Thursday, July 4, 2019

Calories and Recommended Food Storage Amounts

"Store what you eat, and eat what you store" sounds good and reasonable.  Unfortunately, it's not so practical unless you never eat out and plan on the grocery store always being there to meet your needs for your baked goods, dairy products, and convenience foods.  But it sounds good on paper.
As preppers, we take self-reliance seriously, sometimes to the extent that we aren't willing even to entertain thoughts from experts in their fields.  Well, sure, you might go and buy this device because so-and-so recommended it, or learn that skill because it will always be in demand, and buy a zillion widgets so you have them for barter.  However, when it comes to food, for so many people good sense and reason fly right out the window.

For over a hundred years, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have counseled their members to prepare for difficult times, whether personal or community- or nationwide, by having on hand at least a year's supply of food.  For those who wonder, only about 3-5% of Church members actually do this, and in my observation, I think that number is very generous.  I've posted before about the recommended amounts, but for quick review, here they are:
  • Grains, 400 lbs; 
  • Sugars, 60 lbs; 
  • Legumes, 60 lbs; 
  • Oils, 20 lbs; 
  • Milk, 15 lbs; 
  • Salt, 10 lbs.  
This is for one person for one year and provides a minimal number of calories.  Using this as a guideline for your storage, you will be hungry most of the time.  There is no allowance for waste if you burned dinner, or for being able to throw the flour away if you got bugs in it.  Or for throwing the milk away because you didn't store it properly and now it tastes bad.
So here you have very accomplished, well-educated individuals, many of whom are very well-versed in the amounts and kinds of food needed to sustain life.  Yes, the Church does have food for sale, so perhaps they have an agenda in wanting people to buy more.  Except that the food they sell in the Home Storage Centers costs far less than what is sold in grocery stores, so there's no profit motive for them.  They just want people to be prepared.  The storage amounts are already pretty low, and yet so many decide they know better than the experts and decide to store less.

And to be fair, while they are the experts on food storage in general, you are the expert on you.  And that needs to be considered as well.   Allergies and sensitivities to certain foods must be considered, as well as likes and dislikes.  If you've lived your life on convenience foods and garbage, the transition to whole wheat and beans may be a little rough.  Which is why the Church counsels their members to also have a three-month supply of foods they normally eat.

So even among those who claim to be prepared, there are very many who refuse to store what's needed. "We'll never eat that much (fill in the blank)." And they're right, as long as society holds together and we have grocery stores and restaurants, they never will.  If they are asked how often they buy salt or sugar or oil, they won't be able to answer because it's so infrequent.  Most families can make a salt container last a year or more.  They don't make cookies from scratch or deep fry any foods, so the sugar and oil last a long time, too.

But after TEOTWAWKI hits, it's going to be an entirely different affair.  Here's why:
  • Baking and cooking from scratch.  A lot of salt is used in making bread and in cooking beans.  Bread also uses quite a bit of oil, and oil is used to saute otherwise unpalatable foods into something tasty.  Sugar will also be used a whole lot more.  Bear in mind that Americans today consume well over 100 pounds of sugar per year.  Subtracting 40 pounds per year is subtracting a lot of calories.  TEOTWAWKI is not the time to plan on losing weight.  That's going to happen regardless of what we do.
  • And just what, exactly, is the big deal about these surplus calories?  Well, for one, calories are needed to maintain body temperature.  As was noted in the post on the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, the volunteers needed extra blankets, even in the summer, to keep warm.  The needs will be substantially greater in winter.
  • During TEOTWAWKI, if we're just going to be lounging about all day, perhaps not so many calories will be needed.  Lounging around has a nice ring to it, but it's probably best to plan on becoming much more active.  Can you imagine asking a teenage boy to spend the day in heavy labor and then tell him he's going to have only 2,000 calories for the day?  That's not going to go over very well.
  • Without adequate calories, our ability to work well with others is drastically diminished.  The Minnesota Starvation Experiment volunteers thought only about food all the time.  Even the most extroverted of them became introverts who lacked the patience to work well with others.  Some had to drop out of college because they could no longer think clearly.  And these were people who could have dropped out of the experiment at any time and ended the suffering.  I've got a wedding coming up in two months and feel the need to shed 10-15 pounds.  It should be quite doable.  And yet I am irritable with my family at a time when they and I know I can end it at any time and grab something to eat.  How significantly worse will it be when people do not know where their next meal is coming from?  That will be bad.
Now back to not listening to the experts in food storage.  Those amounts are calculated to provide for basic nutritional and health needs.  So what happens when the more enlightened individuals decide they just won't eat that much sugar?  Have they calculated how many calories are in sugar?  How many buckets of wheat and beans it will take to compensate for the calories lost in storing less sugar?  With sugar, you're really only compensating for the loss in calories.  But what about oil?  Yes, there are a lot of calories in oil, but oil also provides the fat necessary for our bodies to function properly.  Cut back too much on the fat and you're in for some serious mental and physical problems.

And as for salt, well, people had better stick with the recommended minimums for that as well.  Iodized salt prevents mental retardation in children and prevents diminished mental capacity in adults as well.  Our bodies need iodine.  Our bodies also need sodium. Without adequate levels, we are going to have problems.

Links to related posts:
Minnesota Starvation Experiment
Overview of Long Term Food Storage  

© 2019,


  1. I looked up the calorie contents of the above foods.
    Based on those I would normally choose to store I wound up with an approximate year total of 1,025,000 calories. (Other choices would yield slightly greater or lesser totals).

    Daily that works out to approximately 2800 calories.

    In a TEOTWAWKI world, I see us at the homestead without the use of draft animals. That means hands,feet, and strong backs to do the plowing and other hard work.

    In that world, 2,800 calories equals slow starvation.

    The Meal, Combat, Individual (C-rations) issued during Vietnam had somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 calories. SO if you were able to carry 3 per day and eat them you'd get between 3,600 and 4,200 calories a day. When you look at films and such taken of soldiers back then, how many look like they're on the thin side?
    A word to the wise, calories matter.