It is now easier to get food in the USA, or any other advanced economy, than it has ever been. Most of us can buy food pretty much around the clock, particularly in the cities – or we can store it in the freezer at home. But what happens if that becomes completely impossible?
Our food supply chain does not take much to interrupt. It can be affected by a terrorist attack, earthquake or even a bad storm – something that closes stores, limits the mobility or takes out the electricity. If that occurs then our western society is suddenly having a food crisis. You cannot buy food, the freezer’s ready meals will quickly begin to deteriorate as they thaw and you have no power to cook them. In this situation, how well-positioned are you to survive?
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It’s important to be aware because you have an emergency food supply which will keep you going for at least three days. As long as you have water, you can really easily live three days without food, but soon you will start running out of resources. In a potentially life-threatening situation which is extremely bad news, so a supply of emergency rations is necessary if you want to maximize your chances.
Many people are willing to give you a prepackaged supply of emergency food, just don’t order one just yet. Many of them aren’t all that good for a true emergency. Many of the more common ones for example rely on dehydrated meals. They need a lot of water to cook – and if you don’t have the capacity to heat the water, the result can be a cold, lumpy sludge that’s pretty unappetizing. It’ll keep you going but for your confidence it won’t do much.
Instead, you can focus on foods that need minimal preparation and can eat cold if necessary. That is particularly relevant if you’re living in an urban area. You’ll almost always be able to light a fire in the country to hear warmth, but another story is a big disaster in a city. San Francisco, for example, is one town that advises all residents to store three days of emergency food. The most possible disaster there is an earthquake, and that would leave a lot of people in a city largely made of wood, surrounded by damaged gas mains. Under those situations, it is probably not the cleverest idea to light a fire.
What about rations of a military style, such as MREs? There are some interesting points for those. Their shelf life is long. They are packed in sturdy packaging, and are not too heavy. Everything they contain can be eaten cold, without any preparation. They pack in tons of calories, too – around 1,200 per meal. In the other side if you have food intolerances, they ‘re not much good. MREs are intended for military use and if you are gluten-free or have a nut allergy, military catering doesn’t care. The expense is also another drawback. For as little as $2 each, you can get MREs on ebay but these tend to be scavenged from military dumpsters and are usually close to the end of their shelf life. A single meal with five years’ life left costs more than $10 – and for each person you’ll need three of them a day. They are pretty bulky, at last. Some international military rations come in 24-hour packets, rather than the single-meal style of the MRE, but these are typically better avoided – the menus can be very unusual. An exception is the British 24-hour GS ration, often preferred by American soldiers to the MRE.
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Military rations can be a good choice if you can find a supply of new ones with the remaining shelf life of a few years but the best option for most people is to put together their own supply. This method has its own advantages, which more than offset MRE’s plus points:
- You can allow for any food intolerances or allergies you have.
- It’s possible to tailor your supply to suit your own tastes – and having food you like is very good for morale.
- It’s a lot cheaper – and you can spread the cost. Instead of buying a case of MREs or an expensive bucket of dehydrated meals you can just pick up one or two items every time you go grocery shopping.
Look for nutritionally well-balanced foods. High calorie content is valuable; it gives you the energy to deal with emergency situations, and excess calories in really extreme circumstances allow you to extend your supply even further. However, do not ignore other variables. Fiber helps prevent digestive problems and protein helps keep you in good condition. Over a three-day cycle, vitamins are less of a concern but you’re better off with them than without them. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Granola bars
- Dried fruit bars
- Clif bars
- Pop Tarts (Ignore the best before date – those things last a decade or more)
- Long life crackers (Saltines or Sailor Boy pilot bread)
- Peanut butter
- Canned tuna
- Processed cheese
- Canned corned beef
- Vienna sausages
- Canned stew or chilli
- Canned chicken
- Canned corn – This can be turned into a salad with some Miracle Whip
- Canned beans – Rinse and use in a salad
- International bread – Tortillas, naan and chapattis can last for months or years if they come in a sealed package
- Canned fruit (snack size)
- Canned custard – Goes great with canned fruit, and can be eaten cold
Drinks and Snacks
- Slim Jims
- Beef jerky
- Dried fruit
- Seasoned or sweet crackers
- Iced tea mix
- Kool-Aid, Crystal Light or Tang
- Powdered milk
If you can actually boil water, there are plenty of long-life carbs that can be applied to your supplies. These are energy rich and filled. Also, they let you stretch meat and vegetables far further. If you have three days of canned food, with dry goods, you can extend it to a week or more:
- Egg or ramen noodles
- Manual can opener
- Paper towels or tissues
- Toilet paper
- Trash bags
Just one gallon per person per day is the absolute minimum you should allow. It is best to have a five-gallon container as part of your 3-day supply for each individual. That makes some washing surplus, and gives you a margin of safety in hot weather. Military black plastic jerry cans are perfect – they’re really heavy and they’re not letting light in. This can inhibit microorganisms development. To reduce the amount of air in them, fill containers as full as possible – just don’t leave them anywhere they could freeze. Every month, empty containers, rinse with a sterilizing solution (sterilizing tablets from a home brew shop work well), and then refill.
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If you have built up your stock of food, don’t just stick it in the back of the cupboard and forget about it. Check daily use-by-dates and replace anything that gets close (except Pop Tarts). If you buy items that are not on your emergency stock frequently, rotate them; put the latest one in storage, take the oldest one out and add it to your daily supplies.
Store your food in a cool, dry position – and preferably dark – that is not freezing. Check it periodically to make sure that no cans or packets spill, swell or do something else that seems like bad news. If anything, get rid of it and dump it at the earliest opportunity.
It doesn’t cost much to put together your own emergency food supply and it is an easy, portable solution. There’s no chance of being stuck with costly survival foods you don’t like much, and you can rotate products quickly without making a huge difference to your grocery bill. Maintaining healthy, high-energy food for three days makes a lot of sense, and with our food supply chain as unstable as it is now, can you really afford not to?