(WREG-TV) Whether you're planning ahead for an emergency or trying to stretch your grocery money, here are items you always want in your pantry.
These items have lengthy expiration dates, so you can stash them away for long periods of time.
Make a list of everything in your stockpile and check expiration dates every 6 to 12 months to keep things fresh.
And don’t forget to have a can opener on hand at all times—all that food won’t be of any use if you can’t open it.
• Peanut butter
A great source of energy, peanut butter is chock-full of healthful fats and protein. Unless the jar indicates otherwise, you don’t have to refrigerate after opening.
• Whole-wheat crackers
Crackers are a good replacement for bread and make a fine substitute when making sandwiches. Due to their higher fat content, whole-wheat or whole-grain crackers have a shorter shelf life than their plain counterparts (check the box for expiration dates), but the extra fiber pays off when you’re particularly hungry. Consider vacuum-packing your crackers to prolong their freshness.
• Nuts and trail mixes
Stock up on these high-energy foods—they’re healthful and convenient for snacking. Look for vacuum-packed containers, which prevent the nuts from oxidizing and losing their freshness.
Choose multigrain cereals that are individually packaged so they don’t become stale after opening.
• Granola bars and power bars
Healthy and filling, these portable snacks usually stay fresh for at least six months. Plus, they’re an excellent source of carbohydrates. “You can get more energy from carbohydrates without [eating] tons of food,” says Andress.
• Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins
In the absence of fresh fruit, these healthy snacks offer potassium and dietary fiber. “Dried fruits provide you with a significant amount of nutrients and calories,” says Swanson.
• Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, or turkey
Generally lasting at least two years in the pantry, canned meats provide essential protein. Vacuum-packed pouches have a shorter shelf life but will last at least six months, says Diane Van, manager of the USDA meat and poultry hotline.
• Canned vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, and peas
When the real deal isn’t an option, canned varieties can provide you with essential nutrients.
• Canned soups and chili
Soups and chili can be eaten straight out of the can and provide a variety of nutrients. Look for low-sodium options.
• Bottled water
Try to stock at least a three-day supply--you need at least one gallon per person per day. “A normally active person should drink at least a half-gallon of water each day,” says Andress. “The other half gallon is for adding to food and washing.”
• Sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade
The electrolytes and carbohydrates in these drinks will help you rehydrate and replenish fluid when water is scarce.
• Powdered milk
Almost all dairy products require refrigeration, so stock this substitute for an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D when fresh milk isn’t an option.
• Sugar, salt, and pepper
If you have access to a propane or charcoal stove, you may be doing some cooking. A basic supply of seasonings and sweeteners will improve the flavor of your food, both fresh and packaged.
Supplements will help replace the nutrients you would have consumed on a normal diet.
What to Buy Right Before an Emergency
If you’ve been given ample warning that a storm is coming, there’s still time to run to the market and pick up fresh produce and other items that have shorter shelf lives. Most of these foods will last at least a week after they’ve been purchased and will give you a fresh alternative to all that packaged food. Make sure to swing by your local farmers’ market if it’s open; because the produce there is fresher than what you’ll find at your typical supermarket, you’ll add a few days to the life span of your fruits and vegetables.
Apples last up to three months when stored in a cool, dry area away from more perishable fruits (like bananas), which could cause them to ripen more quickly.
• Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits
Because of their high acid content and sturdy skins, citrus fruits can last for up to two weeks without refrigeration, particularly if you buy them when they’re not fully ripe. Oranges and grapefruits contain lots of vitamin C and will keep you hydrated.
If you buy an unripe, firm avocado, it will last outside the refrigerator for at least a week.
If you buy them unripe, tomatoes will last several days at room temperature.
• Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
If you have access to a working stove, these root vegetables are good keepers and make tasty side dishes. Stored in a cool, dark area, potatoes will last about a month.
• Cucumbers and summer squash
These vegetables will last a few days outside of refrigeration and can be eaten raw.
• Winter squash
While most are inedible uncooked, winter squashes, such as acorn squash, will keep for a few months. If you’ll be able to cook during the emergency, stockpile a bunch.
• Hard, packaged sausages, such as sopressata and pepperoni
You can’t eat canned tuna and chicken forever. Try stocking up on a few packages of dry-cured salamis like sopressata, a southern Italian specialty available at most grocery stores. Unopened, they will keep for up to six weeks in the pantry.
- Heart-Healthy Food Drive
- Runs through May 17
- Mid-South Food Bank
- (901) 383-5413