a food pantry for secure storage

Tips for Storing Food in Disaster Prone Areas

In a world where natural disasters are both inevitable and unpredictable, preparedness is crucial.

One of the vital aspects of disaster preparedness is storing food – a complex task requiring a keen understanding of different food types, storage methods, and the unique challenges posed by various disaster scenarios.

This article will guide you on the best practices for storing food in disaster-prone areas, ensuring your sustenance in the face of adversity.

Preparing for Disaster: What Kind of Food Should You Store?

When it comes to disaster preparedness, selecting the right kind of food for storage can significantly impact your survival chances.

Prioritizing non-perishable, nutritionally dense, easy-to-prepare, and familiar food items can provide the necessary sustenance and comfort in a crisis situation.

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Here’s an expanded overview of the types of food to store:

  1. Canned goods: Canned food items are one of the best choices for emergency storage due to their long shelf life, which can extend to years. These can range from canned vegetables, fruits, and beans to canned meats, fish, and soups. Canned goods also offer a wide variety of nutrients, making them an excellent choice for maintaining a balanced diet. However, remember to have a manual can opener on hand, as power outages may render electric can openers useless.
  2. Dry goods: Foods like rice, pasta, oats, and grains have a significant shelf life and can serve as the basis for many meals. They are also dense in energy-providing carbohydrates. Dry beans and lentils are also excellent as they are high in protein and fiber, although they usually require soaking and boiling.
  3. Ready-to-eat meals (MREs): MREs are designed for situations where conventional cooking is not possible. They are compact, have a long shelf life, and are ready to eat right out of the package. These are often used by military personnel and are available for purchase for emergency preparedness.
  4. Dehydrated or freeze-dried foods: These foods are lightweight, compact, and have an extended shelf life, often up to 25-30 years when unopened. They are rehydrated by adding water, so ensure you also have a substantial water supply.
  5. Protein or granola bars: These are excellent sources of quick energy. They are compact, require no preparation, and are easy to carry in the event of an evacuation.
  6. Powdered milk and drinks: Powdered or evaporated milk can provide necessary calcium and vitamin D. Powdered drink mixes can also be stored for extended periods and can help to make drinking water more palatable.
  7. Snacks and comfort foods: In a stressful situation, familiar foods can provide a significant morale boost. Items like chocolate, dried fruit, nuts, and cookies can be stored for extended periods and can offer a comforting snack in a crisis.
  8. Spices and condiments: While not nutritionally necessary, spices, bouillon cubes, salt, pepper, ketchup, mustard, and other condiments can make emergency meals more enjoyable, contributing to overall morale.
  9. Baby food and pet food: If you have infants or pets in your family, don’t forget to store appropriate food for them.

When selecting food for storage, remember to consider dietary restrictions and allergies within your family.

Additionally, periodically check the expiration dates on stored food and rotate your supply to keep it fresh.

Preparing for a disaster means preparing for your unique dietary needs, and having the right food stored can make a critical difference.

How to Store Your Emergency Food Supply

a woman checks her food storage

Properly storing your emergency food supply is just as critical as choosing the right food. Inadequate storage conditions can lead to spoilage or contamination, rendering your carefully chosen food supply useless.

Here are some expanded guidelines on how to store your emergency food supply effectively:

  1. Temperature: The shelf life of food is dramatically affected by temperature. Most stored food should be kept at room temperature (around 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit). Avoid places with high temperatures, such as above the refrigerator or near the stove or a heating vent. Cold basements or temperature-controlled pantries are excellent storage locations.
  2. Light: Light, especially sunlight, can degrade food over time. This is especially true for canned goods and dehydrated foods in clear packaging. To prevent this, store food in a dark place or use containers that block light.
  3. Moisture: Humidity can cause canned goods to rust and packaging to degrade, leading to food spoilage. Store food in a dry location and consider using moisture-absorbing desiccants if humidity is an issue.
  4. Pest control: Pests such as rodents or insects can ruin your food supply. Store food in pest-resistant containers and regularly check the storage area for signs of pests. Keep the area clean and promptly clean up any spills or crumbs.
  5. Rotation: Practice the “first-in, first-out” principle. Use older items first and replace them with new ones. This rotation ensures that your stock remains fresh and reduces the risk of finding expired food when you need it most.
  6. Organization: Keep your food supply organized. Group similar items together, and clearly label everything with the purchase date and expiration date. This makes it easier to find what you need and to know when items need to be rotated.
  7. Packaging: Consider repackaging bulk items into smaller, meal-sized portions. This prevents the entire supply from being exposed each time you need to use some, preserving its freshness.
  8. Seal: Ensure all food items are sealed properly to prevent air, pests, or bacteria from getting in. Vacuum-sealed bags, airtight containers, and jars with tight-fitting lids are good choices.
  9. Off the floor: Store food off the ground, not directly on basement or garage floors. This helps prevent moisture absorption and keeps the food away from pests.

