How Much Food Do You Need? Food Storage Calculator

Trying to guess how much food you’ll need for meals next week is a pretty daunting task, so can you imagine what it is like to calculate how much food you need for a month, a year, or even three years? I’m going to introduce you to a few methods of determining your long-term food storage needs. This is just an introduction as I won’t be laying out menus or recipes for you (there are tons of sites I’ll drop down in the references for you below), but I will help you walk through getting a handle on just what you need to know.

Food storage calculator. How much food will we need?

Ways to Calculate Your Food Storage

There are many different ways that you can use to determine what you need for your long-term food storage needs, and I’m going to share the two easiest ones with you here. Both require some time and patience to implement and both can be adapted to meet your family’s needs.

1. Track Your Meals to Know How Much Food You Need

This method allows you to track what you eat already, then break it down by ingredients and track over the number of months you want to stock for. It can be made specifically for your exact needs.

Here’s the idea: We’ll take this a step at a time to make it easy, but you’ll find that it comes quickly once you get the ball rolling. If you were ever a once-month freezer cook, you’ll recognize this method.

  1. Take your family’s favorite meal.
  2. Write out the recipe X 12 (that’s a year’s worth of that meal if you have it once a month).
  3. Buy enough of that product to stock your pantry for the year for that meal.
  4. Do it again for the next meal.

You can get a fuller explanation of how it works with my Build a Better Pantry Challenge.

Pro: It is specific to your family’s needs – whether dietary or simply food preference issues.

Con: It can be too narrow for the long term. If you do it based on only one week or one month, your food changes throughout the year, and you need to be proactive about making sure you have the variety for the long term.

2. Use a Food Storage Calculator to Know How Much Food You Need

Food Storage Calculators are meant to be quick and easy plug-in tools to help you figure out exactly what you’ll need for a family over a course of time:

Number of family members X Basic ingredients to make most meals = What you need to store

It breaks down food into its most basic ingredients and gives you an idea of how much you need to store over a period of time to make just about anything basic meals you need to make for your family.

There is a variety of them available, either from self-reliant groups, food storage blogs, or long-term food storage companies. I would recommend these two:

Pro: Quick and easy and relatively complete for a broad, generic diet. And it’s already done for you!

Con: It can be daunting to look at, and it is generic, so if you have special dietary needs, you’ll need to be aware of them and adjust accordingly. You’ll also need to learn a new way to cook if you don’t already cook from scratch.

Note: Neither calculator is the last word. You may find things on it that you’ve never ever used in a million years and don’t plan to for a million more. Or, you’ll find that their recommendation is so low for you that it’s almost like you’ll never have it in stock. Use it as a guide – not a commandment. Increase what you know you need to increase (water), and delete the things you don’t need (but be sure to replace it with something similar for calories as well as substitutions). Make it work for you and your family.

How Much Food Storage Should I Have?

So, about that daunting thing.

Either method feels daunting, time-consuming, and virtually impossible to tackle. But I promise you, they aren’t. They do take some time and some planning, but this is not a race we’re in, it’s a long-term change in how we store food for our family. Do not expect to be able to do this in 2 hours and be completely prepared.

You can use the above-listed food calculators to get an idea of the minimum food storage recommended. Remember, these are the basic minimums. Their water recommendations don’t include what you’ll need to clean with, reconstitute food with or cook food in, etc.

The bare minimum recommendation is 1 gal. of water per person per day, but you’ll need to plan to store more and make plans on how to acquire more in the event of an emergency.

The problem is that if you’re not a cook who tends to cook from scratch, but does from more prepared ingredients, all these ‘raw’ ingredients sitting in your pantry and long-term food storage begin to just overwhelm you!

And unless you are prepared to jump in with both hands, both feet, and your head plus a full kitchen of tools, you’re probably going to quit before you even get through your first week.

How much food will we need?! And how am I supposed to cook all that?! An intro into food storage calculators at

Calculate Your Food Storage with 2 Easy Steps

First Step

Use the Track Your Meals method. This will allow you to get as particular about your ingredients as you need to be, while still keeping with storing food for your family.

So let’s take the example of Spaghetti & Meatballs. It’s a fairly quick and easy meal. It can be as few as 3 ingredients: 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 1 package of noodles, and a meal-sized portion of pre-made, frozen meatballs.

So in your calculations, instead of the individual ingredients to make noodles from scratch, spaghetti sauce from scratch, or even making meatballs from scratch, plan your pantry for those 3 ingredients X how many weeks/months/years you want to stock for.

Second Step

You want to begin to move away from relying only on prepackaged foods because it’s more expensive and less healthy. But to move to a completely from scratch lifestyle is really difficult unless you are all in.

