Food Storage for 30 Days


Food Storage for 30 Days

by Harry


I’m an Engineer and really like solving problems.  Especially, when there are lots of variables leading to a number of potential solutions.  That allows me to put some of my personal preferences into the mix and develop what I believe is the best solution.


One of my sons asked me to put together a food plan for him out of our stores for an upcoming trip he is planning.  The basic requirements are to feed two 30ish young men who are very active for 2 weeks.  There were several parameters I was given to create the plan:

  • Water was not an issue
  • Prep time was not an issue
  • Variety was a minimal issue
  • Space was a significant issue
  • Weight was a significant issue
  • Stability and shelf life were significant issues (they didn’t want to take a cooler)
  • Nutritional value was an issue (eliminate the need for multi-vitamin if possible)
  • Durability of packaging was a significant issue (boys will be boys)
  • Basics such as salt, sugar, coffee, and spices were already accounted for in their camping gear


I started with a basic plan – feed an active adult male for 30 days (I added a little fluff for emergencies, spillage, and rounding errors).  That gave me a starting point of 3,000 calories per day for 30 days or 90,000 calories.


My first thought was to supply them with several cases of MRE’s.  At 1,200 calories each they would need 75 meals to total 90,000 calories.  However, at approximately 1.5 pounds per meal this solution would have weighed about 110 pounds.  Further, this solution didn’t provide much variety (24 different meals), didn’t address the durability issue, required the boys to consume partial meals (and store the remaining food) in order to meet the 3,000 calorie daily requirement, and supplied them with basics which they already had covered.


Delving further into our home storage I decided to use #10 cans of freeze dried foods.  Since the foods are freeze dried, they are substantially lighter then MRE’s.  The steel cans are much more durable than plastic packaging.  The shelf life of the food was more than sufficient.  The 6-pack boxes the cans came in were fairly space conscious.  And, a wider variety of menus would be available (mix and match from various cans).


I decided that to ensure a reasonable variety I would only include one can of any particular food (even though I really wanted to get rid of 5 cans of banana slices my wife got on sale a few months back).  Also, I set my goal on achieving the FDA daily serving recommendations for each food group – 2 of dairy, 3 of protein, 4 of fruits, 5 of vegetables, and 11 of grains.  Further, the boys asked me to try to keep the calorie mix as follows: 15% protein, 55% grains, and 10% each for fruits, vegetables, and dairy.  The percentage of calories from each food group was slightly more important to them than the servings per food group.


After a bit of trial and error (Excel spreadsheets are wonderful planning tools), I came up with the following food list:

  • 9 grain cracked cereal
  • Cornmeal
  • Egg Noodle Pasta
  • Instant Brown Rice
  • Instant White Rice
  • Pearled Barley
  • Quick Oats
  • Quinoa
  • White Flour
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • Chopped Onions
  • Chopped Spinach
  • Green Beans
  • Potato Chunks
  • Red & Green Bell Peppers
  • Apple Sauce
  • Pears
  • Pineapple Chunks
  • Sweet Cherry Halves
  • Chopped Chicken
  • Instant Black Beans
  • Whole Egg Powder
  • Instant Milk
  • Shredded Colby Cheese

Although there are a number of really good suppliers of freeze dried food products, all of the above was supplied by Thrive using their serving and calorie information.  I included one can of each food product.  This totaled 24 cans or four 6-pack boxes.


So, how did I do in meeting the requirements and solving the problem?


Here is the final analysis:

  • Total calories – 90,950 (101% of goal)
  • Protein – 14.6% of calories, 10.2 servings per day
  • Grain – 54.7% of calories, 12.7 servings per day
  • Fruits – 10.0% of calories, 5.9 servings per day
  • Vegetables – 9.9% of calories, 7.2 servings per day
  • Dairy – 10.8% of calories, 3.3 servings per day
  • Total weight – 57.21 pounds (about 60 pounds including packaging)


From my perspective, the protein and dairy items are very limited and would tend to get boring very quickly.  The use of smaller pantry sized cans would have allowed for a greater variety, though at the expense of more space and weight.


