Preparing An Emergency Food Supply
Short Term Food Supplies

Although it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supply for three days, you should prepare a supply that will last that long.

The easiest way to develop a three-day stockpile is to increase the amount of basic foods you normally keep on your shelves.

Storage Tips

Keep food in a dry, cool spot in the house, in a dark area if possible.

Keep food covered at all times.

Open food boxes or cans carefully so that you can close them in tightly after each  use.  If the product is normally refrigerated after opening, do not allow it to sit out for more than two hours.  After two hours this food may not be safe to eat.

Also, once a can has been opened, the contents should be transferred to food storage containers made of plastic, glass or stainless steel.

Wrap cookies and crackers in plastic bags, and keep them in airtight containers.

Empty opened packages of sugar, dried fruits and nuts into screw-top jars or airtight cans to protect them from pests.

Inspect all food for signs of spoilage before use.

Use foods before they go bad, and replace them with fresh supplies, dated with ink or marker. Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in front.

Nutrition Tips

During and immediately after a disaster, it will be vital that you maintain your strength. So remember:

Eat at least one well-balanced meal each day.

Drink enough liquid to enable your body to function properly (two litres a day).

Take in enough calories to enable you to do any necessary work.

When Food Supplies Are Low

You don’t need to go out and buy unfamiliar foods to prepare an emergency food supply. You can use the canned foods, dry mixes and other staples on your cup- board shelves. In fact, familiar foods are important. They can lift morale and give a feeling of security in times of stress. In addition, most canned foods do not require cooking, water or special preparation.

If activity is reduced, healthy people can survive on half their usual food intake for an extended period. Food, unlike water, may be rationed safely, except for children and pregnant women, diabetics and those with special needs.

If your water supply is limited, try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don’t stock salty foods, since they will make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free
crackers, whole-grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.

Special Considerations

As you stock food, take into account your family’s unique needs and tastes. Try to include foods that they will enjoy and that are also high in calories and nutrition. Foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking are best.

Individuals with special diets and allergies will need particular attention, as will babies, toddlers and the elderly. Nursing mothers may need liquid formula, in case they are unable to nurse.  Canned foods, juices and soups may be helpful for the ill or elderly.

Make sure you have a manual can opener and disposable utensils, and don’t forget non-perishable foods for your pets.

Shelf Life of Stored Foods

Here are some general guidelines for rotating emergency foods:

Don’t store longer than six months:

Powdered milk (boxed) – 1 year (unopened)

Dried fruit (in sealed container) – 1 year

Dry, crisp crackers (in sealed container)

Powdered potatoes

Don’t store longer than one year:

Canned meat and condensed vegetable soups

Canned fruits, fruit juices and vegetables

Ready-to-eat cereals and uncooked instant cereals (in containers) – 8 months

Peanut butter – 6 months (unopened), 2 months (opened)

Jams (if seal unbroken)

Hard candy, chocolate bars (7 months) and canned nuts (1 month)

May be stored indefinitely:
(in proper containers and conditions)


White Rice – Several years

Dried Corn – 6 to 8 months

Vegetable Oils – 1 year (unopened)

Bouillon products

Powdered milk (in nitrogen-packed cans)



Non-carbonated drinks

Several shelf lives listed do not correspond to those suggested by the Ontario

Ministry of Agriculture and Food.

If there is a power failure:

1. First, use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator.

2. Then use foods from the freezer. To minimize the number of times you open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. A well-insulated freezer can keep food safe for awhile after the power goes off.  Keep a thermometer in the freezer.  If the temperature goes above -18�C, it will start to thaw.  After that point, the food is safe for three days or until it goes above 4�C, whichever comes first.

3. Finally, begin to use non-perishable foods and staples.

How to Cook if the Power Goes Out

For emergency cooking, you can use a barbeque, a charcoal grill or camp stove, OUTDOORS ONLY. You can also heat food indoors using candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots. CAUTION! The cooking area should be safely vented to prevent Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Canned foods can be eaten right out of the can. If you heat it in the can, be sure to open the can and remove the label first.

Preventing Food Poisoning

Food poisoning can be easily prevented by following some guidelines for the storage and preparation of food.

Foods that do not require refrigeration are: fresh vegetables, fruit, bread, dried pasta, flour and canned foods.

The following foods can be hazardous if not stored properly and must be kept at a temperature of  4 degrees Celsius or lower or must be kept frozen at -18 degrees Celsius or lower:

All meat products including beef, poultry,  fish and pork

All dairy products including cream, milk,  cheese and eggs

Frozen foods – as soon as the food is thawed, should be cooked or stored in a  refrigerator

Washing hands properly before handling food is important in the prevention of food poisoning. Although it may seem  basic, proper hand washing is not always practiced. Washing hands should take 15-20 seconds.

Please follow these steps:

Wet hands with running water

Apply soap in the middle of wet hands

Lather well

Use vigorous friction by rubbing the hands together

Pay attention to your nails and between fingers and thumbs

Rinse hands thoroughly with running water

Pat hands dry with a paper towel

Turn water tap off with paper towel

If running water is not available, follow the above steps using a bucket or pail of potable water (see section on making potable water). If a water source of any kind is not available, any liquid hand sanitizer sold at drug stores is recommended.

Storing Foods Properly Without Refrigeration

The hazardous foods noted above must be stored at temperatures 4 degrees Celsius or lower (use thermometers to be sure of temperature). Bacteria grows at temperatures between 5 degrees Celsius and 60 degrees Celsius.

Food can be stored in coolers if individually wrapped. To keep cooler at required temperature, fill with ice or ice packs and keep covered to help insulate.

AVOID – any food prepared with mayonnaise or any foods that have been cooked and kept without refrigeration.

Keep raw foods separate from prepared foods.

Prevent meats from dripping on other foods by placing them on the bottom of the cooler (drippings can cause contamination).

If a power outage occurs, cover freezers with blankets for extra insulation.

Do not re-freeze thawed foods.

Do no eat foods that have come in contact with flood water or sewage water.

A good rule when dealing with food is WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT!

Without power, a full upright or chest freezer will keep food frozen for about two days. A half-full freezer will keep food frozen for one day. Keep the door shut as much as possible. Ice can keep the freezer cool.

The refrigerator will keep food cool for 4-6 hours depending on the kitchen temperature. Ice can keep food on the refrigerator shelves cooler. Keep the door shut as much as possible. Check the temperature of the food to ensure that it is 4 degrees Celsius or lower.