How Much Food Should a Prepper Have?
A prepper should have at least a three month supply of food in storage at all times. Keep in mind that a three-month food supply is a bare minimum, with a years supply or more being ideal. When striving for a years supply it’s best to build your food supply in smaller increments of one month at a time to avoid making mistakes and feeling overwhelmed.
Here’s the deal
We all come to this journey our own way. For me, I started in gardening, then moved into homesteading, and on one of the homesteading sites, I got introduced into prepping. I will be the first to tell you that I’m not a prepper. I consider myself more of a homesteader with prepper tendencies. As such…, this article will probably reflect some of those thought processes.
When I started down this road I kept looking for blog posts or videos that would tell me I need to store XXX number of whatever item. No matter how hard I looked I could never find what I was actually looking for. Then it finally dawned on me. I’m looking for the answer in the wrong place and the wrong form.
If you have spent (or will spend) anytime on prepper/survivalist type websites you will see a phrase that comes up time and time again and that’s to store what you eat, and eat what you store!
I don’t know who coined the phrase but it is exactly true. Let’s, however, take it to the next level. Not only should you only store what you eat – but you should also only store what you use.
Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale… especially if you know you will never use it. Most things have to be rotated to maintain their freshness, or usefulness (like batteries). If you’re not using it, then it’s kinda hard to rotate it.
I could tell you that you need to store 600 pounds of rice, but I wouldn’t be doing you any good in saying that. So instead I’d like to use this article to help you figure out what you need to store and how much for your situation. Maybe you don’t like rice… so storing 600 pounds would be a waste.
What’s the bottom line?
I will say this… this article is not going to be the magic bullet all by itself. You will have to put in the work but I can promise you, it will be time well spent for your future peace of mind. I am also going to use this article to teach you how to figure out what you need for a years supply.
Let’s go back to the 600 pounds of rice. Do you like rice? Do you know how much rice you normally eat? Do you know how much rice it takes to make a serving? To further this rice discussion I’ll use myself and what I have found that works for me.
I have decided that for me a serving is a ¾ cup of rice and I can fit 5 servings inside a quart mason jar. There are about 2 1/2 cups of rice in a one pound bag. That would give me around 3.33 servings per 1 pound bag. Now.. I have a baseline to work from.
Let’s assume that if and/or when the SHTF you don’t really want to upset your culinary applecart. You want to hopefully have that aspect of your life somewhat intact. Currently, you eat rice three times a week. With that in mind, you’d need three servings a week (or one pound of rice). To continue that menu for a full year, you’d need 52 pounds of rice put back.
Granted.. this will give you a little extra because you can actually get 3.33 servings out of a pound of rice. Now that 52 pounds are just for one person. If you have a family of 4 then you’d need to store 208 pounds of rice to maintain your three meals a week routine.
I’d also be willing to wager that you don’t particularly like just plain rice. Me personally… I like to dress mine up with either chicken, beef, or ham. So with that in mind… I’d need 52-pint jars of each of those to go with my rice for the meal.
A pint jar can hold about a pound of meat. I can say this… with ¾ cup of rice and a pound of chicken, you could actually feed two people… they won’t be busting at the seams full, but they won’t be hungry anymore.
My best advice would be to make the meal and see how you and your family do on that ration. What about spices and salt? You need to figure out what you like and then how much you use per recipe.
Using the 3 meals of rice per week, we have figured out that we need 52 pounds of rice, 52 jars of chicken, 52 jars of beef, and 52 jars of ham. This will feed 1-2 people each day for that meal. What are you going to eat the other 4 days of the week, or the other meal or two in the day?
What I am trying to show you is how to figure out what you need to store by making a menu of what you like to eat and that is easily stored. When I say easily stored, I don’t mean just rice and beans. There is very little that can’t be canned or dehydrated for easy storage.
Have you thought about canning up your own meals? It could either be a dehydrated meal in a jar, or something fresh like chili, soup, or something else. Just think… If there are only a couple of people you’re trying to feed, a quart jar of chili would fit the bill for a meal. If you’re doing chili one day a week, then 52 quarts of chili would last you a year.
The key is to figure out a menu that you can live with, and then figure out what it will take to create that menu for a year (or whatever time frame you decide on). Now that you have a menu, you have your goals for what you need to store, and you can work towards those goals. There is nothing that says you have to eat rice and beans the whole time.
Maybe you want to mix it up and have a two-week revolving menu. Basically, have something different every day for two weeks then start over again. The choice is yours and is up to you and your family on what you like to eat.
One of the websites I visited took the revolving menu to a new level. Instead of just staying with those 14 meals they had theirs set up for a 10 or 12 meal menu. Once or twice a week they had an open day to try new recipes. Sometimes it was completely new, and sometimes it was utilizing their stockpiles in a new way to create something different.
