Thursday, 23 March 2017

09:44 – It was 28.5F (-2C) when I took Colin out around 0715 this morning, with a slight breeze. Barbara got all of her errands run yesterday. She has a haircut appointment at 1030 this morning and will make a Costco run on her way home. She should be back by mid-afternoon.

Email the other day from another newbie prepper. I’ll call her Tiffany, but this time that really is her name. She and her husband are both in their early thirties. Both have decent jobs with reasonable job security. They have no children, and aren’t planning to have any. They live in a rural-ish area about 25 miles from the nearest town, which is about 30,000 population. She’s been reading my blog regularly for the last two or three years. They’ve been kind-of prepping for the last couple of years, but Tiffany calls their efforts hit-or-miss. When they think about it, they pick up an extra dozen cans of this or that at the Super Walmart, but she says they have only maybe a three-week supply of food. She wanted to know if I could send her a list to work from. She’d like to start by getting ready for a 3-month emergency.

They already have a good start on a lot of stuff. They have a woodstove upstairs that they could cook on if need be, as well as a fireplace with a woodburning insert downstairs. Their normal water supply is gravity-fed from a springhouse, with a 12V pump to pressurize their tank. That ordinarily runs from house current, but could easily be changed over to 12V battery power. Even without the pump, the gravity feed produces enough water pressure to provide water at the faucets and toilets. They have a decent first-aid kit. Her husband hunts and both of them shoot clays, so they have two shotguns as well as a bolt-action rifle and have accumulated a reasonable amount of ammunition suitable for self-defense. They have three dogs, which Tiffany says let them know any time anyone approaches the property. They have battery-operated LED lanterns and FLASHLIGHTS as well as several old oil lamps, with a good supply of batteries and lamp oil. The only thing she thinks they’re really short on is food.

So she asked me to assume that I was starting with no food and wanted to buy enough quickly to last two people for three months. What, specifically, would I buy? She says they’ll eventually expand that to six months and probably a year, but for now she just wants to make a serious start. So I replied as follows:

Hi, Tiffany

All of what I write below assumes that you’re feeding only two people for three months. I don’t know how big your dogs are, but I’d also store the same foods for them and in the same quantities you’d store for a person of equal weight. For example, if your three dogs weigh 50 pounds each, that’s the equivalent of one 150-pound adult.

Incidentally, the quantities listed below are going to sound huge, but they’re actually just adequate. Don’t forget, you want this food to hold you without outside resupply. You won’t be able to make your weekly supermarket run, nor will you be eating out, ordering takeout, and so on.

The main consideration is calories. Figure on at least 2,200 to 2,400 calories/day for yourself and 2,800 to 3,000 calories per day for your husband plus whatever you need for your dogs. Carbohydrates provide about 1,700 calories per dry pound, as do proteins (meat, beans, etc.). Oils and fats provide about 3,800 calories per pound. You need an adequate mix of all three for good nutrition. In addition to raw calories, all of the carbohydrates except sugars also contain significant amounts of protein—typically 10% to 15% by weight—but grain proteins are not “complete”. Supplementing grain proteins with meat and/or bean protein makes it complete.

I’d recommend that you start by buying adequate quantities of both bulk staples and canned goods, as well as some supplementary dehydrated items to cover you for three months. Try to get the following categories covered equally:

Carbohydrates – 180 to 210 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

You can mix this up however you like, but I’d recommend the following as a starting point. Adjust as you see fit, as long as the total is 180 to 210 pounds. All of these foods provide about 1,700 calories/pound.

60 to 75 pounds of pasta (macaroni, spaghetti, egg noodles, etc.)
48 to 60 pounds of white flour (for bread, biscuits, pancakes, thickening sauces, etc.)
30 to 50 pounds of rice (white rice stores forever; brown rice for five years or more)
30 to 60 pounds of white sugar (or honey, pancake syrup, etc.)
6 to 10 pounds of oats
6 to 10 pounds of corn meal

Adjust according to your own preferences. If you don’t plan to bake (which is a mistake) or make pancakes/waffles, you can get by with a lot less flour, but make up for it by weight with another carbohydrate. If you hate rice, don’t buy any, but again make up the weight with another carb.

