Serious Survival: How much food should you stockpile?

It seems that for every blogger or forum member there’s a survival expert as well. That’s great because there’s such wealth of information and you can learn from different experiences and accounts.
Then again the downside… every blogger and member thinks he’s an expert.
You see, for realistic survival and preparedness it’s crucial to differentiate the “I think” and “I believe” from the “this is how it went down” “this is why”.
We all know that food is essential for survival. No food and you won’t last long. Same goes for water (and I see it overlooked more often). Keep in mind that while a day without food may suck a bit, but a day without water will be tough indeed. In certain warm climates it can be downright dangerous.
We all get how important food and water is, but then there’s the classic survival question: How much food should you have stored for emergencies?
Doomers say you need years worth of food. Decades even. After all you die if you don’t eat. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) are famous for their year worth of food approach, although many have far less than that.
Officially speaking, what would a real expert recommend? Ready.gov says to have 3 days worth of shelf stable food and bottled water. That may seem as very little but in general most emergencies are either resolved within that time frame or help becomes available. Still, tell this to anyone that spent a week or more snowed in during a storm and he’ll find it lacking.
So how much? A Week? A Month? A year?
The first piece of advice is one you’ve probably heard before and that it is to store what you eat. If your kids don’t even know what rice looks like then having buckets full of the stuff isnt that much of a good idea. Either store something else or actually start eating rice.
There’s two very important reasons for this.
First, if you don’t rotate your food supply it just becomes one of those “just in case” things, and you’ll find yourself throwing food away every few years. This makes keeping large quantities of food stored a great waste of money. Second, if you store what you eat there wont be any difference between emergencies and “normal” times, at least food wise.
In our home we love rice and lentils and prepare rice and lentils stews often. Its tasty, very healthy, stores well for years and its pretty affordable too. Some canned tomato and vegetables and you have all you need for a great nutritional meal.
Another important point is understanding how much calories you actually need. The standard reply here is 2000 calories. Sure, if trekking the north pole you’ll need 5000 instead but even if some manual labour may be needed during disasters there’s people that stay healthy AND active with a lower caloric diet. 2000 will do well enough.
OK … SO HOW MUCH DO I NEED?
The 3 day recommendation by ready.gov is based on a rather optimistic government recommendation. If they have said instead to have 7 days immediately people would be wondering “Wait, so you’ll let me hang there for an entire week?!” People don’t react well to uncertainty and avoiding panic is a government’s #1 priority. Two weeks worth of groceries is just common sense. It doesn’t put a significant dent in your wallet if done correctly, and yes, it is true that it will cover 99% of the disasters and emergencies you’re likely to face in your lifetime.
I already imagine people thinking “but I want to be ready for SHTF, a worst case scenario, the real end of the world stuff!”.
OK, lets do that. Lets say it’s a worst case, total SHTF scenario. But lets keep it real and look how does it actually play out in the real world rather than fantasize about it.

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Lets say you have 2 years, no, 10 years worth of food. Lets say you have that plus means of producing more, a fully working farm.
Now lets suppose you have your ten year supply of food, plus a farm, plus a pile of guns and ammo… and you’re sitting in Eastern Ukraine when the Russian troops roll in. Or Aleppo when they are levelling every structure around you with barrel bombs. Or in South Africa when white farmers were exterminated and kicked out of their homes. Or in Fukushima when the tsunami destroyed everything and the radiation scorched the land. Do you see a trend here? More food, or a bigger farm would have done you no good. In all of these sometimes like more cash or gold to take along with you when you bug out or even better money in an offshore account would have been far more useful.
“But… I want the end of the world to be more convenient…”
Ok, what about Venezuela? You have out of control inflation, out of control crime and poverty with people starving. Even farmers starve there(posted about just this a few weeks ago), just like Irish farmers starved during the genocide known as the Great Famine or Ukranian farmers died during Holodomor, reduced to cannibalism. Yes, sometimes its natural disasters, but in others its lack of means of production, and an authoritarian government ensure that people starve in spite of having land and the knowledge to work it.
In my experience after the collapse of Argentina’s economy I would say it was somewhat similar to Venezuela during the times of Chavez. By this I mean horrible inflation, but not reaching the levels of food poverty seen today in Venezuela. Food was available, just two or three times more expensive than before. Just imagine how you would deal with such a scenario if you woke up to it tomorrow. Indeed, we all wished we had more food stocked up, and we rushed to buy more right away desperately trying to beat the nonstop inflation. I sure kept several months worth of food stockpiled. But still, at the end of the day if you had money you ate.
I stayed for over a decade after the collapse of 2001. In retrospective I probably should have left sooner. Personal circumstances, heck, life I guess, made us delay our departure. Still, we always had the resources to leave ASAP if needed. This is more than what most people in Venezuela can say.

