Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Emergency Meal Kit Challenge!

The first three days of any emergency crisis are always the most critical. It's not that problems can't or won't occur after the initial event, but psychologically, people are dealing with the trauma of the moment and it can be difficult to think about something as simple as preparing a meal. Especially if one has the added challenge of the grid being down... no electricity, no gas, no water.

Imagine for a minute... a hurricane, earthquake, flood, or tornado has hit your town (one of these scenarios should cover just about everyone). Most of the town's infrastructure has been destroyed and mass casualties have traumatized the citizens. Thankfully, your family is safe and your home intact, but the power is down and water isn't coming out of the faucets. The damage is so widespread that you quickly realize help is not coming anytime soon. (Think Katrina and you're on the right track). However, kids are still growing bodies and they're telling you that they're really hungry. You have a lot of food storage, but you mind is a blur right now. You just need time to process it all. If only the world would stop for a few hours...

Are you tracking with me? Three days. That's what the average person needs to process all this and start thinking beyond the immediate catastrophe. Therefore, you need to have an easy to follow protocol for the first 72 hours. A plan that will allow you to take care of basic needs without really thinking a lot. Food that your family finds nourishing, tasty, and is comforting. (And, of course it would be an extra bonus if it were healthy, too.)

Having three days worth of meals ready to prepare would be wise, would it not? I'm not talking about your regular food storage. I'm talking about everything you need for one meal... in a box. A meal that doesn't require anything but a manual can opener and perhaps a bowl and spoon to mix. Also, it would be ideal if the meal did not require cooking over a heat source (since you might not have one right away due to ongoing weather issues or some other reason) nor would it require a lot of water (pasta requires a lot of precious water that may be scarce). And it would be healthy in that it is as free from additives and sugars as possible, but still packaged for long term storage (say 6 months to a year).

Here's an example for a lunch or dinner idea based around tuna:

• canned tuna
• small jar of mayo
• small jar of pickle relish
• jar or bag of spices for tuna
• canned fruit
• a box of crackers
• cans of V-8 or similar vegetable drink
• trail mix packets

Everything would be placed in a box and labeled "Tuna Meal". Once every 6 months to a year, you would actually eat this meal and replace it's ingredients immediately in order to keep it fresh. (Be sure to label it with a "consume by..." date.) Store it in a cool place in your pantry up off the floor for maximum freshness.

Now imagine that you had 3 days worth of these meals, each in their own box, ready to go! Three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners. It would give you time to get back on your feet. And the preparation would be simple. Just add one meal to each shopping trip over the next few months until you have what you need.

Meet the Challenge!

For the remainder of the month of October, I am leaving a linky open on this post for you to create one Emergency Meal Kit to share with others; and you can gather ideas for your own meal kits as well. You do not have to have photos, just write up what you would put in the box, add a link to this post, and then come back here and link up. Remember, this is an entire meal not just an entree!

Here's some tips to help you:

• include all ingredients needed to make the meal
• recipes for anything that needs additional preparation
• try to include protein of some kind
• be sure to add a fruit or vegetable of some kind
• note if the meal is gluten free, nut free, dairy free, etc.
• if the meal requires water to prepare, be sure to included it the box
• if it requires a heat source to prepare, please note any alternatives that might work, such as a solar oven, wood stove, dutch oven on a campfire, etc. (and stick some matches inside!)

You might want to purchase a second can opener that is stored in the first box at all times!! That way, you don't have to hunt it down during your hour of greatest need.

I can't wait to see all the creative ideas each of you comes up with!


  1. This is great info. I hadn't thought about adjustment time...of course, I like to think that I'm just going to be oh-so calm and on my toes should an emergency arise. But the truth is, I'll be a mess, I'm sure. I get upset if I don't have water for an hour...let alone days and days. We are fortunate...and I take it for granted....

  2. I keep thinking I need to start doing things like this and then I put it off...but your right, we should all be prepared!

  3. This is brilliant. As much as I have been stocking food, you'd think I'd have thought of this. Thank you, thank you. I will definitely pursue this line of thought and watch for ideas from you and others. A favorite open-a-can-or-jar meal for me is blackeyed peas, whole kernel corn, and diced tomatoes heated together. It could, in a pinch, be eaten cold. Salsa is nice with it. Gotta go put on my thinking cap!

