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Have you ever been to the grocery store right before a bad storm rolls in?
The shelves quickly empty of eggs, bread and milk as if the entire region planned to ride out the storm eating French toast.
Preparing an emergency food supply means taking the time before a crisis starts to figure out what you and your family need to maintain good health.
What types of food do you need in your emergency storage?
In emergency situations, it is important that you and your family members get sufficient nutrients and calories. A common tactic among some emergency food providers is to list the number of servings rather than nutritional information. Relying on the listed servings is not adequate because the number of servings is meaningless if they lack the proper ingredients to sustain needed energy.
The Quality Survival Standards (QSS) established by beprepared.com recommend a minimum of 1,800 calories and 40 grams of protein per person per day based on USDA data. And a minimum of 2,200 calories and 50 grams of protein for QSS+. Individual daily caloric and protein needs may vary depending on age, weight, gender, physical activity, health conditions, metabolic rate and weather conditions.
High-energy foods. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you stock your emergency food storage with proteins, carbohydrates and good fats. These include nuts, dried meats, whole-grain products and canned fruits and vegetables. (Don't forget to stock a can opener!) Empty calories from sugar drinks will not do the trick.
Drinking water. Ready.gov recommends storing one gallon per person per day for a three-day supply, which includes water for cooking, sanitizing and drinking. However, dehydrated and freeze-dried foods require a considerable amount of water for rehydration, a factor that is not considered by government sources. You should have 64 ounces or ½ gallon per person per day for drinking, plus at least 64 ounces for cooking and hygiene. Your food might require more.
Spices. Do you have a family recipe for taco meat? Do you like cinnamon sugar on your oatmeal? What about curried rice? Be sure to include some of your favorite herbs and spices to give your emergency food stash a taste of home. Most spices are not packaged for long-term shelf-life, which requires an oxygen, moisture and light impermeable container and an oxygen absorbing oxy pack. Moisture and excess oils and fats are also removed from dehydrated and freeze dried foods, which adds to their shelf life.
What should you not store in your emergency food supply?
Dried beans. Though beans are a great source of protein, they take lots of water and fuel to cook. Stock freeze-dried or dehydrated beans, which can be reconstituted with much less water, fuel and time.
Salty snacks. Salty snacks make you thirsty, which can create an unnecessary dip in your drinking water supply.
Unfamiliar foods. Build your supply around foods you know how to prepare and your family likes to eat. Even the CDC recommends stocking some comfort foods, perhaps as a way to maintain some normalcy in an emergency. Just make sure the staples of your emergency pantry have a good, balanced nutritional profile.
How much protein do I need per day?
While the 40 grams a day mentioned above is a good general guideline, the USDA provides a calculator to help you determine your exact protein needs based on gender, age, weight and other factors.
Getting enough protein is not as difficult as you think. If meat isn't available during a crisis, there are also many good sources of plant-based proteins that provide 7 to 10 grams of protein per serving.
You can stock freeze-dried meats, as well as soy-based meat substitutes and protein-dense foods if you're a vegetarian or vegan or want some variety in what you store.
Beans and rice combined make a complete or perfect protein (containing all 9 essential amino acids) and they also provide high-quality calories for lasting energy. Soy, whey, pea protein and quinoa also provide complete proteins.
What about fruits and vegetables?
Fresh fruits and vegetables may not be readily available in a crisis. You may need to rely on canned, dehydrated or freeze-dried produce. However, everyday canned fruits and vegetables do not have a long shelf-life, they’re heavy and bulky and typically do not have the same nutritional value as freeze dried. Make sure your emergency food was specifically prepared and packaged by a reputable company for long-term storage.
According to Mother Earth News, "Freeze-dried foods have a longer shelf life, retain flavors and nutrients better, and rehydrate rapidly, but are much more expensive to produce than dried foods."
With planning, some creativity and a store of nutritious foods, you and your family can face an emergency with confidence, clear heads and full bellies.
As you plan and buy foods that fit your family's needs and wants, try the high-nutrient and quality survival standard products from Salt Lake City-based preparedness company beprepared.com.