Emergency Food Supplies

Two weeks of carefully planned supplies can help in a disaster

Fallen tree.

Emergency situations can happen anytime. Whether you live in a region prone to forest fires, floods, or twisters, it’s important to prepare for a disaster, even if they don’t happen often. Having an emergency supply of food and water is one important part of the preparation process—but what should you stockpile and how often should you rotate foodstuffs? What if you have family members with special needs like babies or people with allergies? You’ll need to take that into account as well when you’re deciding what kinds of food should go into this supply.

Almost everyone knows they are supposed to keep an emergency food supply, but most lists are not necessarily what we want to eat. To that end, we're proposing a healthier stockpile of food. You'll have to work a little harder at the stock rotation because whole grains may not keep quite as long as the highly sugared or salted foods normally recommended.

Do you have a bin or box set aside? If so, when was the last time you checked it? And if you take a look at your current emergency food supply, you might find some things that don’t really belong. Those canned beets are fine, but do you really want to eat them during a time of stress and difficulty? And what in the world are those pickled onions doing in there?

Tips for planning a healthy emergency food stock

Think about creating your emergency stockpile. Select foods that are good to eat and reasonably good for you. Plan to rotate supplies every three months—if you do this it will become one of your normal habits and you won’t have to worry that your food is stale when you need to eat it.

Step One

Take an inventory of the foods you have currently in your pantry. If you've weaned yourself away from the high-fructose corn syrup and high-salt instant soups, you probably won't want to use the standard emergency food list. After all, you might only let your 10-year old eat SpaghettiO’s every six months as a treat. For each person, make a list of things they like to eat during a normal week.

The following list may assist you in deciding what to stockpile for each person for your emergency food kit. Make additions or subtractions to the list below according to your family's tastes.

Canned foods

Dried, Ready to Eat Food

Stuff that requires water



Every few months, rotate your stockpile into your normal food stock—meaning, move the emergency supplies back into the “available food” section of your pantry, and purchase more supplies for your emergency stockpile. This way, you’ll be sure the types of food you’ve stockpiled are things that you’d normally eat, and also be certain it doesn’t go bad. Most foods listed above will keep at least a few months to a year, but it’s best to keep the rotation going to avoid forgetting about them.

Packing the stockpile

Many emergency situations entail sheltering in place. The power may be out and services disrupted, but you'll have everything you need for camping at home. In some situations though, it might be necessary to evacuate. The local fire department may knock on the door and give you little time to get out of your home. For this reason, it's important to take emergency essentials with you. A couple large plastic containers should contain your supplies so you can pick them up and head out the door without running around wasting valuable time.

Discuss various disaster scenarios with your family to arrange who is responsible for what. If the time comes that you need to take action quickly, you'll have a plan and be able to respond immediately. For more emergency information, see our Emergency Checklist.

Practice an escape drill and see if you and your family can get everything out of the house and into the car in 10 minutes or less. A checklist stored on top of the primary emergency supply box can provide a critical reminder of what needs to be done, including counting noses before you start the car.

More information

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