When it comes to emergency food supply, everyone should be a prepper. Even if you aren’t very fond of imagining nuclear holocaust or violent rebellions of artificial intelligence in near future, life has already started to hit us hard on a regular basis. And when that happens, you and your family still have to eat.

Considering the current pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis, there’s no need to explain how stressful it is to fight your neighbor in a supermarket over a bag of flour. In a bit harsher scenario, it would be even more stressful to search in vain for a bag of flour that just isn’t there. Can you imagine that? I bet you can. We’re walking on a razor’s edge of such events as we speak.

As individuals, we can’t stop the big, brown snowball from getting even bigger as it rolls down the hill. But the least we can do is ensure our families don’t starve because we downplayed the danger, lulled in our mind-numbing normalcy bias.

And the first step towards it is to get an emergency food supply. 

How Much Food Do I Need to Stockpile?

When I think about all the SHTF scenarios that may occur at one time or another, I would be happiest if I could hoard food for at least a few years.

Alas, I don’t live in a warehouse. And neither do you, I suspect. There’s only so much room in our homes or bug out shelters, so we have to make do with what we already have.

Plus, getting a year’s worth of supplies would be a serious strain on our wallets. So, the most sensible solution would be to stock up for time intervals from three days to a few months. Three days is an absolute minimum that even the government officially recommends. And that is something that literally anyone can afford, in terms of both storage space and cash. Indeed, having enough food for three days is something that every household I know has already been practising.

Once you determine how much food you are able to store, it is easy to calculate exactly how much food you need. Just multiply the number of people in your household by three (number of daily meals), and once again by the number of days that you’re aiming for. So, if yours is a family of four and you want to stockpile six months’ worth of supplies, that would be 2,160 servings total. Don’t forget the pets! Fluffies and pooches are regular family members, in good times as well as bad.

emergency food supply formula

Top Concerns to Keep in Mind BEFORE You Start Hoarding Food

Who Eats What in Your Emergency Food Supply?

Having a certain amount of non-perishable food is great, but you also need to keep in mind your family’s eating habits. And by that, I don’t mean the fact that your 4-year old hates red beans. Personal preferences will be your last concern in disaster scenarios, when the only thing that matters is to fill up your bellies.

What you DO need to pay attention to are food allergies and intolerance. If a family member is gluten intolerant, say goodbye to your wheat or barley or rye flour. In that case, rice can be a great substitute for their daily dose of carbs.

Have Your Can and Eat It Too!

There are probably as many disaster scenarios as there are neurons in our heads. And not all of them are cut from the same cloth.

In preppers’ lingo, disasters are classified by whether they require you to bug in or bug out. That is, you can huddle in your house and wait out the storm, pretending you don’t even exist. Or you can flee your home, your town, or even civilization itself, with bare essentials on your back.

It’s not always easy to decide which option is better. More often than not, it will depend on your personal, common-sense assessment, rather than any clear-cut rules. If there’s civil unrest or raging panic outside, it’s probably safer to stay inside than try to find a way out of the urban jungle full of predators. But in case of a natural disaster such as a hurricane, flood, earthquake, or wildfire, you should buckle up ASAP and get the hell out of there.

All of these scenarios further complicate the matter of emergency food supply. That’s why I recommend trying to have it both ways. You should pack 72-hour food supplies in all of your family members’ bug out bags. But your pantry or cellar or garage should still contain a few months’ worth of supplies that are there to stay.

So, next time you’re out grocery shopping, make sure to buy some compact and lightweight food such as granola bars, tuna cans, and crackers. They are rich in calories, easy to carry, and can keep you going for days.

Don’t Let Your Non-Perishables Perish

CDVD. As smoothly as it rolls off the tongue, this little acronym doesn’t stand for a video or audio format.

It stands for: Cool, Dry, Ventilated, Dark. Your food stock wants you to remember it, since those are the features your storage room should have. And remembering it is easy: like a CD and DVD merged together.

So, if you live in a house, you should opt for a cellar or another cold-ish room. Make sure there isn’t any moisture though, for it is one of food’s greatest enemies.

Although 100 degrees Fahrenheit is the highest temperature your food cans can withstand without going bad, you should do your best to keep it down to 75 degrees max. That’s because you’ll want to not only avoid starvation, but also preserve some of those vitamins and minerals. And those nice nutrients just hate temperatures over 75 degrees.

emergency food supply

Keep an Eye on the Calendar

Explorers have been known to find decades old food cans buried in snow or ocean sand – and sometimes eat them too. (As far as we know, none of them got sick or worse as a result.) And I totally get the impulses that drove them to it. What did crackers taste like back in 1920? I would like a chance to nip one, if only out of curiosity!

That doesn’t mean you should set and forget your emergency food supply though. Not unless you plan on planting it somewhere to wait for people from the future. Tin cans have souls too, you know. Your food can go bad even before it officially goes bad.

