Long-Term SHTF Food Storage Planning

While food in a short-term survival situation is rarely a priority, when it comes to planning for a long-term SHTF situation, food needs to be high on your list of priorities.

Cooking food on a Wood Burning Stove

There really is no one size fits all food plan, but there are a couple of rules that people often overlook.

Learn how to cook from scratch

It’s quite shocking how many people are completely unable to cook something from scratch. If you’re serious about preparedness, and you’re in the process of getting started with emergency food storage, learning how to cook is something you cannot afford to ignore. In order to successfully build a stockpile of emergency food, you’re going to need to learn how to cook it, and you’re going to need to learn how to do it with basic ingredients.

Make sure it tastes good

Many first time preppers make the mistake of stockpiling foods that they would never eat in a non-survival situation. During an emergency situation, do you really want to start eating foods that may disagree with your body?

  • Stock up on foods that you would normally eat on a day-to-day basis. Now I don’t mean that you should stock up on things that will spoil, but you should definitely stock up on foods that your family is familiar with and enjoys eating.
  • Don’t forget the comfort foods. Maintaining a positive mental attitude during a stressful survival situation is an extremely important aspect of survival. Don’t discount the need for stocking up on foods that will help you pick up your spirits during tough times.
  • Stock up on flavor enhancers like salt, sugar, honey and long-term spices that store well. Without these flavor enhancers you severely limit what you can cook, and almost guarantee your family will quickly get sick of eating the same foods over and over again.

Don’t forget to rotate your stocks

Rotating your emergency food preps into your regular diet is smart for a couple of reasons.

  • Using a First in, First Out system of rotation will guarantee that your food is as fresh as possible. You’ll also cut down on waste by not having to throw away food that has spoiled.
  • It ensures that your body will be able to handle the food that you buy. If you’re eating it now, chances are you will want to eat it during a disaster.
  • It gives you a good idea of how much food you have, and where any short comings in your stockpile might be.

Your Calorie needs will be higher in a SHTF situation

When planning on how much food to store, keep in mind that your needs may be very different from what they are today.

A lot of people recommend a 2,000 calorie per-day diet, but during a stressful long-term disaster situation you will likely have to work a whole lot harder than you do today. From cutting firewood and farming, to hunting and other laborious duties, your body is going to need extra calories to sustain your lifestyle.

Learn how to do without it

While having emergency food can help you get through the initial phases of any disaster, to be truly prepared you need to learn how to do without it. Now I’m not talking about starving; I’m talking about learning the skills you need to feed yourself and your family without having to rely on a stockpile of emergency food.

When disaster strikes, there’s a pretty good chance your local grocery store is going to be over run in a matter of hours. That means those who haven’t planned are going to be desperate, making your local grocery store the last place you want to be when disaster strikes. To be prepared to face an emergency situation, make sure you develop a good food storage plan and make sure you have enough long-term food to make it through a prolonged crisis.

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  1. Great advice. The biscuits and gravy picture is a great SHTF prep food that we already eat and is part of our preps. It’s easy, it’s a great comfort food, very filling, and everything in the recipe is easy to store. My advice would be to think farmer food. Good ol down home cooking.

  2. Thank You for doing an article about what I think should be common sense but sadly isn’t. It all goes back to what I said about your Depression Era food ideas… Think about what your grands and greats used to eat. They worked from dawn to dusk and made sure to fuel their bodies accordingly. Heavy on the protein, heavy on the carbs., and know where and how to find FRESH… You body will need the vitamins a protein/carb meal lacks and the best place to find those is to figure out what grows and when in the ditches, curbs, and fence rows around you. If you are prepared for hunter/gatherer conditions, you’ve got a head start over many of your neighbors and passing that knowledge on is a pretty good bargaining tool too!

  3. May sound like a dumb question to some, but I grew up a city boy. All our edibles came from Albertson’s! We had a couple of fruit trees (which I would love to have back).

    So how do I find out what the wild edibles are or even what I can grow in the garden spaces I have in the backyard?

