Topics » In The Kitchen » Natural Disaster Plant-Based Prep: Stocking Your Pantry in Case of Emergencies
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
Natural Disaster Plant-Based Prep: Stocking Your Pantry in Case of Emergencies

Natural disasters—a viral epidemic, flood, hurricane, blizzard—often come with little or no warning. Stocking up now on whole, plant-based food items will help you weather the storm with less stress.

What to Always Keep in Your Pantry

It is so important not to wait for the last minute to prepare for a storm or other crisis. These food items have especially long shelf lives, so you can store them away for extended periods of time, even if it’s not hurricane or tornado season. Check expiration dates every 6 to 12 months to keep things fresh. 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.

Nut butter

Nut butter is a great choice during these times because it’s energy-dense, nutritious, and easy to eat. Make sure to look for brands with zero added sugar or oil.


Choose minimally sweetened, whole grain, cold and hot cereals without added oil. Some examples are:

  • Rolled (old fashioned) oats
  • Shredded wheat (not frosted or otherwise sweetened)
  • Bran flakes

Granola bars and power bars
Stock up on these portable bars—they’re healthful and convenient for snacking during a hurricane, tornado, or other emergency. Brands like LaraBar are made with whole food ingredients.

Pair crackers with your nut butter for an instant storm snack. They can last up to six months. Look for crackers with whole food ingredients with no added oil or refined sugars.

Dried fruits, such as apricots and raisins

In the absence of fresh fruit, dried fruit is packed with nutrient dense calories, including important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber. Avoid brands with added oils, sweeteners, and/or preservatives.

Canned or dried beans & vegetables

Most expiration dates on canned foods range from one to four years. Enjoy ALL varieties of dried beans, lentils, and vegetables. Look for low-sodium brands with no added oil or sugar.

Canned/boxed soups & chili

Soups and chili can be eaten straight out of the can and provide a variety of nutrients. There are so many tasty whole food, plant-based options with no added oil or sugar.

Whole grain pasta/noodles

Noodles can be used to make a variety of quick and easy dishes including ramen, soups, or simply paired with a marinara sauce.

Dehydrated and freeze dried vegetables

Mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, beets, and carrots are all popular items that can be purchased dehydrated and come in handy to add to soups, stir-fries, or simply eat them as a snack.


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. The other half gallon is for adding to food and washing.

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 more storm food. 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. The produce there is often fresher than what you’ll find at your typical supermarket- adding a few days to the lifespan 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.

Aside from being very nutritious, they are also a highly convenient snack food. Bananas are a great choice since they require zero refrigeration.

Citrus fruits
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.

Cukes will last a few days outside of refrigeration and can be eaten raw.

Choose breads that are 100% whole grain with no oil added. Look for the word “whole” at the top of the ingredient’s list, such as “whole wheat flour.” Enriched wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour, wheat flour, and organic wheat flour are not whole grain.

It is difficult to plan for the unknown, and many of us are paralyzed by the job of home emergency planning. But stockpiling plant-based foods and water is like buying insurance: your household may never face a devastating earthquake, a crippling storm, or other disaster—but if it does, a cache of stored healthy food and water may prove priceless.

Copyright 2024 Center for Nutrition Studies. All rights reserved.

Program Overview

  • 23,000+ students
  • 100% online, learn at your own pace
  • No prerequisites
  • Continuing education credits