Proper food storage requires regular attention and management, but the payoff comes in the form of a reliable supply of nutritious food when you need it most. It’s a crucial investment in your family’s safety and well-being during a disaster.

Storage Tips for Different Types of Potential Disasters

While general food storage principles apply universally, different types of potential disasters present unique challenges and considerations.

Understanding these can help you prepare more effectively:

  1. Floods: Floods can contaminate or completely wash away your food supply. To safeguard against this, store your food above potential flood lines. Using waterproof containers will provide an additional layer of protection. Consider keeping a portable emergency food supply that you can quickly grab during an evacuation.
  2. Earthquakes: Earthquakes can dislodge and damage your food supply. Store food in a secure location where items won’t fall, and avoid glass containers, which may shatter. Opt for plastic or metal containers instead. Securing shelves to walls and using bungee cords to prevent items from falling can also be beneficial.
  3. Hurricanes/Tornadoes: High winds and potential for flooding pose dual challenges. Secure your food storage area against these risks. Use sturdy shelving, and as with earthquakes, consider securing items with bungee cords or similar restraints. Maintain a portable emergency kit as well, in case of evacuation.
  4. Extreme heat: High temperatures can spoil food rapidly. Store food in a cool, insulated location, and consider using coolers or thermally insulated bags for additional protection. If possible, store food underground, where temperatures tend to remain cooler.
  5. Wildfires: Similar to hurricanes, wildfires may require rapid evacuation. Keep a portable emergency kit ready. Additionally, store food in airtight, fire-resistant containers to protect against smoke and ash.
  6. Winter Storms/Blizzards: Power outages may render cooking appliances and refrigeration useless. Have a supply of ready-to-eat foods that don’t require cooking. Also, keep a manual can opener handy.
  7. Pandemics: In situations where supply chains may be disrupted for extended periods, consider a longer-term food storage plan. Having a supply to last several weeks or even months could be beneficial.

Remember, the goal of disaster-specific storage is to protect your food supply from the unique threats posed by different types of disasters.

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Regularly review your plans and supplies to ensure they match the potential disaster risks in your area.

Best Storage Containers for Your Emergency Food

several glass food storage containers

Your choice of storage container is crucial in preserving the quality and longevity of your food. Some options include:

  1. Food-grade plastic buckets: These are durable, stackable, and come with airtight lids.
  2. Mylar bags: These provide an extra layer of protection against light, moisture, and pests.
  3. Glass jars: These are suitable for dry goods, but remember they are breakable and should be secured.
  4. Canned goods: These come pre-packaged and ready for long-term storage.

Additional Storage Tips to Consider

  1. Inventory management: Keep an updated inventory of your food supply. This will help you maintain a balance of food types and ensure nothing expires unnoticed.
  2. Nutritional balance: Try to include a variety of foods to meet all nutritional needs. Include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and foods high in vitamins and minerals.
  3. Water storage: Don’t forget to store water. You’ll need it for drinking, rehydrating foods, cooking, and sanitation. The general guideline is to store at least one gallon of water per person per day for a minimum of three days.
  4. Special dietary needs: If you or a family member has special dietary requirements, be sure to include appropriate foods in your storage.
  5. Cooking and utensils: Don’t forget to store tools for food preparation and eating, such as a manual can opener, camping stove, fuel, utensils, and disposable plates and cups.

RELATED READING: Managing Your Survival Food Supply


Preparing for a disaster is a crucial yet often overlooked aspect of living in disaster-prone areas. When it comes to food storage, understanding what to store, how to store it, and how to adapt to different disaster scenarios is essential.

By choosing a variety of nutritious, non-perishable foods, using appropriate storage containers, and following best storage practices, you can ensure you and your loved ones remain nourished and secure in any emergency.

Remember, the key to successful disaster preparedness is regular review and rotation of your supplies, keeping an updated inventory, and planning for the unique needs of your household.

Stay prepared, stay safe.