National Preparedness Month: How to Assemble a 3-Day Food Kit You’ll Actually Want to Eat

It’s National Preparedness Month every September, and the colder days are coming, which bring storms – which bring power outages. Now is the time to plan for those natural disasters, so that you can be comfortable, and not in a panic. Yesterday, on the first day of Fall, our internet went out island wide, and the next island as well, till early this morning. It’s Fall for sure. But oh, the wailing on the local groups on Facebook. People collapse over a lack of internet for ¾ of a day….the internet. Because they have nothing to do – no TV to watch. They had their phones though and still for them society was collapsing. Wind storms are predicted this week. The usual first ones of the season clear out the dead wood and power outages are not uncommon. Come next week there will be people crying online (on their phones before the cell towers shut down) how they have no gas in their car, no food, no water (hello having wells!), their septic field can’t be used due to having a pump on it, they have no baby formula, no diapers, and why omg is Door Dash not delivering?! They will blame everyone but themselves.

So let us talk about being prepared with the bare minimum that the federal government begs us to do: To have a 3-day food kit for each person (and as well your animals). This is what they beg America to do.

The easy way to prep for having a 3 day kit is to buy commercially made meal kits, which usually have 3 breakfast, 3 lunches and 3 dinners. Most come pre-packed with no choices, so you better hope you like all the meals. The other factor is these kits are sold as serving “2 people, 3 days” but….they really don’t. There is also the reality that it won’t have many calories for each person.

So consider that when you wander into Costco and see the displays for Mountain House and Ready Wise in their shiny plastic 5 gallon buckets. Yes. It’s in theory “ready to go” but……lets talk the reality of buying these.

This prepared kit we reviewed recently on our sister site comes ready for lunch & dinner, for two people. With pudding as a “bonus”. No breakfast though. And while it was “cheap” and “affordable” it was not a good choice. So do not be lured in by these kind of options.

The calories were very low, and the food inside the bag was 4 to 6 servings – and you had to make all of each item at once (so you couldn’t split the soup in half for example) and it required cooking. A lot of cooking. It’s very important to read the fine details when buying emergency food.

And with the other brands (that cost more) such as Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry, the meals are freeze-dried (only requiring boiling water), they are slightly a better choice. But the individual meals are 2 servings each, so again, the calorie content will be far lower than you expect. And most commercial meals are very, very high in sodium.

Rather…consider making each person their own meal kit, that is designed for them. With the calories they require to be able to function.

And that is designed to be eaten at home or on the road.

How To Do It:

For each person, note down their age and how many calories they need to perform. Not to just exist. Teens and adults cannot exist day to day eating only 350 calories at lunch and then another 300 at dinner (which is on average half a freeze-dried dinner) if you will have them outside picking up branches, repairing fences, hauling firewood, setting up a generator. Especially if it is cold/wet outside and they are working over time to simply stay warm. Think about how much they eat normally, without any added stresses. Hunger is a bad stressor for humans. It leaves people angry, anxious and they tend to shut down emotionally. Not what you need when it’s go time.

Then, you need to figure out how you will make meals for everyone. Are you going cold food only? Do you have a camping/backpacking stove so you can boil water to make meals? Do you have access to a propane/natural gas stove in your home to use (and always have a backup in case of earthquake and the gas must be turned off). How you cook controls WHAT you eat.

Then you must ask yourself seriously “What does everyone like to eat?” Do not lie here. We are talking comfort food all the way. Save the kale smoothies and lunch being 10 almonds for when life is normal.

For each person you need:

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, 2 snacks and drink mixes. Per day.  And everything should be sealed for long-term storage. And rotated yearly to ensure freshness. Should you choose to use commercially prepared meals, that is fine, just note the year on them (as often they do expire in 3 to 7 years).

I also suggest you include treats like a S’mores kit, or chocolate bars into it. Something to boost morale. If you are an adult and like alcohol, add in a couple airplane bottles – but remember that booze isn’t good when it’s cold out, and to not get drunk in emergencies!

Need ideas? Our “Instant Mug Meals” just require hot water and 15 minutes. Any of our FBC (Freezer Bag Cooking) meals over on TrailCooking can be put into mylar or food saver bags and sealed for long-term storage. We have a LOT of recipes to inspire you! (Also check out the Long-Term Food Storage section here to get more inspiration.) What truly helps planning is having a well thought out pantry 365 days a year. When the power goes out here (far too often), I know I can go in there and in 15 minutes of sit time, produce a meal to feed 5 people heartily. With no need for refrigeration.

Single serving snacks and drink mixes (including coffee) round out the 3 day meal setups. Your local store or Amazon can do that part in just a few minutes. (Think bags of chips, granola bars, fig bars, dried or freeze-dried fruit, single serving pickles and olives, shelf stable cheese and sausages, pudding cups and so on.)

Bag up each person’s 3 day kit in gallon (or 2 depending on how much food you have) freezer bags, and note on the bag(s) who it is for, and dating it. Put these in a plastic tote and stash. In an emergency that you have to leave, you’ll know where the tote is to grab.

Then….in a second tote add in disposable bowls, spoons, forks, a roll of paper towels, garbage bags, portable stove, fuel canisters, a 2 Liter camp pot, a lighter, cooking utensils, a folding knife and so on. If you are concerned about potential lack of cleanliness (washing hands stops nearly all food transmitted disease) pack in disposable gloves and/or Clorox Wipes to clean your hands each time with – especially under your nails. You can get small packs of wipes in the travel section of big box stores.

For animals, pack in a bag of dry food for each day, or cans that have pop tops (no can opener needed). Wet food in cans will mean they need less water.

And last but not least:

1 gallon water, PER PERSON, per day. And that includes animals – your dogs require water!

Oh wait…there’s another last but not least:

If anyone takes prescription medication, put 3 days worth in with the food tote. (Being that it doesn’t require being chilled) Even pet meds. The last thing you want to do is be freaked out and forget a much needed heart medication or similar. If you use chilled medications, put a huge note on the tote reminding you to grab it. You can shove it into an old insulated lunch tote with blue ice packs as you head out.

Prepping doesn’t have to be scary or hard. Every step you take, is a step closer to being prepared! Maybe you’ll never need it. But if you do, you will be so glad you did.