Auditing Your Emergency Food Stash

Let’s talk about your emergency food stash. You do have an emergency food supply for your home, right?

I’m not talking about hoarding buckets of grain in your basement in anticipation of the 2012 Mayan Apocalypse. I’m just talking about taking that extra step to have a 2-week supply of food and water for everyone in your house (pets included).

When I wrote about this earlier in the year, I referred to it as Food Insurance. That’s just another way of thinking about it: as an insurance policy for your family.

Being prepared for a 2-week period without electricity is not the behavior of a survivalist, conspiracy theorist or wacko. It is simply a smart thing to do. Anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiot.

A few years ago in Illinois we had ice storms that knocked out power in some parts of the state for two weeks or more. This scenario is not far-fetched fiction; it has happened before and it can happen again.

When the power is out, there are no grocery stores, no gas stations, and no ATMs. Even worse, if it is winter, there may be no way to safely drive your car for supplies even if they are available.

Earlier this year I took about $100 and made a trip to Aldi’s, our local discount grocery store, and bought emergency supply of food and water for my wife and two kids (we have no pets).

If you don’t have the extra cash to buy it all at one time, start buying a few extra items at each grocery trip, and stash them away until you have a good supply. Five extra cans and a gallon of water a few times each month is not going to break your budget.


Our Audit

When I started my slow carb diet earlier in the year, I think I raided the emergency stash for some beans on a few occasions. While I believe that I had my wife buy some more to replenish what I took, I can’t quite remember.

Anyway, it’s been about six months since I did this, so it’s the perfect time for an audit of our food insurance. And with winter around the corner, we are approaching the time of year for power outages.

Here’s what I found:

  • 20 gallons of water
  • 10 cans of spinach
  • 12 cans of spaghetti and meatballs
  • 12 cans of chicken breast (9.75 oz, larger size)
  • 12 cans of of potatoes
  • 11 cans of mixed vegetables
  • 11 cans of black beans
  • 6 cans of tuna
  • 3 cans of pinto beans, larger 29 oz size
  • 1 box of dry milk, 26 oz size
  • 1 bottle of bleach


My emergency food audit shows that I only have a week’s worth of water for my family, using the 1 gallon per person, per day standard. I also only have a week’s worth of food.

This is due to some raiding of the stash and an underestimating how much would be needed. I assumed (probably correctly) that we could stretch the stash for 2 weeks if absolutely necessary, though it wouldn’t be fun or desirable.

Rather than plan to struggle, a smarter move would be to just bite the bullet and double the size of the emergency food supply. This would be one major thing that wouldn’t have to become a worry in the event of an unplanned disaster.


Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

  • Don’t tell anyone about it: people will think you are weird, and they will know who to call when they are caught unprepared. It’s okay to tell your extended family, but only if you are doing so in a way that encourages them to also get prepared.
  • Use masking tape and a marker to label your food with purchase date and expiration date. Yes, it may be marked on the can, but why not make it easier to see and rotate out.
  • Stick to items that have a long shelf life, like canned goods. If you are super-organized, mark your calendar in advance to remind you to rotate out.
  • Rotate out old items: if you are concerned with cost, you can stock your emergency supply with types of food you already eat. That way if cans are close to expiring, you can just eat them, or donate them to a food pantry and buy more.
  • Buy some comfort foods: your stash may contain a lot of items you don’t eat regularly, and if you are without power, this won’t really matter. However, it can be good to have some comfort foods like peanut butter or powdered milk to make things easier on the kids.
  • Can you cook it? Try to buy things that can be eaten without being cooked, like canned beans and canned pasta. We have a camping stove with extra fuel that can be used to heat up canned goods. In a pinch, you could fire up the BBQ grill outside.
  • If you drink coffee or tea, do yourself a favor and plan a way to have a hot cup of your favorite beverage.
  • Keep it in a safe place: your attic might not be the best place for this, due to temperature extremes and the fact that a tornado could blow it away, Keep it in a cool, dry and safe place.
  • To beef up your food supply, simply buy a few extra items each month and add them to the stash. You won’t notice the extra cost.


READERS: Do you have 2 weeks of food stashed? Why not?

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  1. This is something that we definitely need to do! A couple of years ago there was a really bad storm (probably the same one you are talking about) and it knocked out power to the boy’s brothers house for 7 days. When his family went back, their fish tank was frozen solid from it being so cold in their house.

  2. Here in South Florida, emergency food supplies are a must. With all of the potentially dangerous storms that flow through several times a year, it’s impossible to tell which will be the next Andrew or Katrina and put us in a situation where there’s no power or ability to drive for days or weeks at a time. You would be amazed at how many times, right before a storm is supposed to impact this area that stores like Home Depot, CVS, and grocery stores are flooded with people and shelves left bare in certain categories. You would think that before each storm, the population was replaced with first-timers rather than those who had gone through this kind of thing several times before. It’s like the old saying goes-failing to plan is planning to fail.

