Nov 052010

In my last post, I promised to share with you some of my favorite finds from the grocery store for emergency preparedness.  Several people have commented that they prefer to stick with traditional emergency food packs like military MREs (meals ready-to-eat).  Under this plan, people typically purchase the MREs, which are good for several years, from a special supplier then throw them out and replace them when they expire.  There is no one right way to do emergency preparedness and if this works for you then by all means, go ahead!

In my own emergency preparedness, I am hoping to use the emergency preparedness stores as a way to encourage healthy eating on a regular basis as well.  My intention is to stock our emergency stores with foods that we eat (or should be eating) regularly and rotate regularly through the food, I don’t want to buy foods like MREs that we would never desire to eat outside of an emergency situation.  Also, I have my doubts that my young children would subsist on MREs—at least not until they got VERY hungry.

Below are my 20 best finds at a typical grocery store (or online in bulk at amazon.com) for emergency preparedness.

1) Breakfast cereal or oatmeal – Most breakfast cereals are so fortified with vitamins that you are getting a lot of nutritional punch for your calories (and dollars).  Ideally, you would select a whole grain cereal with low sugar content but I believe even most sugared cereals are fortified as well.  If all you did for your emergency food planning was buy an extra box of cereal and some powdered milk (see next item) you could probably survive on that for days.  Ask any college student!

2) Powdered milk – If you are going to be eating cereal, you will need milk!  Just add water to your powdered milk and you are ready to go.  It tastes fairly close to regular milk.  If you are allergic to milk, you could also substitute alternative “milks” like rice milk, soy milk or almond milk.  I quite liked those milks until I looked at the nutritional labels one time and found that they were all basically just sugar water and didn’t have any of the protein benefit you get from cow’s milk–although they are low in fat and cholesterol.

3) Peanut butter – Ruth foreshadowed this one in her comment Tuesday but yes, peanut butter is a great emergency staple because it packs a ton of calories into a compact little package.  It is also full of protein, vitamin E and niacin.  If you don’t like peanuts, most grocery stores carry other nut butters as well, like cashew butter and almond butter.

4) Canned soup and dried soup mixes – Canned soup is one of those really basic things you might forget about for emergency planning but canned soup is really kind of like an MRE.  It is usually very high in sodium so you have to watch out for that but more and more soups are being made that are lower in sodium and higher in nutritional content.  If you haven’t taste-tested a low-sodium soup, you are in for a bit of a shock.  You don’t realize how much sodium you are used to eating until you try a low-sodium variety.  The taste is a little bland but some well-seasoned low-sodium soups are OK.  This emergency staple will require heating but I can tell you from experiments with my own children that eating it cold straight out of the can (their preference) won’t kill you.  There are also dried soup mixes that you just add water to and heat that are less bulky.

5) Canned seafood – We all know that fish is full of all kinds of healthy nutrients for us, particularly the esteemed omega-3 fatty acids.   I most frequently hear people say, “ I don’t like fish.”  If you refuse to eat fish, then obviously you will need to pick some other canned protein.  I am a timid seafood eater myself but if you love seafood you can get so many types of canned seafood from sardines to clams to shrimp.

The second complaint I hear about fish is that people are worried about the mercury content.  My favorite kind of canned fish (white albacore tuna) is one of the fishes with very high mercury content.  You are only supposed to eat a 6 oz can about once a week.  The State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services has done quite a bit of research into the mercury content of various kinds of fish, both because of the significant fishing industry in Alaska and because of the number of native Alaskans who consume large amounts of fish in their diets.  Alaska Health and Human Services has created this handy chart to guide pregnant women and children (the most sensitive populations for mercury exposure) but this guide is really a good guide for anyone.  According to this chart, you can safely eat unlimited amounts of “all species of Alaska salmon.”  This was great news for us since one of our favorite substitutes for albacore tuna is the Bear & Wolf (Costco brand) pink wild Alaskan salmon.  They manage to take all the bones out of the salmon in this brand and while the flavor is a bit stronger than tuna, it is quite delicious.

6)   V8 juice – One of the harder foods to obtain in emergency food stores are fruits and vegetables.  V8 juice, particularly the low-sodium variety, gives you a large quantity of vegetables in an easy-to-drink container.

7) Canned pineapple in juice – You could really use any canned fruit in juice but the only fruit I can reliably find that is not packed in a sugar syrup is pineapple.  This emergency staple doubles as both a juice and a fruit!  I especially love it cold and keep it in my fridge (but I realize that in an emergency, room temperature is the more likely alternative).

8 ) Salsa – Salsa is another great way to get your vegetables in and add some flavor to your meals as well.  You have to watch your sodium content here but chips and salsa are a great shelf-stable snack.

9) Canned beans – Beans are a great protein source.  You could also get dried and cook them yourself if you know you will have a cooking source in an emergency.

10) Crackers, Rice Cakes and Tortillas – Since I love good bread I wish there was an “emergency bread.”  I have not found one yet.  Instead we have to settle for bread substitutes like whole grain crackers, rice cakes, chips and even taco shells.  This is the one part of my emergency storage plan I am not so happy with.  I don’t want to stock up on too many high fiber crispbread crackers or rice cakes since we don’t like to eat them all that often (although we would probably be healthier for the switch).  We will need something to spread all that peanut butter on for snacks.  Some tortillas will keep for up to 60 days so that may be the direction we go.

