Preparing an Emergency Food Supply, Long Term Food Storage
One never knows when emergency will strike. Hurricanes, floods, snow storms, and civil unrest all have the potential for disrupting services and food supplies we have all taken for granted.
Put a plan together for what you should do if emergency strikes. Prepare yourself by gathering water, supplies, and emergency items and consumables you may need.
Emergency items should be stored in a place that has easy access, and can be gathered in a hurry if necessary. If you have a basement or garage make a shelf or specific area for emergency items. If you don’t a closet works as long as it is organized and items are easily reached.
Putting Together a Disaster Supply Kit
Items to include in a disaster supply kit:
- Medical supplies and first aid manual
- Hygiene supplies
- Portable radio and extra batteries
- Flashlights and lanterns with extra batteries
- Camping cook stove and fuel
- Sterno cans
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Fire Extinguisher
- Blankets and extra clothing
- Shovel and other useful tools
- Money in a waterproof container
- Infant and small children’s needs (if appropriate)
- Can opener, utensils, cookware
Some items have expiration dates so be sure to check periodically. In a crisis, it will be most important that you maintain your strength. Eating a well balanced meals can help you do this. Here are some important nutrition tips.
- Plan meals to include as much balance nutrition as possible.
- Eat at least one well-balanced meal each day.
- Drink at least two quarts of water a day. You will need more in warm climates.
- Take in enough calories to meet the demand. Vigorous work will require more calories.
- Vitamins and minerals in your stockpile will assure adequate nutrition.
When deciding what foods to stock, use common sense. Consider what you could use and how you could prepare it. Storing foods that are difficult to prepare and are unlikely to be eaten could be a costly mistake.
UN Approved Food Storage Container
One approach to long term food storage is to store bulk staples along with fast preparation food sources. A variety of canned and dried foods also make it easy for preparation.
Bulk Staples and dried sources such as wheat, corn, beans and salt can be purchased in bulk quantities inexpensively and have nearly unlimited shelf life. If necessary, you could survive for years on small daily amounts of these staples. Pre-prepared meals such as (MRE) can cost more per calorie delivered but make preparation much easier.
The following amounts are suggested per adult, per year:
- Wheat 240 pounds
- Powdered Milk 75 pounds
- Corn 240 pounds
- Iodized Salt 5 pounds
- Soybeans 120 pounds
- Fats and Oil*** 20 pounds**
- Vitamin C*** 180 grams
Stocking Foods for Infants
Special attention would need to be paid to stocking supplies of foods for infants. Powdered formula would be the least expensive form of infant formula to stock. Commercially canned liquid formula concentrate and ready-to-feed formula may also be stored. Amounts needed would vary, depending on the age of the infant. Infant formula has expiration dates on the packages and should not be used past the expiration date.
Parents should also plan to have a variety of infant cereals and baby foods on hand. Amounts needed will vary depending on the age of the infant.
Foods to Supplement Your Bulk Staples
You should add pre-packaged foods such as dried foods, mixes, and supermarket foods. Cured and canned meats are a good selection. A variety of rice, beans, and corn are nutritious and long-lasting. Ready-to-eat cereals, pasta mixes, rice mixes, dried fruits, etc. can also be included to add variety to your menus. Packaged mixes that only need water and require short cooking times are good options because they are easy to prepare. The more of these products you include, the more expensive your stockpile will be.
Consider storing the items listed below. Amounts are suggested quantities per adult per year.
Flour, White Enriched 17 lbs
Corn Meal 42 lbs
Pasta (Spaghetti/Macaroni) 42 lbs
Beans (dry) 25 lbs
Beans, Lima (dry) 1 lb
Peas, Split (dry) 1 lb
Lentils (dry) 1 lb
Dry Soup Mix 5 lbs
Peanut Butter 4 lbs
Dry Yeast 1/2 lb
Sugar, White Granulated 40 lbs
Soda 1 lb
Baking Powder 1 lb
Vinegar 1/2 gal
Approach long-term food storage as follows:
1. Buy bulk staples as previously listed.
2. Buy your everyday stock of canned goods until you have a two-week to one-month surplus. Rotate it periodically to maintain a supply of common foods that will not require special preparation, water or cooking.
