In preparing for emergencies, it is vitally important that you plan your food storage. For keeping yourself and your family alive and comfortable for a longer term, like a few weeks or longer, you will want to get foods that are more like what you normally eat. A lot of these are specifically prepared and packaged for emergency use. Many of these require heating in order to be edible.
But when you’re packing up your backpack to be able to leave in a hurry, or an emergency pack to leave in your car, you have different needs. You want enough food to be able to be alright for a few days, and you want to include food that doesn’t need refrigeration or cooking. You want foods that you will like eating (not just things you “would only eat in an emergency”). You will want things that have a long shelf life. You will want to check expiration dates regularly (I suggest every six months when you change your smoke alarm batteries).
First off, let’s get a few basic criteria for the listing below. I wanted primarily items that:
- Require no refrigeration
- Require no cooking or cutlery
- Focus on lean proteins and complex carbohydrates
- Come in single serving packaging
- Avoid sugars and sugar substitutes
- Include some things that are emotionally satisfying
With those criteria in mind, here are my favorite ideas.
Canned or vacuum packaged meats: tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey, beef, etc. Most of these can be found with pop-tops or zip-tops, so no can opener is needed. And as long as they are eaten soon after opening, they don’t need to be refrigerated.
Fruit cups: applesauce, peaches, pears, fruit cups all can be a refreshing choice.
Jerky: beef, turkey, pork, venison, buffalo, salmon, kangaroo, ostrich, alligator… (I have never tasted some of these, so if you have, let me know how they are!)
Crackers or Cookies: these come in a variety of kinds, and can easily be found in individual serving sizes. While they aren’t the greatest for you nutritionally, they can meet the need. Tuna can go on crackers for a more satisfying meal, a sometimes a small package of cookies helps the world seem a little less fierce, even in an emergency.
Nuts and seeds: cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, etc. Most can be bought in smaller sealed packets.
Dried fruits: apricots, raisins, bananas, figs, pineapples, cranberries, etc. You can buy these in packages, looking just like you’d expect a dried fruit to look. Another option in this category is dried fruit that is sold in rolls or in little snack bites. Your kids probably already like them for school or snacking. Fresh fruit is better, of course, but dried fruit does retain much of the nutritional benefit of fresh fruit and can be a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Trail Mix: trail mix comes in all sorts of combinations of some of the above. For example, it may have nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and even some chocolate chips or small candies to sweeten the pack. They can be bought in individual size servings.
Meal Replacement Bars: there are a lot of brands of these. Try to choose ones that are high in protein and calories, and get whatever flavors appeal to you. A few flavors I like are fudge graham and dark chocolate strawberry….yum.
The keys to remember while putting together snacks to put into your back packs or car kit is to remember to get things you will eat, get them in manageable size packages, have a good variety, and check expiration dates periodically. Remember that any dried or salty snacks will make you thirstier, so take that into consideration when you add your water to your pack. If you have pets or children, remember to take their needs into consideration. Adults may be willing to eat a wider range of types of food, so be sure your kids (of all species) are taken care of, too. If you choose foods that require a can opener, pot and fire, or a knife, fork, or spoon, you can pack those, but for a quick pack to keep you going for a few days, you might want to skip those items and carry more water, clothing, or an extra flashlight.