Surviving for 90 Days Part 2-B – How Much Food Do You Need?

For this post, we’re skipping ahead a little. We want folks to start thinking and start planning. Next week’s post will go into greater detail on the different types of long term storage food.

This is where preparing gets challenging. Most of the folks that sell long term storage food get you excited by the number of servings that they include in their price. Anyone who has had company for Thanksgiving knows that serving size is meaningless. Cousin Eddie eats like a horse. Aunt Sal eats like a sparrow. Heck, when the wife and I get a rack of ribs, she eats less than half and I eat the rest.

We’ve got to plan based on how many calories are required, not serving size.

So, how do we know how to do this? Well, our medical community has actually studied this for us. They have come up with information that has determined how many calories a person needs in a day broken down by age and gender, and how active these people are!


So, how do you use this information?

We’ve taken it one step further to figure out how many calories are needed for more than one person, such as a family!

If you take the chart shown above and add a few columns, you will have a sheet that computes your total family daily requirements!


Here is an example of a chart like this filled out. Let’s say for example that you are a family of four, with the husband being 32 years old, the wife 30, with two children, one 4 years old and one 9 years old.

Filling in the numbers of people, you see that you will need between 7000 and 8850 calories per day for your family.


If we take a look at #10 cans of some typical items, we find out that different things produce different calorie counts.



It’s interesting to see that different items provide very different calories per serving and even more importantly cost per calorie.

For those on a budget, you may want to explore recipes that make use of the higher calorie contents (like Red and Black Beans in this example) to be able to create adequate calorie counts with less money spent.

Once you have your basic essential food stuffs on hand, there are certainly other considerations, such as snacks, fruits, etc. These will be covered in a later chapter.

And these are just examples. You can create a spreadsheet like this, input the things you like to eat and/or already have in stock, and see where you need to adjust to create adequate calorie counts.

Now comes the fun part – planning your menus! If we go to a sample calorie count sheet, you’ll see that we took ten #10 cans of vegetables and meat and figured out the calorie count per serving. That chart also computed the number of calories produced by the total of the 10 cans.

These ten cans produce 29,152.75 calories.


Computing our from your daily requirements, you see that these 10 cans of food will feed your family for 3.29 to 4.16 days. Adding it up for 90 days tells you that you will need 216 to 273 #10 cans of food.

Of course this is based on a number of factors that can change. It’s based on you having nothing other than long term storage food. You might have other food options such as MREs, commercial and home canned food. For planning purposes, I’ve worse-cased it.

If you are on a budget, you can certainly adjust out higher calorie food for lower calorie food. Whatever food stuffs that are planning on, you can do the same computations.

It’s not serving size, its caloric requirements.

The beauty of using a “calculator” for computing your requirements is that you can “play around” with different menu items to increase calorie content and reduce costs.

Let’s see what the lowest costs could be.

We learned very early in our preparing process that the expensive part was meat. Freeze dried and other long term storage meat was very expensive. For example, in our scenario of a family of four, using “real” meat versus TVP meat increases your food storage bill by over $2000 over the 90 days! If there were no other options, it might make you want to become a vegan!

We tried TVP meat. Used in casseroles and stews, it actually isn’t bad tasting! The cost per calorie for TVP meat is far less than “real” meat.

We looked at different options. The first was to mix TVP and real meat on a 50-50 basis. It certainly works out, and cuts your food storage bill by $800 or so.

Another option was to home can meat! We practiced that and found it not only to be fairly easy to do and an incredible cost savings, but it is also very good to eat! Our challenge is to keep it in storage instead of using it and eating it regularly!

A later chapter will discuss home canning of meat.

We can’t state strongly enough that the key to planning for food storage is to first determine how many calories you and your family needs to survive.

Once you’ve figured that out, you need to explore different menus. If you have all the money in the world, you can pretty much replicate your day to day foods via long term food storage. If you are like most of us, you are on a budget, and some menu adjustments will have to be made to maximize caloric input versus cost per calorie.