Extrapolating this into information a typical prepper could use is fairly straightforward.  If one person (active adult male in this example) needs 24 cans of food for one month (30 days), it follows that a one year supply of food would be approximately 288 cans.  Depending on the actual calorie and nutrient content of the foods you select as well as your total calorie needs that number may be more or less, but it does provide a starting point.


Now, what did I do with that banana bread recipe?

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12 thoughts on “Food Storage for 30 Days”

  1. There is really nothing wrong with your list, it will do the job. One of the problems with freeze dried food is it is generally not calorie dense. Another problem I see typically with a well thought out and complete survival diet is the contortions taken to make sure each MDR is meet. For example I have used the freeze dried bell peppers and I could happily live the rest of my life if I never tried them again. This applies to some of the other items on the list that are clearly intended to provide specific dietary needs.
    I would prefer the pouch freeze dried meals. No preparation, just add hot water and eat. I would prefer the very calorie dense food like potato flakes, rice, flour, sugar, oil/fats. I would prefer oats and rice and flour to things like quinoa and pearled barley (I know, quinoa is the latest fad and all that…).
    What makes a really good meal? White rice and a rich gravy, meat if you have it, mashed potatoes (preferably with butter) and gravy. You don’t really need the onions, spinach, cherry halves etc. Think tasty robust man food or comfort food and you can’t go wrong. Will this throw off they vitamin and mineral balance? Yeah, but for two weeks you will survive just fine. The point is most people will eat what they like not eat the stuff no one really likes and you end up draging around a can of bell peppers and a can of onions and a can of spinach etc. that you don’t really want simply because it makes the math come out right.
    By the way I eat oatmeal all the time and the quick oatmeal works fine but the less processed oatmeal works just fine to and has a little tooth to it (in a satisfying way) when you eat it. I think it stores better but either way I prefer it.

  2. GWTW,
    First of all, I think you might have missed my point. This scenario wasn’t a SHTF, bug out, live off whatever you can carry on your back, total disaster mode exercise. This was a fun trip, not an attempt to simply fill the belly and survive for 2 weeks. The boys had 2 trucks, a travel trailer, ATV’s, a boat, their mountain bikes, and 2 generators (one gas, one solar). So simplicity, speed, convenience, and minimalism were not significant considerations.

    Everybody has personal preferences; we like bell peppers, spinach, cherries, and onions. I bashed the idea of using any kind of pouch meals (MRE, Mountain House, etc) when the boys told me they wanted containers that would take some abuse and not damage the food (I have no idea what mountain they were planning to toss the food packages over, I just worked with the specification provided). As I noted in the requirements, “Durability of packaging was a significant issue”. Preparation time was not an issue, so “just add water and eat” while a good idea under some circumstances didn’t really apply to this scenario. Also, I was given some specific wants/needs insofar as colorie mix and food types. The boys wanted a mix of proteins, grains, dairy, veggies, and fruits.

    You mentioned a preference for calorie dense foods and oats, rice, and flour over pearled barley and quinoa; yet the barley weighs in at 8,350 calories per #10 can and quinoa at 7,820 (rice – 3,840, oats – 4,200, and flour – 5,610). The Provident Pantry potato flakes on my shelf only have 1,920 calories per #10 can. You seem to be contradicting yourself. Had I limited the foods to your preferences I would have needed even more cans (more space and more weight which I had to limit) to supply the required calories. I certainly agree that different circumstances and tastes will require different plans.

    Finally, my extrapolation for a year’s supply of food would need to consider every food group and nutrition requirement. It’s not just math – it really is a health and, potentially, survival concern. Scurvy, rickets, beriberi, and even simple food fatigue (a common occurence among our deployed troops who are required to subsist on MRE’s for an extended period) can easily develop in 6 to 12 months. Any prepper who tries to live on rice, beans, oatmeal, and powdered milk for any length of time is going to find themselves in a world of hurt due to simple malnutrition.

