When storing food for natural disasters and catastrophes, consider that there is a good chance you won’t have electricity or running water. Canned foods have a good shelf-life of 1 to 5 years, are ready to eat, and don’t require refrigeration before being opened. On top of that, you don’t need water for preparation; many dry foods require a substantial amount of water.
Food for a natural disaster should be composed primarily of canned foods. Canned fruit, vegetables, and meat are ready-to-eat without additional resources like electricity, water, or special preparation, which is critical during a natural disaster.
When storing food for a natural disaster, focus on high-calorie foods. There won’t be much sitting around, so you will expend more calories than usual.
For example, in a hurricane, you might run a chainsaw and spend more time prepping food, staying cool, and fixing property damage. Here is a list of foods good to store for a natural disaster.
List of the 36 Best Foods for a Natural Disaster
You want the bulk of your short-term emergency food to be canned because it’s non-perishable, has a decent shelf life of 1 to 5 years, and is ready to eat. Also, try to incorporate ready-made dried foods, powders, and non-perishables like peanut butter to build the best stockpile of foods for natural disasters. Let’s take a look at the list.
#1 Canned Fruit
Canned fruits are ready at a moment’s notice, open the can, dig in and eat. The most common canned fruits to store are peaches, pears, fruit medley, mandarin oranges, pineapple, cherries, apricots, and plums.
#2 Canned Vegetables
Canned vegetables are a simple way to pack on vitamins and minerals when you don’t have access to fresh produce. The most common canned vegetables stored for emergencies are corn, green beans, peas, lima beans, carrots, asparagus, mushrooms, and beans.
#3 Canned Meat
Canned meats are an excellent source of fats and proteins. They are shelf stable and don’t require refrigeration. Typical canned meats stockpiled for natural disasters and emergencies are tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken, beef, Spam, ham, and pork.
To learn more, check out the Ready Squirrel article, Canned Meat: A Must Have Survival Food.
Up next, canned fruit juices.
#5 Canned fruit juices
There are a lot of choices when it comes to storing canned or bottled juices to get you through natural disasters but the highest in nutrition are orange, pomegranate, and pink grapefruit. One of the reasons you want to stockpile juice is it reduces palate fatigue when you crave something other than water.
The canned juices highest in electrolytes, which you need for proper cell function, are cherry, watermelon, and orange.
Up next canned soups and stews.
#6 Canned Soups & Stews
My favorite canned stew is Dinty Moore Beef stew. What is great about soups and stews is they contain meat and vegetables and act as a whole meal, difficult to replicate in a survival or emergency.
#7 Canned Meals
Canned meals like Hormel Compleats and Swanson chicken and dumplings are similar to canned soups and stews in that they provide a satisfying meal with many ingredients.
#8 Canned Broth
The canned broth is excellent if you are surviving in a cold environment, just heat it and drink as a hot beverage or use it to flavor instant rice or cooked pasta.
Up next, sugar
Sugar is the cheapest dry staple food you can buy and it has an indefinite shelf-life. In a short-term survival scenario like a natural disaster use it to sweeten coffee, tea, and powdered drink mixes.
Salt like sugar is cheap and it lasts forever. Use salt to season food and as an electrolyte to keep cells functioning when doing hard labor like cleaning up from a natural disaster.
Up next, pepper.
I’m a black and red pepper fanboy. I love these spices and use them in most of my savory dishes. Pepper is said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties but I eat it because I love spicy food.
Up next, is infant food.
#12 Infant Food
If you have infants or babies still eating baby food or formula make sure to stockpile some. Baby formula and powered milk were One of the hardest things to get during the collapse of Venezuela.
Next, let’s examine special needs diets.
#13 Special Needs Diet
If you have someone with special needs you know it. Don’t forget to stockpile the foods you or your loved ones need to stay healthy during a natural disaster.
Next, bottled water.
