Be Prepared.

That’s the motto of the Boy Scouts.

“Be prepared for what?” someone once asked Baden-Powell, the founder of Scouting,

“Why, for any old thing.” said Baden-Powell.

Like the Boy Scouts, I believe in being prepared.  2011 tested the survival skills of many New England families with its particularly extreme weather – heavy snowstorms, tornadoes, and a hurricane.  Hurricane Irene left me with out power and water for 7 days.  The emergency food pantry is where I fell short with my emergency preparations.  Although I had non-perishable foods, I did not have what I needed to make balanced meals.  The goal of this blog post is to give you recommendations to start your own emergency food pantry.

With the the winter season here, now is as great time to get stated. Below you’ll find my emergency food pantry list and an emergency shopping list.  I’ve also included a link to “Emergency Kitchen” a website with recipes for one pot meals that can be made with canned and non-perishable food.  Non-perishable foods are “stable” foods that do not spoil and have a shelf life of several months or even years.  They are foods that can be found in many American home pantries.  The emergency list also contains perishable items that do not need refrigeration and have a shelf life of approximately one week.  These include foods like; bread, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

When planning an emergency food pantry, consider the cooking appliances and tools you’ll have accessible in the event of an emergency.  I have a natural gas stove in my kitchen and a propane outdoor grille, they will both work without electricity.  Matches and manual can and bottle openers are important tools to have on hand for emergency situations. Also consider stocking paper products (napkins, plates, bowls and cutlery) as these will make meal clean-up easier.

When shopping for your emergency food pantry, consider purchasing single serving sizes whenever possible to eliminate the need for refrigeration after containers have been opened.  Emergency food pantries should include a variety of foods for balanced nutrition.  It’s also a good idea to periodically check expiration dates on these food items. Peggy Van Laaned’s PDF, “Safe Food Storage” is an informative guide that’s well worth reading.

Fruits and Vegetables Group

  • Canned vegetables (choose low/no sodium to minimize the need to drink water)
  • Vegetable juice
  • Canned tomatoes (juice and sauce)
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Canned fruit and fruit cups (in natural juice rather than syrupy fruits)
  • Dried fruits (bananas, pineapple, apricots are good examples)
  • Applesauce
  • Fruit juice and juice boxes

Protein Group

  • Canned meat (tuna, salmon, or chicken for example)
  • Canned ham sandwich spread
  • Dried and dehydrated meats (jerky for example)
  • Soups, stews, and chili
  • Baked beans
  • Dried and canned beans and peas
  • Chili Beef stew
  • Peanut butter
  • Nuts

Grain Group

  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grain crackers
  • Breakfast Cereals
  • All pasta types
  • Whole grain rice
  • Whole grain crackers (good replacement for bread)
  • Granola bars
  • Cereal bars
  • Quinoa


  • Water
  • Electrolyte drinks
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Gravy
  • Bouillon cubes (great for flavoring rice and pasta)
  • Dry soup mix (also great for flavoring rice and pasta)
  • Mustard, ketchup, and soy sauce
  • Salad dressing (types that do not need to be stored in refrigerator after opening)
  • Pudding cups (a welcome treat!)

Emergency shopping

  • Bread
  • Fresh fruit
  • Mayonnaise packets
  • Fresh vegetables (that do not need refrigeration: Green beans, broccoli, and brussel sprouts )

Helpful websites:

Emergency Kitchen – one pot recipes for canned and non-perishable foods:

Safe Food Storage – PDF food storage guide:

With PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) being more in the news, you may hear the terms “Aroclors”, “homologs” and “congeners” used to describe the different ways that PCBs are measured.  Measuring the concentration of PCBs gets complicated because there are actually 209 different chemicals (referred to as congeners) included in the PCB chemical group.  Measuring all 209 congeners separately is research level analytical chemistry and is impractical for most purposes.  However, analytical chemists have developed a number of effective ways to measure PCBs that don’t require looking for all 209 different PCB congeners.

Measuring PCBs as Aroclors

The most common way to measure PCBs is as Aroclors.  Aroclor was the trade name of the commercial PCB mixtures manufactured by the Monsanto Chemical Company and sold in the United States.  An Aroclor PCB mixture might consist of over 100 different individual PCB congeners, although 10-20 might make up over 50% of the mixture.   When analytical chemists test a sample to see if it has an Aroclor PCB mixture in it, they look for a distinctive gas chromatographic pattern (sometimes called a chromatographic “fingerprint”) that is indicative of one of the Aroclors.  There were  nine common PCB Aroclor mixtures (1221, 1232, 1242, 1016, 1248, 1254, 1260, 1262, and 1268), and each of them has a distinctive gas chromatographic pattern.  Measuring PCBs as Aroclors relies on there being a relatively fixed composition of PCB congeners in the mixture.

When a chemist measures the amount of Aroclor in a sample, they will know the total amount of that Aroclor that is present, but will not know the identity or the concentration of the specific PCB congeners in the sample.  Provided the sample has not been subjected to conditions that might degrade or change the composition of the PCBs, knowing the type of Aroclor present and its concentration is usually sufficient for environmental assessment.

Homologs – For When Sample Weathering Has Occured

However, if an environmental sample has been subjected to conditions that might alter the congener composition of the sample, then it will be more accurate to test the sample by a different method.  Air samples, sediment samples, biota samples and water samples are the ones most likely to have had their congener composition changed by environmental conditions.  This can happen because the PCB congeners with fewer chlorine atoms tend to partition into air and water more readily than those with more chlorine atoms.  For this reason air and water samples are likely to be “enriched” with congeners with fewer chlorine atoms.  Biota samples can also be subject to bio-degradation with some congeners being selectively reduced and others remaining constant.

For samples whose congener makeup has been altered, testing for Aroclors will give erroneous results.  Testing for PCB homologs will give more reliable results for these samples.  Homologs are a way of grouping PCB congeners by the number of chlorine atoms they have; this can vary from one to ten.  All the PCB chemicals that have the same number of chlorine atoms are said to belong to the same homolog group.  There are 11 different di-chloro congeners in the 2-chlorine homolog group and there are 42 different tetra-chloro congeners  in the 4-chlorine homolog group, as examples.  Laboratory results for PCB homologs will list the the amount of PCB present in the sample by the number of chlorine atoms.

But, Sometimes Only Congener Analysis Will Do

In circumstances requiring more congener detail than can be provided by either Aroclor or homolog analyses, it is also possible to analyze samples for a subset of the full 209 congeners.  Analyzing samples for the full 209 congeners is, as I said before, still research level chemistry.  The NOAA PCB congener method cites 20 congeners to be reported, this is often used for sediment analysis. The USACE PCB congener method cites 22 congeners to be reported. The SW-846 8082 method cites 19 congeners to be reported. The WHO lists cites 12 congeners (those which the World Health Organization believes pose the greatest health concern – although this is disputed).  Congener data is particularly useful for forensic purposes, but the guidance available for interpreting the data is fairly limited.

Overall, in most instances measuring PCBs using the Aroclor method will be the best choice.  Where that method is inappropriate, looking at homologs is likely to be a good option, and where even more detailed results are needed, looking for PCB congeners will be necessary.  For homolog and congener testing make sure to select a laboratory with considerable experience with those analyses as they are challenging tests to perform.

For help selecting analytical methods or designing a PCB assessment program, please contact me at