Emergencies often come without warning. We’re always told to prepare for the unexpected, so I have always wondered how much long term food storage do I need?
If you start preparing for long term food storage without accounting for your own needs and the expiry date on perishable items, you are preparing yourself for disappointments. Stockpiling food without knowing the key factors involved can be catastrophic when a disaster strikes. In cases of emergencies and disasters, families and homeowners with food stocked can fare better.
A good food storage plan should calculate the calorie requirement of each person in the house, the nutritional value of stored food and the shelf life of each perishable item. In short, you should stockpile enough food to provide 2000 calories and 1 gallon of water per person per day for 3 months.
Each of the factors discussed above come with their own details. As a beginner researcher with no previous experience of stocking food, you wouldn’t know the calorie requirements of each human, the nutritional values provided by multiple sources of food and the minimum perishable lifetime of different items. In line with this, you can only take a calculated decision if you know the intricate details involved in the process and the method for calculating each metric.
The information presented here includes what I’ve learned through years of experience in storing food for my family. I have also studied accounts from other homeowners and users to see what worked for them and come up with a concrete solution.
Questions to Consider When Storing Food
Food storage can be a tricky process, especially if you don’t have any prior experience storing food for emergencies. You can make this tricky process a little less complicated by studying and answer some of the questions we mention below:
- How many people do you look to feed with the food you are storing?
- How big of an emergency are you actually preparing for? How long is the expected emergency supposed to last?
- Can you plan an emergency scenario?
- What are the total calories needed per person for each day? The accurate number will be based on age, physical activity and sex, but you can consider 2000 calories per person as a ballpark figure.
- What is the nutritional group you and your family prefer most?
- Do you know the shelf life of food items you are looking to store?
- How much water does one person from your family drink on a normal day?
- How do you plan to prepare food during the emergency?
- Do you have emergency cooking methods?
- What is the season currently? You will have to stockpile other accessories as well alongside the food.
Why do You Need Long Term Food Storage?
Long-term food storage isn’t just something you plan to do today and forget for the rest of the year. In fact, long term food storage is a lifestyle that you pick up and use in your grocery shopping habits and other areas of your life.
You can start storing at least 3 months’ stock of food with you and then start rotating alongside. You should only use the food left aside for long term storage if items are about to perish. Once consumed, the used items should be replaced at the same time.
Some possible scenarios where your long-term food resources can be brought into use include natural catastrophes and other family emergencies.
Natural catastrophes can force you into using stocked foods, which is why it is best to have a long-term supply ready for you. Civil unrest and natural disasters can lead to such a situation. Civil unrests in multiple countries have led to curfews, where homeowners were left scurrying for food.
Some family and personal emergencies, which may bring your long term food storage into play, include loss of job and illness. In both cases, you would either be short of monetary resources or physical effort to head to the grocery store and buy something for your kitchen. The food reserves you have will come in handy here.
Lifestyle changes can also bring your long term food storage into play. Certain lifestyle changes, including the shift towards self-reliance and a minimalist lifestyle, can help you utilize the long-term food supply.
Starting with a 3 Day Emergency Kit
According to FEMA, the right way to store food is to begin with a 3 day or 72-hour emergency kit, which can come in handy in the case of a natural disaster or civil unrest. The kit should include water, non-perishable food and other supplies that will last you a good part of the three days.
Even if you are saving for the long run, this is a good strategy to wet your feet a bit and learn the basics of storing food. You will probably have enough in your home to last you through 72 hours, but having a proper kit at your disposal will give you a good way to start the saving process and create a reserve for the future.
According to FEMA, your 3 day kit should include a lot more than just food. You should include a first-aid kit and batteries and other items such as duct tape and masks to ensure that everything is in order. Also, have a flashlight for the dark and make sure you have a paper map of your town with a manual can opener.
The food you store in the 3-day kit should match the calorie requirements of each member of the family. While FEMA picks a ballpark figure of 2000 calories per person, we will be a bit more specific with the calorie count.
Daily required calories differ per person and can be different for each individual, based on their age, sex and their levels of daily activity.
Before you actually get to storing food for the future, you should know just how much every person in the family would need. Figuring out the caloric intake of each individual will make it easier for you to figure out outcomes and plan comprehensively.
Your activity levels will probably be on the higher side during a survival or natural disaster situation, which is why it is good to consider activity levels as high.
Women may have different caloric requirements than those for males. The women body does not work the same way as the male body, which is why the caloric requirements are different for women.