11) Meal-substitute drinks. You generally find these in the geriatric section of the pharmacy aisle or sometimes the weight loss section. In vitamin stores, they might be sold near the muscle-building area.  There are many brands of these drinks and some are quite expensive.  We found a generic CVS brand that wasn’t too expensive and actually tasted pretty good.  These drinks are usually free of any allergens (dairy, etc.) and are fortified with just about every vitamin and mineral you could ever need.  We have used them to substitute for refrigerated breakfast yogurt smoothie drinks.  They are a great grab-and-go food when you are headed into the car.  Another product with slightly less nutritional content but good taste are the shelf-stable breakfast drinks from Carnation.

12) Granola Bars –   Yes, good old granola bars are an emergency staple.  Most granola bars have too much fat and sugar to really be considered healthy foods but they do offer some benefits in terms of complex carbohydrates and vitamins.  If nothing else, they are a compact way to get some calories.

13) Dried Fruit – You can get exotic or go with a classic–raisins!

14) Raw Nuts and Seeds – Generally you have to shop in the bulk foods section of the grocery store to find unsalted nuts and seeds.  Salted are of course delicious but when you are trying to keep your sodium down (there is salt in everything in packaged foods!) this is one area where you can cut the salt out and miss it less.  Peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds.  Lots of great choices here.

15) Shelf-stable pudding! Probably an essential if you have small children.  No refrigeration needed.  Self-contained little cups.  Some nutritional content from the milk (although it is mostly sugar, of course!).  The Hunts Snack Pack brand has a shelf life of up to 540 days!

16) Whole grain pasta and spaghetti sauce. I am putting this toward the bottom of the list because this supply is useless if you don’t have a cooking source.  You can’t soak pasta in room temperature water and make it edible.  Since we eat pasta all the time, however, and since we have been able to cook pasta on the gas stove in at least one prior emergency, it will stay on our list.

17) Canned olives.  A great source of healthy fats and a good snack as well.  Most small children like black olives and adults could go for a tangy variety like kalamata or manzanilla.

18 ) Ramen noodles/Cup O’ Noodles – These are probably the most cost-effective emergency food staple. They generally cost about 30-50 cents per meal and they are warm and filling. You do need to be able to at least boil water to make them useful. They are also very high in sodium but you can control that a little if you use the ramen with seasoning packs and use less of the seasoning pack. Fortunately ramen noodles are one of the foods our kids will eat reliably too.

19) Jerky – Beef jerky, turkey jerkey, even ostrich jerky! Any meat can be dried into a jerky. While high in fat and salt, these are great pick-me-up treats particularly if you are doing high energy work. Jerky is usually pretty expensive at the grocery store so look for a sale or buy in bulk online.

20) Chocolate – Chocolate is an essential survival food!  There are some health benefits to chocolate but really it is more of a mental food than a physical one.  Want to make a friend?  Offer some chocolate.  Need an escape from your stressful emergency situation. Chocolate to the rescue!  There is no way we would be caught without it!

So that is the list of the items our family is most likely to stockpile to create our own emergency food storage. What would you add to this list?  Please share in the comments.

In Tuesday’s post, we’ll try to put these foods together into a sample 30-day emergency meal plan. Have a great weekend!

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9 Comments to “20 Emergency Preparedness Foods You Can Find at the Grocery Store”

  1. avatar Lou says:

    The best advice I’ve heard on emergency food supply preparedness and storage: “… use the emergency preparedness stores as a way to encourage healthy eating on a regular basis…”

  2. avatar Bill says:

    This is the epitome of “eat what you store and store what you eat.” Great article!

  3. avatar Diadia says:

    I recommend inventorying a large jar of egg white or whey protein powder
    that can be mixed with juice, milk, or marshmellow fluff! Giving the 8 essential
    amino acids to our diet is a bonus. Pls consider chewable vitamin C 500 mg
    tablets (from Costco) increasing our immune system strength.

  4. avatar Ruth says:

    I’m with Dia–make sure those mutlivites are in their too! My biggest complaint with powdered milk is that it doesn’t have THAT long of a storage life–and I don’t cook/use it all that often. And cereals–their storage life is not so long either. Make sure you’re checking those expiration dates, everyone~!!!

  5. avatar Anonymous says:

    I just found my grocery list!

  6. […] –        20 Emergency Preparedness Foods You Can Find at the Store […]

  7. avatar Alan says:

    The dates on food products are not “expiration” dates. They are “best by” dates or at worst, “use by” dates. Most foods other than bread, fresh dairy products, fresh meat and seafood are good for long past the dates printed on the package. The crackers may be a little stale and some prepared foods may not taste like you’d like, but they are safe to eat. Nuts which contain oils (one of the reasons to eat them) may not be completely safe to eat because the oils become rancid over time and rancidity can be harmful. But it’s not keel-over-and-die harmful, it’s more like you-might-get-cancer-sometime-down-road harmful. Canned goods which are not bulging or corroded or safe to eat for quite a few years past the “best by” dates printed on them. Speaking of corrosion, be wary of storing any acidic beverages (soda, V8, tomato juice, orange juice) in aluminum cans. The aluminum is quite thin and acidic beverages can eat holes in the cans, ruining the contents and making a mess.

  8. avatar Alan says:

    Ooop, that was supposed to “…corroded are safe to eat…”

  9. avatar anne says:

    Thanks for these tips, Alan! In general, I try to stick with the “best by” dates as much as possible. My goal for my emergency storage is to try to store things that I eat anyway and keep them replenished.

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