Welcome back to the 72 Hour Kit Series! If you haven’t already caught the introduction, read it now so you’ll know what’s going on. I’ll wait right here until you get back. Remember that you are building a kit for YOU and YOUR family, so your kit will probably look different than mine. In this segment, we’re covering food for your emergency kit.
There are many different options for stocking your kit with food, from crackers and jerky to freeze dried backpacking meals. Each has it’s pros and cons. I cover these options extensively in the first chapter of my book, Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival, so if you want to get more in-depth than we will here, get the book!
If your kit is supposed to sustain you for 72 hours, ideally you’ll have a full three days of food in it. Yes, you can live longer than three days without food, but I like to eat. If it looks like help may not arrive soon, you can ration those three days of meals and probably get by a little longer. Consider what you’ll eat in the morning, at mid day, and in the evening. Don’t forget snacks–you’ll likely be expending more energy than usual in the aftermath of an emergency so you want high calorie foods.
You also want food that you will want to eat, so if you’re putting specialty foods like MRE’s or backpacking meals in your kits, I would advise you to try some of them out and find the ones you like before buying a bunch to stock all the kits in the house and then finding out that you don’t like them or the kids won’t eat them!
Emergency kit food should be easy to carry, easy to prepare, and provide the calories you will need.
Emergency Kit food options
1. Food from the grocery store. Choose sturdy foods that can withstand being bounced around in your kit. Canned goods, oatmeal packets, granola bars, jerky, dried fruits and nuts are all good options. Store foods are familiar and readily available. You probably already know what you like and can find it at your local grocery store. These foods are not usually packaged for long term storage, so you’ll want to be diligent about rotating them regularly. Choose cans with pop top lids or add one of these little can openers to your kit so you’ll be able to get your food out easily!
2. MRE’s. Meals Ready to Eat were developed for the military, but are now available to the public. The quintessential “prepper” food, they require no cooking and are high in calories. MRE’s are the item I would highly recommend tasting before stocking up on. I’ll just say I’m not a fan of the flavor, but I haven’t tried every meal variety. Some people like them, and I’m told the new ones are better than the older ones. The last one we opened my husband ate after I tasted it and didn’t want it, then he said he’d have that again. Some include a flameless heater that activates with a small amount of water (does not need to be potable), which is great for warming the meal up without needing additional cooking supplies.
3. Dehydrated or freeze dried meals. Available from most food storage retailers and often marketed as backpacking meals, these meals are pre-mixed from dry ingredients and all you need to do is cook them. Usually a 5-7 year shelf life on these, so they are a great option if you want to build your kit and forget about it for a while. Some, like Mountain House, you just need to add boiling water and wait. Others need to be boiled together with the water for 10-30 minutes depending on the meal. These meals are light weight, but you’ll need extra water and a way to cook it. We’ll talk about cooking options in week 4.
You can also make your own just-add-water meals using freeze dried ingredients! For recipe ideas, check out The Meals in a Jar Handbook.
4. Emergency food rations. Super compact, these are a great option to save space, but not so good if you want any kind of variety in your emergency food supply. They range from tasting like cardboard to a heavy-on-the-shortening sugar cookie, so find one you like before stocking up on them. These are inexpensive enough to stock a lot of kits for comparably little money, but aren’t going to give you a lot of flavor variety.
5. Snacks. We’ll talk more about comfort items in week 13, but adding some hard candy or other long shelf life snacks is a great way to make the situation a little less miserable, especially if you have children you are packing for. Energy bars like PowerBar or Cliff Bars are also a great addition to your kit–taking up little space and providing lots of calories.
Remember to keep in mind any food sensitivities or allergies you or your family members might have when you’re packing food in your kits!
In my personal kit, I have a variety of these foods. I like the Mountain House Turkey Tetrazzini, Chicken a la King, and Beef Stroganoff, so I have those. I also have the emergency food rations for a breakfast food, as well as a couple MREs and some energy bars for eating on the go. I tend to shy away from short shelf life foods as I’m not the best at rotating the kits! Except for M&M’s. Those do need rotated out frequently, but they are the most durable chocolate source I’ve found.
