Most survival or prepping blogs and websites—FEMA and CDC included—recommend storing a three day supply of non-perishable food items for emergencies. However, what is a three-day supply exactly? Does that mean you need to store three meals a day for each person in your household or you need to buy three cans of food per person per day? Neither is necessarily correct. Stockpiling a three-day supply of food is a little more complicated than that.
Correctly stocking up your long-term food storage is getting the right combination of enough calories, nutrition, meeting special dietary needs and variety. Not only will you need enough calories to keep your body moving, but you need food with nutritional value, as well. The meals you plan will need to have a mixture of carbohydrates, fats, protein, and vitamins and minerals. It is equally important to pick foods that your family likes and eats regularly.
Depending on the type of survival situation you are facing, you may need more calories than you do on a day-to-day basis. For example, if you are just sitting it out after a bad storm, your regular daily calorie intake is fine. However, if you will be trekking (bugging-out) or cleaning up debris, chopping wood and other strenuous activities, you will need more calories.
The average active adult female needs 2,000 to 2,500 calories, while the active adult male needs over 3,000 calories a day. Children’s calorie requirements depend on age. One to three year olds need 900 to 1,000. A child four to eight year old requires anywhere from 1,200 (girls) to 1,400 (boys) calories. Nine to 13 year olds need 1,600 for girls and 1,800 for boys—this age group requires almost double that if they are highly active.
To help you get started, Mountain House provides a four-day meal planner. Based on a 3,000 calorie a day diet for one person, Mountain House’s meal planner suggests using a 40:30:30 ratio—a close variation of the recommended percentage mixture of our total needs of carbs, fats and proteins. The meal planner has simple instructions how to plan your meals.
Start by calculating your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR. This is your metabolic rate when resting. After calculating your BMR using the Mountain House method, you will find how many calories you need each day. For men, use this equation: 66 plus (6.25 x your weight in pounds) plus (12.7 x your height in inches) subtract (6.8 x your age). One of my prepper colleagues figured his out using this equation and came up with needing to store four meals a day at 873 calories per meal for just himself.
For a family of four you need roughly 50,000 calories per week. Budget and space are constant concerns for the average prepper, so knowing how to mix budget staples such as rice and beans with veggies and meat will stretch your supplies and your money. Stock up on carb-rich food that also provide high calorie content such as beans, brown rice, cabbage, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Carbohydrates are important when we are active. Carbs turn into glucose. Glucose gives our bodies energy.
It is still important to add variety. Rice and beans might keep you alive, but a diet consisting of carb-dense staples will do nothing for your spirit. Staples should be a supplement to canned and freeze-dried foods. Bulk basics such as rice and beans, when stored properly can last up to 30 years, as will freeze-dried foods. Neither will lose their nutritional value. Canned items, however, can lose their taste and nutritional value after two years. Rotate canned items in with your regular meals to keep them from going bad. If a can is bulging, throw it out.
Let us go back to my prepper colleague. He needs a total of 3,492 calories per day to maintain a moderately active body. I helped him build a meal plan that would satisfy this requirement, meet his nutritional needs and taste good.
For example, one day would look like this:
- Breakfast: Two servings of protein and fiber-rich Mountain House breakfast skillet with hash browns, eggs, sausage, and peppers with one serving of granola with blueberries and milk. For a total of 960 calories.
- Lunch: Two servings of Mountain House pasta primavera with one cup of Mountain House diced chicken and one cup of raspberry crumble dessert for a total of 1,000 calories
- Dinner: One package of Natural High Himalayan lentils and rice, providing 130 percent of the daily vitamin C requirement mixed with one serving of Mountain House ground beef for a total of 910 calories.
- Snack: Snacks throughout the day could be either energy bars (409 calories each) or several servings Mountain House mac and cheese (310 calories per serving).
If you feel overwhelmed or are confused on where to start, many beginners purchase pre-packaged kits. Mountain House has three to choose from its classic assortment, essential assortment and a one-person kit of entrees. For the total novice, Food Supply Depot makes a pre-packaged food, fire and filter kit that includes food, a grill and a water filter. Add in freeze-dried diced beef and diced chicken for complete and satisfying meals.