In the face of a crisis, pandemic or global meltdown, one precious resource will rise above them all: food.
Forget grocery stores, farmers’ markets and restaurants – they will become nothing more than hollow, empty spaces after the panic and looting has set in.
Preparing for such an event needs to be done in advance and over time; it will be too late once disaster does strike.
But how do you store enough food for a month, a year, even a decade? Which foods will last and which will perish? What about if you are forced to go on the run?
The thought can be overwhelming, and there are some common traps to avoid as well as some lesser-known pearls of wisdom which might save your life – and both may surprise you.
Here is our round-up of the best survival foods, along with our top tips for surviving a global disaster.
In this article we’ll cover:
First, we’ll take a look at the more generic food types and common foods that are great for stockpiling at home.
The human body cannot survive without water for more than three days. In a disaster scenario, you cannot rely on your usual sources of potable drinking water (like your central plumbing), as these may well be affected.
Therefore, stocking up on bottled water is crucial when building your collection of emergency rations. It is also worth having water purification tables and a water purifying device, in case you are cut off from the grid and have a water source nearby.
Consider stocking flavored drinking sachets to add to your water, which will not only taste refreshing but provide your body with essential electrolytes that it needs to function. These are a great option, especially if you have young children who may struggle to be satisfied on water alone.
Crush single sachets are a great option for flavored drinks, and work out at around $0.1 per serving.
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Powdered milk is another thing to include, as it has a long shelf life and is an excellent source of calcium and calories.
These sachets do not take up too much space, are lightweight should you need to leave the house, and are a good thing to barter and trade with neighbors as a last resort.
If you want to learn about more ways to have drinkable water, check out our guide on how to purify water.
Cans of soup are one of the absolute best food items you can stockpile in the face of emergency. They have an excellent shelf life and come in a whole host of different flavors to keep your taste buds happy at the end of the world.
More importantly, canned soup can be eaten cold or warm, allowing you more flexibility depending on your situation.
Whilst a warm bowl of soup is obviously more preferable, it is imperative to stock foods which can be eaten without needing to be cooked, as you may not have this option in certain scenarios.
You do not want to be cooking food for the starved neighbors to smell – or else you may have some unwanted visitors!
If you want to learn about home food stockpiles, check out our guide on how to stockpile food.
Canned meat is one of the easiest sources of protein you can find. Things like tuna, spam or sardines are an excellent addition to your store and can also be eaten cold should needs be.
With most other meats, spoilage is always a large concern as there is no guarantee you will have access to a working freezer.
Canned meats have an excellent shelf-life – over five years in some cases – and make a welcome addition to any meal. They are also rich in the fats and essential vitamins that your body needs to stay healthy.
Coconut oil is arguably the best oil to stockpile, for a number of reasons. It is incredibly rich in nutrients and does all sorts of good for your body, and it is solid at room temperature.
This makes it easier to transport (should you need to) and minimizes the risk of leakage. Some people also eat it solid - like coconut oil on toast!
You can melt it easily in the palm of your hand or over a low cooking heat, and it is a much healthier oil to cook with that your traditional olive oil.
Extra virgin coconut oil also has a much higher shelf life of over 7 years, and has anti fungal and antibacterial properties – making it a popular beauty product too. Yes, you may still want to feel pampered at the end of the world.
It is not a cheap item, and it may feel painful to buy in bulk at the time, but once SHTF you will certainly be glad of it. Shop for Extra Virgin Coconut Oil here (note: you may see cheaper versions of coconut oil but they are less pure, less nutritious and have a lower shelf life than the true organic, extra virgin oil.)
Most people stockpile flour as their grain of choice for making bread and other baked goods, but cornmeal should be considered as a worthy alternative.
Flour requires yeast and oil and a fair amount of time before the dough is ready, but cornmeal can be made into more rudimentary tortillas, cornbread and other tasty treats with just some water and salt.
Plus, these things can be made in a skillet over a campfire if needs be, without the need for an oven.
Another great source of protein and fiber: beans and lentils are a must-have for anyone serious about stockpiling food. It is worth having a combination of ready-to-eat cans as well as dried options, as the latter has a much longer shelf life.
They are one of the cheapest items you can buy and you have a whole range of options to keep your meals interesting.
Dried beans and lentils do generally need to be soaked in water overnight before you use them, so if you are in a situation where you are low on water then you’ll be glad of the canned alternatives.
Rice is a worldwide staple food. It can be bought at huge quantities, keeps for over five years and is one of the cheapest foods available.
If you buy rice in a sack or something non-watertight, then transfer it to a large storage container as soon as possible, so that it doesn’t spoil due to moisture.
Pastas and noodles are another great staple for your stores. The shelf life is a little lower at 1-2 years, but realistically this is still a good amount of time for your family’s immediate needs.
Buy pasta in bulk and single-serve noodle packets (which often come with their own flavor packets) and you can provide an easy, surprisingly nutritious meal for your family in minutes.
Not the cheapest item to stockpile, but certainly worth it in the long run. Honey is a versatile sweetener with an almost infinite shelf-life.
If disaster does strike, it is the little luxuries like real honey that can make all the difference to you and your family’s attitudes and outlooks on the situation.
If used sparingly and sensibly, your stock of honey can last you for years.
Alcohol is also a valuable item to have handy. Yes, really! Avoid including too many beverages such as wine and beer, as these take up space and can only really be used for drinking.
Hard liquor such as whiskey, vodka, rum and other spirits are the sensible choice: they can be used to make fruit preserves or ferments, and doubled-up for medical aid as a sterilizer.
We will discuss some of the best freeze-dried foods and meals in more detail in the next section, but stocking up on even a few of these is a sensible idea.