#14 Bottled Water
Make sure to have cases of bottled water, 5-gallon water jugs, or something similar to stay hydrated through a natural disaster. For survival, purposes stockpile a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person per day for both hygiene and to stay hydrated. I suggest having at least a 2-week supply so that would be 14 gallons per person.
Up next, powdered drink mixes.
#15 Powdered Drink Mixes
When I was in the service we called powdered drink mixes bug juice a nice treat to break the monotony of drinking plain water Try to find drink powders that are fortified so you get extra bang for your buck. Also, some drink mixes have sugar in them and some don’t.
#16 Snack Foods
No emergency survival kit would be complete without some snack food. Whether you store healthy food like peanuts or family-sized bags of potato chips is up to you but now that snack foods are good for morale and convenience.
#17 High-energy food
These are emergency foods that pack a real punch because they are filling and give a lot of bang per serving. Some examples are nut butter, avocados, sardines, olives, canned meat, and powdered eggs to name a few.
Up next, Jam
#18 Jam & Jelly
Jam and peanut butter on crackers or bread provide energy and it’s good for morale. Also, I’ve been known to add jelly to my protein drinks when I run out of fresh fruit. Once opened jelly won’t last as long at room temperature as it does in the fridge so eat up.
Next, let’s examine the nectar of the gods, honey.
Whole 100% honey is a delicious sweetener, it’s good for you, doesn’t have to be refrigerated, and lasts indefinitely. I use honey in my coffee and tea in place of sugar. The downside of good honey is that it’s pricey.
Next up, delicious crackers.
When stockpiling for a short-term emergency like a natural disaster crackers are an ideal replacement for bread because they have a much better shelf life. Crackers are excellent topped with everything from peanut butter to canned meat.
Next, granola bars.
#21 Granola Bars
Granola bars are a handy survival food because they are so easy to use as a snack. Especially handy if you don’t want to stop for lunch or for a quick snack on the move.
#22 Survival Bars
Survival bars give you all the food you need to survive a short-term emergency. SOS bars are one of the more popular survival bars kept on ships and boats as part of a lifeboat kit. If you are a minimalist or looking to pack a bug-out bag these are a good choice.
One of the healthier finger foods, nuts are packed with healthy fats and nutrition and make excellent emergency food. Some of the more common edible nuts are peanuts, almonds, walnuts, cashews, and pistachios.
Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are a great distraction when you are working your way out of a natural disaster. Nothing like a big bag of sunflower seeds if you are driving long distances in a bug-out vehicle.
#25 Trail Mix
Trail-mix is some combination of granola, dried fruit, nuts, and M&Ms or other chocolate candies. (candy is optional) Trail mix was designed as a high-energy food for hikers and backpackers.
Next up, is dehydrated Fruit.
#26 Dehydrated Fruit
Dried fruit is good for you providing anti-oxidants and some healthy sweetness. Mango is my favorite dried fruit but there are many options, including cranberries, raisins, dates, prunes, figs, apricots, and peaches.
Use multivitamins to fill in nutritional gaps. Depending on how long your emergency or natural disaster last vitamins might be overkill but you definitely want them included in your long-term food storage.
Next, up protein powder.
#28 Protein Powder
There are all types of protein powders out there that can be mixed with water. Great for a quick meal and a heavy dose of protein and energy. I prefer protein drinks mixed with milk but you may not have refrigeration so get one you can use with water or milk.
Next, let’s examine the fast food of fast food, ramen noodles.
#29 Ramen Noodles
If you are set up to boil water on a camp stove or a Jetboil Ramen is an excellent choice for a hot meal. It’s not really that good for you but it’s definitely filling comfort food, and you can doctor it up by adding canned vegetables or meat.
Up next, cup-a-noodles.
Cup-a-noodles are a version of ramen noodles. Add hot water let it sit and eat. A pretty easy way to have a hot emergency meal.
