Emergency Food Supply: Top Food Storage Methods for Preppers
Every individual and family should have a crisis strategy in case an emergency arises. Many people prepare survival kits in advance, which usually include a flashlight, first aid kit, multi-tool knife, battery-powered radio, cell phone charger, and backup battery. These supplies can help keep you safe and connected to the outside world.
Creating a plan for what to eat during an emergency is equally important. It is sometimes impossible to tell when a crisis will arise or how long it will last, so using these food storage methods to prepare an emergency food supply that can sustain you and your loved ones is crucial.
Learn how to make an emergency food supply kit to prepare for a food shortage. And understand the pros and cons of different food storage methods. Prepare ahead now to avoid panic later.
Who Needs an Emergency Food Supply?
Every individual and family can benefit from having emergency rations on hand in case of emergency. However, your correct food preparedness method depends on your situation and risk expectations.
Your living environment, whether urban, suburban, or rural, will partially dictate the appropriateness of each food storage method. If you live in a highly populated city, your emergency needs will differ from those of a more isolated ranch-dweller.
Your emergency food storage method must also reflect the risk factors of your particular situation. Your needs during social unrest may differ from those facing a natural disaster or supply chain shortage. Whether you need to leave home or shelter in place during an emergency affects what you need to pack and how much.
Your region’s climate also plays a role in building your emergency food supply. Some foods and other emergency items are only available during certain weather conditions or times of the year. Explore the emergency food storage methods below to determine what option suits your environment and the risk factors you may face.
Prepackaged, Long-Term Emergency Food Storage
Humans need food and water to live. It is crucial to properly store these items during a long-term emergency so they can last you the duration of a crisis.
ReadyWise Emergency Food Supply options come in various serving sizes that fit longer-term situations. Products include a 120 serving breakfast bucket, 60 serving entree bucket, and 52 serving prepper pack bucket. ReadyWise Emergency Food Storage products have a 25-year shelf life, and food items are safely sealed in Metallyte pouches for preservation.
Another option is MRE (Meals Ready-to-Eat) Food Packs, which offer complete meals with long, stable shelf lives. When stored at room temperature, these meal contents are typically good for about five years and may last longer if stored in cooler areas. Military personnel rely heavily on MREs for maximum endurance and nutrition during times of war.
You may also want to invest in Emergency Food Ration Bars. These high-energy ration bars follow a non-thirst-provoking formula for improved survival capacity during periods of water restriction. Ration bars are compact and can easily be tucked away in your emergency supply kit.
Prepackaged foods offer you and your family a convenient, low-effort way to stay fed during an unexpected crisis. Other methods like canning, farming, or gardening require years of planning and practice to offer sustenance. Long-term food storage and ready-made packages are easily purchased and storable, so you have access to food while figuring out the next steps for survival.
DIY Food Storage
If you don’t want to buy pre-packaged long-term food rations, you can compile your own survival food supply. These DIY option may be cheaper but requires more effort. We've already covered how to use the FIFO food storage system to ensure adequate food supply. We'll now cover a few more methods of food storage in detail.
Canning food preservation requires properly heating foods you’ve placed in jars or cans to a specified temperature to destroy microorganisms and inactivate enzymes, so you won’t get sick when you eat them. There are two primary methods of canning: pressure and boiling.
Pressure canning is the safest way to preserve low-acid foods like meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables. You must heat these cans to 240°F or higher to destroy the bacterium Clostridium botulinum, which can produce a poisonous toxin if allowed to survive.
Boiling water canning (also called water-bath canning) works best for acidic foods like fruit jellies and jams, tomato sauce, salsas, berries, and pickled vegetables. This method involves placing your jars of prepared food in a large pot of boiling water for about 10 minutes (depending on the specific food). Pre-heat the water to 140°F for raw-packed foods and 180°F for hot-packed foods.
Both methods require you to heat the cans and then cool them. During cooling, the canned food contracts and creates an airtight seal that can preserve the food for up to one year. Comparatively, commercially-canned foods typically expire between two and five years after manufacture.
Vacuum-Sealing Food and Freezing
Many people vacuum-seal their food to protect it from dehydration and freezer burn, but vacuum-sealing can also help preserve food during an emergency. Effective vacuum sealers provide an air-tight environment that prevents mold and bacteria from growing by depriving your food of oxygen.
Vacuum-sealed food items can last three to five times longer than they would in plastic containers or bags. Frozen foods that have been vacuum sealed can last an average of two to three years.
Vacuum sealing has the added benefit of keeping moisture in your food, so your food tastes fresh and flavorful even after months of storage. Vacuum sealing can also save you money since you can buy foods like meat in bulk at lower prices and then divide and seal the extra meat away for future use.
Pickling involves preserving food in an acid, vinegar, or salt solution. Common pickling options include fruits and vegetables, specifically cucumbers, cabbage, green olives, garlic, and onions. When this process is applied to meat, it is called curing.
Pickled fruit and veggies can last about five to six months in a jar if refrigerated. Since pickled foods must be refrigerated, pickling is not a good option if you foresee losing electricity during an emergency.
Dehydrating foods can help preserve them, and almost any food can be dehydrated. The most popular food options to dehydrate are fruit and jerky, which can make great snacks, but many people also dehydrate herbs and spices to use during meal prep.
Foods dehydrated at home generally don’t last as long as commercially-dehydrated foods. If you dehydrate at home, you can expect your fruits to last up to a year, veggies to last between eight and ten years, jerky for one or two months, and herbs for six months to three years.
Farming and Ranching
Raising animals and growing your own food can help you prepare for an emergency if your situation allows. The type and number of animals right for you depend on how much space you have, how much time you can dedicate to your animals, and what you plan to use your livestock for.
Larger livestock (like cows, sheep, goats, and pigs) require an average acre of land per animal. If you live in a dry or arid area, your animals may need more than that for adequate food intake, particularly during summer. People with less acreage may want to start with chickens, which can provide food, natural insect control, and help reduce waste in your yard.
If you live in the suburbs, check with city ordinances or any HOAs before investing in animals, as some regions have rules against keeping livestock in your yard.
For further food storage prep, you can start a vegetable garden in your yard. Depending on your space, you can opt for a container garden, raised bed, or traditional row gardening with a tractor. If your garden space is limited, focus on growing veggies that offer the most significant returns for your effort, like tomatoes, root crops, and leafy greens.
You may be able to save money on more expensive food items, like specialty lettuces or broccolini, by growing them yourself.
Always protect your garden. Planters with an open base can help you avoid water accumulation and decay in your garden and can allow roots to absorb vital nutrients better.
Don’t Wait for an Emergency
Whether or not you see a crisis on the horizon, it is a good idea to have an emergency food supply plan in place. Some of these methods, like raising livestock and planting a garden, take time before they yield food, and you must plan and cultivate them long before an emergency arises.
It’s smart to practice DIY methods like canning, pickling, and dehydrating before relying on them in a crisis, as it can take time to learn and perfect the processes.
To set yourself up for success during an emergency, combine a couple of the above methods. Food home-grown in your garden sounds lovely, but you may want pre-packaged long-term food storage options like food packs or ration bars on hand, just in case of supply chain shortages or a natural disaster. During an emergency, extreme weather may force you to stay sheltered inside, and you may be unable to tend your plants or animals.
Plan and prepare ahead, so you are ready for whatever crisis life throws your way.