When I was a child, we had a bomb shelter. My parents didn’t build it – it was there when they bought the house. But they did stock it with what they believed to be the most important survival items, should we ever get “hit.” I remember several battery-operated items – radio, flashlights, and such – and of course, clothing and bedding in a trunk. But then there were the food and drink items – our survival food pantry. There were all sorts of canned goods, of course, and large bottles of water (only glass in those days). Foods that normally came in boxes (e.g., cereal and powdered milk) were put into glass jars.
Times have changed. Now that we have plastic and bagged items with long shelf lives, bomb shelter food would look very different today (except for the powdered milk, I suppose, which I always hated). And there are plenty of ways to keep food items water-proof.
A nuclear event is not the only disaster for which we need to be prepared these days. Earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes are all on the rise, as well as real threats from people both within and outside our country. Then there are blizzards, pandemics, and long-term power outages as we recently saw in Texas. And the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” should still guide our preparedness.
So, let’s take a look at what a survival food pantry should look like today.
Whether we face a short-term or long-term disaster, it is best to plan for a long-term food and water shortage at the onset.
Survival Food Pantry Basics – The List
- Water: It’s the “rules of threes” here. You can survive three minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, and three months without food. If you are breathing, then water is the next priority. If you are planning a pantry for “bug-in” survival, you will want between ½ – 1 gallon of water per day, per person. This also presupposes that, if you have a means of cooking, you may use some water. And there is personal hygiene to think of too. In short, water must be your top priority. If the public water supply is disrupted, then any tap water will have to be purified once that supply is restored. A few drops of household bleach per gallon will do the trick and save you from the necessity of boiling if your power is out.
If you are thinking in terms of a “bug-out” survival, water will be too heavy to carry. What you want instead is a water collection device and filters. And, if you have access to wood and bring matches, boiling water is always an option here.
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- Canned Goods: These are absolute staples if you are sheltered in place in your home. And they will provide a variety of foods so that you don’t face “food boredom.” Think in terms of canned meats, beans (a great source of protein), fish, fruits, and veggies. Variety is the key here so that you and your family members have choices. And these can be eaten without cooking. After all, your instant pot may not be an option right now. Canned soups are a great option if you buy those that are not concentrated. They can be eaten right out of the can without the need for water or cooking. Ensure you have a good rotation plan also.
- Food in Jars: Here’s where the advent of plastic comes in. There’s a huge list of food and drink that now comes in plastic jars that prevent breakage and are less in weight. Think peanut butter and jelly; think bottled juices; think fruits. They, too, have long shelf lives and can provide a good variety.
- Snacks: Snacks can provide a bit of a respite from the boredom that comes from lack of electricity and Wi-Fi. Crackers and chips come boxed and bagged. If humidity is an issue, then it can be stored in plastic bags. They have a long shelf-life and will not have to be “changed out” too often. Dips are obviously out to “dress up” these items, but there are freeze-dried meats that will do, as well as peanut butter. If you can’t cook popcorn is out, but nuts are not. Stock up on a good variety.
- Dried Foods: These were not around when I was a kid, but just go through any grocery store and look at all the possibilities. There are dried fruits and meats galore – everything from jerkies to fruit leather, to banana chips. Stock up on plenty of these – lightweight and nutritious.
- Granola Bars: I put these in a separate category because they are a source of almost every nutrient we need – protein, carbs, a bit of fat, and even that need for something sweet. If you should have to “bug out,” they are lightweight, have a long shelf life, and can provide the energy you will need. Look for those that are high in protein – this provides long-term energy, while carbs and sugars are only for the short-term.
- About that Powdered Milk: Fortunately, powdered milk now comes in cans, as opposed to those traditional boxes. You do not have to take measures to protect it from water damage. When reconstituted with water, it can be used on cereal and for cooking (e.g., mashed potatoes) if you have an alternative cooking method during power outages. If you have children who cannot tolerate the taste, then have a supply of canned chocolate or strawberry syrup to “sweeten the deal.”
- Pasta, Rice, Noodles: These can be temporarily filling because of their carb content. But here’s the thing: they must be cooked, and that will require using your supply of water. If you are sheltered in place with your public water supply still available, then all is good. You can cook these up as much as you wish. But if your water supply is cut off, or you have to use alternative methods for cooking, these are probably not good options. Still, put them in your pantry on the chance that they can be prepared.
- The Debate About Couscous: Yes, this is a type of pasta, made from small grains of a specific type of wheat flour. The beauty of it is that it is steamed rather than boiled and takes far less water to cook. Unlike traditional pasta, couscous cooks in about two minutes. On the other hand, it is extremely high in gluten. So, if you have family members with gluten sensitivity, it is not an option.
Planning for Long-Term Survival in Place
As mentioned above, your food pantry should be planned for long-term survival, even if an immediate event is only short-term. Our goal for long-term survival in place is to have those food items that:
- Provide solid nutrition
- Can be prepared using as little fuel and water as possible
- Will be “damage-proof”
- Are as compact as possible
- Have a variety of flavors and consistencies, so that “food boredom” doesn’t set in
Here are some things to think about as you stock that survival food pantry:
- Avoid dried beans. While they are a great source of protein, they take lots of water and fuel to cook. Items like navy beans and great northern beans now come in cans. Opt for that alternative.
- Water is still the highest priority. Have ½ – 1 gallon per person per day for about a month. Beyond that, you will need a water-collection device/process and water filters to purify that water.
- Rely on canned goods as much as possible, but remember they have lots of sodium and sugar, so are not as healthy as other options.
- Freeze-dried fruits and veggies are a must. They don’t take up much space, and they are sources of essential nutrients and antioxidants. They are also important to keep your intestinal functions operating properly. You will get the right amounts of vitamins and minerals through these freeze-dried items.
- Honey has no shelf-life. It can last forever. Have lots of it to use as a sweetener, and it does come in plastic containers.
- Instant oatmeal packets. Place these in plastic bags to preen water damage. They are reconstituted with a small amount of water and heat. Use honey for sweeteners. While sugar lasts forever too, it does not have the health benefits of honey and is susceptible to humidity.
- A variety of oils can add “spice” and flavor to foods. And most come in plastic containers now. If you can cook, use them liberally. They are caloric heavy and can provide energy as well as better taste.
- Ramen: This is a common survival food for college students on tight budgets, but there are survival benefits too. They are good sources of carbs and take only a small amount of water to cook.
- Freeze–dried and dried meats: these can last over a year.
- Canned tuna in oil: perfect source of protein and Omega-3.
- Granola and protein bars: Perfect for snacks and well-rounded nutrition.
One Keynote here: make certain that all foods that are packaged in boxes or paper-type containers are stored in water-proof packaging, such as mylar bags that are vacuum-sealed.
If You have to bug out
When you have to evacuate, you face unique challenges. Of course, you cannot drag jugs of water and canned goods in backpacks. A wheeled cart is certainly a short-term solution, but it will not house everything you may need for a long-term bug-out situation.
Your options are limited, so focus on these items:
You Can do This…
Planning ahead is the best scenario for survival. Water and food are key factors in that planning. Make a list of items for both short and long-term survival, get to your grocery store and other retailers with the right supplies and equipment. You can be prepared for any disaster, and that brings a lot of peace of mind.
Author’s bio. Jessica Fender is a professional writer and educational blogger. Jessica enjoys sharing her ideas to make writing and learning fun. You can check her last review here.