Those extra days will give you a chance to experiment and not become bored with the menu. If you trying new things with your stockpiles then you’re never really off course. That extra day also added some spice to the weekly meals.
Maybe in a SHTF scenario, you can’t have lamb chops or whatever else you really like, but why not indulge in them while you can.
As I mentioned above… another reason for creating a menu is to see what you need to have in your food preps. How many meals use salt? Do you know how much salt it will take to create just one meal for a year? What about using salt after the meal is cooked?
By having your recipes printed out and placed in a binder, not only will you be helping yourself, but you’ll be helping others that may be going thru the situation with you. With those recipes printed out (even if it’s something you came up with in your head) you will be able to sit down and calculate just how much of a single ingredient you need to prepare that meal for a year, or whatever time frame you’re shooting for.
It would also help someone else prepare the meal if you happen to be injured or engaged in another task when it came time to cook the meal. With the recipe printed out then no matter who cooks it, it will come out somewhat the same (providing they don’t burn it). This will most likely help with the overall morale of the folks in your group. It will be one less thing that changes when everything else around them is going to crap.
Now you can see why I stated at the beginning of the article that “this article is not going to be the magic bullet all by itself … you will have to put in the work but I can promise you it will be time well spent for your future peace of mind.” Hopefully, this will give you some idea on how to figure out what you need to store for your food preps. Each and everyone is different. What I store you may not like and vice versa.
It gets better
Let’s move from food to other home goods that we use. When I started doing this.. it was an eye-opener to me.
Do you actually know how long your bar of soap lasts? What about that stick of deodorant? How about that tube of toothpaste? Or that roll of toilet paper? Have you thought about how long it takes your cat or dog to go thru a bag of food? What about kitty litter, or flea collars?
All of these things will dictate how much you need to store. When I started trying to store extra of the things mentioned above I used a baseline of one item per month (not including the TP). Then I actually started tracking my usage and found some things that were off. Some for the good… some for the bad.
Here are some of the things that I found when I started tracking my usage. Of course, this is just a baseline for you because your mileage may vary.
Let’s start with our loveable pets first. I had figured I could manage a month on a 50-pound bag of food. I was wrong! I actually went thru that bag in about 25 days. That info is nice to have because now I know I don’t have as much stored up as I thought. As for my kitty… she’s still going strong on a 6.3-pound bag of food. It’s been a month and nine days and she might have about a week’s worth left. So I can figure about a month and a half on her food.
As for a bar of soap… that all depends on the variety of soap you use. I have found that a bar of Dove lasts longer than Irish Spring or Lever 2000. I can get around a month and a half out of a bar of Dove and IMO is a better soap than the other two.
My remaining Irish Spring & Lever 2000 will be set aside for barter if the need arises. I’ll fill up my stores with Dove. Keep in mind, if you have more than one person using that bar you’ll have to divide the time down according to the number of folks using it, or you could take the easy way out and say a bar of Dove per person per month.
Just like the soap… the size of your deodorant plays a factor in how long it will last. When I initially started, I made the assumption that a stick would last a month. Well… I was right, and I was wrong. If I am using the 2.7 oz stick of Degree I can make it just barely over a month. However, if I am using a 2.6 oz stick of Sure…
I am a little under a month. This just goes to show you that you really need to figure out how long whatever you use lasts. If I would have stayed with the assumption that 12 sticks of Sure would have lasted me a year then at some point before that year was up I’d be a little stinky.
While I currently don’t know how long a tube of toothpaste or shampoo will last, it won’t be long and I’ll be tracking them due to opening up a new one.
Put this thought process towards everything you use on a daily or weekly basis. Do you plan on washing dishes? How long does your bottle of dish soap last? What about that box of laundry detergent? How long does a bottle of toilet bowl cleaner last? Why am I harping on cleanliness?
Let’s think about this for a moment. There is a myriad of reasons we prep. Like most of us… I’m not concerned about just one event… I am thinking about multiples that could happen. IMO the most likely is a financial collapse which will eventually lead to a societal collapse.
Both of which will end up with martial law and a possible second civil war. In either case… uncleanliness leads to disease and sickness and we really don’t want to face that possibility when it might be hard or impossible to get to medical care.
If the S really does HTF then we will have enough to worry about. Why not plan for ways to help keep yourself from getting sick in the first place? An infected cut could be very dangerous when there is no medical care available. You are storing basic medical supplies, aren’t you?
At some point during this journey, your preps will grow to the point that you may not remember how much of a particular item you have compared to your goal for that item. This is where an inventory plan will come in handy. This is something I have been working on and I think I have it finally figured out. I utilize two different types of inventory methods.
