Step-by-Step Emergency Food Planning | SafeWise

by Sep 1, 2021Safety


When thinking about how to store your long-term food storage, consider what kind of emergency you are likely to encounter. If you live in an earthquake zone, you probably will not have a bunch of glassware on a high shelf in your pantry. If you live in a flood zone, storing your food in cardboard boxes on the ground floor is probably not the best choice. And if you think you may need to evacuate, you will want to avoid heavy cans.

Once you have chosen a smart place for your food storage, it is time to plan what you want to put in it.

Reliance Products Aqua-Tainer 7 gallon rigid water tank

Protein bars and smart freeze-dried foods can help you feel more prepared, but when it comes to real readiness, remember one important element: water. You can survive for more than three weeks without food, but you will need clean drinking water if you want to live for more than a few days.

The goal is to store at least one gallon of water per day. Person pr. Day. No, you are not going to toot a whole gallon every day – you also need water for cleaning and cooking. To store your water, avoid clear containers and keep your water containers away from sunlight to avoid bacterial growth. Store them in a dark, cool place, such as in the back of a pantry.

Some temperature fluctuations are okay, but keep water containers away from cement floors. Plastic can absorb odors and chemicals, and you really do not want to drink the things that are on your garage floor.

Large water tanks like Aqua-Tainer hold several gallons and are convenient for storage. The handle makes it easy to move if you need to evacuate, and the included tabs act as a good stand-in for your regular kitchen faucet.

Did you know that water can run flat? It is true! If you want to drink water that has been stored for a while, first pour it back and forth between two glasses to aerate the water and make it taste better.

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Did you know that water can run flat?

It is true! If you want to drink water that has been stored for a while, first pour it back and forth between two glasses to aerate the water and make it taste better.

Once you are comfortable with the amount of water you have stored, it is time to make a plan for your food supply. While buying grains like wheat, rice and oats in bulk can seem like an appealing (and affordable) option to build your emergency storage, it is best to take that path only if you know how to use these foods and are comfortable to cook them. You will not be stuck in an emergency with a five gallon bucket of wheat and not have the slightest idea how to prepare it.

Instead, think of these as actions that you must take on a regular basis, and that you and your family can already eat and ask yourself these questions: Can you store it without refrigeration? Can you eat it without making it? Is it easy to prepare? (Remember that you can make shelf-stable substitutions for many fresh items that you can typically use in a recipe, such as milk powder or canned meat.)

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If the answer to each of these questions is “yes”, then add it to the list for your emergency food storage because it is a good choice. Emergencies are stressful, and familiar foods are the perfect place to start. The fewer surprises you have in a disaster situation, the better.

When deciding what to buy, think about dietary requirements. Try to find a good balance between carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy products, and be sure to consider any dietary restrictions that you or your family members may have. The last thing you need in an emergency is someone who gets sick. And do not forget to make a meal plan for babies and pets – they should eat too!

If you’re still a little in doubt about which foods are good for food storage in an emergency, there are a few more ideas.


  • Granola bars
  • Preserved fruit
  • Beef jerky and dried meat
  • Cereal
  • Biscuit
  • Peanut butter
  • Protein bars
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix
  • Juice
  • Sports drinks

  • Oatmeal
  • Dried pasta
  • Rice
  • Canned food (chicken, turkey, tuna, salmon)
  • Canned soup
  • Canned vegetables
  • Preserved beans
  • Canned chili
  • Dried soup mix

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Coronavirus Update

Due to the CDC’s recommendations on social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, we all spend more time at home. Maybe it’s time to embrace your inner chef. Do you have a pantry full of things you plan to use but do not know what to do with? Apps like SuperCook and Allrecipes Dinner Spinner help you get creative with the ingredients you have available.

If you know a natural disaster is on the way, you can also buy fresh foods that do not need refrigeration, such as apples, bananas, citrus fruits and avocados.

Also, don’t forget to save sauces like salad dressing, barbecue sauce and ketchup to add flavor to your meals – but buy them in smaller containers because you may not be able to cool a container once you have opened it. Extra salt, pepper, spices, honey and sugar are also good to have on hand.

If you plan to cook with your food storage, store vegetable oil, olive oil or cooking spray to keep you out of a sticky situation. Do not forget to have a can opener and scissors on hand to open annoying packages.

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Dehydrated food

Dehydrated food is a good option if you think you may need to evacuate. It is light and there are a number of tasty freeze-dried meals available, but be sure to include extra water in your emergency supplies to rehydrate it.

Creative Co-op Heating Cast Iron

You can safely eat food from a can without heating it, but you probably will not live off cold food in a prolonged disaster, so you will need to make a plan for cooking. Outdoor cooking units such as propane ovens, grills and campfires are a convenient way to cook, but they depend on good weather. Below none circumstances if you ever had to use an outdoor cooking unit inside.