    • Even the Wilma stripped us off power for a few days. Then there’s a Tsunami threat to entire Florida being only a few feet above the sea, that no one talks or cares about.

  3. I love your question: “Why not?” I have enough food for two weeks but not water. We do have a lake and portable stove, so I could potentially boil water.

  4. We have one big jug of water, purchased when our building’s water system had issues for a few hours. Plus there’s usually a flat of bottled water *gasp* in one of our vehicles (spouse has to drive long distances a lot.)
    Other than that, it would get very creative by the end, but we could definitely live on the amt of food that we have in our house all the time.
    Also - I don’t think I’ve ever heard of canned spinach before. Is it like frozen spinach, but in a can?

  5. Interesting…I’ve never thought about having an emergency food supply. Probably because I’ve never needed one I guess.

    I like your first point about not telling people because they’ll think you’re weird. John, I now think you’re weird. HAHA. J/K

  6. I know I need to do a better job with this. Living on the west coast it’s just a matter of time until we have a big earthquake. Earlier this month I was reminded about this somewhere and I made a point of stocking up food for cats. Unless I want to be eating cat food I need to start stocking more stuff for myself. My only challenge is that I like walking to the grocery store. So I’ll have to gradually build it up.

  7. We do this, but the part I have trouble with is removing the old stuff!

  8. I don’t have an emergency stash, but I probably should get one. My parents had one last year when the tornadoes knocked out power for most of Alabama for two weeks. That sucked. This is a great post, especially in time for the hurricanes about to rock the southern coast.

  9. I don’t but I need to. I live in Florida and am lucky Issac didn’t affect us at all! I really need to make a hurricane kit so I am more prepared in case a storm does hit!

  10. We had one going for earthquakes, but I think we drank all the water and ate the food somehow. We need to stock up again and put a lock on that box to protect the kit from ourselves!

  11. Yep, if I told you what we had you would think we are weird although our food stash is not that big but we do keep bags of rice,cous cous,pasta, flour, oats, cereal,lots of dry beans, condiments lol. I agree a stash is good to have for that reason though and not to tell anyone.

  12. You know what, I don’t. I really should do this as well seeing as we get some absolutely brutal blizzards around my neck of the woods. Thanks for posting this!

    As a side note, what is canned chicken breast? I’ve never heard of it before.

  13. Great article, something I’ve been thinking about for some time that I needed to do. I don’t see rice on your list, this is something I was thinking of having. I haven’t thought of can chicken, this would be a great item to have for the protein.

    Also, I have a MSR water filter that I use for backpacking. I plan to purchase a 2nd and keep it in my emergency stash - just in case I run out of water.

  14. I know that my family has an “Emergency Food Kit” that includes enough food and water for 2 weeks, and we just bought it at the store one day. I seriously doubt we will use it, but it is nice to know that it is there for us!

  15. We haven’t really worked “intentionally on a foods supply, but only because we tend to buy in bulk when there are big food sales. We usually have a good stock at any given time.

  16. I don’t have two weeks worth of food specifically set aside, but my pantry is always full of non-perishables. Off the top of my head, we have 12+ boxes of cereal, 15-20 cans of beans, 20+ boxes of juice & almond milk, peanut butter, jam, fruit, vegetables, nad so much more. Plus we have a deep freeze full of bread & meat. The only issue we’d struggle with is water. I should fill up our camping jugs and store in our basement, then we’d be set.

  17. This is something I never think about, but its a pretty good idea to have around. Especially with all the winter storms we have in Michigan.

  18. I don’t have a food, water or medication stash, and I certainly need to. I like your idea of either rotating the items or donating to the food pantry. I think at this point marking the expiration date on a calendar, donating the soon-to-expire items to a pantry, and replenishing the supply would be easier.

  19. We have a stash of water and food, though I don’t think we have enough for two weeks. Possibly one week.

    I usually just buy a case of bottled water when it’s on sale and then over the course of the year, I slowly use up the water on road trips, hikes, etc. When I’m halfway through, I buy another case.

    Foodwise, we just tend to stash a lot of canned goods in general. Since we eat through it regularly, it doesn’t really require a lot of thought. I don’t have a separate stash for emergency foods, though we do keep small stashes of granola bars and crackers in the closet and at our workplaces.

  20. Wow! I got no food stash right now. With what I do have I could probably go a week on food and 1 day on water. Thanks for the list….gives me something to start with.

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