Emergency Survival Food Kits and more

bare grocery shelves

What is Emergency Survival Food?

This seems like it might be a no-brainer here, but not everyone really understands what will happen or what to do if there is a disruption in the food supply chain. It’s important to have food in reserve for the times when we find ourselves unable to get to a store or when the shelves are wiped out. 

No matter where you live, natural disasters can happen, as well as national emergencies such as the one we are experiencing right now with COVID-19. Emergency survival food is made up of a variety of food which you can store for many months, possibly even for years, so that when you need it, you’re in good shape. 

Think of dried goods such as dry beans, powdered milk, rice, flour, sugar, coffee, non-dairy powdered creamer, cornmeal, oatmeal, canned meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. It’s just as important to have water in reserves as well. That’s another topic we will have to discuss in the future. 

Let’s talk more in-depth about the types of food that you should have on hand, in case you’ve got to provide for your family in a time of lockdown like cities are experiencing right now, all around the country.

What is happening?

All across the world, people are reacting to the ongoing situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic. This is causing panic buying, mostly by folks who are unprepared and do not know what to do or how to handle a situation like this. As a result, the supply chain is strained and many stores are out of necessities and their shelves are bare.

Needless to say, people are losing their minds due to a lack of preparation on their part. As such, there are many people who were caught off guard and don’t even have enough food to last a week. This is a major problem. 

How much food should I have for an emergency?

You should always have food to last your family at least a week in the case of any emergency. If you live in parts of the country that are more susceptible to natural disasters, such as hurricanes or floods, you may need to have more food stored on hand. 

A lot of things can happen that cause you to be unable to get to a store. Keep in mind, a week is a minimum and is just a threshold to get you started. 

Having an emergency supply of food and other necessities is a great idea, and it’s likely that most Americans understand this much better right now. Social media sheds a little light on what is going on. 

Let’s learn from this and understand that it only takes one world crisis to shut down supply chains or at least put major stress on them. It takes one moment of panic to clear entire aisles of every store within miles of toilet paper. It may be fear-mongering or things may really be bad. What certainly makes it worse is to not be prepared ahead of time. 

If you have a family, they’re counting on you to feed them and keep them safe during emergencies. It’s really important we take this as a hard lesson and do better to ensure we can handle a crisis, as families and as a nation. 

How to buy emergency food on a budget?

This isn’t easy when families live on less than $40,000 per year, as many do. It’s hard to pay bills and keep the power on for many families in America, so the question is: How do you stock up when most families are on a tight budget? 

To start off, just buy a few items extra each time you go to the store. If you make it a habit to purchase 2 of “something” every now and then, get extra when things are marked down, and put those things in your supply, then you can gradually build your stock up. 

Use coupons and hit stores when things are on sale. Specifically, shop with food storage in mind. This will help you in the long run. Many companies have their own coupons available for download on their websites, and you might find that using these can really help you get the items you need. 

As you move through this process, you’ll eventually have 3 days of extra food, then a week’s worth, and then two weeks, etc. Keep stocking up until you have enough food to last your whole family for 6 months. You should be able to survive most major incidents with that amount in reserves and it’s a solid number to work towards.

The best thing to do is to plan meals based on how many people are in your family, think in terms of calories. What you normally need for one week, you’ll need 12x that amount to last for three months. 

Just remember, you can’t pre-buy a ton of foods that won’t keep for a long time. Obviously, fresh meats are great to store in a freezer, but remember that if you don’t have a generator and plenty of gasoline to run it on-hand, your freezer may go down because of a lack of electricity. A supply of emergency survival food is going to have dried meats and canned meats, when possible. 

Buy shelf-stable snack items as well. In a time of emergency, you’re going to want snacks and so will children. Make sure you don’t just put the nutritious stuff in storage. Make sure you’ve got some packages of snacks that will keep for a while. Crackers and potato chips tend to last a while and so do bottled soft drinks. 

What food should I stock for emergencies?

We will further break this down in an upcoming article, but for now, we will cover the basics. Normal foods you will want to stock are things like cans of tuna, canned hams, roast beef, and even things like beef jerky. Some have shorter shelf lives, but as they near those dates just rotate them into your normal meal planning and use them up.

