Blog Archive


Grandma’s Pantry

Written by: Benita Williams – Graduate Student in Dietetics, Coordinated Program, Georgia State University
Friday January 15, 2021

Congratulations, we made it to 2021 – everything is going to go back to normal now, right? These uncertain times have been compared to the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed 50 million people worldwide, with 675,000 those deaths occurring in the United States.1 Over 100 years later, COVID-19 has rocked our world once again. It came onto the radar in December 2019, and the United States declared a National Emergency in March 2020, bringing life as we know it to a screeching halt. To date, 1.8 million people have died worldwide (~385,000 in the US), and those numbers continue to rise.2

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, threats of nuclear doom had citizens understandably on edge. In 1955, President Eisenhower launched a propaganda campaign called “Grandma’s Pantry” in the spirit that grandma always has enough food even with unexpected company. Eisenhower encouraged Americans to have a seven-day food and water supply in preparation for a nuclear attack.3 In the same way that they stocked up their fallout shelters, Americans flocked to the stores in the days leading to the US shutdown. What were among the top items? Powdered milk and milk alternatives, eggs, chicken, pasta, and of course, toilet paper.4

The key to a healthy diet is variety, but what if you have limited access to these essential food items? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having a three-day supply of food and water on hand.5 Here are some staple items to keep stocked in your “Grandma’s Pantry” for optimum nutrition in a pinch:

  1. Canned meats, beans, fruits, and vegetables – check expiration dates, opt for the low sodium/sugar versions, and make sure you also have a manual can opener on hand. Fruits and vegetables used for canning are picked at peak freshness to ensure the best flavor and quality. Canning preserves many nutrients (except vitamin C and B vitamins) and in some cases enhances antioxidant content such as lycopene in tomatoes.6 These nonperishable items require no water, cooking, or refrigeration, making them optimal emergency food candidates.

  2. Water – one gallon per person per day. Up to 60% of the human body is water, so drinking enough is of the utmost importance in maintaining essential body functions like regulating our internal body temperature through sweating and perspiration, assisting in flushing waste through urine, and keeping cells alive.7 As a matter of fact, the average person can survive only 3 days without water!8

  3. Whole grain rice, pasta, dried beans – if water and power aren’t issues, these items have long shelf lives and are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. If other proteins aren’t available, eating a combination of these items will help provide the complete range of essential amino acids. Consider having a tub of protein powder on hand – it has a long shelf life but should be replaced annually for optimal quality.9

  4. Protein bars, crackers, nuts/seeds, nut butter, etc. – these shelf-stable, high-calorie snacks will help you get the most out of every bite, but avoid options that are high in sodium as they may cause dehydration if water isn’t readily available.10

  5. Multivitamin – in a perfect world you’d get all of your vitamins and minerals from a varied diet, but multivitamins can effectively fill that gap in the case of an emergency.

There are many websites to buy nutrient-fortified, calorie-dense, with a 25+ year shelf life nutrient supplies. For example, “My Patriot Supply” has packages ranging from one-week 1,500+ calories/day for $79.00 up to a one year, 2,000+ calorie/day for nearly $3,000.00!11

Of course, we hope it never comes down to any of the “doomsday” scenarios, but it doesn’t hurt to be at least a little prepared to hunker down with the essentials in your “Grandma’s Pantry”!


  1. History of 1918 Flu Pandemic | Pandemic Influenza (Flu) | CDC. Published January 22, 2019. Accessed January 4, 2021.

  2. A Timeline of COVID-19 Developments in 2020. AJMC. Accessed January 4, 2021.

  3. Graff GM. The Doomsday Diet. Eater. Published December 12, 2017. Accessed January 4, 2021.

  4. Andrews C. Hand sanitizer, eggs are some of the products Americans bought to prepare for the pandemic. USA TODAY. Accessed January 4, 2021.

  5. Build A Kit | Accessed January 4, 2021.

  6. Are Canned Foods Nutritious for My Family? Accessed January 5, 2021.

  7. The Water in You: Water and the Human Body. Accessed January 5, 2021.

  8. How long can you live without water? Facts and effects. Published May 14, 2019. Accessed January 5, 2021.

  9. Nied J, Miller K. That Protein Powder You’ve Had In Your Pantry For A Year Is Probably Still Good. Women’s Health. Published April 8, 2020. Accessed January 5, 2021.

  10. Boston 677 Huntington Avenue, Ma 02115 +1495‑1000. Salt and Sodium. The Nutrition Source. Published July 18, 2013. Accessed January 5, 2021.

  11. Emergency Survival Food. My Patriot Supply. Accessed January 5, 2021.