The Food in Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit

by LDS Intelligent Living

You should gather whatever your family will need to survive for three days.  Those items in your emergency kit might be the only possessions you will have. During a disaster, there will be a lot of stress. You may have been evacuated to a  shelter, you could be walking or driving to get to safety (always have your gas tank close to full), and you may have to use your camping gear for a while. Having food you like to eat during these difficult times will definitely boost your morale. You certainly do not want to try new things. Plan your food according to your family’s needs (allergies, diabetes etc.) The food should be non perishable, easy to store and prepare, light weight and have a long shelf life. It should have adequate  calories, protein, carbohydrates and be low in sodium (salty food will make you thirsty). You want food that will give you energy and fill you up. You don’t want to add to your stress level by being hungry. Choose food high in fiber and avoid junk food.                          

Some Food Ideas


Most of you would be fine on 2,000 calories a day in an emergency situation. You might need more calories in cold weather or if you have to do heavy work. Keep this amount under consideration as you build your food kit. The best types of food are starches and the like (complex carbohydrates). They are easy to digest, and provide longer lasting energy. If you are a nursing mother, you should have powdered formula for your infant (you will need to plan extra water), and have disposable bottles/liners etc. on hand because sterilization may not be available. You may not be around to nurse your child during an emergency.                       

Organizing the Food


It is more convenient to plan the same food items (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks) for the three days. Separate the food in gallon-sized Ziploc bags for each day. If you separate the food for each of the three days, it will help you not over eat your supplies and allow you to keep order in your kit. You can easily see the food in the Ziploc bag, which makes it easier to notice if you forgot anything.

Some suggestions for 72 hour emergency food

Peanut butter, Nutella, granola bars, protein bars, cereal, MREs and Freeze Dried Food (FDF), soy milk, milk (powdered or canned), raviolis, chili, beef stew, tuna, rice, ready-to-eat soup (not condensed), dehydrated fruits and fruit leathers, instant oats, instant grits, juice boxes, fruit cups, canned food, and Ramen noodles.Favorite snacks should be included, as well as lollipops, and hard candies. The flavor of peppermint ((gums, candies) is soothing and curbs the appetite and will keep mouths occupied when hungry.

Remember to separate food with strong flavors or scents so they don’t mix with the rest of the food in the Ziploc bag.

Don’t forget to date the Ziploc bags as well as your food items. Write family members’ names on the bag as well, especially if there are food limitations for some of them. Keep a record of all the food you bought for your emergency kit and how you organized each day’s menu. It will make it easier to update your food pack later on.

MREs (Meals Ready to Eat, the U.S. military’s field rations) MREs can be eaten cold but are not very palatable. An MRE basically tastes like any sort of food out of a can does. Each meal contains about 1300 calories. The shelf life (3+ years) of this type of food is dependent on the storage temperature. Keep in a cool place at 70 degrees or lower. Marshall Brain, talking about the taste of MREs, said the following,

“If you grew up like a lot of Americans, eating casseroles, Hamburger Helper and lots of prepared foods out of a can or a jar, then an MRE is a completely normal, completely acceptable meal for you.”

Freeze Dried Food Freeze dried food in pouches maintain nutritional values rivaling the best fresh frozen products. They have a long shelf life (up to 7 years). They come in a wide variety of products in 1, 2, or 4 person food pouches (entrees, side dishes, snacks, and more). There is no cooking required, just add water. They are lightweight, which is desirable for an emergency kit, but they are expensive. You need to plan extra water if you have FDFs as part of your emergency food kit.

Updating your kit Involve your family members in this preparation so they can learn about preparedness. General Conference is a good time to update your 72 hour emergency kit. This way, twice a year, you can change the food and clothes for the fall/winter and spring/summer seasons. Kids sizes change (adults too), and clothes need to match the seasons. Other supplies in the emergency kit such as batteries etc. can be updated at that time as well. Have your family members eat the food between the sessions of General Conference. Our kids enjoy the eating part of updating the 72 hour kit. Remember, it will be less stressful if you pick food that requires little or no water and also doesn’t require cooking. If your food requires cooking, you will need a mess kit or other compact equipment and a stove. If you have canned food, pack a can opener. Include one even if you do not have cans in your kit, you might need it anyway.

Our son would not leave behind his pet lovebird Soleil if we had to evacuate.


You need to plan for your pets as well. They will depend on you for food, water, and shelter. You’ll also need to store a gallon of water per day per person. That is a lot of water to carry. Try putting as many water bottles as you can in a cooler, cart, or bag with wheels and keep it with your 72 hour emergency bags and supplies.

Do not forget to pack hand wipes, plastic utensils, paper bowls and/or plates, and trash bags.

Remember, this is a short term situation. This kit is a survival kit. Do not go to extremes as you gather these supplies.

Photos by LDS Intelligent Living

One thought on “The Food in Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit”

  1. Food nutrition takes as much work as folks normally put into first aid (and first aid a lot longer than that). I recommend learning what endurance athletes eat when preparing for a competition and going from there. In a prolonged stressful situation people burn through calories quickly. A bullion cube, a pack of ramen noodles, a granola bar, and a handful of Jolly Ranchers (as most Mormons put in their “72-hour kits”) just won’t cut it. It will leave that person very hungry, and in line at the FEMA or Red Cross shelter. Our goal should be to stay out of those and self-reliant.

    What will you do when your five year-old says “Mommy, I’m hungry.” I plan to make myself as self-reliant as possible to be able to keep my wife and children warm, dry, safe, and well-fed.

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