How do you plan an emergency pantry? To begin, plan to have on hand those food items that (1) provide nutrition, (2) have a shelf life of at least 6 months, and (3) are things you would normally use or consume daily but don’t give much thought. Here’s a checklist of those items that you can be stockpiling now so that you and your family won’t go hungry while waiting for an emergency to be resolved.
1. Water – You will need one gallon per person/per day of drinking water; some of that water will be used for mixing milk or powdered drinks as well as for personal hygiene. If you prefer, you can store tap water in empty buckets or gallon jugs specifically for flushing the toilet (especially if your home is connected to a well). Be sure to mark the drinking water so that you can distinguish between “potable” (clean drinking water) and “non-potable” water.
2. Dry Goods – These are snacks or finger foods that can be eaten out of the palm of one’s hand. If you have a vacuum sealer at home, large containers can be purchased and divided up into smaller portions that will keep for about six months to a year. This will save you money while providing you with a larger variety than the prepackaged goods. Granola or granola bars, protein bars, whole-grain crackers, nuts and/or trail mix, dried fruits, cereal (such as Cheerios, Kix, Shredded Mini-Wheats), powdered milk, salt, pepper, sugar, and other spices should also be vacuum sealed to keep them dry and pest-free. If you have an infant that is bottle fed, be sure to include powdered formula in an unopened container.
3. Canned Goods – Vegetables, meat (tuna, chicken, Spam, or Treet), soup, stews, and chili – if you have the alternative means to heat foods indoors; and peanut butter. Choose canned vegetables that are known to be high in protein and palatable when eaten cold – such as, green beans, peas, and carrots. You should never cook indoors on a gas or wood fired grill nor on a camp stove or kerosene heater. That is asking for trouble. Stoves that produce an open flame should only be used outdoors to prevent fires and the potential for asphyxiation.
4. Liquids – Gatorade, Pedialyte, and powdered sports drinks. All of these are packed with necessary electrolytes, vitamins, and minerals.
5. Manual Can Opener – If you don’t own a decent hand-operated can opener, buy one. This isn’t a gadget to skimp on since you may be using it quite a bit. Get one that is sharp, sturdy, and has cushioned handles. The cheaper made can openers will hurt your hand after just a couple of uses.
6. Sterno and Disposable Chafing Dishes – One way of keeping food warm is by using Sterno, just like caterers use at buffet tables. It comes canned and is available in the camping section of your local well-known big box store. You might also find disposable chafing dishes in the same store under which to set the Sterno. Do not leave the Sterno unattended while lit. Open flames consume oxygen thereby creating the danger of asphyxiation.
How many days should you prepare for? The American Red Cross recommends a two week supply of emergency rations and clean water. Remember to date the foods you are stockpiling in your emergency pantry. In about six months, use the goods with the oldest date and replace them with fresh (the “first in, first out” inventory rotation method). Check out our blog to learn more about Disaster Preparedness.