Three-Day Emergency Food Supply

What is an emergency food supply?
Having an emergency food supply means you won't go hungry when transportation, weather, health, or other problems prevent you from getting your usual supply of groceries or meals.

What type of foods should I buy?
Many of the foods in an emergency supply may be the usual foods you buy and have on hand. Choose foods that store well from each of the food groups to provide the variety of nutrients you need.

What's the difference between an emergency food supply and my regular groceries?
An emergency food supply is stored in a separate part of your cupboard so it is kept as a welcome supply when the unexpected happens. Use the list below, or make your own list. Keep it with the emergency foods, so you can check your supply and replenish it when needed.

What foods should I include?
Look at the list below and choose the foods that you like. Add others to replace the suggestions you don't care for. If you are on a special diet, consider that when making choices. Foods listed require a minimum amount of preparation. Perhaps they are too expensive for your everyday eating, but just right for meals when a snow or ice storm keeps you isolated for two or three days.

Does the grocery list assume that I have any foods on hand?
Yes, it assumes that you have about one quart of milk and half a loaf of bread. To be prepared, store some bread in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator or buy a larger box of crackers. Including a small box (9.6 ounce) of non-fat dry milk in the emergency food supply may also be a good idea. Mixing dry milk (following package directions) and adding it to the milk you have on hand will stretch your supply.

How much will the emergency food supply cost?
The foods in the grocery list will cost about $20. All of the foods will not be eaten in the three days. For example, there may be leftover peanut butter, cereal, crackers and other snack items. If your food budget is tight, buy one or two items each week until you have your emergency food supply.

What if there is no electricity or gas for preparing and refrigerating food?
Be prepared with small cans of fruit, fruit or vegetable juice boxes, cans of tuna, and other canned meat such as deviled ham, pudding cups, peanut butter, cereals, crackers, and nonfat dry milk.

How long can the emergency food supply be stored in my cupboard?
Store foods in a cool place away from any direct source of heat. Date the foods as you buy them. If they haven't been needed for an emergency by their use date, prepare them for your regular meals and replace them with new groceries. Look for dates on the packages that give the date by which the food should be used. Generally, crackers and cereals should be used within three months. Dried fruit, peanut butter, dry milk, instant coffee, and cocoa mix should be used within six months. Canned foods may keep indefinitely but it is a good idea to use and replace them within a year.

Suggested Menus for Three Days

Breakfast

Day 1
Cold cereal, milk, juice, coffee or tea.

Day 2
Toast, peanut butter, juice, coffee or tea.

Day 3
Cold cereal, milk, juice, coffee or tea.

Lunch

Day 1
Peanut butter, bread, applesauce, cocoa.

Day 2
Tuna, bread, peaches, cocoa or juice.

Day 3
Cheese, crackers, pork and beans, fruit cocktail, cocoa.

Supper or Dinner

Day 1
Canned chili, crackers, corn, milk.

Day 2
Canned beef stew, crackers, pudding, milk.

Day 3
Tomato or other soup, peanut butter, bread, applesauce, milk.

Snacks

Pudding, dried fruits, small packages of peanuts or other nuts, cocoa, individual cans of juice, coffee or tea.

Suggested Grocery List
For 1 person, increase as needed for household.

Dry cereal -- one 7-ounce box
Crackers -- one box (8-ounce or larger)
Peanut butter -- one 12-ounce jar
Canned juice -- one 6-pack of your favorite kind
Applesauce -- one 4-pack of 6-ounce containers
Peaches -- one 8-ounce can
Fruit cocktail -- one 8-ounce can
Pork and beans -- one 8-ounce can
Corn -- one 8-ounce can
Tuna -- one 3 1/4-ounce can
Processed cheese spread -- one 8-ounce box or 4 1/4-ounce jar
Beef stew -- one small can or container
Chili -- one small can or container
Tomato or other soup -- one can
Cocoa -- one box of individual packets
Pudding -- one 4-pack of 4 1/4-ounce containers
Dried prunes -- one 12-ounce package
Peanuts or other nuts -- one package or jar
Tea -- one box with 16 bags, or one 2-ounce jar Instant Coffee
Nonfat dried milk -- one box
Bottled water -- one gallon

Source: Iowa State University Extension, November, 1997.

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Modified: 6/4/2008