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How to Avoid Starvation On A Budget

FoodStorage
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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Bobcat-Prepper.


When is the last time you missed a meal? I mean really had no food for, say, 12 hours? Like most of you, I have been well-fed my entire life, and the only time I ever missed a meal was when I was sick.

Reading the news about the continued flow of refugees from Syria to Europe got me thinking about how it would feel to go hungry post-disaster. It seemed a bit scary, and you know what they say about your fears – the best way to conquer it is to learn more about it, and be prepared for its arrival.

With that goal, I picked the modest challenge of skipping dinner tonight. Sounds easy, but it was no fun…

  • 4pm – Haven’t eaten for 4 hours. Thoughts of delicious Cheese Doodles drift through my mind.
  • 5pm – I feel a little light-headed, even though I’m just doing easy work around the house.
  • 6pm – Time to fix dinner for the wife and kids. I keep thinking I should taste the dishes as I make them, but I force myself away from the spoon. The distractions of mealtime help the time pass, although I am tempted to sneak a forkful of leftovers during cleanup.
  • 8pm – Drank two cups of hot tea to curb my hunger, got a little cranky as I helped the kids with their homework, and wrote this post.
  • 10pm – Bedtime. Nothing like the sweet escape of sleep to let the hours pass until I get to “break my fast” in the morning.
  • 8am (next morning) – I ate last night’s dinner leftovers with gusto. Life is good again.

Lesson #1: Being hungry sucks! I don’t want anyone in my family to go hungry.

Lesson #2: After reviewing our food inventory, we are not prepared to survive a large SHTF event.

GardenPlot

If our country’s electrical grid were to go dark due to cyberterrorism, an X-class solar storm hitting Earth, or an EMP strike from one of our country’s growing list of enemies, our whole industrial food production system would grind to a halt within a few days to a week. There is no telling how long it would take to restart, or if it could be restarted, and millions of Americans would die in the meantime.

I encourage all of you to skip a meal today, and see if a little personal experience with hunger motivates you to accelerate your food storage efforts, like I’ve planned below.

Food Storage Plan to avoid starvation

Here’s the worst-case scenario for food storage: Something bad happens in July or August of year #1, and the grocery stores are out of food in a hurry. With a lot of sweaty work, you could plant a huge garden by converting your whole yard, but by then it’s too late to plant corn or most other grains and have them grow to maturity. You would be unable to harvest substantial calories until October or November of year #2. To avoid starvation, you need to store 15-17 months of food and grow enough in year #2 to feed your whole family and account for barter, pestilence, and theft.

Do you have 15-17 months of food stored? I sure don’t, and that scares me!

Here’s the “cheapo” plan I came up with to boost our supplies to a safer level at a minimal cost. Your caloric needs, costs and storage needs may differ, but this will give you the outline to crunch the numbers yourself.

  • Daily Calories Needed – Using this age-gender chart, I found my family of four needs about 7,000 calories/day with moderate activity. That’s probably low, given all the wood-cutting, gardening, and water hauling that we would be doing post-disaster.
  • Total Calories Needed – calculate the additional calories needed to make it 17 months. Let’s say I have three months of food stored. I need at least 14 additional months, which would be 14x30x7,000 calories = 2.94 million calories – wow!
  • Pounds Needed – my bare-bones diet will be equal parts deer corn, rice and beans. Deer corn is perfectly edible for people, cheap, and can be used to plant if you have enough to eat. These grains can keep for years if kept cool and dry. The three items together will provide enough carbohydrates and protein, but this diet is low on fats. Gallons of frozen olive oil or cheaper vegetable oil can fill that role.

Corn

Corn has about 1600 calories/pound, rice has about 1500 calories/pound, and pinto beans have about 1100 calories/pound. The average of the three items is 1400 calories/pound.

Total number of pounds needed:

2.94 million calories/1400 calories/pound = 2100 pounds.

2100/3 = 700 pounds of corn, rice, and beans.

Food Storage Needed

Corn – Weighs about 5.8 pounds/gallon. 700 pounds/5.8 pounds/gallon = 121 gallons, about two 50-gallon drums plus 4 5-gallon pails, or 24 5-gallon pails.

Rice – Weighs about 7.6 pounds/gallon. 700 pounds/7.6 pounds/gallon = 92 gallons , about two 50-gallon drums, or 18 5-gallon pails.

Pinto beans – Weighs about 6.8 pounds/gallon. 700 pounds/6.8 pounds/gallon= 103 gallons, about two 50-gallon drums, or 20 5-gallon pails.

What does all this food storage cost?

All items bought at Wal-Mart, only the deer corn was taxed. If you have access to a Costco, Sam’s Club, or other bulk/discount store, you may be able to get better prices.

  • Corn – $6.39/40# = $.16/pound x 700 pounds = $112
  • Rice – $8.92/20# = $.446/pound x 700 pounds = $312
  • Pinto Beans – $16.32/20# = $.816/pound x 700 pounds = $571

Plastic Food-Grade Drums – These were obtained at the local soda bottling plant. They are air-tight, and I could use oxygen absorbers to keep the food fresh longer: $20 ea. X 6 = $160

Five Gallon Pails – $3 each at Lowe’s x 4= $12.

Total Cost = $1167   “Normal” canned food would cost $5000 or more for the same calories.

Daily Cost = $1167/(14 x 30) = $2.78/day for the whole family – what a bargain! It will be boring, but this diet will keep you alive. Pack an additional 20 pounds each of corn and beans to plant an acre-size garden, a large supply of various garden seeds, bottles of multi-vitamins, and with some foraging skills, your family won’t have to starve post-SHTF.

Now get busy! Please click on 5 stars below if you found my article helpful.

If you liked this article, please rate it.

  • Illini Warrior

    You need to add mylar bagging to both the 5 gallon and 30/50 gallon poly drums – 02 absorbers for sure …. when establishing a bulk dry foods you’re not going to be rotating this storage and it’ll be a lifetime “store & forget” cache ….eazy food insurance for 20-25-30 years ….

    • Bobcat-Prepper

      Great idea, I should have included it in the post.

  • Huples

    I planted potatoes and beans last week of July in Toronto as a test. Got about one third to half of the normal crop based on May planting. So plant away in July Year One. Saying that the article is dead right about large stocks of those foods but oil goes off fast. Consider coconut oil and nuts (black walnut) for the fats and grow kale and Swiss chard year two. You’ll have good crops by June. The trick is to go vegan now before you are forced to:-) It’s better for you and will be easier once the stores empty forever. I’m not convinced much wildlife beyond mice and rats will be around for long. Sprouting is also something all of us should have skills in and plentiful seeds available.

    • Kula Farmer

      The oil issue is one i have been trying to figure out.
      A piteiba oil press can expell oil in small batches from nuts and seeds, need a LOT of nuts and seeds to get a decent amount of oil though, so far sesame oil has proven the best for storing, doesnt seem to go rancid, olive oil, not so much.
      Am wondering if storing the oil containers in a 5 gallon bucket with liner and a few big oxy absorbers will extend life? The oxygen causes the oil to go rancid, so maybe if you seal it up and remove the o2 it may keep longer? Definitely worth a try

      • Poorman

        I buy Canola oil in 5 gl containers at Costco. I have had containers for over 6 months before I broke them up into gallon jugs and have had no problem with the oil. That means it has lasted at least 1 year before I have used the last of it. I have also had cans of Crisco that were over a year old that had no problems. They are stored in a closet that probably has an average temp of 70 deg. A little colder in the winter and a little warmer in the summer

  • Sideliner1950

    BP:

    Really good article with obvious merit and even some humor. Your analytical approach is one we can take “lessons” from.

    I especially enjoyed your brief “diary” a lot. It rings true, and it awakened distant memories and had me smiling and shaking my head to myself, because I’ve gone down the “diet journal” road a time or three!

    Couple of things…

    First:

    You write, “Gallons of frozen olive oil or cheaper vegetable oil can fill that role”…and your point is well-taken. Do you envision having to keep the unused oil frozen to last that long? In a grid-down situation that could be difficult, so what would your alternate choice be for fats not requiring refrigeration?

    And next:

    You write: “$20 ea. X 6 = $160″…

    I didn’t check the rest of your math, because your underlying numbers are probably right and this is most likely just a typo…but, if it’s not a typo, could this be another $40 you just saved?…If so, all the better! If not, as you point out, the cost savings are still significant compared with purchasing “normal” canned food.

    Really good stuff. Enjoyed it. Thanks.

    (PS…I’ve been enjoying this contest a lot. So much great info being shared, both in the articles themselves as well as the comments. Thanks for doing this for us, Pat.)

  • need coffee

    What about all the water needed to cook the beans and rice? What about a heat source? All the items you list are great and you put this together very well but these items take a lot of water.

