Being prepared for the unexpected is an important skill for busy parents. Get started with our emergency food list to take care of this task.
Don’t have an emergency food shelf in your basement or pantry? That’s okay! Learn what food to have in case of emergency and the best way to store it.
This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase after clicking on a link, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
When it comes to storing extra food in your basement, it’s important to choose items that are nutritious, easy to prepare, and have a long shelf life.
When would you use an emergency food shelf?
It’s not just natural disasters–like a hurricane or earthquake–that can cause you to use the non-perishable foods you’re storing. I have had to tap into our supply for smaller events like:
- A thunderstorm knocked out power and we couldn’t cook using our electric stove or microwave.
- All five of us got the flu at the same time (when the kids were all under 5!) and we ran out of groceries.
- I’ve had to pack and head out quickly to help a family member, so I can grab some easy meals to take with me.
Remember, the point of an emergency food shelf is to provide a safety net during unforeseen circumstances. Just knowing that you have some reliable foods on hand for your family is so helpful.
Our emergency food shelf suggestions:
Here are 20 essential emergency food items every busy mom should have on hand.
- Canned Vegetables: Maintain a healthy diet during emergencies by stocking up on canned vegetables. They are rich in vitamins and minerals and make a great side dish for any meal.
- Canned Fruits: While fresh fruit may not be available, canned fruits can be stored in your kitchen pantry for several months, providing a nutritious and delicious snack.
- Canned Meats: Although fresh meat is preferable, having canned meats on hand ensures a source of protein during emergencies. They can still be used to prepare your favorite dishes.
- Dry or Canned Beans: Beans are an excellent source of carbohydrates and protein, keeping you and your family satiated. Canned beans have a good expiration date, but dry beans can last even longer.
- Pasta: An economical and versatile option, stock up on various types of dry pasta to avoid monotony. It has a long shelf life and can be prepared quickly.
- Rice: Another budget-friendly staple, rice is a versatile dish that goes a long way. While brown rice is healthier, keep in mind that it has a shorter shelf life of about six months.
- Canned Soups: Warm and hearty canned soups are ideal for providing nourishment during challenging times. They come in a variety of flavors to suit everyone’s taste.
- Breakfast Cereal: Don’t forget to gather a few of your kids’ favorite cereals. Breakfast cereal provides fortified vitamins and minerals, ensuring their nutritional needs are met during emergencies.
- Oatmeal: For a warm and comforting breakfast option, have a container of oatmeal in storage. Individual packages are convenient but have a shorter shelf life.
- Dry Milk: Packaged milk that doesn’t require refrigeration until opened can last a long time. It may taste different from fresh milk, but it’s a valuable resource during emergencies.
- Shelf-stable Juice: In addition to water, keep some shelf-stable juice on hand. It adds variety and can be a welcome treat for your kids.
- Gatorade/Powerade: Sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade help to keep you hydrated and replenish electrolytes, which are important for your body’s well-being during stressful situations.
- Peanut Butter: A must-have for households with young children, peanut butter is a nutritious and versatile food item. It can be enjoyed by the whole family as a quick and tasty snack.
- Nuts: Stock up on a variety of nuts for a healthy and protein-rich snack. They provide essential nutrients and can be enjoyed as is or added to other dishes.
- Dried Fruits: Satisfy your sweet tooth with dried fruits. While they may not contain as many nutrients as fresh fruits, they have a long shelf life and make for a delicious snack.
- Protein or Energy Bars: Keep a supply of protein or energy bars on hand for quick, on-the-go snacks. They provide a much-needed boost of energy during emergencies.
- Jerky: Jerky is an excellent source of protein and can provide a much-needed energy boost. It has a long shelf life and can be enjoyed years later if the package remains sealed.
- Baby Food/Formula: If you have a baby in the family, ensure you have an ample supply of their favorite baby foods stored. Stock up on baby food jars or pouches to meet their nutritional needs. For infants, it’s crucial to have extra cans of baby formula readily available.
- Comfort Food: During stressful times, having your family’s favorite snacks and comfort foods can provide a sense of normalcy and comfort. Don’t forget to include some indulgent treats to lift spirits.
- Water: Although not food, water is the most critical item to have in any emergency. Ensure you store an adequate supply of drinking water for everyone in your family. The average adult requires about a gallon of water per day for drinking and sanitation purposes. Aim for a three-day minimum supply, which means having at least 12 gallons of water for a family of four.
When to replace emergency food
I like using my printable emergency food list to keep track of what we have in storage and expiration dates. Obviously, if you use any items due to smaller emergencies (like I mentioned above), add those to your next grocery list to replace.
You can always rotate out the foods–especially cans and boxed foods. For example, I’ll either use the foods for our meals or donate them (WELL before their expiration date) and then replace them.