That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get food poisoning if you decide to feast on your favorite canned food around or past its expiry date. But the longer it sits on your shelf, the more of its nutritive value will go down the drain.

So, it’s best to paste sticky notes on the shelves with your food’s expiry dates. That way, you’ll know exactly when to renew your stash.

13 Absolute Must-Haves for Your Emergency Food Supply

1. Water Isn’t Food, But It’s Even More Crucial

In your food shopping frenzy, you mustn’t forget the single most important element every living being needs: clean water. You can go without food for a few days or even up to three weeks. But without water, one would most certainly die after just one to four days, depending on the climate and other factors.

Just like with everything else, nobody can tell you how much drinkable water you should have in your home at any given moment. It depends on your plans, possible disaster scenarios, as well as storage capacities. Whatever the variables, you should always have at least one gallon per person per day (pets included!) for at least 72 hours. Everything above that is up to your personal assessment.

If you’re interested in getting water containers, check out this comprehensive guide. You may also get some amounts of sports waters, but it’s definitely not a must. (Most of them are scam anyway.)

2. Canned Meat

Meat is an essential source of proteins for both kids and adults. So, you should bulk buy tin cans of various meats for your emergency food supply: beef, pork, chicken, tuna, salmon, turkey. While cans don’t sound or look as sexy as a mouthwatering, juicy steak covered in gravy and garnished with some colorful veggies, they do have certain benefits.

First of all, the process of putting meat in cans starts and ends with sterilization at a high temperature that kills off any microorganisms. The cans are sealed, so that no air or any contaminants can make their way inside.

That’s another reason why canned meat has a generally long shelf life, of up to several years. Plus, it can be tasty too – and even if you get fed up, you can always use it to make stew or pasta or pie.

emergency food supplies3. Canned Veggies

Fibers are a key element to digestion and a source of good cholesterol. Luckily, there are many options that will not only provide your organism with vitamins and minerals, but are also quite tasty and versatile. You can use various types of beans (navy, white, kidney, red, dark) as a side dish or even main course, when whipped up with some meat.

There aren’t as many types of it, but corn also belongs on every emergency shelf, as well as canned peas, carrots, legumes, and the ever present and ever popular tomatoes. Note, however, that canned tomatoes won’t last as long as other veggies, due to the high amount of acid.


4. Dried Fruits

There’s nothing as invigorating as a fresh, juicy piece of fruit squirting down your chin. Alas, dried fruits aren’t so yummy, but they are still a must-have for every emergency food supply.

Whatever your choice, make sure it doesn’t contain added sugar. Apart from vitamin C, all other nutrients will stay there to feed your body (and soul).

Dried fruits tend to be on the pricier side though, so you may consider drying them yourself. It’s not difficult, and you don’t even have to splurge hundreds of bucks on a dehydrator. You can do it the grandma’s way – by using your humble oven at the lowest setting. Hell, you can even make some tasty veggie snacks that way.

5. Your Body Needs Some More Carbs (and Not Just Canned)

In recent years, many people have waged war against carbohydrates, embracing healthy fatties instead. I’m not a nutritionist, so I don’t even wanna go into the specifics of LCHF, keto, and other dietary fads and controversies.

Survival is my primary concern, and one thing is clear on that account: carbs are a precious source of energy, and one needs energy to survive. You don’t have to stuff yourself with starch, but having some will definitely help you weather the storm if it comes to it.

So, make sure to store enough flour (whole grain if possible). When unpacked, it should typically last for a year or a bit longer. But you can prolong its shelf life by storing it in your refrigerator. Naturally, the “flour and carbs” department should contain some pasta too.

Rice is another essential source of good carbs, especially brown, whole-grain rice. It’s also very durable and doesn’t even have to be stored in cans. Boxes or bags or whatever the package, you won’t have to pay another thought to it for years, even if it isn’t vacuum sealed.

Did anyone mention potatoes? Get a few bags by any means, but don’t forget that they will be the first thing to go bad, after a month or even less. Even if you keep them in a CDVD place (remember the acronym?), they just can’t last more than a few weeks before going all mushy and smelly.

6. Nuts (and More Nuts)

Did you know that a mere handful of nuts – any nuts – can work as replacement for a full-blown lunch? They have it all: proteins, fibers, fats, as well as loads of minerals and vitamins. Eating them on a regular basis isn’t only enjoyable but also very beneficial, since they help reduce the bad cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. Plus, they have fatty acids, which our bodies have to ingest from external sources for proper functioning.

While at it, don’t forget to get a few jars of peanut butter. If you can keep your hands off it and manage to preserve the stash for emergency situations, it will be an excellent source of proteins. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t eat tons of it, especially if it contains additives such as sugar. So, be careful what you buy. Or better yet, you can make some yourself and keep it in your freezer!