These spreadsheets will make it easier to compute and adjust different items. In our examples, we only used dehydrated and freeze dried food. You can use these spreadsheets for any kind of food, be it canned goods from the grocery store or any other food. Input the serving and calorie count and you get the results you need.

The strongest recommendation that we can make is to try these menus now, before you have to live on them. There is nothing worse than having to eat things that you can’t stand. Most folks just won’t eat it, or won’t eat enough of it. Calorie intake is critical.

When we were in the Army, there was an old saying when you wrote plans and other instructions. People always referred to a concept that Napoleon used when issuing guidance to his subordinates. He would always have the instructions read to one of his corporals. He figured if they understood it, then everyone else would too. The notion became used in the Army as finding your “Napoleon’s Corporal” before you sent something off.

Well, we had this chapter read by our Napoleon’s Corporal, and we got some feedback that we figured we needed to address. He told us that he had read and understood the “storing by calorie” concept, but wasn’t sold completely on long term storage food. “After all, you are the one that said that commercial canned goods don’t really have an expiration date. Why couldn’t I just buy that?”

He raises a good point, so here is a little better examination of commercial canned food.

We went to Walmart’s web site and got some prices for some of the more common commercial foods that folks might eat. You can see that cost per calorie is very similar to long term storage foods!


Heck, if you got it on sale it might even be cheaper than that. So far, long term storage food doesn’t have a price advantage.

Let’s look at some other things. Fat content and sodium content generally is incredibly higher in commercial canned foods than in long term storage. We were shocked to look at the labels and see that many of these items had fat as almost 50% of the calories that you got from eating it! The sodium (salt) per serving, not per can was often as much as 30% of your daily allowance.

Long term storage foods have fat and sodium counts that are controlled by you. You make the meals and you get to choose. Advantage goes to long term storage foods.

When we talked about how long commercial canned food lasts, we were talking about how long it is safe to eat. Canned food can last a long time, but it does lose its flavor and nutritional value over time. Freeze dried and dehydrated food doesn’t have this problem.

We have always been adamant about the fact that there is no one single type of food to put in your storage. We have a mix of all of the types (except frozen) because all of them have their advantages and disadvantages. Some commercial canned food can be useful, not only for how quick it is to prepare, but also its ease of transport if you are out and about.

30 thoughts on “Surviving for 90 Days Part 2-B – How Much Food Do You Need?

  1. if you’re going from zero to 90 days as fast as you can, go with wheat, rice and beans in superpail buckets. you get the calories, nutrients and proteins fast and cheaply. then flesh out your storage with things that make those three items more edible/palatable and oatmeal in the buckets too. we don’t have much time and those cans take a while to add up as you have demonstrated. usrda is flawed in many ways, and we americans eat way more calories than every other nation. most of us have a strategic reserve around our belly as well. thanks for your hard work, it’s eye opening to see those numbers on paper.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for these insightful posts! I’m looking forward to the next parts.

    I’m sure you are going to address some of these points in future posts, but I just want raise them into attention. I’ve done some long distance hiking, and carrying three weeks of food in your back in the wilderness teaches you a thing or two about planning.

    First: there are basically 3+1 types of food: Carbohydrates (sugars), proteins and fats. The +1 type is minerals vitamins etc. All these are necessary, do some research on ratios. Vitamins do not preserve well. Carbs you can get from things like rice, wheat (e.g. pasta), oat, maize, potato… Generally speaking, these are cheap and preserve well. No need to resort to canned food or preservatives in that section. To avoid food fatigue, buy several kinds. Good sources or protein are a bit tricky. My favorite recipe has been dried minced meat mixed with soy granules: preserves well, takes little space, weights little. Beans, powdered milk etc. work well. As for fats, flora is the best source (canola oil!), but anything that says “transformed” is basically poison. The trouble with fats is that they don’t preserve well – they tend to become rancid before long. For some months you should be ok, but they are not long term stuff. Freeze-dried food is a good option, for the “difficult” sections: protein, fats (cheese!) and vitamins. There’s a lot of stuff about this in the hiking section. It doesn’t have to be expensive.

