tl/dr: The zombies are coming. The first will "show up" in two weeks. I have about $3000 to prepare and my plan is to hide in my home for as long as possible. I need to secure my house, buy food and supplies, and make any necessary upgrades. I figure that ability to buy food/water will be my biggest limiting factor. What can I do on my budget to maximize the time my wife and I can hide out, and how long until I have to start scavenging? My goal is to hide for a few months, after which all the zombies will hopefully be dead.

The zombies are coming. Only I know it. Trying to convince anyone else will be a fools errand, and will waste the two weeks I have to prepare. These will be "28 days later" style zombies - fast and very dangerous, but they need to eat and will start dying on their own if I wait long enough. That's my goal: to wait them out. I certainly don't want to risk a fight with any of them. Here are the details:

  1. I live in a typical suburban neighborhood in a medium-sized US city. There are roughly 500,000 soon-to-be zombies in the city around me.
  2. My house is average - 3 bedrooms, 1000 square feet (100 m2), one car garage, and a fenced in backyard
  3. Walls are plenty strong, windows and doors are not and must be secured.
  4. The fence is a standard 6-foot (2 m) privacy fence and in good shape. It should be secure, as long as I don't attract an entire horde of the undead
  5. The backyard gives about 0.25 acres (1000 $m^{2}$) of arable land. It is currently all grass. I can't decide if it is an asset or a liability.
  6. My wife will be with me. She certainly isn't going to believe me, but I can convince her to not leave me for two weeks. She isn't going to help me prepare, but once the zombies show up she'll obviously be on my page.
  7. Power and water will obviously be turning off soon after it starts. More importantly though, my toilets will stop working. That's going to be a large problem that I'm not sure how to deal with.
  8. My finances are crappy and my mortgage just came out of my bank account. My next paycheck won't show up until Z-Day, so it's useless. I'm going to drain my checking and max out my credit card, but that will only get me about $2000. I can pawn some stuff for another grand. That's all the money I have to prepare.
  9. After a couple weeks the zombie population will reach peak numbers, and start to decline. They'll be around for a while though as they pick out all the other survivors that don't hide as well as me. After 2 weeks of population explosion their numbers will start to half once every ~3 weeks. I'm hoping to stay in hiding for at least 12 weeks.
  10. I want to avoid excessive rationing. The longer I stay in hiding, the safer it will be when I emerge, but if I've been on a starvation diet for a couple weeks and happen to run into a zombie, I'll definitely be a dead man.
  11. Since this will hit quickly, I expect there to be plenty of room for scavenging once I emerge. As a result the goal is literally just to hide for as long as possible. If I can stay in hiding for a few months I should be okay after that.

What's the best way to use my resources, and how long will I be able to stay in hiding? Will I be able to stay in hiding for ~4 months?

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    $\begingroup$ So basically you just asking how much non-perishable food you can buy for $2000 $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ What is the layout of your house? How many floors? Is there a basement? Is the garage attached or no? What is the climate? Will heating/cooling be an issue? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 15:53
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Go visit an island, or rent a boat. Zombies cannot swim (and you can chose a location that is remote enough so they cannot walk on the bottom). You have endless supply of fish and water (solar desalinator if on the sea). You have waste disposal solution. And much better chance to GTFO if situation deteriorates. $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 19:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Zombie Pockyclypse generally results in the break down of civilisation. Why are you worries about money? $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 22:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Does everyone know the Zombies are coming? Or it is only you? If your wife doesn't believe you, it suggests only you. Therefore, what's wrong with grabbing a couple of new Credit cards and significantly extending your budget? After all it's not like you'll have to pay them off after the Apocalypse. $\endgroup$
    – Jontia
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 9:25

6 Answers 6


You have several concerns and the limiting factor here is money. We'll have to assume you're a handy person and can do your own installations.

