This Article Was Written by Patrick Blair, Contributor at Living Rational
I just finished eating a huge 18 ounce Porterhouse steak with a fully loaded baked potato, a side salad, a couple of buttered yeast rolls and an ice cold beer — and at this very moment, I could not possibly be happier! Just as I finished the last bite of juicy goodness and emptied my glass, I came to the startling realization that if an actual SHTF situation was upon us now, I would most likely never have that good of a meal again… at least not for a long, long time. It was a harrowing idea, to be quite honest with you, but one that more people should be considering when preparing for emergency.
Why You Need Emergency Food
On television shows like “The Walking Dead” and “Z Nation”, zombies have totally overrun civilization. There are no more grocery stores, fast food restaurants,or even hot dog carts on street corners. People are required to provide themselves with their own food any way they can. If you are a seasoned hunter or someone who has been gardening for years, that might not seem like such a daunting task. If you regularly practice survival skills like trapping and foraging for wild edibles, you are probably not worried very much, either. However, whether you possess those skills or not is irrelevant. There is no guarantee that anything you find, grow or kill will be edible in extreme situations.
The good news is, those are just television shows — designed to entertain, even if the subject matter is outside the realm of reality. There is a pretty slim chance of the power grid going down leaving us completely and indefinitely in the dark as in the (now cancelled) show “Revolution”. There is even less of a chance that flesh eating zombies will overrun civilization and eat us all one bite at a time. The bad news is, there are real life scenarios that could potentially put us into similar compromising situations where people who prep will have the upper hand over people who don’t.
While it may not be likely that the power will go off, many people disagree, fearing the threat of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from either solar flares or foreign enemies. Others say cyber terrorists are likely to hack our power grid and totally shut it down. Whether either of these scenarios are the main reason you are prepping, or you have another reason altogether, one fact remains — you need a preparedness plan.
Any good emergency preparedness plan starts with storing food and water. An emergency pantry stocked full of food will ensure your family’s survival longer, even if you are still able to provide food for your family after a SHTF incident occurs. Frozen foods will melt in a grid down scenario, and you can’t run that vacuum sealer without power, either. The best thing you can do for your family’s assured survival in an emergency is to store plenty of food now.
How Much Food Should I Store?
In most “end of the world as we know it” scenarios, the best thing you can do is batten down the hatches, hunker down and bug-in right where you are. You are on your home turf, you already have everything in your home set up the way you need them for your family’s comfort, and as long as you are not being forced out by weather or potential intruders, there is no reason to leave.
You also have all of your food supplies stocked and organized in your home. If something did go wrong, the first food you would want to eat would be the perishables (whether power is out or not) to be sure you are not wasting anything. Next, work on the canned goods and frozen foods — unless your power is out, then you should be eating the frozen foods along with the perishables. But once the “regular” food is gone, that’s when you’ll need to rely on your emergency food stores.
In my article “Preparedness Strategy-A Comprehensive Guide to Prepping”, I recommended storing at least three months of food for each family member to have two to three meals each day. For a family of four to have three meals a day for three months, they would need 1,080 servings. Someone actually told me what I figured someone would — “That’s an awful lot of food, isn’t it?” Yes, it is an awful lot of food if the grocery stores are open and you can go buy whatever you want whenever you need it. However, if something catastrophic happened — I mean like if some truly SHTF type of event struck all of civilization — that probably would not be enough food.
Now think about all of your close friends and other family members who are not preppers and have no kind of emergency food stored. If they know you are a prepper in any sense of the word (and I’m assuming that they most likely do), who do you think they will turn to when they are in need of help? They will come to you, of course, because they know you are ready. They will be knocking on your door wanting to stay in your fully stocked house with you. So what does that do to your well-planned emergency food supply? If four people come to your house wanting to stay, it will effectively cut your food supply in half. Are you ready for that?
I know it’s daunting to think about having to buy and store all of that food. There is an investment of money, time and space, but it is well worth it for the long-term survival of your family. Plus, you do not have to buy your entire emergency supply of food all at one time. Set aside as much money as your budget will allow each month to go toward your food storage, and buy what you can, when you can. You won’t be nearly as stressed over the purchases, and it will give you time to really figure out what kind of foods you want.
What Kind of Foods Should I Store?
Shelf life is one of the biggest issues you should be concerned with when you are storing food. The longer foods last, the better prepared you will be. But what foods have the best shelf life?
Frozen Food – Frozen foods are obviously good choices for storage. If you have a container and a freezer, you can freeze pretty much any kind of food. There are obvious problems with frozen foods, though. If the power ever goes out for any amount of time, you risk having the freezer thaw out and losing all the food. Oxygen is also an enemy to frozen food. The more air in the bag or container, the more likely your food is to get freezer burn. While freezer burn is not a food safety risk, any food affected by freezer burn will not be very appetizing. It’s recommended you use frozen foods within a year.