  3. Here is a question not addressed in this:

    How are they going on the trip? With a trailer carrying water? On foot? Is this a backpacking excursion? Is this a base camp / camping trip?

    There is the issue of portability in dealing with 24 #10 cans. Then, if they are on the move, how to deal with partial cans of food on a day to day basis. I suppose that the cans could be broken down into plastic bags with designated servings in them. There are still issues that would be specific to transportation if they are NOT using a vehicle.

    The analysis re: how much is needed for a year is quite good, and based on caloric requirements for the active lifestyle someone would have to have to make it beyond the 1st year. Gardening, sanitation, water sourcing, asset positioning and protection. It all requires energy.

    Thank you.

  4. Harry- nice to read something fun !!You did a good job I think. Yes I tasted the freeze dried banana chips ( unsweetened) and I usually like banana chips-but from now on I will order sweetened. Looks like I will make
    small bags of banana chips for those that may need food.
    Maybe I will try bread- good suggestion.Arlene

  5. CM,
    A lot preppers miss the simple fact that once the food stores are gone the only way to keep your belly full is hunting, gathering, and farming. Only farming will provide most folks the wherewithal to stay alive. Farming is work, sometimes it’s fun and satisfying, but it’s still work. Work requires calories. A good food storage plan should keep you fed until you are self sufficient in food production.

    Thanks, I appreciate the vote of confidence. Banana pudding, pie, smoothies, french toast, and rice – there never seem to be enough ways to get rid of them.

  6. I’ve collected and used Thrive foods. Even part of a cooking group using Thrive. I think its great that they will be using the products as part of their trip. My favorite so far as using Thrive in one of our cooking groups was pizza. The dough was made separately but all the products put on the pizza was from Thrive. (Tomato paste, sausage crumbles, spinach, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, bell peppers, herbs) And breakfast is my 2nd favorites. I enjoy the cooking class because I can try the Thrive foods, before purchase and don’t have to get into my #10 cans that are stored for long term.

  7. I like Bell peppers and spinach too but we are talking freeze dried bell peppers which really suck. When I referred to calorie dense foods I was at that point talking about an end goal, period. Not finding something like quinoa simply because it is more calorie dense thenm the more edible and easier to prepare food like rice. At that point I was comparing rice with things like spinach and bell peppers to which it is more calorie dense. Rice is simple; simple to prepare, simple to mix with almost anything to enhance the flavor and simple to carry. Quinoa is the yuppie food of the day and before the yuppies made it popular it was just another unknown and virtually unused seed. It is the “double nonfat latte” of the food world. That is it is only used to show off. While a double nonfat latte may taste good and quinoa is certainly edible food it is hardly anyone’s “goto” food item. So my point was put in a freeze dried broth or gravy to mix with cooked rice and you have instant comfort food vs put in quinoa and you have instant confusion and odd taste. Your choice.
    I disagree with your extrapolation. You don’t store “everything” you could possibly need. Sure the big freeze dry companies sell a truckload of stuff for a family of four for a mere $12,000 but only rich people store that and presumably if they ever need it will discover how crappy freeze dried bell peppers taste. Instead you store the basics and the essentials and supplement with whatever is available. Unless you intend to sit inside a concrete bunker for a year it seems likely that you would supplement with whatever you can hunt and gather. Fresh greens make far more sense then freeze dried spinach.
    many years ago when I was into bagging peaks a friend and I decided to top the local mountain in a day. Planning the meals another friend suggested PBJ sandwiches. Sounded silly but I gave it a try. I cannot even tell you how great and filling PBJ sandwiches are after climbing/hiking for four hours. It was like the nector of the gods. Would quinoa have been as satisfying? would bell peppers have given me more vitamins? Doesn’t matter I was eating something that was so good I simply stuffed myself. I have had my share of hiking and survival food that was bland and unsatisfying and I can tell you there is zero satisfaction that it was well balanced. Concentrate on making the food good and less effort on making it meet some dieticians view of perfect. Comfort food, man food, something that demands second helpings and doesn’t make you want to puke. Hell! If you wanted well balanced food all you had to do was buy a couple cases of Cliff bars (which I like). Old Cliff has bent over backwards to create complete dietary snacks and they taste good too.
    Just saying. You asked for comments and constructive criticism so there it is…

