Are you ready? Whatever happens, are you ready to go feed and sustain your family and yourself? Have you used a food storage calculator to work out just what your family will need in case of an emergency?
For thousands of years, human beings have been very resilient, storing up food for bad weather, political upheaval, natural disaster, disease, or an economic disaster that could change everything, either locally, on a regional level, across our nation or worldwide. Yet in recent years, many among us have given up those smart habits in favor of buying all our food only when we need or want it. The average family only keeps about three days’ worth of food sitting at home.
It’s time to go back to being smart and prepared, and using a food storage calculator is your first step to getting there.
Why Should We Store Food?
Imagine any of these scenarios (as unpleasant as they all are to consider):
- Weather Events: A massive snowstorm, hurricane, flood, or another weather disaster strikes, taking out roads and making it impossible for you to leave your home for days or even weeks. Meanwhile, you’ve lost power, so your fridge and freezer don’t work and you can’t use the microwave, oven, or slow cooker.
- Disaster: There is an earthquake. Infrastructure damage shuts down most stores and basic services. Any functional grocery stores have only about enough food in stock to take care of the demand for a few days, and the first people to get there take everything they can purchase and carry.
- Political Chaos: Instead of a peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another, as we have come to expect, one day enough people refuse to accept a President-elect and chaos erupts. In the upheaval, the currency rapidly devalues and inflation rises. Your buying power is cut by 75% overnight, and there is rioting and looting while basic services become unavailable.
- Disease: A super-flu of viruses hits that we are not equipped to address. Modern transportation methods spread it quickly everywhere, and now even going out to the grocery store becomes a health risk as authorities struggle to lay down quarantine protocols and get the situation under control.
- War: Wars happen, and when they do, civilians always suffer. Even if you stay out of the line of fire and explosives, the prices of everything, including food, skyrocket as availability drops.
We’re Even More Vulnerable Than Our Ancestors
We can all take precautions too far and become needlessly paranoid. But we can’t deny that events like those listed above have happened throughout human history, and it would be naïve to assume that our lives will somehow always go on undisturbed.
Our ancestors were mindful that disastrous change was always a possibility, and they were much better prepared to survive it than many of us are today. They knew how to hunt, fish, and live off the land in ways few people do today. They were not dependent on refrigeration and an uninterrupted supply chain to ensure that grocery stores were always open and fully stocked. Being prepared doesn’t amount to paranoia. In fact, when you do it right it’s the wisest course of action.
What Is a Food Storage Calculator?
A food storage calculator is simply a means of figuring out how much food, of what types, you’ll need to put away to feed a certain number of people for a defined amount of time.
There are many food storage calculators online, or you can make your own if you have the knowledge and want to put in the time. The benefit of doing one on your own is that you can take into account your own family’s particular needs and preferences, but any food storage calculator is far better than none.
Working with Online Food Storage Calculators
If you choose an online calculator, there are several sites you can work from. Here are two we appreciate:
To use these calculators, you’ll just need to input the number of people you’re feeding, their ages, and perhaps a few other pieces of data. These calculators will typically default to a year’s worth of food storage. That’s because most prep experts recommend that families have a year’s worth of food in storage. If you decide to store less, simply divide the values your food storage calculator gives you by 12 and you’ll have what you need for a month, for example.
A Few Caveats
There’s something you need to bear in mind: these food calculators are extremely (and necessarily) very general in nature. They assume the same caloric needs for males and females and for people of various sizes. They essentially treat everyone age seven and older the same in terms of caloric needs. It isn’t practical for them to take into consideration what items might be more or less expensive where you live.
How to Make a Storage Calculator Fit Your Family’s Needs
You can make a food storage calculator work better for you by tweaking some things to personalize your results. Here are some ideas for doing just that.
Don’t Feel Compelled to Follow the Calculator Precisely
Don’t buy things your family hates. In some cases, they won’t want to eat such items after a disaster much more than they do now. Find a substitute that they will eat and tolerate better. For instance, just because the calculator suggests you need 8 pounds of corn syrup doesn’t mean you really do: no one NEEDS corn syrup, to be honest. You can do just as well with more honey, jam, or even just sugar.
Be Sure to Account for Allergies when Using a Food Storage Calculator
Go ahead and get gluten-free oats if you have someone with an allergy to gluten. Find a substitute for peanut butter to accommodate a family member’s nut allergy. Just make your plan and devise ways to deal with those allergies now, while you have time, instead of panicking later.
Consider Seasoning when Using a Food Storage Calculator
The food storage calculators available online don’t take into consideration herbs or seasonings, but some of these keep well and make all the difference between bland, boring food and tasty food. Get some of the seasonings your family likes best and add them to your storage allotment.
Get Recipes Now
If you’re looking at the results of your food storage calculator’s calculations and thinking, “What on earth are we going to do with 36 cans of evaporated milk?”, then it’s time to work on learning how to use and prepare your storage ingredients right now.
How to Make Your Own Food Storage Calculator
If you prefer to design your own calculator from scratch, you certainly can. In some ways, this might be even smarter than relying on generic calculations.
1. Know Your Calculations
The first step is to know how much everyone needs to eat. The average man will need 2,400 calories a day if sedentary and up to 3,000 if active. For adult women, those numbers are typically 1,900 to 2,500. For children (up to about 100 pounds or so), reasonable calculations to use are 2,100 to 2.500 calories.
2. Know Your Nutrients
It’s not just a matter of having enough calories for everyone, though in a pinch almost any food will keep you alive for a while. It’s also smart to plan for food that covers the three essential macronutrient basics: protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
Without sufficient protein, your body will not be able to maintain or build muscle. While there is the significant protein content in beans, legumes, and nuts, the human body metabolizes protein best from animal sources. Because fat goes rancid, any protein source with fat in it can only be stored for so long, so a few good, long-term protein sources to consider include nut butter, powdered milk, and jerky.
Healthy fats are essential for brain function, the nervous system, and even proper hormone production. Fats are also filling, and when you’re trying to make food supplies stretch, fat really helps! The difficulty in storage is keeping fat from going rancid. The easiest fats to store, like seed oils, aren’t the healthiest choices.
Instead of butter, use ghee (clarified butter) which can last a year in storage. Tallow and lard can also last a long time, but avoid shortening as it is full of trans-fats. Coconut oil, if virgin and cold-pressed, will also last. Olive oil will last a while, too, but it will go bad quickly if exposed to too much heat.
Carbohydrates are the cheapest and easiest foods to store, but they are also the least nutritious and least satisfying foods in the long run. They are temporarily filling, but refined carbs tend to spike blood sugar and make you feel hungrier later.
Stick mostly to whole grains, legumes dry fruits, and vegetable sources of carbs that store for a long time, like potatoes and sweet potatoes. Avoid storing too much pasta, flour, or any kind of refined grain. Minimize your intake of sugar and corn syrup, giving preference to honey.
3. Know What Doesn’t Store Well
There are some foods that you don’t want to store for the long term. They’re just not likely to make it. Here are three to avoid:
- Milled grain other than rolled oats (which will go rancid)
- Brown sugar (too moist)
- Grains and nuts that are oily
4. Develop a Spreadsheet
By using a spreadsheet, you can build your own food storage calculator that accurately reflects your family’s needs, finances, and preferences. You can make your own or use one of those available online, such as this one:
Try Using a Food Storage Calculator!
When things go incredibly wrong where you live, you could be on your own, at least for a while. It’s your responsibility to be prepared: so why not give yourself some peace of mind and use a food storage calculator to make sure you have everything you need to be safe?