    • What ever books you decide on, make sure you have access to full-color pictures! My bible is my Encyclopedia of Herbs and Their Uses. Sure you can read a description, but if there is nobody around to guide you about what is edible there will be a lot of confusion if you don’t know EXACTLY what you are harvesting!

    • Since I started “prepping” I have made a point to buy as many “primitive skills” books as possible. Book will work without electricity!!! ASide from general interest stuff that I was already into before like charcuterie, curing meats, cheese making and apiary (bee keeping). I also started picking up gardening books, folk/herbal medicine guide specific to plants native/growing in my region and what not.

      Here is a quick list of book I consider must haves.
      Gardening When It Counts by Steve Solomon
      Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth
      Your Backyard Herb Garden by Smith
      The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman
      Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
      American Folk Medicine by Meyer
      The Homesteading Handbook by Gehring
      The Backyard Homestead by Madigan

      These are just the book I can recall off the top of my head. I also have wild edible guides for my region, canning and food storage, soap making….. hell I even have books on beer/wine making, home distilling of alcohol and essential oils and a book or two on tobacco curing.

      • Stalkingthe Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons is one of the most helpful books around for foraging wild foods. It has drawings, plant descriptions, how to use and store and recipes.

    • I have a book called “Survive Safely Anywhere” The SAS (Special Air Service) Survival manual by John Wiseman. The copyright date is 1986 however they can be found online. It is a 288 page guide with tips for every survival situation. It has color photos of poisonous & non poisonous plants, animals etc and tells you how to prepare them. Book has pics and goes over everything from making shelters, fire, food gathering, making traps and is a great collection to my SHTF kit.

  4. laughingbear: an idea is to get either a book on eatible plants or a survival manual. An example is dandelions.I have Your Farm in the City, US Army Survival Manual, SAS Survival, and Preppers Handbook to name a few books. All are helpful. As far as long term survival, a few ideas might be poultry and non hybrid seeds (grow your own vegetables and animals). The idea behind the MREs, freeze dried foode, etc, to me, is to give a person the time needed to grow your own. As for hunting, that could be very dangerous and very competitive. Anyone with a weapon will be out there shooting at anything that moves. Also, like anything else, even untrained personnel will get something so eventually an area will be hunted out of game. That’s why I advocate growing your own food, be it animals or plants. If you don’t have the area to grow the food, find a farmer or someone who has a flock of poultry or rabbits or a garden who will be willing to supply what is needed at a price.

  5. Another thing to consider is what does your food require to become edible? If you have freeze dried or dehydrated stores, you’ll need water to reconstitute them. That’s water that you have to have, in addition to whatever water supplies you have just for daily consumption (which should be no less than 1 gal/day). If you don’t have sufficient water stores, you’ll want to have something available to purify water that you might be able to find.

    Something else you have to take into consideration is quantities. I’ve talked to many people who have enough food, for their families (3-4 people) to last for only a few days. I’ve read many gov’t websites that say to have 3 days worth of food. But look at the Hurricane Katrina disaster. How long did it take FEMA to get food and water to the people in the Superdome? I’m not sure on the number, but I believe it was over a week. And that’s to the people who they knew where they were. What about the people who had stayed in their homes? They were on their own. Me personally I recommend no less that 1 (one) month’s supply of food. That’s at least two meals a day, for everyone in your party. The original article was correct too when it said to anticipate needing higher carb and protein intake. If you decide to “bug-in,” your work will be cut out for you trying to put things back together. If you decide to “bug-out,” you’ll be on the move, possibly without a vehicle at some point (gasoline only lasts so long). If you’re on foot, you’ll be burning through calories like they were nothing, and before you know it, you’re majorly malnourished.

    Another thing you’ll want to consider, is freeze-dried and dehydrated foods loose nutrients over time. So in addition to your food stores, keeping a supply of multi-vitamins available to take with each meal will help to provide some of the lost vitamins and minerals. Again, the original article was fairly accurate, that finding/growing your own produce would ultimately be a better option, as vitamins also start to lose potency after a while.

    Just a few thoughts to keep in mind, when accumulating your food stores.

    Best of luck.

