My Emergency Food Prep tips will help you to prepare your household for a natural emergency, whether it is a snowstorm, earthquake, or even an illness related quarantine. Tips for Families, Vegans, and those with food allergies and dietary restrictions.
My family is currently at the US epicenter for coronavirus. You know Kirkland, the Seattle suburb you keep seeing on all of the press conferences and news reports? Yep, that’s my town! I drive past the elder care center where the outbreak is daily. I can hear sirens out my kitchen window, and just a half hour later see a new report of people rushed to the hospital with covid-19 symptoms. This is hitting really close to home. REALLY close. So I’ve been going over my emergency food prep, preparing and stocking up on essentials over the past week, in anticipation of being asked to quarantine at home.
^^^ Shelves are bare at grocery stores in the Seattle area right now!
Emergency Food Preparations
I’ve actually been meaning to write this post for years. 5 years, to be precise. Ever since The New Yorker published a “doomsday” article came out in 2015 talking about the “big quake” that the Pacific Northwest was long overdue for, I’ve been in prep mode. Notice I didn’t say panic mode. Just prep mode. I’ve always loved learning about emergencies. My favorite tv shows are all first responder dramas. When I was a high school teacher my favorite staff meetings were those where they taught us about emergency procedures. Today I’m sharing with you some of the ways my family prepares for an emergency when it comes to food. While I’ve heard good tips like: keeping a pair of shoes near your bed in case of glass from a middle of the night earthquake, keeping extra kitty litter on hand for a long term emergency without plumbing, and buying a water filter, I’m not really an expert in those departments. What I am good at is feeding people, thinking about feeding people, dreaming about feeding people. It’s what I love to do.
Snowstorms, Hurricanes, and Earthquakes, Oh My!
The first thing to think about is different kinds of emergencies. An earthquake can happen at any time. There’s no real warning. Other emergencies like hurricanes and snowstorms can be anticipated a bit more. And then we have our current emergency with a virus circulating throughout our community—we can plan for it a bit, as we have had a bit of warning. There are also different types of situations to prepare for like an emergency without power, and one where you likely will have power. You should also consider who lives in your household. Before we had kids we had a severe wind storm with a multi day power outage (parts of Seattle were without power for more than 2 weeks). Irving and I thought it was fun to sleep in front of the gas fireplace and drive around town looking at the wind damage. Now with two kids at home it makes more sense for us to hunker down, and the need to feed them and keep them warm is more urgent than when it was just 2 of us.
^^^ Things were simpler when we had less people to worry about!
When I prepare for an unexpected emergency I like to stock food that can be eaten without refrigeration or heating. Canned beans, protein powder, granola bars. For a planned emergency, like a coronavirus quarantine, I also stock up on refrigerated items that will last for a few weeks. I’ll still have access to my stove, fridge, running water (most likely). I have foods like squash, pasta, potatoes, and frozen veggie nuggets.
Emergency Prep when you have Food Allergies
For many people, eating canned beans and peanut butter for a week doesn’t sound glamorous, but it’s doable. For those with food allergies, you need to plan more carefully. Jonny can’t just borrow a jar of peanut butter from our neighbors. He needs to be careful about what he eats, and even more so when access to medical care might be more challenging. In that same vein, we keep a back stock of Jonny’s expired epi pens, along with extra Benadryl. If you have any medical needs that require regular medication, be sure to stock as much of your prescription medicine as possible.
How to Store Food for an Emergency
When I first started building an emergency food supply I ran out and bought a jar of protein powder, some granola bars, vegan jerky, and canned beans. I put them in a plastic storage bin in my garage and called it good. The thought was that keeping them in the garage was helpful in case of an earthquake that destroyed the house—you could still access the garage? I’m not even sure if that’s true! And they weren’t even really foods we ate on a regular basis—I just figured in an emergency we’d make it work. A year went by and I realized the box was still there, untouched, and many of its contents had expired. Whoops.
What has worked better for us is to keep a stock of items we use regularly, and keep them in a few places in our house. We store quite a bit of food in our downstairs laundry room/pantry (that includes a second fridge). We also have quite a bit in our kitchen pantry cabinets. I see the items daily, and replace as needed. I recognize that there is a bit of privilege in being able to buy excess food, and to have the room to store it. Hopefully by doing my part to plan ahead I would be able to help those who aren’t able to plan in this way if the need arises.
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Shelf Stable Foods to Have on Hand for an Emergency
- Rice (do you ever wonder who buys those 50 pound bags of rice at Costco? This girl does!)
- Canned Beans
- Canned Tomatoes
- Dry Cereal
- Protein Powder (add a scoop to shelf stable milk or water to replace a meal if needed)
- Shelf Stable milk (soy, coconut, oat, almond)
- water (and/or water filter and jugs for storage)
- canned fruits (mandarin oranges, pineapples, pears, peaches)
- vital wheat gluten (make some high protein homemade seitan while you’re spending time at home!)
- jars or pouches of applesauce
- dried fruits
- cartons of soup and veggie stock
- coffee (I like instant espresso for easy preparation!)
Foods to Stock in Your Fridge or Freezer for an Emergency
- frozen vegetables
- frozen beans (high protein edamame!)
- veggie meats like gardein, Beyond Burger, Field Roast sausages
- bread/bagels/pita bread
- frozen berries for smoothies
- bananas, also for smoothies (I grabbed a new bunch at the store yesterday and promptly put them all in the freezer for when we run out of fresh produce!)
