by Evita Ochel, Certified Holistic Nutritionist

In the wake of hurricane Sandy, we are reminded how vital it is to be prepared with some basic necessities always on hand. Whether it is a natural or man-made disruption, such as a temporary power outage, it is valuable to take accountability for our well-being.

When most people think of setting up an emergency pantry, lots of canned and processed food may come to mind. While this will supply us with food, it may not always be food of the highest quality to meet our nutritional needs. Usually when some emergency strikes our bodies are most under stress, and it is then that they need even more nutritional support. So while many processed foods offer a convenient safety net, it is more prudent to invest in making sure that your emergency pantry is stocked with items that will be of most value to your health. Besides, when we consume foods that are nutrient dense, we actually tend to need to eat less, which can be a big benefit in any kind of emergency situation.

Here is a general breakdown to help you prepare not just an emergency pantry, but one that will be of most use and value to sustain your body optimally under any stressful situation. We will break it down by the nutrient groups, to make sure that we cover what your body will need to function best.


Complex carbohydrates – Nutrient-dense, dry, whole grain, like:

  • Brown Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Buckwheat
  • Steel Cut Oats
  • Oat Bran

It may be tempting to buy white, or refined grain products as they usually cook much faster, but investing in whole grains is much wiser. They will keep you full longer, and provide more vital nutrients.

If there is no power outage, just a temporary disruption to your normal routine, each of these can be cooked normally. If you have a power outage, you can still cook these on a wood stove, wood fireplace, or outdoor source of fire, or invest in a small propane camping stove to have on hand. Many grains can also be soaked and/or sprouted to be easily consumed, without relying on a heat source.

Proteins – Nutrient-dense, dry, whole beans and legumes, like:

  • Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans)
  • Lentils
  • Mung Beans
  • Black Beans

To consume these, follow the same preparation tips as outlined above for the grains.

Nuts and seeds, like:

  • Hemp seeds
  • Chia seeds
  • Raw Almonds
  • Raw Cashews

These are excellent sources of protein, that can be quickly and easily eaten, without any preparation. To prolong the shelf-life of these foods, simply keep them in sealed, or unopened packages, in a cool, dry place.


Fat sources provide the highest amount of caloric energy and are vital to our health. Your emergency pantry should include fats like:

  • Nuts and seeds (as shared above)
  • These serve both as excellent sources of protein and fat.
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil

These can be easily added to any food, to increase the nutrient and caloric value, and make a bland emergency meal much tastier.

Vitamins & Minerals:

While all of the foods mentioned above contain various amounts of many vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables are some of our best sources of these nutrients. However, it is impossible to store fresh forms of these for extended periods of time. So here are a couple of ways to make sure your emergency pantry is vitamin and mineral rich.

  • Dried or freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
  • Whole food, nutrient dense shake powders, which can be easily mixed with water to consume
  • Whole food, nutrient dense supplement or meal replacement bars
  • Sea vegetables, which are normally purchased in dry form, and can be eaten without any preparation to provide vital nutrients
  • A few different herbs and spices, which are a great source of potent nutrients, and will also help to make emergency meals palatable
  • Spirulina and chlorella, which are highly nutrient dense blue-green algae, and come in pill or powder form
  • Adaptogens like Ashwagandha or medicinal mushrooms, which are a source of nutrients, but are primarily excellent at supporting our bodies during times of stress


Depending on where you live, you may have easy access to a fresh water source like a spring, or you may need to depend on bottled water. Remember to consider this vital component when preparing your pantry.

How Much Should I Stock?

How much you should have stored of each food item will depend on several factors. For example, how long do you want your emergency pantry to last? Typically we should aim for resources to comfortably last at least 1 week, but if you live in a remote area, you should aim for at least 1 month. Rehearse some emergency meal planning to determine what your family’s typical serving needs would be, to know how much would be enough.

Next, consider how much physical space you have available. If you live in an apartment, you will be limited by how much space you have to make your emergency pantry. If you live in a house, and perhaps have lots of cupboard space, basement space, or a cold room, you can stock up on as much as you feel called to. In some areas that are very prone to major geological or weather events, it is not uncommon for people to stock up on enough food to last several months, if not more.

Finally, do not feel that stocking up on a large amount of food will be a waste of your money, as this food can always be consumed if no emergency arises before it expires. Make a note of some of the expiry dates on the food products you have, and simply replace what you use in your emergency pantry.

Being Prepared Pays Off

Having an emergency pantry can be one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family to ease the stress of an emergency situation. It makes us feel more safe and secure to know that we are prepared, specifically when it comes to having nourishment. This in turn allows us to take action as may be required by our specific situation, and do so in a more calm and conscious manner.

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