Surviving the Unexpected: A Guide to Selecting and Storing Survival Food

Shahzad Masood

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Survival Food

In the arena of emergency preparedness, the selection and storage of survival food is a topic often overlooked and yet crucial for a well-rounded survival plan. Whether prompted by natural disasters, economic downturns, or even global pandemics, the ability to sustain oneself with a carefully curated supply of food is not just for the doomsday prepper—it’s a prudent measure for any responsible individual or family. This comprehensive guide is your ticket to navigating the world of survival food and ensuring you’re prepared for the unexpected.

Understanding the Basics

Before you rush off to stockpile cans of whatever you find on the freeze dried store shelves, it’s important to understand the basics. Not all foods are created equal in terms of longevity and nutrition, which makes informed selection and thoughtful storage paramount.

Nutritional Value

In a crisis, the nutritional value of the food you consume is arguably just as important as its caloric content. Your body will require a balance of proteins, fats, and a whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals to cope with stress and maintain health. MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat) are a popular choice due to their balanced nutrition, but options like dried fruits, nuts, and freeze-dried vegetables can also be excellent sources of essential nutrients.

Shelf Life

The shelf life of your survival food can vary dramatically. Canned goods, for instance, can last for several years, while freeze-dried foods can last even longer. Understanding these timelines and the best practices for storage will ensure your food doesn’t spoil or lose nutritional value over time.

Availability and Allergies

When selecting survival food, consider the dietary restrictions and preferences of your household. It’s also wise to ensure that your chosen foods are available and can be stored safely at your place of residence.

How to Select the Right Survival Foods

Your survival food supply should be as diverse as your regular grocery list, with the added caveat of longevity and ease of preparation. Here are a few pointers to guide your selection process:

Diverse Food Group Representation

Aim for a variety of foods that represent different food groups. Remember, variety not only provides a more interesting diet but also ensures a wider array of nutrients.

High-Calorie Foods

In a crisis, you will likely be more active and burning more calories. Foods high in caloric content, such as nuts and seeds, will be essential for maintaining energy levels.

Long Shelf-Life Products

Foods with long shelf-lives, such as dehydrated meals, rice, and canned goods, should make up a bulk of your supply. Rotate these out over time to maintain freshness.

Easy-to-Prepare Options

During an emergency, the last thing you want is to grapple with complicated recipes. Choose foods that require minimal preparation and no refrigeration, like instant oatmeal and canned beans.

Storing Survival Food

Once you’ve amassed a collection of survival food, the next critical step is proper storage. Here’s how to keep your stash safe and sustainable:

Consider the Storage Environment

Where you keep your survival food can be just as important as what you keep. Find a cool, dark place with a relatively stable temperature to store your supplies. Basements, root cellars, and even portions of your home that don’t get direct sunlight are ideal.

Organize and Label Everything

Proper organization and labeling will help you rotate your supply as you purchase new items. Use a system that ensures the oldest food gets used first, such as the first in, first out (FIFO) method.

Keep Pests and Oxygen at Bay

Invest in quality storage containers to protect your food from oxygen and pests. Oxygen absorbers and sealed Mylar bags can help extend the shelf life of foods like rice and pasta.

Plan for Water and Preparation

Water is as essential as food for survival. Ensure you have enough stored water not just for drinking, but also for rehydrating any dehydrated or freeze-dried foods.

Handling Emergencies and Adaptation

Your survival food plan should not be a static document but rather a flexible one that can adapt to changing situations:

Stay Informed

Keep yourself updated on the latest in emergency preparedness, food safety, and nutritional information. Consider joining preparedness groups or online forums to exchange knowledge and tips.

Practice Makes Perfect

Actually try preparing your survival meals under controlled conditions. This will help you gauge the time and effort required, and you may discover that you need extra utensils or tools.

Reflect and Evolve

Debrief after each preparation session or after experiencing a minor emergency. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t, and be willing to adapt your plan accordingly.

What Not to Do

There are a few common mistakes that can easily derail your efforts towards establishing a reliable survival food plan:

Don’t Overlook Water

More critical than food, water is essential and often overlooked. Ensure you have a robust strategy for storing water alongside your food supply.

Don’t Forget the Multivitamins

While your best attempt at a well-rounded food supply is commendable, it may not cover all nutritional bases. Multivitamins can provide a safety net for any gaps in your diet.

Don’t Rely Solely on Foraging

Even if you’re well-versed in wild edibles, environmental conditions during an emergency might render foraging ineffective. Rely on your stored food first and use foraging as a supplemental strategy.


Preparing for unforeseen events is not a task to be taken lightly, and the topic of survival food is one that warrants careful thought and execution. By understanding the nutritional value, shelf life, and proper storage of survival food, you’re already miles ahead in your preparedness journey. Take the time to build a food supply that is tailored to your needs, and remember to stay alert, flexible, and proactive in your approach to survival. In the face of uncertainty, a well-stocked pantry might just be the assurance you need to weather the storm.

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