Americans like to eat—the average male consumes just under 2,500 calories a day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And we’re accustomed to an abundant supply and selection of food no matter what the season, which means that much of it has been transported long distances to our tables. But if a cataclysmic event that disrupted the agricultural industry and the supply system for food, supermarket shelves might quickly empty, and we quickly could go from feast to famine.
One big problem, says Practical Preppers consultant Scott Hunt, is that “people don’t have a good understanding of their needs.” Some will purchase what they’re told is a year’s supply of preserved food, and then find out later that their supply only allows them 800 calories a day—about half of what the typical female normally consumes, and a third of the average requirement for males of all ages. And while someone sitting in a bunker all day might be able to survive on drastically reduced rations, a survivor who is walking long distances and performing tasks with muscle power instead of relying on machines is likely to need even more calories than before. “Start cutting your own wood and using hand tools and going on patrols, and pretty soon you’re up to needing 5,000 or 6,000 calories a day,” Hunt warns. Worse yet, lack of nutritional foresight may mean a diet low in crucial nutrients such as vitamin C or protein, making a survivor weaker and vulnerable to illness.
“If your food and water are squared away, you’ll be in a much better position to deal with whatever happens,” Hunt explains. “You’re going to have to expend a lot of energy on security to protect yourself. You don’t want to be sick and run down from just eating beans and drinking dirty water. Plus good food is a reward, a morale-boosting thing. I’m not a survivalist. I want to survive in style, and have my fresh salads and an occasional steak.”
That’s why Hunt says that preppers must plan carefully how to maintain their food supply and fill their nutritional needs in the event that chaos erupts. That plan should include storing ample supplies of food, finding sources to replenish that supply, and learning how to preserve food so that it will last as long as possible. Here are some more tips from Practical Preppers:
Stored Food: Preppers should store at least a year’s supply of food in some location where it is not only secure from theft, but will remain useable for as long as possible. Buying a large supply of canned or freeze-dried food and long-lasting staples such as beans is one way to go. But Hunt says it’s crucial to make sure that the supply provides at least 2,200 calories per day, and covers basic nutritional requirements. Additionally, he suggests that preppers try as much as possible to replicate the sort of diet that they are accustomed to eating. “Don’t buy food just to buy food,” he says. “Make sure it’s something that you’re going to want to eat.” Since dairy animals won’t produce as much milk when they don’t have high-protein grain, it’s wise to store a large supply of powdered milk.
Food Resupply Plan: Eventually, you’re probably going to need to produce your own food to replenish your food cache. Preppers have a lot of options for becoming nutritionally self-sufficient, but they have to learn how to grow crops and raise animals, and take into account the particular pluses and challenges of their local climate zone. “You have to know what grows in your area,” Hunt explains. “In New York, for example, I could grow a lot of spinach, but not oranges. Ideally, prepper cultivators should develop the ability to grow different crops and to produce harvests throughout the year; in climate zones with colder and harsher winters, greenhouses and indoor hydroponic cultivation may help. Animal protein is a more difficult challenge. Hunting is an option, but in the event of a cataclysm, Hunt expects that local deer and squirrel populations will quickly vanish. Raising cattle is water and land-intensive, so rabbits, goats and chickens—which have the added advantage of producing eggs—are probably a better use of resources. Aquaculture systems to raise fish are another useful protein source.
Methods to Preserve: An overflowing bounty of food won’t do preppers much good if it all quickly spoils. That’s why learning preservation methods is crucial. A cool cellar for storing fruit and vegetables can prolong their shelf-life. Preppers should learn methods for preserving meat, such as canning and dehydration, and amass an ample supply of food-storage containers. Additionally, it’s vital to have the right equipment, and enough fuel to provide the necessary amount of heat to run a pressure cooker to properly can meat.
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