The dictionary defines food as “substance taken into the body…to maintain life.” For humans, the amount of time we can survive without food greatly depends on living conditions, individual age, health, body weight and most importantly, “the presence or absence of hydration.” In an article posted on www.scientificamerican.com it sites examples of people in different circumstances of history surviving between 10 to 70 days. For the purpose of this report, we are going to work on the basis of 21 days.
Although the purpose of the preparedness guides on this website were originally intended for 72 hour periods of emergency, as you will experience many of the items available on the market will last much longer and, past the initial cost of dry food storage items and containers, the cost difference for bulk foods storage for 3 days to 21 days is relatively minimal. With a little reorganizing (or straight organizing in many cases) the pantry can be arranged to accommodate basic bulk items. If you learn to use and replenish in bulk and never need them for an emergency situation, you will at least reduce the number of trips needed to the grocery store saving both time and money. Then in the unfortunate case of an emergency or need to shelter in place at home for an extended period of time, you will be prepared!
Calculating quantity: 21 days, times 3 meals a day, equals 63 meals per person. The size of those meals will depend on individual appetite and preparedness.
To get started, let’s start with what you currently have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. We are going to assume in an emergency situation the utilities are down. This means items in the refrigerator and freezer (unless propane operated) will start to warm up and spoil the contents in a very short period of time. Naturally, these will be the first items you eat. In most cases, this will carry you through the first 36 – 48 hours. With those items consumed, it’s time to move to the dry goods.
Storage Containers – Aside from the basic Tupperware and decorative glass containers that accommodate basic day-day use, here are a few great bulk storage items.
- Threaded Lid Buckets: Available in 1.25, 3.5 and 6 gallon sizes. For plastic storage, it is critical to purchase FDA approved plastic buckets for food storage. These stronger, denser plastics won’t leach chemicals into your food storage, leaving your food inedible. With the lids sealed, this all but guarantees no moisture, insects or rodents contaminate your supply.
- Gamma Vaults: These have all the advantages of the threaded lid buckets with one additional design advantage that allows you to stack one on top of the other, yet still allowing you to access the contents of the vault.
Additional items for sealing and air locking.
- Mylar Bags
- Oxygen Absorbers
Freeze Dried Foods – For anyone looking for a back-up food supply that you can just store and forget about, freeze dried foods are the answer for you. All you need is a little room in a closet, under a bed or anywhere in the air conditioned part of your home that you can stack some #10 cans! Most manufactures of freeze dried foods come with at least a twenty year shelf life and a wide variety of grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and meal combos. A few resources are listed below:
- Alpine Foods www.alpinefoods.com
- Daily Bread www.dailybread.com
- Honeyville Grains www.honeyville.com
- Wise Food Storage www.wisefoodstorage.com
Methods of Preserving Food – just ask your grand-pappy how!
- Freezing: There much more involved in freezing food than just placing meat in a zip lock bag and tossing it into the freezer to be forgotten and frost bitten.
- Canning: Fairly simple and affordable to get set up.
- Dehydrating: The forgotten jewel of food preservation!
How-To resources listed at the bottom of this page.
Emergency Food – Yes, this whole article is about food for emergency situations; but up until this point we have discussed long term planning. What about right this minute? Or right in the middle of disaster relief when there is no time to prepare a proper meal? Or if you need to evacuate your home and don’t have time to pack all your gear? Here are the products we have on hand for just such occasions.
- Water: See Emergency Water from our Water Preparedness page.
- MRE’s: Meals Ready to Eat are available anywhere camping equipment is sold. From the standard Mountain House Hiker’s meals that only require hot water to G.I. packages that only requires a knife (or starving teeth) to cut through the packaging, MRE’s are the ideal grab and go emergency food!
Preparing Food – Unless your emergency plan is to rely strictly on MRE’s (Meals Ready To Eat) you are going to need some basic cooking essentials including water, heat and utensils to cook and eat your meals.
- Water: See our Water Preparedness Guide.
- Heat sources: In the case of utility outages, electric ovens/ranges won’t help heat up your supper.
- If you have gas plumbed to the house, consider having a storage tank installed to run your range (and other appliances such as HVAC, water heater, etc.) in time of outages.
- A simple propane grill/burner combo can be purchased for around $300 at any given hardware store in America. Having an extra five gallon propane tank (or two) will last far beyond a three week food storage and also be useful for other propane accessories like heaters or pest control.
- Wood burning cooking fire. Unless you’re in a turn of the century home with a wood burning stove, this option is strictly for outdoor use.
- Basic Kitchen Utensils: Even if you are “sheltering in place” in an emergency situation, many of the tools in your kitchen may not be practical or operable if power is temporarily out. Having quality crafted, hand tools and utensils as your base for kitchen hardware is a must.
See our Cooking Supplies article for further details.
Replenishable Food Source – If you have the wherewithal to raise & breed your own meat, with the right animal selection you could do so in an apartment and not even need a yard. If you are blessed to have a yard with a secure fence, a little shade and place to shelter from rain, small scale livestock can not only be a lot of fun but can provide fresh meat, dairy, wool, fertilizer for the garden and ‘first alert’ in the middle of the night to danger approaching. Just keep in mind; it will be smart to have emergency water & food storage for your livestock as well. Common US livestock include:
Heirloom seeds are also a great idea if you can provide a water source to grow the produce.
If these topics interest you, you may want to also look up “Aquaponics” and “Permaculture.”
Books & Online Resources
- How to Survive the End of the World as we know it by James Wesley Rawles
- Emergency Food Storage & Survival Handbook by Peggy Layton
- Survival Mom by Lisa Bedford
- A guide to Canning, Freezing, Curing & Smoking Meat, Fish & Game by Wilbur F. Eastman Jr.
- The Complete Guide to Edible Wild Plants by Department of the Army
- Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
Retailers – Local and online retailers for the items listed on this page.
|Off the Grid Survival Gear
|The Preparedness Shop