Stocking up on your favorite foods is something preppers do. It is satisfying to fill your shelves with cans of meat, fruits and veggies that will keep your family fed, happy and healthy when there are no grocery stores to head to when you are hungry. Food is critical to survival. This is why preppers put such a heavy emphasis on storing enough food to last them at least a year. The goal of one year is flexible and some preppers will choose to store enough food for 6 months or several years. It all depends on the person, the available space, the budget and how long you have been prepping for.
If you are thinking about having a stock of food, here are some of the questions you might have:
- How much food should I have to have a year’s supply/person?
- What kinds of food should I store?
- How long will various kinds of food keep?
- What should I store my food in?
- How much space will I need?
- How much will it cost?
- Where can I buy food in bulk?
- What can I do to extend the shelf life of my food store
Below are some answers to these questions:
How much food is needed for a year’s supply for a person?
In order to be healthy, a person needs calories (carbs), protein and fat. Fortunately an ideal protein is obtained with a combination of grains and legumes (rice and beans), which are affordable and easy to store. Almost all grains and beans have about 1200-1600 calories/pound, meaning that with the addition of some oil, just a pound of grains or beans is enough food to maintain the weight of a relatively sedentary person. So rounding it off, about 400 lbs of grains/beans and about 3 gallons of oil person could be a good amount of food to have stored.
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What kinds of food should I store?
Ideally you should store what you already eat, but if your lifestyle causes you to eat a lot of processed food that might be hard to store, or if you are unable to afford to have a year’s worth of such food, you can get your 400 (dry) lbs. as simply as having six 50lb. bags of flour or rice, two 50lb bags of beans and a three gallon jug of oil. If you regularly cook from scratch, you can easily just buy the staples that you usually eat and rotate them, and replace what you eat regularly. If you are planning on your food store for emergency, then you need to be aware of the various shelf lives of your choices.
How long will various kinds of food keep?
There are so many resources on the internet giving the shelf lives for various foods, but I’ll just give some of my experience of having had a food store for about 5 years.
- Whole wheat flour only stores for about six months
- White flour seems to store almost indefinitely
- White rice stores much longer than brown rice (sorry health nuts)
- Almost all whole grains and beans store for a really long time (years and years) if they are protected from high humidity
- Oil keeps for about a year, although coconut oil has been said to have a very long shelf life
- Honey keeps for ever
- Clarified butter keeps for a really long time
What should I store my food stock in?
If you want to store food for a long time, it needs to be protected from heat, humidity, insects and rodents. This can be achieved by storing it in strong airtight containers. Most bakeries have food grade 5 gallon buckets with strong sealing lids that they will give away or sell for a minimal price. You just have to remember to ask when you are there. A five gallon bucket holds about 40 lbs of dry food, so you need about 10 of these per person. We store much of our food in 30 gallon galvanized garbage cans and have most of the grain/beans sealed inside gallon ziplock bags. A 30 gallon can holds about 240 lbs of dry food, so you only need two per person to get your year’s stock.
How much space will I need?
If you are using 5 gallon buckets, and have 10 per person as well as the jug of oil, you only need about 5 sq. feet/person of floor space–your buckets can be stacked at least 3 high without even using shelving. Of course if you are rotating your stock, you’ll need additional space so that you can easily access the various items that you use, and then, of course shelves are handy.
How much will it cost?
I was in Costco the other day and a 50lb bag of white flour was about $16. A 50lb bag of pinto beans was about $25. So even at today’s prices, you could actually get a basic year’s supply of calories/protein/fat for under $150/person. You could think of it as an insurance policy, one that is quite easy to justify. It only requires the effort to purchase the items and find somewhere to put them.
Where can I buy food in bulk?
Costco has bulk food as do various restaurant supply stores such as Cash and Carry.
What can I do to extend the shelf life of my food store
One easy way to extend the storage of food is to add an oxygen remover (just google them–they are affordable and available from many sources) to a sealed container of food.
But, there is one big question that many beginning and even experienced preppers have;
How much food is enough for 1 year?
Your pantry is going to look different than mine or your neighbor’s food storage pantry. What they have stored for one year is going to be different than what you or the other guy has stored. Family size, the ages of the people in your family and your expected work load will all factor into how much food you actually need to feed your family for an entire year.
There are two main methods of determining how much food you need to store to last your family a year. One requires a lot more math than many people like.
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In survival, your food intake is with the intent of surviving and not much else. You are not heading out to a 5 star restaurant or expecting a gourmet meal with 7 courses. You are eating to stay alive. When you are eating for survival alone, you are focusing on the calories needed to keep your body in good condition. You are not eating because you are bored or dieting so you can fit into those new jeans. Its all about eating enough calories to maintain your strength and energy to do what needs to be done to survive.
For that reason, some preppers will base their food supply on the number of calories in a serving—not the servings.
On average, an adult male will need about 3,000 calories a day if he is pretty active. An average woman would need about 2000 calories to keep up with her active day. The more manual labor you do, the more calories you expend, which means you will need to replenish what you lost.
So, with that information, you would look at that can of chili or that can of freeze-dried soup and determine how many calories are in a serving. Let’s say there are 200 calories in a serving.
3000/200=15. You would need 15 servings of chili in a single day to keep up your calories. Now, obviously you wouldn’t want to only eat chili all day, but this is just a way for you to get an idea about counting calories.
This method is a bit tedious and time consuming, but it is effective if you are someone who likes to crunch numbers. For those who don’t, read on….
Another way to calculate how much food you need is to think about what you serve for breakfast, lunch or dinner on a typical day. Make sure you include any snacks as well. So, let’s use chili again. You use 2 cans of chili for dinner, served with cornbread.
Then, let’s assume you make that meal once a week. You would need 8 cans of chili for a month. 8 cans of chili times 12 months of the year and you would need 96 cans of chili.
For the cornbread, you will need to have the ingredients necessary to make your cornbread from scratch or maybe consider substituting the cornbread with biscuits. Because fresh eggs could be a little hard to come by, biscuits may be a better option. Take your recipe and put the ingredients through the same equation;
Ingredient x 4 weeks x 12 months = total amount needed for one year.
If you are buying the large 50 pound bags of beans and rice, you need to calculate how many cups you would need to make a meal for the family. While every food weighs differently, you can typically expect about 2 cups out of a pound of beans and 1 cup for a pound of rice. However, it is not an exact science!
You will need to determine how many pounds you would serve your family in a single setting to use the formula above to determine how much is enough for your family for one year.
Be wary of cases of food that boast there is enough for one year. The manufacturer’s idea of enough food for one year could be a single MRE for a person each day. When you are splitting wood, trekking several miles and doing a great deal of manual labor, that single MRE is going to feel like eating a single granola bar for all three meals. A big guy who is very active is going to need a lot more calories than an older guy who is unable to do any major physical activity.
Don’t let anybody tell you how much food is enough for you. Take the time and figure it out for yourself. You will be much happier and satisfied when it comes time to rely on your food storage.
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