Updated: May 10, 2019
I've had a few people ask me what I keep inside the boxes labeled "72-hour kits" in my pantry.
Since I'll be rotating the contents this coming weekend, I thought it would be a great time to show you what's inside the boxes and explain my system for the rotation.
The 72-hour kits are big, 2-gallon sized ziplock bags that hold enough food to keep my family fed for 3 days - in the case of an emergency. While I hope that I never have to use the food in an emergency situation, I also hope that I would be prepared if necessary.
I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For decades, our prophets have encouraged us to become self-reliant and prepared for the future by preparing ourselves spiritually, saving money for a 'rainy day', avoiding unnecessary debt, and keeping a supply of food (among other things). Rainy days come in the form of natural disasters, loss of employment, sickness, tragedies, and other events that we can't predict. Several years ago, I participated in a church activity that helped me to get a food supply started for my family. I put together one 72-hour kit at the activity, then made more bags just like it when I got home (one for each member of my family). Let me share details about the contents of each kit!
Every item pictured above fits inside of a 2-gallon bag and lasts for at least six months. (I rotate the food from my kits every April and every October, so it works great for my family.)
Below is a list of everything seen in the picture:
When I assembled the first 72-hour kit with my church group, the person heading up the activity provided me with a "menu" of food to eat during the 72 hours (should an emergency occur). Obviously this isn't an ideal menu for 3 days straight, but it would keep a person fed and that's the point.
As I said, I rotate the food in my kits every six months. During the first weekends in April and October (every year), the prophet and other leaders of our church hold a "General Conference" that members (and non-members) all over the world are invited to participate in. My family always watches the sessions of conference on cable tv from our home - and as we watch, we rotate the food in our bags. My kids love doing this because there are several "snack" type items in the bags that are free game during Conference weekend!
I set up a spreadsheet that helps me keep track of the food in my emergency kits. Each time I buy replacement food for the kits, I make a note of the expiration date on my spreadsheet (individual bags of oatmeal, hot chocolate, etc don't usually list the expiration date - so I make sure to do this before throwing the boxes away). I use the expiration date of each item to gauge when I'll need to rotate (next April or next October). This weekend I will be rotating any food out that expires before October of this year, since that will be the next time I change anything out.
I use the last column as my grocery list, but complete the list 6 months before I need to do the grocery shopping. I made up this sheet in October of 2018, and will be buying the groceries from the last column this week (April of 2019). This week after purchasing groceries, I'll use a new form that prepares me for the rotation of October of 2019.
I don't keep track of expiration dates for gum and hard candy (is there an expiration?!) ... I just replace the candy once a year and I replace the gum every single time. (It's always nice to have a stock of gum for awhile after we do this!) The point of the spreadsheet and the rotation system I've set up - is to make sure we eat the food before it goes bad. It's nice to stock my pantry with snacks that can still be eaten, rather than throwing away expired food.
The water needed for each person is kept in my garage (in labeled bins), along with backpacks and other emergency items.
Non-food items that might be needed in an emergency are kept inside of one big hiking backpack that's stored with several smaller backpacks. (I found backpacks on sale several years ago and bought them to keep with our emergency supplies.) If we ever have to evacuate our home, the backpacks would be handy to store a change of clothes, a blanket, water bottles, or a 72-hour kit. It's nice to know that my family would be able to find everything needed in just a few different locations around our home.
Since we do store all these items in a few different locations, I came up with an evacuation check list:
Several years ago, my son came home from school with a paper from a firefighter that had visited his classroom to talk about emergency preparedness. I really liked the way everything was broken down - and I used the "ready to go" list to create that hiking backpack with items we might need in an emergency. Following is a picture of the contents kept in the backpack...
Since the last time I printed my rotation spreadsheet, I updated it to include other non-food items that might need rotated out, because some items kept in the backpack get old / dry out / expire and need replaced also:
The evacuation checklist and other info regarding emergency preparedness can be found in a central location in my home (in my pantry, right off the kitchen). My hope is that in the case of an emergency - these lists and organized bins / bags etc would help us to remain calm and know what to grab and what to do.
I am not an expert on emergency preparedness, and I'm sure my backpacks, food kits and lists (etc) are missing things that would be helpful or even necessary in an emergency. If you're looking to get any kits or systems set up for your family, I hope some of this information just gives you a place to start. When it comes to storing your emergency items - they definitely don't need to use up "prime real estate" in your house. Just make sure that everyone knows where to find something when necessary. An evacuation list might be the only item that needs to be centrally located and easy to see. I happen to have room for my 72-hour kits in my pantry, but the other things that don't need to be stored inside - are kept in my garage. Do what works for you in your space, and don't forget to train the whole family on where to find things (labeling really helps with that)!
Organizing products I use to store my emergency items:
(Wall baskets were purchased at World Market, but are currently unavailable from their site.)