Who knows what the future holds? If only we knew, day to day, what challenges would arise, we would never be caught unawares. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work that way. Those who prefer to look forward and make preparations for the “just in case” scenarios are often painted as fringe lunatics and doomsday preppers. However, assembling the best emergency food kit for yourself or your family should be something every responsible adult takes seriously. Just a few of the “normal” situations that could arise, when having emergency rations for your family would make sense, include: loss of a job, temporary lay off, extended storm damage or power outage that traps your family at home. Or perhaps you’d just like to be a position to help another family in need, should the opportunity arise. Then there are Armageddon type scenarios that plague the mind of some, and no better way to put those fears to rest than to look ahead and prepare for the worst. Whatever your reasons for looking forward and setting up emergency rations against a difficult time ahead, we are here to help you build the very best emergency food kit for your family.
First, lay out your preparation strategy. If you’re just getting started in emergency preparation, you may not have more than a day or two worth of food in your cupboard. If that’s the case, building up a thirty day supply of food is a good place to start. If you already have 30 days of emergency rations laid by, the next step may be building up a six month or year emergency food kit. The important thing is to start somewhere, and build your supplies up until you’ve assembled the best emergency food kit that you’re able.
Do you have children in the house? Teens? Older or elderly adults? Infants will require special feeding accommodations like milk or formula, while the elderly may have some unique nutritional needs, as well. Map out on paper who you’re building a food supply for and any special things you need to prepare for them, or for yourself. Then consider what it takes to feed that person for a single day.
There’s no need to live for a month on nothing but rice and beans. You don’t want to stock up on three months worth of food that your family won’t touch with a six-foot pole lofet , just because it was cheap. It may keep you alive in a pinch, but you want to enjoy it, if possible. So take the likes and dislikes into consideration as you plan. Don’t forget to consider food allergies, as well. In an emergency situation, you wouldn’t want to face an allergic reaction from cross contamination, so better to avoid problem foods altogether, if possible.
There are dozens of ways to build up a great emergency food kit. The easiest, though certainly not the least expensive, is to invest in commercially prepared emergency rations, offered by various companies. These kits come as single servings, or a month’s worth of food for a single person. There are dozens of options to choose from.
Another method, requiring a little planning and management, is to simply take what you buy and use on a weekly basis, and start building up a supply that will last. If you ordinarily use three cans of beans and two boxes of mac ‘n’ cheese and a jar of peanut butter each week, then begin buying double that, and set the extra aside for your emergency food kit. Then manage your stock by rotating it so that your food stays as fresh as possible. Freshness would be a significant advantage in a long-term disaster, where you’re relying on your emergency rations for months, or even years.
Once you’ve built up a few months supply of food, organize your cans and boxes with the soonest expiration date in the front and the furthest out in the back. Then, when you do your grocery shopping, put the new stuff in the back and use from the front. This keeps your stock fresh and ready to use if and when the need arises.
Home canning is another less expensive way to build up your emergency food kit. Canning is becoming a lost art, so if you’re not familiar with how to do it, you’re not alone. Canning food in glass jars requires a little learning and effort but can allow you to preserve tasty, homemade food for years. Be sure to learn which foods require pressure cooking versus water-bathing methods of preservation. Properly canned goods keep best in cool, dark places between 50 and 70 *F (10 – 21 *C) and are safe to eat for years after canning.
For bulk dry goods that are intended for long term storage, wheat, beans, rice, sugar and other dry goods can be vacuum sealed and stored in five gallon buckets with O2 absorbers to last for thirty years and more. For the truly prepared minded, a few buckets of wheat and corn will go a long way toward peace of mind.
A vacuum sealer is a good investment for anyone serious about their emergency rations. Sealing foods in smaller quantities not only preserves them longer but allows you to use them a little at a time, rather than having to use a large container up quickly once you’ve opened it.
If you’re worried about the expiration date on store-bought canned goods, keep this story in mind. A steamboat named the Bertrand was trying to reach Montana in 1865 when it sunk to the bottom of the Missouri river. One hundred years later, canned goods from that wreck were recovered. In 1974, 109 years after the accident, the food was tested by chemists and found safe to eat. You should use good sense when eating canned foods that have passed their expiration dates. If it looks odd, smells bad or tastes bad, don’t eat it!