The Food Stash: Storing Foods to Prepare your Family for an Emergency

Natural disasters and emergencies bring complications beyond immediate threats to life and property. The end results can leave families without power, heat, transportation, medical care, and food and water. Disasters happen all across the United States and the globe every day — whether it’s severe storms that knock out power grids, earthquakes, snow and ice storms, hurricanes, floods, or fires we must evacuate from - disasters can make sustaining difficult. Prepare your family now for all potential post-disaster needs.

One way is creating a good food stash. Are you prepared? Have your family help — this can be a good teaching moment for kids!

What foods should we stock up on and how should we store them? Stock up on non-perishables foods now to help your family endure disastrous times. Plan for high-energy food: you’ll need plenty of proteins and carbohydrates to get you through any rough times until power can be restored or help arrives. You’ll need to think about nutrition and fiber. Keeping your family eating in a balanced manner post-event, as much as is possible, will help maintain health and reduce stress during troubling times.

WHAT TO STORE: Protein-rich items like nut butters, nuts and trail mixes, beef jerky, and vacuum packed meat pouches (which last about six-months). Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, soups and chili store well for a long duration. Keep hard packed sausages and salami on hand. These will keep for several months. Consider storing power and granola bars, as well as boxed cereals, as these food items will offer good carbohydrates for energy. Sport drinks, such as Gatorade and PowerAde, will help replace electrolytes. If you don’t want to store the bottles, keep flavor packets on hand which will be appreciated by all. Powdered milk is a great item to store for some time and can help provide excellent nutrition when mixed with water. There are plenty of snack-type items available that can store for some time, such as dried fruit sticks and raisins. Military meal Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are great to stash away, too! You’ll want to keep some salt, pepper, honey, sugar packets and maybe some seasonings to add flavor to foods. Don’t forget to store food for the pets! You’ll need to keep extra items on hand to keep them healthy, as well.

Keep multivitamins, supplements as well as necessary medications on hand for each family member to help maintain for a while. These last for some time and will ensure you can maintain for a while. Don’t forget to pack plates, cups and utensils, whether paper or plastic, and ensure you have certain kitchen essentials, such as a can opener.

WHERE TO STORE IT: Pick a spot that is cool and dry. The location will depend on the natural threats to your region. If you are in a tornado-prone area, store food items in your lower level area — the same area you would seek shelter in during a tornado warning. If you live in areas where flooding or fires occur, store foods in plastic bins you can quickly load into your vehicle as your family evacuates. Canned goods can be stored on shelves, however you’ll want power bars, beef jerky, cereals, and hard-packed salami stored in airtight hard plastic containers bins to keep them safe from pests. The last thing you’ll want to find during an emergency is that mice have pilfered your food stash! Have the food items stored in an area you that is fairly convenient so you can routinely check expiration dates. Rotate out expiring items with new stock, as needed. Whether responding to a disaster at home or on the road, having a food stash to feed the family will be critical.

KEEP WATER ON HAND! If you shelter in place during and after an event, make sure you have plenty of cases of bottled water on hand. A good rule of thumb is to have enough water on hand to ensure one gallon per person per day. It’s important to keep hydrated post-event. You’ll need water for washing and possibly for cooking if you have that opportunity — such as with an outdoor charcoal grill or propane camp stove. You’ll also need water for your pets!

RIGHT BEFORE A DISASTER: Beyond new batteries and filling meds, consider picking up some fresh fruits and vegetables that can last up to a week, especially if you could be home bound for a while. Apples, citrus, tomatoes and root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots can last a while and be a nutritious source of food. These are great for eating raw or cooking. You’ll be set for all sorts of vitamin-packed meals.

Hopefully, you’ll never need to use your stash due to an emergency. Given the times, being prepared will allow you and yours to persevere and sustain.

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Check out Ready.gov for more information on preparing your family for disasters.