In the prepping world some people differentiate between long-term food storage and short-term food storage. Some don’t. Long-term storage stores longer (you probably figured that out on your own). It doesn’t have to be rotated as quickly, though you should always strive to rotate.
It is generally much less expensive, and takes less space than short-term storage foods, and it is loaded with calories and the basic building blocks for nutrition (at least, it should be). In general, long-term storage food staples like whole grains, beans, flour, oil, sugar, etc., aren’t usually eaten on their own and they can take considerable time to prepare. They are not the foods you want to have when a natural disaster strikes.
That’s what short-term food storage is for.
Short-term food storage is a supply of foods that you normally eat. In our family, we aim for a minimum three-month supply. When TEOTWAWKI hits, especially if it is a natural disaster or involves the loss of the power grid, those initial days are going to be highly stressful. This is not the time to make dietary changes or to have the stress of preparing new and unfamiliar meals from scratch.
This is definitely the time to keep meals as close to normal as possible for you and your family, especially children. You really don’t want to add stress to your digestive system. That will only make life a lot more stressful. Because it will also be hard to think and plan meals, you will be much better equipped to deal with the disaster if you have prepared in advance.
Planning for Short-Term Food Storage
In the first one to three days of TEOTWAWKI, you’re dealing with the shock of it all, with multiple problems. Over the years in our family we’ve experienced several power outages and several boil water orders. However, we’d never dealt with both at the same time, and so we decided to give that a try. I was truly astonished at how difficult it was to create meals—and this was during a time when there wasn’t the added stress of a real emergency.
We were just trying to get an idea of what it would be like without clean water and power. Of course, we had water stored—a lot of it. But in a real disaster you don’t necessarily know when the water is going to be safe again, so you want to be careful with your supplies. I didn’t want to make meals that required a lot of water to prepare or to wash afterwards. The whole experience was quite eye-opening.
So when TEOTWAWKI hits, you’re going to want to eat foods from the fridge and freezer first, if possible, if they don’t require much preparation. Beyond that, you’ll want true convenience foods. A few cases (depending on family size) of MREs and freeze-dried foods would be reasonable. We have three cases of MREs here, to be used as a last resort due to the high salt, fat, and calorie content (not necessarily a bad thing, especially for those involved in heavy physical labor).
However, you really want to make sure you have some laxative to help pass it. Freeze-dried foods and meals are more expensive than MREs but can be prepared just as quickly. They do require water to re-hydrate, but lack the undesirable constipating effects of MREs. And they generate very little in the way of dirty dishes.
After the first three days, things are still going to be difficult. You are still going to want convenience-type foods that you normally eat. For breakfast meals you’ll want boxes of cereal, instant oatmeal packets, freeze-dried fruit to add some variety, and shelf-stable milk. Pancake mix will work when you need a little change. Powdered eggs can provide for instant scrambled eggs, but they have a greyish tint to them that some find unappealing. Plan to have some salsa or ketchup (or low lighting) to hide the color. And you can’t go wrong with hot chocolate. Breakfast is also a good time to include a multi-vitamin for each member of the group.
For lunches canned soups (make sure to get a good variety) and chili will still be very quick and easy. Boxes of macaroni and cheese can be prepared without too much trouble, assuming you have milk and (shelf stable boxes of milk or evaporated milk) and butter (freeze-dried butter, or coconut oil makes a surprisingly good butter substitute). Crackers and peanut butter, canned or dried fruits, and some juice boxes will round out your midday meals.