Having reliable emergency food and supply is arguably the most important thing you can do to prepare for emergencies. One of the most common effects after a natural disaster is a lack of food. This can be caused by any number of reasons. Typically, a mass of last minute purchases empty the shelves right before a disaster, and a broken supply chain makes it impossible to restock them until post-disaster aid arrives.
With the normal food supply disrupted, it is important that you have your own secondary food supply to prevent starvation and malnutrition. I recommend having two sources for your own survival food supply: food storage and food production.
Food storage is what most survivalists and preppers focus on – and for good reason! Food storage is secure, reliable, and available in time of need. Most emergencies are relatively short, lasting only a couple days or weeks; however, it is still a good idea to have a 3-month supply of “every day” food and a year supply of non-perishable food.
Food production is key to supplement and replenish your food supply. A garden will help supplement your diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, providing you with essential vitamins and minerals for healthy nutrition. Being able to store your harvest will be even more valuable during a disaster by restocking your food supply.
Start with a 72 Hour/Basic Disaster Supplies Kit
The most important time to have food will be during the first couple days after the disaster before aid arrives. In some cases, you may have to evacuate your home and survive on your own – only taking what you can carry with you. FEMA recommends assembling a “Basic Disaster Supplies Kit” with non-perishable food, water, and other important items.
Non-perishable or “shelf-stable” food comes in many forms:
- canned meat, fruits, and vegetables
- jerky, trail mix, and dried fruit
- freeze-dried meals
- MRE (Meals Ready to Eat)
- protein bars
It doesn’t particularly matter what type of non-perishable food you use in your kit as long as you would be comfortable carrying, preparing, and eating it. I personally use Mountain House’s freeze-dried meals since they can be re hydrated with cold water, and I rotate them every time I go on a backpacking trip.
You may think that food production is out of the picture for your disaster kit; however, you can add a small fishing kit and conibear traps for catching your own food in the wild. Sigma 3 Survival School has some excellent you tube videos about procuring food in the wild and other wilderness survival training.
Stock Your Pantry With 3 Months Worth of “Everyday Items”
A fully stocked pantry of what you normally eat is a good idea for a variety of reasons. You can:
- save money by buying in bulk during case lot sales,
- avoid last minute trips to the grocery store,
- plan better and have more control over what you normally eat,
- have comfort food during stressful situations and disasters.
These foods should last a couple of months and may include unopened food in your refrigerator and freezer. I like using food that can be combined for a larger meal or rationed if needed. I set these up on a shelf and rotate it just like they do at the super market by puting the new food behind the old.
Start a Garden in Your Backyard
An annual garden is an excellent complement to your pantry by providing the fresh fruits and vegetables you typically store in the refrigerator. I highly recommend the Square Foot Gardening method.
Square Foot Gardening allows you to plan your garden according to your eating habits and grow more food with less time, space, and effort. There are several innovative ideas in Mel Barthelemew’s book “Square Foot Gardening : A New Way to Garden in Less Space with Less Work.” I highly recommend purchasing a book as a valuable resource on home gardening that you can turn to even when there is no internet available.
Obtain a 1 Year Supply of Non-perishable Food
Gradually build a 1 year supply of food of mostly dry ingredients that you can buy in bulk which last anywhere from 1 to 30 years or more. These foods can include beans, rice, oats, wheat, etc.
I store wheat, rice, and beans in buckets and in #10 cans, but I only store dried milk, flour, and instant potatoes in #10 cans. I do this becuase once a bucket or can is opened it will start to lose its freshness. Whole grains/seeds tend to keep better after opening as long as their outer shells aren’t damaged.
After building a #10 can rotating shelf, I have grown to prefer the #10 cans since they are easier to rotate, use, and replace. One of the best places to get the basics is from LDS Home Storage Centers. If you are looking for complete meals or more variety I suggest looking around wholesale stores like Sam’s Club, Costco, or buying them online from Emergency Essentials.
Design a Food Forest
A food forest or edible forest garden, is a perenial garden designed with permaculture principles to mimic nature. Not all of the plants in a food forest are edible, but they all work together to create an ecosystem similar to the edge of a forest. Nitrogen fixing plants are interspersed to provide natural fertilizer while other plants may provide shade and attract beneficial insects.
There are many guides on how to make your own food forest, but I highly suggest saving yourself from the reinventing the wheel and search for local experts and examples instead.
Create Your Own Food Security
As you work towards producing and storing your own food, you will become more self reliant and food secure. You will always have access to safe and nutricious food to provide for yourself and your family.
Some people are even able to turn their surplus food supply into profitable businesses.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,
Founder of Survive and Thrive with Permaculture