The power is out and stores are closed. You may not know when things will be up and running again. Scary, right? Don’t worry. The good news is that forewarned is fore-armed. That’s exactly what we’re doing today. We’re getting you ready to plan and manage your food supply for emergencies. Let’s do this!
Assessing Your Needs: Family First
During an emergency, everyone in the family’s needs are your first concern. Your planning must be tailored to the mix of individuals in your household – there’s no such thing as one size fits all. Here’s what you need to think about:
A. Number of People in the Household:
Head count: Begin by counting the number of people you are stocking for — every member of your family, regardless of age.
Guests and Extended Family: Think about frequent visitors to your house and extended family who might be with you often.
B. Special Dietary Needs and Preferences:
Allergies and Intolerances: Know the specific allergies (like nuts or lactose intolerance) and intolerances present within your family. Keep a list so that you can avoid stocking food that may make someone in your house sick.
H. Dietary Restrictions:
Specific dietary needs like vegetarian, vegan, low-sodium, or diabetic-friendly diets should all be taken into consideration.
I. Infants and Toddlers:
If you have young children, don’t forget about any baby formula, baby food, or easily digestible snacks that you might need.
C. Eating Habits and Preferences:
J. Favorite Foods:
Incorporating the favorite foods of you and your family might help with morale in high-stress times, so you may want to mix in a few of your favorites.
K. Meal Patterns:
Think about how much and how often your family normally eats. If you usually have three main meals and nothing in between, plan a little differently than if your family typically enjoys smaller meals and snacks throughout the day.
D. Medical Needs:
L. Prescription Medications:
If anyone in your family requires prescription medications, make sure to have a sufficient supply.
M. Nutritional Supplements:
Check to see if anyone in your family requires nutritional supplements or specific vitamins.
N. Pet Food:
You and your human family members won’t be the only ones who are hungry after a major emergency – don’t forget about pet food in your plans.
F. Activity Levels:
O. Energy Requirements:
Make sure to consider how active your family is when planning the type of foods that you’ll need. Someone who is less active will require fewer calories than someone who’s very active or has a high metabolism.
G. Duration of Emergency Supply
Will you be preparing for a short term incident – such as a three day power outage or a long term natural disaster? Decide how many days you want to stock supplies. This may help you decide how long you want to go without outside assistance.
Create a schedule for rotating your supplies so you use the right food before it goes bad.
The Right Foods: What to Stock Up On
Variety is the spice of life and when it comes to stockpiling food – it’s your best bet to keep you and your family well-fed. You’ll want food that is easy to store and that keeps you nourished enough to ward off weakness and illness.
Check out our article on Emergency Food Supply to see a more in depth list for stockpiling, these are some main highlights.
A. Non-Perishable Staples
Canned Goods: Don’t just stock up on canned veggies and fruits, get meats (chicken, tuna, salmon,) and beans and soups for the variety – and they’re heat and serve!
Grains and Legumes: Rice, pasta, quinoa and lentils will not only serve as a base to many of your meals, but will give you a good calorie base and typically last a while.
Dry Cereals and Oatmeal: These aren’t just for breakfast, they can make a quick meal – especially if you have powdered milk available!
B. High-Energy Foods:
Nuts and Seeds: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and the like provide needed fats and proteins.
Energy Bars and Protein Bars: They are space efficient, require no preparation, and help give a quick energy boost.
C. Cooking Basics:
Oil and Fats: Cooking oil, ghee or butter powder is essential for cooking and will also contribute flavor and calories.
Spices and Seasonings: Don’t forget salt, pepper or your favorite spices. Flavorful food is a huge morale booster during stressful times.
Sweeteners: Sugar, honey or syrup can be a comfort, as well as useful in food preparations.
D. Specialty Items:
Dried Fruits: A great source of fiber and sweetness. Raisins, apricots and dates are popular choices.
Powdered Milk or Alternatives: Useful in cooking and as a source of calcium.
Comfort Foods: Chocolate, popcorn or your favorite snack can be a huge help in boosting morale.
E. Baby and Special Dietary Needs:
Infant Formula: If you have a baby, be sure to include a sufficient supply of formula.
Gluten-Free, Low-Sugar, or Other Dietary Specific Foods: Allow for any special dietary needs of other family members.
F. Drinks and Hydration:
Coffee and Tea. They can be so comforting in stressful times. Consider a jar of instant coffee or tea bags.
Drink Mixes. Powedered drink mixes can add some pizzazz to your water supply and make hydration a lot more appealing.
Storing Your Supplies: Keep It Safe and Sound
Storing your food in the right place is critical. Think cool, dark, and away from critters. Keep all food in airtight containers and make sure that you are watching those expiration dates. Remember: First in, first out.
Water: The Essential Element
You are going to need at least a gallon of water per person, per day. And that doesn’t include water for cooking or cleaning.
Cooking Without Power: Be Resourceful
Power is out? Use your alternatives: a camping stove or a solar cooker. But be sure to follow all safety guidelines (especially for indoor use).
Routine Checks: Keep It Fresh and Updated
Make sure that you keep those supplies fresh (first in, first out, remember??). You should also check yearly for any expired items or possible spoilage. And as your family grows or changes – your emergency food supply should too.
Practice Makes Perfect: Get Cooking
Every once in a while – cook a full meal with only your emergency supplies. It’s a good way to make sure that you are ready to use these things that you are storing.
How often should I rotate my emergency food supply?
Aim for a check every six months to keep things fresh and up to date.
Can I store emergency food in my basement or garage?
Basements can be great if they're dry and cool, but garages can fluctuate in temperature, so be cautious.
What are some kid-friendly emergency food options?
Peanut butter, granola bars, and dried fruits are usually safe bets.