FIRST, use perishable food and foods from the refrigerator.
THEN use the foods from the freezer. To minimize the number of times you open the freezer door, post a list of freezer contents on it. In a well-filled, well-insulated freezer, foods will usually still have ice crystals in their centers (meaning foods are safe to eat) for at least three days.
FINALLY, begin to use non-perishable foods and staples.
The best approach is to store large amounts of staples along with a variety of canned and dried foods. Bulk quantities of wheat, corn, beans and salt are inexpensive and have nearly unlimited shelf life. If necessary, you could survive for years on small daily amounts of these staples.
Stock the following amounts per person, per month:
(Courtesy of FEMA )
The above staples offer a limited menu, but you can supplement them with commercially packed air-dried or freeze-dried foods and supermarket goods. Rice, popcorn and varieties of beans are nutritious and long-lasting. The more supplements you include, the more expensive your stockpile will be.
The following is an easy approach to long-term food storage:
No power means no refrigerators or freezers. The best storage is prepackaged food that won't spoil until opened. Cans, boxed food, beans, pasta, etc., will all survive without refrigeration. Survival rations can usually be bought at an Army Surplus store, and camp rations at a camping supply store.
Milk may be purchased in cans, vacuum packed, or in powder form. Powdered eggs can be used in a pinch, though the taste can leave something to be desired. Baby formula is usually canned or powdered. Word of caution --if you do purchase canned perishables, be sure they are sized for use. You won't be able to store opened cans of milk, etc., without risking food poisoning. Another benefit of canned foods is that they don't require cooking, water or special preparation.
Coolers are always an option, however you have to find a ready source of ice. No electricity, no ice maker. However, those that live in cold climates have an advantage. If the temperature outside is consistently below 32 degrees, a Styrofoam cooler outdoors works well for items like margarine, cheese, etc. Just protect it from animals and curious passerby's.
Store wheat, corn and beans in sealed cans or plastic buckets. Buy powdered milk in nitrogen-packed cans. And leave salt and vitamin C in their original packages.
Most of us buy our food at supermarkets. If there is a breakdown in the supply chain, we could experience shortages or store closures. The best alternative is - of course - buying what you need ahead of time. At least 2-3 months prior, start laying in non perishable basics like, toilet paper, tissue, dry and can goods, etc.
The cheapest way to purchase goods is by case-lot. It not always easy to find, but talk to the managers of your favorite store, and see if they'll do so. If the local market closes, you may be able to turn to the local barter market.
You might also want to check out -
"Emergency Essentials" at http://www.beprepared.com, or call 1-800-999-1863
"The Survival Center" at http://survivalcenter.com/foodstor.html, or call 1-800-321-2900 for their catalog.
For favorite foods such as strawberries, bananas, etc., you might consider purchasing far in advance and dehydrating. Today's dehydrator's are simple to use and very effective. Storage can be as simple as ziplock bags or vacuum seal jars. To extend shelf-life, you can store dehydrated foods in your freezer until needed. Rehydration is simply a matter of adding water, or you can eat them as is, or add to your morning cereal, or in your baking.
You can also use your dehydrator or oven to make jerky. Or, if you're more ambitious, you can try canning. However, make sure you follow directions carefully to avoid any contamination or later spoilage. Your local library should have plenty of books available on both methods.
You can always treat emergency situations like a camp out. A propane or kerosene stove works just fine for most stove-top cooking. The only problem is enough fuel, and proper ventilation. Fire danger increases as well. Make sure you have one or more multi-use fire extinguishers always close at hand --small canister, ABC type. Also, never leave an open flame unattended, especially indoors, and most especially when small children are nearby.
An outdoor charcoal or propane grill can do double duty, as well as your fireplace (as long as it is wood burning). You can also heat food with candle warmers, chafing dishes and fondue pots. Canned food 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. Also, canned foods won't require cooking, water or special preparation.
Most camping supply stores have quite a wide variety of devices with which you can cook --from solar, to the old sterno cans. Check with them for what may be appropriate for your needs. Also, make any purchases well in advance. Prices may go up, and availability may go down as "the day" approaches.
If these staples comprise your entire menu, you must eat all of them together to stay healthy. To avoid serious digestive problems, you'll need to grind the corn and wheat into flour and cook them, as well as boil the beans, before eating. Many health food stores sell hand-cranked grain mills or can tell you where you can get one. Make sure you buy one that can grind corn. If you are caught without a mill, you can grind your grain by filling a large can with whole grain one inch deep, holding the can on the ground between your feet and pounding the grain with a pipe.
You might want to store the following in a large covered plastic storage bins until needed.
Put together a basic first aid kit. You can obtain a basic first aid manual from your local American Red Cross chapter. Include the following: