The issue of stocking up enough food for societal collapse, or even just extended emergency situations, is one of the first things people think about when they are prepping. This is a good thing, because aside from having safe shelter and water, food is the most important thing to have stored away. This is particularly the case since our grocery stores are stocked with a mere three days’ worth of food. Even an emergency event that goes on for just one week will result in a lot of very hungry people. And if people know about the emergency event in advance, you will likely get to the store to find empty shelves staring back at you. It’s best to have food stocked up ahead of time.
When it comes to stockpiling food, governments recommend keeping three days’ worth. I believe this is woefully inadequate and that the absolute bare minimum should be a month’s worth of food. Then you can work your way up to three months’, six months’, and then a year’s worth of food. There are also a lot of things to think about when stockpiling food. What kinds of foods should be stored? Are some better than others? How much food do you need? How do you store it so that it will keep until you need it? These questions might be roaming around in your head so let’s explore the answers.
Before we get into what food you should store and how you need to store it, let’s take caloric requirements into consideration. In particular, you need to consider how many people you are stocking food for and the calorie requirements of each of those people. There are different caloric requirements for men, women, and children and you have to plan accordingly. The caloric requirements for each depend on age, weight and height, and level of physical activity, but range as follows:
- Men (including teenagers): 2,700-3,800
- Women (including teenagers): 1,900-2,600
- Children 13 and under: 1,100-1700
Remember that the lower number is for light activity throughout the day and the higher number is for heavy activity. You will need to go to the higher end of the range for people who are younger, heavier, and taller and when you are in a survival situation, everyone will be exerting themselves a great deal each day.
With this in mind, be sure you have high-calorie foods in your food stores. These include protein bars, canned meats and cheeses, peanut butter, rice, and oatmeal. We’ll get into specific foods to store below, but keep the caloric requirements in mind when prepping. Check the calories in each type of food you are prepping and be sure you calculate how much you will need for each person for a month. For instance, when stocking rice, there are 130 calories per 100 grams (about a quarter of a pound) of cooked rice. If you have a 50-pound (22,700 gram) bag of rice you have nearly 30,000 calories of food in that one bag and if a serving size is 100 grams, you could feed one man for 10 days. Of course, this is the case if the rice was all he ate, which it won’t be, but it gives you an idea of how you need to think about this.
Foods to Store
When choosing the food you store away there are a few things to keep in mind. These include:
- Consider short-term and long-term food storage
- Store food your family likes and eats
- Store foods that have a long shelf-life
For short-term emergencies, such as when there is a winter storm and the power goes out for a few days, whatever you and your family eats on a regular basis will do. You should have a week or two of your family’s favorite and regular foods stocked up, including cereal, bread, juice, and anything else your family generally eats.
Beyond the short-term food storage, it is wise to start stocking foods that will keep for a long period of time provided they are properly stored (we’ll talk about food storage next!). Here is a list of foods that are good for storage, organized in categories and including an approximate shelf-life:
- Hard grains: buckwheat, wheat, millet, dried corn (10-12 years)
- Soft grains: oat groats, barley, rye, quinoa (8-10 years)
- Flour (5-8 years)
- Pasta (5-8 years)
- Dried beans (8-10 years)
- Chickpeas (garbanzo)
- Blackeye peas
- Canned food (2-5 years)
- Dehydrated fruits and vegetables (1-2 years depending on storage temperature)
- Powdered milk (2-5 years)
- Peanut butter (2-5 years)
- Unpasteurized (raw) honey (unlimited shelf-life)
- Salt (unlimited shelf-life)
- Herbs and spices (2-5 years)
- Oil – the longest shelf-life is coconut oil at more than 2 years
- Baking soda (unlimited shelf-life)
- Apple cider vinegar (5-10 years)
- Tea/coffee (2-5 years)
- Sprouting seeds – includes mustard seeds, mung beans, and any other seeds you can think of and they will allow you to have fresh greens even in the midst of winter; make sure they are raw seeds; most will store for 5 years
Once you have these staples stocked up, you can start adding some foods that are more for pleasure than survival. These are items that you like to have on hand for comfort, such as chocolate, special food preferences, chips, nachos and salsa, and anything else that tickles your fancy. These foods are a great comfort when things look bad and they can also make great barter items if things go on long enough that you need to start trading with other people.
