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Stash flavorful foods in pantry for emergencies


Superstorm Sandy showed us all just how important it is to prepare for emergencies. Experts advise stocking at least three days’ worth of food and water—and many groups push for a two-week supply.

The good news: Your emergency pantry can include surprisingly tasty treats like chocolate-hazelnut spread and strawberries.

The best foods in an emergency don’t need cooking or refrigeration. And they aren’t salty, either—because salt makes us thirsty, but supplies of clean water may be limited during a crisis.

As a dietitian, I also avoid most canned foods because many cans contain BPA, a chemical that can affect hormones and may be especially bad for children.

As you build up your pantry, forget dreary foods such as mushy canned green beans. Instead, stock your emergency pantry with impossibly good-sounding foods such as pesto and mangos.

In today’s column, I highlight my top 10 pantry favorites for flavor and nutrition.


Mini Babybel cheeses by Laughing Cow are delicious and are shelf-stable, meaning they do not need refrigeration, and thus are perfect for the emergency pantry.

Other good choices for protein include shelf-stable milk drink boxes, powdered milk, peanut butter, and pouches of salmon and tuna.

Unsalted or lightly salted walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews and peanut butter also are satisfying choices. If someone in your family is allergic to nuts, I recommend Sunbutter, made from sunflower seeds.

Beef jerky is another lean-protein choice but tends to be high in sodium.


Whole-grain couscous is a type of pasta that looks like tiny balls. Usually prepared with hot water, you also can make it with cold water, making it a great emergency food. Serve like rice. Add salmon or tuna and veggies and pesto for a quick dinner. I’ve also heard about cups of ready-to-eat brown rice but haven’t tried them.

Other instant whole grains are granola cereal and bars, Cheerios, and low-sodium but surprisingly tasty crackers such as RyKrisp Seasoned Crackers.


Target and many supermarkets sell freeze-dried fruits that are delicious. Even my toddler gobbles them up. You can get strawberries, blueberries, mangos, bananas and many other fruits that are have a pleasant, tender-crisp snap in your mouth. These make a great snack and also brighten up any bowl of cereal.

Other good choices include fruit cups packed in fruit juice, raisins, dried cranberries, dried figs, dates, and dried apricots. I recommend everyone eat a handful of dried plums a day because they prevent constipation caused by other emergency foods being too low in fiber.


Many companies now make low-sodium soups in BPA-free boxes. Pacific, Imagine and Trader Joe’s all have tasty flavors such as butternut squash, roasted red pepper and tomato. You also can find jars of roasted red peppers and artichoke hearts that make a great addition to couscous.

Target and many groceries sell freeze-dried peas, corn and other veggies that are ready to eat. Veggies brighten your meals and add vitamins.


If, like me, you’re addicted, stash some tea bags or instant coffee, plus things to stir in such as honey, sugar, ground cinnamon, and powdered milk.


Treats make life easier during a crisis. I pine for Nutella, a chocolate-hazelnut spread, because it tastes like frosting. And for a sweet, it actually has some protein and fiber.

If you’re not a Nutella fan, include cookies, hot cocoa mix, cereal bars, or whatever you crave.


Condiments help food taste even better. You can buy small packets of pesto, ketchup, mustard, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, strawberry preserves, mayo, lemon juice, Mrs. Dash and even hummus at camping stores and


Stash one gallon of water per person per day, at least three days’ worth, to cover drinking and hygiene. It’s not glamorous, but water is the most important thing you can store.


Without artificial colors or sweeteners, this drink mix still provides electrolytes. It’s helpful if you’re sweating a lot, such as during a summer blackout without air conditioning. Pedialyte makes drink mix packets for dehydrated children.


Though not environmentally friendly, paper plates, cups, towels and plastic ware keep you from wasting limited clean water on washing dishes.


Mark an eat-by date six months from now on both your calendar and your bags of emergency food. At that time, pack the food for a camping trip or just eat it on a lazy, no-cook three-day weekend. Don’t let the food expire. And be sure to replace your stash.

Your emergency supplies should also include medicines, an evacuation plan, and gadgets such as a solar or hand-cranked radio with flashlight and cellphone charger options. Get more information from these sites:

Jennifer Motl is a registered  dietitian. Formerly of Fredericksburg, she now  lives in Wisconsin. Motl welcomes reader questions via her website,, or by email at