Emergency food for babies and children
If you have a baby in the family, stock your kit with infant formula (even if you are nursing), squeeze pouch baby foods, or make some dehydrated baby foods. You can also make instant baby food by blending freeze dried foods into a powder. Mix with water and you have baby food! Be sure you have the bottles, bowls, and spoons packed as well to make it easy to feed that baby.
Children, for the most part, can eat anything adults can. But you don’t want them to be miserable, so pack some foods you know they’ll like. For the little ones, check out these toddler approved food storage foods for some ideas.
And yes, I have some visuals for you in a new video:
What food do you have in your emergency kit? Let me know in the comments!
Keep preparing! Angela
Subscribe to my email newsletter for updates and special deals.
Please be sure to follow Food Storage and Survival on Facebook which is updated every time there is a new article. You can also find me on Pinterest, and purchase my book, Food Storage for Self Sufficiency and Survival on Amazon.
Shop the Thrive Monthly Specials or my favorites, the freeze dried vegetables and yogurt bites!
In our 72 hour BOB’s we carry a mixture of foods. More like 5 days worth instead of 3. One complete days worth of MRE’s (B.L.D, snacks & drinks), a few dehydrated favorites (Mountain House and free samples) and then home made meal’s that I have put together myself. We rotate these out each year come hunting season. This is a perfect time to try out new flavor MRE’s (even the same meal tastes different since MRE’s have evolved) What we loved before may not be a favorite since the last reinvention of the meal. I also rotate out some breakfast items again in the spring, because what we like to eat in the winter is not what we like to have for breakfast the rest of the year. Ex: I do not eat oatmeal once it gets warm, it is a Fall to Spring only item for me. We have added recently some of the single serve microwave meals. These only need to be heated, a microwave is not really needed. I have found boiling water and then placing the container in the pot of water off the heat source for around 10 minutes works well if you do not want to open the package and dump it into a container to heat. We carry a loaf pan that works great for this. This way you can still use the water for other things, hot drinks, purified drinking water, bathing, etc. and you don’t have a pot to clean. I carry foods that do not need water at all just in case we run out. Ex: dry cereal (can eat without milk) Fruit cups, applesauce, granola, peanut butter (although my husband will not eat it) meat in a pouch (tuna,spam) cooked brown rice in a cup (really not bad even at room temp). We love drink mix sticks, I carry self made powder milk vacuum bags that are over sized for the amount of powder they hold and that I have marked with a Sharpee where the correct amount of water needs to be added for proper mixing. We also each carry small a 8 oz water bottle to use to mix powder drink mix as well. No need for a measuring cup that way. Keep and reuse it. Believe it or not Keurig cups are also handy. You can poke a few holes in the top and bottom (be sure to not rupture the internal filter) and then drop them in to a cup of boiled water, picking it in and out of the water letting it drain will get you good results, although with coffee keep the holes on top small or you may get more grounds out into your cup than you would like. I found an old Crystal Light mix cup container works great to hold 3 Keurig cups. The Crystal Light mix cups make too much for just one or two people to have at one time so I drink those at home and reuse the containers for many other things. For vegetables we dehydrate frozen packages of vegetables and vacuum seal them. One 10 oz bag dehydrates down to once a few ounces that we split into two bags for two meals. Peas and carrots are the favorite, but we also have broccoli (tops only) and french green beans (they cook back up faster). Again an empty water bottle comes in handy. Put your dehydrated veggies in the bottle with the right amount of water and hike around with it in your pack for 4-6 hours and they will be completely re-hydrated (with out heat) in time for your main meal. We also carry trail mix, home made jerky (venison, beef and chicken) These meats are perfect to break up and put into your pot of hot water with vegs and rice to make an extra meal. A days worth of home made vacuum sealed meals may look like this: Breakfast (instant oatmeal, freeze dried fruit, powdered milk, orange drink mix or coffee for husband, a breakfast bar and daily vitamin.) Lunch no fire/stay walking (Peanut butter 2 single serve cups, hard crackers ex: wheat thins, triskets ( I store these in a Dollar store sandwich box) hard summer sausage or salami (Christmas Hickory Farms minis are great), or jerky, hard cheese, dried fruit or trail mix, drink mix sticks and 5 hour energy drink. Lunch if can have fire and have hot water (Jerky or a pouch meat with a pouch of boil and bag rice or Raman and dehydrated veggies. These you can put all into one cooking cup and even walk with and eat if you can not stop for longer than heating the water, some cookies or candy. Dinner/Main meal would try to be able to heat to prepare and eat since best time to also purify water for the next days travel so it can cool overnight and that sleeping will be the longest amount of time you will have to go without eating. Single serve prepared meals (like Hormel completes) no cardboard to save space, drink mix, desert like cookies, pound cake or brownies.
