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How to Build an Emergency Food Supply

Food is a topic that is popping up a lot lately. Well, I think you are going to see much more on food as the days go on. There are some very real challenges in worldwide food production. If I am honest they seem to be insurmountable from where I am standing.

If you want my forecast, well, I think things are going to get much worse and the limited yields will affect everyone around the globe.

So, what should you do about it?

uncooked foods in carton box prepared for disaster emergency conditions

I think a good place to start is to build an emergency food supply that can sustain your family in times of a global food crisis. This is a lot easier than it sounds. We will take you step by step in this article.

The Two Important Questions

We are going to start with the two most important questions when it comes to planning an emergency food supply.

What are your Caloric Needs?

Calculating your family’s caloric needs is very simple. I recommend figuring out the daily need first and then applying that as you move forward. Basically, you are going to take the number of people in your home and multiply that by 2000.

2000 is the number of calories you need for each person on a daily basis. Even if you have little kids use the baseline of 2000 because the kids will eventually grow up!

EXAMPLE: Family of 4 people 2000 x 4 = 8000 calories per day.

How Many Days of Emergency Food Do You Need?

Now that you know your daily caloric needs for the family, you have to figure out how many days to prepare for. Then you can really figure out how many calories you need to be prepared.

Beyond the math of it all, though, there is a very real decision to make and that is for how long do you wish to be fed? For some, the answer might be as long as possible! Though space and money will make an idea like that impossible, it will be best to choose a duration.

FEMA would like you to have a couple of weeks of extra food on hand. You might feel a little more comfortable with 1 month’s worth of food on hand. My recommendation is to have a goal of around 3 months worth of food because then you have time to make big changes if need be.

I know many people who have 6 months to 1 year’s worth of food or more on hand! Figure out your magic number and start building that emergency food supply.

Woman shopper buying water for emergency food supply

Each Supermarket Trip

For the average person, an emergency food supply is going to begin at the supermarket. Your weekly trips to the market can yield much more than you think and it can happen in a hurry without that much investment upfront.

If you spend an extra $20 each week at the supermarket on nonperishable foods then in a matter of months you will see a big difference in the amount of food you have on hand. Here is a quick list of extra items you should buy each market trip

  • 2 Extra Boxes of Pasta
  • 2 Extra Favorite Soups
  • 1 Extra Bag of White Rice
  • 1 Extra Pasta Sauce
  • 3 Extra Idahoan Mashed Potato Flakes
  • 2 Extra Canned Entrees (beef stew, chicken & dumplings, chili, etc.)

Buy your family’s favorite types and flavors and in a matter of months, you will be building a serious emergency food supply.

Build Your Prepper’s Pantry

Those supermarket trips are the beginnings of building your prepper’s pantry. With a robust pantry, you will be able to keep your family fed and happy in most common disasters. Over time you can begin to add things like long-term dairy options, dry beans, a variety of canned goods, and whatever else your family likes.

We like to eat popped corn so I keep lots of popping corn kernels on hand because they are easy to prepare and a healthy snack.

If you can find some canned meats that you do not mind eating then these things can go a long way, too! If there is a meat shortage or the prices skyrocket, having canned meat options is important.

Your prepper’s pantry should be a reflection of what your family likes to eat.

well-stocked home pantry


If you are going to store lots of canned food as part of your emergency food supply, then you need to understand FIFO and the importance of rotating your canned goods. All of these trips to the supermarket might have you cramming canned goods into the pantry.

If you cram the new cans in front of the old cans, because it’s easier, then the older cans are going to get really old before you use them.

Food safety practices that restaurants, and your local supermarket, practice keep this from happening to them. They would lose a lot of money on spoiled products if not. They also practice FIFO.

  • First
  • In
  • First
  • Out

When you bring home those groceries you slide the oldest foods to the front of the pantry and place the new goods behind them. This is proper rotation. This is FIFO. The first products you put into the pantry are the first ones to be opened and eaten.

If you do this properly then every time you reach for a can in your pantry it will be the oldest one and you can use it up before the newer canned and dry goods. This is very important with grains like rice and flour as they can bring pests into the home.

Storing Long Term Food Storage

Beyond the prepper’s pantry, you can also start storing long-term food storage like Mountain House or other great survival food kits. These could come in handy when facing a serious natural disaster that shuts down services for more than a couple of weeks.

Right now we are almost certain that the cost of non-perishable foods is going to go up over the next year. So, now is the time to take action.

Long-term food storage is about more than just canned foods. These kinds of foods are often dehydrated, freeze-dried, or packaged in such a way to greatly enhance their shelf life.

Many long-term food storage options last between 20 and 25 years on the shelf!

ReadyWise food containers on store shelf

Survival Food Companies

The market for survival food and long-term food storage has gotten crowded over the last 10 years. Frankly, there are a lot of different companies offering a lot of different things that you could choose from. Places like Augason Farms or Mountain House do a great job at providing these long-term survival food kits.

We have a great article on the 9 Best Survival Food Companies, that would be a great read for you before you consider buying long-term food storage. Get an in-depth look at some of my favorite companies and categories of food storage that they do best.

While these purchases are more of an investment than the extras you buy from the supermarket they can also affect your overall preparedness in a very big way. They not only put extra food on your shelves but also give you long-term security when it comes to food.

Never forget that you can help when you have extra. You can be the person who helps neighbors and friends through disasters if you have extra food to hand out.

DIY Food Storage

Survival food companies are not the only ones who can put rice and beans in buckets. You are more than capable of bucketing up your own survival food. It is really not that hard. In fact, it is more of a mental thing. It’s the crossing of some kind of threshold where you decide that you are going to take radical control of your life despite what happens at the supermarket or around the world.

Whenever you take big steps like that it can be intimidating. Once you do it, though, you will feel powerful and at peace with the chaos of the times. It becomes just another weapon in your arsenal against these times.

You will need four things if you are going to bucket up your own long-term food storage.

  • 5 Gallon Buckets
  • 1 Gallon Mylar Bags
  • 300cc Oxygen Absorbers
  • Dry Non Perishable Food (Rice, Beans, Lentils, Sugar, Flour)

Your dry foods will first go into the Mylar bags. You will drop in the oxygen absorbers and then seal the bags up with a hot hair straightener or iron. Mylar heat seals. Then they go into the 5-gallon bucket which is sealed with a lid. You can usually fit three bags into one bucket.

You can also buy one big 5 gallon Mylar bag but you will need stronger oxygen absorbers for the larger quantity of food.

Stored in a location that is safe from moisture and fluctuating temperatures, this food will last up to 20 years! I have personally opened 5-year-old rice and eaten it. Stored this way there is basically no difference in quality.

Green beans in a traditional process of canning

Adding Preservation

Another way to build on your emergency food supply is to preserve fresh foods. If you can do things like can or dehydrate foods then you will have the ability to store even more food for the long term.

This can be the best way to get the most out of your garden or your fruit trees. However, you do not need a garden to take advantage of preservation. The farmer’s markets and supermarkets often sell things that are close-dated. Fresh foods that are overripe. These are perfect candidates for canning jams or dehydrating something like sliced apples.

Let’s take a closer look at some preservation methods.


If you have a pressure canner and a good canning book with recipes then you can basically can up your own emergency food kits! Everything from strawberry jam to meatballs can be canned for years at a time.

Imagine being able to make one big meal and feed the family with half of it, then can the other half for another time! That is some good planning and it will add up in a hurry.

You cannot just wing it with canning though. It is a process that you have to learn. You must follow the recipes exactly because canned meals need to be heated sufficiently to kill bacteria.


Another great way to take advantage of the preservation of fresh foods for your emergency food supply is by dehydrating them. Now, you can dehydrate a variety of foods in the warm months. If you want to get serious about dehydrating fresh foods and storing them long-term, then you should invest in a small dehydrator.

Hamilton Beach 32100A Digital Food Dehydrator, 5 Tray, Gray

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These machines are easy to use and you can slice up old produce that is overripe and lay it out on the racks to dry overnight. The next morning you will have dehydrated foods that can be stored in Mylar bags to snack on later.

Freeze Drying

Freeze-drying creates a superior product to dehydrating but it comes at a SUPERIOR price, too! A home freeze drier is expensive but if you have the money to invest in one it can be a great tool. You can freeze dry just about any type of food you like!

I have seen people freeze dry ice cream sandwiches and store them in the pantry! Not a bad way to deal with a disaster.

Freeze-dried foods can also be bagged up and stored like long-term food storage. In fact, the meals that you buy from food storage companies are just that. They are freeze-dried foods that are packaged to last up to 20 years.

Start Your Emergency Food Supply Today

The very best way to build an emergency food supply is to get started today! Now is the time to write out that list of extra foods that you are going to buy at the supermarket so you are prepared for your next trip.

It is a great time to do some research on the survival food companies that best fit your needs. Things like price, menu, and availability are going to drive you to one company or another. You have lots of options out there.

I believe there will come a time when creating an emergency food supply will be much more difficult and maybe not possible at all. You are fortunate that you have time on your side and the prices of food are still relatively cheap.

The rest is in your hands.

If you’re searching for more prepping and survival food information, check out our page on Food.