The Top Foods to Stockpile Now in Case of an Emergency


Hurricane Sandy spawned many articles in publications such as the New York Times and Time Magazine that discussed the “Sandy 5,” a term dubbed by the New York Times that refers to the five-pound weight gain many in the New York/New Jersey area faced in the wake of the storm. But, with proper planning, could many residents have avoided the “Sandy 5?” We say YES with these simple tips that can be applied in any disaster, emergency or snow day.

Weight gain and power outages go hand-in-hand — but they don’t have to!

After Hurricane Sandy had passed, the multi-day power outages left many feeling bored and anxious, prompting them to abandon their exercise routines and reach for whatever non-perishable junk food they had around the house. Others hit any convenience store they could find in hopes of locating some comfort snack food (read: junk food). One NYC resident told Time, “I went through Duane Reade and was grabbing Double Stuf Oreos, whole milk, Twix, Twizzlers [and] Sour Patch Kids.” Clearly this does not represent a healthy approach to an emergency situation, but there’s a few easy solutions to ensure you’re never roaming the convenience store in desperate search of processed sugars and high-calorie foods, all the while not being active enough to burn any of it.

If people stored healthier foods (in an emergency bin), stuck to regular meal times and incorporated some physical activity into their schedules, much of this weight gain frenzy can be avoided in the future.

Get an emergency food bin.

It can be one you buy and fill yourself, or you can find suppliers that deliver a ready-to-store bin of organic foods. Filling your bin with the intent of having structured meals is optimal. If you don’t plan on having structured meals, you will likely end up snacking the entire day and eating mindless, empty calories out of boredom and frustration. Additionally, setting up regular meal times can help you stick to a routine similar to your everyday life, which can help keep you calm and sane when everything else seems to be out of your control.

A healthy meal should include protein, grains or starches, fruits and vegetables. When filling a bin yourself, below is a list of some products that are shelf-stable, healthy and fulfill each of these food categories.


Search for items such as roasted edamame, nuts (almonds, walnuts and cashews are great options), canned tuna, canned chicken, organic protein bars, high protein cereals and canned beans (I like garbanzo beans, or chickpeas.)

Whole Grains and Starches:

It’s best to stock up on high fiber crackers, high fiber cereals and bars, organic bread, baked or popped potato chips, and pretzels. Many with a gas stove option are also urged to store brown rice, quinoa and other nutrient dense grains.


Be sure to have some canned or jarred fruit (packed in water or light syrup) on hand as well as organic freeze dried fruit snacks, jarred and pureed fruit (yes, even baby food), apple sauce cups, craisins, raisins, and other packaged dried fruit. If you’re feeling ambitious you can even try to can many of these items yourself! Just be sure to note their expiration date so that you can replace them if they go unused.


Hit your organic grocery store and fill your reusable bag with easy-to-store dehydrated vegetables such as snap peas and carrots. You can also find canned vegetables that will do the trick in a pinch such as hearts of palm, baby corn, green beans, carrots, beets, pickles, and corn. Out of habit, we tend to heat these items before serving because they’re just more enjoyable when hot, but many of them don’t require cooking and can be eaten straight from the BPA-free can or jar. Also, jarred salsa, roasted red peppers, olives and artichoke hearts pack tons of nutrients and are excellent on crackers or by themselves.


Shelf stable milk is available if it’s something you’d like to keep on hand. Varieties such as unsweetened almond milk, soy milk and traditional milk can be purchased in single-serving containers to help extend their shelf life. Organic Valley offers packs of 24-single serving cartons which are always great to have on hand.


A bit of a luxury in a crisis, single size packages of ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, hot sauce, salad dressing can help flavor stored foods that might otherwise be boring and without flavor. Keeping these on hand can definitely help reduce the number of times you’re tempted to hit the convenience store for junk food. All of your other pantry condiments such as spices, herbs, oils, vinegars, honey and soy sauce should be fine.

Quick Tip

When buying healthier, shelf-stable food items to store in your home in the event of an emergency, keep in mind that you want to buy single-size packaged items. Although these items might be a bit pricier, they will help you to keep track of portion sizes and will also keep the food fresher. For example, I would recommend buying an economy-size supply of 100-calorie packs of pretzels, that way you aren’t opening a large bag of pretzels on day one and finding them to be stale by day three or four.  Another good idea is to store 5-10 zip lock baggies so that you can save certain foods should you open them and not finish them.


Water is the most important thing to have in your emergency supply. There is a long-standing theory that one can go 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food, but this rule-of-thumb can vary depending on your body size, body composition, and how frequently you urinate, cry and sweat. Given the anxiety left from a power outage and life-threatening storm, I would think you would be crying and sweating quite a bit. Water is essential to life and you can never have too much. You can prepare for this by stocking up your pantry with water bottles and by getting a powerful water purifier that can turn water from anywhere (including your toilet bowl) into clean and healthy drinking water! Companies such as Camelback and Brita make wonderful water purifiers.


You also want to make sure that you are keeping active and that eating isn’t your main form of entertainment. If you want to maintain an exercise regime, print out exercise moves from magazines and online blogs (such as and and try to do at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. Squats, lunges, push-ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, and yoga stretches and poses are just a few suggestions to get you started. Other activities include arts and crafts, puzzles, board games, charades and painting your fingernails.

I hope all of this information helps you prepare for a safe and healthy future!

Ilana Muhlstein completed her bachelor of science degree in dietetics from the University of Maryland and currently works as the Dietetic Intern at City of Hope hospital in Duarte, California. Muhlstein has also worked as a nutrition consultant, contributing writer for, and researcher for acclaimed cook books and published journals. She is also a private yoga instructor in Los Angeles where she lives with her husband, Noah.

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2 responses to “The Top Foods to Stockpile Now in Case of an Emergency”

  1. Lidia Markiz says:

    Great information and timing! I had just started getting supplies ready for an emergency kit for work and home. Thank you!!