Foods You Should Store in Case of an Emergency

Here’s a 9/11 story you haven’t heard. It’s a reminder that chaos could strike on the other side of the continent… and still kill you thousands of miles away.

In Southeast Alaska, we traveled nearly everywhere by plane. We were living 45 miles from the nearest telephone pole or road, so it was either fly to our destination or take a very long, very rough boat ride.

On September 8, 2001, we flew a few campers to a remote lake near the Canadian border. The pilot dropped them off, with plans to pick them up in three days. It was quite routine.

For those 72 hours or so after the pilot left, they were on their own. No radio, no news, no contact with the outside world.

They had no idea when they woke up on that crisp Tuesday morning that all hell had broken loose in the Lower 48. It was a normal, beautiful day in the wilderness.

Up there, it was rare to see a contrail in the sky, so the campers never pondered the eerie absence of planes in the air. They had no idea flights all across the continent – including the floatplane they had arrived in – were grounded.

When the scheduled pickup time arrived, they searched the sky for their ride home.

It didn’t come on Wednesday. Not on Thursday. And not on Friday.

The weather was perfect. The skies were cloudless. And yet their ride never came.

They had no idea why. But for three days, they were in survival mode. Without a backup stash of food (something we never leave home without in that rugged wilderness), they would have been in trouble.

Could You Survive?

Now, you may not have plans to run around in the bush for a few days. You may live comfortably in suburbia, within walking distance of a couple well-stocked grocery stores.

That’s good. It’s quite convenient… most of the time.

But what happens when a major incident (an earthquake, a hurricane or, dare we say it, a terrorist attack) takes out our transportation system? Most grocery stores have a very limited inventory in their stores. They rely on a complicated network of warehouses and trucks to keep their shelves stocked.

If that system fails, you’ll go hungry.

It’s not hyperbolic. Have you seen what happens at a northeastern grocery store at the first sign of a snowstorm? A true crisis will be even worse.

A report from the American Trucking Associations should get your attention.

It tells us…

Significant shortages will occur in as little as three days, especially for perishable items following a national emergency and a ban on truck traffic. Minor shortages will occur within one to two days. At convenience stores and other small retailers with less inventory, shortages will occur much sooner.

The solution is not all that difficult. It’s actually quite simple.

You must prepare. You must be ready to live on your own for a significant amount of time.

Bulk Up On Nonperishable Food

When it comes to food, how you do it is not complicated. The U.S. military has been famous for its culinary delights for generations. Its “Meal Ready-to-Eat” rations (aka MREs) are the gold standard for emergency survival food.

You can buy surplus MREs on the internet. But they aren’t all that cheap – especially if you’re buying a large quantity that will last more than a few days. They average about $100 for a 12-meal kit.

If you’re starving, it’ll be money well spent.

But I’ve found a much simpler and much cheaper way to store survival food. By purchasing freeze-dried or other nonperishable food in bulk, I can create and store meals for less than $3 each.

Your goal should be to pack about 850 calories into each meal. To get there, focus on meat, vegetables, sugar and spices.

Some ideal main courses:

  • Pouches (or cans) of tuna
  • Canned chicken
  • Beef stew
  • Canned ham.

For a full list, simply walk down the canned food aisle of your local grocery store. Not only will you see cans that will last years when properly stored, but you’ll also find an immense selection of freeze-dried noodles, meats and vegetables that merely take some boiling water to turn into a meal.

It’s easy to do, but don’t skimp on the sugar and spices.

These are the tools that will make our meals much more palatable and will add some variety. Each time you’re at a fast-food restaurant, grab some salt, pepper, sugar, ketchup and soy sauce packets. Toss them in your stockpile.

Snacks are vital, too. They’re easy. Granola bars, crackers and candy bars are staples. We make a lot of trail mix at my house. It’s full of good calories and will last a long time.

Long-term food storage should not be complicated. The hardest part is simply taking the time and the money to do it.

But I urge you to take it seriously. If you don’t want to go all in and create a vast long-term stash of nonperishable food, start slow. Create five or 10 simple meals each week.

Just do something.

When the shelves go empty, you’ll be glad you did.

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