Stockpiling food is the starting point for most preppers. That's actually a pretty good starting point, because in any survival situation, the amount of food and water you have will make a huge amount of difference in how well you can survive. Many other survival items might only be needed for one survival scenario or another, but food will be needed no matter what.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of mixed advice going around about what food you should stockpile and how to stockpile it. Granted, this is an area where there are lots of different opinions and what is right for one family may not be right for another. The trick is figuring out what works for your family, rather than just following what works for someone else's family.
However, there are certain things you want to avoid and certain things you want to do. Some of the lists that people are putting together don't seem to take that into account. I regularly see things on lists that are not going to work in a survival situation, making me wonder about the person who wrote the list. Okay, that's their idea. But telling people to stockpile foods that are going to go stale or that won't provide the nutrition that they need is not a good plan.
I'm not a health food nut, but I recognize the need to feed our bodies nutritious food. Way too many of us try to live on junk food, causing obesity and other health problems. Those problems would be multiplied in a survival situation, simply because of the extra physical exertion that our bodies would have to perform in order to survive.
What I want to do in this report is to take a look at some of the errors that I've seen happening in the prepping community and hopefully help you avoid them. While you may not agree with everything I say, I assure you that it is all based upon sound reasoning and years of experience.
Survival Nutrition Needs
Let's start out with a short talk about nutrition. What nutrition does your body need in a survival situation? If you're like me, you've heard nutritionists talking for years, to the point where you're tired of it. But, I've got to say, what nutritionists talk about isn't the same as survival nutrition.
Nutritionists talk about micronutrients. That's why they spend so much time talking about vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids and trans-fats. They are starting from an assumption that you are eating enough to survive and trying to convince you to eat things which will help you to stay healthier. They are also assuming that you have unlimited choices of food available to you that you can pick from. That won't work in a survival situation.
When we talk survival nutrition, we're concentrating on the three macronutrients, not the micronutrients. Those are:
- Carbohydrates - should be 50 - 60% of the diet
- Fats - should be 20 - 30% of the diet
- Proteins - should be 12 - 20% of the diet
Just so that I'm not confusing anyone, I'm not saying that you shouldn't eat the good things that nutritionists say to eat. But we need to change our focus in a survival situation. Besides, both fruits and vegetables have a lot of carbohydrates.
This survival diet is built around the need for a lot of energy. In a survival situation, you'll find yourself having to do a lot more physical activity than usual. Therefore, you will need to be eating the necessary food to provide the energy your body will use. More than anything, that means carbs. Carbs are broken down by the body into simple sugars, which are the "fuel" for muscles to burn.
Fats, which are also part of the diet, also break down into simple sugars, although they do so much slower. That provides a "time-release" energy reserve for after your body goes through the carbohydrates.
Proteins have to be added to this, as your body will be building muscle. It can't do that without proteins, and if it doesn't have proteins available, it will cannibalize itself to get them.
All in all, you want to be eating about 2,000 calories per day. You'll probably be burning more than that, so expect to lose some weight in the process. But that's okay. Most of us are a bit overweight anyway, so losing a few pounds won't hurt us. You should only be concerned about losing weight if your body's fat percentage is already extremely low.
You can live on a diet of these three macronutrients for about a month, without any adverse effects. After that, you'll need to add the micronutrients back into your diet, or you could find yourself suffering other health problems.
That's where the fruits and vegetables come in. After that first month, you'll need to add those back into your diet, if you had removed them. Since we're talking survival, that probably means canned fruits and vegetables, unless you already have produce from your vegetable garden. If you do, that's great, because it will help your food stockpile to last longer.
Stockpiling the Wrong Foods
I've heard and seen a lot of people say, "buy what your family will eat." While that might sound good to you; it's a big mistake. First of all, what they eat probably won't provide the nutrition they need. Secondly, it's probably going to cost a fortune. And finally, it probably won't store well over a long period of time. So, when you go to eat it, it might be spoiled or at least stale.
Then there are the people on the other end of the spectrum; those that recommend a very simplistic survival diet. Their list consists of rice, beans, grains and not much else. While it might be high in carbohydrates, it's lacking in all the other nutrients. Even if it will keep you alive, it might just start a rebellion in your home.
You need to find foods that your family will eat, but will also provide them with the necessary nutrition. That will probably require some experimentation; trying new foods and new recipes to see what you can get them to eat.
While doing that, make sure that you are using foods that will store well for a prolonged period of time. Some foods just don't store well. No matter what, you don't want those as part of your survival stockpile.
By and large, junk foods won't store well for a prolonged period of time. Most will become stale rather easily. Those that don't go stale are so full of chemicals that they probably aren't the best things to be eating. If you can leave your kids favorite snack cake on the counter for a month and it doesn't decay, there's something wrong.
Most junk foods are extremely bulky as well. So if you do try and store them, you're either going to end up using an enormous amount of space or you're going to end up breaking the food (think potato chip crumbs) so that you can store it.
