But what real foods should we buy that will strengthen us, not spoil, and yet not taste like over-priced sawdust or freeze-dried shoe leather?
Here are suggestions for easily-found staples to get your family through the worst of days without power or transportation:
Beverages- Stock-up on bottled water. Two cases, maybe three. And how about extra for a neighbor? Also individual boxed fruit and veggie juices.
Canned beans - A terrific source of protein, fiber, other nutrients, and most don't taste half-bad. Think kidney, cannellini, garbanzo, and black beans. Caution: avoid salt-drenched pork-and-beans and chili beans in sauce. Salty foods induce extra thirst, creating an unpleasant cycle in confined conditions.
Canned meats - Tuna in either oil or water. Other canned meats or fish, to taste, but most are highly processed and often ghastly.
Peanut butter and jelly - Yummy anytime, but a real treat in power-free times. Enjoy on crackers, preferably low-salt. Buy jellies in smaller containers or those little restaurant servings.
Canned fruits - In their own juices rather than heavy syrup. The healthier, the better. You'll feel better. Save sugar highs for an occasional candy bar.
Canned veggies - Some aren't detestable. Look again at the market, and you'll see what I mean. Buy low-salt canned veggies for all times, not just for earthquakes and hurricanes.
Nuts, granolas, and nut/granola bars - These are never detestable, but one can't live on semi-candy bars and high-carb granolas forever. Or even for seven days. But such goodies do make time go by faster. And nuts galore... high protein, good taste. What's not to like? Low-salt, though, or unsalted if you can bear it.
Dried fruits - Apricots, raisins, cranberries, banana chips, pineapple spears, mango slices. Take a stroll down Trader Joe's dried fruit aisle. But remember to save them for emergencies.
If you have several days notice before a natural disaster, indulge your household with:
Fresh fruits - Apples, oranges, tangerines, pomegranates, other delicious fruits unlikely to spoil after a week without refrigeration.
Breads - Breadsticks, too. I'm not a believer in breads laden with preservatives. But shelf-life takes precedent over taste, texture, and aesthetics in emergency conditions.
Others - Stock canned milk for those who require dairy on a daily basis, and pre-mixed formula for babies. Don't forget salt, pepper, sugars, cinnamon, and other spices and herbs.
And yes, tuck-away surprise treats to bring smiles to sullen faces... jelly beans, M & Ms, favorite candy bars, and bags of kettle corn.
Then again, you could simply store what a former boss of mine kept in his desk drawer should an earthquake have trapped him in our downtown Los Angeles high-rise for three days: a bottle of whiskey, a deck of cards, and poker chips.