To start off with… let’s assume that you have decided you need 96 cans of corn for your yearly meal plan. Considering that you should already be rotating your stockpiles, how do you keep track of the cans that are on the shelf without having to physically take the time to count each and every one… every time you do an inventory?
The simplest way I learned was from another site (I can’t take credit for this one). Take a piece of graph paper and make a column on the left-hand side.
Make it wide enough so you can list your supplies. Then for each and every can you have in stock make a “/” mark in the graph squares. You’ll want to leave several lines between the various suppliers. Then once you remove a can from the shelf converts the “/” on the far left to a “X”. Whenever you add to your supplies just add more “/” on down the line.
Now you can see at a glance (by a quick count of the “/”) how many of a particular item you have on hand. If you’ll keep these inventory forms hanging from a clipboard in your pantry or storeroom it won’t take long at all to keep it up to date.
If you’re storing home canned goods or vacuum-sealed jars, you really should check the seals once a month. I have had some jars that were sealed with oxygen absorbers lose their seal after a while. Thankfully I was able to catch them pretty quick and properly vacuum seal them with the food saver and jar attachment (these were done before I got that wonderful device).
As such I am physically pressing down on every lid, and I can count every jar of a particular item at that time. If I didn’t want to keep a running total on the graph paper I could always update the sheet once a month. You just have to figure out what works best for you and your situation.
The other inventory method I use is a custom sheet I made up in my spreadsheet program. It is used for those items that I don’t want (or it would be impossible) to track each and every item using the graph paper method. This sheet is still a work in progress, but I’ll give you basics behind it. Maybe you can give me ideas to finish it out and make it better.
The column on the left that has the item I am tracking, and along the top, I have the month and year as a header for each additional column. Then each month I just write down the quantity of the item on the left in the appropriate month/year column. So far I am using this type of inventory form for my ammo/reloading supplies. Can you imagine using the graph paper method to track each and every bullet in 3 bricks of 22LR. You’d be marking hash marks for a very long time.
This sheet works out pretty well, but I am trying to come up with a way to improve it. In any given month I may purchase more ammo, shoot some ammo, or reload some ammo. Or all of the above.
As of current… this takes another sheet to keep track of the amounts on hand in order to accurately update the main inventory form. I would love to figure out a way to merge the two. As it stands… my main inventory form will allow me to keep track of 10 months worth of numbers on a single page.
If I was just counting cans of stuff, or rolls of toilet paper this sheet would be great for a monthly inventory sheet. But when you’re counting loose rounds it’s best to only do a major count once they have a form to add and subtract as needed each month.
I have found that these two methods of inventorying my supplies work best for me (until of course, I find a better way LOL). They are easy to keep up with and for the most part, you can tell at a glance how much of an item you have on hand. I know that there will be some that say… I don’t need inventory forms, I have a good memory. All I can say is… must be nice. Seriously though. Think about this.
Let’s say you have five different calibers of weapons and your initial goal is 500 rounds for each weapon. You’ve got 320 rounds for your AR, 525 rounds for your 12ga, 480 rounds for your 45, 1575 rounds for your 22LR, and 489 rounds for your 30-06 thanks to a recent target practice round. Having the inventory forms would make it easy for you to see just how many boxes of what caliber you need to buy (with the funds available) to work your way back up to your goals.
There will be no guessing and your money will be best spent where it is needed. Maybe your ’06 is close enough and you’d rather spend your funds to help bring up the numbers for your AR? With the inventory form, you can make an informed decision about your purchases.
The same goes for any other item that you’re tracking. Let’s go back to some of what we have discussed so far in this article. I know I want to have a years supply on hand, so on the inventory form in the supplies column, I’ll have something that looks like this.
- Deodorant (14 sticks)
- Dove Soap (8 bars)
- Dog Food (15 sacks)
You get the idea… so now when it comes time to make out my shopping list I can use my inventory form (instead of physically going and counting my supplies each time I want to go shopping) to help create my list. I can see from the “/” marks that I’m 2 bars shy of my goal for soap, or I’m actually over on the amount of deodorant I need thanks to a recent sale and extra being purchased last time.
With time… Inventorying your supplies will make your life and shopping list easier. There will be no more guesswork and spending money on things that you really didn’t need to complete your goals.
I know I’m getting long winded so I’ll try to cover this next section quickly. The last thing that I feel is crucial to how much you need to store is your resupply plan. I don’t mean to step on any toes, but with this next statement… I fear there is no way around it. Most preppers won’t survive a long-term event. Now quit hollering at the computer monitor… I can’t hear you.
Before you break out the rope to string me up… hear me out. From a lot of the video’s I have watched on YouTube and some of the websites I have visited, most think that if they have cases upon cases of whatever they will be good to go. Their plan is to ride out the event and then restock once it’s over. For most things… that’s a pretty good plan, and you’ll be better off than 90% of the population.
