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You are here: Home > Emergency Preparedness Information > Food Storage Info > How Much Food Should I Store?
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How Much Food Should I Store?

When facing an imminent emergency, many people find that they are unprepared. While we, as humans, tend to think ‘it will never happen to me’, the plain truth is that emergencies can and do occur. It’s far better to be prepared than to find yourself out of time. When preparing for an emergency, the first thing to stock is your pantry.

The question then becomes ‘how much food should I have?’ Opinions, even among government officials, vary on this topic. The general rule of thumb, however, is that every home should have at least a 72 hour emergency supply of food for each member of the household, including pets. You should also store at least one half gallon of water per day for each person in your family.

The foods you choose to keep in your emergency supply should be those that are non-perishable, are readily prepared with a minimal amount of effort, if at all, and are low in sodium. Why low in sodium? Because salt makes you thirsty and you may not have access to a large supply of water.

Your foods should be stored in a container that can easily be grabbed and carried, if need be, or placed in the trunk of your car. Rubbermaid type totes or even rolling, air tight suitcases make excellent storage bins for emergency food stashes. Don’t forget to add a package of water purification tablets to your tote. You may find that you need them in the event of an emergency tainting your water supply.

While tornadoes, hurricanes and flash floods are a real possibility, if you live in a cold weather climate, being snowed in is an emergency of its own type. When winter weather begins to approach, it is suggested that people maintain a stock of at least two weeks worth of food and water in their pantry. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, calls this supply a ‘sheltering need’.

Again, avoid foods that will make you thirsty and stock your cupboards, instead, with dried fruits, canned goods, cereals, crackers, energy bars and granola. Be sure to have a manual can opener in the event of a power shortage and be sure to keep at least seven gallons of water per person on hand.

When buying your food, be sure to check the expiration dates. Foods like dried fruit and crackers generally have a shelf life of about six months. Canned foods and cereal are safe to keep for about a year and bulk dried foods like pasta, beans and corn, if stored properly, will keep indefinitely. Some foods will need to be replenished periodically so plan on taking stock of your emergency kit at least once every six months.

To determine exactly how much food you should keep on hand for your family, use a Food Storage Calculator. Simply input the number of people you have in your home and the calculator will tell you exactly how much food you should have on hand. You don’t want to find yourself unprepared should an emergency occur. Stocking your pantry and creating an emergency food kit is just one simple thing that you can do now to save time later.