If you’re new to prepping, at some point you’ll be overwhelmed by everything that you realize that you need to do. This is our “new prepper’s quick-start food plan.” This takes you about a half hour to plan and you can complete it in as little as a weekend. Once you are done, you’ll have a year’s worth of basic food in your long-term storage. It takes a lot off of your mind and you can easily build on it over time.
The New Prepper's Quick-Start Food Plan
Here’s the rule of thumb: One bucket of rice plus one of beans will feed one person for one month.
Here’s the detail: A person needs (roughly) 2,000 to 3,000+ calories per day. A pound of rice has about 1,500 calories. A pound of beans has about the same. A 5-gallon bucket holds 35 pounds of either rice or beans. A little bit of arithmetic tells us that two 5-gallon buckets, one of rice and one of beans, will give us 105,000 calories, which will sustain a person for a month. So let’s get started; we need beans, rice, and something in which to store them.
Something To Hold and Protect the Food: Buckets
You need twenty-four food-grade, 5-gallon buckets. The quick, easy way to get them is to buy them from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Tractor Supply, or any number of retailers and they’ll cost around $3.50 to $4.50 each. If you really want a quick start, then the “Quick-Start” portion of the “New Prepper’s Quick-Start Plan” is right here. Just go and buy 24 buckets. Done.
If you want to save some money, some restaurants will sell their used buckets for $2-3 each. The plus is obvious, but the downside is that you have to drive all over and visit any number of restaurants and fast-food joints. I’ve been told that it takes a while to get the pickle smell out. Time = Money! A third option is that some bakeries will give away their old buckets. You still have to drive around, and you have to wash out a bunch of sticky, sugary, ant-attracting gunk. I’m serious about the ants!
So, whether you go the quick, easy and expensive route, or the long, tedious and cheap route, now you have twenty-four (24) food-grade buckets. But wait, there’s one more step. For each bucket, you’ll need a 5-gallon mylar bag (5 mils thick, at least), and a 2,000 cc (cubic centimeter) oxygen absorber. You’ll also need a hair-straightener. I found two at a yard sale, so keep your eyes open.
Something More (!) To Hold and Protect the Food: Mylar Bags & O2 Absorbers
We’ll put the food inside the mylar bags, with an oxygen absorber, and seal it up. The bucket protects the contents against bugs and rodents (it’s not 100%, but nothing short of 1/4″ steel plate absolutely protects against rats), and against light, water, etc. The mylar further protects against light and water, but also, seals out the atmosphere. The O2 absorber takes out all of the oxygen so, if you seal the mylar completely, there will be no oxidation inside. Using this system, the contents can last decades.
I buy all of my mylar bags and O2 absorbers from DiscountMylarBags.com. I have no interest in that company, financial or otherwise, I get no commission or incentive, and I’ve never met the owner or anyone who works there. I’ve been shopping there for three years now and they do a great job.
Where ever you choose to buy, you need 24 bags and 24 2,000cc O2 absorbers. That’s the size you generally use for a 5-gallon bucket & bag.
The next step in the New Prepper's Quick-Start Food Plan: Rice & Beans
This part of the New Prepper’s Quick-Start Food Plan is easy, and this is really the key to building up a one-year food supply. A five-gallon bucket will hold about 35 pounds of rice or beans. You want twelve buckets of each. Twelve times 35 equals 420 pounds. For ease, you could round that down to 400 pounds of rice and 400 pounds of beans. That means each bucket will hold 33 1/3 pounds. That is fine. Three buckets per hundred pounds. So, go to your favorite wholesale club store or restaurant supply store and buy eight (8) 50-pound bags of white rice, whichever grain size you like the best. Done.
Now, start buying pintos. Generally, pinto beans are the cheapest per pound. The quick-start plan’s purpose is to make it as easy as possible for you to get a year’s supply of food into your storehouse. So our “baseline” is to keep it simple by buying 400 pounds of pintos. Once you get the one year’s supply stored, you can expand on it and add variety by adding different varieties. Note that each variety has a different amount of protein, and we’ve also analyzed that.
Buy beans that you like, though. If your wholesale club store has 50-pound bags of pintos, buy eight of them (100# = 3 buckets; 400# = 12 buckets). Otherwise, you’re going to have to go to multiple grocery stores and get a lot of strange looks from cashiers. Just tell them you’re entering a chili cookoff. It works every time. They don’t need to know your business.
