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Survival Guide - How To Choose The Right Food For An Emergency Kit (and other things to consider)

Updated: Mar 17, 2023



While we at Secure Foods collaborate with businesses and other organizations to support their workforce with emergency foods, we also want to encourage and support individuals with the information needed to support themselves.


If you can't afford to do all of it on your own, you may be able to build a case for your employer to help not only yourself but the entire workforce.


Emergency food kit is a smart and responsible way to prepare for unexpected situations. In this blog post, I will guide how to build an emergency food kit to sustain you for at least 72 hours.


Then we will explore going beyond the basics.


Emergency Foods


Firstly, considering the appropriate food types for your emergency food kit is important. You will want to choose non-perishable items with long shelf life, such as freeze-dried and dehydrated foods, canned goods, dried fruits, nuts, granola bars and dried vegetables. Foods that do not require cooking or refrigeration are ideal, as you may need access to electricity or gas during an emergency.

We will mention canned goods a few more times because they are great dense sources of nutrition and are especially good if traveling by car or sheltering in place.


But, as canned items are quite heavy, they are not recommended if you need to transport them on foot. Opt for freeze-dried and dehydrated items instead.

When selecting items for your emergency food kit, aim for a variety of options that can provide a range of nutrients. Look for items high in protein, fiber, and carbohydrates for sustained energy and health.


While most people may focus merely on total calories, this can become detrimental in the long run.

For several reasons, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods are a good idea to put in an emergency food kit. Firstly, they have a long shelf life, which means they can last for years without spoiling or going bad.


This makes them an ideal choice for an emergency food kit that may need to be stored for extended periods. Secondly, they are lightweight and compact, which makes them easy to transport and store, especially if you need to evacuate your home quickly.

Additionally, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods are also a good source of nutrition, especially when they are made with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and proteins.


They can be easily rehydrated and cooked, providing a hot meal during an emergency situation. However, it is important to remember that some of these foods may be high in sodium or other preservatives, so it is essential to read the labels carefully.

Please consider any dietary restrictions or allergies you or your family may have when choosing food items.

Next, you will want to assemble your emergency food kit in a sturdy container or bag that is easy to carry. You can use a backpack, but make sure it is large enough to hold all your food items and any necessary utensils or tools.

Here is a list of suggested items to include in your emergency food kit:


  • Canned fruits and vegetables

  • Canned meat, such as tuna or chicken

  • Dried fruits and nuts

  • Peanut butter or other nut butter

  • Granola bars or energy bars

  • Crackers or rice cakes

  • Instant oatmeal or cereal

  • Powdered milk or shelf-stable milk boxes

  • Bottled water or water purification tablets

  • Disposable utensils, plates, and cups

  • Can opener

  • Multivitamins


Think of Nutrition like a High-Performance Athlete

When building an emergency food kit, it's important to consider the nutritional content of the foods included. Ideally, the foods should be high in calories, protein, and fiber, while also providing a variety of essential vitamins and minerals.

For calories, aim for at least 2,000-2,500 calories per day for adults, and adjust accordingly for children and individuals with higher activity levels.


Foods high in calories include nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, and granola bars.

Protein is important for maintaining muscle mass and providing energy. Good protein sources include canned meats such as tuna or chicken, beef jerky, and protein bars. Plant-based options such as nuts and seeds, lentils, and beans are also great sources of protein and fiber.

Fiber is important for digestive health and can help keep you feeling full. Some good sources of fiber to include in your emergency food kit are whole-grain crackers, oatmeal, and dried fruits.

In addition to calories, protein, and fiber, it's important to consider the overall nutritional quality of the foods included in your emergency kit. Aim to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as canned vegetables, dried fruits, and whole grain crackers.

Again, it is important to note that individuals with specific dietary restrictions or food allergies should tailor their emergency food kit accordingly. Consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized advice.

Overall, building an emergency food kit that is both nutritionally balanced and practical for storage and transport is key to ensuring you have the necessary sustenance during a crisis.


By choosing non-perishable, nutrient-dense food items and assembling them in a sturdy container, you can be better prepared to sustain yourself and your family for at least 72 hours in an emergency.


