But just what is a three-day emergency food supply? LSU AgCenter nutritionist and food safety specialist Beth Reames says it involves more than just food.
“People often stock up on the food they need and then forget to have a can opener on hand,” Reames says. “Or they don’t think about how they’ll prepare foods that really need to be heated or store foods that ordinarily would need refrigeration.”
The nutritionist stresses that safely feeding yourself and your family after a storm means you also need to have some way to prepare food or keep it safe — on top of having ample food and water on hand to last the first few days after a storm or other emergency.
“When making your plans and storing what you may need, keep in mind you may be without power, which means you may not have a way to heat things up or refrigerate them,” Reames says. “Make sure the foods you have on hand are adapted to those conditions.”
Some of the foods you could have in your emergency supply include:
—Ready-to-eat canned or packaged meats, fruits and vegetables.
—Canned or powdered juices, milk and soups. (Be sure to store extra water if they’re powdered!)
—Staples such as sugar, salt and pepper.
—High-energy foods such as peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars and trail mix.
—Foods for infants, the elderly or people with special diets (for example, people with diabetes or food allergies).
—Comfort foods or stress-relief foods such as cookies, candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee and tea bags.
Reames also recommends storing at least one gallon of water per person and pet per day for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Consider storing at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family. If you are unable to store this quantity, store as much as you can.
“Choose commercially bottled water or store water from your household system in clean containers for brief time periods when you think you might need it,” she says.
The LSU AgCenter nutritionist also offers these tips to keep in mind when choosing the foods for your emergency supply:
—Choose nonperishable foods that require little or no cooking and no refrigeration.
—Purchase foods in can or jar sizes appropriate for one meal with no leftovers. Once opened or prepared, many foods lose their shelf-stable character and will go bad.
—–Select foods you like and normally eat.
—If you don’t have a way to boil water when the power is off, do not include instant foods that require hot water. Keep in mind foods that require water also will consume your water supply more quickly.
—Keep a supply of disposable plates, bowls, cups and utensils on hand. Otherwise, you could use far too much of your water supply washing dishes.
—Don’t forget baby food, special dietary requirements and food for your pets.
Reames says to buy — and practice using — a hand-crank can opener if you don’t have one already. “You’ll need it to open that can of tuna when the power goes off,” she says.
As you assemble your food and other disaster supplies, keep them in a central location — above potential flood level.
“You also want to store food in the coolest cabinets or a pantry away from appliances that produce heat,” she says. “Use metal, glass or rigid plastic containers to store food that comes in cardboard boxes, thin plastic or paper to avoid insect and rodent damage.”
You can acquire and store your three-day food supply early, then rotate and use this food and water every six to 12 months — or as recommended on the food labels, Reames says.