3. Find dried meat sources. Although costly, this is an excellent form of stored meat, so buy accordingly. (Canned meats are also options.) Another option is to purchase dry, packaged mixes from the supermarket. Consider stocking some of the items listed as examples below. Amounts are suggested quantities for an adult for one year.
All dry ingredients or supplies should be stored off the floor in clean, dry, dark places away from any source of moisture. Foods will maintain quality longer if extreme changes in temperature and exposure to light are avoided.
Bulk wheat, dark hard winter or dark hard spring wheat are good selections for storage. Wheat should be at least #2 grade with a protein content of at least 12% and moisture content less than 10%. The best option for all dried grains is to be stored in 5 gallon food grade containers with air tight lids and mylar liners with O2 absorbers. If the wheat has not already been treated to prevent insects from hatching, wheat may be treated at the time of storage by placing one-fourth pound of dry ice per 5 gallon container in the bottom and then filling with wheat. Cover the wheat with the lid, but not tightly, for five or six hours before transferring the grain to a mylar lined and sealed container. Other grains to consider storing include rye, rice, oats, triticale, barley and millet. Pasta products can also be stored in 5 or 6 gallon containers with mylar liners. Milled rice will maintain its quality longer in storage than will brown rice. Many of the grains may require grinding before use. Many health food stores sell hand-cranked grain mills or can tell you where you can get one. Make sure you buy one that can grind corn. If you are caught without a mill, you can grind your grain fairly well by using a blender.
Store dry milk in an air-tight container with mylar liner. Dry milk may be stored at 70oF for 12 – 24 months. If purchased in nitrogen packed cans, storage time for best quality will be 24 months. Other dairy products for long term storage may include canned evaporated milk, pasteurized cheese spreads, powdered cheese, and ghee (purified butter).
Other Foods or Ingredients
Iodized salt can be stored in its original package since moisture is the only detrimental thing for salt. Dried beans, peas, lentils, etc. provide an inexpensive alternative protein source and are easy to store in plastic containers with mylar liners and oxygen absorbers . Unused open food boxes, cookies and crackers can be placed in plastic bags, and keep them in air-tight storage containers for use in the near term. Empty opened packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into airtight food storage containers to protect them from pests. Inspect all food containers for signs of spoilage before use. Commercially canned foods are safe to eat long after the “use by date” provided the containers are not bulging, leaking or badly rusted. Quality may diminish with long term storage and be aware of changes in flavor, color and texture. For best quality rotate canned goods at least every two to four years.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Possible deficiencies in the diet in emergency situations can lead to long term health issues. Families should store and use in rotation 365 multi-vitamin/mineral tablets per person. Careful attention should be paid to expiration dates on packages.
Shelf Life of Foods for Storage (Unopened)
Here are some general guidelines for rotating common emergency foods to ensure the best quality of the products.
Use within 1 year:
- Powdered milk (boxed)
- Dried fruit (in metal container)
- Dry, crisp crackers (in metal container)
- Dried Potatoes
Use within 2 years
- Canned condensed meat and vegetable soups
- Canned fruits, fruit juices and vegetables
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals (in metal containers)
- Peanut butter
- Hard candy, chocolate bars and canned nuts
- Vegetable oils
May be stored 5+ years* (in proper containers and conditions):
- Baking powder
- Instant coffee, tea
- Noncarbonated soft drinks
- White rice
- Bouillon products
- Dry pasta
- Vitamin C
- Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed cans)
1. Federal Emergency Management Agency. June 16, 1998 Update. Emergency Food and Water Supplies (FEMA-215). Washington, DC.
2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 1998. Emergency Preparedness Manual.
3: Preparing an emergency food supply, long term food storage: University of Georgia
Judy Harrison, Ph.D.:Associate Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist
Elizabeth Andress, Ph.D.:Associate Professor and Extension Food Safety Specialist