Having a short term food supply on hand has been recommended by multiple preparedness organizations including the American Red Cross and FEMA. These experts suggest having a three day to a fourteen day food supply on hand in the instance of a prolonged disaster. However, for one reason or another, many do not have this supply of food on hand. Perhaps the reasoning is out of denial that anything catastrophic could happen, some are unaware of this preparedness suggestion or it could be the belief that the cost of a small supply of food would be too expensive. On the contrary, a short term food supply is relatively inexpensive. Many experts say that adding an extra $5 -$20 to the grocery list for purchasing a short term food supply would adequately supply a family within a month’s time.
When a disaster threatens, the initial step is the rush to the store for provisions, thus causing unwanted stress and tension. In some cases, many go home empty handed due to the fact that people buy the same type of emergency food items. A government website suggests having a two week supply of food on hand in the event that a disaster cuts off the food supply for that length of time.
Things to Look For When Buying Food
When beginning a small food supply, many are overwhelmed with the idea of what foods to buy and how much to buy. Using a food storage calculator will help determine how much food is necessary. There are some considerations to keep in mind before purchasing the food items.
- The amount of people in the household.
- Have a good amount of food varieties to reduce food fatigue.
- The serving amount in the food.
- Vitamin content in the food.
- The expiration date or “best if used by” labels on the food.
- Special health conditions for family members.
Taking time to read the nutritional information on the back of the food source will help a person make the best choices for their needs. If a person needs to use their stashed food supply, having foods high in vitamins, nutrients, and proteins will provide their bodies with what it needs for energy and mental clarity.
Getting Ready for the Short Term and Food Supply Suggestions
Gathering a three day food supply is useful for the home as well as for
72 hour kits. Begin by listing all family members (pets included) and keeping in mind any special health needs (allergies, diabetes, etc) for the members. Plan meals to meet a 1500-2000 calorie diet that are high in nutrients. Having a ready food supply already stocked will keep the mind focused on creating a safety plan and preparing rather than losing precious time at the store and the gas stations getting provisions and supplies.
Some suggested food supply items are:
- Canned fruits, vegetables and meats
- Canned meals
- Dry mixes
- Trail mix
- Whole grain cereals
- Canned soups and broths
- Dried soup mixes (including bouillon cubes)
- Boxed juices and milks.
- Peanut butter
- Beef jerky or dried/smoked meats
- Granola or granola bars
- Energy bars
- Instant pudding
- Hard candy
- Instant rice and potatoes
- Instant oatmeal
- dry milk
- Infant formula or baby foods
- Powdered drink mixes
- Ready to eat meals (such as MRE’s)
- Freeze dried foods
- Food for pets
Important Notes to Consider:
- Water, infant formula, and canned foods are usually the first items to go. People buy the same foods, so if there is a mass rush and everyone is buying the same foods, there will not be enough for everyone.
- It is important to note that water is one of the most important items to have on hand. Without water, some foods cannot be prepared as well as the use for drinking purposes. Have water in food grade containers so they last longer. Some preparedness sites suggest having at least two quarts of water a day, but that amount seems too small and does not take into account that issues arise and more water may be needed. When preparing a water supply plan on using 1 gallon of water per day per member of the household. If water supplies are a concern, avoid certain foods and drinks that are high in salt, over processed foods or caffeinated beverages. These foods tend to make the body crave more water due to the high salt content.
- Having ready to eat foods, staple foods, and specialty foods stocked such as hard candy or cookies creates a sense of normalcy and lifts moral.
Getting a Food Storage Space Ready
Wherever one decides to store their food supply, the food should be in a safe, dry space. Many people that are tight on space use creative methods such as shelving units high in their closets, bedrooms or closets. Some people use extra rooms or unused closets as their storage space. As long as the space is dry and big enough to store the foods, it can be used.
Managing the Food Supply
Storing food is a continual process of using, rotating and reloading. If a short term food supply is bought, the food must be used and more food purchased to resupply the storage shelf. Thinking of the food supply as a small store where the foods in the front have the shortest expiration date and the ones in the back have the longest. The food storage area should be checked every six months to make sure that appropriate food items are rotated. Rotating the food and resupplying when needed will keep the supply of food as fresh as possible.
Keep an inventory list of foods that have been purchased and add to the list accordingly when more items are purchased will provide a well-rounded supply.
Guidelines for Food Storage:
Use within 6 months:
- Powdered milk (in box)
- Dried fruit (in metal container)
- Dry, crisp crackers (in metal container)
Use Within 1 year:
- Canned condensed meat and vegetable soups
- Canned fruit, fruit juices and vegetables
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals (in metal containers)
- Vitamin C
- Peanut butter
- Hard candy and canned nuts
May Be Stored Indefinitely (in proper containers and conditions):
- Vegetable oils
- Dried Corn
- Baking powder
- Instant coffee, tea and cocoa
- Non-carbonated soft drinks
- White rice
- Bouillon products
- Dry pasta
- Powdered milk (in nitrogen packed cans)
When a disaster threatens, tensions run high and food and water supplies are typically the first items to go as far as preparedness goes. Already having these items on hand alleviates some of the initial stress that comes along with preparation, and concentration can be put to more constructive uses. Adding a few items to the shopping cart each time at the store is the most effective way in being proactive in preparing a food supply.