How to prepare an emergency food supply

Whether natural or man-made, no region is immune to the potential for disaster. Tornado, earthquake, hurricane, winter storm or terrorist attack are just a few examples of emergencies that might require the need to have an emergency food and water supply on hand. During these emergencies you may not have access to electricity, gas, food or water. By planning ahead now and putting together an emergency food supply and emergency water supply, you will have the food and water your family needs during a crisis.

FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend that a minimum two-week supply of food and water be stored for use in an emergency. I would recommend at least double that amount as a minimum and ideally a year’s supply. And yet, I understand the recommendation because most people don’t have any emergency food supplies or emergency water supplies. So where should you start?

First, don’t get overwhelmed. None of us started our food storage programs with everything at once. It may take some time to build up your emergency food supply. You can start with canned goods, food bars, dried fruit, and dry mixes that don’t require refrigeration. Try to stock up on food that your family normally enjoys eating, as this will boost morale at a stressful time. When preparing food, consider allergies or special diets and the ages of the people you will be feeding.

As you begin stocking your emergency food supply, establish a rotation based on the expiration dates of various foods. Store older foods up front so they can be used before they expire. As you add new supplies, be sure to place them back behind the old supplies so the rotation stays in order. Take care to use storage containers that are airtight and offer protection against pests.

An alternative to storing canned goods, food bars, dried fruit, and dry mixes that often only last six months to a year and must be constantly rotated, is to purchase an emergency food supply that is freeze-dried. These freeze-dried meals require no refrigeration, are lightweight, and come packaged in resealable bags that are stored in plastic buckets built to stack on top of each other for compact food storage. These emergency food supplies have a 20-year shelf life and are available in sizes that will last an adult anywhere from a week to a year or more, depending on your needs. Freeze-dried meals offer a wide variety of foods so you don’t get tired of eating the same thing at every meal. All you normally need to prepare these foods is water. An emergency food supply of freeze-dried meals is my first choice because I don’t have to remember to constantly rotate food in and out of the storage area.

Your emergency food supply storage area should be a cool, dry, and preferably dark place. Consider the type of disaster that is most likely to occur in your area when choosing a storage area. For example, if tornadoes are frequent in your region, you probably don’t want your emergency food supply stored on the top floor of your home if it can be avoided, as that’s an area more likely to be damaged and, thus, loss of their food supply. Likewise, you wouldn’t want it in a damp basement either. In some circumstances, it may be desirable to have more than one storage location so that if one is lost, another can be accessed.

Although we may think about and discuss emergency food supplies more often, emergency water may actually be more important. Most of us would survive longer without food than without water. Although you can store properly treated water in your own disinfected water storage containers, it is recommended that you replace it every six months. Once again, my preference would be to buy water. There are two options here. You can buy regular bottled water, which usually lasts about a year, or you can buy emergency water that is specially packaged to last 5 years and is designed specifically for disaster preparedness. Either way, you’ll want to keep the expiration date in mind, but emergency water will be packaged to preserve it for a longer period of time. Whichever way you choose to supply water, it’s important to have at least one gallon per person per day. The average person should drink at least a half gallon of water per day. In some circumstances, you may need to drink more than a half gallon of water per day. If you drink half a gallon, the other half gallon can be used for cooking or hygiene, etc.

You will also need a way to cook during a disaster. I prefer to have a propane camp stove available for emergency food preparation. Please note that a camp stove should never be used indoors. A simple camp stove is small, easy to use, and fits most cookware. Don’t forget to have a supply of propane fuel bottles stored with your camp stove.

Preparing an emergency food supply for your family is very important and could have a significant impact on the outcome in the event of a disaster. And while it does require some attention to detail, it doesn’t have to be difficult or overwhelming.

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