One of the most important aspects of storing food for an emergency situation is to JUST GET STARTED. But for many (me included), it’s tough to know where to start. If that’s the case, this post is for you. If you’ve already started and have a decent foundation, this post is for you too. Don’t pass up the opportunity to get nuggets concerning what to store, how to store, or any other aspect of food storage. It’s an ongoing process – not a destination where one day you arrive. Make stocking up a habit and a lifestyle, and it will serve you and your family well even if no emergency occurs.
Not all these foods are long term and will need to be rotated. I recommend having both foods that store long term as well as short-term items that you need to rotate, as preparedness is best done when you make it a way of life and not just a one-time event.
1. Grains. Including wheat, rice, oats, buckwheat, quinoa, dry corn, etc. Start with 5-10 pounds. Grains can be used for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even if you don’t have a grinder to turn the wheat into flour, you can cook it like rice and eat it for breakfast or as a side dish with veggies.
For rice, choose white. I made the mistake of buying large bags of brown rice when I first got started with my food storage – then I found out that it doesn’t store well due to the oil content. If you’re like me and love the many delicious brown and red rice varieties available, you can store them for shorten periods in your freezer (about a year at a time), storing only what you will use during that time, but it’s not a good long-term solution.
Oats are great for breakfast, but you can also make them a savory addition to your meal just like you would use rice by adding butter, cheese, or any of your favorite seasonings as a side dish.
2. Beans. Including pintos, lentils, navy beans, black beans, etc. Start with 5-10 pounds. Beans are a prepping staple, and for good reason. They’re delicious, nutritious, inexpensive, and can be stored for a long time under proper conditions. I like lentils due to their high nutrition content and small size. Because they’re small, they don’t soak up as much water when cooking like the larger beans. However, I do like to store a variety of different beans because I just love to eat them – like pintos, navy beans, split peas, and black beans.
3. Vegetables. Including broccoli, carrots, peas, cabbage, etc. – canned and/or freeze dried. Make sure to stock up on plenty of vegetables as well. Start with 10-20 cans (or a case) and/or 1 -2 #10 size cans of freeze dried. Some good choices include peas, green beans, carrots, and corn. It may go without saying, but choose ones that you like and will eat.
You’ll need to rotate your canned goods, so they are more a short-term solution, so I like to stock up on both canned and freeze dried in order to get all my bases covered. The more variety and options you have, the better prepared you will be. A can organizer (LIKE THIS ONE) is a good idea to help you make sure you are using up your oldest canned goods first.
4. Fruit. Including pineapple, peaches, pears, etc. – canned and/or freeze dried. Fruit is important to have not only due to its sweetness and varied flavors, but also for the vitamin C content in most fruits. I like to store canned pineapple in its own juice, but peaches, pears, and mixed fruit are also good choices. Get what you like and will eat (or can your own). For long term, purchasing freeze dried fruits is the way to go. Start with 10-20 cans (or a case) and/or 1-2 freeze dried #10 cans.
5. Meats. Including salmon, tuna, chicken, beef, etc. – canned and/or freeze dried. Meats are an essential protein source for those of us who are not vegetarians. I make sure to have plenty of canned salmon and tuna in the house, as they typically have a very far off “use by” date (sometimes as long as 10 years out).
Freeze dried is a great option as well, although it can be difficult to find varieties that don’t have MSG or other additives. I personally want to purchase foods that are as healthy as possible, as that’s what I eat now. Canning your own meats and making your own meat jerky each year is another great option to make sure you have meat on hand. If you also learn to hunt, clean, butcher, and preserve your own meats – all the better for any long-term emergency situation.
6. Seasoning. Including salt, pepper, garlic powder, taco powder, ketchup, hot sauce, etc. Seasonings are crucial to making your food tasty when times get difficult. If you don’t know how to add seasonings to your favorite foods – now is the time to learn. Don’t wait until an emergency strikes! If you begin to learn basic cooking skills and discover what your preferences are in terms of flavoring, you will know what seasonings to stock up on and will do much better in a survival situation. If you wait, you may just end up having to eat bland, tasteless foods during a very stressful time.
7. Water. The most important item for you to stock up on. Start out by making 10-20 gallons your goal. You can add more later, but having this amount will be a good start. It’s advised to have at least one gallon of water stored per person per day, two gallons per person per day being ideal. We have and use these water boxes from Emergency Essentials. They are very sturdy, easy to fill, and stack nicely.
8. Beverages. Other than water, make sure to include other beverages such as coffee, tea, powdered milk, hot cocoa mix, Tang, or other powdered drink mixes, canned juices. If you drink coffee, be sure to have a non-electric coffee brewing option as well, like an enamel or stainless steel percolator (LIKE THIS ONE). This can double as a tea pot as well or simply a pot you use for boiling water for whatever you need (MRE’s, etc.)
9. Oils. Including coconut, olive, etc. Oils will need to be rotated every year or two, so make sure you keep track of the expiration dates and store them in a cool place. Coconut oil can last up to two years, and it’s a very healthy oil to include in your diet (one of the best). The smoke point of coconut oil is higher than most oils, making it an ideal oil for frying. I also like to keep olive oil on hand, which typically has a one-year shelf life. You can store and use other oils as you like, but I recommend these two as the most healthy.
10. Sweeteners. Including sugar, honey, etc. I keep at least a few pounds of granulated sugar as well as several gallons of honey on hand at all times. Both keep for very long periods of time, so you don’t need to rotate them as long as you have them appropriately sealed and stored. It’s important to keep both tightly sealed to prevent insect or rodent invasion. We keep raw local honey, as it’s not only very tasty but also very effective for allergy and cold prevention. Honey can be used to sweeten tea, coffee, and other hot beverages as well as syrup for pancakes or waffles and in baking (with proper knowledge of reducing other liquids in the recipe).
In conclusion, use this list as a starting point to make sure you have something stored up for future emergencies. None of us are immune to power outages or civil unrest – not to mention even more severe disasters. Having enough food on hand so you don’t have to fight the hoards at the grocery store can go a long way toward your family’s peace of mind.