National Geographic Society

  • Connect:

Food: Storage

Bryan May's food stores.

Bryan May's food stores. (View larger version)

Photograph by National Geographic Channel

Published

Practical Preppers’ Scott Hunt advises having enough stored food to feed each person in a community for an entire year, based upon an average consumption of 2,200 calories per day. 

That number, Hunt cautions, is a minimum threshold. According the U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook, caloric needs in survival situations actually may be much higher, because of increased physical activity and other stresses; it recommends consumption of 3,000 to 5,000 calories per day in warm weather, and 4,000 to 6,000 calories in winter.

For that reason, amassing a large supply of food in a secure location is critical. Preppers have numerous options for doing that. Here are some considerations.

  • Should You Buy a Pre-Prepared Supply? Perhaps the simplest way to amass an emergency supply of food is to buy a pre-prepared one from one of the numerous survival supply vendors on the Web. A search using Google’s Shopping search engine reveals that complete 12-month food supplies are available prices ranging from around $1,000 to around $4,700 for a single person. High-end packages offer pre-cooked gourmet entrees such as pasta Alfredo or Beef Stroganoff, sealed in airtight nitrogen-filled pouches, while economy-minded food supplies tend toward dried beans, oatmeal, powdered eggs, canned fruit and vegetables, and bouillon cubes. Hunt cautions that if you buy a pre-prepared food supply, you must make sure that it provides ample calories. Though a brand may be touted as a one-year supply, a look at the fine print may reveal that it provides only 800 calories a day. Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook author Peggy Layton suggests a lower-cost alternative method: Convert your own pantry in an emergency supply. She suggests stocking a large supply food that you’ve either purchased in grocery stores or grown and canned or free-dried yourself, and then rotating in new food to replace what your family consumes.
  • Know the Quantities You Will Need—and Where You’ll Store Them. According to Hunt, providing a 2,200 calorie-per-day diet for an entire year requires about 700 pounds of food, or about 25 ounces per day. Precisely how much storage space that will require depends upon the items you choose and their packaging. Survivalist Howard Ruff, author of the 2008 book How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years of the 21st Century, says that dehydrated foods may only require a quarter to a seventh of the space of an equivalent amount of fresh food, and that the bottom two or three feet of a normal closet is sufficient to store a year’s supply for a person. 
  • Know your staples. If you’re amassing your own supply rather than buying it, Hunt recommends these proportions. 
Grains (oats, rice, whole wheat): 400 pounds.
Beans/legumes: 90 pounds.
Fruit and vegetables: 90 pounds.
Dairy (dried milk): 75 pounds.
Meat or vegetable protein substitute: 20 pounds.
Fats and oils: 20 pounds.
Sugar: 60 pounds.
  • Know What You Like. Both Hunt advises that preppers try as much as possible to replicate the sort of diets they consume in non-crisis situations. If you’re accustomed to eating a lot of meat, as most Americans are, suddenly switching to beans and rice is going to add to your stress, and eat away at your morale. And it’s important to maintain variety, which we’re used to in a society where supermarket aisles are brimming with foodstuffs. Hunt warns that people who are forced to eat the same foods continually can experience a phenomenon called appetite fatigue, in which they eventually will prefer hunger to eating another bite of a food that they’ve grown tired of.
  • Know How Long Various Foods Will Last. It’s important to become familiar with the shelf lives of various foods. Nonfat dried milk, for example, can last about a year in a cool, dry storage area. According to Ruff, nitrogen-packed dehydrated food can last from four to seven years, and wheat—if kept dry and protected from rodents—can last almost indefinitely. “Some that was found in the tomb of King Tut is still edible,” he claims.
  • Know What is Likely to Become Scarce. In a crisis that causes transportation breakdowns and food shortages, it eventually may become difficult to obtain items that preppers can’t produce themselves.  In particular, they should stock up on items such as coffee, which has a global supply chain that easily could be disrupted by disaster or conflict.

If You Only Do Three Things:

  • Buy a good, pre-prepared one-year food supply.  This is no-muss, no-fuss method of making sure you’ll have enough food. Just be sure to read the labeling to make sure it provides enough calories and nutrients.
  • Load up on grains.  According to the American Millers Association, grains such whole wheat flour are excellent sources of a wide range of nutrients, from B vitamins and potassium. And some grains, such as oats, can provide both carbohydrates and protein.
  • Make sure it’s going to last.  If you stock up on a lot of food but it spoils before you can use it, you’ve wasted your time. Look for items with long shelf lives.


The Doomsday Preppers articles, videos, links, images, and instructions (“Content”) are for entertainment purposes only. The National Geographic Channel makes no express or implied representations regarding whether the Content is up-to-date, complete, or accurate, and shall not be liable for any consequential damages, claims, losses, or demands of any kind based upon reliance of the Content. Do not rely on this Content for disaster, medical, health or safety advice.

8 comments
Rhonda Camariotes
Rhonda Camariotes

where can you find large air tight containers to store food in (such as 5 gallon paint cans)?

Rhonda Camariotes
Rhonda Camariotes

where can you purchase the heavy, air tight containers to store food in (such as 5 gallon paint cans)?

noah toribio
noah toribio

do you know where i would be able to find, one of the good pre-prepared 1 year meals?

Alexander C. Fillmon
Alexander C. Fillmon

@noah toribio

http://www.survivalfood.com/one-year-supplies/

Offers alot of choices for the one year plans. Most have a 25 year shelf life. I wouldn't recommend wise, recently it was found out that there food had higher amounts of oxygen content leaving them to spoil sooner. I personally love mountain house, but they're very pricey. No matter what you do, make sure you read the reviews for both the company and the product, also do some searching around as I remember seeing cheaper ones in other places on the internet, I just can't bring their names to the top of my head right now. Hope this helps a bit.