I like to make foods from scratch. I try to use as few as possible prepared foods, however I'm not zealous about it. I just prefer scratch cooking as usually it's better tasting and cheaper. Sometimes though I bend in order to accommodate my family members tastes. For instance my grandson loves instant mashed potatoes... if I am making dinner and tell him mashed potatoes are one of the items on tonight's menu he will say very seriously, "Is it the kind with potatoes in it or no potatoes?" He calls the instant variety "the kind without potatoes". I like to make him happy so at least twice a month I serve "potatoes with no potatoes". He is a strange little dude sometimes, he also likes cheap boxed macaroni and cheese. He doesn't like the kind that comes with the little package of Velveeta or the kind you actually make from scratch, he likes the kind with fake cheese flavored powder. He also likes instant cocoa, grits, popcorn, avocados and he loves dill pickles on his sandwiches and mint ice cream for dessert. How is it that kids actually like things like that?
I am careful to include those items in my prepping because it's important to provide comfort foods for our family. In an emergency situation where perhaps the power is out for a week or longer, the youngsters are going to have it especially hard. They are used to having TV, snacks, going out to pizza once in awhile, electronics, being driven to their schools, sports practices, the mall etc. The least you can do for your youngsters is provide them with some of the comfort that will make them feel a little better till the emergency has resolved itself or until they get used to a new way of life.
Last January I went to Vietnam with my son and my grandson for 2 weeks. I made sure I packed some boxed shelf stable milk, mac and cheese, favorite cereal, Crystal light, instant cocoa and some instant mashed potatoes. In the first few days he wanted most of his meals to be peppered with these items but by the 4th or 5th day he was becoming acquainted with new foods and was starting to enjoy them. By the time we left he was eating just like any of the other Vietnamese children in the household. He had slowly learned to adapt in order to fit in with the other children and to enjoy the fun of trying new foods. At home he would not have been so adventurous.
I think it's important to have some adventures when you are considering how to prep for your kids. Everyone should know how to eat with chop sticks. Why? Because you don't always have silverware with you in an emergency but you can find a couple of sticks. Even with soup you can use chop sticks to eat the solids and drink the juice directly from the bowl or cup. You can make an adventure out of it by having a chop stick eating contest or just making a festivity out of it by using them once a week at a regular meal. It doesn't have to be Asian food to use chopsticks. It would be more fun to use them eating a bowl of mac and cheese or Hamburger Helper than Chow Mien . As your skills get more accomplished you can try more and more difficult foods like noodles, salad, rice, even oat meal! If it's made into a game you and your kids will have more fun with the challenge. One of the nice things is a bundle of chopsticks is relatively cheap and a bundle of them the size of a water bottle will probably supply eating utensils for 20 people or more. I even have a few extra long ones about 18" for cooking. They work great for turning frying foods like fish, chicken or larger pieces of foods.
Things like small toys, stuffed animals, dolls, crayons, paper or coloring books will help your child remember to be a kid. No matter if the electricity is out for a day, a week or a month or even longer a child has to have childish things to do and it will keep them from under foot if you can pull out something new for them to do or examine every so often. We, as adults get bored to tears with the same old thing in our routines all the time and it so much more boring for a kid who has boundless energy and nothing to do. (Remember the adage "Idle hands are the Devil's Workshop" ?)
If you are doing serious prepping as in for a long term situation lasting 6 months are longer don't forget to add larger clothing for each season you estimate your preps, with this remember to include things you might enjoy having for your child at that size (or age). Birthday cards, shoes, warm socks, larger coats, jeans and shirts. Age appropriate books, gifts and personal hygiene. Hair brushes, combs, ribbons and barrettes can go a long way in making a girl feel good about herself in a time of stress. The same goes for boys, a baseball, a shaving kit, some after shave or men's cologne would do a lot for the self esteem of a young man who maybe thinks things will never be the same again even though maybe it's only been a week. Think ahead for the mental well being of your child, only you know what kinds of things might make them happy or encouraged. Try to keep things as normal as possible and as routine as possible.
Don't forget your child's spiritual education. A supply of Sunday School lessons, crafts and a child's Bible will be a valuable part of their education. Teach a child the way to worship and it will bring great comfort to them as they mature.
Some "Preppers" include school plans in their prepping. They have gone online and procured through online suppliers or from other homeschoolers lesson plans, curriculum's, books and classroom supplies for all ages and levels of education. Even if you don't use them due to some unforeseen event you could use them as summer or vacation lessons and keep your child that much more ahead of the game if your child is currently in public school. If you never need them or use them, at least you were prepared.
Here is a list of what I keep on hand for emergency use for my grandson (or for his grandpa in some cases...LOL) This is in addition to my regular pantry foods. These are the things I specifically set aside just for him.
Mac and Cheese
Instant Mashed Potatoes
Instant Hot Cocoa with Marshmallows
Presweetened Cool Aid or presweetened packaged beverages
Canned cheese products like Nacho Cheese in a can, Cheddar Cheese Soup etc. (With some imagination you can use these items to make some of the things very similar to things your child likes)
Shelf stable milk (This comes in a box and is ready to use, it actually tastes just like regular milk)
Cookie mix (in the box, removed and vacume packaged with instructions)
Word Searches for kids
Colored pencils, crayons, regular pencils (pack these in multiples when you can. I pick them up 10 packages at a time at Walmart at the beginning of the school year for sometimes 4 for a dollar)
Paper, coloring books, game boys
Books for pleasure reading (superhero stories, sports stories, Bible stories)
Homeschooling items picked up at garage sales or on Freecycle. (www.Freecycle.org)
Freeze dried ice cream...this is an extravagance and is available at sporting goods stores in the back packing section. It isn't cold and its not like real ice cream but it is fun and it does taste like ice cream that is crunchy..
Favorite cups, mugs, cereal bowls
Favorite colors of towels
Canned fruits and juices
two way radios (for those scary trips to the bathroom)
batteries and chargers
I am also working on clothing, shoes and winter items for kids in lots of different sizes. If we don't use it I am sure there will be someone who will need it at some point. I also have and continue to collect bedding that is of the type my grandson feels comfortable with. Even though he is 11 he has autism and is attracted to soft, fuzzy and fluffy blankets. He swathes himself in them year around as they make him feel comfortable, it's important to me that he has those things as long as he needs them. Fabric is also something to purchase, set aside in vacume packing and maybe a few moth balls. You just never know what you might want to try to make later.
These are all just ideas of what you can do to make a stressful situation better. Remember, even if the lights are out just for the night or for longer you can pull out any of these things to surprise your children and even put some smiles on faces during what could be a scary time.