What Kinds of Food Should I Store For a Disaster?

Emergency Preparedness Food

Here in the southern United States, we have our quirks. One humorous stereotype that we seem to prove true time after time is the mad rush on milk and bread every time the weather man threatens ice or snow. While I think its fair to say that the charcoal and meat sections get some attention as well as the beer cooler, you can always tell the gravity of the snow and ice predictions by the shelves in the bread and dairy isles. Another example of a product shortage recently occurred and was not limited to any one area of the nation. As the concern about COVID-19 reached a feverish level, the most primal behavior came out in many people over toilet paper. While I have yet to hear of any side effect of the virus causing such a tremendous need for toilet paper, we can see just how easily supplies can be wiped out over the most unfounded panics. With that in mind, consider the situation we might face after a major disaster or disruption. Some consideration to how food gets to your local supermarket or Walmart can help you understand how a disruption in supply is caused by just a weather report. Imagine the difficulty of getting stores supplied during or after a disaster, especially with major power outages or road closures. This is just one part of basic preparedness. You can read more about the basics on my post here.

Now that we have considered how easily we can disrupt the food supply, we also need to consider how long it will be before the stores will reopen and/or be restocked. This adds to the concerns for preparedness. The amount of stored food we have as well as the shelf life and storage needs can make the difference between running low and being relatively comfortable in a situation.

A friend of mine in central Mississippi noted that for the first several days after Hurricane Katrina passed through, everyone in many areas had gone through all of their frozen foods because they had no power to keep them frozen. We need to make sure we consider storage requirements when we plan for food preps. I’ll add other posts on potential refrigeration means in a power outage later on.

Best Emergency Preparedness Foods

As we get started thinking and studying about prepping our pantries, many of us get caught up in the “survival food” groove. By this I mean the tendency to stock up on all the latest M.R.E. meals or learn how to make our own pemmican and hard tack. Those are longer term skills and may become useful at some point, however as new and busy preppers, we can focus our efforts on food that is less labor intensive to produce, store and prepare. If you are interested in some of the old ways people prepared and stored food, you can join my email list and get a great offer on a good book called The Lost Ways by clicking the picture below.

What Are The Easiest To Store Prepper Foods?

In my attempt to learn and share the basics of preparing on this blog, I like to start out with the simplest options for all of us to start. I think the following food preps are some of the fastest and most practical for most of us who don’t have the time and money to invest in the home made methods right now.

Canned Food: From the early 1800’s we can trace the canning of foods to prevent spoilage. The original canning process used glass bottles or jars and is still in use today. My parents, who grew up on farms and now hobby farm in retirement, just completed canning of this year’s crops just in time for the last jars from last year to be used up. Canning our own foods can be rewarding, but it is time consuming. The commercially canned foods that are available at the local supermarkets are a great prepping alternative. They are well packaged and usually have some added preservatives to help their shelf lives run longer with less concern for spoilage.

Some canned food examples to keep on hand are:

Canned vegatables

Canned Fruits

Canned Soups

Jars of Peanut Butter

Jars off Spaghetti Sauce

Even Canned Bread!

Dry Foods: Many dry foods are available for long term storage. We can purchase and store dry ingredients such as flour, sugar, salt, sugar, and cornmeal, however preparing meals from scratch takes time and effort we might not want to deplete in a disaster scenario just to eat. Modern packaging and preservatives have made many foods available in a dry or dehydrated form that can last years in storage and be easily prepared with the addition of water and a few other ingredients. Many of these dry meal mixes are compatible with canned meats and produce to produce a filling and tasty meal without requiring much prep work or many appliances. Some good dry foods to have in stock are:

Dried Pasta

Powered Milk

Instant Grits/Cream of Wheat

Oats/Instant Oatmeal


Meal Kits (Tuna Helper, Hamburger Helper, Jambalaya, etc.)

Macaroni and Cheese

Ramen Noodles

Instant Coffee

Frozen Foods: I’ll do a post soon on ways to keep refrigerated food from spoiling in a power outage so, for the purposes of this post, we will consider for this article that we have plans to keep our frozen food from spoiling until we can use it up. Freezing is a great way to store cooked meals and casseroles for longer times than we can keep them in just a refrigerator. Another benefit of freezing is that we are able to keep uncooked meats and vegetables for longer periods of time as well. The main survival foods to consider for the freezer are meats, frozen meals and vegetables, many of which can be added to either canned or dry foods to add variety to the menu. Be prepared to prioritize and have some meal plans and recipes handy to make the best use of frozen food resources before they spoil.

Suppliments: In our hurried fast food culture we often lack the dietary benefits of eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables. This can be especially hard if we are forced to eat only the food we have stored so it is a good idea for us to have some nutritional supplements to add to our diet to maintain intestinal and overall health. Try using a mix like this to add to your diet.

How Long Will My Survival Food Last

While the shelf life of food varies, we do have the benefit of knowing the “best by” dates on the store-bought items we add to our prepper pantries. Foods that we freeze or can at home ourselves depend on the quality of our preparation to last so it is based heavily on our experience to determine the safe storage life of the food. With that in mind, we should have a plan to rotate our stock. FIFO is a manufacturing acronym that was created for logistics in warehouses and manufacturing plants and stands for “first in, first out.” This should apply to our pantry rotation as well. As we replenish products in storage, we should make sure that the older cans and boxes of the item in question are next in line to be used. There are ready made racks for cans that help with this as well as plans online to build a pantry system that helps us to rotate stock automatically. You can take a look at or purchase one below:

What Are The Top Food Considerations For Emergencies?

If we are storing food that we have to survive on for a potentially extended period and we know that we have to rotate this stock to keep the food fresh and safe, then It stands to reason that we should purchase food we would eat anyway. If I won’t normally eat English peas, then there’s no good reason to stock up on them for an emergency. Our pantry should be full of the goods we use regularly and we should use and replenish them constantly for inventory freshness. We should also consider the size of the cans and boxes of food we purchase. It’s tempting to run to Costco and purchase our vegetables and fruits in gallon cans because of the economy of bulk purchasing, however, without refrigeration, whatever is not consumed in a relatively short time will spoil and be wasted. Consider how many mouths you expect to feed in your most likely scenarios and buy in packaging that will fit the need per meal or day. The other considerations to pay attention to are food allergies and special nutritional requirements. Look closely at what you purchase to make sure its adequate nutritionally and non reactive to you and your family’s health.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and make money on qualifying purchases.

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