This will give you some easy to obtain options for protein. In a crisis, like this current one, your freezer will be functional, unless we happen to get bad weather on top of what’s going on. 

Should you manage to avoid severe weather during this time of lockdowns, you may be fine with frozen foods if you’ve got a deep freezer. Many people, however, don’t have a big enough freezer, so dry goods make a lot of sense. 

Powdered foods exist in many types and they will keep for a long time – years in most cases. Pre-packaged freeze-dried foods are another option as well. These only require hot water and they are much better than they used to be twenty years ago. You can also buy these in bulk and have them for the next go around. 

Fruit and veggies will need to be canned. If you have a garden and can do your own, this is a great way to get stocked up on food for several months. You can also buy fruit and vegetables in bulk from the grocery store or farmer’s market and have a canning day. Otherwise, when grocery stores have a sale on canned goods, load up. If you’re cash-poor like many Americans are, get just five to ten extra cans (or what you can) of food each week. 

If you do this consistently, you’ll find that you’ve got plenty on-hand at just about any time. 

No matter what, don’t be tempted to dip into your emergency stock until you’re really in an emergency. If you do this, you’ll never get ahead. Make sure you add to your supply, not take from it. We’ll add a list below of common foods you should consider stocking. 

What emergency food/items should I buy?

  • Powdered milk
  • Powdered eggs
  • Freeze-dried or dehydrated meals
  • Canned meats
  • Freeze-dried veggies
  • Instant mashed potatoes
  • Bulk rice
  • Dried beans
  • Granola
  • Cereal
  • Peanut butter (powdered keeps very well too)
  • Dried fruits
  • Cooking oils (really important to have these)
  • Nuts and trail mixes
  • Power bars/protein bars
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • Protein shake mixes
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Canned meats (tuna, beef, chicken, sausages)
  • Canned soups
  • Sports drinks with electrolytes (Pedialyte if you’ve got little ones)
  • Spices (this is often overlooked but make sure you’ve got salt, pepper and the ones you use most)
  • Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, prescribed medications
  • Shampoos and washing necessities
  • Toilet paper, toothpaste, extra toothbrushes, razors, shaving creams, and similar items
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Crackers and chips
  • Dehydrated cheese
  • Soft drinks
  • Snack foods (you can even find dehydrated ice cream)
  • Pasta
  • Ready-made sauces
  • Butter can be frozen if you’ve got electricity

Best Emergency Survival Food Kits

If you have the means, there are companies that offer premade emergency food kits. There are a lot of options out there and some are better than others. However, we do have a few favorites, which are listed below.

Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply

The Mountain House 3-Day Emergency Food Supply Kit is one of the options we recommend. This kit has a total of 20 servings equalling 1,650 per day. Mountain House offers a 30-year taste guarantee, but I’m not sure anyone has tested that. I have some that are probably going on 15 years and will be running some taste tests on it soon.

This kit offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and is meant to be for 1-person for 3-days. Some of the packages have more than one serving per package (confusing, I know). However, depending on how much you eat, this kit could provide for more than one in a pinch.

Keep in mind, while these meals don’t require “hot” water to rehydrate, cold water will essentially double the prep time. I have found I like to use a little less water than the directions call for to prevent meals from being runny. These actually taste pretty good and Mountain House is a regular on some of my longer backpacking and hiking trips. It’s a solid option for emergency preparedness.

Augason Farms 30-Day, 1-Person Emergency Food Supply

This 30-day supply from Augason Farms is another one of our favorites. This emergency food kit offers 30-days of food at 1,854 calories per day, with a shelf-life of 25 years.

This food comes packed in an 8 1/2 gallon bucket that allows for easy stacking and storing. As a bonus, you can put the bucket to use after you empty it. Like most of the other options, you should store dry foods at 50°F for maximum shelf life. However, 70°F is adequate for dry storage of most products. Also, a well-ventilated area for humidity control. 

I find the taste to be on par with Mountain House and the preparation is more of the same. Hot water works best and makes it taste better, but cold water will do the trick also taking twice as long.