How to Balance Nutrition
An important step to follow when you are storing food for the long run is to balance nutrition accordingly. The three different heads include proteins, fats and carbs. Your daily nutrient count should be based on 50 percent of carbs, 20 percent of proteins and 30 percent of fats.
This daily nutrition count will help you keep full and will give you the food you need to function properly.
- You can store the oats, rice, lentils, pasta and dried peas to meet your carb requirements.
- You can store almonds, eggs, peanut butter, lentils and chicken to meet your protein requirements.
- You can store olive oil, dark chocolate, almonds and coconut oil to meet your fat requirements.
Besides the nutrition of edible items, you will also need some non-food items to help you through the process. These non-food items will include the following:
- Grain grinder
- Recipes to follow
- A hand can opener for opening cans of edibles
- Meal plans
Meal plans are absolutely necessary when you are looking to enter a three months period with stored food. You should start by creating a meal plan spanning over 2 weeks. This meal plan will give you access to different options, which you can rotate over time based on the eating habits you have.
Following a meal plan to the dot can be tiresome for an extended duration, but you can mix and match your items to add excitement to the plan and get better results from the process.
How to Store Food for 3 Months
We now enter the business part of our article and answer your question of how much long term food storage do I need? The answer to your question will help give you an idea of how to meet your food storage needs and what you should add into the plan.
As we studied above as well, you should look to store food for at least 3 months if you are looking for a long term food supply. A 90 day emergency would typically mean that each person inside your home would require a total of 180,000 calories.
These total calories can give you a sense of direction on what to include within your food supply. Similarly, each person would require over 90 gallons of food over the period of 90 days, going by the basis of one gallon per day.
Based on what we have computed above, a family of five people will require upwards of 900,000 calories and 450 gallons of water with them to safely navigate a long term period of three months. Just to give you perspective here, one gallon of water will weigh 8.34 lbs.
Tips to Store Food for the Long Term
You can follow a number of tips to help you store food in the long term, and to make sure that you don’t miss out on anything. Some of these things include:
Know how to Cook Without Electricity or Gas
All of your emergency food won’t amount to much if you don’t know how to cook it without electricity and gas. Knowing how to cook without electricity and gas can be a real benefit if you are looking to build a food stack for emergencies and disasters.
The best way to alternate your cooking habits and add some diversity into them is to start cooking like you would in a camp. Go outside, based on the weather, and see how you do while cooking in an outdoor kitchen.
Store items you love
There is no point in storing food that your family does not like to eat. The best tip is to save and store food that all of you like and know will enjoy when the time comes to it.
Storing food that your family likes to eat will be perfect for your morale and will cut down on the wastages when you are unable to eat food that you stored without thinking of your preferences or options.
Do not end up buying a 50 kg bag of quinoa, which you are sure your family will not like or eat. If you want to make sure that the food doesn’t go to waste or land in front of the birds as bird food, you should buy items that you and your family love to have.
Store Food that can work with your diet
You should look to store food that goes well with the diet plan you have and isn’t too hard to adhere to. If you don’t eat white rice now, chances are that you still won’t eat them when an emergency arrives and push comes to shove.
It is best to hence drop the idea for white rice and store items that you like and ones that can meet nutritional needs as well; such as pasta or wheat.
Have Fuel Canisters
Extra fuel canisters can come in extremely handy during an emergency. You will probably depend on fuel for your stove and for bringing fire to light, which is why some extra fuel for the backpacker’s stove can come in handy.
Be Careful with Fire Indoors
Be extremely careful with cooking methods indoors so that you don’t risk issues. Cooking in an enclosed space can be problematic because it can lead to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide poisoning. All of the cooking methods and stoves you use inside the house should be rate for use indoors and shouldn’t pose a fire hazard.
We have focused heavily on this within the article as well, and will repeat the same point again. You should consider the number of calories in each food article you store and should make sure that the calories involved in them meet your caloric intake. Staple items usually tend to be higher in calories and can be easier to prepare.
Prepare for both Long-term and Short-term Survival
We have focused a lot on this in the sections above, but it is necessary that you remain prepared for both short-term and long-term survival. As good as it is to have a long-term supply of food, you should also have a 72 hour kit ready with you, as recommended by FEMA.
Store Foods with a Longer Shelf-Life
The final bit of advice we have for you is to store food items with a longer shelf life. Variety is necessary in life, as living on lentils and white rice can get too monotonous after a short while. This is why you should look to store items that have a longer shelf life and aren’t really perishable in nature. You can add food items that come with at least a year remaining to the expiry date.
We hope you know your answer to how much long term food storage do I need. Storing for the long term can be an elaborate process and starts with a change in your lifestyle. Be prepared and start now.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker