Your Emergency Stockpile – Why It Matters and What It Needs

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Canned goods on wooden storage shelves in pantry

Emergency Stockpile

The idea of stockpiling is nothing new to couponers. However, for most of us with a robust pantry or basement of less-expensive merchandise, there is really no rhyme or reason to what we purchase. We generally decide to stockpile supplies based on two questions alone:

  • Is the price good?
  • Will my family eat/use it?

However, there is a whole different approach to food storage and stockpiling that many of us neglect – emergency food supplies. From a natural disaster to a pandemic flu outbreak, being able to live off of what you have at home is a critical part of general preparedness.

In fact, the federal government actually expects everyone to be self-sufficient for at least three days in the event of a major emergency. However, as disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami have proven, there are going to be times when three days is just the beginning.

So, while anyone with a decent food stockpile and meal planning habits has food to last three days, the specifics circumstances of different disasters mean that “basic” supply may not be enough. Instead, we might consider building a dedicated emergency food supply and stockpile.

Why You Need an Emergency Food Supply and Stockpile

From earthquakes and tornadoes to hurricanes and blizzards, each region of this country has different disasters that can leave them stranded and vulnerable in their own homes. I am not a Doomsday Prepper, but experience has shown me that there are plenty of reasons to at least be prepared.


  1. Here in the northeast, snow has always been the major threat but, recently, hurricane season has left more than a few of us without power or access to people due to flooding, property damage, and an overwhelmed emergency system.
  2. On the West Coast, the constant threat of the “big one” (i.e. earthquake) is more than just a worried illusion. Even The New Yorker magazine recently addressed this life-long fear of west coasters. And no one seems to be safe anymore, as the recent earthquake in Black Canyon, AZ proved.
  3. Finally, there is always the rumblings of an “inevitable” pandemic flu outbreak that has had the Preppers on their toes for years. To be fair, even the CDC admits that it’s not a question of if, but when, and cautions that those infected with pandemic flu need to be able to stay isolated in their homes for up to 10 days.

No matter how you look at it, the list of things that could happen is easy to generate and not so farfetched after all. However, if you are natural skeptic like me, think of basic emergency supplies somewhat like insurance – I hope I may never need it, but if I do, I’m glad it’s there.

What an Emergency Stockpile Looks Like

Are you ready to start building your emergency stockpile?

The first thing to do is relax. Although most people are overwhelmed and paralyzed by the concept of emergency preparedness, it is really no different and no harder than planning a shopping list and a week or month’s worth of meals.

If you are really concerned, you can actually buy a pre-made food kit from Amazon for about $120 that will last up to 25 years and provide virtually everything you need to survive for a few days or a few weeks, depending on the size and age of the people in your family.

But, let’s get real here. Building your own emergency supply is not that much harder, a whole lot cheaper, and you can easily integrate it into your weekly shopping and bargain hunting. What’s really critical here is considering factors that are unique to the emergency food supply. They are:

  • Portability
  • Storage
  • Water
  • Nutrition

Let’s take a closer look at each one…

1. Portability

For many people, portability of an emergency stockpile is incredibly important. In the event that you need to leave your house quickly and efficiently, having an easy-to-grab supply can make a big difference. Furthermore, by isolating your emergency supplies from your regular stockpile you make it less likely that you will “borrow” from it in a pinch and thus leave yourself high and dry when it counts. So designate an easy-to-grab storage tub as your emergency stockpile tub. For a family of four, a 66 gallon plastic box is sufficient.


Once you have your box, you need to find a place to store it. For those in small homes or apartments this can be a real challenge, but not an impossible one. Look in creative spaces such as closet shelves, under the sink, or in the back corner of a spare room. For those with larger homes, basements and garages are great, but be aware of pest hideouts and make sure your food is either out of the way or impervious to common pests like moths and mice.


Because the nature of a natural disaster means that electricity and other utilities may be cut off, having a water supply equal to a gallon per person, per day, is equally important. In fact, it is more important to stockpile water than to stockpile food. For many people, especially those with storage space, this simply means stockpiling supermarket bottled water and rotating it out (since it can expire). Other alternatives include having a supply of unscented bleach and a pot for boiling and sanitizing water or investing in an emergency-grade water filter.


Over a short period, such as the 72 hours the government recommends, nutrition is not as important as calorie count – you need enough food to keep yourself full and satisfied. However, over the long term, nutrition becomes a major issue, so being sure that you have adequate protein, fiber, and vitamins is incredibly important. Stocking nutritionally-dense foods such as nut butters and powdered milk and canned protein such as tuna, chicken, and chili is a great way to ensure that have your basics covered. In addition, supplements (i.e. vitamins) are another important addition since critical nutrients such as Vitamins A and C are almost exclusively found in fresh foods that you would not have in the event of an emergency.

**What tips or ideas can you offer for creating and stocking an emergency food supply?**

4 things you need in your emergency stockpile