Wise Company Emergency Food Supply – 104 Servings

Wise Company Emergency Food Supply is another one of our go-to’s. I’ve used Wise Company for years and have never been disappointed. This 104 serving variety pack comes with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, fruit, vegetables, snacks, and milk. Keep in mind, the serving count may seem high, but it also includes what I would call add on items like butter.

Average “cook” times on these are around 12-15 minutes with hot water. Double that time for cold-soaking. Truth be told, I like the taste of the Mountain House slightly better, but these are still good for ‘survival food’. We are not eating a top-rated restaurant, we are rehydrating freeze-dried food. Our expectations should be based on that.

This emergency food kit sports a beefy 25-year shelf life and the servings come individually packaged. What I like about individual servings is that if I get ready to cycle them out I take them backpacking as my meal options. It makes for a nice way to use them up. This offering is also packaged in a bucket, which again makes it easy to stack and store.

Don’t tell other people about your emergency food supply! 

It may be tempting to talk about your food with those around you, but it’s not always a wise idea. The truth is, when you are in tough times, those people will come to you asking for help. You’re going to find yourself in a tough spot. 

You don’t want to be forced into making a decision between feeding your family and feeding others. You want to be able to make that decision on your own. Either way, it’s a bad place to be in. 

Also, you run the risk of other people, the not so friendly type, finding out you are hoarding food. People will do desperate things in desperate times. This is a sad reality. 

Just like people losing their minds over toilet paper in response to COVID-19, it can eventually turn into mobs looking for food. It really doesn’t take much to scare people half out of their minds and people will do anything if they think they need food. It’s best to keep things quiet. 

What else should I have?

In addition to food, you should be thinking about stocking up on other things you may need such as medical supplies. Do you need medications? See if you can get extra. Some people will have their doctor prescribe extra each month and save a little extra until they’ve got quite a bit extra on hand. If you can, do that. 

Store large bottles of pain relievers, bandages, cold medication, and things like rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. There is no reason not to stock personal hygiene products, and yes, toilet paper. You should have enough of these things on hand to last your family at least one month, at all times. 

If you own a firearm (read firearms), you should make sure you’ve got enough ammunition on hand to take care of things. Don’t always think about fending off the zombie herds, even though it may occur. 

You may also need to hunt for food if it comes down to it. You’ll feel better knowing you’re protected if people begin looking for things to steal. Not likely, but definitely possible. If you’re interested, check our article on the best Survival Rifle.

Water. Water. More water. It takes about a gallon of water per person, each day, to survive. This will include your drinking, cooking, and basic hygiene. If you are without freshwater, as many in flood zones find themselves in, you’ll want to have plenty of water put back as well.

If you live with a well, don’t forget that without power, your pump won’t function. Filling 55-gallon barrels with water and setting them aside is a great idea if you can do this and store them. Do remember that water can become contaminated and you don’t want it to sit for more than 6 months if you filled the containers. 

Store-bought water that has been factory sealed will remain fresh for a while, but not forever. We will go more in-depth into water storage at a later date.

If you have a generator, you’ll want to store extra fuel somewhere well-ventilated and out of sight. You’ll want to keep a few extra cans of oil for it too. If you’ve got a chainsaw, keep an extra chain and oil for that as well. 

If you’ve got small children, put a few things back for them in your stash as well. Candy, cookies, and things like that will help them feel a sense of normalcy. Also, think about having some coloring books, pencils and other art supplies that you can have for them in times you can’t leave the house. It will help everyone maintain a level of sanity.

If you are making cash purchases, use couponing to help stock your home and put aside things that are extra buys each week. Don’t buy anything unless it is on sale. Get some items at dollar stores that often have drastically reduced prices on certain dry food items. 

Bread and snack cakes will mold in time. These will not last indefinitely and can be a waste of your money. Don’t waste your money. Nothing is worse than pulling open something and finding out is spoiled. 


The bottom line is you need to shop smart and in bulk if you’re going to store food and supplies to get you through a crisis. You shouldn’t be out at the last minute, trying to race around and get things you need — like toilet paper!


With over 17 years of federal law enforcement, training, and physical security experience, Cody focuses his time nowadays on both consulting and training. He regularly advises individuals, groups, multinational corporations, schools, houses of worship, and NGOs on security threats while conducting customized training as needed.

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