1. Security.

You want to buy a security screen door for each exterior door of the house (or at least one for the front and one for the rear and you can seal off side doors). These will run you about $300 each, but you can sometimes find them used, especially if you don't care if they are an exact fit (as long as no zombie hands can reach through, you're okay) and aesthetics.

enter image description here

Window bars aren't that expensive, but they will add up fast, depending on how many windows you have. This 3x4 foot one is $34. Again, they're often available used and do check your local junkyard or recycling place. Exact fit is not important.

enter image description here

Your fence is going to be the more expensive issue. It's in good shape but privacy fences are easy to climb and to break through. It depends a lot on how resourceful, agile, and desperate the zombies are. Can they get and use ladders? Move large objects to the edge of your fence and use them to get over? Can they just stand on top of each other?

They may not bother someone with a fence in the beginning, but as they start to die off and their lack of food makes them more desperate, they are likely to take more extreme measures to feed.

Securing the entire backyard is not possible on your budget (and timeline). Instead, put your resources into creating a cage out of chain link fencing (or similar fencing used in zoos and kennels) around your back porch/patio area only. Don't forget to fence in the roof of this extension.

enter image description here

This will protect your washing water that doesn't fit in the house, other large supplies, and your cooking area (and your toilet area if it's needed).

Note that your security is to 1) keep out zombies, and 2) keep out other humans.

2. Food.

This is easy. Go to Grocery Outlet or some other discount place and get lots of shelf stable food that doesn't need cooking. Cans of beef stew, tunafish, etc. Things that are cheap and high in protein and calories. Consider also restaurant supply places. The prices are super cheap for a lot of things and most of them let you shop once without a membership (at my local one, membership is free but you have to have a business tax ID or other proof of a business, which does not have to be a restaurant). Make sure you don't buy anything that is perishable after being opened if you can't finish it before it goes off.

Buy bags of beans and rice and dried peas and lentils. Fresh vegetables that easily keep a couple months without refrigeration: carrots, potatoes, onions. Dried fruit, jam, etc. Give yourself a variety. Stock up on cooking oil and herbs/spices. Make sure there is plenty of salt.

You don't want to starve and you don't want to be tempted to leave the house. Buying in bulk is fairly cheap and there are places that sell stuff cheap because the labels got damaged or the manufacturer changed the packaging design.

3. Cooking.

Camping stoves are cheap (a heavy-duty single burner one that connects to large propane tanks is about $38), these are available used or sometimes in thrift stores (test them!), and run on propane. An empty 40lb tank runs about less than 100 bucks and holds just over 9 gallons of propane. Fill it up for 18-36 bucks. Buy several tanks.

The above stove with the above tank will last for about 15 hours of cooking. But that stove is very strong (55,000 BTU) and is suitable for boiling large pots of water, making pots of beans, etc. Have a smaller camping stove as well for tasks like heating up small amounts of water and food (this double burner one runs $43). These only use more like 10,000 BTU per burner. So your tank will last for about 135 hours.

If you already own a charcoal grill, you can use that too, but the smell will broadcast your location (especially to hungry and desperate humans) and it must be used in the backyard, which may not be possible after a while.

Buy a big aluminum pot for boiling water and etc. Thrift stores and garage sales will have these plus camping stoves for cheap.

4. Water.

Drinking water will be okay after a few weeks in opened containers, but buy purifying drops just in case. If your water is chlorinated, it should be okay to put tap water into old water bottles and close them. You can also buy sealed bottled water, but it tends to run about $1/gallon.

For handwashing water, use tap water to fill up large empty drinking water containers with spigots. Enlarge the vent hole on top until you can get a funnel in there. I do this for camping and it works great for hands and dishes.

enter image description here

The standard is one gallon per person per day. Two people for 4 months is 240 gallons. About half of that should be sealed drinking water. The rest can be potable tap water in clean closed containers.

5. Sanitation.

Find used wading pools that do not have any leaks and fill them all in your yard with the hose. This is your water for bathing, cleaning, dishes, and sanitation. You can do a final rinse of dishes and stuff with drinking water if needed. Have buckets of various sizes.

Your toilets will still function!! The only thing that will be missing is the incoming water to fill the tank. And it might not even be turned off. If it is, know that all you need to flush your toilet is 2 gallons of water quickly poured into the bowl. You can fill the tank itself but just pouring into the bowl is probably more efficient. Test this out before the zombies come because you want to know which works better for each of your actual toilets (they're all a bit different).

