Emergency Food Storage-This Is What You Need

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Today, I decided to address emergency food storage because many people are unprepared for the unexpected. Here’s the deal: If you’ve watched the news lately or seen pictures on social media, you can see that NO ONE will help you immediately after a disaster. Can Openers: One is none, and two is one.

I was pleased to see people (on TV) helping people into boats and carrying animals through flood waters in Louisiana. What a blessing that was to see. But let’s be honest: If you aren’t evacuated and haven’t lost your home, what do you have in your house as a food supply right this minute to feed your family? Clean water is critical as well.

A young woman mentioned to me the other day that she didn’t know where to start with emergency food storage, how much water to store, or anything else.

I get it. My single mom taught me to cook from scratch and make homemade bread to save money, be self-reliant, and be better prepared. She always had a full pantry, or at least as I was growing up, I thought it was a full emergency pantry with the proper quantities of essential items.

Rip-Off After Disasters

I will share a few basics with you today because I don’t want you to stand in line at grocery stores only to find empty shelves after an unforeseen emergency. Plus, I don’t want you to pay $20.00 for a case of water.

If it’s a major disaster, I want you to store water and some emergency food storage items so you don’t have to leave your home for a week or two. It would be awesome if you were prepared for a month, three months, or more. I’m not saying get it all at once, just a can a week or a case of water per week, whatever your budget can spare.

If you think the government, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will deliver food and water to everyone affected, forget that. I heard complaints about the lack of necessities provided by major rescue groups after many disasters. You may have heard fantastic things done for each other, but not in all city areas or counties after the recent severe storms.

Keep Gas Tanks 1/2 to 3/4 Full

I’m begging you to add one more thing here: keep your gas tanks 1/2 to 3/4 full. I don’t want you to be in your car waiting in line at the service stations only to find the gas pumps empty when you get closer to the front.

This happened even before the last central storm hit the Southeast US. Please keep an eye on the gas level of all your cars. It’s easy for me; I only have one car. If you’re wondering if I store gasoline at home, I don’t want the extra fire risk.

The list below is essential, but it’s straightforward to achieve without much money upfront. In my post archive, I’ve gone into more detail about food storage and what’s needed. I hope today is a “getting started” list that helps you and others be better prepared.

Please remember you don’t have to buy it all at once. If possible, get your neighbors to start stashing a little emergency food storage so they aren’t relying on others. Remember, you don’t have to buy #10 cans of every food item. Buy what you can afford.

Emergency Food Storage


Many government agencies say that the minimum amount of clean water needed is one gallon per person daily. My minimum is four gallons per person daily so you can stay hydrated, cook, provide for personal hygiene, and do a limited amount of laundry. If you have five in the family, that is either five gallons each day or twenty gallons per day for the family.

If the water is contaminated, don’t count on that water heater. The water filling that tank is possibly contaminated from the flood, a broken water line, or other issues. Just think about all the water that’s been contaminated over the last year in several states.

It is important to have a storage room and proper food-grade containers. I have several 55-gallon barrels, a 160-gallon stackable tank, and a 250-gallon tank, all full of water ready to go. I use Water Preserver Concentrate to treat my water in these tanks. It protects the water for five years and is not expensive.

I also like to have water filtration options. Based on my experience, I like Big Berkey and PortaWell water filtration systems.

If all you can do is store bottled water for now, do it. Having some water, particularly for hydration and cooking, is critical.

Instant Dry Milk

This is one product we need water to make usable. Another good idea is to add some hot chocolate mix. Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? Milk is great for cereal, mac and cheese, and many other recipe ingredient options.

Flavored Drinks

Store a few containers of Tang or Kool-Aid to which you just add water and sugar. Yes, it needs sugar, but who doesn’t love a glass of lemonade? I need to look at my Kool-Aid stash to make sure I have what we enjoy. Be sure to get some sugar-free drink powders and tea bags.

Pancake Mix/Syrup

You can buy pancake mix, which you add water to, then stir and make a great breakfast. I love the Krusteuz brand from Costco. I can also make the pancake mix from scratch, but it depends on how many people I will need to feed after a disaster. Hungry people who aren’t prepared may get mean when they haven’t eaten for a day or two.