  6. well hmmm…
    I live year round off grid, leaving once a year to resupply. I have electricity only for computer, phone, headlamps, and radio. no refrigeration. i feel like this article is WAY too short. you need buckets, and Diatomaceous earth to add to your grain storage to prevent the bugs that are in ALL bags of grain, from eating through grain and making it rancid. yes this happens in airtight barrels. you need dessicant if you live anywhere more humid than the desert. you need to do your homework on how long food stores before rancidity- rice is only 9 months, and i promise you wont want to eat that rice after 10 months. ( I just finished a bag, not yummy, even though it was organic brown rice in airtight bucket) you need WAY more oil than you think, and oil is expensive and you have to find stuff that doesn’t go rancid- coconut is best. you need seeds more than anything, because you will hate not having onions to add to your rice, so you better start getting the garden going. and then come the tools: good (more expensive) grain grinders are worth the extra money, they can be 15x more efficient than cheap ones. my first grain grinder was 180 dollars (retzl brand) and it took me 1 hour to grind just 4 cups flour! dont plan on just buying flour because at room temperature its rancid in a week! you need whole grains for storage. and whole grains are cheaper than rolled/steel cut/ ground grains. a grain roller to roll your oats, a nut cracker to crack your nuts because they go rancid in weeks if they are out of the shell, and its all about freshness. you CAN start out with a small financial investment, but dont just get bags of food. i plan a simple meal i could eat for weeks:
    brown rice
    dried shiitake mushrooms
    sundried tomatoes in olive oil
    dried onions
    chicken broth

    cook rice in chick broth, soak onion and mushrooms in h20 10 minutes, then cook in ghee (or whatever oil you have), mince sundried tomatoes, add garlic powder dried basil, dried oregano, yum!

    it took me over a year living off of my bulk food storage to figure out what NOT to buy.
    quick tips for economical and long lasting food storage

    stay away from all canned food, except I highly reccomend whole fat (not low fat) chicken broth, and tomato paste (we use that every day)

    buy large containers of dried herbs and seasonings, even if you dont particularly like certain seasonings, you will want them for recipes for variety
    buy dried mushrooms (costco cheap), dried chopped onions, sundried tomatoes in olive oil, artichoke hearts, olives, etc (all at costco) they will completely change a meal and last a really long time unopened in their jars.
    dont buy jams or sugary processed products, and only buy roasted salted nut butters- any other kind will go rancid faster
    consider buying smaller bags of milled products, not bulk, to protect them from rancidity: pancake mix, falafel mix, smaller individual packs of yeast because big ones will go bad quick once opened, etc
    raisins last really long, and are the cheapest dried fruit you can get bulk
    find a local bulk seller of honey, buying a 5 gallon bucket could be less than half the cost per lb than any smaller increments
    canned meat will not get you very far. it is extremely processed and does not even compare to fresh meat in its energy giving qualities (i hunt and can meat)
    you need water filtration above all, and a sun oven is best for super energy efficiency, but thats a bigger topic.
    i hope you can learn from my mistakes, living off of practically oatmeal for months on end, and realizing a lot of things are different when you actually live 100% off your food storage and are on a tight budget.

    protein, fat, and fresh nutrients (fresh fruit and veg) are the most difficult to come by for long term food storage. getting naturally pickled items (not vinegar pickled, only salt brined), and dried things will go a long way when living off rations. you either need chickens for eggs, need to be able to hunt/fish a lot, or need a freezer, b/c you will go nuts off just canned protein. get a gravity water filter (berkey is $250) and can filter 13000 gallons before replacing filters) and pressure cooker to use less propane for cooking grains. hope this helps.

    • Wow… I never even thought of half that. would love to hear more. Do you have a web site that I could check out?

    • Found your comments on “off grid survival . com” and really appreciate the information. THANK YOU
      Unfortunately, I wound up on a gated golf community..never thought that would happen to me. I always saw myself on the 65 acre farm milking cows and plucking chickens…boy what a difference. I am preparing the best I can with freeze dried, water, water stabilizer, water filter, fuel, bio-dome garden, heirloom seeds, medical (first aid) supplies, solar cooking and the normal list of things.
      Any words of wisdom for a small town (trapped) person like me???
      Again. THANK YOU

      • Suggestion to Trapped:
        Make Friends (preferably those out of town, reachable and prepared) and develop/nurture a necessary skill. No one will survive totally alone, you/all of us, will eventually need a support team, so build one early.

