"What should I buy?" "How much should I store?" "Are there enough calories to sustain me for the day?"
These basic questions confront all of us as we try to plan how best to meet the nutritional needs of our families in emergency situations. “Plan” is the operative word here; don’t rush headlong into purchasing foods that sound good or that you think your family ought to eat without researching what the food really contains, what your family’s requirements actually are, and what your best value would be. To determine your family’s needs, it would be wise to think first in terms of calories per person per day, and then in terms of nutrients (protein, vitamins and minerals) provided—and finally, in terms of cost per serving. Be aware that in high-stress situations we require more calories than usual to keep minds and bodies operating in peak condition. According to the government’s dietary guidelines, under normal situations most adults need around 2,000 to 2,600 calories per day—more if very active or highly stressed. Children usually need 1,500 to 1,600 calories per day, but remember that they are growing, and by the time you need to use your emergency food supply they may be eating like adults! In deciding whether to purchase a product, be sure you can determine the caloric value. This may be especially tricky in kits and combos that contain several different foods. Multiply your family’s estimated daily caloric need by the time period you’re trying to cover. For example, 2,000 calories per day for a month for one person is about 60,000. For three months, that would be 180,000, and for a year, about 730,000 calories. If the "year’s supply" kit you’re considering does not contain at least that many calories overall, you will not be sufficiently nourished if you must depend exclusively on your storage food. You will either need to purchase a kit that provides more calories or plan to obtain extra products—fruit, desserts, baking mixes, grains and cereals, and hot cocoa or other drinks, for example—to supplement your kit. If you are purchasing products separately, keep track of the calorie count and serving size as you buy, so you will know where you are in the process. Do not rely entirely on the number of servings listed for each food you purchase, as not all servings are created equal. If a serving of a main dish item is listed one-half cup, ask yourself if that amount will satisfy and nourish a hungry teenage boy—or would it be more appropriate for his little sister? Consider the make-up of your family and buy accordingly. A cup of orange drink, a cup of beef stroganoff, a tablespoon of butter, and a quarter teaspoon of salt all count as a "serving." Depending upon the food choices, a person could consume three servings a day and only get 600 calories. Serving sizes may also vary from one brand or supplier to the next. Familiarize yourself with both the serving size and calorie count for each product you purchase. Don’t get overwhelmed by the thought of preparing an emergency food supply. Following the approach we’ve outlined here will help you get your food storage pulled together in an organized and thorough way. Planning and purchasing supplies based on these suggestions will ensure that you have stored enough calories for each person’s daily needs—and enough nutrients that your family will stay strong, healthy, and ready for what lies ahead.