But what if the event turns out to be like Syria? Their civil war has been going on for over two and a half years now and there really doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Your cases upon cases will only last for so long, and if we are in the middle of a civil war then do you really think you’ll be able to get more cases from your favorite freeze-dried or dehydrated food supplier?
IF this country ends up going to war with itself then there is no doubt in my mind that it will be a long drawn out ordeal. The feds aren’t gonna give up power easily, just like the Syrian govt isn’t giving up easily.
Besides… isn’t that what prepping is all about. Trying to prepare for the worst. Aside from nukes on our own soil or an EMP that puts us back in the stone age… the worst thing I can fathom is a civil war. It will ugly and drawn out.
Thus you need to have a resupply plan. I have had folks tell me… I have several seed vaults, and I’ll just plant a garden when the SHTF. Well… I hope you like being hungry! There is a definite learning curve to gardening successfully, especially if that gardening successfully entails having to completely feed you and your family. Yes, there are some that have a green thumb, but for the majority of us, it is a learned skill… just like anything else.
This is why I consider myself a homesteader with prepper tendencies. My main goals in life are not to amass cases upon cases of whatever product. My main goal is to become self-sufficient so I don’t have to rely on products from other locations to survive. Some will say… I live in the great white north, or in a subdivision so I can’t homestead. Horse hockey!
I’ll give you the knowledge you need to start your research and prove that you CAN do it.
For those that just have a small backyard and think they can’t make a difference in their self-sufficiency, I’d like you to do a little research on the Dervaes family in California. They have a 1/10 acres lot and they produce 7,000 pounds of organic produce annually (as of 2010). Some of the ways they achieve this is thru succession planting and square foot gardening.
They also utilize vertical gardening to reach the lot’s full potential. Here is a short 15 min video on YouTube showing their urban homestead. It’s an inspirational video and worth your time.
For those that live in the great white north that think they can’t raise a garden that will provide food all year long. I’ve got news for you… You can. Eliot Coleman lives up in Vermont and raises food year round in his gardens.
He is the pioneer of the Four Season garden and you can find his book Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long on Amazon (click here to check availability and current price). It is chocked full of good, practical information to help you become more self-sufficient by raising your own garden produce… even in the dead of winter.
Guess what I am trying to say is this. Formulate a resupply plan and then stock up in bulk on those things you can not grow or produce yourself. That will save you space and money, plus ensure that you have food when you really need it.
Even if you’re not able to completely feed yourself or your family on what you can grow… every little bit helps. If you’ll start gardening now or raising chickens & rabbits, you might be surprised at how much you can grow when the time comes.
One last thing to think about… and then I’ll hush. IF it goes south… here are a couple items you may have not thought about stocking up on.
Hiking boots & leather gloves. Considering the Syrian civil war is moving towards 3 years… I’d have at least 3 pairs in reserve. If you are staying home to either protect the fort or out doing manual labor trying to provide for your family then you’re gonna go thru some footwear.
You don’t want to be without when you really need them. If you’re not used to manual labor… gloves can save your hands. After 15 minutes of hoeing my corn this spring I had blisters, so they are worth the investment.
Ziploc bags. If you have a plan to share with others in need… you need to have a supply of Ziploc bags on hand. You don’t want to hand them a Mylar bag of goodies. This just screams.. I have a stockpile. Instead, have them wait outside and transfer the goodies into a Ziploc bag that way it looks like your sharing what little bit you do have.
Blank paper. Paper can be used for all sorts of things… but have you thought about using it as a safety signal. Let’s say half your group goes out to hunt or patrol. The half left at home is faced with a fight or flee situation and they decide it’s safer to flee and regroup to take the house back.
On your way out… grab a piece of paper and wad it up and throw on the ground. Then the returning party can scope out all entrances to the house upon returning. If they see paper then they know to meet at a predetermined area. This way they are not walking into a bad situation. If the raiding party picks up the paper they are most likely to toss it back down because there will be nothing on it to interest them.
In closing… I hope that I have given you some things to think about when it comes to figuring out what and how much you need to store. If you’ve got any tips on figuring out what & how much to store, or how you track your inventory… then please share down in the comments below. Thanks for taking the time to read my long-winded ramblings.
I had written this then decided to mull it over for a couple of days to see if there was anything I wanted to add or change. During that time I came up with a new way to inventory my ammo and reloading supplies. I have included a graphic so maybe it will help others.
Instead of being able to log 10 months worth of data, I am able to log 6 months, but I get everything on one page. I used the numbers and calibers from this article for the graphic. (you didn’t think I’d actually show you what I have do ya?)