#31 Knorr noodle and rice side-dishes
Another boil-and-eat meal, knorr noodles are filling comfort food and they are pretty cheap. I like the butter noodles but they offer many types of noodles.
Next, let’s examine minute rice
#32 Minute Rice
Minute rice is precooked long-grain white rice that is dehydrated to prepare to eat and reconstituted with hot water. If you store minute rice as emergency food I’d have a bottle of soy sauce to spice it up. (soy sauce doesn’t have to be refrigerated.)
Next up, beef jerky
#33 Beef Jerky
I love it. Good beef jerky is a treat and it’s quick finger food. Excellent as a snack or for a hit of protein. If you aren’t game for beef jerky it also comes in other meat types like turkey, elk, venison, and bison. Jerky is expensive but if you are a hunter it is a no-brainer.
Up next Bouillon.
#34 Bouillon powder and cubes (meat and vegetable)
Good for making broth for cooking soups and stews, bouillion really sticks out as an excellent drink when it’s cold out. A cup of beef bouillon and a sleeve of saltine crackers are a pretty good meal when it’s cold out. If you are surviving a natural disaster in a cold environment it is worth having.
Emergency Food Storage Tip: Store canned foods you eat in your normal diet and rotate through them with First In First Out (FIFO). That way, you will always have a fresh supply of canned and dry packaged goods for natural disasters.
5 shelf-table food groups to store for natural disasters
When storing food for a natural disaster, make sure to store food in all food groups, so you eat a well-rounded diet. Shoot for eating at least one full meal daily and supplementing with a multivitamin. Here are some examples of specific foods to store by food group.
#1 Shelf-stable fruit
- Canned peaches, pineapple, fruit medley, mandarin oranges,
- Dried apricots, apples, banana chips
- Apple and Fruit Sauces
- Canned or powdered fruit juices
#2 Shelf-stable vegetables
- Canned green beans, corn, asparagus
- Lachoy Stir Fry Vegetables
- Canned Turnip Greens
- Canned Beets
- Canned pickles
- Canned olives
- Canned Ocra
- Canned Spinach
- Canned Peas
- Canned Artichoke Heart
#3 Shelf-stable dairy
- Low-fat Milk Powder
- Canned condensed milk
- Evaporated milk
- Canned Cheese, cheese spreads, and sauces
- Butter Powder
#4 Shelf-stable grain
- Instant Rice
- Rolled Oats
- Granola Bars
- Trail Mix
#5 Shelf-stable protein
- Canned beans
- Canned meat (Turkey, Chicken, Salmon, Tuna, Beef)
- Mixed soups and stews with beans and or meat
- Nuts and Seeds and
- Trail Mix
- Peanut Butter
Water for natural disasters
You can’t talk about emergency food without mentioning water. Water is more important than food. You can last weeks without food and only 3 or 4 days without drinking water.
When planning for a natural disaster or emergency, ensure you have enough water for every person in your group, including your pets.
According to FEMA, you should store at least 1 gallon of water per day per person, but they suggest two weeks or more if you can.
- FEMA minimum water storage: 1 gallon per person, per day, for a 3-day supply
- FEMA suggested water storage: 1 gallon per person, per day, for two weeks
Information Provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, “Food and Water in an Emergency.” * See the link under Resources.
Equipment to Stockpile for Natural Disasters
In case of a natural disaster, you’ll need food, water, and the tools to use them. Below is a basic list of tools to ensure you can eat, drink and stay clean during a disaster.
- Manual Can Opener
- Alternate Cooking Methods
- outdoor gas grill
- charcoal grill
- alcohol stove
- butane stove
- propane campers grill
- Nesbit stove and tablets
- canned heat
- To Keep Food Hot
- candle warmers
- chafing dishes
- fondue pots
- Paper plates, plastic utensils
- Cooking utensils: spatula and large spoon
- bleach for cleaning and disinfection
- contractor-grade trash bags
- Large plastic buckets or wash basins
- Poo Bucket