    In any case, being at home you have the advantage that you don’t have to carry your stuff, so the weight does not really matter. If space is an issue, consider investing in a vacuum packing device.

    Bigger problem will be water. You should have about a gallon per person per day. So, for 4 person family – 360 gallons, that’s nearly 10 barrels and over 50 cubic feet. Food grade storage for that amount of water is tricky and costly. However, there are ways around this. If you are able to get an access to that amount of water, it’s fairly straightforward to clean it from microbs (chemicals are more tricky). So, if you store water in open food-grade containers or harvest rainwater or something, you can clean it with water purification tablets (not all of them taste bad, ask hikers) or using the SODIS (solar disinfection) -method in small PET -plastic bottles. Other ideas?

    Third, the most important thing about your food is that it should be edible by you. While hiking this is an issue, because you will lose your appetite, but you will have to eat, or you wont make it. Then, when you realize that you have in front of you a plateful of food you can’t make yourself to eat, you are in trouble. It has become inedible, because you don’t like it enough to save your life. (Been there!) See that you include nice things, snacks, chocolate, sweet stuff (honey is great!) in your diet.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great series! Thanks for doing this!

    The term ‘substitution’ as it relates to artificial adjustments to published US inflation numbers came to mind when you mentioned TVP and it made me smile.

    I think the key point here is that the food you store is for a temporary (hopefully) situation. If you are burning a lot of calories, extra sodium and fat isn’t such a bad thing, unless you fall into the ‘sedentary’ category.

    I tend to store dried beans and grains in mylar. It’s cheap, calorie dense, but lacks variety and a full vitamin/mineral profile. Current solution is canned veggies, but the plan needs significant scrutiny.

    Thanks again!


  4. Reblogged this on Starvin Larry and commented:
    A great method that covers the basics to calculate your long term food storage needs.
    A few additional points from me on food/nutrition when using your long-term storage foods…
    The extra fat and sodium content found in canned foods isn’t an issue-unless you have a health problem that makes it an issue- as you’re under stress,and generally going to be a lot more active in any long-term “SHTF” scenario. You’ll be sweating a lot,and need to replenish the sodium in your body anyhow.
    Fats provide satiety-they make you feel full-which is a good thing.
    Since you’ll be moving around more,and under more stress than normal,the extra fats shouldn’t be an issue.
    I would add that you need to be sure you get the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables-it’s not just calories that matter.
    You also must be careful using TVP as your main source of protein-as vegetable proteins do not have all the amino acids found in meat sourced proteins,some of the amino acids can only be found in meat. Several other key nutrients are only found in sufficient quantities in meat,poultry,and fish/seafoods.
    The difference…
    “the primary difference between animal and plant proteins is their amino acid profiles and it is those profiles that direct the rates at which the absorbed amino acids are put to use within the body. Animal based proteins, of course, are much more similar to our proteins, thus are used more readily and rapidly than plant proteins. That is, ‘substrate’ amino acids derived from animal based proteins are more readily available for our own protein synthesizing reactions which allows them to operate at full tilt. Plant proteins are somewhat compromised by their limitation of one or more amino acids”

    “Foods that contain animal protein tend to be high in several nutrients that are often lacking in plant foods.

    These include:

    Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is mainly found in fish, meat, poultry and dairy products. Many people who avoid animal foods are deficient (3).
    Vitamin D: Vitamin D is found in oily fish, eggs and dairy. Some plants contain it, but the type found in animal foods is better used by your body (4).
    DHA: Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an essential omega-3 fat found in fatty fish. It’s important for brain health and is hard to get from plant sources (5).
    Heme-iron: Heme-iron is predominantly found in meat, especially red meat. It is much better absorbed in the body than non-heme iron from plant foods.
    Zinc: Zinc is mainly found in animal protein sources, such as beef, pork and lamb. It is also more easily absorbed and used from animal protein sources”

    There are thousands of nutrition studies that are in agreement on the plant -vs- animal protein issues,I just used the first two that popped up in a Google search.

