The well-prepared individual may have several different caches of food: a lightweight, short-term kit for the bug-out bag, and another, longer-term solution for the bomb shelter. Stocking your shelter with a solid long-term cache of food is one of the first steps to being truly prepared for the unthinkable.
Though “long term” is relative, you should plan to stock a minimum of three days’ worth of food, allowing for two meals per person, per day. All of these foods should be nonperishable, lasting for a year on the shelf. As mentioned, a great place to begin is with 72 hours of portable food storage (in your bug out bag) in the event that you need to evacuate. After that you can begin to build a longer-term food cache, from a week’s worth up to a year.
An important note to keep in mind: don’t build up a year’s worth of food stores and then simply walk away, leaving it to collect dust and await the nuclear holocaust. To keep your food fresh, safe, and palatable, an important rule of thumb to remember is “first in, first out”: store the food with the earliest expiration date near the front of your stores, using and replacing it before it expires. Continuing to use and replace your stores ensures that you will not be caught unprepared with pounds of expired, inedible food. (Consider the difficulty of re-stocking your canned goods after the disaster in question has already occurred.)
A Note about Water
The very first item you should ensure is a part of your long term food storage kit is water. An average, healthy individual can easily survive two weeks without food, but just a few days without water will mean the end. Individuals at greater risk, such as young children, pregnant women, and the elderly, will have even less time. Plan for one gallon of water per person, per day, for drinking as well as sanitation needs.
Planning Your Food Stores
When planning your food stores, ensure that you keep only food your family can and will eat- keep in mind any food allergies or special dietary needs and restrictions. Don’t buy 20 cans of green beans just because they’re cheap if your family won’t eat green beans. Stock up on non-perishable nutrient-dense foods, particularly those high in protein and complex carbohydrates such as nuts, nut butters, and jerkies. Canned foods should be ready to eat directly from the can (don’t forget the can opener!), and it’s a good idea to select foods with a high water content to assist with hydration.
If you have included in your shelter a means of cooking food, dry goods such as beans, flour, and rice are excellent choices. You can store a large quantity in a relatively small space, and you can stretch them very far nutritionally by mixing them with other foods. Another dry, compact option is to stock your pantry with MREs– military Meals, Ready to Eat. One MRE per day offers more than enough calories and nutrition for unlimited survival. It’s a great idea to stock chemical heating packets for use in heating this food (unless you have a means of cooking). Because every family is different, use your best judgment regarding the amount of food supplies you store.
One aspect of emergency food storage that is important not to overlook is the need for comfort/morale boosting foods and beverages. While you don’t want boxes of candy bars to take up too much space and crowd out more nutrient-dense foods, the inclusion of a favorite candy or beverage (especially coffee or tea if you are used to drinking them) can do wonders for your outlook and your family’s morale. Reducing stress in an emergency situation is not only good for your mind, it’s good for your body.
Planning for Fido and Fluffy
If your family includes a beloved four-legged member or two, don’t forget to factor their needs into your emergency food storage! Canned pet food is an easy choice due to its compact nature and long shelf life, and the high water content will assist in keeping your pet hydrated. However, you should only store the kind of food that your pet currently eats, to avoid stomach upset and to guarantee that you can cycle through it for freshness just as you do your own food stores. Dry kibble is best stored in the packaging it came in, but once again be mindful of the expiration date and make sure that the oldest food is used and replaced before it goes bad. An average medium-sized dog will go through a gallon of water every 2-3 days, while a single gallon should last an average house cat for about a month. It’s important that you monitor your pet’s water and food intake and store the amount that is right for your pet.
Refer to the shopping list below to help you get your food cache started and check out our exclusive Amazon offer:
Canned meats: tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, etc.
Canned fruits: pineapple, fruit cocktail, pear halves, etc.
Canned pet food, if applicable
Dried fruits: apricots, raisins, apples, mango, etc.
Sugar and salt
Coffee (and a manual grinder)
Beans (need a means to cook)
Rice (need a means to cook)
Flour (need a means to cook)
Dry cereal or granola
Pet kibble, if applicable
Packaged Meals and Snacks
Peanut butter or other nut butter
Comfort foods: Candy bars, tea/juice/coffee, etc.