Emergency Preparedness for Beginners
By Brett A. Fernau
Part 4: Bugging In – What you need to survive at home – Food
Read Part 1 and 2 of this series first. In those articles I discuss what you will need to survive the initial disaster event and what you will need to get home from wherever you are when that event occurs. You should also read Part 3 which discusses water storage and purification. Start storing water first, then food.
Even in a short-term, temporary disaster scenario, you are likely to find the grocery store shelves quite bare after the first few days. Depending upon the type of disaster you are facing, getting trucks filled with groceries into your area so that those shelves can be restocked may take a several days or longer. If there is some measure of panic among the population, a trip to the store may not just be futile, but dangerous as well. If you have some food stashed away in your pantry, basement or garage, you can just stay home, out of harm’s way, and weather the storm as safely and comfortably as possible in those circumstances.
Start putting some extra food away a little bit at a time. Every time you go to the grocery store, buy a couple of extra cans or jars or bags of whatever you would be willing to eat. Buy items that have a long shelf-life, such as canned soups, stews, meats, and vegetables. Rice and beans together make up a complete protein and can be stored for quite some time if placed in bug and rodent-proof containers. I am referring to brown, whole-grain rice and dry beans, in this case. The only drawback I see for dry beans and rice is that they will need to be cooked, or at least soaked, in water to be edible. If you have limited water supplies, this might not be your best option. Canned foods can be eaten cold, right out of the can if need be. Stock up on items that your family enjoys, if possible. A lot of people, these days, are trying to eat fresher and more natural foods. Unless you have your own garden, though, you are going to have to rely on canned or otherwise preserved food that you have had the foresight to store away if you should find yourself in disaster conditions.
As I just mentioned, a garden, if you have space for one, would be a very good thing for you to have. Yes, it’s a lot of work. And yes, things don’t grow so well in the winter. But there was a time when lots of people had gardens and canned some of the produce from them to help get them through the winter months. Depending upon where you live, putting in a garden might be a very smart thing to do. Planting a couple of citrus trees might be a good thing as well. It’s certainly something to think about, if you are serious about being prepared.
You may have seen advertisements for emergency survival food packs. That is another option for you. You can buy MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, in quantity and store them away for an emergency. They are quite a bit more expensive than preserved foods that you find in the grocery store, but they are exactly what the name suggests, ready to eat. You don’t have to cook them. You can heat them up, if you are able or eat them cold. They also have a fairly long shelf-life. A word of caution with regard to MREs — examine the ones you are thinking of buying very carefully. Only buy MREs that come with ingredient lists and nutritional information. Read and evaluate the information to determine whether or not the MRE supplies calories and nutrition from wholesome ingredients and that there are enough of each to sustain you for the time you expect you’ll need to consume them to survive. Not all MRE suppliers are ethical, so be warned.
There are also freeze dried foods available. They are quite expensive. They are also very light weight, compact and easy to prepare. Usually, all you have to do is rehydrate them with a quantity of boiling water. Of course, you’ll need to have a way of heating that water. And you’ll need to have that water in the first place, which, again, is why water is the first thing you need to start storing if you are going to be prepared.
Though not a food item, you should stock up on some vitamin supplements as well. Your diet in a disaster scenario will not necessarily contain all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. Vitamin supplements will help with that.
If you eat a balanced diet now and get yourself physically fit, you will be able to survive quite well on the foods you have stored away. At this point, you can probably think of a few other items you should set aside along with your food and water supplies, such as first-aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, a radio receiver, cooking equipment, and perhaps even a generator to keep your refrigerator going when the power is out. These are topics which I will cover in other articles.