When I think of food storage, my mind usually flits back and forth between the MREs and energy bars I like to stash in an emergency kit, and the six-gallon buckets of rice and beans meant to sustain us through a lengthy disaster. But between those two extremes is a wide swath of potential food supply needs for both short and long-term storage. This post focuses on short term food storage. Enter the Three-Month Supply… Short term food storage is a great place to begin thinking about preparedness, for the very convincing reason that it’s easy to do. With a little planning, a three month supply can be constructed from freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, and supplemented with grocery store items with shorter shelf lives, like condiments, peanut butter, and vegetable oils. So, here it is—three month’s worth of food in three easy steps: Step 1: Plan a week’s worth of meals. This is probably the hardest part. Don’t get fancy. Think of things your family actually eats. What are the weekday standards? What can you throw together by heart? What do you stock up on regularly? If you’re still overwhelmed (sometimes one dinner on a Wednesday night is too much for me to come up with on the spot), think back over last week and write down what you remember eating. Step 2: Make a list of all the ingredients and quantities you’d need for those breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Then open up your Emergency Essentials catalog or go online to beprepared.com and search for these ingredients from our large selection of freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Don’t forget things like drinks, spices, condiments, and baby food. Step 3: Multiply that list by twelve. Voila! Your three-month supply shopping list, done. If you’re an ambitious go-getter, you could, at this point, purchase the whole supply in one monster shopping trip. Emergency Essentials even sells a pre-made 3-month supply of entrees, or you could purchase a year-supply combo to make your food storage shopping quick and easy. Or if you or your husband (hint, hint) haven’t put up those food storage garage shelves yet, you could work on it a little at a time, watching our monthly sales and getting one or two bulk items per shopping trip. Here are a few more things to consider as you plan for the short term.
- In an emergency, the weekly run to the store for fresh (or even frozen) meat may not be an option. Supplement your short term food storage with canned or dried versions like tuna, jerky, our Provident Pantry freeze-dried ground beef, or Mountain House Chicken Dices. You can also purchase canned meals containing meat (like Mountain House Beef Stew or Mountain House Spaghetti with Meat Sauce). Also, consider alternate sources of protein. Beans and [lentils] store fantastically well and are versatile in recipes.
- Fruit and veggies pose the same problem. Canned or dried are always easy options. If you have a garden, some fresh produce lasts long enough—under the right storage conditions and when rotated regularly—to work as part of a three-month supply. Whole squash, for example, can sit in a dark, cool place for up to two months; unwashed carrots, onions, and potatoes can go un-refrigerated for up to five or six weeks; and a lemon can survive on the counter for a month. Fresh fruits and vegetables that are canned at home can last for 2-3 years.
- But if your fresh produce supply runs out in an emergency, it’s always good to have backup freeze-dried or dehydrated fruits and veggies on hand. You can purchase individual cans of freeze-dried and dehydrated fruits and veggies or you can purchase them in a freeze-dried fruit and veggie combo.
- When calculating quantities, always remember to look at calories, rather than just the number of servings (for a more thorough explanation of why “number of servings” can be deceiving, see the Insight Article “Food Storage: What Should I Buy and How Much? The Calorie Count Factor”). Plan on 2000-2600 calories per day per adult, and 1500-1600 per day per child.
- Finally, make sure those calories come from a healthy range of sources. To see how nutritionally-balanced your food supply is (or is not), try our Food Storage Analyzer. It keeps track of what you’re storing, analyzes the nutritional value of what you’ve got, and makes recommendations.