Most of the prepper sites – including ours – have plenty of posts on creating a stockpile for emergency food. The explanation is simple, of course; food is one of survival’s main necessities and if you don’t have enough to get you through a crisis you probably won’t survive. We look at every aspect of how to put together a useful food reserve on a tight budget, from incorporating home-preserved food in your stockpile to how.
Generally, we have a few goals in mind when looking at food stocks. The food you store obviously has to have a long life, or there’s not much point in storing it. It needs to meet your nutritional needs. Lastly, we usually seek a good mix of foods that will allow you to create interesting meals; that’s good for morale, and also encourages people to eat enough.
But let’s take another one-minute approach. What would you store if you were to set up an absolute bare minimum supply of food – a reserve that is stripped of the essentials necessary to keep you alive and healthy?
There are a few reasons you may want to do this. If you’re on a really tight budget, it could be difficult even for us to plan to build a food reserve by spending an extra $5 a week on groceries. Or what if you have identified several potential bug-out locations and want to store a minimal, but useful, reserve of food at each? It is just as basic as being short of storage space for a more diverse supply of foods.
What’s the Minimum?
When the S is totally HTF, it is important that you consume a diet that gives you the nutrients that your body requires. If you are able to meet the basic nutrient requirements which will provide you with energy and keep you reasonably healthy. Here’s what you need every day:
- Energy. The fastest and most dramatic type of malnutrition is a diet that does not contain enough nutrients. Even if you rest, your body needs energy – a lot of it. Two-thirds of the calories that you eat maintains your body temperature. If that falls too low, you are going to be dead in a matter of hours, so your body prioritizes seeking energy. When your diet doesn’t have enough, it begins to break down accumulated fat, muscle tissue and even internal organs so that it can turn them into energy. If you are a man, you need a bare minimum of 1,500 calories a day, and 1,200 if you are a woman. Even at this level you’ll lose weight, and if you’re working you’ll lose it faster, but it’s enough to stave off malnutrition for a couple of months.
- Protein. The body requires repairing and sustaining itself, and generating enzymes and hormones. Protein in food provides the building blocks for this – it can be used by your body to make the more complex proteins it needs. Without sufficient protein in your diet, you’ll quickly start feeling tired and weak. Your muscle mass will shrink and it will take longer for wounds to heal. To stay fit and healthy, try to get 20 percent of your total protein calories; that means 300 calories of protein a day for men and 240 for women for the bare minimum diet we’re looking at. Consider eating about one gram of protein a day for every two pounds you weigh – if you weigh 150 pounds for 75 g, or around three ounces, of protein.
- Fat. We’re all used to being told to cut back on how much food we consume, but some food is important. We need fatty acids but our bodies are unable to produce them, so they have to come from food. Fat is also a healthy source of energy but it can cause too many health problems. Aim for between 25% and 30% of your total fat calories – that’s 375-450 a day for men and 300-360 a day for women. There should be no more than a third of this coming from saturated fats.
- Fiber. Dietary fiber is important in a variety of ways for safety. It helps to avoid constipation, reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar. Females require about one ounce of fiber in their diet a day; men need about one and a half ounce.
- Sodium. This is another thing we’re constantly advised to reduce, but we need some sodium – it’s only around half a gram a day. Half a gram of sodium is around one gram of salt, and we usually get that and more from the food we consume. You’ll need to apply this to a bare-bones survival diet.
- Vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can destroy you in a number of horrible ways. The best way to get all the key nutrients you need is to eat a balanced diet with a good variety of fresh foods – quite the opposite of a minimal diet on survival.
Planning Your Diet
So, here are the key nutrients you need to survive:
How are you going to get all this from a simple, inexpensive and easily stored reserve? Well, it needs some careful planning – but it’s not impossible. Here’s how to do it.
The aim here is to find food that is affordable, rich in nutrients and well stored. This won’t be a varied and interesting diet – but it’s one that will keep you alive and healthy, and give you a base that can be supplemented with anything else you can grow, hunt or scavenge with.
Three prepper staples-pasta, rice and beans-are the core of this diet. These are ideal, because they are relatively cheap, good energy sources, and also provide a good amount of protein between them. You’re still going to need extra protein but most of it comes from these three.
Beans provide the most protein amongst the three staples. Therefore, the main meal will be a mixture of rice and beans every day. Eating these together gives your body a complete protein – all the amino acids that it needs. The other meal of the day would have a base of pasta.
This diet will still not give enough protein; it will include canned tuna in vegetable oil to boost its content, and add some flavor. Undrained, the oil will add extra calories – and also more dissolved Omega-6 fatty acids from the fish.
Extra oil adds more calories and more fatty acids.
This diet is based on two meals a day – it’s usually better to make the main one for lunch, because you have the strength to get through the afternoon, but you can do something that works for you.
The main meal consists of four ounces of rice combined with two ounces of beans, adding two tablespoons of oil. The second meal consists of four ounces of pasta with another spoonful of oil. Attach two ounces of canned tuna in oil and half a teaspoon of salt to your diet every day; these can be divided between the meals whatever you want.
Hopefully you can stock up pretty cheaply on the ingredients for this diet. Here is a breakdown of the price:
Let’s not think about water, at last. It is necessary alone – dehydration is easily and unpleasantly lethal – and you’ll even need it to cook and clean. The minimum you’ll need is one gallon per person per day, and if you can store two gallons that will give you a lot more flexibility. Note that water in a container will not last forever; microbes and other species must inevitably develop therein. You can slow down this process by adding a few drops of bleach per gallon, and water that gets contaminated can usually be purified again by filtering, boiling or chemical treatment, but if you regularly empty your containers, wash them out and refill them with clean water, you’ll save yourself some work in emergency.
That’s an incredibly monotonous diet. You will be bored with it within a few days, after a week or two, and totally sick of it. What you won’t be is actually getting sick. So long as you take a daily multivitamin tablet this diet will give you all the nutrients you need for weeks or even months to stay alive and relatively healthy.