How to Store Food
You now know what to store and how much of it you need, but you need to store it properly or you might find yourself with food that has gone bad faster than you thought it would. Levels of temperature, humidity, oxygen, and light affect the shelf-life of food. The lower these factors are, the longer the shelf-life, temperature being the most critical, but all of them important.
With this in mind you should store all your food in a cool, dry, dark environment. If you have canned food, storing the cans on shelves in a pantry or cupboard or in shelves in your basement should suffice. Dehydrated foods and dried goods, such as grains and beans, should be stored in a cool, dry environment in sealed containers with an oxygen absorber to minimize the amount of oxygen they are exposed to. The sealed containers will also keep out insects that would otherwise infest and feed on your grains and beans. Because bags of grains and beans can come with insect eggs already laid within them, it is wise to freeze these for at least two days prior to putting them into storage. This will kill off any eggs that might be in the bag and ensure an infestation doesn’t happen.
As for dehydrated foods, when they are stored in sealed mason jars, they will last for six months to a year, but if they are vacuum-sealed and stored in sealed containers with oxygen absorbers, their shelf-life will increase significantly.
Finally, when it comes to storing your stockpile of food, make sure you have a good food rotation system set up. In first, out first is the rule of thumb. Eat the oldest food and put newer food at the back of the lineup. Your pantry will always be stocked with fresh, healthy food and you will never go hungry.
Balancing Food Stores between Locations
Now I’m going to expand on food storage a little by discussing the issue of splitting those stores between your home and your bugout location. If you are fortunate enough to have a separate, preferable more remote bugout location, then it is important that you keep it stocked with everything you need, just as you have your home. While bugging in is ideal, you will be more likely to bug out if you have a bugout location set up, and if you do bug out, it won’t do you much good if you don’t have enough food there.
Despite the fact that you might have an easier time hunting, fishing, trapping, foraging, and growing your own food at your bugout location, you will still need a stockpile to get you going. For this reason, you are wise to split your food supplies (and all other supplies) between your home and your bugout location. Yes, this does mean you will need to double your stores, or close to it, in the end, but this is worth the extra expense and effort.
Try to build your stores at home and your bugout location simultaneously. If you can store equal amounts at each location, that is super, but a minimum of three months’ worth at your BOL is best. There are two major considerations when storing food at your BOL:
- You need to hide it well, in case looters or other unwanted people break in to your BOL. Make sure your stores are well hidden, preferably in a location other than your main BOL building, such as an outbuilding or a hidden cache that is buried underground, such as a root cellar.
- You will need to rotate your stockpile of food at your BOL, as well as at home, which means that you will have to travel there frequently. If you can get there most, if not all, weekends, that is ideal. Food will have to be transported there regularly and you will have to eat the food that is stored there as you bring in new food, just as you do at home.
Finally, I want to leave you with a few last tips. These are based on mistakes that are often made and things you should make a special note of when stocking away food.
- Make sure you have plenty of salt, a minimum of 10 pounds per person. It makes your food taste better and can be used to barter for other items if need be.
- Eat what you store away, replenish, and rotate your stores so that you always have food moving in and out. It’s common for people to not eat their stores or eat it but not replenish it regularly, leaving them with an inadequate supply in an emergency.
- It’s important to store a wide variety of food because you will get bored with your food, no matter how nutritious it is. You also need variety for the purpose of nutrition.
- Learn to cook/prepare the food you have stored away in the conditions you would be in during an emergency. If you will be cooking on a camp stove or over a fire, then practice.
- Make sure you have food that will make a hot meal because hot meals are comforting and no one wants to eat out of a can indefinitely.
- Catch bulk and canned foods on sale when you can. This cuts down the cost of stocking up on food.
- Separate your food stores into caches and hide them in different locations if possible. Even a false wall in your home or under dressers or other locations that are less likely to be seen/searched by looters is best. If it’s all sitting there in the open for anyone to see, you will lose it.
- Most of all have fun preparing your food stores! This can be something you and your family can do together and it will help you all feel better about your situation, no matter what emergency event comes your way.