There's a high probability of facing an emergency or becoming stranded while driving because so much of our time is spent in our cars. Preparedness efforts shouldn't be limited to the preparedness of our homes. Instead, we should be prepared with the basics, at the least food and water, anytime we’re on the road.
So, what kind of food should you keep in your car for emergencies?
The best foods to store in your car are those that are not sensitive to temperature fluctuations and have little or no moisture content. The foods listed below should be stored in a cool, dark place whenever possible to maintain a longer shelf life.
Why should you store food in your car?
While you may not need extra snacks on a day-to-day basis, you’ll benefit greatly on the day that you do. Emergency food is beneficial on long road trips, when you’re stranded on the side of the road, when you’re stuck in traffic, or even after a long hike when you need an extra snack.
Complete list of survival foods
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Which foods won't spoil in the car?
One of the most important things to consider when planning your vehicle food storage is convenience and nutrient / caloric content. Before purchasing anything for long-term storage, check expiration dates!
Nuts contain protein, fat, and fiber. They will last at least six months and up to a year in your car.
Like nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds provide protein, fat and fiber.
You can make your own but the pre-packaged and sealed bags will last much longer. It’s always a good idea to keep a stash of trail mix in the car.
One-minute oats or granola are filling and highly nutritious. Keep grains dry and tightly sealed.
Chocolate is not just a comfort snack, but also has fiber, magnesium and other nutrients. It’s a great option to have during winter months only because once it starts getting warm, it’ll melt in your car.
Apricots, dates and raisins contain fiber and other nutrients. The dehydration process of dried fruit will prevent it from molding easily. Keep in mind that dried fruit contains a lot of sugar, so only snack on this in moderation.
This is a good alternative to dried fruit, and likely something that kids will prefer.
Meat is high in protein. It can be stored for a year or more if it’s in an airtight packaging.
Not only does powder milk last up to 10 years , it can be a nice addition to granola or oats (when mixed with water).
Honey will last forever and it’s one of the best alternatives to other types of sugar, if used in moderation of course.
Almond and peanut butter are rich in magnesium, protein, fiber, and many other nutrients. A spoonful can go a long way, especially in a survival situation.
Rice Cakes / Crackers / Pretzels
Even though these snacks have a short shelf life (up to 6 months usually), they go very well with nut butter and will fill you up.
Granola / Protein / Energy Bars
Some of the best options to have on hand are KIND Healthy Grains Bars, LÄRABAR, and CLIF Bars.
Banana / Plantain Chips
These have a short shelf life but they’re a great option if you rotate your food every few months.
Seaweed contains antioxidants, calcium, vitamins and minerals. It can last 2 to 3 years is sealed and properly stored.
Canned fruits, beans and veggies are a quick meal option that can last a very long time. Make sure to carry a can opener, or only buy the cans with an easy pull tab.
I’m sure we can agree that candy isn't healthy but in a survival situation you might be craving a comfort snack or candy bar. Payday, Planter Peanut Bars, and Pearson’s Salted Nut Rolls are great options because they won’t melt or change in texture, even with temperature fluctuations.
Cup of Noodles / Instant Soup / Bouillon
You’ll be happy to have this if you’re stranded somewhere in the middle of winter. You’ll be happier if you have a means to boil water!
Emergency Food Bars
Mainstay Food Rations and Datrex are two brands that make emergency food bars with up to 3600 calories per bar. In an emergency situation, this could be the best option to give you sufficient calories.
Pemmican has a long shelf life and is considered a survival superfood by many people. It’s a blend of meat jerky, fats, and sometimes berry powder. This is a better option for winter months because the summer heat can make the fats go rancid. If you choose to keep it year round however, make sure it’s properly stored in a dark and cool location.
MRE's: Meals Ready To Eat
Otherwise known as backpacking food, MRE’s are one of the best food storage options for your car. They are specially packaged to last These don’t need hot water to rehydrate so it’s great for any survival situation, especially for the car.
Instant Coffee or Tea
Never underestimate the satisfaction a cup of tea or coffee will bring in a time of need, assuming you have water, that is!
Water should probably be at the top of this list but it’s not food. Because it’s so important, it deserves it’s own dedicated blog. Make sure you choose the best water option and avoid common storage mistakes. Read more here.
