How Many Canned Goods a Family Should Have Before a Hurricane Hits

If you live in a hurricane-prone area, one of your best assets is canned food.

The middle of August through the middle of October is typically peak hurricane season. Last year, there were 15 major storms along the Atlantic coast, seven of which were hurricanes. The Climate Prediction Center expects there will be even more storms this year. They recently predicted that in 2017, there’s a 70 percent chance that 17 large storms with winds of 39 mph or higher will hit the East Coast.

Because large storms can knock out gas, electricity and water for hours, days or even weeks, and because of potential road closures, government and hurricane preparedness experts recommend that anyone living in a hurricane zone prepare emergency kits for the home, workplace and car.

Canned foods and juices are key parts of these kits because they can be consumed immediately upon opening – no cooking required. And because of their long shelf lives, you can stash them away in a closet for when you need them.

But how many cans are enough? We asked hurricane preparedness expert Cheryl Nelson what a family of four should stock in their kits.

How much food you’ll need

“Like medication, I recommend that a family of four have enough food to last for two weeks,” Nelson says. “The amount depends on how much each person typically eats.”

Moderately active school-age children need around 1,800 calories per day. Most adults need between 1,600 and 2,400. Canned meats and produce can go a long way toward meeting those requirements while also providing essential vitamins and nutrients.

You’ll want enough cans so that your family can get the recommended servings of 1 to 3 cups of fruits and vegetables each day, depending on your ages.

“I suggest stocking canned goods from various food groups that you’ll likely be able to tolerate, even if you don’t have a way to heat them up,” Nelson says. “I particularly recommend vegetables like carrots, beans and pumpkin.” When it comes to fruit, Nelson recommends tomatoes, peaches and pineapple.

Protein rich foods like canned tuna, salmon or chicken can serve as entrees. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, canned tuna and salmon are just as nutritional as their fresh counterparts.

When to buy your canned goods

Ideally, you’ll head to the canned food aisle at your grocery store right after you finish reading this article.

But even if you don’t, avoid waiting until the last minute to go shopping. Those who don’t prepare their kits ahead of time may find themselves staring at empty store shelves in the days and hours before the winds and rains pick up. Last year, in the hours before Hurricane Matthew hit land, many shoppers faced empty store shelves.

Where to store your cans

The government recommends putting all of your supplies in one or two airtight containers like plastic bins.

“Put them in a cool, dry and dark place like a large closet, basement or garage,” Nelson says. “Every so often, check expiration dates on cans and replace as necessary.”

Because canned goods have such long shelf lives, one kit could last a few years.

Other must-haves

All of the canned goods in the world won’t do you any good if you can’t open them. So don’t forget to buy a few manual can openers, in case one breaks or gets misplaced.

Of course, canned foods aren’t the only things you can eat during a storm. According to Nelson, peanut butter, nuts, granola, energy bars and applesauce are also must-have parts of any emergency kit.

You won’t just need food to survive – you’ll need to drink too. “Depending on the scope of the disaster, a family can be without running water for days or weeks,” Nelson says. “You need at least 1 gallon of bottled water per person for three days.”

And for a little sweet treat, don’t forget canned juices. Pineapple juice may be just the thing that brightens your family’s mood if you start to get cabin fever.

For more suggestions on how to prepare for a hurricane, visit Ready.gov.