Yes, I actually saw a survival food list that recommended pop tarts. While I suppose that would make your kids happy, that's really not the most nutritious thing you can feed them. Although I will have to say one good thing for pop tarts; that is, they are packaged in aluminized mylar pouches that do an excellent job of keeping them from spoiling.
Soft drinks are nothing but sugar, flavoring, caffeine and water. Storing them for emergency rations seems a bit wasteful. They don't provide much in the way of nutrition and are bulky to boot. Without ice (you probably won't have any) they aren't all that tasty either.
If the soft drinks are packed in cans, they will probably retain their carbonation fine. But soft drinks in plastic bottles will eventually lose their carbonation, making them even more worthless.
Foods "Canned" in Plastic Jars
Some foods are canned in cans and others in jars. As long as the jars are glass, that's no problem. Foods packed in glass jars or cans will last virtually forever, regardless of what the expiration date says. But you can't say the same thing for foods packed in plastic jars. Some small amount of air will pass through the plastic, very slowly, eventually spoiling the food.
The only example I have of this is applesauce. We had a number of jars of apple sauce that were packed in plastic jars. After time, the apple sauce in the jars oxidized, even though the jars were still sealed. Somehow, oxygen had managed to seep through the plastic.
There are a number of things we drink that tend to make our bodies produce more urine. Coffee and tea are amongst these. Some types of fruit juices can also qualify. But in a survival situation, the last thing you need is for your body to be peeing more. You need to have the water in your body stay in your body, where it can do you some good.
So, while I'm sure that we all want our coffee, you want to make sure that you limit it. Otherwise, you're fighting against yourself, in that you'll go through your water supply faster.
Foods that Won't Keep
A lot of what we eat on a daily basis requires refrigeration or freezing. But the assumption is that in the aftermath of any disaster, there won't be any electricity. Our electric grid is delicate and easily damaged, even by a storm. So all those foods will spoil, unless you have some alternative means of keeping it cold.
I've seen people talk about filling a freezer with frozen meat to make sure that you have food to eat in an emergency. But when the power goes out, all that meat is going to spoil. Unless you have the capability of turning all of it into jerky overnight, it's going to be lost.
Foods You Can't Prepare
If the electricity is out for your refrigerator, then it will be for your stove as well. If you have a gas range, you might still be able to use it, but even that is questionable. A lot will depend on whether the natural gas pumping stations are damaged or not. If not, you might still have natural gas for your stove, as those pumping stations produce their own electricity.
So, if you don't have electricity and can't use your stove, then you won't be able to use your oven either. You will most likely be stuck trying to cook over wood, whether in a fireplace or in your barbecue grille. When we think of our stoves and ovens, there are a lot of pre-packaged foods that you won't be able to prepare. All those boxes of brownie mix you've been hoarding won't be usable, because you won't have an oven.
Another category of foods that you won't be able to prepare are those that require fresh ingredients. Unless you can come up with an alternative, those foods won't be useful. So, foods that you need fresh meat, butter, eggs, or vegetables to prepare will either need to be modified or won't be useful.
Foods that Aren't Packaged Properly
Other than canned goods, few foods you can find in the grocery store are actually packaged for long-term storage. Oh, there are a few types of crackers and other snack foods which are packaged in aluminized Mylar bags, hiding away there in their boxes. But you really can't see that. So, unless you actually know that the food isn't packed for long-term storage, you have to assume that it isn't.
Some foods that we are accustomed to have sitting on the shelf are okay for a short period of time, but not for a long period of time. Take Velveeta cheese for example. You can have it sitting on the shelf in your cupboard for six months or a year without a problem. But once you get past that point, it's going to spoil.
Anything packed in plastic bags or plastic bags inside boxes is only packaged to sit on the shelf for a few months. Even if it seems like the food can't go bad, it can. Take rice or pasta for example. Those come packed in plastic bags, and they seem like nothing could happen to them. But insects and rodents can easily get into those bags, eating your food.
For this reason, most experienced preppers repackage most of their dry foods, ensuring that they will last for a prolonged period of time. With proper packaging, most foods will last 20 years in storage.
Not Stockpiling Enough
This is probably the biggest mistake we all make, simply because there is no answer to the question, "How much is enough?" Without knowing the type of disaster we will face or how long it will take to recover from it, there really is no way of estimating how much food and other supplies we are going to need.
There are only two possible solutions to this problem. The first is to stockpile enough to last you the rest of your life. Okay, maybe that sounds a bit ridiculous, but it happens to be true. If you don't have enough food to last the rest of your life, you don't know that you have enough.
The second solution is to have enough food to last you until you can become self-sustainable. That means until you can start producing your own food in sufficient quantities to feed yourself and your family. Of course, to do that, you'll also have to have the means to make yourself self-sustainable; such as a vegetable garden, fruit trees and some livestock.
Growing your own food isn't easy. So if that is part of your survival plan, you'd better start now. That way, when the time comes, you'll not only have a head start, but know what you are doing. If you don't do that, expecting to learn while surviving, chances are you won't make it.
