If you are concerned about surviving a disaster, you need to prepare your supply of emergency essentials. Water is the first priority, at least one gallon per person per day. FEMA recommends keeping a minimum of two weeks supply for each person in your family on hand at all times. Add a portable water filtration system to your supply kit and you are ready. Your second priority is, of course, an emergency kit with first aid supplies, flashlights, and crank or battery radio. Then, it is time to plan your prepper’s pantry.
Planning Your Emergency Food Supply
You first need to decide the kind of food you want in your emergency pantry, perhaps designing a menu that can be rolled over every two weeks for a long period of time. Be sure to include family favorites and comfort food, but the main consideration has to be nutrition. In addition, there might be issues around allergies and other health conditions.
You need a balance of dairy, meat, legumes, grains, vegetables and fruit. Also important are staples such as cooking oil, spices, salt, vinegar, baking powder and baking soda. A supply of high energy snack foods is good to have for the kinds of intense activity that often accompanies emergencies.
Whether you are preparing food for a month or a year, think in terms of a minimum of 2,000 calories per day for adults and 1,500 for children. Make sure the calories are not coming from sugar as found in desserts and sweetened drinks. Prepared foods and even recipes are usually measured in terms of servings. Be careful to check out the size of one of these servings as it might not be nearly adequate for an active adult.
Your next decision is about the method of preparation and packaging of fresh or cooked food. The list could include soups, stews, and pasta dishes besides the usual meat and fruits. The common methods are: Freeze drying food when it is flash frozen and placed in a vacuum process which changes the ice to a gas
Dehydrating food by applying heat
Your emergency food needs to be kept free of moisture. You will find dried food in large #10 cans or in foil pouches. Dry staples such as flour and rice, canned liquid such as vegetable or fruit juice and other low moisture foods such as coffee should all be kept in sealed cans, moisture proof bags or PETE bottles with oxygen absorbers.
Sourcing the Emergency Food
Every prepper has tough decisions to make about collecting the food to fill the emergency pantry:
- Length of time to plan for
- Quality of food
You can buy everything in one order from companies specializing in emergency food. Many of them now offer food with lower sodium and trans fats. They usually have plenty of variety and ship in nice neat packages that are easy to store.
However, it is important to do serious comparison shopping, checking each supplier carefully for:
- Actual serving size
- Nutritional value
- Variety of food in package
- Cost per unit
- Shelf life
- Durability of packaging
An alternative to shopping is preparing your own food. Many preppers use dehydrators to dry out fresh fruit, vegetables and meats. Then, they know the quality of the food and can accommodate any particular allergies or preferences. There are also foil pouches and sealers available for home use. However, before you decide to do it yourself, be warned that preparing your own food for an extended period of time is a labor intensive job. It also might not be any cheaper than buying in bulk. You can also plan a combination of DIY and purchasing from one of the many suppliers with online shops or local warehouses.
Storing Emergency Food Supply
Many preppers have difficulty storing a large supply of emergency food. It is probably wise for you to look around your house or other suitable space you have available before deciding you are going to purchase a year’s supply of food for your family of four. Remember that your water supply has priority so first make sure there is room for those containers.
The key cautions for long term food storage are:
- Moisture can be minimized if the storage area is kept dry and containers are placed on pallets so they are off the floor
- Temperature should be no higher than 75 degrees F and lower, if possible
- Light needs to be kept away from cooking oil and any products stored in PETE bottles
- Insect damage can be reduced by using foil pouches and PETE bottles with oxygen absorbers
If you live in a traditional suburban or rural house, you will probably be able to designate space as your prepper pantry. However, life in a high rise condo might force you to become more creative. Explore those spaces behind furniture, under the bed, or on the top shelf of the clothes closet. Unfortunately, the more scattered the supply, the more difficult it is to keep track of your inventory and to control temperature and light.
Although many suppliers will tell you their food products have a shelf life of 25 years, check carefully into their claims. Such a guarantee can be compromised if there is a variety of food that is packaged together and there are different kinds of packaging in the supply. Products that can last more than 30 years if properly packaged are wheat, white rice, dry beans and grains. However, dry products which still retain a certain moisture content or oils such as barley, whole wheat flour, meat, nuts and brown rice are not meant for longer term storage.
It is clear there are many options available to you in preparing your emergency pantry. Do your research carefully and make decisions that are best for your own situation. There is enough stress in any disaster situation without having your family concerned about emergency essentials, especially food.