Emergencies happen all the time. From fire to floods to power outages to lockdowns, is your family prepared? We learned from the food shortages during the coronavirus pandemic that we may not always have fully-stocked (or even open) grocery stores. So how can you ensure that your family has enough food on hand to get through the unexpected?
Experts recommend keeping a 3-day supply of shelf-stable food. In most cases, that is enough to keep you going until help arrives. Dehydrated or freeze-dried food is the best choice because it can remain in storage nearly indefinitely – canned goods or dried goods in original packaging (i.e. rice or flour) will only keep for one year or so and are susceptible to insects or spoilage.
This short guide will get you started on creating your own family emergency food kit:
- Plan your menu. Be sure you store up enough servings to feed everyone in your family with a little extra for older kids. Choose calorie-rich, nutrient-dense foods that will help maintain energy and immunity. Of course, you should still choose foods that your children will eat so throw in a few treats to keep them going. Print out this menu and include it in your kit so you know what you have planned. Do not rely on the food you may or may not have in your pantry – if you have to leave quickly, you will not have time to pack up. If the power goes out, your freezer and refrigerator will only keep food cold for 24 to 36 hours.
- Remember the basics. You will not have access to fresh foods including milk, eggs, meat, or fresh produce. Be sure to include powdered milk, powdered eggs, dehydrated fruits and veggies, jerky meat, and coffee, tea or hot cocoa mix. It is tricky to dehydrate your own food for long-term storage – if not done properly, the food will quickly mold. Storing canned foods is even more unpredictable – stores must be rotated at least once per year and highly-acidic foods even more frequently. Always check canned foods for signs of spoilage: bulging metal; rust or corrosion; an odd scent or flavor (some discoloration will occur over time).
- Consider how you’ll cook food and boil water. If the power is out, you may not be able to use your appliances. Invest in an inexpensive camp stove that runs off mini-propane bottles (never cook with propane inside the house). Store this stove, a few propane bottles, matches, and cooking pots and dishes together with your food supply. Think portability in case you have to leave your home – a few good choices are wheeled ice chests, totes, or garbage cans.
- Consider convenience. If you’re in a situation where you need to use your emergency food supply, you’ll also be dealing with a lot of other stressors. The more quickly you can prepare and serve a meal, the better. You won’t want to spend a lot of time on meal prep. Choosing premade (i.e. dehydrated, just add water) meals is quick and easy. Get started with our new “Emergency Food Kits”, a variety pack of shelf-stable, dehydrated meals with 22 servings and ready to go.
- Safe storage. Food keeps best a cool, dry, dark location that does not have fluctuating temperatures or humidity. A basement room is best but, in a pinch, you can store in a main floor closet or under bed. Remember to use containers that are made for food storage and can be sealed to keep mice or pests from getting in. Clearly mark the container and pack it lightly enough that you can grab it and go, if necessary.
- What to do about water? This is a complex topic and obviously very important so we will cover this in more depth in another article. The short answer is: water can be stored indefinitely if it is clean to begin with and stored in clean, sealed containers that are UV-resistant, food-grade, and stored out of sunlight. You can use store-bought jugs of water for short-term storage but they must be rotated every few months.
The world has changed drastically for many of us and even once coronavirus passes, our families will still face unexpected and disruptive emergencies. Stocking up on emergency foods is one of the easiest steps you can take to protect your family’s health and well-being. Please check back for more articles on emergency preparedness.