Protein supplement – at least 15 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

Although all of the carbohydrates listed except sugar contain significant amounts of protein, it’s not complete protein because it lacks essential amino acids. You can get these missing amino acids by adding beans, legumes, eggs, meats, etc. to your storage. Beans are the cheapest way to do this, but most people prefer meat, eggs, etc. Note that canned wet beans should be counted as one fifth their weight in dry beans, so while 5 pounds of dry beans suffices for a month, if you’re buying, say, Bush’s Best Baked beans, you’d need 25 one-pound cans of them to equal the five pounds of dry beans.

We keep about 100 pounds of dry beans and lentils in stock for the 4.5 of us, but most of our supplementary protein is in the form of canned meats. Cans of chicken from Costco or Sam’s, Keystone Meats canned ground beef, beef chunks, pork, chicken, turkey, etc. You can order Keystone canned meats from Walmart on-line. A 28-ounce can of most of them costs just over $6. We order them in cases of 12 at a time. They also have 14.5-ounce cans, although they cost more per ounce. They might be better for you if you’re planning to feed only the two of you. Also consider the 12- to 16-ounce cans of meats like chicken, roast beef, ham, tuna, salmon, Spam, and so on. The actual shelf life of canned meats, like other canned foods, is indefinite assuming the can is undamaged. Keystone, for example, rates their canned meats at a 5-year shelf life, but in fact they will remain safe and nutritious for much, much longer.

Although the five pounds per person-month is a minimum, you’ll probably want more. For a three-month supply for the two of you, I’d buy 90 cans of meat, plus extra for your dogs. One can per day to split between/among you. That’s going to be the most expensive part of your LTS food purchases, at maybe $200 to $300 for 90 cans. If that’s more than you want to spend at one time, you can substitute dry beans pound for pound for some or all of the meats, at roughly $1 per pound.

Oils and Fats – at least 3 quarts/liters or 6 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

Oils and fats do gradually become rancid, but stored in their original bottles and kept in a cool, dark place they last for years without noticeably rancidity. Saturated fats (lard, shortening, etc.) store better than than unsaturated fats. Poly-unsaturated fats have the shortest shelf life.

We store a combination of liquid vegetable and olive oils, lard, shortening, etc. We also keep anything up to 40 pounds of butter in our large freezer. In a long term power outage, we’d clarify that by heating it and separating the butter solids from the clear butter, and then can the clear butter to preserve it.

For the two of you for three months, covering this requirement can be as simple as buying two 3-liter bottles of olive oil, lard, shortening, or another oil of your choice, or a mix of those. Plus whatever you need for your dogs, of course.

Dairy – at least 9 pounds dry milk per adult or dog equivalent

This amount is all for cooking/baking. If you want to drink milk, have it on cereal, etc. you’ll need more. You can buy non-fat dry milk already in #10 cans, or buy it in cardboard boxes from Walmart and repack it yourself. (There’s also a full-fat dry milk called Nestle Nido that’s sold in #10 cans and has a real-world shelf-life of at least a couple of years and probably much longer.) For instant non-fat dry milk, the cheapest option is the LDS on-line store, which sells a case of twelve 28-ounce bags (21 pounds total) for $46.50, or just over $2/pound. There’s a $3 flat shipping charge no matter how many cases you order. If I were you, I’d order a couple of cases. Just note that although LDS dry milk is fine for cooking and baking, it really sucks for drinking.

Another alternative is evaporated milk or sweetened condensed milk, although it’s mostly water so you’ll need to buy about five times as much by weight. For drinking or use on cereal, consider a milk substitute like Augason Farms Morning Moos (dumb name, but by all reports it’s the closest thing to real fresh milk). It comes in #10 cans and has a very long shelf life. It’s mostly non-fat dry milk, but with sugar and other ingredients that make the reconstituted stuff taste close to real milk.