If you travel with your pets, remember to have a few cups of dry kibble and a couple treats as part of your food storage. Also, remember to pack them some extra water.
How often should you rotate the food?
Every food item will have a different expiration date, so it’s important to keep track of that. If an item has a “best by” date, it’s an indicator that the food will last longer than that date. It’s a good idea to rotate your food every six months to maintain freshness, however some things can last well over two years, if stored properly. Shelf life is very much related to the temperature at which it is kept. Because temperatures drastically change from summer to winter, especially inside vehicles, make sure you’re checking through your supplies periodically.
Buy food that you like to eat and it’ll never become a problem to rotate it. Don’t make the mistake of buying something ONLY because of it’s high caloric density and long shelf life. Chances are, if you wouldn’t eat it now, you won’t want to eat it in the future. Survival doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of snacks you enjoy…the whole point is having something that nourishes and is enjoyable to you.
For example, a pemmican bar might sound ideal for some because it has a lot of nutrients and a long shelf life but it’s not something you’ll ever find in my food storage. I can’t imagine eating that on a normal day, much less in a survival situation.
What’s my point? Store the things you like. I’m know this is obvious but how often do we have food stored at home that we will likely never touch? 🙂
How should you store food in your car?
It’s very important that your store your food properly. Improper storage can make your food go bad quicker, especially during hot summers and if exposed to the sun.
A dry cooler, on the other hand, can help extend the shelf life of food because it protects it from sunlight and temperature fluctuations. A six-pack size cooler is a perfect size for your vehicle food storage, but consider getting something larger if your water is being stored in the same place.
One concern is mice and critters getting into your vehicle’s food supply. The best way to prevent critters from finding their way into your food stash is by storing the food in a well sealed plastic dry cooler or food-grade bucket.
Do not store food in the glove box because it acts as a passive-oven during the summer and will get warmer than most other places in your car. If you don’t want to use a cooler, store food and water under the seats.
Cooking appliances for your car
Considering the unpredictability of our lives, there may come a time when you may be stranded or even need to camp out in your vehicle. Even if this lasts for just one night, the difference between having an energy bar or a cup of soup for dinner can be huge.
The Bobcat Multi-Fuel Cooking Stove is a lightweight stove that is easy to set-up and won’t take up much room in your car. It should be used in combination with the Diethylene Glycol Therma Fuel (canned heat source). This type of fuel is safe for indoor use since it doesn’t release toxic fumes. A couple of these cans in your car will produce a long-lasting flame to boil water and cook several meals.
Diethylene Glycol has a very high flash point (the point where it will vaporize to gases that can be ignited, 250 degrees F) and autoignition temperature (where it will combust on its own without outside ignition, 430 degrees F). It should work fine for those who wish to store it in the car under normal temperature conditions. However, the quality may degrade over time, affecting its shelf-life, with the possible extreme heat (for example, over 120 degrees F) of being left in a car year round.
If you use it inside your vehicle, please use caution and common sense. Whether you’re using it inside or outside of your car, the stove always needs to be on top of a solid, non-flammable surface. Keep your eyes on the flame at all times and a fire extinguisher or water nearby just in case. Make sure the vehicle ares is well-ventilated and cleared of any fire hazards.
To boil water or cook quick meals, you can use an enameled-metal cup or lightweight saucepan. Make sure that it has a heat-resistant handle so you don’t burn yourself when you pull it away from the heat.
Finally, make sure to have a few heavy-duty trash bags on hand. They hardly take up any space and will keep your garbage sealed from bugs while reducing unpleasant odors.
Get the list of long-lasting foods
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In the United States, as well as many other parts of the world, we spend a lot of time driving and commuting to work. Depending on where we live, we might have a lot of grocery stores and restaurants available, but in an emergency situation, none of that is guaranteed. If you’re stuck in traffic for hours (something that is all too common in large cities) or stranded in a snow storm, it’s always a good idea to keep a few snacks or quick meals in your vehicle.
During Hurricane Irma, food, gas, and water prices were ridiculously inflated in anticipation of evacuations. Cases of water were being sold for up to $99 on Amazon! The lines to shop at grocery stores were hours long and store shelves were mostly empty.
Food storage is synonymous to insurance. We never know when we will be faced with an emergency situation but it will be a great benefit to be prepared. A little preparedness will go a long way, especially if you have no choice but to survive out of your car.
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