10 Foods You Should Always Have In Stock

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Most of us take for granted that a bounty of healthy food will be available at any given moment. It’s easy to forget that all it takes is a bad storm or extended power outage to take your regular sources of food out of reach for a while. If an emergency strikes, do you have what you need to feed your family? Discover the 10 types of food you should always keep around, just in case.

1. Non-Perishable Proteins

Many popular protein foods need to be refrigerated or frozen. Be prepared for the unexpected with lots of non-perishable proteins including:

  • Canned fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, oysters or sardines
  • Dried meats such as beef jerky
  • Vegan jerky
  • Canned sausages, turkey or other meats
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Nuts such as peanuts, cashews, almonds, pecans or walnuts
  • Seeds such as pumpkin or sunflower.


2. Quick Carbohydrates

Ready to eat carbohydrates that don’t need refrigeration are just right when your power goes out or you’re cut off from shopping. Here are a few to keep around:

  • Whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Whole wheat matzos
  • Whole grain hard taco shells.

Although they have long shelf lives, these foods can become stale once their packages are opened. Try to keep some unopened boxes around, or store a portion in airtight containers.

3. Canned Vegetables and Fruit

Of course fresh produce is the best for taste and nutrition, but it may be difficult to find and preserve during emergencies. To keep fruits and vegetables in your family’s diet, store cans of some or all of these basic foods:

  • Carrots
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple.

4. Dried Fruit

Another way to give your family access to fruit when fresh foods aren’t available is through dried fruit. Dried fruits are delicious, offer quick energy and are high in fiber and potassium. Here are a few to stock up on:

  • Raisins
  • Dates
  • Prunes
  • Apricots
  • Cranberries
  • Mixed berries
  • Apples
  • Papaya
  • Banana.

For a nutritious and tasty non-perishable snack, combine dried fruits with nuts and seeds to create unique trail mix blends.

5. Fresh Foods that Don’t Need Refrigeration

All fresh foods are perishable, however, some can survive for a few days to a week on your countertop. You won’t be able to buy emergency fresh foods way ahead of time, but if you keep an ongoing supply of these foods around, you should have something fresh to eat during emergencies:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Avocado.

6. Milk and Milk Substitutes

Because so many people find it essential, milk tends to be one of the first items to disappear from supermarket shelves during emergencies. If you lose electricity, you won’t be able to store it safely anyway. To make sure you have milk (or the milk substitute you enjoy), keep a supply of all or some of these non-perishable varieties:

  • Powdered milk
  • Single serving drink boxes of milk
  • Single serving drink boxes of milk substitutes including soymilk, almond milk, rice milk or hemp milk.

7. Instant Meals and Snacks

Ready to eat meals and snacks that don’t require any cooking will provide some stress relief during challenging times. Here are a few good choices:

  • Granola bars
  • Meal replacement and nutrition bars
  • Canned soups and stews
  • Prepared dehydrated or freeze dried camping meals.

8. Dry Goods

During extended emergencies you’ll eventually need to do some cooking. Non-perishable dry goods offer good nutrition that’s easy to prepare. You may want to stock up on:

  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Pasta.

9. Baby Nutrition

If you’ve got a baby or toddler, be sure that you can meet his or her nutritional needs during emergencies with a good supply of:

  • Baby formula (if your baby is formula fed)
  • Baby food jars in single serve sizes.

When thinking about your baby’s food, don’t forget your pets! Keep some extra dried or single serve cans of your pet’s food around at all times too.

10. Healthy Hydration

Dehydration kills faster than starvation, and many emergency situations such as earthquakes or water main breaks can leave you without running water. Keep enough bottled water around to take care of your entire family’s needs for at least a week and up to a month.

Electrolytes are another important hydration consideration. Sports drinks are sometimes suggested to replenish electrolytes, however these are often filled with massive amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners as well as artificial flavors and colors. A healthier alternative is unsweetened coconut water, which contains lots of electrolytes and is available in containers that don’t need refrigeration. You can also keep some single serve juice boxes around. Mix equal amounts of fruit juice and water for a hydrating drink with a good balance of fluids and electrolytes.

Life is unpredictable, but when you’re stocked up with essential foods, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you and your family will have enough to eat until things return to normal. When buying your emergency food supplies, be sure to include a hand can opener and disposable plates, cups and cutlery.

Last Updated: November 1, 2012
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About Roberta Pescow Roberta Pescow holds a bachelor's degree in communications from City University of New York, Queens College and is a freelance writer and editor in the NJ area. The author of "A Life In The Service" and "A Monster's Tears," she enjoys writing informative articles, personal essays, fiction and music.  Roberta is a proud mother of two. Her other interests include fitness, photography, sculpture and meditation. She is a voracious reader and holds a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwan Do. Roberta enjoys decorating her hectic, but happy home and garden in original and affordable ways.  

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