To Freeze or Not To Freeze, That is the Question
Many preppers will freeze their beans, rice, flour, etc., before putting them into storage. Freezing for one day or three days is supposed to kill any little bugs hiding inside the bag. I’ve only ever had weevils once, when I accidentally left a bag of black beans on a storage shelf for a year or so. I tossed the bag. But freezing supposedly kills the bugs and eggs. So many preppers will park the beans or grains in the freezer before storing in mylar.
Some people are concerned about adding moisture to the food, though. The humidity inside the bag, in the airspace between each individual bean or grain of rice will condense. That will evaporate, though, just like everything in the freezer gets dried out. You just have to leave the bag in the freezer long enough to let it happen. In my mind, the bigger danger of adding moisture to the bag occurs when you take the bag out of the freezer. Warm, moist air in your house meets an ice cold bag of rice or beans. Condensation happens. I protect the bag from condensation by putting the bag into a plastic trash bag (a brand new, clean one!) as I take it out of the freezer. Slide the bag from the freezer into the trash bag. Seal the trash bag and let the whole thing sit until the bag warms up to room temperature. Problem solved: bugs killed with no added moisture.
Bag It Up!
So where are we right now? You have twenty-four (24) food-grade buckets and lids; 12 for rice and 12 for beans. You have enough mylar bags and oxygen absorbers, plus a hair straightener to seal the bags. You have 400 pounds of rice and 400 pounds of beans. Now comes the fun part!
The only “trick” here is to keep the O2 absorbers sealed until the last possible minute, and then get them sealed inside the mylar bag as fast as possible. It just takes a little organization. Line up all of your buckets. Put the mylar bags inside the buckets and fill them all up. For rice and beans, you can fit about 35 pounds in each bucket. Or you can take two 50-pound bags and divide them across three buckets. Whichever works best for you. Once all of the buckets & bags are filled, seal the mylar bags all the way across, EXCEPT FOR ABOUT TWO INCHES (2″). IN OTHER WORDS, LEAVE A COUPLE INCHES OPEN. Get all of the bags to this point before you open the O2 absorbers.
Now, if your O2 absorbers come in packs of ten, do the final step in batches of ten. Pull ten buckets away from the others so they don’t get confused as to which have O2 absorbers in and which do not. Now, open a pack of ten O2 absorbers (2,000cc) and drop one into each bag. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can, and use your hair straightener to fully seal the mylar bag. You can do this yourself, but it is easier and faster with another person. Quickly move through the rest of the batch of ten buckets/bags/O2 absorbers. Then do another batch of ten. And finally the four left over. If you have O2 absorbers left over, quickly put those into a jar with a tight-sealing lid and save them for the next time you have buckets/bags to fill.
Let the buckets sit for a day or two and you should see the bags get sucked in to the shape of the contents as the O2 absorbers do their thing. This also tells you that the seal is good. If it is, pop the lids on and you are done.
Should You Use Gamma Seal Lids?
Gamma Seal lids are great products. They give you a decent (bug-proof but not airtight) seal that allows for easy access. For everyday storage (rice, flour, dry dog food, etc.), I use containers that have them. But the lids are expensive. We don’t use them for the New Prepper’s Quick Start Food Plan because you can get sealing lids for free, or at a low cost, and because you don’t need everyday access to these buckets. So for this plan, don’t buy Gamma Seal lids.
Gamma Seal lids are (or, can be) useful for your prepping in the long term, especially when you start rotating through your long-term preps. But just starting out, focus on the steak not the sizzle!
Congratulations, You've Completed the New Prepper's Quick Start Food Plan! So What's Next?
Congratulations! You now have a year’s worth of basic food stored. Remember that this is only for one person. So you’ll need to increase your number of buckets, etc, by the number of people for whom you’re prepping. Also, this is basic survival only. It is not complete nutrition, not well-balanced, and not at all appetizing. But it is peace of mind.
As I’ve mentioned a few times, this is basic survival only. Now you need to add a variety of foods: fruits, vegetables, spices, grains, etc. Add other sources of protein. You need recipes that make 400 pounds of rice and beans palatable. As an example, I like oatmeal for breakfast. I eat one cup (dry) every morning, with some dried fruit cooked in. So I have stored 365 cups of oatmeal, plus dried apples, peaches, raisins, etc., plus some brown sugar. That’s just an example. You should stock up on things that you like. One of the preppers’ cliches is “stock what you eat.” You hear it all the time because it’s true.