I personally like the Mainstay bars for my kits. They are tasty, but not tasty enough to get idly snacked on. This way I know they will be there if/when I need them, unlike the countless Granola and Protein bars that went before them. . .
Kathleen OMeal says
Thanks for article Angela!ll
I’ve been at this awhile and have sent MRE’s I make, to military, reserves and with folks in extreme weather situations.
Nutrient dense foods we are used to, are really important. When I first starting out I packed granola bars, a thing I never eat at home. I had fast and furious dysentary from all the cornsyrup and sugar :) I bought a Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer so now FD all of the food I need to pack for 1 month, used to dehydrate….bulky but lightweight….lots of fruit/whey/green/braggs amino acid, etc., smoothies. I need way more calories than provided in the backpackers fare…about 4000 or so….I use Emergen-c…30 day packets are light and WHO recipe rehydration packets…also found it’s wise to use foods that digest easier and no fast sugar high salt foods because I get water compartmenting some during high physical stress times and I want to keep the swelling at a minimum in feet and hands….I pack long shelf vitamins (super spectrum) and probiotics. Juicy Tabs are also great I found.
I studied special ops foods for mauevers from all over the world and decided to do more high fiber things. Freezedrying makes that a little easier I think. I love Cafe rio and do their chicken fajita for the trail….so to speak, complete with huge tortilla. I also
keep a month food pack in my vehicles at all times when the weather is cool. When it isnt, I carry a pack with my food, medication, and water equipment out the door with me every time I leave my house. It’s basically a day pack that can connect onto my main pack. So…I have a month’s supply of these things with me all the time In the 90’s when the North East ICe storm happened in my area, I had to ski to the hospital where I work, about 15 miles and crawl almost 1/4 mile on glare ice with my pack and get to the lab where I worked at that time. I had to throw my bag ahead of me and then use it to help me get up the ice…it was a horror even with yax trax like footware. There was no one to come in so I stayed for almost a week straight…sleeping in my sleeping bag a couple hours here and there. I felt good that the Hospital didnt need to provide for me during that time. And….I had enough very tasty food for those who were able to get in after about 4 days. Things happen!
Papa J says
I no longer keep food in my GHB. I used to, but with my bag staying in my truck it gets a bit too hot. I now keep a small cooler with my food in it and if I venture more than a days walk home, I take it with me. Sometimes I will grab a blue ice with it if I feel it to be necessary. High heat as you know kills the food very fast.
The food department in my get home bag is pretty stripped down: A quantity of “Pro Bar Meal” nutrition bars….they’re still chewable in a winter freeze scenario, don’t become too gooey in the summer and have a satisfactory protein/carbohydrate/fat ratio. Also I have “Minute Rice” multi grain mix….cooks in 10 minutes and doesn’t taste too bad. Cooked up over my micro camp stove with some tuna or salmon in a pouch (from the supermarket) and some freeze dried green peas, seasoned with a packet of soy sauce from the Chinese take-out, and it’s an OK meal. I keep the GHB in my pickup truck with more of the same food in a re-purposed power tool bag…….there’s enough to feed two people for about four days….longer if we were scavenging or buying.