  4. I think this is a great post. I have thought alot lately about preparedness (we had the power go out very unexpectedly recently) and I was not as prepared as I thought. I hadn't considered having a whole meal kit like this as you have suggested. Thank you for something to think about and I'll be sure to link up if I come up with one of my one.

  5. This is a fantastic idea! I'm using it. Too many people think it just won't happen to them. Maybe it won't but, how can we tell what will be tomorrow?

  6. I love this! We have 72 hours of emergency food bars for our "Just in case" bags (as I choose to call them to the kids) that go with us if we have to leave in an emergency, and we have the food storage. But I love this idea of not having to think. It allows all that thinking to go to long term planning and helping the small ones deal with the situation.


  7. Never really thought of this. Papa and I used to do a lot of camping in the woods and so we do have the tools to cook by if any of the indoor amenities were to not be available, I have cooked everything from eggs to steak and taters on the camp stove and even on an open flamed camp fire which we do have in the yard. But this does ask a big question as to how we would survive with out . Great post. Things that make ya go HUM !!! Have a wonderful day !

  8. I can't wait to see all the ideas! Gotta come up with one of my own.....

  9. Amy, may I participate on the Linky thingy if I don't have a blog? Thanks! Donna

  10. YES, Donna! Just write it up as a comment and add it here.

  11. I hope that I am not being naive here, but I think we’re fairly prepared with just what I can on a yearly basis. We always have plenty of fruit, vegetables and meat canned up. I regularly keep about 2 extra months worth of stuff on hand like salt, rice, flour, mayonnaise, ketchup, etc. Since we have a wood stove and plenty of wood, it’s easy to still cook as if I were using a stove top. I would not be able to bake anything though.
    The only thing that I NEED to get into place is a source of water. If the power goes out we have none. Our well is run off a pump that needs electricity. Thanks for the reminder to get prepared in that respect! :)
    Heather@ MountainHomeQuilts

    1. Heather - The Lehmans catalog has manual water pumps in case your power goes out. You can also usually find 125 gal containers that are square and in cages on pallets (can't remember what they're called at the moment) at many feed stores and supply places to store a goodly amount of water. Lastly, you could get a larger tank (here in Arizona we have homesteads called "water hauls" where a water truck brings water every few months) and fill it, flushing it out for animals every once in a while.
      Just some ideas :)

    2. They're called IBC crates :) There are almost always some available on craigslist in my area, but you HAVE to be SURE you get food grade ones, or else you can't be sure that what was previously stored inside wasn't toxic.
      Also, if you have a water source nearby such as a pond, lake, stream or river, get a Berkey! The best filter on Earth IMHO. The black filters remove everything except the minerals, plus it's gravity driven - no electricity or water pressure needed!

  12. Hi Heather, I see Blogger is still making it difficult for some of you to leave a comment - only as anonymous. Sorry about that.

    No, you're not naive... you have a plan and you're working it, but it is good to have Plan B, C, D, and even E (LOL!) I have wood ready to go and it would be easy enough to dig a fire pit and start a fire to cook by... unless it is pouring down rain during a crisis. Or the wood stove is damaged in an earthquake. Or, the grill won't work for some reason. Even my Emergency Meal Kit could suffer damage if the house collapsed, but most likely not ALL options will be knocked out in once scenario. You just never know which ones.

    Oh, and I learned in my CERT class last night that you need to know exactly where items are stored so you can dig them out in the event your roof collapses, etc. For those in CA, you'll want to make sure that your canned goods will be ready for a good shaking should the BIG ONE hit.

  13. Definitely something I need to consider doing. While I'm out here with a well, generator, propane etc., it would be nice to have something somewhat preplanned. I have a diabetic in the house, so meals can't be too willy nilly.

    I've done this somewhat with heat -- I have a corn burner as well as a propane furnace -- neither of which will work without electricity. I just installed a 30K BTU wall propane heater. I don't have to worry anymore -- click click woosh!!


  14. Aloha!

    I'm Heidi and we live in Hawaii. In my job (I work in care homes for adults with DD) it is mandatory for our homes to have a 5 emergency supply of food, water, and other necessities for our clients and staff, in case we have to vacate the home in case of a hurricane or tsunami.

