Everyone should have a well-stocked pantry or cupboards full of enough food to last for several days or even weeks. But while that might be a good idea during normal times, when disaster strikes and grocery store shelves are empty it might make the difference between life and death. Here’s a list of the top 25 foods you should make sure to keep around to make sure that you can survive in the event of a seriously disruptive emergency.
People can survive without food for weeks. But without water, they’ll die within a matter of days. Calculate the amount of water you’ll need each day for drinking, cooking, and cleaning and make sure that you have at least two weeks of water stored away. Rotate it periodically because even water can go bad if it’s stored for years.
Beans provide useful fiber and protein. Both canned and dried beans can be stockpiled. Dried beans should be tested to see if they can be sprouted, as bean sprouts are a good source of Vitamin C, which will prevent scurvy.
3. White Rice
White rice has been developed to be shelf-stable for months or years at a time. Make sure that you store the rice in a manner that is impervious to mice and insects, and make sure to rotate through your supply on a regular basis.
Pasta is also able to be stored for years at a time without going bad and will provide you with a primary source of carbohydrates. The number of sauces you can make for it is endless, so no meal has to taste the same as the next.
Flour has many different uses, included baking, thickening sauces, and making quick, easy foods such as tortillas. If you’re looking to store flour for the long term, white flours will generally keep longer than whole wheat flours. You could even store cornmeal, grits, or other flours besides wheat to provide some variety. Be sure to keep flour safe from insects and rodents, rotate through your stores on a regular basis, and don’t be afraid to throw it away if it goes rancid.
6. Canned Vegetables
Canned tomatoes, in particular, are the most useful vegetable to stash away. The flavor and acidity of tomato can make any unpalatable food tasty. They also can be used as a base for soups, pasta sauces, etc. Other vegetables such as can corn, hominy, green beans, etc. can liven up soups and sauces or be eaten as stand alone side dishes.
7. Canned Fruit
Everyone is going to want something sweet after a while. Canned fruit will keep for years and will help soothe the cravings of that sweet tooth.
8. Canned Meat
What type of canned meat you store is up to you. Canned bacon exists, although it’s a bit on the expensive side. Small tins of Vienna sausages or cans of Spam can be used to provide some taste, texture, and protein to rice- and bean-based dishes.
9. Canned Fish
Canned tuna, mackerel, and salmon can provide a good supply of protein and healthy fats. Incorporating them into soups or pasta salads can help make them more palatable to those who aren’t fond of fishy tastes.
Honey will keep for years because of its low moisture content. Not only can it be used as a sweetener, but honey also has use as a basic antibiotic when spread on small cuts and abrasions.
Salt is perhaps the most important commodity to store other than water. Not only does it perk up bland-tasting food, but it plays an important role in preserving food and preventing spoilage.
Sugar also plays a role in the preserving process and a role in cooking and baking. While you don’t want to eat too much-refined sugar, it does have its place in your pantry.
Shelf-stable fats will be needed for cooking, and for providing much-needed fat for the body to survive. Too little fat in the diet can lead to death, i.e. rabbit starvation. Fats such as ghee (clarified butter) and coconut oil can remain on shelves for long periods of time without oxidizing, unlike many vegetable oils.
Not only can vinegar be used in foods and salad dressings, but it also can be used in pickling vegetables and in cleaning around the house.
Jerky is another source of meat that you can store away. A well-made jerky can keep for weeks or months on the shelf without spoiling.
16. Nut Butters
Peanut butter and other nut butters are a good source of healthy fats that will keep on shelves for a long time.
17. Gravy and Salad Dressing Mixes
Even plain white rice will taste amazing with a little bit of gravy on it. Gravy and salad dressing mixes can spice up otherwise bland dishes or can be used to punch up vegetable sides.
18. Bouillon Cubes
Bouillon cubes can be used to start soups when meat or bones aren’t available or can be added to dishes to provide extra flavor to other dishes.
19. Dried Fruit
Some dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, apricots, and cranberries can liven up salads and main dishes.
20. Herbs and Spices
Spices can add taste and variety to otherwise monotonous food. Seasoned salt, garlic powder, and herbs and spices such as cumin, paprika, turmeric, thyme, oregano, etc. provide many health benefits in addition to making food taste better. You can even grow some of the more common herbs in your garden or in small pots.
21. Canned Milk
Condensed or evaporated milk provides much-needed calcium and can add body to gravies.
Nuts will provide a good source of fats and minerals and will keep for quite a while without going bad.
Spirits such as vodka, whiskey, and rum have a number of different uses. Historically they were watered down to kill microorganisms in the water and make the water palatable to drink. They can be used for cleaning, especially if the alcohol content is higher than the normal 40%, or they can be used for cooking sauces such as vodka sauce.
Vitamin C will be the vitamin that is most difficult to get a hold of in emergencies, but it is necessary for preventing scurvy. A good supply of other vitamins can’t hurt either. Vitamin D is helpful for avoiding depression in wintertime, and Vitamin A might be needed too if your diet lacks sources such as vegetables or liver.
25. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce can be purchased and stored in bulk. It can be used as a marinade or to provide extra flavor or salt for food dishes, keeping your granulated salt free to be used for more important uses such as food preservation.