    I prefer to store dried beans,rather than buying #10 cans-you can store a lot more beans in the same space,with much less weight.
    Dried beans,rice,and pasta store “indefinitely” in theory.
    In practice,unless you have temperature and humidity controlled storage,beans are going to take longer to cook the longer they have been stored. I’ve cooked beans after they’ve been stored for 10 years-they tasted fine,cooked them after soaking for 24 hours in cold water,just took about 4 hours to cook compared to 3 hours for freshly purchased dried beans.
    Same with pasta stored 10 years,tasted fine,cooked in about the same amount of time-maybe an extra 5 minutes- as freshly purchased pasta.
    We go through rice fairly quickly,so our stored rice is never more than 3 years old. A friend bought an excessive amount of rice in 2008,we just cooked some of it up over the weekend-it tasted fine,cooked just like freshly purchased rice,same amount of time.
    We store food that we eat all the time anyhow-so there won’t really be much of a change in our diet.
    I supplement our store bought meats with venison and rabbit,plus the occasional pheasant during hunting season,along with fresh caught fish throughout the year.
    We also can the veggies from our garden,which helps with the grocery bill quite a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All good stuff from someone who knows. For now, I’m using the number 10 cans for examples so folks can easily compute. The enormity of the issue is what I’m trying to get folks to come to grips with. Once we get through the basics, I’ll be adding all sorts of “tricks, techniques, etc” to make it easier. We all know that calories are important, but also important is the notion of “feeling full”. We’ll be sharing things we do and getting input from others.

      Feedback is what’s really helping the cause. We’ve had folks identify things we never thought of, as well as issues that have never applied to us, yet should be considered. This is all of our project. Just trying to cut the wheat from the chaff and make it easier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just adding that there’s more than calories to consider. I stock #10 cans myself. A few cans of ravioli goes a long way when feeding a group of hungry people.
        #10 cans are a good way to store veggies,fruit,pie fillings,potatoes,etc.
        I figure we all need to have gardens and know how to can fruits and veggies.
        One thing I’m just learning is canning meats and poultry. I figure the more food we provide for ourselves the better.
        Looking forward to the rest of your posts on storing food.


      • The wife and I are going to evolve this into a web site. Too much information just for a blog, and it needs to become reference material, not “one hit” wonders.

        Plus the web site will allow us to post pics, videos, power points, etc. of practical practice. We figured out years ago that commercial canned meats were just too expensive. So we worked on options. Canning meat was a huge home run and we’ve taught those classes to Mormon groups and other prepper groups. That one needs to get posted. The wife has also perfected drying meats! There are lots of ways to do this cheaper. Right now I’m focusing on getting folks to understand that they have to do something. Once we get past that phase, we can start on the tricks and techniques. Just have to grasp the concept first.


  5. The cheapest and fastest way is to base your calories on basic field corn. Yes, No. 5 field corn has approximately 2200 calories per pound, as with all varieties of the dent corns. I can buy 50 pound bags from a coop, Tractor Supply, or Rural King for $7.00 per 50 pound bag. Can’t really get any cheaper than that.

    Now for the precautions of using the dent corns as a main staple. As is, the dent corns are edible, but as the Spanish discovered unknowingly, by cooking and then soaking the dent corns in a calcium hydroxide and water mixture(Nixtamallaztion) that not only would it remove the inedible pericarp skin, it would chemically unlock the Niacin(Vitamin B) that would not be absorbed during the digestion process. Poor people of the south also discovered that eating non nixtamalized dent corns as a steady diet would cause a serious condition known as Pellagra(Vitamin B deficiency). It was the old south discovery that by soaking the dent corn in a lye water(extracted from hard wood ashes) that this also another way of nixtamalization that the southerners would use to create hominy.

    There are plenty of videos on Youtube on how the nixtamalization process is done, but for those that need to build up a 90 day basic food supply on the cheap, field corn is the way to build a base staple that will allow you to build on when the funds become available.

