How Much Food and Water Should I Have on Hand for an Emergency???

What should I have on hand and how much?

All families look different. When storing food and water, consider whether there are infants, children, and/or family members on special diets or who have specific health conditions. Ideally, you should have enough food and water per person stored in the home for at least three days.


For water, aim to store at least one gallon of water per day for each person and each pet in the home. For example, a four-person family with one dog would need 15 gallons of water for three days. Store more water if you live in a hot climate, if someone is pregnant, or if anyone is chronically ill. Avoid glass containers that may break, and do not reuse plastic or cardboard containers that once held milk or juice. Look at expiration dates on bottles and replace them when needed. Over time, chemicals in the bottle can leach into the water and change the taste. Use food-grade containers for storage if bottling your own water and replace this water every six months.


Foods should have a long storage life and require little or no cooking or refrigeration. These items are usually commercially canned, shelf-stable, and/or dried. Avoid salty or spicy foods that will increase the need for drinking water. Everyone’s list of food items will look different. However, the following items are ideal for a short-term food supply for three days. Keep in mind that canned foods, like beans and vegetables, are ready to eat and do not need to be heated before cooking.

  •  Canned meats, fish, and beans
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned juices, milk, and soup
  • Peanut butter or other nut butters
  • Dried foods, jerky, trail mix, and granola
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Comfort or stress foods like hard candy, chocolate, and coffee

If space and resources allow for it, some families may prefer to set up a two-week food and water supply in their homes. In addition to items suggested for a three-day supply, consider vitamins, dried fruits, and instant foods like oatmeal, grains, potatoes, and puddings. You can buy milk, soups, and broths in dried and shelf-stable form which provide more nutrition and protein. Keep in mind, these items will increase water needs to prepare according to package directions.

Include a list of sample menus with your two­ week supply of stored food. Planning meals in advance allows you to have at least one balanced meal each day that includes as many food groups as possible. For example, a meal could be vegetable soup or chili with crackers and a fruit cup. This simple meal provides vegetables, fruit, carbohydrates, and protein. Another possibility would be macaroni and cheese with canned peas and dried fruit. When building your two-week supply, buy only a few items each week added to your routine shopping list to spread out the cost over time.

Find out more about Considerations for Food and Water Before a Natural Disaster here: fn-ifd.001_foodwaterbeforedisaster

Source: Heather Norman-Burgdolf, Ph.D., Dietetics and Human Nutrition Annhall Norris, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension; Considerations for Food and Water Before a Natural Disaster; In the Face of Disaster publication


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Check out this episode of the Talking FACS podcast where Extension Specialist, Annhall Norris,  shares tips for securing food and water supply “emergency kits”, so that if a disaster strikes your family will not suffer from a lack of essential items.  She provides guidelines for keeping your emergency kits up-to-date as well as recommendations for needs per family member per day.