- non dairy milk
- vegan butter
Long Lasting Produce to Stock for a Short Term Emergency
- Citrus Fruits
- Living herbs (grabbed a new pot of basil today!)
Treats to Stock for an Emergency
When I did my first attempt at emergency food prep a friend shared what she was storing at her house (basically everyone in Seattle freaked out at the mention of a devastating earthquake and either stuck their head in the sand or jumped into prep mode). One item she suggested was treats for kids, as, regardless of the emergency taking place, kids will still be kids. So I keep some treats on hand for both kiddos and adults! It sounds a bit frivolous, but having some extra bunny gummies is an easy way to keep a sense of normalcy for my kids.
- gummy candies
- juice boxes
- baking supplies (again, this only applies to an emergency where you would have power, like a quarantine, or maybe a snowstorm. But if my kiddos and I are stuck at home for a few weeks you better believe we’ll be baking cookies!)
Foods to Stock in an Emergency for Those Who Have Food Allergies
This will obviously depend on what you are allergic to. Jonny is allergic to eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, except almonds and walnuts.
- nut or seed butter (high protein, shelf stable, can be eaten on it’s own!)
- safe bread products (gluten free, nut free, etc.)
- allergy safe granola bars
- dairy free milks (dependent on allergy)
Foods to Keep in Your Car in Case of Emergency
I like to keep a small box of food and water in my car in case of emergency. It might be getting a flat tire far from home (like after a summer hike). Or an earthquake could strike leaving roads impassable when we are out and about, and we could possibly have to walk a ways (when my kids were young I was sure to always keep a small stroller or baby carrier in my car just in case).
- water bottles
- granola bars
Meals that use Shelf Stable Foods
These recipes are either made entirely from shelf stable items, or very close to it! I like to think that in an emergency we can all makes subs as needed, like using cayenne pepper in place of fresh jalapeños, onion powder for fresh onions, etc. These also make great weeknight meals when you don’t have time to run to the store!
- Vegan Black Bean Soup
- Chickpea Stir Fry with Pineapple (15 Minute Meal!)
- Pumpkin Curry Soup
- Almond Butter Red Curry Noodles
- Oil Free Vegan Refried Black Beans — Frijoles de Cabo
- Balsamic Bean Salad
- Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Shallots + a Trip to Brooklyn
- Vegan Chilaquiles with Chickpeas from Veggie Inspired
- Restaurant Style Vegan Lentil Soup
- Pasta with Vegan Vodka Sauce — Nut Free!
- Homemade Vegan Boxed Mac and Cheese
- Instant Pot Quinoa with (optional) Coconut, Lime, and Cilantro
Non Food Items to Have on Hand During an Emergency
- cleaning wipes (regular Lysol wipes are often fine, I like these hospital grade wipes for cleaning during a stomach bug—do not overuse!)
- feminine hygiene products
- toilet paper and paper towels (Seattle stores ran out of toilet paper over the weekend!)
- activities for kids (puzzles, books, games, etc.)
- extra prescription medication if possible
- regular medication and first aid items, like pain reliever, cold medicine, bandaids, first aid ointment, etc.)
Ready for an Emergency
I hope these emergency food prep tips help to give you some ideas of foods to stock for an emergency. Being prepared makes me feel more at ease, and it’s something that I can control in an uncontrolled situation. What things do you do to prepare for an emergency? Drop a note in the comments below with your best tips! Stay safe out there!
So much great information here! And I LOVE your kitchen storage!
Thank you! It was a fun project—the kitchen didn’t even have a counter when we moved in. Just a 2 foot spot to put the microwave! So we really went to town adding cabinets! I can’t reach half of them without a stool, but at least I can store things way up in the top!!! And glad the emergency prep info is helpful!!! Stay safe and healthy!!!
Dorothy D. Piper says
I love this post! Please keep sharing posts like this!
Thank you so much! Well, I hope to not have to plan for too many more emergencies, but I do plan to share a few more pantry basics recipes in the coming weeks! Stay safe!
Very good and informative post. Thank you for sharing! PS- found you via Facebook group 🙂
Thank you! I hope it’s helpful for you! Which Facebook group?! I’m so glad you found me!
Ginny McMeans says
Love this post Sarah! There’s so much good information. I’m trying to leave 5 stars but I guess I can’t because there’s no recipe? Anyway, I’m sharinfgthis with all my loved ones because there is such great basic information and beyond. So much help to make food prep life a whole lot easier during disasters.
Thank you Ginny! I so appreciate your comment, and your sharing on Facebook! Means so much to me! I’m sure you’ve thought of many of these things as you’re in earthquake and fire country! Stay safe and healthy! (and yes, I don’t think you can leave a star rating when there isn’t a recipe card—darn!)
Thanks for this post Sarah! Very helpful list, i had much the same grocery list this week, mostly just bought double of anything shelf stable or long lasting that I usually buy. Its hard to maintain an emergency supply with very little extra room for storage, and my tiny European freezer, but I’m squeezing in what I can. I thought of you when I saw Kirkland in the news, I also have a lot of family in the Seattle suburbs. With the coronavirus near us as well I believe we’re close to needing to stay home as well.
Hi Robin! So good to hear from you! Yes, the storage space definitely makes in challenging to stock up. Extra canned beans and dry goods are nice in that way, as they at least don’t require refrigeration. But it’s a challenge! I hope you and your family stay safe and healthy throughout all of this. Each day I am checking to see if our schools are still open—kind of surprised they are. Just waiting for the call saying to keep the kids home—I will happily do so!