    • Bolofia

      Great question, and I would like to get Bobcat’s opinion on this, as well. I did a rough calculation for the hypothetical family of four that Bobcat used, but added in the water needed for drinking and cleaning up cooking implements, since you wouldn’t want to wash pots or eating utensils in water that has live micro-organisms. My assumptions worked out to 5 gallons per day for food preparation, drinking and sanitation, so that’s 1825 gallons of potable water per year for a family of four. But, that is an absolute minimum.

      Unless you have your own well and the power required to pump water to the surface, you have to assume that 100% of the water that you would be consuming would require boiling or chemical treatment before it could be considered ‘safe’ to use. If you are boiling the water, it of course means that you must have a source of heat for more than just food preparation.

      Without a means of refrigeration (the grid is down, right?) this also means that you can only cook meals that will be immediately consumed – you cannot prepare several days worth of meals in advance without risking spoilage.

      My view (and I could easily be wrong) is that the most efficient fuel source will always be solar electric, followed by propane. Natural gas will not be available and any wood fuel that you can access will be quickly depleted. If you were relying on propane only for boiling water and food preparation, you would probably need 200 – 240 pounds of liquid propane per year, assuming that you do not live in a cold winter climate or at high elevation. The problem, of course, is that once the grid goes down you will not refilling the tank.

      I don’t know if this helps, but I hope it will start a dialog that adds useful expert information to your question.

      • Bobcat-Prepper

        Yes, water is as important a consideration as food storage. One should have plenty of it stored, as well as filters and disinfecting chemicals.

        Pat has covered this topic better than I ever could:
        http://www.theprepperjournal.com/2013/02/06/survival-basics-water/

        Soaking beans or grains before cooking can significantly reduce cooking time, and thus fuel needs; in a pinch one could probably just soak them until palatable.

  • Kula Farmer

    White rice is one of the main stays of my storage, easy to buy a few bags every few weeks, if over 80% of the world population can live on a cup of rice a day i figure its a safe bet it can keep me from starving too.
    We eat lots of rice anyway, and can use it in a lot of ways,
    Wheat is another thing iim heavy on, locally there is 0 production of any grains so i feel having the means to both grow out more grain from stored wheat berries as well as grind it to flour is an important food source. And potential barter good as well,

  • Defiant

    NOBODY needs to go hungry in America–even WITHOUT the lavish EBT program. Not only do schools feed needy children for free (yes…even dinner)…but said disadvantaged can go to any church, shelter, or food pantry to avoid starvation. Not to mention soup kitchens. Nobody starves in the USA–at least, they don’t have to.

    • I think you might be missing the point of the article Defiant. He said recent events “got me thinking about how it would feel to go hungry post-disaster.” It is highly likely that “post-disaster” none of the traditional sources of charity would be able to feed everyone affected by the disaster.

  • LWJ

    Personally I would tack on an extra 20 percent to your figures, to account for spoilage and wasted food.

  • BobW

    Nice thought provoking article.

    I like the idea of 4-6 big drums in the barn vice dozens of 5-gal pails stacked everywhere. I saw Illini mentioned mylar bags. Would you not want to pre-package the grains into meal/day sized sealed pouches that got nicely stacked inside the drums?

    The idea of opening your principal storage, exposing the stocks to air, dust, pollens, and vermin seems like a mistake. By sealing small packs of each food stuff, you would know your team isn’t over eating (draining resources), and better preserve the remaining stores in the event you get into year 2 without relief.

    One more idea. Assuming crops come to fruition, how are you going to preserve those stocks? Plans for rotating stocks? Failure to rotate would be doom. What about making little 1×4 based trays that dropped into the drums, stacking on each other so stores rotation could be done quickly and easily? A way of labeling each stockpile by age would be important to me.

    Just thinking about how to refine/improve the operation.

  • taylorcraftbc65

    It is coming, although no one knows exactly when. (I personally feel within 1 to five years). We are building a 40 foot sailboat, (I am an accomplished Carpenter, and have built 8 boats). The boat will be equipped with a 750 watt windmill, and around 500 watts of solar panels. It will also have a desalinator, and I was taught how to use a Sextant as a teenager, so the “death” of the satellites won’t bother my wife and I at all, (We have no children). Place several hundred pounds of rice, and salt on the boat, the salt for curing fish, and carry sufficient weapons and ammunition to keep what is ours, in our possession, and we will head for the South Pacific, where I used to live.