As a backup, get two chamber pots (so you and your wife don't have to share). And dig a hole in the backyard and cover with plywood. You can have a squat toilet or just use the chamber pots and empty them. Have a smaller hole nearer the house (in your outdoor security area) if you can no longer use the backyard. Make sure some of the washing water is reachable (fill your bathtub and also containers in the house).

You can stay clean enough with bowls and washcloths but also consider a solar shower. They run about $20.

Buy a case of two of toilet paper at Costco. Have plenty of dish soap, hand soap, etc. Cheap clean towels. A clothesline outdoors and one indoors. Stoppers for your sinks to use them for washing (the drains will still function). Don't get behind on laundry before the start of this mess. Keep dishes washed and don't let them pile up.

6. Conclusions.

Yes, you can have enough food, water, and sanitation with your budget and setup to last you 4 months.

The issue you might not have the money (or prep time) for is security. But if you plan that you may lose access to your backyard and just secure the doors and windows of the house itself, you should be okay. Ideally you should have a back patio area secured as well. You don't have the money (or time) to secure your entire backyard but you should have access to it for a short time at least. It is best to do your cooking and toilet needs (if the house toilets stop draining) outdoors and water storage is better outdoors as well due to space. But you can do it all inside if you have to.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Another option for sanitation is rent a port-a-potty like the day before and have them bring it right next to your door. Hopefully the toilets still work though $\endgroup$
    – Jwrecker
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 17:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Jwrecker That's a good idea. It won't matter if you can't afford to rent one for 4 months; how will they collect? $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ Both electric fences and razor/barbed wire are keyed to the sense of self preservation and prevention of injury to the self, something zombies aren't known for. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Yeah, I'm not sure how much of a deterrent they are. But they will make the house more trouble than it's worth at first. My assumption is the backyard will be lost territory when the zombies get into desperation mode and have already taken the easy pickings. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 18:26
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, that's because water is surprisingly small for remarkably large quantities. Volume wise, 1 room of food and 3-4$m^3$ of water will be enough to last 2 people for a very long time indeed, so there's no reason to expand outside the footprint of the building described. However doing so massively increases your visibility to other survivors, which we're also trying to reduce. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 19:27

Water and Food: These are easy. Spend \$60 on a Costco membership and you can get a pallet of spring water for \$360. That's enough water for you and your wife for 8 months if you use it for nothing but drinking. Then stock up on non-perishable foods that don't need to be cooked. Beans, canned fish (in oil for extra calories), nut butters, crackers, and protein bars should be your staples; high calorie and nutrition density for low cost. Let's say you spend \$1000 on food, we can round your food and water bill to $1400.

Fortification: Both Lowes and The Home Depot have an in-store credit cards. Assuming that your credit is decent, you should be able to open one at each store and max it out in the same day. By the time the first bill comes due, civilization will have long since collapsed. So, I'm giving you a bonus budget of \$2000 for construction supplies. I'm assuming your home is two stories plus a basement and attached garage. Your Lowes mad money should be enough to board up all the windows and doors on the ground floor and basement. Board up most of the windows on the second story as well, but leave one openable. Store a ladder near this window. You can lower it when you need to access the outdoors and raise it when the Z's are nearby. This is your only ingress and egress. On the ground level, have one board at eye-level on each door that can easily be removed and replaced from the inside. This is your Zombie-Killing Hole. If Z's start knocking on your door, open the ZKH and stab them in the brain with a long-handled melee weapon to silently kill them without attracting the horde; you don't want the first one to attract others after all. I recommend this harpoon from Amazon for \$150. You wouldn't throw it, just stab with it, although the retrieval rope will be useful if you make a non-lethal hit and a Z starts to retreat with your weapon embedded. To have a few spares, spend \$450.

Waste removal: Convert your garage into a ventilated improved pit latrine. This will be your most complex construction job, but you should be able to complete it in a week and it will last 6-9 months without needing to be emptied. You'll need to rent a concrete cutter and possibly a mini-excavator from one of the hardware stores, and you'll need some pipe, mesh, and concrete, but you can put all of this on your in-store credit cards (see above section). So, the overall cost of this is \$0.