7. Milk Powder

Another “controversial” food, milk has found its place in the “healthy-or-deadly” debate lately, mainly because of its lactose and the many people who are intolerant to it. While adults certainly don’t need a glass of milk every day, dairy products are still the best source of calcium and other vitamins essential for our bones.

But milk tends to go bad all too fast. Even if it’s boxed and pasteurized, it won’t last longer than five or six months. But there’s good news – powdered milk will last for years, and will likely be perfectly safe to consume even past its expiry date! Another good news: it doesn’t lose much of its nutritional value in the process of dehydrating. And using it is super easy. Just mix it with some water and stir or whip it up, and there you have it – a glass of milk or even yogurt for a quick breakfast is ready. 

8. Cereals and Granola Bars

Getting ready-made, sweetened and heavily processed cereals shouldn’t be anyone’s idea of a healthy meal. However, there’s a way around all the sugar and artificial sweeteners. You can buy dried oats, seeds, and other unrefined grains and mix them with nuts, raisins and other dried fruits of your picking.

That way, you’ll get a highly nutritional meal that’s also easy and quick to prepare.

As for granola bars, there’s no way to claim that they are healthy. The only reason I recommend having them in your stash is because they are real calorie bombs coming in a small package. They can replace a meal if necessity commands, and you can easily shove a few of those into your bug out bag should you need to evacuate.

Don’t make a habit of eating them if it’s not absolutely necessary, though.

9. Crackers

I can’t really sing praises to crackers, since they are generally regarded as junk food too. Fortunately, there have appeared some healthier options. Whole grain is the name of the game here too. As well as preservative-free, and gluten-free.

There are even cauliflower, lentil or the so-called “paleo” crackers rich in proteins and fibers. If you have kids, they’ll definitely thank you for remembering to get some of these.

emergency food supply

Let’s get all these before it gets to THIS (again!)

10. Supplements

If you carefully followed all of the above recommendations, you will have acquired a food supply that is well balanced in vitamins and minerals. However, adding some supplements on top of your stash is also advisable. If you need to leave your home sanctuary in a disaster scenario, these won’t take up a lot of room in your backpack. And they will ensure your organism doesn’t lack in any of the vitamins it needs. Another reason why they’re a good addition to your stash is that they are harmless even after the expiry date. Some of their power will have perished the longer they sat on the shelf, but double up the dose and you’ll be fine.

Pay special attention to the vitamin C supplements. This vitamin is the first one to go down the drain during food preparation, especially in higher temperatures (such as those used to cook and sterilize food before canning it).

Of course, you can go all natural and grow a garden full of bell and chili peppers, making sure there’s a fresh source of vitamin C. But if you’re living in an urban environment, that trick may be hard or even impossible to pull off.

Items That Are All Too Easy to Forget (But Will Make All the Difference)

11. Salt

The most important ingredient of nearly every meal on earth is salt. And it’s not just important because unsalted food is insipid and yucky. There’s another vital element to it, and it’s called iodine. If you don’t ingest iodine on a regular basis, your thyroid gland may begin to malfunction before long.

Also, your regular table salt (or even better, Himalayan salt) contains minerals and acts as electrolyte, promoting normal circulation of electrons through your body.

Another great thing about our ol’ friend salt is that it’s a cheap way to preserve some foods (such as fresh meat) from spoiling too quickly.

12. Sugar

It’s almost banished from a 21st-century diet, and for good reasons. Nevertheless, sugar remains a great food, emergency-wise. Primarily because it virtually can’t go bad! The worst that can happen is for sugar to solidify – nothing that an ordinary pestle can’t solve.

Another reason why you should have it in your stash is because it can boost your energy levels in an emergency, if you happen to lack other calorie sources. 

And let’s face it, there’s nothing like gobbling up something sweet to raise the spirits. If you’ve banished sugar from your diet too, good for you. But in an emergency, an indulgence or two are forgivable, especially from a mental health perspective.

If you’re sugar’s sworn enemy, you can just get a few jars of honey. It’s also absolutely resistant, insanely healthy, an immunity booster, and it tastes so much better than sugar.

13. Spices

This may sound a bit irrelevant, even redundant. However, the health benefits of spices outweigh the mere satisfaction that they bring to our taste buds. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, some of which are hard to find in other edibles.

But you don’t have to stock up on exotic spices to preserve your health in perilous times. Take the humble black pepper, which is one of most vital sources of antioxidants. But how long can black pepper last? No worries on that account. If you put it in a glass jar with a nicely sealed lid, it won’t go bad for years. And even after that, it won’t be inedible. At its worst, it will have lost some of its hotness and aroma. Just use some more of it to season your meal and you’ll be good to go. 

Certain amounts of dried garlic should also be an indispensable part of your SHTF pantry. Fresh garlic would be more desirable, of course, but preserving it for longer periods of time is almost impossible. So, you’d have to resort to a whiff of granulated garlic for your daily intake of copper, iron, and other minerals.