    We keep it very simple and get things that can be eaten straight out of the can. With so many people and supplies you also have to think about how much room there is in the car. Right now a 5 day water supply for 5 residents and at least 2 staff would pretty much fill the car!! So we also need to consider a filtering system or those tables that we could use instead of lugging all the water.

    You also need to think about the foods you take....I'm not too sure about the mayo you have on your list. Depending on the temps, after you open it, it could spoil with out refrigeration. For me, it would be a waste of space and resources. We opt for canned fruit (you can save the liquid to drink), canned veggies (in an emergency situation you would even drink the liquid from this), canned tuna, canned chicken, spam, canned ready meals, even have some candy on hand.

    My husband and I also have a supply of the military meals you can get from a surplus store. Another thing we have from the surplus store is a toilet seat that fits on a 10Gal bucket (I think it's 10). they also have tablets that, in combination with water, will dissolve the waste. Oh, not to forget the black water bags to heat water by the sun. Also have a stash of useful medical supplies, triple antibiotic, pain pills etc.

    In the supply box we also have: forks, knives and spoons, cooking cutlery, a pot, a small camping stove, paper towels/napkins/toilet paper, cups, plates, waterproof matches, candles, thermal blankets, a thermometer, band-aides, markers, pen, paper, chalk (if we need to leave a message or take notes), a crank/battery/solar Radio, flash light (1 per person), batteries, lanterns are good too. Some people get those solar battery chargers for their phone - excellent investment. OH! And if you have children, get their favorite toy/doll/book, to keep them occupied and a sense of security.

    Each resident has a backpack ready with clothes for 5 days, towel, washcloth, toothbrush, tooth paste, bar of soap, shampoo/conditioner, shaver and a roll of Toilet paper (TP can be used for many other things) and a blanket or sleeping bag.

    We have their medication stored in a box on the shelf, so if we need to go, we just need to grab the box. Every minute is precious.

    If you have to leave your home, and one of your family members is not there - be sure you either left a note by the phone, telling them when you left and where you went. Talk in advance about a meeting area. If you have the time, before you leave, turn off the power switch and gas. You never know what might happen when it gets turned back on - it might fry all your appliances and electronics.

    So I think I've covered all my bases. We just have to think way more drastic here because it is not only power out, it might mean you have to leave your home. Hope this helps some one down the line.

  15. Heidi, you make some really great points. This is not a G.O.O.D.Y. or BOB bag where you would take it in the car. This is in addition to those things. An Emergency Meal Kit would be for staying put. And a really small mayo would work fine if you use most of it and trash the rest - something I don't like to do, but in a moment of crisis, the goal for the first three days is to process emotions, stay safe, make major decisions, etc. It's good to have more than one plan, but I hope none of us every really have to use any of it other than for resupplying our stores.

    1. We use the little mayo packets for our kits.

    2. Mayonnaise is now so processed, it does not require refrigeration after opening...and I confirmed that with my local food/health inspector. I know...scary, but read the label...nowhere does it say "requires refrigeration after opening".

    3. So I just looked at my mayonnaise and it definitely says refrigerate after opening. Maybe you just buy a special kind of mayo?

  16. I see I should have taken more time and read it over again. Sorry for the missing words, If you have a question about something I missed please ask.

    Also wanted to mention that the RED CROSS has a great list of what one should have ready in case of an emergency.


    1. I think for some reason my response was lost...lack of blog exp.
      I have gone through several hurricanes on the east coast and 9/11.

      I have lost water, electricity, gas, phone and transportation. You have a great list above. I would add sterno and and a red cross radio. I also found glow sticks for people stuck on high level apartment floors with no way to get down. Fill your bathtubs with water and buy as much as you can. We had rats coming in from the river into out building. We had to discard our rubbish outside. Buy garbage bags...air fresheners and extra soap. Candles and sterno were great.
      A charge strip in case you find some one with electricity.
      Real Books.
      Real Games.
      We didn't have space in our apt for buckets, but if you fill the tub with discard water and are careful with it, you might make it.
      My thoughts....remember the worst is people not finding you. My dad suggested a ham radio. I don't know if this works. We could never reach them.

  17. Right Amy!

    Like I said, we have to go to extremes here - I'm 2 miles from the beach and I can tell you it wasn't fun to watch my hubby drive away with our supplies, when we had the Tsunami warning in March, while I had to stay behind and be ready for the residents.

