For each of us, our level of preparedness is a matter of choice. Some prep for the minimum, some for longer periods. For the people back east who went without power for 10 to 14 days recently, a two weeks of food that didn't require much cooking or refrigeration - and some extra BBQ fuel - would have been a good thing!
For emergencies that bring neighborhoods together, there is another type of preparedness to consider. It's a hard one for me to remember because our household is all able-bodied adults. Some in the neighborhood struggle to make ends meet while raising their families or maintaining a 'sandwich household' (children and elderly parents). Children and the infirm elderly may be hit hard psychologically during an emergency. Children usually don't understand the gravity of the situation. The infirm elderly understand but may feel powerless, and even worse may feel like a burden, to their families. Keeping a few comfort or distraction items available may be a blessing to your neighbors.
I don't make these preps a 'budget item' but do consider them when the price is right. Let me explain:
I keep my eyes open for a few items that could be useful my friends or neighbors. Some examples include: at the annual work safety fair (last one was conveniently a month before I retired!!) I picked up some of the freebies for kids - a coloring book on fire safety, a bee-shaped squeezy toy. I also grabbed a few other comfort items to include a water bottle, a paperback New Testament with Psalms, a couple of small sewing kits, a small stuffed toy (the dog pilfered the last one), an educational deck of playing cards, a small flashlight. I do the same at other 'fairs' around town. When clipping coupons, I clip the huge bargains for applicable products -- like a tube of name brand dental adhesive for $1 ($1 off manufacturer's coupon and $1 store coupon PLUS on sale -- happens about 2X a year), or a coupon for a free 'trial size' of adult incontinence undies. If I can get a pack of one to three for $2 or less, they 'go in the box.' Another source is Bath and Body Works. Occasionally they have some 75% off clearance items that are good candidates. This week they had a 3-pack of small nail files (emery boards) for 50 cents. That worked out to 17 cents per nail file. Travel take you to a hotel? Throw the unopened bottle of mouthwash or shower cap in your suitcase.
Yes, I keep one cardboard 'banker box' (about 1 cubic foot in size) of these items in my preparedness supplies. My total expense for the contents was less than $10. In a shelter-in-place emergency, these are available if needed. Our last such emergency was the Feb 2011 deep freeze and loss of natural gas (heat and stove) for about 25% of the local population. Mercifully, it was only three days and didn't require breaking out these items. Who knows what the next one will bring?