emergency BlanketsIn most cases, families have plenty of blankets in colder weather regions. My suggestion is small emergency blankets that can be layered with blankets or coats, or actually put together to create a smaller shelter to help keep warm.
  • Fire – a lighter or an easy to use fire starter (This Gerber fire starter is my favorite and is super easy to use, even for people with little experience) is a great way to include a source of fire to create their own heat. You may not be able to afford to include a campstove suggested in the food section, so this is a good, inexpensive option. Consider including some petroleum jelly covered cotton balls in a pill bottle to serve as extra fire starters. They’re an easy DIY project even your kids can do!
  • Tarp – from Harbor Freight or DIY stores. While a black trash bag is cheap and easy to compact and store, a tarp is just sturdier. It can provide shelter in the form of a tent or as a room base, it can be used as a rain/wind barrier, and so much more. If you have the room in your budget and your bucket, include one.


This is a little tricky because it’s hard to pack a lot of water, and water filters can be expensive depending on how many family members there are. You can’t load a ton of water, but you can do some fun pouch sized waters to add to what they may already have – or what they can use until they get to help or help arrives. Alterntively, create a list of places where they can find water in and around their home in an emergency.

Food & Snacks

Here is another area where it can get tricky. Do you want to provide enough food for three days for a family, or do you want to give them a quick emergency set up and hope that they can still eat out of their pantry and fridge. I’m going with the latter option here. You don’t want to have to provide that much food, especially if it’s a larger family, but you do want to make sure they have something quick and easy and ready to go, and that serves as an example of what they’ll need to have.

You have three basic choices:

  1. Ready to Eat Meals in a can – like raviolis, tuna, stews, etc. They aren’t the best nutritious meals, nor are they the most filling. BUT, they have the advantage of being ready to eat, many with a pop lid (be sure to include a can opener, just in case), with only needing crackers or some other filler to help round it out. If you do include cans that don’t have pop-tops, be sure to include a can opener – this P-38 can opener is cheap and can be taped to the lid or added to a lanyard.
  2. Freeze Dried Meals. A couple of freeze dried meals, like these from Mountain House, can serve a family for a day or two, depending on what they already have in their pantry. The only drawback to these is that hot water is needed. IF they have a fireplace or a propane kitchen, that probably won’t be a problem as long as they have some water available. You can provide a small, inexpensive camp stove for cooking and heating if it’s within your budget, and it will help with both option number one and two. Just remeber, you’ll also need to provide the fuel for said stove – so a tab stove might be your best option for just being able to boil water. Another alternative is a an emergency food bar that doesn’t require cooking.
  3. Snacks – just buy easy to break out snacks and such. Beef jerky, dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter, protein bars, juice boxes, shelf stable milk containers, etc. Remember, this is just a 5 gallon bucket, so you don’t want to buy mega sized boxes of things. Just enough to get them through.



  • Toilet Paper – a roll or two of toilet paper (if you remove the core, it wills quish better).
  • Disinfecting wipes in a can or pouch – this can clean hands, clean surfaces and even clean dishes if need be.
  • Water purification tablets – Depedending on the disaster, water may not be potable, and you need a way to filter what’s available to you. Water purification tablets take up little room and can be a good backup to a filter.
  • Black Trash Bags – a few sturdy black trashbags can become shelter, a place to sit off of the wet ground, and can even help convert that bucket into a toilet if needed. The bags can be buried or stored elsewhere until the time comes they can dispose of them properly.


  • Weather Radio – whether you go with an inexpensive model, or something more upscale and multi-tasking, it’s a great form of communication for times when most mainstream communications may be unavailable during power outages. I’m going to suggest staying on the low-end with this radio because what you really want is just a a weather alert radio where the family can catch the latest news for emergencies. There are verisons that crank to give you light and recharging capabilities, but if you’re trying to keep the price down, stick with the basics. I have found that over time, the crank just doesn’t hold up as well, or you spend so much time cranking for little return unless you buy a higher end model.
  • Emergency Whistle – any GOOD whistle will do, but we keep these whistles in our emergency bags because they also store matches in a waterproof container. Don’t skimp on a small whistle – you want something good and that can be heard.
  • Duct or Gorilla Tape – this is one of those all-purpose products that can do so much, including holding blankets together to form a tent, repair clothing, hold things together. Alternatively, zip ties can work similarly and can be found inexpensively everywhere.
  • Books and Games – when the power goes out and you can’t go outside, keeping yourselves occupied is a big deal, especially when you have children. Include a few puzzle books plus markers, a card game or dice game (we really love games like Skip-Bo and Boggle) and a coloring book – they even thave them for adults now! Just anything to help pass the time. These can be purchased inexpensively at used bookstores, thrift stores, dollar stores, etc. Definitely not a must-have, but a nice addition.
  • First Aid and Preparedness Books – a handy first aid book is a must for helping people with quick emergent care. A book like this is a great reference for emergency situations. Here are just a few suggestions. There are tons and you can find more on my reading resources page > My PREParedness Library
  • Extra Batteries – a small stash of extra AA, D and AAA is a good start for most. If you’re feeling REALLY generous, any small, portable solar battery charger is a great convenience!
  • Create a resoure of printable checklists, websites to visit, and other areas of information where they can learn more about preparedness (such as my 72 hour emergency bag checklist or my Family Emergency Binder checklist). As a warning – keep it to sites where the fear factor is not great or the tin foil hat is not too large. You want to encourage families to be prepared for emergencies, not scare them off with things that look and read as farfetched.
  • Multi-tool – because you can never have enough tools, ever. But this is a small, easy to use tool that can take care of a lot of needs. Don’t skimp and get the cheapest thing in the world – there are plenty of mid-range tools available.
  • 1 Bow –  Because are you really going to wrap this thing?

Remember, don’t feel you have to provide every emergency disaster need for the family. You’re packing some basics to help them get through and get them started. It’s a prompt to help them learn to care for themselves, a good backup for a family starting out, and a way for you to offer help and education.

Your Thoughts? Share what else you would add to an emergency bucket as a gift for family and friends.

 What's the ultimate gift you can get for your family and friends? A PREParedness gift, that's what! Find out how to make this Emergency Prepared Bucket that's prefect for Christmas, newlyweds and kids moving away from home at Momwithaprep.com

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Becky is a wildlife enthusiast and pet and livestock care expert with a diploma in canine nutrition. With over a decade of experience in animal welfare, Becky lends her expertise to Simple Family Preparedness through insightful info about pets, livestock, bee keeping, and the practicalities of homesteading.

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