What makes the best survival foods for an emergency?
Any number of catastrophic disasters could occur. A hurricane that wipes out the shoreline and devastates communities several miles inland. Or a super-typhoon that strikes an island nation, turning life upside down for cities and neighborhoods.
It could even be a terrorist attack with a WMD or the much feared EMP that shuts down power across a nation, interrupting transportation and shipping for several weeks, resulting in widespread food shortages.
Some say these are acts of God and others say climate change; whatever is happening, it's clear in recent years that a massive disaster can strike any time and just about anywhere.
Non-perishable foods that offer the most bang for your buck
In the heat of the moment, or several weeks in advance, you're going to want foods that help you meet nutritional needs, that have a high calorie count, and of course foods likely to disappear first off store shelves.
Weight and packaging may be a factor
Which foods can you grab the most of, and get the most out of? It's important to consider calorie count, ease of use / preparation, shelf-life, and even "weight" factored in. Why is weight a factor? What if you and your family have to evacuate an area on foot, and with nothing but backpacks and or suitcases? You'll regret having stocked up on so much canned food when you realize just how much those cans weigh. Canned food can be a part of your survival food plan though -- it can be the food that helps you get by the first few weeks, as long as you don't have to evacuate. With that said, the first recommended survival food is...
The Top 10 Survival Foods
1.) Canned Alaskan Wild Salmon - Rich in protein and healthy fats like omega 3s. Look for "Alaskan Wild Salmon" and you're likely to get salmon with minimal or no environmental contaminants that can sometimes show up in other canned fish from other parts of the world. Salmon may not be your thing today but realize the Inuit people (native people of Alaska and northern Canada) on a traditional diet are known for low rates of heart attack and stroke, which is attributed to their long term, continuous diet of fish. Like tuna fish, you can eat canned Alaskan wild salmon right out of the can, without cooking -- though, if you have leftovers, it will have to be refrigerated where it will then keep for the next 3 - 4 days. If refrigeration isn't an option, plan to share one can of salmon with 2-3 other people at a time, so nothing goes to waste.
2.) Dried Beans - Kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans, lima beans, pinto beans, and others are all high in calories, contain a fair amount of protein per serving, and also several essential vitamins and minerals. Dried beans come in packages larger than canned beans but for the amount you get weigh quite a bit less. The key difference is that you have to add water and let most beans soak for several hours before eating. Split peas, for example, have a much shorter soak time. Split peas are part of the dried bean family with many of the same vitamins and minerals.
Finally, dried beans have a long shelf life. Dried beans will stay good in the back of your car, your office survival kit, and of course your pantry of survival foods at your home or cabin.
Concerned about having to feed a few other mouths during a time of disaster? A large supply of dried beans is relatively inexpensive for how many people you can feed and can go a long way and a great food to carry in a backpack, compared to canned food that you are better off leaving behind.
3.) Brown Rice - High in calories and protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals. As a dry, non-perishable food they also have a long shelf life. Just add hot water to these guys and let soak for 1 - 2 days, or until the rice expands (always eat rice after it's expanded); or boil brown rice for 30 minutes to 1 hour for fastest edibility.
4.) Bulk Nuts - Look for the bulk seed/nut area of your grocery store, and specifically for unsalted, and un-shelled (you want to choose survival foods not high in salt, as too much salt will make you thirsty and isn't good for overall health). Peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and a number of other nuts / seeds typically sold in supermarket bulk foods section are high in essential vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids, and have a fair amount of protein. They're also conveniently light-weight and a serving size may be as small as a 1/4 cup, so you'll get many servings out of a large bag.
At the same time, invest in air-tight food storage containers, such as glass jars. You can extend storage life by then storing these in the refrigerator, those most bulk foods will store a good while, if kept in a cool, dark, place away from sunlight.
5.) Peanut Butter - It's packed with protein and essential fatty acids, as well as contains many essential vitamins and minerals (such as copper and iron). For the best health, choose "natural" brands like Skippy Natural Peanut Butter (Skippy offers the best price I can find for buying in bulk off places like Amazon). Just a couple tablespoons a day of peanut butter can help a person survive a period of limited food intake (during a disaster, one of your strategies to survive needs to include an understanding that it's time to cut calories -- most people eat a lot more calories each day than they actually need to survive. Cutting calories means your food will last longer, at the same time helping you lose excess weight, making potential evacuation on foot at some point easier than if you're carrying around extra pounds).
6.) Trail Mix - A favorite of hikers, trail mix has a variety of ingredients, raisins, peanuts and other nuts, and often pieces of chocolate, and sometimes dried fruit and berries. The simple sugars in the raisins, chocolate and dried fruits can be a quick mood booster and source of short term energy. Trail mix is a way to include dried fruits in your survival diet plan.
7.) Energy Bars and Chocolate Bars - There's an energy bar nowadays for every taste. Look for brands with a high calorie count as well as plenty of protein and a wide range of nutrients. Chocolate bars - Chocolate can be a quick source of energy and a great morale booster, while also being generous in calories. (Chocolate is also likely to become a commodity in demand in the weeks and months following a disaster.)