So here is my suggestion to begin making that transition: Pick up a few food storage cookbooks and find a few blogs that concentrate on learning to cook with food storage or from scratch. Begin to replace your premade foods with recipes where you can learn to do them yourself.

Pick a few really easy things at first, like pancake mix. You may LOVE pancakes and love the convenience of just buying the box every month, but did you know that you can store the raw ingredients for it and make it from scratch in no time at all? And you can even pre-make a mix and store it on its own if that’s more helpful for you! Try this mix from Alton Brown which is our favorite right now.

Brownies are another perfectly easy thing to buy in a box and just make. But did you know it’s also super easy to make from your food storage as well as create the mix in bulk to have available whenever you have a craving?

Calculate Your Storage Like a Pro

Want to go a step further?

  • Learn how to make noodles. Not only do you no longer have to store those bulky boxes of pasta noodles but can you store enough of the ingredients to make your own on your pantry shelves.
  • The meatballs? Either learn to make your own and freeze your own or substitute them with freeze-dried ground beef. It will be a little different having it in the sauce as opposed to meatballs, but it’s a great alternative. And the sauce? Maybe that’s Step 2.5. Buy in bulk, in season, and can your own!
  • Meals in jars are also a great way to begin building a from-scratch pantry that can help you develop a mindset of cooking from scratch but still saving loads of time that those prepackaged foods save you.
  • It’s easy to begin to switch out foods like this a little at a time than trying to go completely all-in unless you are determined to make that full change right now (and your family needs to be all in for support, too!)

Final Advice to Help You Calculate Your Storage

As you begin to store enough of the individual ingredients, plus develop the skill to make the dishes on your own without the help of the store-bought mixes, you can stop buying the premade and just rotate through those until they are gone. Or, donate them to a food pantry in your area!

Don’t be afraid. You can do this. Really, you can!

Recommended Resources:

Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival: The Essential Guide...
  • Paskett, Angela (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 208 Pages - 05/07/2014 (Publication Date) - Krause Publications (Publisher)

The Prepper's Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Pennington, Tess (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

I Can't Believe It's Food Storage
  • Crystal Godfrey (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 182 Pages - 04/15/2009 (Publication Date) - Brigham Distributing (Publisher)

Feasting on Food Storage: Delicious and Healthy Recipes for Everyday...
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Merrill, Jane P. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Cooking with Food Storage Made Easy
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Debbie G. Harman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

The Meals in a Jar Handbook: Gourmet Food Storage Made Easy
  • Hardcover Book
  • Stephanie Petersen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Note: Some of these blogs will be using recipes that will use food storage from a big company or two. Don’t focus on that, but focus on how you can use YOUR food storage in these recipes, whether you do purchase from a big food storage company or make your own, etc.

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Katy Willis is a writer, lifelong homesteader, and master herbalist, master gardener, and canine nutritionist. Katy is a preparedness expert and modern homesteader practicing everyday preparedness, sustainability, and a holistic lifestyle.

She knows how important it is to be prepared for whatever life throws at you, because you just never know what's coming. And preparedness helps you give your family the best chance to thrive in any situation.

Katy is passionate about living naturally, growing food, keeping livestock, foraging, and making and using herbal remedies. Katy is an experienced herbalist and a member of the CMA (Complementary Medical Association).

Her preparedness skills go beyond just being "ready", she's ready to survive the initial disaster, and thrive afterward, too. She grows 100% organic food on roughly 15 acres and raises goats, chickens, and ducks. She also lovingly tends her orchard, where she grows many different fruit trees. And, because she likes to know exactly what she's feeding her family, she's a seasoned from-scratch cook and gluten-free baker.

Katy teaches foraging and environmental education classes, too, including self-sufficient living, modern homesteading, seed saving, and organic vegetable gardening.

Katy helps others learn forgotten skills, including basic survival skills and self-reliance.

She's been published on sites such as MSN, Angi, Home Advisor, Family Handyman, Wealth of Geeks, Readers Digest, and more.

Last update on 2024-04-23 at 17:29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

1 thought on “How Much Food Do You Need? Food Storage Calculator”

  1. Once you learn to cook from scratch, you will find that it is really simple and easy. Just start with simple things and work your way up. Some of the older cookbooks from the 1950’s and 1960’s are very helpful and explain a lot of what you will be learning.
    You can also pre-cook rice and pasta, meats, veggies, etc., and bag them and store them in the freezer until ready to use. It saves you a step when you are preparing your meal so you can concentrate on the other preps. And you can freeze leftovers to have on hand when you don’t have the time to cook a full meal.
    If possible, find a good cook to teach you how to cook. Our mothers and grandmothers used to teach the children at a very young age but you can learn at any age. There are also excellent online videos to demonstrate techniques.


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