Sanitation: Forget about showering. The less water you use, the longer you can stay holed up. On Amazon, you can get 5 gallons of sanitizer for \$100. Use this as needed to wipe down the smelly bits. You'll also need to drop about \$30 on enough toilet paper for 4 months and another \$30 on sanitary products for the missus, assuming she is pre-menopausal. (Get pads, not tampons, as this will lower the risk of an extremely inconvenient infection, given that cleanliness will be low). So your sanitation budget is $160.

Heat/Comfort: You haven't given us the location of this disaster, but assume that in 4 months you will see some cold weather. Pick the smallest room on the second floor (NOT the room with the egress) and line it with insulation using your hardware store money. REI has an in-store credit card. Open that and max it out on a heater and all the propane you can get. This will only be enough to run the heater for 120 hours, so you will have to use it sparingly. If you expect a lot of cold nights, you can spend some real money on propane, but I'm going to assume that you will ration it instead. With the added insulation and every blanket you own in one room, you should be able to get through some cold nights with minimal added heating. \$0 spent.

Entertainment/Communication: The first few weeks will be a flurry of activity, but after that it's gonna get BORING and you and your wife will start to turn on each other. A Kindle costs \$89, but you can sign up for 5 payments of \$18. Of course, you'll only ever make the first payment, so you can get 2 Kindles for \$36. Get a solar power bank for \$39 to keep them powered once the grid goes down. Then load both Kindles with all the public domain books you can; they're all free to download. Drop another \$50 on some rechargeable lamps; it's gonna be dark with all the windows boarded up. Also spend \$25 on a set of rechargeable walkie-talkies. This way you can communicate from different parts of the house and alert each other of danger without shouting and attracting Z's. They will be especially useful once you start scavenging. Total: $150.

All told, this accounts for \$2160. That means you have some wiggle room to go over budget at the hardware stores or REI. Or, you can get more food and paper goods and plan for an even longer hibernation.

NB: You may be skeptical of all the extra credit I've given here. As evidence of my credibility, I will offer this anecdote: My identity was stolen several years ago and the thieves opened 11 in-store credit cards in 2 days and maxed them all out. I didn't find out until a month later when the first bill arrived - no red flags had been raised by the excess activity. The credit reporting system is not agile enough to stop this sort of thing from happening. I therefore believe our protagonist should be able to lean heavily on credit provided he has no reason to care about the consequences.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Great answer! Sorry I can only accept one! I never thought of sane day in-store credit card applications. $\endgroup$
    – conman
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for opening new store credit cards that you'll never need to pay. $\endgroup$
    – arp
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 23:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 for credit card idea, that's genius. Would probably be worth doing that for as many avenues as you can, secured/unsecured loans, credit cards, and whatnot. It's one of the big advantages to only you knowing - you can game the system $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 9:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Also, builders' merchants often do allow you to get wood / building materials on credit. They aren't likely to chase you for the bill after the apocalypse even if they do survive $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 9:17
  1. Pay some punk kid to break your windows a couple of times in the night. Convince your wife that the only way to deal with this is to get steel grills over windows and doors.

  2. Stock up on food and water.

  3. Buy a camp stove and plenty of fuel.

That's pretty much all you have to do in practice.

Your limiting factor is entirely about how much food, water, and fuel you can lay down without your wife losing her rag. Though you'll only have to put up with the silent treatment for a couple of weeks.

  • $\begingroup$ Is $3000 enough money to buy food and water for 2 people for 3-4 months? Also, what do I do with everything that comes out the other end? $\endgroup$
    – conman
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @conman, waste can be dealt with a very old fashioned way, garde loo. Whether you can buy enough food really depends on where you are and what suppliers you have a available, but it really should be plenty if you're bulk buying for a basic diet. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 14:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @conman buy a few 55-gallon drums, fill them with tap water, and you're not going to produce much more waste than what you drink and eat. Bulk food like 5-gallon buckets or 20-pound bags of pasta or dry beans etc is dirt cheap. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ @BrettFromLA, beens more than pasta, but they are dirt cheap and store effectively forever so even if you're wrong about the zombies you're not out of pocket over them. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 19:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BrettFromLA there are ways to cook pasta and beans where very little water evaporates. Rice might be better though. Don't forget cooking oil as cheap calories. $\endgroup$
    – arp
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 23:31

Safe Space

You'll want to compact your living space into a manageable and small restricted area. I'd recommend your garage, an upstairs area/attic or basement. If you wife is not to keen on zombie-renovations, I'd select an area away from her daily activities, i.e. if she paints in the garage, secure the attic! As running water is not guaranteed, an area with a toilet is not required. This will become your new home for the next 12 weeks and you will need to cut your way out after it is all over.

