The Red Cross and FEMA recommend having enough emergency food and water for 72 hours. The only problem: 3 days isn’t enough… not even close.
For evidence of that fact, consider that events like Hurricane Katrina, the Derecho Blackout of 2012, and the Texas Winter Storm all resulted in blackouts that lasted longer than a week.
Even scarier, our neighbors in Puerto Rico went 11 months without power after Hurricane Maria.
And let’s not forget about our already taxed supply chains. It is still hard to get multiple items in grocery stores 2 years after the pandemic began. So you can bet that any natural disaster will bring even more food shortages.
Now consider how long it would take to get entire cities back up and running if there was an attack on the power grid. Or, God forbid, we found ourselves in the middle of a war zone.
These are obvious reasons families must prioritize stocking up on emergency food. We've helped millions over the years. However, many families fail to stock up as they want to because of the cost to accumulate a large emergency supply of food.
If you have been waiting to take the leap because of your finances, here are some tips to help you afford the large emergency food supply you need.
Determine How Much Long-Term Emergency Food You Need
The first step to stocking up is to decide exactly how much food you need. Preparedness advisors recommend far more than a 3-day supply of emergency food. However, 3 days’ worth of food is the standard starting point.
The ultimate goal is to have at least 2,000 calories a day per family member for as long as the disaster lasts. (It is important to understand that 2,000 calories are recommended every day, but you will likely need more during an emergency as your body burns calories more quickly.)
Let’s break these 2,000 calories down into 3 meals a day per person.
- For 3 days, this means 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 3 dinners.
- For 30 days, this means 30 breakfasts, 30 lunches, and 30 dinners.
- For 90 days, this means 90 breakfasts, 90 lunches, and 90 dinners.
The Type of Long-Term Emergency Food You Need
The most budget-friendly way to stockpile emergency food is to shop for nonperishables and canned goods at your local grocery store. However, these nonperishables have expiration dates and will not last as long as emergency foods designed specifically for long-term storage.
Additionally, if you choose to stock up this way, you will need to repackage the food to protect it from heat, moisture, and rodents. For example, you will need to repackage bags of rice.
In contrast, you can buy long-term emergency food that is designed to stay fresh for many years in packaging designed for long-term storage. Long-term emergency food can also be purchased in pre-made kits, such as 1-month or 3-month kits that can last up to 25 years.
Whether you choose to shop and stock from a local grocer or purchase a bulk food kit from My Patriot Supply, the goal is to build your pantry with nutritious food that will sustain your family in an emergency.
- It needs to have plenty of calories. You need all the calories you can get to maintain energy in an emergency. CALORIES = ENERGY = SURVIVAL.
- It needs to be tasty and comforting. If it is food your family won’t eat, it’s a big waste of money.
- It’s even better to stock up on multi-purpose long-term food items, such as Ready Hour pancake mix. In addition to making delicious pancakes using only water, this pancake mix can also be used for muffins, cookies, pizza crust, etc.
- It should be easy to prepare. Foods that you store for emergencies should not require special preparation or ingredients.
- It should not require refrigeration. Food that will spoil without refrigeration should not be considered.
- It should be healthy. Stock up on the basic food groups: meat, dairy, grains, nuts, veggies, and fruits.
[Related Read: Is Your Emergency Food Plan Setting You Up for Failure?]
How to Afford a 3-Month Emergency Food Supply
Food is already a big part of your budget, and now you need to save even more money to stock up on emergency food. And 3 months’ worth of food isn’t cheap.
It’s wise to stock even more than 3 months’ worth of food (the situation in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria comes to mind). However, we are using this example of a 3-month supply because this is better than a 3-day supply… and 3-months is the basic starter recommendation by preparedness advisors.
Fortunately, affording a large emergency food supply isn’t as difficult as you might think. All it takes is a little strategy and planning.
#1 Make a Food Plan
Start by making a food plan. Decide the type of emergency food you want to stock and where you’d like to buy it. This will help you plan financially.
