Spice things up.
When it comes to adding flavor and providing seasoning, spices and herbs are ideal. “Spices can help you reinvent a food,” Groppo says. “For example, if you have chicken that is already prepared, you can add taco seasoning or lemon, pepper, and Parmesan to give you two different flavors but with the same basic ingredient.”
A small herb garden or planter box can also help add flavor and freshness at a low price. Basil, parsley, and chives are all easy to grow at home.
Make it last.
Canned items aren’t the only things that will safely keep. Jarred sauces, dried fruits, hard cheeses, and fermented foods such as pickles and miso can last for months when properly stored. Get creative and don’t forget about your favorite flavor-enhancing ingredients. You can even make them yourself—Accarrino recommends learning how to pickle, can, and preserve so you can buy seasonal items at their peak when they’re cheaper and enjoy them later.
In general, keep an eye on expiration dates, but remember: they are not a hard and fast rule. Best if used by/before dates provide guidelines for when an item may be at its most flavorful, according to the manufacturer. Except for infant formula, those dates do not signify an item’s safety. How a product looks, tastes, and smells is often the best indication of freshness and whether it’s edible.
Use up the oldest items first and rotate emergency preparedness items accordingly. Store food and water in a dry space away from excessive heat and sunlight. “Think about organizing your fridge by expiration date,” Groppo says, “so that you can work everything into your meal plan before foods expire.”
Long-lasting energy bars, protein powders, and freeze-dried or dehydrated meals are good additions for long-lasting emergency rations. Look for products made with natural ingredients, and protein powders fortified with vitamins and minerals.