On facebook, a beginning prepper asked the prepping group, “How much stored food do I need?” The best answer is to explain how to figure out how much food she should store in her pantry. That’s a common question among new preppers. How much food should you store? Here’s the easy answer, the TL/DR answer: a Million Calories per person per year. In this post, we’ll answer the question “How Much Food should I Store?”
And the long answer, the real answer, is . . . “It’s more involved than that.” But we’ll break it down and make it easy for you. The biggest problem I see with preppers when they set up their food storage is that they only think about calories. The second biggest is that they underestimate how much they’ll really need. (I’m talking about the old adage of one bucket equals one month. Not true!)
So we’ll break this down into five questions:
- How many calories of food do I need per person?
- How many grams of protein do I need per person?
- How many servings of vegetables do I need per person?
- How much spices should I store?
- What other food items should I store?
How Much Stored Food Do I Need? How many years? How many months?
That’s a valid and crucial question that you have to answer before you get too far into your preparedness journey. Storing too much is a waste of money. Storing too little puts you and your family at risk. I look at preparedness as insurance. Against what hazard are you insuring? Hurricane? Job loss? Covid-19 shutdowns, which started off at two weeks but never fully left (as of 01/03/21). That question deserves its own post! But let’s tackle how much food to store per person, per month, per year.
How many calories of food do I need per person?
Calories are energy. They are good. Especially if you are alive. An adult male with moderate activity (i.e., mostly sedentary) needs about 2,000 calories per day. An active adult can need 3,000 per day, or more depending on age, sex, height, weight, and the level of activity.
Right now I need about 2,800 per day based on my age (old as hell), body type (6′ 2″), weight (212#), sex (male), and current level of activity (moderate). To have a factor of safety, I round up to 3,000 calories per day.
3,000/day × 365 days = 1,095,000 calories per year
If you want to round that off, a person needs a million calories per year! Now, the question becomes, “How many pounds of food do I need in a year?” That depends on the food.
- White Rice: 1,696 calories per pound (dry) = 646 pounds per year, 54 lb / mo, or 1.77 lb / day.
- Pinto Beans: 1,568 calories per pound = 699 pounds per year, 59 lb / mo, or 1.9 lb / day.
- Potatoes: 354 calories per pound = 3,094 pounds per year, 258 lb / mo, or 8.5 lb / day.
- Sweet Potatoes: 408 calories per pound = 2,684 pounds per year, 224 lb / mo, or 7.4 lb / day.
As much as I’d love to eat 8 1/2 pounds of french fries per day, those numbers are almost meaningless because you cannot eat only white rice, potatoes, or even the extremely nutritious sweet potato. You would, sooner or later, begin to suffer from malnutrition. So, we combine beans and rice to get the prepper’s standby . . . beans & rice! The beans and rice complement each other in terms of protein and begin to give us some nutritional completeness. So let’s use beans & rice as a baseline.
Note that if you ate beans alone, or rice alone, you’d need about sixty pounds (60#) to survive calorically. If we serve beans and rice, then we’d need 30# of each per month. We know that about 30# of beans or rice will fit into a five-gallon bucket, so the arithmetic tells us that we need one bucket of beans and one bucket of rice per person, per month. Just to survive.
How much stored food: Rice and Beans
Starting off, I make it easy on myself, in addition to giving myself peace of mind: If I want to have a year’s worth of food stockpiled, I need twelve buckets each of beans and rice. So I buy a dozen buckets, mylar bags and oxygen absorbers.
Then the rice: A hundred pounds will fill three buckets, so I need 400 pounds of rice. Eight 50-pound bags. Then the beans: Another 400 pounds. The beans may be more difficult. Some Sam’s Club locations have 50-pound bags. None in my area do. Azure Standard has 25-lb bags of good-quality beans at a decent price. If you have a drop-point near you, I’d recommend that.
How many grams of protein do I need per person?
Few nutrients are as important as protein. Not getting enough of it will affect your health and body composition. Recommendations vary but the common minimum that I’ve found is 0.35 grams per pound of body weight, or 0.80 grams per kilogram of body weight. If you weigh 220 pounds (100kg), you need 80g of protein per day.
The rice and beans above will supply a fair amount of protein, but how boring would that be? You want a variety of sources that fit within your tastes and beliefs.
How much stored food: Protein
That 200 pound person would need 29,200 grams of protein over the course of a year.
That’s about 1,950 servings of pinto beans, or about 6 servings per day. It sounds crazy but to meet your caloric intake you’d have to eat at least a couple of servings at each meal. So, again, it’s possible to survive on beans and rice (many cultures have, and do), but it would get boring without some variety.
How many servings of vegetables do I need per person?
Most people don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables for optimum health. But I’m not here to preach. Here is how you figure it out: Take the number of cans of fruits and vegetables, plus the pounds of fresh and frozen vegetables, that you buy during each grocery shopping trip, and then multiply that by the number of times you go grocery shopping per year. It’s not really rocket science. For canned vegetables, when you buy some, buy a few extra and start building up your pantry. Always put the new cans in back of the older ones and rotate through so they’ll never get that old.
At this point, though, I would encourage you to seriously think about producing your own food, rather than relying on food that is shipped in from across the country or even from other countries. The longer the supply chain, the more fragile that chain becomes.
How much spices should I store?
What’s for breakfast? Beans & rice. Lunch? For a change, we’ll have rice & beans. Dinner? You get the idea. Store spices that you cannot get locally. Pepper, cinnamon and vanilla, for example, can’t be grown everywhere. I have peppercorns to last years, and the whole peppercorns don’t seem to lose flavor. Go through your spice cabinet. Make a list of your spices and how much you buy of each per year. Let that be your guide as to quantity.
Make sure that you have a way to store the spices to preserve their flavor and freshness. Store them in a cool, dry, dark place, in a sealed container. You can add an additional layer of protection by putting them (in their original container if you want) inside a mylar bag with an O2 absorber.
What other food items should I store?
This is a huge question because it is so open ended. And the answer is unique to you and your family. What do you use? What do you like? What must you have? Regardless, the process is the same: how much do you use now per month times how many months of supply do you want for an emergency cache or stockpile.