  8. GWTW,
    I’m thinking we may have to agree to disagree on this one – no harm, just different ways to reach the same goal.
    If you Google “rice recipes” you get about 30,000,000 returns, while “quinoa recipies” gets a little over 2,000,000 returns. Rice is definitely versatile and most folks probably have more experience with it, but that doesn’t put quinoa in the “yuppie” food category for me. It’s readily available, has more calories per serving than rice, and my family likes it. We eat it fairly regularly – about the same rotation as potatoes, pasta, and rice in our diet. Instant rice requires a pot, water, salt, and about 5 minutes of heat; quinoa requires a pot, water, salt, and about 15 minutes of heat. Not much difference or confusion in my opinion. I suppose it’s all what you’re used to eating. If you don’t eat some food product on a regular basis there will certainly be some unfamiliarity and discomfort with using it at all. People like to stay in their comfort zones – especially when it comes to feeding our faces.
    I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t call my family rich (not when I eat ground turkey simply because it’s cheaper than ground beef), but in all honesty we have over a year’s supply of food in our house. That includes store bought cans, home canned, home vacuum sealed, and freeze dried and our supplies will easily feed our entire extended family (14 adults, 3 kids). This is in addition to our land which is agriculturally productive. I didn’t plop down thousands of dollars and get it all in one day, it has been built up over many years. And, I really and truly do not have it in a bunker. We practice the philosophy of store what you eat and eat what you store. If I store freeze dried bell peppers (and I do) it’s because we use them regularly. If I need a whole bell pepper they are growing in our garden behind the house, but if I want to add a 1/4 cup to some scrambled eggs I don’t waste a whole pepper. Freeze dried works and tastes fine, again in my opinion.
    For you prep time and ease seem to be significant issues. That’s perfect – for you. For my exercise, it wasn’t an issue. I approached my solution based on the constraints I was given, not preconceptions or my personal preferences. It certainly would have taken a lot less effort on my part to simply go into the store room and grab a bunch of MRE’s and Clif Bars (yes, we have several boxes on hand – I like them for a snack) and then toss in several packages of our home made venison jerkey and a 2 pound bag of Jolly Ranchers. That wasn’t what I was asked to do.
    Again, your way isn’t wrong – for you – but, it also wasn’t right for my son and his buddy.

  9. If anyone is interesed I have been eating my last 2 cases of MRE’s left over from Katrina. The only thing I thought wasn’t right was the cherry/blueberry cobbler it smelled fermented. Everything else has been fine. Not bad for 8 year old MRE’s. They were kept in an out building with some ac in the summer.

  10. Harry: Good answer. I only want to respond to one point. Indeed quinoa has been around a long time. In 1972 a very good friend introduced me to it along with triticale. But for years after that quinoa never seemed to catch the public eye. More recently fad foods have become popular and then quietly disappeared. Things like acai berries and quinoa. So it wasn’t my intent to paint everyone with a broad brush but honestly for most people quinoa is just the latest fad. I don’t eat quinoa, too expensive and not particularly versatile. Just my opinion.

  11. You are 100% correct – quinoa is about twice the price of rice and about 8 or 9 times the price of whole wheat. However, it is nutrient and calorie dense and is one of the very few plant foods which includes all 9 essential amino acids. For this particular exercise including it reduced the space and weight requirements of the food package. I had 10 or 12 #10 cans of quinoa in the store room, so it wasn’t any additional effort to find it or buy it. We are fairly close to Mexico, so it is probably more common here than in other areas of the USA due to the prevalence of Hispanic cultures.

    I take it you would prefer not to see a quinoa based meal in Rourke’s recipe contest. Cheers.


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