    • Where do you live that flour goes bad in a week???? Ive had the same bag open in my cupboard for about 3 months and still works tastes, breaks down, bakes and cooks just fine

  7. I also suggest doing a 2-4 week mini “bug in” every year or so. Nothing major. Just don’t go to the store for food. This is a pretty good measure of how well stocked you are and how you are going to fair having to live off that stock in a true emergency/SHTF situation. It’s also a good way to keep your stores rotated. 2 weeks is enough time for you to run through your meal options and will help bring to light what you are going to be sick of in a hurry in a real situation. I know people say “I’ll eat it if I have to”….. but the last thing you need in a situation is to be depressed over your crappy meal options.

    • I use Wise foods they are pretty good i ordered a the 72 hour kits to try them, i liked them. They are no more expensive then any other kits out there.

  8. Maybe I missed something, but OMG please post the recipe for those biscuits and gravy! It looks amazing!!!

  9. Good points. It doesn’t make sense to stock what you won’t eat. I’ve got some food storage info on my site, and gardening, too, and I do a weekly series on weeds, many of which are edible.

  10. I haven’t seen it on here, so might I suggest, meal replacement shakes and such. The shelf life is OK on most products. They advertise a meals worth of nutrients and stuff you need to keep going without the need to refridgerate before consumption. It also seems like the powders offered through some of the fitness and vitamin places would be easy to carry in a bug out bag and can be readily mixed with water, all while on the move, and without much prep. Any thoughts or feedback would be helpful, Especially if it’s been tried. Good luck.

    • I agree with Picky, I have started to prep and one of the things I had to focus on was my weight and I have been doing Herbalife Protein Meal Replacement Shakes and I agree they have a Good Shelf Life and require very little storage for a months worth of food. Has all the Vitamins and Nutrition you need. I have lost 65lbs on the products. I am on track to lose another 65lbs.

      Also a good note to mention if you are spending an average of $5 – $6 a meal, you could start to save money buy 20 – 60% per meal.

      • I also eat Herbalife shakes daily. Not only are they good tasting, but the shelf life of an unopened canister of Formula 1 Healthy Meal shake mix is reportedly 2 years. They are packed with nutrition and can definitely sustain a person if this is the only thing you have on store. However, my husband and I have been learning things like how to fish and hunt, what food we can gather in our area of the country, and how to garden in our backyard. Already having the knowledge and the tools to produce/gather renewable food stuffs will be invaluable in a SHTF scenario.

  11. One comment…NOW!!! If you don’t get the knowledge now & get out there & learn what you can & cannot eat BEFORE SHTF, you won’t care what it is as long as it fills your belly! You will likely kill yourself & your family, like I’m sure a lot of ‘city’ folk (not that they’ll all be from the city mind you) are gonna be doing when they run out of food there & they come looking for it in the woods (YOU’RE WOODS!!) I love my mushroom & wild edibles books & we ‘gather’ every year so we will know where it is when we need it. Also, by dehydrating in mass now, like mushrooms I find or poke I pressure can, then we won’t have to be out there with the ‘crazies’. Sorry so blunt, but let ’em all die off of starvation the first year. We have enough for that. When they’re gone, we won’t have to fight them for it & we’ll already know where the supplies are. We’re gonna have to play smarter than the next guy if we wanna survive, & the protection of god is going to go farther than any other plans you may make. God bless & good luck! Get studying!!!

