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How to build a 3-month emergency food supply

I’m a firm believer in being prepared. I’m not worried about a zombie apocalypses or some doomsday scenario, but I do worry about natural disasters, power outages, or a personal financial crisis from a job loss or injury.

To prepare myself and my family I decided to begin with a three-month supply of food.

I’m not the most organized person in the world, so I knew I needed a simple system that would allow for easy food rotation with quick and easy to prepare meals that everyone in the family would eat. I also needed an inexpensive system that wouldn’t break the bank.

The Prepping Now 3 Month Emergency Food System is designed to be simple, inexpensive, and easy to implement.

This workbook is designed to break the process down into simple actionable steps that you can begin implementing immediately.

Ideally, you will spend 1-2 hours brainstorming meals and putting together ingredient lists. The rest of the process will involve a few extra minutes organizing your food after each grocery trip.

I have broken this workbook down into weekly meal plans. To keep the process simple, I recommend working towards one meal plan each week. This means that each week as you do your grocery shopping you will be purchasing food for two weeks.

If you stay on schedule you will have a 3-month emergency food system in place within 12 weeks. If this doesn’t fit your budget, then spread it out. Even if you focus on a one-week meal plan each month, you will still have an extra 3 months of food within a year.

To keep my life simple, I’ve focused on 4 weekly meals plans rather than doing 12 individual weekly plans. This means that I’ll repeat each meal at least 4 times over a 3 month period.

I’m lucky and my family will each spaghetti pretty much non-stop, so I’ve actually got it scheduled for 8 meals over 12 months. What I’m saying is, you do you!

Find meals that work within your budget and family tastes and then branch off from there.

This workbook is broken up into sections. I’ve included 4 weekly meals plans worksheets with ingredient and shopping lists for your to complete.

Although food and water should be your top priority I also think it is important to focus on some of the basic non-food items you may need as well. I’ve included a list of items on page 17 you may want to add to your shopping list.

This list is pretty detailed, so don’t stress and feel like you need to purchase everything on the list. Review the list carefully and determine what items you would actually use and need based on what you are preparing for.

For example, if you are preparing for a natural disaster and worry about potential power outages, then sanitary supplies (ex. toilet set-up) should be on your list. If you are worried about a layoff, then stockpiling shampoo, toothpaste and other products can be beneficial.

Start small, pick a couple of items from the list and next time you see them on sale pick up a few extras.

If you feel like you need some of the higher dollar items, then pick up one every quarter depending on your budget.

Questions and Answers about a 3 month supply of food

I only feed my family Organic/Fresh Food:

I’m going to be super blunt here. You can probably still get away with mostly organic, but fresh is going to be a bit more problematic. You are going to have to find a balance.

For example, I feed my family fresh organic food 3-4 meals a week, we eat out once a week and the rest of the time they survive on leftovers or whatever I can scrounge up. This means that sometimes dinner is a can of chili beans with grilled cheese sandwiches.

It is ideal? No, but life happens and I’m just doing the best I can. When it comes to food storage, my theory is that if I need to use it, I’d much rather have something than nothing.

I balance it out as best I can. My food storage includes as many frozen veggies, organic meat, and made from scratch ingredients as possible, but it also has a lot of canned goods and mixes that will fill in the gaps as needed.

Because of this, some of my food storage does go bad.

I rarely use cream of chicken soup. It just isn’t something I cook with, but I know it is great for food storage since it is an awesome base for tons of food. I keep 10-15 cans around and every couple of years I end up donating a few of them.

To me, it is a small price to pay for the security that comes from having plenty of food around for an emergency.

My family has food allergies:

First off, I’m sorry food allergies suck! You’ll have to work around the allergies as best you can. I’d start by putting together a list of foods that you can have and then work backward from there.

In many cases, food allergies will make long-term storage more problematic. You’ll need to focus on your rotation and do your best to find products that will store long term.

You may also want to think outside the box and maybe purchase an extra freezer or focus on freeze-dried or dehydrated food.

Where Do I Store Everything:

This is a tough question. You have to get creative! I’m lucky enough to have a large pantry and extra freezer right now, but in the past, I’ve stored food all over the place.

Start by looking through your house and writing down a list of small cubbyholes and spots you can store extra items.

  • Do you have room under your bed?
  • What about in your closets – can you store food on the bottom or add an extra shelf?
  • What about your laundry room, could you add some extra shelves?
  • Don’t forget to check behind desks, couches and other furniture. Can you find food behind or underneath them?

Once you start looking you’ll be surprised at the random spots you can find to store extra food and water.

How Long Does Food Last:

I hate to say it, but you’ve got to check everything individually. As long as you are purchasing food you typically eat then you should be able to rotate frequently enough to avoid wasting food.

What other items should I be storing:

This is a loaded question. If you are a hard-core prepper then you need all kinds of random stuff that the average person doesn’t care about or will ever use. So I’m going to answer this question with another question.

What are you preparing for?

If you are preparing for 3 months without power then you need completely different stuff than someone who is preparing for a layoff and needs to cut spending.

Check out page 17 for a list of extra stuff that I recommend adding to your three-month supply.

How much water do I need?

The general rule of thumb is that you need 1 gallon of water per person per day. This would be a crazy amount of water for three months, so most people focus on having a 14 day supply of water.

How To Start Building a 3 month supply of food

Creating a three-month supply of food can be super simple. I do it by breaking everything up into manageable chunks.

Step 1: Create 4 Weekly Meal Plans

Start by listing out simple nutritional meals you know your family will eat. Stick with easy-to-prepare meals that don’t require a lot of ingredients and planning. If you are in an emergency the last thing you want to be focusing on is cooking.

For example, I typically include spaghetti, Fajita’s (don’t be afraid of foods with fresh veggies – hello freeze-dried or frozen food!), chicken/rice, or chili. For breakfasts, I include food like bagels, hot cereal, or cold cereals. For lunches, I stick with either leftovers or simple meals like tuna sandwiches. Page 16 has a list of food ideas to help you get started.

Don’t forget to focus on high protein/high-calorie food that will keep you going during stressful times.

Step 2: Create a shopping list based on your weekly meal plan

This sounds simple on the surface, but you need to make sure you have everything you would need for each meal. For example, do you have enough spices? What about cooking oils?

Don’t just do this at a surface level. Think through each meal and write down the ingredients you need. Don’t forget to add in some side and comfort foods. I’ve included a line for snacks for each day. I try not to keep candy around our house, but I do have a secret stash I keep for emergencies.

Step 3: Purchase Your Food

I’m a sales shopper, so I try and plan this step around current sales. I’m always watching for staple items (like canned meat) to go on sale and will always pick up a few cans. You can save a lot of money by doing your lists around the weekly ads.

Step 4: Organize and Rotate

When you have 3 months’ worth of food in your house rotating food is critical to avoid food waste. I always put the newer food at the back of my pantry and focus on eating older food first. For items with a shorter shelf life, I’ve started writing the expiration date with a sharpie marker. It helps me stay organized.

Download a copy of the 3-Month Emergency Food System Workbook.