Updated: Aug 13
I live in California, so we usually call them earthquake bags, but they may be called all sorts of things across the the country. In any case, you may have to fill one of these 1 gallon bags with 24 hours worth of food for your kids, to be stored at school in case of emergency. If you are an overthinker like me, this is an emotional rollercoaster. First, I try to find organic things that I would usually feed them. Well...these things tend not to have a lot of preservatives. Its not always possible to find items that 1) they will actually eat and 2) will last for the whole school year. Then I get frustrated and think, oh it's not likely they are going to use these bags anyway, so I'll just put whatever I can find. Then that leads to...OMG what if there is an emergency!! They need nutrients plus some treats. Somewhere along the line, I end up finding things that they will eat and that will fuel their body and comfort them.
*Pictured below is the front and back of my oldest son's earthquake kit for TK when he was 4.
Though I've made these a few times, I've never really found a good comprehensive list of kid-friendly foods to include that will last an entire year. So, I thought I would write a blog post that might save some parents (who haven't made them before or have struggled in the past) a little bit of time and emotion, especially if you are buying from Instacart or Amazon, and you can't check the expiration dates yourself. (You may notice Amazon has good deals on some of these items in bulk. This may inspire you to make an emergency kit for home as well if you haven't already.)
I am an Amazon Affiliate and may earn from Amazon links included in this article. I cannot guarantee expiration dates on any products purchased from Amazon. Also, this article is not intended as medical or nutritional advice.
Pictured below are the items I used in the kids' 2021 bags. I updated this article to include some new things I found in 2022 and 2023.
What I used:
Vienna Sausages (My kids had never tried these before this year, but I insisted there be some meat in the bag so they tried it and were OK with it.)
Nuts (Keep in mind, it is usually not recommended to feed whole nuts until kids are 4.)
Pop top* canned Tuna or vacuum packed
Pop top canned Salmon or vacuum packed
Pop top Chickpeas. (If your kid will eat chickpeas without cooking them or making them into hummus...you rock!)
*Remember the kids likely won't have access to can openers.
Things I thought would work but did not:
Kid's protein bars - I bought three different brands of kids protein bars on Instacart and all of them had expiration dates within the next few months. 2022 Update: I found one that worked!! Power Crunch Kids Protein Bars had an expiration date of August 2023.
What I used:
2022 Update: Black Olives. My 3 year old loves black olives and guess what...the little packages I buy him have a long shelf life. I just learned an olive was a fruit btw when trying to figure out where to place it in the article.
Pop top canned vegetables or individual cups.
*In the past, I have included plastic fruit cups. I didn't this year because I was concerned they might get punctured, although that has never happened to me before.
Things I thought would work but did not, (but possibly could if you search.)
Baby food pouches - I sometimes still give these to my toddler as a snack to get him to eat things like kale, spinach, beets etc. There are a few flavors my older kids will eat but none of the pouches we had on hand had an expiration date near June.
Something that might work: freeze dried yogurt melts that babies and toddlers like to eat.
What I used:
Individual Size Cereal - Last year I used Fruit Loops so it doubled as a treat.
Pop top Spaghetti Os. (If your child will eat them cold.)
Things that I thought would work but didn't:
Goldfish or Annie's Cheddar Bunnies
Peanut butter crackers - I actually bought two different brands of these from Instacart and they both had February expirations.
Belvita breakfast cookies - I bought two boxes of these. The expirations dates on both did not work for this bag.
Candy (That doesn't melt.)
I totally would have included freeze dried ice cream if my kids liked it. But they tried it this summer and none of them could finish it.
*I usually buy Annie's brand fruit snacks and I could not find any boxes with an expiration date in June.
From my experience, some schools want drinks, some do not. In years where I could include drinks, I put in one water and one juice.
Handwipes or napkins (One year I put paw patrol napkins, sometimes its the little things.)
Small Flashlight with batteries.
Simple note to comfort your little ones.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy school year! If anyone has other ideas that they have used, please leave it in the comments!
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