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When an impending hurricane is set to blow through in the coming hours, what do people go after? Batteries, generators, and plastic tarps? Some do, but most are sacking their local convenience store of milk and bread. Why? Because food is one of the core needs of every human being. That is what we are talking about today: food—what to get, how much to get, and where to put it. As we continue our study of Disaster Preparedness, let us remember why we are making a Disaster Preparedness plan in the first place. Our goal is not to “prep” for the end of the world. We are taking measured and deliberate steps to prepare ourselves for disasters, whether natural or man-made, that we are most likely to face due to our geographical location or social climate. We are preparing for what makes sense.1


The American economy is a master of logistically supplying our supermarkets with food. Because of this, most supermarkets keep about one week’s supply of food in inventory. That way, they don’t have to store a bulk of food and we as the consumer are ensured fresh goods. If a natural disaster were to strike and your local supermarket was unable to re-stock for two to three weeks, where would you get your food? A self-sustaining food supply, such as a garden, is the best line of defense against food shortage; but due to the rise in urban development, most people are not able to plant a garden. That is why the food aspect of Disaster Preparedness is so key. I recommend a moderate food storage plan that is designed to meet your family’s specific needs.


Do You Enjoy Sardines and C-Rations?

The first question many people ask is “what food should I store?” Unless you dine on freeze-dried asparagus regularly, there is no need to stock up on this type of food. Begin by making a list of foods your family actually eats. Include vegetables, fruits, starches, etc. Keep a list of the foods you have stored in your storage pantry (which we will discuss next) and rotate your stock regularly. For example, when you use two cans of green beans on Tuesday be sure to pick up two more on Friday when you go to the store to keep your stock up at the six cans of greens beans in your pantry. Bradley puts it this way, “store what you eat, and eat what you store.”2

Here is a quick idea of what you could have in your storage pantry:

-Canned Foods (fruits, vegetables)

-Boxed Foods

-Canned Meats (tuna, chicken)

-Baking Items (sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, yeast)

-Spices and Flavorings

-Shelf-stable milk or milk powder

-Dry beans

-Nuts and Seeds

-Sweets (honey, candy bars, box mixes)

Keep in mind that bread and raw meats must be kept frozen to maintain a prolonged shelf life.

Other food storage options include dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. Remember we are storing foods that our family is accustomed to eating and that we are accustomed to preparing.


How Much?

Now that we have established what we are storing, let’s figure our how much we are to store. Some books and articles will say that if you don’t have at least one year of food stored, you are not prepared. First of all, where are you going to put all of that food and secondly where are you going to find all the money to buy a year’s worth of food upfront? We are preparing for what makes sense, so I believe in a moderate approach to food storage, aiming at having a 30-day food supply. A supply of this size is most likely plenty to get us through the disasters that we are going to face.

One thing to keep in mind is that you need to account three meals a day- breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A family of four, eating three meals a day will eat 360 meals over the course of a month. Needless to say, a 30-day food supply is bigger than you might expect and should be varied enough to cover each meal.


Where Do I Put It?

As we have discussed, a 30-day food supply can be burdensome to store, inventory, rotate, and keep from spoiling. Some find that extra room under the stairs, an unused closet, or clearing out a couple of cupboards work great. Be sure to keep canned and boxed foods in dry conditions between 40°-60°F.3 Be sure that your store is kept off the ground to avoid infestation and storage food in the garage or attic is not a good idea because of the wide swing in temperatures there. For more ideas on food storage check out


Non-Food Items

A few non-food items to keep a regular inventory of include aluminum foil, plastic wrap, Ziploc bags and containers, paper plates, and plastic utensils. The paper plates and plastic utensils will be very helpful if there is a water shortage. They make for one less thing to use that precious water on because you use them and throw them away.

You also need to take into account dietary restrictions due to a medical condition of anyone that may be in your home during a disaster. Also, don’t forget about your pet’s food supply.

This (Food Checklist) is the free printable we use as a checklist for our 30-day supply of food. We keep everything on the list in addition to our regular food we are eating that week or two.

We have made a cursory glance at food storage in our Disaster Preparedness plan. For more information and worksheets to bring your Disaster Preparedness food storage plan to life visit


1Handbook to Practical Disaster Preparedness for the Family, Dr. Arthur T. Bradley, Loc 140

2Ibid, Loc 725

3Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook, Layton