    There are some precautions that need to be heeded on the long term storage of dent corn. First, dent corn can absorb moisture from the air, I use 20mm ammo cans or 5 gallon plastic buckets with the heavy lids, do not use the Gamma seal lids, they cannot be stacked as I discovered that they cannot handle the weight stacked on top of them and will break. Second, always check the lable to make sure they have not been treated with any antibiotics for consumption by cattle. Third, I rotate what I have every few years. and as long as the corn is kept sealed tight, I have lost none to insects or mold.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great idea for someone like me who already has a hand crank mill.
      One can, in my neck of the woods at least, pick up a 50lb bag of deer corn for less than $7.
      In the past I’ve made my own cornbread out of saved and dried sweet corn from my garden.
      As a matter of fact, I’ve got a bunch hanging right now.
      Homemade cornbread is like no other cornbread as far as taste and consistency goes.
      It’s even better when cooked on a grill or fire in cast iron.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I go to the aisle where they have all the dry soup mixes, flavorings for tacos, etc. and buy a few different ones. They mix up well with the red beans you have cooked. Also there are a myriad of bottled sauces of all kinds the will work to give the mundane a little zip. Ahem, I have “a few” five gallon buckets full —- along with a bit of other stuff.


    • Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning for the beans, and Melinda’s XXXX Habanero Hot Sauce for seasoning the prepared dish at the table.

      A significant portion of my food storage is rice and beans. I like rice and beans. Pinto beans were a staple growing up, but I’m now partial to red beans and black beans. I have a solar oven that can function as a crock pot, but my electronic Instant Pot pressure cooker uses very little electrical energy and could be powered from a small solar panel, and the pre-soaked beans are soft and tender in less than an hour, and the rice takes 12 minutes.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My wife the food blogger insists on home canning jams, marmalade, chutneys, chow-chow, relishes, etc. for long-term storage as well. Anything to give a boost to the same old stuff in a SHTF situation would be welcome.


  8. I’ve been doing some work on food from “non-traditional” sources. like bird seed (hulled sunflower seed and mixed) and dry/cracked corn from the feed store. the theory is is you start buying large quantities from the regular stores, someone may notice. but birdseed and cracked corn in large quantities, not so much.

    the problem with birdseed is making it something you’d actually eat. sunflower seed alone isn’t difficult, but the mixed stuff presents some challenges. so far we’ve tried grinding then using a “float” method to remove the hulls, but it’s not quite right.

    the cracked corn can be made into cornmeal pretty easy.


  9. My wife and I put up 36 – 8oz jars of Muscadine jam last weekend. We have a 3 year supply of food basics and started fruit trees (apple,pear,peach,plum,figs and pecan). Most of the trees come into production next year. I will be starting a bee hive in a few weeks. We work with friends to further refine our forgotten canning and preserving skills. Most people I know are awake and very worried about the future.

    Liked by 1 person

      The wife and I have been working that way for a long time. Right now, a years worth without privation. Probably could stretch it out another six months with some hunting and gardening without too much effort. We’re concentrating on the 90 day model right now because I think it’s the most critical. America will be different after the first wave.


  10. Don’t forget fiber. Especially if you are restricting your fluid intake (which you shouldn’t, but might be necessary at some point). Need to keep the plumbing working. The very young and the very old, especially need to be encouraged with fluid consumption, because they tend not to recognize/verbalize cues from the body that fluid intake is insufficient. Constipation in children can become painful. Keep foods on hand that you know are good remedies for this, if possible.

    Sources of fiber are nuts, cereal (especially bran), beans, popcorn.

    And speaking of beans, shell beans (not green beans) are toxic unless cooked fully through and rinsed. Causes severe diarrhea and vomitting if these steps are omitted, which might be lethal in a shtf situation.

    Sugar and salt are both preservatives. Honey has an unlimited shelf life as well as healing properties. Sugar while not really good for you to eat, has antibacterial properties and can be used for cleaning deep tissue wounds.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Roger that, fubar, on keeping the “plumbing” working. We’ve got a lot of companion animal;s and the vets advised us to “keep ’em ‘regular” by using: bran cereal and/or 100% pure canned pumpkin (the baking kind, NOT the pie filling (too spicy.) They do the trick.