Many families also find it helpful to create sample menus. For example, a sample menu for a week will give you an idea of what food you need to buy and in what quantities.
Using this information, write down a shopping list of all the food items you eventually want to have in your 3-month emergency food supply. When you purchase something from the list, cross it off.
#2 Create an Emergency Food Fund
All financial advisors emphasize the importance of emergency savings. Take that same advice and apply it to your emergency food savings. Create a budget that designates how much money you plan to save each paycheck for emergency food. And stick to it.
Use this emergency food fund for emergency food purchases only.
#3 Start Small and Build
Most people find it is easier to start small and build up to 3 months. For example, purchase enough food for 3 days as soon as possible.
My Patriot Supply offers a 72-hour sample pack for under $25. From there, make it a goal to save enough to build that 3-day supply up to a 1-week supply. And so on.
You’ll feel a little less stressed each time you hit the next month of food storage.
#4 Shop Wisely
We don’t advise panic shopping. If you panic shop, you rush and buy food supplies you don’t need. Instead, consider your food plan and shop wisely.
Look for sales, discounts, and buy one, get one free offers.
For example, My Patriot Supply sends out emails with promotions and offers a Deal of the Day on the website.
If you have started building your emergency food fund, you will have money saved and ready for when items on your food plan list go on sale.
#5 Ask for Gifts
Consider asking family and friends to help you stock your emergency food supply when your birthday or Christmas rolls around.
If you don’t feel comfortable asking them to buy you the food directly, ask for cash. Put cash gifts immediately toward your emergency food fund.
#6 Use Your Tax Refund
A quick and easy way to add a few days or even weeks’ worth of food to your emergency supply is to use your tax refund.
#7 Make Cuts
If you want to afford a large emergency food supply, you may have to make cuts in other areas.
When emergency preparedness is a priority, this will come naturally. You’ll recognize that the money you spend monthly on subscriptions could go a long way toward your emergency food fund.
#8 Buy in Bulk
We mentioned that many people like to build their collection slowly. This is perfectly fine. However, if you are able, you will save money by buying more at once.
Consider this example: At press time, a 1-week emergency food supply is $89.
If you bought 12 weeks, it would cost you $1,068.
However, if you purchased a 3-month emergency supply, it would cost $897.
You save almost $200 buying the 3-month supply versus 1 week at a time.
You may not be able to do this right out of the gate. That’s why we advise buying enough for 72 hours and then building an emergency food fund.
You can get something upfront and then take a little more time saving to buy the bulk.
#9 Think like a Homesteader
Another way to afford a large emergency food supply is to think like a homesteader. Instead of focusing solely on emergency food to stock, consider ways you can grow your own food.
Can you start sowing seeds or hobby farming chickens? This takes little money upfront and continues to provide nourishment year after year.
#10 Consider Financing
If you know you will have the money later (after budgeting and saving) and just don’t have it at the moment, consider financing.
My Patriot Supply offers simple financing for emergency preparedness. Provide some basic information and get a real-time decision to split your purchase into 3, 6, or 12 monthly payments from 0-30% APR.
#BONUS TIP Have the Right Mentality
If you understand the importance of building a large emergency food supply, you’ll be more prepared to save for it. It will motivate you toward making better financial decisions and practicing self-control.
Will you feel less stressed knowing you have a pantry full of emergency food if SHTF?
If so, then choose not to spend money on unnecessary things. For example, do you really need to spend a ton of money on a fancy vacation or a new tv? Or should you invest in your peace of mind?
Use this saying from British MI5 (Security Service) to stay focused on your goal: “At any given time, we’re nine meals away from anarchy.”
If a disaster lasts more than 3 days (3 meals for 3 days = 9 meals), that’s when the trouble will really begin.
Make stocking up enough food a priority, friends. Stay alert!
Elizabeth AndersonPreparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply