In the days and hours, leading up to a disaster is not the time to try to build your emergency food cache. Grocery and other retail stores will be clogged with procrastinators in the hours before the disaster is expected to strike, which may mean you will leave empty handed. Many storms are seasonal and everyone generally knows the time of year they can expect one, and then there are the ones that can strike without warning such as earthquakes or dam and levee failures. In other words, a devastating disaster can strike at anytime and if you are not prepared that makes it even more devastating.
Doomsday preppers and even governmental agencies recommend at least a 72-hour supply of emergency food. However, in some cases, the storm itself can rage for 72 hours, and then during the aftermath you may be facing days without utilities so it is recommended you have at least a 14-day supply of emergency food cached. You will eat more than you have planned on and you may need to help a friend or neighbor so your best calculations on how long the food will last are probably wrong. A 14-day supply gives you that added margin of error to cover unforeseen events.
Obviously, any emergency food cache cannot contain any foods that require refrigeration. Additionally, you must think about how much preparation the food requires. Without electricity and/or gas you will be left without a cooking range, so alternative means of cooking must be considered. Dehydrated foods while, they have an extended shelf life, up to 30 years in some cases unopened, do require water to reconstitute the foods and a means to boil water. Water may be in short supply, as well as fuel for cooking so keep this in mind.
Canned foods can be eaten without heating and can be literally eaten out of the can although you are limited on variety. To have a well balanced diet you would have to cache multiples of cans. Expect a one-year shelf life from date of purchase on most canned goods. Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) are another option, the shelf life for military issued and civilian MRE’s is between five and seven years. You have a variety from which to choose from and they do not require water or heating in their preparation. However, the packages can be immersed in hot water for heating of the food. The MRE packages typically contain a variety of common condiments, gum and matches in some cases, along with eating utensils.
Storage is important and if possible do not store all of your emergency food cache in one place. If you have a break-in or your home is damaged you may lose your entire supply. If you have any outbuildings, or even underground storage it is recommended you split up your cache. Do not advertise you are well stockpiled because this will only draw unnecessary attention. Strangers, neighbors and even friends will seek those they know are prepared during a disaster. Even friends and neighbors can become desperate in a crisis and do things they would never consider under normal circumstances.