    The radio, charger etc are things to have and be sure of if you stay or go - You can pick and choose from my list, what might be of use for your stay at home emergency ;o)

    FWIW - For the homes I had a limited budget and shopped in bulk - my small mayo is the size of a new born! lol

  18. Great Comments, I hit on the idea of the house, I think it would be a good idea to put away a box of a couple day's set of meals and store it in my little barn, I could pack it all into a steel garbage can, just as I have a small cast iron wood stove for that building as its my 3rd backup, the RV with its propane stove, heater and fridge is the first, after the house itself.

  19. Hi! I will try to link up an idea post tonight. You don't have to post this comment, but your blog is a bit messed up. You have to scroll down a mile before you get to the comments. Just thought you like to know. Love your site, thanks for the ideas!

  20. Storing camping supplies (stove, canisters, tent, etc) near a garage door with the box of food supplies would make it easy for any family member to find, especially if the house has collapsed. Also, a sprinkle apple cider vinegar could take the place of mayo, there is a salad of tuna, garbanzo beans, etc that might make a good meal.

  21. I know this isn't the place for this comment but I can't get to the 'contact' section! I have a very difficult getting your blog to load, it always comes up to a white screen. Occasionally I can scroll down, where I see the pictures and might be able to stop at a section, but usually it stays stuck. I would really like to read the rest of this blog!

  22. Heather,
    I'm so sorry it's been so difficult to read my blog! I'm wondering if you have a Google account or how you've signed in to leave the comment, because I can't click your name and access you either. Have you tried clicking one of my icons to follow in a reader or by email? That might work as well, but my best suggestion is to sign up for a free Google account. Please feel free to email me if you have more questions at homesteadrevival at sbcglobal dot net.

  23. My fav DIY shelf-stable recipe sites are:

    The next one has a link to a Google Spreadsheet with abt 32 tabs, each one with their own recipe, but IMO some tweaks would be needed to be truly shelf-stable, like using Sam's Club or www.minimus.biz/Condiments.aspx packets. And I suppose the meat could be commercial or home-canned, and maybe a few with jerky.

    I'm guessing most commenters/linky'ers don't drink coffee? Haha, I'm sure there's plenty of family-members or neighbors that would love their caffeine fix. Get a large camp percolater, or a Melitta drip carafe. Other than cooking for me and DH after H.Ike, I made coffee for our 2 remaining neighbors (7 adults, not including us - yes I store a LOT of water pre-hurricane season), and received many favors in return. They mowed our grass to grind up the yuck left after picking up sticks, and the other neighbor brought us home a 1-gallon block of ice from his job everyday until stores carried ice again. DH also charged the ice-neighbor's cellphones daily, since he didn't have a DC-car-cable for it, even if all we could do was send text's for almost a week LOL

  24. If you have pets or take meds, make that part of your preparations too

  25. Excellent post and great points being made. My thought for the Great Mayo Debate- why not pick up an extra handful of single serving mayo packets the next time you're at a fast food joint? That way they are sealed, they won't require refrigeration and there is little wasting of precious food. In an emergency, you can crack open a few and save the rest. Just a thought :)

    1. Great idea, Rose! That's what I love about the blogging community... by sharing we can do a lot of things better. Those little mayo packets take up a lot less room!

  26. I have added paper plates, cups, utensils, & napkins and a deck of cards for the kids to my 3 day Emergency Meal Kit. That way I do not have to focus on the simplest things. I have also added tea & sugar packets, sugar free packets. My husband travels and brings back the coffee from the Hotel rooms and I have added those prepacked coffees to the 3 day kit as well. All I need is hot water for those. I have added a couple of the 5 hour vitamin drinks to the kit as well, they do not take up a lot of space and it never hurts to have vitamin B for the stress. I love this Emergency Meal Kit Idea. I want to thank all of you for such great Ideas. I am some what of a newbie.

  27. Bearing in mind that you may be without electricity, we stay away from items that would need to be refrigerated after they're opened (mayo, relish, ketchup, etc.). Instead, every time we go someplace that has those little condiment packets, we pick up a few extra. We have a grocery bag in our emergency supply closet with just these condiment packets. It's safer than risking getting sick from perishable condiments. Just my two-cents. :)

  28. Thanks so much for this post, the linkys, and the comments. Very helpful!

  29. Amy, I thought a good meal would combine Salsa, beans, optional chicken (canned or vacuum packed, which could be eaten with chips. It could be eaten room temperature or warm, it is gluten free, and it could be vegan. If you had a portable heat source, instant rice would be a nice addition. Then dark chocolate for dessert. I would have tea in my kit.