Canned Food – Whether you buy it in the supermarket or you have learned to can your own, the shelf life of canned food isn’t more than a couple of years. That’s actually not too bad, but if you had to quickly pack a bunch of food in order to bug-out, that’s an awful lot of weight to carry with you. Store bought stuff is usually super high in sodium — not very good for you. The stuff you can is in breakable glass jars — even harder to transport than their metallic-encased kin.
Dehydrated Food – Beef jerky, fruit leather and dehydrated fruits and veggies are absolutely delicious, and they have great shelf life, especially if you vacuum seal them. They are also fairly lightweight, so they’re easy to grab and go in a pinch. Dehydrated foods like jerky should be eaten within a few months unless vacuum sealed, then they may last up to a year. Other dehydrated foods can be packaged in mylar with oxygen absorbers and will last for a year or more.
Freeze Dried Food – Astronaut food! This is a prepper’s perfect food. Freeze dried food is totally dry, comes in oxygen-free sealed packages, and is extremely lightweight (even more so than dehydrated foods). The typical shelf life for freeze dried food is 20-25 years or more!
Emergency Food Options
What do you like to eat? That’s what you should try to store. I, myself, am a “meat and three” kinda guy. I typically like to have beef or chicken as a main with rice or potatoes and two additional sides. That’s an ideal meal for me, so that’s the kind of food I would want to store.
Are you a vegetarian? There are all kinds of freeze-dried veggie options on the market. If you’re vegan, there are plenty of options as well. In fact, you can buy buckets of emergency food that are strictly vegetables — no meat, no milk, just veggies.
Do you follow a gluten-free diet plan? Good news — there are also gluten-free emergency food options! People with Celiac disease or who are just gluten intolerant in general shouldn’t have to suffer in an emergency food shortage. Get freeze dried foods that are already gluten-free.
Those kinds of questions must be answered well before you start packing emergency food away. If you’re putting up stuff you either don’t want to or simply can’t eat, you’re setting yourself up for trouble right off. Be sure to use good judgement in what foods your family like. In fact, every time you order something new, open up a package and try it! Plan an “emergency dinner night” so your family can figure out what you like and what you don’t. If you happen to have a “prepper network” of people you talk to on a regular basis that also store emergency food supplies, see if they have something they don’t like that you do and maybe you can set up a trade. Everybody gets what they want — it’s a win / win.
Another thing to consider is that the easier it is to prepare a meal in an emergency situation, the more of an overall psychological advantage it gives you. Freeze dried foods are great for this since they require little preparation.
The survival rule of three teaches you that a person can last three days without water. Within a day’s time, dehydration starts to set in. By day three, you are probably not urinating much if at all, your mouth and skin are dry, and you have a severe headache. Things only get worse from there, so it is important to keep plenty of water on hand.
In the event that you should run out of water, it is important to know where alternate sources of water are in relation to your house. If you live near a lake, river or stream, you are in pretty good shape so long as the supply doesn’t become contaminated. Also, consider rigging some way to collect rain water. Whether you’re putting up an elaborate system to collect mass amounts at one time, or you just put a couple of buckets, rain is a viable source of water. Even still, it is just as important to know how to properly purify any water that you bring in from an outside source to ensure it is safe for your family to drink — water borne illness in an emergency situation is never a good thing.
Tips for Storing Emergency Food and Water
- Always label your foods clearly with what is in the package, when it was stored, and when it expires.
- Be sure to store a variety of foods. You will not want to eat the same thing for every meal, so store different kinds of foods.
- Consider storing bulk spices as part of your emergency food storage. A little salt goes a long way for improving flavor of most any food.
- Don’t rely on one type of food alone. Store some of each type of food (frozen, dehydrated, freeze dried, etc) so you can eat through the layers and not just dive right into your long term emergency storage.
- Extreme heat and humidity will greatly reduce the shelf life of your emergency foods. Keep your emergency food stored in a cool, dry place.
- Keep your containers for reuse. If you’re buying freeze dried foods, most of them come in some type of bucket. Once empty, those buckets can be used for waste, storing other items, or collecting water.
- Use a spreadsheet or checklist to keep track of what you have stored and when they expire so you can rotate your supplies.
- Keep your supplies off the floor to deter rodents and other pests from chewing through any buckets, bags or boxes.
- Caloric intake is an important factor to consider when in a survival situation. Be sure your emergency foods provide you with an ample amount of calories per serving.
- When in doubt, ask a professional. The team at Living Rational is here to help you determine what you need.