Cold Cereal

It’s almost embarrassing when I fill a shopping cart at a local grocery store every six months with large bags overflowing the basket. I smile and know I won’t return for six more months. Mark has cereal and a banana every morning for breakfast. He’d be one unhappy guy if we didn’t have a variety of cereals around in our emergency food supplies. We turn it over often enough that the idea of an expiration date issue never comes up.

Cans of Soup/Stew/Ravioli/Fruits/Meats

Having a wide supply of non-perishable foods in your emergency stash is vital. Here’s the deal: I don’t eat cans of food every day, but I need reassurance that I can use a can opener to start my meal preparation in an emergency. My family needs to eat, and non-perishable items make up a large portion of their staple foods.

Who doesn’t love a little mac and cheese? Yes, you can make it without the butter; use shelf-stable milk. This is one food storage item your kids will relish when hungry during natural disasters or other emergencies.

Cans of Canned Meats

Tuna, chicken, roast beef, pork, and other canned meats help provide the protein we all need. They also have a longer shelf life than meats in other packaging. It would be best if you strived for long-term storage as you put together your plan for protein-rich foods. I grew up on cans of corned beef and pickle sandwiches, but I haven’t had one since I got married.

Mayo/Miracle Whip/Mustard

Buy the small jars you won’t waste as much if we have zero electricity to keep it cold. These toppings and condiments help make the emergency meals feel more “normal” during stressful times. Don’t forget some herbs and spices too. Salt, pepper, onion powder, and other spices make meals more tasty no matter what’s being prepared.


If you have a few boxes of crackers, we can pretend we are at Costco serving samples, right? Spread a little meat and mayo on some of those crackers! Also, have some peanut butter, jams, and jellies as pantry options to put on the crackers or homemade bread.

Cans of Vegetables

Besides meats, canned vegetables help make up various nutritional foods you want available for meal preparation. I can eat green beans, corn, and beets right out of the can. Peas are not a good idea for me; they’re too mushy. Having a variety of food items ready to go that your family likes to eat is very important. Have the kids go with you when shopping for your long-term food storage items so they have some input on what favorites they’d like.

It isn’t just about having the right amount of food in your storage area but also about having a variety of items so everyone is satisfied with the choices. We’ll eat almost anything when we’re hungry, but having foods we enjoy as we plan those well-balanced meal options is critical, too.

Cans of Fruits

Fruits are pretty easy to choose. Take the family down the grocery aisles and choose fruit cocktails, Mandarin oranges, peaches, applesauce, berries of all kinds, etc. As you add fruits to your list of non-perishable long-term food storage items, you know you’ll have plenty of options when mealtime comes around.

Cans of Beans

You can make a soup pot with your favorite beans, pinto, black, or garbanzo beans. Any kind of bean works for me. We love Mexican foods, so we eat a lot of beans, whether in tacos, burritos, enchiladas, or other Latino-based meals.

Rice, Oats, Wheat, and Other Grains

Rice fills the belly and is pretty cheap. It’s an excellent base for many recipe options. I also like having other whole grains around due to their high nutritional content and longer shelf life. Please keep them in their original packing until they’re ready to be used. Then, please place them in food containers that can be adequately sealed. I like 5—and 6-gallon food-grade buckets with colored gamma lids for my food containers.

For nutrition’s sake, have various food group items in your pantry. These grains will last a fairly long time and provide unlimited meal prep options.

Pasta/Spaghetti Sauce

We need clean water to boil spaghetti, and we can add the spaghetti sauce right over the hot pasta. This is why I recommend a butane stove. Butane Stove and Butane Fuel Having a camp stove ready to go streamline the emergency food preparation challenges.

Special Considerations

Evaluate your family’s makeup and consider any special food needs. This would include those with food allergies, special dietary needs for those with diabetes or gluten issues, and baby food like infant formula.

You’ll also need utensils to prepare and eat the food and paper goods like plates, plastic silverware, and napkins.

Final Word

I feel I have to remind people to spread the word to prepare as many people as possible. We all must be able to take care of ourselves as much as possible. The government won’t always be there when you need help; there are too many people to help.

You can sleep at night even if you fill a large plastic bucket with items you could grab and take as an emergency preparedness kit if you had to evacuate. Mine would have to have wheels; I overpack, so I’m just giving you the heads-up. Thanks again for being prepared. I promise your family will thank you. May God bless this world, Linda

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