      BTW–these two products work well in the human gut, but for people, you can’t beat a spoonful of the powdered “Meta-mucil.” Buy at any big-box store. Gentle and effective. Any fiber roughage seems to work, some better than others.

      Another main point–keep the gut in optimal health. Good healthy eating cannot be beat. Otherwise, think about supplementing with probiotics. They will prevent the formation of BAD bacteria in the entire system, while encouraging the GOOD digestive bacteria.

      Don’t ask me how I learned this painful and expensive lesson….


  11. We put up 335 quarts of home grown garden tomatoes this year and dug @ 400 lbs. of potatoes. Still pickling jalapeno peppers. Dried cayenne and made ground red pepper. We raise our own beef, pork, chicken (we incubated and butchered approx. 70 young lbarred rock roosters this year), and heritage Narragansett turkeys. We also milk a Jersey cow. All while I’m still practicing law full time in Texas via telecommute while living in the Arkansas Ozarks.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’d point out this is raw calories, it covers nothing on nutrients. You’re gonna need vitamins and minerals, so don’t pour everything into rice and beans.

    The other thing with cans is they are small, and can be packed into a variety of spaces without issue, compared to buckets. For some, this out competes the better bulk price point of buckets, and cans can make a better barter unit than a bucket.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ever try the “dry” or vacuum canning method? It’s simple: buy a FoodSaver wide mouth jar sealer $10), a FoodSaver Tilia T17-0059 Foodsaver Accessory Hose ($3), a bunch of wide mouth Mason/Ball glass jars, ($10/dz),and a hand cranked brake bleed tool ($24 Harbor Freight #69328) and you’re good to go!

    If you already have a FoodSaver machine, just hook up the accessory hose to the jar sealer.

    Put all manner of “dry” foods in the jars, and pump away and seal them to about 500mmHhg/-20InHg vacuum. You’ll hear an audible “ping” as the lid seals down. Pasta, rice, dried beans–anything without moisture or oils of any sort. Cereals, oatmeal, dried fruits–you get it.

    Tips: lightly lube the FoodSaver accessory hose with mineral oil and tightly jam it into the larger clear plastic hose which comes with the brake bleed tool. Do NOT start putting on tiny hose claims, since this will destroy the sealing area and cause a vacuum leak.

    Using the FoodSaver jar sealer, make sure the interior blue rubber seal is ALWAYS clean and in good shape. Again, if needed, use a drop or two of mineral oil to lube the blue runner surface to gain a better seal.

    Some use olive oil–I don’t. Olive oil will eventually get rancid. If your hand operated brake bleed tool needs oil–always use USP mineral oil. Same reasons.

    Rural King Stores and Ace Hardware now has Ball mason jars on sale for $11/dz. These are the wide mouthed quart or half-gallon size. Buy some. Carefully wash and then wipe off the edge rims before sealing so that there’s no dirt, product, or whatever on the rim before you place a lid on to seal and vacuum it.

    I use wide masking tape to label the contents of each jar and note any expiry dates.

    Sure beats wet canning!

    Oh, sure, it takes a number of pumps on the brake bleed tool to get a good vacuum–BUT, I’ve found that after a while you gain one heck of a grip with all that squeezing of the handle. Now I’ve got me a “vice-grip” when I pull out that hogleg on my hip and take aim. Got me a “two-fer!”

    Thanks, Patton, and commenters for the chance to read and share these essentials.

    Carry on.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. After the Collapse: Hunger and Starvation | Canadian Prepper

    I myself have purchased a # of different types of spices to mix with my main staple such as rice just to change the flavor once in a while just mainly for moral purpuse.


  15. Sir, LDS church and AVOW, have this already done for you, Please be kind and look at LDS preparedness book @ AVOW and see how it is broken down , Heavy on grains. FYI most Bishops store houses are EMPTY, Be aware LDS people will be kind to your inquires about food storage. THEY will freely give you hard info on how to do it right the first time. just say in.


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