Emergency Preparations for Food
Food and water are the main priorities in preparing for general emergencies. Start now to pick up extra cans or packages each time you go to the store. If you can afford to purchase in case lots, it's less expensive than buying items one by one.
- Keep on hand a supply of foods that you would normally eat, things your family likes to eat. Plan your purchases using simple, balanced menus.
- Choose foods that have a long shelf life, a high water content, and that can be stored at room temperature. Avoid foods packaged in syrup, those with a high salt (sodium) content, or those with alcohol or carbonation. Such foods tend to increase the body's demand for water.
- Build up your everyday stock of canned goods and other non-refrigerated/non-frozen prepared foods until you have enough food for you, your family and any pets or livestock for three to seven days, and rotate it periodically. Canned foods can last a year or more at full nutritional quality. In general, canned goods are safe after their "use before" expiration dates. However, if a can is swollen, rusty or smells funny, throw it away.
- If you want longer-term storage, buy a supply of bulk staples such as wheat, corn, beans, legumes, rice, pasta and salt, which are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. Remember that dried foods will take extra water for cooking and need fuel and some type of cooking equipment.
Items to Consider
- Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
- Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered, store extra water)
- Sugar, honey
- Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals (in metal containers)
- If needed, foods for elderly persons, infants or persons on special diets
- High energy foods like peanut butter, jelly, granola bars, or trail mix
- Vegetable oils - olive oil will keep well if stored in a dark, cool place.
- Dried spices - pepper, garlic, onion, oregano, chili powder, etc.
- Non-carbonated soft drinks
- Bouillon products
- Canned gravy is easy to heat in cans and makes things tasty.
- Choose a cool spot and use only food-grade containers. Plastic buckets with tight-fitting lids work well for bulk staples. Restaurants often give these away.
- Keep food covered at all times.
- Inspect all food containers for signs of spoilage before use. If the power goes off, use food in this order:
- First, use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator.
- Second, use the foods from the freezer. To minimize the number of times you open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers - meaning foods are safe to eat -) for at least three days after a power outage.
- Finally, begin to use non-perishable foods and staples.
Be aware that propane and kerosene stoves and charcoal grills, as well as other alternate cooking equipment, are dangerous to use indoors. They produce toxic fumes that cannot be smelled. Also, many of these fuels are extremely flammable. Do not use camping stoves or charcoal grills indoors at any time. Store all fuel outside of buildings.
- Propane or kerosene stoves work fine for most stovetop cooking.
- An outdoor charcoal or propane grill can be used during an emergency, and so can your fireplace. as long as it is wood burning.
- You can also heat food with candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots. Canned food can be eaten right out of the can. If you heat it in the can, be sure to open the can and remove the label first. Also, canned foods won't require cooking, water or special preparation.
- Camping supply stores sell a variety of cooking equipment. Make any purchase well in advance. During emergencies, prices may go up while availability goes down. Practice using the equipment before there's an emergency, so you feel comfortable using it.
- Consider using a pressure cooker to save on fuel.
- Investigate alternative ways to cook food, such as solar ovens and hayboxes.