Emergency Essentials suggests that the best way to begin is to store a three month supply of the items that you eat each day. These are the grocery store goods that you know you can keep on the shelf and use in regular rotation. Things like canned goods, peanut butter, and pasta are some suggestions. I think it's helpful to compile a meal plan and use it to determine what items you use most and what you should have on hand to make your menu. At our house, we've stored lots of canned vegetables, cereals, pasta and sauces, boxed mixes, and other staples.
After you've stored a three month supply of the items you use regularly, consider storing more of "the basics." These are the building blocks of food storage; they are the tried and true foods we know sustain life. Think of the pioneers; what did they store and eat? There are seven "basics" that should be stored: grains, legumes, oil, salt, milk, honey, and garden seeds. These provide the most calories and are have the most important nutrients for survival. They are the "bang for your buck" items that are least expensive and store the longest.
Now you should have a good foundation to build upon. Here's where you can begin to explore all the food storage options available to round out your storage:
Dehydrated Foods We eat dehydrated foods everyday, including muffin mixes, cake mixes, pasta, soup, hot cereal, and more. Dehydrated food is compact in size and cost effective. I bet you have several dehydrated items already in your pantry, and you didn't even know it!
Freeze-dried Foods Freeze drying is another method of dehydration where the food is first flash frozen at the peak of freshness then a low-level heat is applied inside a vacuum chamber. This process changes the ice crystals to a vapor, leaving a dried food. Freeze-dried food locks in the size, color, texture, and flavor of the food while retaining most of the nutrients. Freeze-dried food mainly consists of entrees, fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses.
Many people ask whether standard dehydrated food or freeze-dried food is better. You should consider having both in your food supplies. Some items like milk, muffin mixes, and drink mixes are best dehydrated. Fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses are usually best freeze-dried. By having both in your home storage, you will have a great selection of items packaged for long-term storage.
MRE's MRE stands for "Meals-Ready-to-Eat." These meals are used daily by the men and women in the armed forces. As the title implies, these are meals ready to be eaten. They do not need to be cooked, re-hydrated, or warmed, although many prefer MRE's when heated. These are ideal for emergencies, 72-hour kits, and food storage. They aren't as compact as dehydrated or freeze-dried food, but require less preparation.
Calorie Food Bars These bars are designed for quick calories in an emergency and are a great and inexpensive option for emergency kits. They are life sustaining for only the first three days and should be used only for a maximum of 72 hours. Under most circumstances, they have over a five year shelf life. Calorie food bars work great for auto kits and are the most lightweight storage for emergency kit use.
Did we bite off more than you can chew? Don't worry, we'll explain in greater detail many of these items and give you much more food for thought!