Freeze-drying fruits, vegetables and even whole meals essentially involves freezing the produce, then placing them in a strong vacuum to remove all moisture before packaging.
This expands the shelf-life almost indefinitely and makes them much lighter and smaller, without sacrificing any of the nutritional content.
Whether you opt for a whole year emergency kit or just want to have a few instant foods on-hand, freeze-dried goods are a really worthy investment.
For ideas on how to store and preserve your survival food, check out our complete guide on survival food preservation methods.
There are some folk who prefer to take their preparedness to the next level. If you are looking for a multi-year survival plan, then you can imagine you might need a small palace to store enough cans and buckets of food!
MRE stands for Meals Ready to Eat and were originally devised for the military in the 1970s.
Many manufacturers have taken on the concept and have made these read-to-eat meals for civilians - and they’re surprisingly tasty!
High quality MREs will provide you with over 1800 calories and 40g of protein per person per day – the minimum your body needs to stay healthy in a high-stress situation.
The biggest challenge is that you never know when disaster will strike, but you want to get prepared today. What if life goes on as normal for 20 years then suddenly everything goes to pot?
Good quality MREs and emergency food kits will last in your stores for up to 25 years, so you can be safe in the knowledge that your money is well-spent for over two decades.
Check out the video below on how a marine preps a perfect MRE.
So, whether you want to be prepared for just a few weeks or several years – here is a look at some of the most popular MREs and emergency supplies for long-term food storage:
This 2-week food kit from Emergency Essentials is a great-value, high-quality option for those looking for reassurance in the first few weeks of a national or global disaster.
With just over 2000 calories and 51g of protein per day, the meals provide all of the nutrition you will need. The tasty meals include creamy chicken-flavored rice, hearty potato soup and maple brown sugar oatmeal – alongside some others.
They even include hearty meal shakes for the first 24 hours where you may find yourself on the run or traveling quickly – and these shakes can be prepared and even eaten on the go.
They have a shelf life of up to 25 years and have the QSS seal of assurance, so you know that your body will be getting everything it needs with this emergency food supply.
Take a look at the kit here: Emergency Essentials 2-week 1-person emergency food kit. Emergency Essentials also offer 1-month, 3-month and 1-year emergency food kits.
Another popular and reputable manufacturer of long-lasting MREs is Wise Company. They advise that the average person should consume two servings a day to meet their required daily calories – so this option will last an individual for six months or a couple for three months.
Meals include cheesy lasagna, teriyaki and rice, potato pot pie and creamy pasta – to name a few. They also offer a host of breakfast options, too.
Wise Company offer packages up to a huge 4320 servings and, when you average out the price, they are hugely cost-effective when you consider the average household expenditure on food.
Take a look at their supply here: Wise Company Emergency Food Supplies
Mountain House are one of the longest-serving manufacturers in the MRE and emergency food market. With nearly 50 years of experience, they have honed their recipes to provide a wide selection of “just add water” meals.
Mountain house foods boast a ‘30-year taste’ guarantee, which means that they have every confidence in their products and they should last you a good long while.
The pouches are watertight and are designed so that you can add water straight to the pouch and eat from there, leaving no need for clean-up – useful if you are on the go and not wanting to stick around too long.
They are tried and tested by backpackers, hunters, military personnel and preppers – and they always come out top-rated. You can purchase their meals separately or as a larger meal bucket, and most meals will cost you between $6-10 when bought separately.
Have a look at their range of products here: Mountain House meals
“Bug-out bag” is the popular term given to the emergency pack you will need to survive for up to 72 hours.
They are generally used while evacuating from a disaster hot-spot to either your designated safe zone or the wilderness.
There is no “best” pack configuration as every person and scenario will be different, but there are a few guidelines you should pay close attention to, especially when it comes to food.
Here are some of the best high-calorie foods that make a great addition to your bug-out bag:
Tip: Try to decant anything that comes in a jar (such as nut butters) into a zip-lock or other flexible, watertight pack and remove the air. For liquids and oils, choose a plastic container or double-bagged zip-lock, or equivalent.
There are different rules for home stockpiling and good foods to have on the go.
Your bug-out bag is to be used as an emergency pack for the first few days of disaster until you can get to a grounded food source or out to the wilderness to hunt.
It can be tempting to look at all of the items you have hoarded at home and try to cram as many cans and bags of pasta as you can into your bag; but you really need to play it smart.
It can be incredibly hard and seriously daunting to figure out exactly what you will need. There are so many potential disaster scenarios, and you’ll never get much advance warning.
Start TODAY. Don’t let this be one of the things you keep putting off. Start right away – even if just a few cans and bottles here and there.
You don’t want the thought of “prepping” to rule your life; but if disaster does strike then you’ll be glad you put the time in.
Don’t rely on staying at home. Many a prepper falls foul of this.
They arm their house up to the teeth with defense gadgets and have enough food to last them twenty years – but some disasters will remove you from your home.
Nuclear strike, foreign invasion, even being looted by people you thought you knew; nothing is certain. Always have a back-up plan and a bug-out bag (or several, for other members of your family) ready to go.
Stock up with a variety of items. Versatility is hugely important when it comes to stockpiling. Have a good range of foods, from MREs to sacks of grains, quick-cook foods and family favorites, as you never know in which situation you’ll find yourself.
You might get cut-off from the gas, electricity and water grid; or you might comfortably live at home with all your amenities. You need to be prepared for a range of scenarios, whatever may happen. The old sayings are the best: don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
Don’t keep everything in one place. There is nothing more devastating than coming to your precious stock of food and finding that it has been looted, or water damaged, or eaten by mice.
The best advice for stockpiling is to have many places around the house and property, that would usually be overlooked. The basement is the first place invaders will look – so avoid that if you can!