  12. I have been prepping for a few years now. When I started out, I was convinced that to have a one or two year supply of food storage, most of it would have to be freeze-dried or dehydrated to last that long. I have several of those, but since then I have discovered that there are many everyday foods on grocery store shelves that have 2 or 3 year best-by-dates. That makes it possible to have even a two year supply of normal food for emergencies. I studied the dates and created and developed a Microsoft Excel document that uses multiple worksheets to track every best-by-date of the food I have stored. There is an additional worksheet that tracks your water supply, but that was not of my creating as I found it online.
    I broke down all my foods into the five main food groups that can be found at MyPlate.gov for balanced nutrition. I used the 3,000 calorie per adult criteria from that website applied against my own food storage items to create my own daily adult calorie requirement. My adult daily calorie requirement is 2,858 calories, actually based on the foods I have stored, which equates to 95.3% of the MyPlate.gov recommended 3,000 calorie intake.
    I only calculate food storage for adult persons, so for each child in my family, I count them as one adult. That provides me with an additional calorie safety factor if you will, since a child doesn’t need as many calories, but kids do eventually grow into adults. I created my blog called Bob’s Practical Prepping in order to share what I have created with anyone would like to have a copy of it with no strings of any kind attached. Just request it by email to me. My email address is at my blog.
    I discuss how to select cans of food to buy, things about them that are beneficial such as whether or not the cans of a particular product are stackable by interlocking with each other. That can make a big difference for you in that they are much more difficult to get shaken off or even knocked off a shelf because they fit like sockets.
    The latest thing I am contemplating is replacing the “Dairy Group” with a new group called “Calcium Sources”. I have found that dairy products are exceedingly difficult to store in adequate quantities. Consequently, I look for long shelf life high calcium foods BUT the serving size must be whatever is equivalent to one serving of dairy. That way I am sure we are getting the necessary calcium intake. I’m trying to find a good selection of sources of calcium other than beans because for beans to provide the equivalent of one serving of dairy, you usually have to eat three cupfuls of them! But, the other side of that coin is that if you eat that many beans for your calcium, you aren’t going to be hungry!
    I invite everyone to visit my blog and see if the information there is helpful to you in your prepping adventures. You will find good information there for beginning or experienced preppers.

  13. Everything I have read thus far has said that white rice and beans if properly stored would last for 20-30 years. Are you saying that is not so?

    • Brenda, if you’re addressing that question to me, Bob Hotaling, then the answer to your question is no, I am not saying that. I, myself, currently have two to three hundred pounds of rice and various beans vacuum packed in quart jars and also some in 5 gallon buckets with O2 absorbers. I’m just saying that one’s diet doesn’t have to consist of beans and rice or freeze-dried or dehydrated foods right from the start of a bad event. Our normal grocery stores have a wide variety of foods that have a multi-year shelf life. Knowing that ahead of time, you can accumulate a great variety of normal grocery store foods before an event happens where you need your real emergency foods (beans and rice). I use my spreadsheets to simply keep track of what I have, what I use, and what I need to replace when I go grocery shopping. I use my food storage almost every day, so worrying about rotation isn’t even an issue. The long term stored beans and rice I leave alone until it is necessary to tap into it. I’m easily expecting them to last 25 to 30 years. In order to promote long shelf life, I keep my foods stored in an air conditioned room, just because I happen to have the space. If I didn’t have that, it would be in Rubbermaid totes under the beds, in closets, and even under stairways within my living space, as that has normal temperatures throughout, unlike a garage or attic.
      Have a great day!

  14. our society can not do without, it has been so accustomed to instant gratification that people cant go without. it is sad. I have been deployed 2 times to Irag and 1 time to Afghanistan, and i understand what GOING WITHOUT means, like NO A/C or running water. But our society will never be able to go without, as you can see we have a McDonalds and Starbucks on every corner of every city.

  15. slowly but surely getting survival/preparedness storage and items put together to be ready for that time of need, when all hell breaks loose and SHTF.

  16. One thing about storing dried anything…if you don’t have oxygen absorbers you’re flirting with spoilage. I had 3-5 gallon buckets of pinto, black & navy beans (respectively) go moldy in 2 years. They were in 2# plastic SEALED bags inside the buckets (the same buckets that kept rice krispies crunchy for 3 years). If you’re investing the $ to store food research & cover the bases. VERY SAD DAY to throw food away.

  17. Plenty of great ideas. Here’s another, there is a home version of a freeze dryer for about 2500.00 I can’t remember the name but will post it when I find it. Freeze dried food lasts for a very long time. Just add a little water and it tastes just like fresh.

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