Remember, take on the stress of doing this now so that once it is done, your emergency food kit can help provide peace of mind during unexpected situations.


Food Kit Storage and Care


Once you have assembled your emergency food kit, store it in a cool, dry place easily accessible in an emergency.


Check the expiration dates of all items periodically and replace any expired items as needed.


Think Beyond Just Food.


Here are some non-food items you might want to consider including in your kit:


  1. Water: Water is essential for survival, so it's important to have a supply of clean drinking water in your kit. You should aim for at least one gallon of water per person daily for three days.

  2. First aid kit: Injuries can happen during emergencies, so having a basic first aid kit in your kit can be helpful. Make sure it includes bandages, antiseptic, and any necessary prescription medications.

  3. Flashlight and batteries: In the event of a power outage, you'll need a reliable light source. A flashlight and extra batteries can help you navigate in the dark.

  4. Multi-purpose tool: A multi-purpose tool, such as a Swiss Army Knife, can come in handy during emergencies. It can be used for a variety of tasks, including opening cans, cutting rope, and starting fires.

  5. Blankets: Staying warm is important, especially during cold weather. Consider including a blanket or two in your kit to help keep you and your family warm.

  6. Personal hygiene items: Being able to maintain personal hygiene can help prevent the spread of illness. Consider including items such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer in your kit.

  7. Cash: In the event of a power outage or other emergency, credit card machines may not work. It's a good idea to have some cash on hand in case you need to purchase supplies.


By including these non-food items in your emergency food kit, you'll be better prepared to handle any emergency that comes your way.

FAQs on Emergency Kits

What kinds of disasters should I be considering preparing for?


In general, an emergency food kit can help people be prepared to survive any kind of disaster or emergency that forces them to leave their homes or workplace and cut off access to food sources. Some examples of emergencies and disasters that a kit like this can help with are natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or fires.


It can also be useful for man-made disasters like power outages, riots, chemical spills, or terrorist attacks. In any situation where access to food is limited or cut off, having a well-stocked emergency food kit can make all the difference in ensuring survival and comfort during a stressful and difficult time. Find the Emergency Manager for your state or county and visit them to discuss the kinds of anticipated emergencies they prepare for each day.


What might I have missed when building my Emergency Food Kit?


Depending on your age, marital status, and family situation, there are a few additional considerations you may want to keep in mind when building your emergency food kit.


  1. Age: If you're an older adult, you may have special dietary needs that you'll want to consider when selecting food items for your kit. For example, you may need lower-sodium or lower-sugar options. Additionally, if you take medication, ensure you include enough to last a few days.

  2. Marital status: If you're married or in a relationship, consider packing enough food for yourself and your partner. Make sure you consider any dietary restrictions or preferences they may have.

  3. Children: If you have children, you'll want to pack food items that are easy to prepare and appeal to their tastes. You may also want to pack some comfort items, such as a favorite toy or stuffed animal, to help them feel more secure during an emergency.

  4. Caring for others: If you're responsible for the care of others, such as aging parents or someone with a disability, you'll want to ensure you have enough food and supplies for them. Consider any special dietary needs or medical requirements they may have, and make sure you have any necessary medications or medical supplies on hand.


What About Personal Safety and Self-Defence?


When building an emergency food kit, personal defense items should be considered case-by-case.


It is important to prioritize safety in any emergency, but including weapons or other defensive tools may only be necessary or appropriate for some. If you feel that personal defense items are necessary for your specific situation, make sure to research and train with them properly to ensure that you can use them safely and effectively.


What else should I start learning?

Education is also a key component of emergency preparedness.


Knowing basic first aid and CPR can be lifesaving in an emergency situation, as well as being able to identify and respond to different types of emergencies. It is also important to stay informed about the latest news and developments in emergency preparedness and any potential threats or hazards in your area.


In addition to personal defense and education, there are other things to consider when building an emergency kit.


For example, learning basic survival skills such as building a fire, finding water, and constructing shelter may be useful.


Having a plan for communication and evacuation in the event of an emergency is also important, especially if you have children or are caring for others.


Ultimately, the goal of an emergency food kit is to be as prepared as possible for any type of emergency or disaster.


How do I stay in communication with my family and friends?