You will want to go down to your local hardware supply store and buy steel reinforcement mesh, wood planks, brackets and attachments (i.e. nails, screws, caulk and bonus points for welding machinery). If you are dealing with windows, it will also be good to obscure vision with tarpaulin to limit light and the number of curious zombies. With this, you will reinforce your chosen room to the point where even a human would need special equipment to enter. Here are some examples:

  • If you are in your attic, you may not even need this if there is a retractable ladder, just nail this closed and place a heavy piece of furniture over the access point.
  • If you are in a 1st floor room or garage, you may want to weld/caulk roller doors closed and attach the steel mesh across windows and doors. Cover all windows with tarpaulin.
  • Any weak points should be reinforced with the wood planks. Also use these for seating if you do not have any.

Once your room is secure, you will want to divvy it out to 3 sections:

  • Sleeping quarters in one corner will include your bedding and clothing storage.
  • Kitchen area will include your food storage and equipment (can opener, spoons, bowls and cups).
  • Bathroom area will include large plastic bags in which you will do your business (and if possible, eject from the area entirely). Keep this area as far from the kitchen area as possible; put up tarpaulin as walling.


As you are in now trapped in a zombie-proof room, you will have to eat, sleep, p*** and s*** in a confined area. This could get very uncomfortable if the correct supplies are not procured:


You will want around 2L of water per human per day. You and your wife? That's 170L of water for 12 weeks but you will want around double that if you want sponge-baths and a nice safety margin. Consider getting purification tablets as they are cheap and may be useful once you leave the confines of your safety box.


Canned food is your new best friend! Canned beans, meats (i.e. beef, sardines, tuna), veges and fruits are all very cheap and will last a lot longer than 12 weeks. If you do not expect to be able to generate food easily after the 12 weeks, it would be wise to buy enough canned food to last at least a year. Along with this, you will want to bring a selection of seeds to start planting after the ordeal is over, bonus points for farm-able animals (chicken and rabbit comes to mind due to size).


Toilet paper, sponges, large plastic bags, disinfectant and cleaning supplies. Self explanatory!


When you do eventually make it out, you will want some protection against any straggling zombies. Cheap options are pitchforks due to their excellent range and molotovs for their crowd-control. If you have the funds, a semi-auto shotgun with buck-shot will go a long way. Heavy leather/bike protection clothing from a second hand store will protect you from zombie bites and is very cheap for the safety gained.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding.SE Taumata, glad you found us. Please check out our tour and help center. $\endgroup$
    – Cyn
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 1:11

This isn't a full answer. Just a little zombie-prepper advice which might augment other peoples answers...

If your house is in a hurricane-zone then it probably has hurricane shutters or plywood that is ready to shield all its doors and windows. Tell your neighbors you are going out of town for a while and put them up "for security".

If your house is in a tornado zone then hopefully you have a fortified basement or shelter.

If your house has no inherent defenses, scope out the neighborhood for the best alternative. Publicly accessible buildings like offices and schools often have easily defend-able basements or storerooms. Package all of your supplies for easy transport and bring some locks and chains to fortify your hiding place once it is yours.


$3,000 is plenty of money to purchase concrete. If you have a basement, you could start by hand-pouring a simple "safe room". Any leftover funds could be used to buy non-perishable food.

Surviving for 4 months in a bunker will not be fun, but is doable.

  • $\begingroup$ This is kind of more of a comment than an answer Elaborate and add more detail and this could be a first rate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I don't have enough reputation to comment on others posts. $\endgroup$
    – jscomino
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ Nonetheless, I'll edit it. $\endgroup$
    – jscomino
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 22:58

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