You may be able to survive a few weeks or even a month without food, but why would you want to? Without food, you will become dizzy, weak, susceptible to illnesses, and unable to perform survival-related tasks. Sure, water may be more critical to short-term survival, but it’s much easier for even the unskilled survivalist to find water in the wild (the safety and purity of the water is another story, but we’ll tackle that next). Finding food in the wild or raising your own is not easy, especially in the suburbs or city; hence the need to store food, especially food with a long shelf life, whcih we generally refer to as “long term storage food.”
How Much Food do you Need?
Here’s the short answer: You can never have too much food stored away for hard times.
In a long-term emergency, food in your basement is better than money in the bank. Captain Dave strongly believes that a year’s supply of food per person is the best investment you can make for your long term survival. Keep in mind that having an abundance of food allows you to share with others. Maybe you can give some away as charity, or maybe you can take in friends and family who are not as prepared as you.
How much is the minimum for you and your potential survival situation is an answer you’ll have to come up with after reviewing the table you developed in Chapter 1. (You did do that exercise, didn’t you?)
Government and humanitarian agencies like FEMA and the Red Cross traditionally recommended three days worth of food. They believe that they will be able to come to your rescue in three days, setting up tents and serving meals. Experiences in disaster such as Hurricane Katrina and Sandy changed that thinking and now many experts recommend you store a week’s worth of food.
In a local or regional emergency that hits and moves on (such as a hurricane, tornado or earthquake) there will be shelters, bottled water, hot meals, warm cots and medical treatment onsite in just a few days. This is because Americans are caring and concerned people and aid from neighboring unaffected areas will pour in to your area via governmental, military and private planes and trucks.
But what about a disaster that strikes a large area, or affects the entire country? Where will the rescuers come from if a huge portion of the country or even the world suffers some cataclysmic disaster? What if the emergency prevents us from leaving our homes – such as a quarantine due to the bird flu – to get to that mess tent? Will three days of food or even a week’s worth be enough then? It wasn’t enough for the people in Sarajevo when wore broke out. It wasn’t enough in Indonesia when the tsunami struck. It won’t be enough if any major, widespread disaster.
Captain Dave can’t tell you how much food you need, but he can definitely tell you that a three to seven day supply is nowhere near enough. Initially, he believed that a three week supply was the minimum for people in the U.S., but given the increased threat levels and the high likelihood of the outbreak of a contagious disease he now recommends storing a minimum supply to last you three months. A year’s worth of food is preferable, and a greater quantity, especially in grains and items you cannot grow or harvest by yourself, is better. If you’re wondering how you can afford a month’s worth of food, see Chapter 7.
Why should you stock up on so much food if the worst you’re planning to prepare for is a heavy winter storm or similar natural disaster? Several reasons:
- It may take a while for store shelves to be replenished. Think back to the last heavy winter storms that hit the East Coast. 30 inches of snow shut down cities such as Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia for more than a week. The trucks carrying supplies were stranded on the side of an interstate highway somewhere in the Midwest. Wintry weather and ice storms have shout down some locations for a month or more, making it impossible to bring in supplies. You could be a polar vortex away from hunger.
- In an emergency, you may be asked to feed friends or neighbors. Think how you’d feel if on the sixth day of the recovery you and your family were enjoying a delicious, rich, beef stew while poor old Mrs. Frugal next door was down to a used tea bag and the bread crusts she usually gives the birds? Or what if friends were visiting for the weekend and unable to return home because of the inclement weather, earthquake or other emergency?
- Natural disasters, while being the most common, are not the only potential problem. What would you do if the food supply was poisoned? In late 2004, departing HHS secretary Tommy Thompson expressed surprise that the food system had not been attacked by terrorists. If there was a food tampering panic from a terrorist attack, you would be glad to have a long term supply of safe food to fall back on while they figure out what the problem is and how to combat it. What if nuclear fallout prevented us from eating vegetables and grain crops?
- If Avian Influenza, SARS, Small Pox, Ebola or some yet-unknown disease hit our shores, causing waves of casualties, you would need to impose quarantines on yourself and your family to keep from contacting the disease. That would mean no more shopping trips. No grocery store, no Walmart, and certainly no take-out. With a year’s supply of food on hand, you would have a good chance to outlast the virus and keep your family safe.
- A nuclear war in Asia or the Middle East, a nuclear event on U.S. shores, a terrorist event, or some other incident could spew radioactive fallout over a wide area, affecting the food supply. Milk, grains, and other raw food products may be contaminated. Your long term storage food will be a clean, safe supply should this happen. Remember, the U.S. is the breadbasket to the world; it we loose one harvest there would be severe shortages here and elsewhere.
- If a volcano dumps huge amount of ash into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to drop for a few years, crop yields could drop significantly, causing food scarcity and rising prices.
- In the event of personal hardship, such as illness, unemployment, or the death of a breadwinner, your stored food will feed your family even if the checks stop coming in. Many former customers have contacted Captain Dave to relate how their Y2K food fed their family during a personal emergency or when times were tight.
- In a TEOTWAWKI situation, your stored food buys you time: time for things to calm down, time to plant a garden, time to wait for winter to pass, time to stay hidden, time to adapt to the new situation.
- Another plus, is that food rarely goes down in price. What you buy now will be an investment in the future. If you shop carefully over time (see Chapter 7) , you can lay in stores of goods on sale or at warehouse club prices. In the event of high inflation, or hyper inflation, food will become increasingly expensive. Your stored food will not only ensure you can feed your family, it will grow in value in times of inflation
- You will be protected from price gouging. Do you really think the last load of milk and bread into the store before the storm hits will be discounted? Shelves are often cleared out right before a blizzard or hurricane is set to hit. And food isn’t the only item likely to be in short supply; one grocery chain reported that when storm warnings went out, they sold more rolls of toilet paper than there were people in the city. Batteries, bottled water, candles, and other staples are also going to be in short supply (see the next chapter for more on what non-food survival items you should store).
With plenty of long-term storage food on hand, you will be prepared for a crippling blow to our food supply system. Our just-in-time food supply system is surprisingly fragile. Whether it is a massive drought or other weather emergency, a wheat blight, the destruction of traditional honey bees necessary for crop fertilization, a terrorist attack or a major transportation strike, a single blow could significantly damage our food supply and delivery system. Captain Dave will let you make up your own mind, but wouldn’t a few hundred pounds of dehydrated vegetables, wheat and other grains make you feel better?