To dive deeper into the idea of communications, having a communication plan in place is essential during an emergency to ensure the safety and well-being of loved ones. Here are some ways to put together a plan:


  1. Identify the best communication methods: Identifying the best way to communicate with your loved ones during an emergency is important. This could include cell phones, text messages, social media platforms, walkie-talkies, or landline phones.

  2. Establish a primary contact: Identify a person who will be your primary point of contact during an emergency. This could be a family member, friend, or neighbor living outside the affected area.

  3. Create a phone tree: A phone tree is a simple and effective way to communicate quickly with a large group of people. Create a list of everyone's phone numbers and designate a person to call the next person on the list.

  4. Practice the plan: It's important to practice the communication plan with your loved ones to ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency—practice scenarios such as evacuations, power outages, and natural disasters.


In terms of equipment, having a fully charged cell phone, a portable battery pack, and a solar charger can be helpful in case of power outages. Walkie-talkies are also useful for communication during an emergency, especially in areas with limited cell service.


Is Communication Training Important?

As for training, it's important to educate yourself and your loved ones on how to use communication devices and understand emergency protocols. Local community centers or emergency management agencies often offer training courses on emergency preparedness.

In summary, practicing a communication plan with your loved ones can help ensure everyone's safety and well-being during an emergency. Identifying the best communication methods, establishing a primary contact, creating a phone tree, and practicing the plan are key steps in developing an effective communication strategy. Additionally, having the right equipment and basic training can help you stay connected and informed during an emergency.


Are there other items to consider adding to my Emergency Kit?


If you are considering adding additional items to your emergency food kit, I highly recommend that individuals also add the following when building a comprehensive portable emergency kit:


  1. Personal documents: Keep copies of important documents such as driver's licenses, passports, and insurance policies in a waterproof and portable container.

  2. Sanitation supplies: Pack items such as moist towelettes, garbage bags, and toilet paper to maintain hygiene and cleanliness.

  3. Clothing: Pack a change of clothes and a sturdy pair of shoes in case you need to evacuate.

  4. Emergency blanket: A reflective emergency blanket can provide warmth in cold temperatures and can also be used for shelter.

  5. Maps: Include a map of your local area in your emergency kit in case you need to evacuate and are not familiar with the area.

  6. Comfort items: Don't forget to pack items such as a favorite toy, book, or game to provide comfort and entertainment during stressful times.


Remember to regularly review and update your emergency kit to ensure that it remains comprehensive and up-to-date.


What if the Short-term Disaster Becomes Long-Term?


If a short-term disaster turns into a long-term or multi-year disaster, it's important for people to develop skills that can help them survive in the long run. Here are a few skills to consider:


  1. Gardening: Growing your food is essential in a long-term disaster. Learn how to grow vegetables, fruits, and herbs in your backyard or containers.

  2. Hunting and fishing: If you live in an area where hunting and fishing are allowed, learning these skills can provide a sustainable source of protein.

  3. Water collection and purification: Access to clean water is crucial for survival. Learn how to collect rainwater and purify it using filters or chemicals.

  4. First aid: In a long-term disaster, medical care may not be available. Learning first aid skills can help you treat injuries and illnesses.

  5. Self-defense: In a long-term disaster, law and order may break down. Learning self-defense skills can help you protect yourself and your family.

  6. Basic home repair: In a long-term disaster, basic home repair skills can help you maintain your shelter and keep it safe and secure.

  7. Bartering: In a long-term disaster, cash may become worthless. Learning how to barter can help you acquire the goods and services you need to survive.


These are just a few examples of skills that can be useful in a long-term disaster. It's important to assess your specific situation and prepare accordingly.


The skills required to survive in a long-term disaster situation are similar to those necessary for our ancestors to survive in pre-modern times when human societies largely depended on subsistence agriculture, hunting, and gathering. Before modern technology and infrastructure advent, our specific ancestors needed to know how to produce their own food, build shelter, make clothing, and provide for their basic needs without relying on external resources. You, too, can learn all of these things! These skills are still important in the undeveloped world and would be particularly prescient in a long-term disaster or societal collapse. In general, people today think that societal collapse can’t happen. Yet, when we look at all civilizations prior to the incredible one we are in today, there isn’t a single one that survived.


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