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Three days is the minimum recommended amount of food the federal government recommends you to have on hand at all times. You probably already have this amount, but have you considered storing this three-day supply separately?
In my Introduction to Food Storage: Why? post, I told you about our real-life experience of being without power for several days in December. Not only were we without power, but our entire county was also without power. The grocery stores were either closed or extremely limited. Restaurants were closed. Even gas stations were closed or limiting fuel.
The house we lived in was entirely electric. When the power went out, our ability to cook also went out. We were blessed to have a camp trailer with a stove/oven, plus a small camp stove. With our cooking options being outside of our home, quick to prepare items were very helpful. At that time, we ate a Standard American Diet consisting of mainly boxed and canned goods, allowing us plenty of quick meals.
These days, most of the food we eat is prepared from scratch, and a good portion of it requires extensive cooking times. Because I want foods on hand for emergency needs, we created a Heat and Eat Bin. And not just a three day supply. Because of our own experiences, we now have two heat and eat bins each holding seven days’ worth of foods and essentials.
Our Heat and Eat Bin
It is important to remember that canned food overall has less nutrition than fresh food. Many real food enthusiasts choose to never eat food from a can. In day-to-day life, we limit the amount of processed foods we have in our diet. In an emergency situation, things could rapidly change.
For us, this truly is a bin. I use a large Rubbermaid style container. In this bin are foods that require no preparation other than opening up the can or jar, adding water to rehydrate, and then possibly heating up. The foods in this bin are “convenience” style foods, as opposed to foods we eat daily. Keeping them in the bin separates them from the standard kitchen fare, designating them as “special.”
While these are convenience foods, they are foods that I purchased after scouring the ingredient list and deciding they were okay for the intended purposes. The intended purpose: emergency use.
What is an Emergency?
That is the question, isn’t it? Perhaps a power outage. However, depending on the duration of the outage, the bin may or may not come into play. The outage that started our preparedness efforts started on a Sunday and continued until Friday.
Using that scenario, we would first eat from any foods that were in our fridge or freezer before busting into the Heat and Eat Bin. If there was an event with the possibility of a longer-term power outage, the heat and eat foods would be welcome during that time of transition.
I don’t want to sound too much like I need a tinfoil hat, but if some large regional event happened to knock the power out long term, not having to think about meals for a couple of days could be helpful. Again, the nutrition of canned goods is lower, so having a good supply of ferments (sauerkraut, pickles, etc) can help with that. I share how fermenting works in our food storage plan in this post.
Another great thing about having the bin is that it is portable. If we were ever in a situation where we needed to leave home in a hurry, we could grab our Heat and Eat Bin and our camping bin (which happen to be conveniently located right next to each other). Besides the bin with a week’s worth of food and essentials, a 72-hour bag is also a good idea.
What is a 72-hour bag? A collection of basic portable items your family may need in the event of an emergency. FEMA recommends having a kit of your own food, water, and other supplies to last 72 hours in case you need to survive on your own after an emergency. This portable kit is often referred to as a Bug-Out Bag or BOB. Most people choose a backpack for their BOB, in case you need to evacuate on foot. Obviously, the bin won’t be as portable as a backpack, but very helpful if you need to bug out in a car.
The Heat and Eat Bin can also be quite convenient for times when I’m under the weather and someone else is cooking. While the bin foods are okay, they are certainly not as tasty as the foods we prepare ourselves. Originally, I thought the children might be tempted to open a can of soup as a snack (that is part of the reason for stashing them in a bin). I still vividly remember the time Lulu, then in her early teens, opened a can of soup and declared it to not taste as good as she expected. She didn’t go as far as saying my cooking is better, but it was still nice to hear. 😉
What’s in the Bin?
I’m so glad you asked. 🙂 This is a general list and does change based on any good deals I may find:
- Black beans (canned)
- Pinto beans (canned)
- Greens (canned. Read labels, some contain MSG)
- Assorted soups (the kinds that don’t need water added)
- Instant oatmeal/grits packets (do you have water stored?)
- Granola bars/snack bars/meal bars
- Nuts, seeds, and raisins
- Dehydrated backpacking meals (needs water)
- Water (several individual bottles in addition to my regular water storage)
- Water purifying tablets
- Can opener (my husband likes the P 38 style, I prefer something beefier.
- Backpacking stove, fuel, cook pot, headlamp (I only keep these items in one of my bins)
To add a homemade element, I also do my own dehydrating. I love the ideas from Backpacking Chef, and my friend Wardee from Traditional Cooking School has an eCourse all about dehydrating. I should note, I’ve tried to keep jerky in our Heat and Eat Bin and in our BOBs, but it seems to disappear! If you can keep it from walking off, jerky is a great option.
First In, First Out
Just like with all food storage, it is important to rotate these items. Since our bin contains things we do not eat regularly, I make sure to check it each year when I clean out the freezer (usually late July to early August).
When adding to the bin, I mark the date on each item with a sharpie. Not the expiration date, but the date I purchased it. I check this first then check the expiration date provided by the manufacturer.
Anything that will expire before the following year’s check gets pulled and added to our regular menu. New items are purchased for the bin on the next shopping trip. While these expiration dates are not the date the product is no longer safe to use, it just makes sense to us to keep things current.
Also in the bin are miscellaneous items like a can opener, disposable dishes and silverware, salt, pepper, a roll of toilet paper, paper towels, and a (sturdy) jug of water. These things are there specifically in the case of taking the bin and going.
Do you need a Heat and Eat Bin?
Maybe or maybe not. You may choose to keep only three days of emergency food in your BOB and anything additional is simply in your cabinets or on your shelves. The important thing to remember is to stock foods you and your family will enjoy but are also convenient. Having these things on hand in an emergency could help save your life and the lives of your loved ones.
Have you put together a Bug-Out Bag or another sort of emergency kit? What tips can you offer?
See all posts in the Introduction to Food Storage series here.