That Goes for Water Too
There's an idea running around the prepping and survival community that you need one gallon of water per person per day. I've heard that over and over, and I don't agree. The proper way to say that is that you need one gallon of water per person per day for drinking and cooking in a temperate climate. That's a lot different than the first, incomplete statement.
If you live in a hot climate, you may have to drink more than a gallon of water per day to stay hydrated, especially if you perspire a lot and are doing a lot of work outdoors to survive. If all you have available is one gallon per day, you won't have enough to drink, let alone for anything else.
Speaking of everything else, that statement didn't take into account any of the water we need for other things. There's no way that one gallon of water is going to be enough to drink, cook, bathe, brush your teeth, wash your clothes and water your garden. But then, it's not supposed to be. That one gallon figure is just for drinking and cooking, in a temperate climate.
So, how much water do we need for these other things? That's a hard question to answer. The problem is that we are not accustomed to conserving water. So, we use about 100 gallons per person per day. But, that doesn't mean we have to use that much. In a survival situation, we can get by with much less.
Personally, I'm pretty sure that I can get by with five gallons of water per person per day. But I know how to do a lot of things to conserve that water. I can bathe with two quarts of water. So, if you learn how to conserve water well, you can probably get by on that as well.
Not Storing Food Properly
Another common mistake is to not store the food properly. As I said earlier, the food you buy in the supermarket isn't packaged for long-term storage. But if it's going to be part of your survival plan, you should count on having it stored for many years, unless a disaster happens. The only way to ensure that it will survive long enough to help you survive, is to repackage it yourself.
I have to confess, I've made this mistake myself. Remember the applesauce and Velveeta I mentioned earlier? Yeah, that was from personal experience. We had done the Velveeta as an experiment, but the applesauce was a surprise.
Basically, canned goods aren't a problem. What is a problem is any food item you buy that is dry and is not canned. Don't trust plastic bags, because they aren't good enough. We bought summer sausage, which comes sealed in a heavy vacuum packed plastic wrapper. But even though the summer sausage was cured and it had preservatives in it, it still didn't last. So now we make sure that we rotate out stock of summer sausage, so that it doesn't stick around long enough to go bad.
The vast majority of the foods you are going to be stockpiling are going to be dry. So, what you need is a simple method of packaging and storing dry foods so that critters can't get into them. What critters? Bacteria, insects and rodents. Those are the three categories of critters that want to eat your food.
You will need a few items:
- 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets
- 6 gallon aluminized Mylar plastic bags
- Oxygen absorbers
- Silica desiccant packets
- A hair straightener (a clothes iron will work, but the hair straightener is easier)
- A vacuum with a removable suction hose
- A permanent marker
- A rubber mallet
Once you've got everything, this is rather easy to do. You can buy the plastic buckets at one of the big home improvement centers, but you'll probably have to buy the aluminized Mylar bags and the oxygen absorbers online. The silica desiccant can be purchased online as well or you can simply save it from items that have been packaged with it.
You'll want to wait to do this until you have enough food to make it worthwhile. The oxygen absorbers re extremely fast acting, so once you open the package, you have to use it quickly. In fact, you need to rush. So, if you but those and don't use them right away, they are garbage.
Packaging the Food
- Start by opening up the aluminized Mylar bags and putting them in the five gallon buckets. Fill them with food, stopping one inch below the bucket rim. Most people only put one type of food per bucket.
- Mark the sides of the buckets with their contents. It's best to mark it in more than one location.
- Using the hair straightener, heat seal the top of the bag, leaving an opening which is large enough for the vacuum cleaner hose to go in. you only need to seal the top inch or two, not the whole flap. Leave the rest for resealing in the future.
- Working quickly, open the package of oxygen absorbers and put one in each bag. If you need silica dessicant, add that as well. Then, use the vacuum to suck out as much air as possible, without sucking out the food.
- Heat seal the bag the rest of the way closed.
- Fold the top of the bag over and put it in the bucket. Place the lid on the bucket and pound it home, until it seals, with the rubber hammer. It will sound different when it seals.
Silica desiccant is not necessary for all types of food. We're assuming that the food you are storing is already dry. I only use it on foods that are highly susceptible to clumping, like sugar, salt and flour. Most other people don't bother with it.
Most dry foods, packed in this manner, will last from 15 to 20 years, rivaling the time that your canned goods last. In this way, you won't have to worry about your food stockpile going bad and not being available when you need it. The Mylar bags are totally air-proof, ensuring that no oxygen can get into the food. With the existing oxygen already absorbed by the oxygen absorber, even if there are insects or insect eggs in the food, they will die.
The plastic buckets are strong enough to keep rodents and insects from being able to chew through. Therefore, your food will be totally protected from any critters that want to eat it.Store your packaged food in a cool, dry, dark place. A basement is perfect, if you have one. If your basement is subject to flooding, you might want to put the buckets on a rack above the floor. But in reality, water won't damage the buckets or their contents. So that is more for your convenience than anything else. You can even bury buckets in your backyard or a remote location, in order to have food caches that others can't find.