8.) Beef Jerky - "Natural" brands of beef, turkey, etc. jerky do not contain any or as much of the harmful added ingredients seen in many commercial jerky brands. What is jerky? Jerky is a tasty form of dried meat. Dried meat, if you remember, is a long time proven survival food used by Native Americans and American pioneers alike, and also used by primitive tribes around the world. While these primitive tribes use smoking and sun drying methods to create "jerky", today commercial methods of drying meat do this on a much larger scale. You have two choices: One is to buy the smaller serving packages, or to purchase your dried meat in bulk through a food storage company.
9.) Coffee / Instant Coffee - Have you ever tried to quit drinking coffee, after years of counting on it to get you up in the morning and through the day? If not you, someone in your party is likely to consider coffee (or simply caffeine) an essential, and may be tired, lethargic, and have headaches without the stuff. Coffee doesn't have to be a top priority, but being able to grab it will be something more than one person in your party is likely to be thankful for. It's a quick mood booster and good for morale. And it's also something that could be traded like a commodity during a crises situation.
10.) Sea vegetables / Powdered Super Greens - A popular item selling in health foods stores today are the sea vegetables that come in powdered form, or pill. In a time of catastrophic disaster, most communities are going to be hurting for fresh produce. Sea vegetables are a super food, packed with vitamins and nutrients and health benefits that help boost immunity, provide tissue repair and wound healing, and can even have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. What this means is that sea vegetables like kelp and chlorella and others are super foods. Though I list sea vegetables as number ten, they should probably be the number 1 survival food on this top ten list. The reason again is that fresh produce is likely to be in short supply or disappear completely in several areas, in a widespread emergency.
As a powdered supplement, these can go a long way to provide essential vitamins and minerals, and an assortment of beneficial health properties, in a time of emergency. So, it is the powdered supplement with a long-term shelf-life that I recommend as a key survival food.
Caution about shelf-life of several non-perishable foods
Note, many non-perishable foods such as several listed here don't have a long shelf life, usually just several months. You'll want to have a system in place in order to "cycle" your non-perishable food before it expires: When non-perishable food nears it's expiration date, either eat it or even donate it to a local food bank (food banks usually give food away within a short time of receiving a donation). Then, once again purchase fresh non-perishable food and add it to your emergency food stores. With a system like this in place, you'll have a continual supply of fresh non-perishable foods. That way, if a catastrophic disaster strikes, you'll have a variety of non-perishable foods for at least the first few months following the disaster and you or your family won't have to rely solely on freeze dried food, as so many people are stocking up on today.
Caution about "food fatigue"
When preparing for an emergency, your should also strongly consider bulk freeze-dried foods that have a shelf life of several years. Please note that it is not wise to only purchase freeze-dried food though. The reason is food fatigue. Can you imagine what it would be like to eat freeze dried food, day after day, month after month, in a time of extended disaster? Not only can packaged, processed foods be hard on a person's health (due to food additives and preservatives, high cholesterol, sodium, etc., in some freeze dried products), but it may also get very, very boring in time.
In a time of extended disaster, trust me -- having a bag of M&Ms, smoked beef jerky, or even a soda from time to time can be a big boost to morale, especially if you have children.
Fresh cuts of meat
One final thing to comment on here: People stocking up on survival foods might skip the meat aisle altogether, believing that cuts of meat will go bad quickly in an emergency.
But what if you know how to salt and smoke meat, to preserve it for long term storage minus refrigeration or freezing? You can make these cuts of meat last several months, and possibly several years.
What do you have in your freezer at home right now?
If the electricity fails to your community, a blackout lasting several weeks or more, as these cuts of meat thaw, have a system in place (right in your own backyard), where you can salt and smoke each cut of meat. Build yourself a backyard smoker. This is how early Native Americans commonly prepared meat for long term storage. So, consider this a "Plan B" for your frozen meat in the event of a power outage, where the power is down for good.
Food shortages provide opportunity to put faith in action
How we treat others in times of conflict can show what kind of character we have deep down. Do we become animals or do we rise up and become men and women of honor, willing to share our supplies with others in times of need, especially the children, the elderly, the sick and disabled and poor among us?
You're on a Christian website that publishes warnings regarding the "last days" and of course we're going to mention here that a food shortage in a community can be a great opportunity for God to increase your faith, as you trust in him to provide for you, even as you share your food stores with others.
The man or woman of God living a Christian life is put in a hard situation, when he or she has to choose between sharing food with others, during a time of crises, or storing it away. The Bible says that God is a rewarder of the faithful, and that God also provides for his people in times of need. The idea is to live without fear, knowing that God will provide what you and your family need for each day. He fed the Israelites with manna and quail. He brought streams of water up from the rocks. So our personal survival tip is to share your food as God would lead you (once you've put your faith in Christ and have made the decision to live according to God's Word), and trust that even if you've given your last bite to eat that He already has the next day written and plans to bring provision perhaps greater than the stores you just gave away.