    I was trying to think of what could be eaten for breakfast... Maybe some high calorie bars -- cliff bars are pretty good -- fruit cups, nuts, peanut butter and jelly on graham crackers

  30. Hi Amy,
    I just saw your original post and thought I would comment. I love the idea of having a meal in a box. That takes all the pressure off!!! I did want to mention a real life situation where said box would have been handy.
    I live in North Alabama, and in March 2011, we had a horrible series of tornadoes pass through our area. Many homes were totally destroyed, some were damaged, but the entire county was without power for at least 4 days. We fortunately had water, so no crisis there, however, we learned firsthand the importance of prepping.
    These storms came suddenly. If you didn't have it, you weren't getting it. At the time we weren't preppers. However, we are American and have more food in our pantry than 3rd world countries have in a year. Our eating order was: Refrigerator, Freezer, Deep Freeze then Dry Pantry. I was thankful to have the diversion of preparing meals. I should also note that I do not have small children. From the refrigerator and freezer, I was able to feed about 10 people for 4 days.

  31. Go in with some other prepping friends to buy the boxes of individual condiment packages from the discount stores like Sams and Costco to get your packages of mayo, ketchup etc. People that take, aka steal, condiments they do not need at the time of purchasing a meal from a fast food or other restaurant is one reason prices are raised for us all. I have friends that own franchises, a Chick-fil-a and McDonalds and they tell me that in the last year (since beginning of 2012) Condiment costs increased around 20% for both that they are directly attributing to the down turn in the economy and the prepping movement. On almost any blog you can see writers and posters encouraging this larceny as routine and acceptable practice to fulfill a need they think is at no cost to themselves. If you do not need it for the meal you bought DO NOT TAKE IT!

  32. I've read that the best place to keep your kit is IN YOUR CAR. .... one in each vehicle. That way, you always have it, if you should be stranded from home or have to evacuate - or you are stuck at home without power - you've got your supplies!

  33. I've loved reading the comments but I do have to say the original post was RE: for you to create one Emergency Meal Kit to share with others. I really only saw a few of those maybe two or three...just sayin'!!

    Having said that, tuna is probably one of the few meats (fish) that most of us will eat uncooked right out of a can. So I guess it's easy. When I was in Europe my girlfriend and I used to buy a nice loaf of French bread, a can or sardines, fruit and with our Swiss Army knives (included a fork and spoon) we had quite a meal. You wouldn't want to put a loaf of bread but a sleeve of crackers (of choice), a can of sardines (I know not everyone likes them but truly if you do their delish so if it's not your thing go for canned chicken) and a can of fruit (oranges, pears, peaches or applesauce). If you happen to be able to get cheese out of the fridge great but you could put a can of squeeze cheese in your box. I'd also include some hard candies even if you're not into them regularly.

    BTW totally agree about the condiments. They are for your current meal not future meals and it's stealing otherwise. Every once in a while I do end up with extra but not purposely. You can freeze hot sauce ones and they make great little bitty ice packs for a sore.

  34. Thank you for inspiring me. I just come across this on Pinterest and I noticed there is no "link" anymore. Please let me know about other Emergency Meal Kit ideas. I would appreciate it. I thought that I will purchase one meal during each pay period. This way it isn't overwhelming to my budget and I can slowly build it. I did add plastic utensils to my kit. I think I should add wipes in the little individual packages. This paycheck I did two meals -- one was your tuna idea and the other was peanut butter and jelly. I purchased small packages of those items. They will probably feed my whole family for one meal. Thanks for the inspiration but please let me know of others. Thanks.

  35. I've fed my family with canned goods--chunky soups, fruits and veggies, over sterno. We have used water to flush the toilet from water I saved in the bathtub. I used candles, flashlights, glowsticks, and electrical strips to make it. Oh and the Red Cross Radio. Pack garbage bags....lots of them. Read above to see how we made it thru Sandy and 9/11..its under Heidi.


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