If you need to cook indoors, you will need a fireplace. Ideally, your acute food set will contain food that only needs to be heated, not cooked. For heating you can use a fondue pot, a dish or stearin-heated heating tray. A cheap set for disposable cures provides a quick and easy cleanup.

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You can cook canned food in the can, but be sure to wash the can thoroughly first to get rid of any lingering bacteria or germs, and make sure the can is open during cooking so that steam can escape.

Where there is cooking, it needs to be cleaned, so be sure to keep your kitchen utensils and cutlery clean. Store an extra box of garbage bags with your food storage so you can keep your living space sanitary and dispose of empty containers and leftovers, preferably outside.

Emergencies typically occur in the middle of normal life, without warning, so you will likely have perishable foods in your refrigerator and freezer that can still be edible if the power goes out. Obviously you want to eat those things first, but how do you know if it’s still good?

Think ahead: Before a disaster strikes, freeze a jar of water and place a coin on top of the ice. If your power goes out and you are not sure how long it has been out, check the coin in the jar. If the coin is where you left it, the ice cream remained frozen, meaning your food did too. However, if the coin is at the bottom of the jar even though the water is frozen again, it means that the power was off long enough for the water to melt. This means that your food also did not remain frozen, so it is not safe to eat.

hours on the phone

Image: Castorly Stock, Pexels

If you know when the power went out, set a timer for four hours from blackout. This is as long as your refrigerator stays cold enough to store your food as long as you do not open it. If you are not sure, check your refrigerator thermometer. It will still continue to function even without power, and as long as it is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the food is safe to eat. Try to avoid opening the refrigerator as much as possible to keep the cold air inside, and store food closer together to help it stay cold longer.

It is a good idea to know where you can buy dry ice in the event of a power outage, for 25 kilos of dry ice can keep your refrigerator cold enough for food storage for two to four days. Just be sure to wear thick gloves when handling dry ice, and make sure your vehicle is well ventilated when transporting it.

Acute food safety is not limited to items in your refrigerator and freezer – despite the name, non-perishable foods can also perish, and you can also from eating it if you are not careful. Do not eat food from damaged cans (rusty, swollen, dented, etc.), even if the food inside looks okay. Store all your food in airtight containers to protect it from rodents and other pests. Dry canned food will only be good for 10-15 days after it is opened.

Throws out food

Photo: Lara Jameson, Pexels

If your home has been affected by a flood, everything that has come in contact with water should be discarded, with the exception of undamaged canned food. But before eating anything from these cans, disinfect them thoroughly by washing them with warm water and soap and then either putting them in boiling water for two minutes or cleaning them with a bleach and water solution for fifteen minutes. Eat the food in these cans as soon as possible.

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Fires pose their own food hazard as dangerous fumes can poison food even if stored in the refrigerator or freezer. If you have had a fire, it is best to discard food that could have been affected.

The best rule of thumb for food safety? “When in doubt, throw it out.” Food poisoning is a far more risky proposition than hunger, so always play it safe and throw away any food that is questionable.

If your current is knocked out by a snowstorm or ice storm, you may be tempted to put food outside in the snow to keep it cold, but outside temperatures can fluctuate and your food can easily become contaminated outside. Instead, use the cold outdoor temperatures to make ice to put in your freezer to keep things cold.

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Store food indoors

If your current is knocked out by a snowstorm or ice storm, you may be tempted to put food outside in the snow to keep it cold, but outside temperatures can fluctuate and your food can easily become contaminated outside. Instead, use the cold outdoor temperatures to make ice to put in your freezer to keep things cold.

Both cans and Mylar bags provide a long shelf life for pre-packaged foods, so the one you choose is truly a personal preference. Mylar bags are easier to pack and transport, and they usually have smaller portion sizes. Cans are heavier and not so easy to move, but the food inside will stay good longer than food stored in Mylar bags.

First aid supplies, a weather radio, lights, tools, extra clothes, cash and important documents are all great things to add to your emergency supply set. If you think you need to evacuate, a backpack (aka bug-out bag) is a good thing to have in your car.

The best way to rotate your food storage is to use it regularly. If you have stored items that your family already eats every day, it should not be difficult to do. Can rotators Store the oldest food on the front of your pantry shelf so you always use the oldest items first and ensure healthy food rotation. Aim to make one meal a week using your emergency storage space, and refill it with each shopping trip.

Emergency food planning is not just about big bags of wheat and giant water drums – it’s about real life, and the more you can incorporate it into your daily life, the better. Start with the basics, and before you know it, you’re ready for something.

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