An emergency food supply is something every person and family should have. We live in a world where the process of getting food from its source to your table is a complex one, and a break in just one link in the chain can compromise you and your family’s ability to eat.
The list of potential disasters that could threaten your food supply is long and varied:
It pays to be prepared with a good stash of emergency food you can pull from. Even if you never face a disaster, it can help in tough times financially. Should a spouse lose a job, you have a supply of food to draw from until they get back on their feet.
A good idea is to make a baseline food supply, then add over time. For example, create a 2 week food supply. Then spend $5 a week adding a little bit more to it, so it slowly grows with time.
HOW MUCH FOOD TO STORE?
This is up for debate, with different sources recommending different time frames. At bare minimum, you should have 3 days covered, as help often arrives within 72 hours. FEMA recommends a 2 weeks supply, and really, if you go through the effort and putting together 3 days worth of food, it’s not much of a stretch to turn it into a 2 week supply. A 3 month supply is really solid, and some people even promote a 1 year supply of food.
Along with your food, it’s very important to store water as well. For information on that, check out this article on emergency water supply and storage.
Before planning a long term food storage plan for your family, you’ll want to have a rough idea of the caloric needs of each member of your family. These can fluctuate based on a persons physique and metabolism, but here are some ballpark figures to get you started.
Age Sedentary Somewhat active Very active
2-3 years old 1000 1000-1400 1000-1400
Female child 1400 1600 1800
Male child 1600 1800 2000
Female teen 1800 2000 2400
Male teen 2000 2500 3000
Female adult 1800 2000 2200
Male adult 2400 2700 3000
KINDS OF FOOD TO STORE
You’ll want the food you store to meet these criteria:
1) High calorie, high nutrient food, that will give you the most value for each unit stored.
2) Food that doesn’t necessarily require refrigeration, water or cooking to prepare.
3) Non-perishable food that can be stored for long periods without spoiling.
4) Familiar foods that give your family a sense of morale and security.
5) A variety of food- if you’re eating the same thing everyday, appetite fatigue will set in and you’ll resist eating the same food again.
So with that said, here’s a list of potential items for a long term emergency food supply, with their expected shelf life:
SIX MONTH SHELF LIFE
Boxed powered milk
Dehydrated meats, such as Beef Jerky
Most boxed cookies
ONE YEAR SHELF LIFE
Canned fruits and vegetables
Cereals, uncooked instant cereals
INDEFINITE SHELF LIFE
Canned (nitrogen-packed) powdered milk
You’ll also want a supply of vitamin, mineral, and protein supplements, to make sure everyone is getting the nutrients they need.
Some notes on storing food:
Keep your supply in a cool, dry, dark place.
Use air tight, pest-resistant containers.
Rotate your food using first-in, first-out (have your supply of food, then when you go shopping put the new items in the back and use the older items in the front. This will keep your food supply perpetually fresh).
Open boxes carefully, so it’s easier to reseal after use.
Wrap perishable food in plastic wrap, then store in a sealed container, to maximize shelf life.
Put perishables in airtight containers to protect from pests.
You’ll need some other items to help with food preparation and storage:
A manual can opener
Having a gas stove or gas powered BBQ is a great idea, as it will allow you to cook when the power is out. Make sure to do your cooking outdoors.
If you don’t have a BBQ or gas stove, a fire place can be used as well.
Canned food can be eaten out of the can. It can also be heated if you remove the lid and label first. Never eat from a can that’s dented, swollen or corroded in any way.
IF THE POWER GOES OUT
If you lose power in an emergency, you’ll want to eat your food in this order:
1) Eat any perishables in the fridge or in storage
2) Eat freezer food (if you keep the freezer door closed as much as possible, ice crystals in the food can last up to 2 days, keeping it frozen)
3) After the above supplies have been exhausted, move on to your non-perishables.
During a disaster, you’ll want to ration your food to make it last as long as possible. Some rationing tips:
Remember, food can be rationed, water can’t. Always drink enough water every day (1-2L depending on sweat and exertion), and worry about finding more water tomorrow.
Always take in enough calories for the work you need to do. A calorie deficit will weaken you and compromise your ability to do what needs to be done.
Take a vitamin, mineral, and protein supplement daily.
Hope that helps.
Good luck and stay prepared!