Salt – at least 2 pounds per adult or dog equivalent

Buy iodized salt. Sam’s sells 4-pound boxes of Morton’s iodized table salt for about a buck each, so a three-month supply for one person is about $0.50 worth. The shelf life is infinite, so buy a lot. Repackage it in 1- or 2-liter soft drink bottles, canning jars, Mylar bags, or other moisture-proof containers. (You don’t need an oxygen absorber.) After extended storage, the salt may take on a very pale yellow cast. That’s normal. It’s caused by the potassium iodide used to iodize the salt oxidizing to elemental iodine. That’s harmless, does not affect the taste, and still provides the daily requirement of iodine (which the soil around here is very poor in).

Meal Extenders/Cooking Essentials (varies according to your situation)

You can survive on just beans, rice, oil, and salt, but the meals you can make with just those foods will get old after about one day. Even if you’ve stored a lot of canned meat, you should also store other items that add flavor and variety to your stored bulk foods, such as:

Herbs and spices – buy large Costco/Sam’s jars of the half-dozen or dozen herbs/spices (sperbs?) you like best. In sealed glass/plastic jars they maintain full flavor for many years. Your preferences probably differ from ours, but at a minimum I’d suggest: onion and garlic flakes/powder, cinnamon, thyme, parsley, dill, mustard, rosemary, pepper, cumin, etc.

Sauces and condiments – store your favorite sauces/condiments (or the ingredients to make them). We store spaghetti sauce, alfredo sauce, canned soups, ketchup, mustard, pancake syrup, etc. in quantity. Rather than storing barbecue sauce, we store bulk amounts of the ingredients to make it up on the fly. (See

Which brings up another issue. You need to plan your meals and figure out how much of what you’ll need to make them. For example, we intend to have a dinner based on that barbecue sauce once every three weeks, or 17 times a year. The recipe makes up a quart or so of sauce, which with a 28-ounce can of Keystone beef chunks or pork or chicken is enough to feed the 4.5 of us. (The buns are just part of our flour storage.) To know how much we’ll need to store to do that for a year in the absence of outside resupply, we just multiply everything by 17.

17 – 28-ounce cans of Keystone canned beef, pork, or chicken
25.5 cups (11+ pounds) of white sugar
25.5 Tbsp (12.75 fluid ounces) of molasses
25.5 cups (204 fluid ounces) of ketchup
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of prepared mustard
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of vinegar
8.5 cups (68 fluid ounces) of water
17 Tbsp (8.5 fluid ounces) of Worcestershire sauce
17 Tbsp (8.5 fluid ounces) of liquid smoke hickory sauce
34 tsp (77 grams or 2.7 ounces) of paprika
34 tsp (194 grams or 6.8 ounces) of salt
25.5 tsp (59 grams or 2.1 ounces) of black pepper

Cooking/Baking Essentials – varies according to your preferences

You’ll almost certainly want to bake bread, biscuits, etc., so keep at least a couple pounds of instant yeast (we use SAF). On the shelf, it’s good for at least a year. In the freezer, indefinitely. You’ll also want baking soda, baking powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, vinegar, lemon juice, vanilla extract—all of which keep indefinitely in their original sealed containers—and possibly things like chocolate chips, raisins and other dried fruits, jams and jellies, etc.

Multi-vitamin tablets/capsules – one per person/day

Contrary to popular opinion, fruits and vegetables aren’t necessary for a nutritious, balanced diet. Still, most people will want to keep a good supply of them. As usual for canned goods, canned fruits and vegetables last a long, long time. We buy cases of a dozen cans each at Costco or Sam’s of corn, green beans, peas, tomatoes, mixed fruit, pineapples, oranges, etc. (Note that pop-top aluminum cans are problematic. Where a traditional steel can will keep foods good indefinitely, the pop-top cans don’t seem to do as good a job. I recommend you stick to traditional cans, and of course that you have at least two manual can openers.)

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