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Keep food on hand for a rainy day

Emergency Pantry

Linda S. Rellergert, and Cynthia D. Fauser, Nutrition Specialists, University of Missouri Extension



Being prepared for power outages, inclement weather or even times when you don’t feel up to shopping or cooking is a smart move.


How much to store

Store enough food to last three to seven days for each member of the household. For the best quality, rotate your stored foods into family meals, replacing your supply with more recently purchased items. 

Refilling a water jug.


Keep at least six gallons of water per family member to be prepared for one week. Store water in airtight, food grade storage containers. Replace water every six months. 

When planning an emergency food pantry, choose foods your family enjoys from those listed below. Write down the amounts family members usually eat at each meal. Buy your food according to this list. Buy in container sizes that will be eaten completely in one meal to avoid having leftovers.

Conserve fuel

Consider the cooking time needed for each food. Choose foods that cook quickly, such as stir fries, rather than roasts. One-dish meals and canned foods that require only heating are also good choices. 

Frozen foods require considerably more cooking time and heat than canned goods. Also, if power is off, it is best to leave the freezer door closed to keep food from thawing. 

Plan alternative cooking methods

Use the fireplace. Many foods can be skewered, grilled, or wrapped in foil and cooked. Candle warmers or fondue pots may be used to heat foods. Camp stoves and charcoal burners may be used outside only; fumes can be deadly.

Conserve water

Save liquids from canned vegetables to use as substitutes for water in cooked dishes. 

Drain and save juices from canned fruits to replace some of the water in beverages, salads and desserts. 

Consider using waterless hand cleaners to cut down on water needed for handwashing. 

Prepare and eat foods in their original containers if possible to reduce dishwashing.

Safety of refrigerated and frozen foods after a power failure

If electrical power is off, eat foods from the refrigerator first. Foods most likely to spoil are meats, milk, fish and soft cheeses. These foods are not safe to eat if they have been at room temperature for more than two hours. 

Foods in the freezer will stay cold depending on the size of the freezer and the amount and kind of food in it. A large freezer full of meat will stay the coldest, longest. Keeping frozen jugs of water in the freezer will help maintain the cold temperature. For more information, request GH1506 “Freezer Problem Solver.”

A typical emergency pantry: 


  • Dried and/or evaporated milk
  • Pasta, rice, cereals, crackers
  • Jars processed cheese spread
  • Granola bars, pop tarts
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned meats & fish (tuna, chicken, ham)
  • Canned fruit, vegetable juices
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned bean, potato salad
  • Unsalted nuts
  • Canned baked beans
  • Canned chili, hash, spaghetti, soup
  • Dried fruits
  • Instant beverages
  • Baby food and formula (if needed)


Additional supplies: 


  • Non-electric can opener 
  • Paper towels
  • Foil
  • Medications (prescription and nonprescription)
    that family uses on a regular basis 
  • Paper plates, bowls, cups
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Food and water for pets






Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009




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