It makes sense to have at least three days worth of emergency supplies in your home at all times. Depending on where you live and your particular situation, you may want to keep more supplies than this available, but three days of emergency food storage is a good starting point. The idea of gathering in these supplies may seem overwhelming, but with a little planning, you will soon have what you need.
Select food items that are shelf stable, easy to prepare and things that your family will eat. It is relatively simple to determine how much food to set aside for three days, but determining your water needs are a little more challenging. In addition to having water to drink, you also need water to prepare food and clean up. In general, plan for a minimum of one gallon of water, per person, per day. So if you have a 72-hour kit made for four people, you’ll want 12 gallons of water to go with it. In hot weather, or if you will be performing physical labor, you may need up to twice that amount. When putting together your emergency supplies, make sure to remember your pets, and have an emergency stash of food, bandages, blankets, cloths, cash and prescription drugs.
To make using stored water as easy as possible, have it stored in a variety of container sizes. Gallon jugs are perfect for food prep and clean up, but having some smaller bottles for drinking means you won’t need to dirty glasses unnecessarily.
Purchasing unopened, sealed water is the safest and least labor intensive way to store water. This can be expensive, and is not necessary as long as you are willing to take some steps to ensure your water is stored correctly.
Wash empty soft drink bottles with soap and water and rinse well. You can now use these to store water. Soft drink bottles are ideal, because they wash out easily and are a convenient size. Juice or other drink containers which are made of PETE plastic are also acceptable, although it can be difficult to get all of the juice residue washed out of the container. Do not use milk jugs, as this plastic quickly breaks down and is not designed for long-term storage.
You can simplify food storage by purchasing items that are shelf stable. Select items that your family will eat, and that you will be able to prep with no electricity. Store a manual can opener with your food supplies.
It is important to store food in an area free of pests. Rodents, insects and other pests can chew through packaging, so check your stores frequently to make sure there are no signs of pest infestation.
The ideal temperature for food and water storage is between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Humidity should be low in the storage area, as moisture will increase the risk of mold damage and bacteria growth, as well as speed the breakdown of packaging materials. It is also important to keep food and water supplies away from direct sunlight and heat sources, which can speed the breakdown of both food and packaging.
It can be tempting to use your own tap water and containers to prepare water for storage. It is much less expensive than purchasing water, and you can easily rotate in fresh supplies without feeling wasteful. If your water comes from a clean source, pre-treated with chlorine, which most public water supplies in the US are, you only need to put the water in clean containers for storage. If your tap water is not chlorinated, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoons of unscented household bleach to every five gallons of water. Be sure to use plain bleach, rather than the type with added thickeners. Your water will be safe to use when needed, although it is advisable to rotate through your entire emergency stock of food and water once a year.