Whether you are just starting out or an experienced prepper the million-dollar question has always been “how much survival food do I need to stock up on?” The show Doomsday Preppers has given us some great insight on how and why people are stocking up. There have been countless lists, ideas and suggestions on what to buy and what food to stock for long-term survival. This discussion will continue for years to come.
If you are new to prepping it is easy to go to Sams Club or Walmart and just start buying everything you think you need or have been told you need. For experienced preppers there is always the worry do I have enough? It very easy to drool over the thought of buying a years supply of freeze-dried food but for many of us the price may be out of reach. For some a few extra cans on the shelf is adequate, for others a ton of wheat may not be enough. 6 months? A years worth? 5 years? But no matter how much food you manage to stock up on, the bottom line is it will never be enough for long-term survival. So how do we determine how much food you should have on hand for an emergency or long-term crisis? If we start to break it down in terms of how long we need it to last, we will better understand our true needs.
The first 72 hours
Not sure who came up with the concept of survival food for 72 hours but stocking up for just 3 days is sorely lacking in being prepared. The fact is there are probably millions of people who don’t have even a 3-day supply of food in their cupboards. As we have seen many times in the past even a short-term crisis can last days longer than just 72 hours and in a real SHTF situation a 3 day supply will be gone in no time.
The first 2 weeks after a major event will be the most critical. At this point you may be bugging out or digging out. Your area may be unlivable. Power may be out, looting and riots may be going on, it could be a very chaotic time. Whether you are hiking cross-country or just helping your family survive there is a good chance you will be pushing your body to the extreme. This is not the time to worry about sit down meals or how many cans you have on the shelf. If you are bugging out chances are you won’t be able to stop at a fast food restaurant to get something to eat. Doing anything physical means you are going to be burning calories- lots of them. During this time you need food that provides lots of calories, doesn’t need cooking and you can eat on the go. A two-week supply of these types of food is ideal. To find the types of food that meets these requirements search “adventure race foods” People who are into adventure races, multi day marathons, long distant running or backpacking have found what works the best. They are usually consuming upwards of 5000 calories a day just to keep their body fueled. Eating several smaller meals throughout the day will help keep you going under extreme conditions and stress. A supply like this is easy to store, usually lightweight and won’t take up a lot of room.
At this point after a major crisis or event things are either going to be back to normal or going to continue to deteriorate. Big box and grocery stores will have been emptied out or looted. People will start to run out of food. Government handouts may not be enough or not available. Unprepared friends and neighbors will have gone through whatever was in their pantries and freezers. This is when your long-lost relatives start showing up at your door demanding food because they know you are one of those “preppers”. Neighbors will start stopping by asking for food because “they didn’t have a chance to get to the store before the power went out.” When people are hungry they will start doing things they never would have done in the past. Lawlessness will be the norm. Every Tom, Dick and Harry with a gun or a rod and reel will be going after what ever they can find. Inexperienced hunters will shoot at whatever moves. By now you may have settled in but you will be checking your own preps and wondering if you have enough and how long it will last.
At this point if we are in a long-term crisis with no end in sight then you need to think how you are going to feed your family for months or years to come. Several factors come into play. How many people do you need to provide for? Where do you live? If you have to bug out in Nov. in the north you need enough food to see you through the winter and into spring. If you hang on until you are able to grow your own food you still need several months of food until you can harvest what you have grown. Now if you are an experienced homesteader with years of gardening experience you might have a good chance. If you have never gardened and are just hoping you can grow enough you are probably going to starve. Even the most experience gardeners and farmers will tell you of countless failures. The weather, bugs, poor soil, all things that can lead to crop failure. Reality survival shows such as The Colony and Out Wild Alaska have proven it is very difficult to “live off the land”. In those shows, food was all they thought about. How to get it, how to make it last and as those shows demonstrated how difficult it is under extreme survival conditions to acquire enough food for your daily needs even under the best of circumstances. And as Les Stroud has shown a few grubs a day does not make a meal.
It is easy to turn your basement into your own grocery store but remember, as soon as you put food on your shelf the clock is ticking. Food you buy at the grocery store or Sams Club all have an expiration date. Sure it may be a year or even two but will you use it in time? It is easy to say that you will rotate the food you buy. Great theory but it usually falls apart in practice. We have all found that box or can in the back of the pantry we forgot about and find it years past its expiration date. Buying too much at a time can make it difficult to rotate through it before it expires. Buying in bulk is a great idea and can save money until you start eating the same thing day after day. Or 50lbs of something goes bad or critters get it. Buying smaller packages or dividing your bulk products into smaller packages protects your food stores and limits your risk. If you don’t enough variety, food fatigue can set in fairly quickly if you’re feeding your family rice and beans every night. And I am sure no one really wants to eat MRE’s everyday for a year. Even if you are buying freeze-dried or dehydrated food with a 25-year shelf life, buy smaller lots from several manufacturers to add variety. No matter how good one manufactures food is, eating it over and over will get old.
One thing that can have a major impact on your food storage is boredom. Often we eat because we are bored. We sit in front of the TV and eat because we are bored. If you are home without a job to go to, without power, without TV or the internet you will get bored. If your children are home with nothing to do they will get bored and all you are going to hear is “what’s there to eat” Your eating habits are going to change, you will start thinking about food all day long, you will start to obsess about it and what you are going to have for your next meal. In a survival situation your stress levels will be high, you may eat more to try to calm down. You will find your food preps start dwindling at a rapid pace.
Too many people stock up on prepackaged, processed food. When it is out, it’s out. You need to develop the skills necessary to cook and bake from scratch. You need to learn how to make your own groceries. When you can no longer run to the store you need to know how to make your own ketchup from scratch. Every store-bought product on your shelf could probably be made at home from ingredients you should have on hand. Whether it is ketchup, soup mix or pasta. If you are missing an ingredient then like all good cooks you improvise.
In an extreme SHTF apocalyptic survival scenario people will die of starvation. Most people are totally unprepared for any type of long survival needs. You are stocking up and preparing for a reason that is right for you but you need to carefully evaluate your needs and the needs of your family to determine if you are on the right path or you need to change course. Having too much of the wrong type of food is just as bad as having too little food.
I have been watching several YouTube videos recently on prepping and food storage for ideas and came across these two that I think are worth watching. They both have some good common sense ideas when it comes to food storage.