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In such a complex situation would a 10 year supply of food, or a farm, made much of a difference? Not really. The food would have been nice, but the money to buy it was just as good besides having a conservative stockpile. A farm? Maybe more of an anchor to the country at a time when leaving was the clear path. A farm in a place like Venezuela, where you cant sell it, or if you do you don’t get anything for it, really does you no good.
So, start with a couple weeks worth of stockpiled food. Work towards a month. Then 6 when you can afford it and have the room for it. 6 to 12 months is the maximum I would recommend, with 6 months being the most realistic objective for most people. Six months of food gives you plenty of time for things such as unemployment, family problems. 12 months helps greatly when dealing with inflated prices, food shortages, and overall instability in the country where you maybe spent several months maybe saving money and looking for a job abroad, for a way out of the country entirely.
The lesson being, If you need more than 12 months worth of food, then more food will do you no good because what you really need is to get the hell out of there!
Take care folks,
FerFAL

Fernando “FerFAL” Aguirre is the author of “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” and “Bugging Out and Relocating: When Staying is not an Option”.


Comments

Serious Survival: How much food should you stockpile? — 2 Comments

  1. Very good article Ferfal… sadly I think a lot of people view prepping/survival as a way to play out rambo-fantasies in their heads… Envisioning themselves single-handedly taking down the local gang/militia/army that will be coming to confiscate their gold and food supplies.

    Realistically if things get really ugly, ie Allepo or Eastern Ukraine, and you have 10 years food supplies, you’re basically saving it for someone stronger to take from you.

  2. I grew up in the Mormon Church, and their survival recommendations are based on their interpretation of the Book of Revelation in the Bible, not on any real world ideas. Mormonism was founded in the 1830s, before the doctrine of the Rapture existed.

    Brigham Young, the church’s second leader who formulated much of the doctrine, believed that during the “Tribulation” that food would not grow and water would not be drinkable/usable, because God would want to punish sinning mankind as much as possible. Therefore, he told his followers to store seven years worth of food and water, so they could live through the Tribulation and take over the world after Satan was defeated. Over the decades this has been scaled back, and most Mormons simply buy prepackaged food manufactured by companies linked to the main church leadership.

    I lived in San Francisco for a couple years during my college days. It was only five years after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, and one could still see abandoned brick apartment buildings that had chain link fencing bolted to their facades so pedestrians wouldn’t get clobbered by falling terra cotta.

    There was a little store in Albany, on the other side of the bay near Berkeley, that sold earthquake survival supplies. They carried 7 gallon plastic bottles meant to store water. This would cover drinking and rudimentary cooking needs for one person during one week.

    The store owner was of the opinion that after a week the military would have reimposed order on the city and brought in water trucks so that residents could fill jerry cans for their drinking needs. This person noted that water does not store well.

    I personally had about two weeks or so of canned food in my apartment. I had a small crowbar in case the apt door was stuck, old shoes so broken glass wouldn’t cut my feet, a small bandage box, a flashlight, a radio, and a couple other things, including a sleeping bag if I were to find myself bedding down in a park or the Presidio. I also kept my bicycle in good shape in case I had to flee entirely, and knew the best routes.

    IMO if order isn’t restored within 30 days, it is probably time to flee.

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