We all prep for different future scenarios. Some of us worry about losing our jobs. Others live in drought-stricken areas and put extra food back to see them through the next lean time. Some believe war is coming…there are almost as many reasons for preparing as there are people actually doing the deed. But the common thread is that many of us are working hard to build a prepper food supply to see us through an emergency.
Maybe you’ve been storing extra food for quite a while and feel confident that regardless of what the world throws at you, your family won’t starve. Your stuff is stored in the best conditions you can provide. It’s bagged and tagged, dated and rotated…what could possibly go wrong?
You aren’t going to like the answer.
In an all-out epic disaster, what would be a plentiful supply with our usual cushy lifestyles won’t go nearly as far to keep us well-fed. The increased energy requirements of your new lifestyle could mean that you need double or even triple the calories you are consuming now. Not only that, even the least nutrition-conscious among us have grown accustomed to instant access and a wide variety of foods that keep us fairly well nourished.
But luckily, there are some clever additions you can make now to help boost calories, nutrition, and variety.
What works now wouldn’t work after a massive collapse.
We all need a basic number of calories just to stay alive – this is called your Basal Metabolic Rate. But basing your food storage supply on this is an enormous mistake.
Most folks have purchased and stored based on the reality in which we currently exist. But post-collapse, we’d be living a very different reality. In my book, The Pantry Primer, I wrote about the need for more food than you think you require:
…it’s very important to remember that once you think you have a one year food supply, you should continue to build your pantry. Disasters don’t go by the books, and no formula can tell you how much you will need to eat. Stress increases your need for calories, and epic events are nothing if not stressful. Furthermore, you may be doing a lot more physical labor to produce food and repair structures, which will also increase your caloric need. A supply that would last for a year during non-eventful times will probably not stretch that far if you are completely reliant on your pantry.
A post-collapse lifestyle would be much more labor-intensive.
- Moving around on foot or by bicycle uses way more calories than driving a car or taking the train. A pedestrian reality could be the result of an economic collapse (no money for gasoline) or an event that takes out electronic components in engines, just to name two examples.
- What if you were responsible for providing your own food supply? It takes a lot more effort to grow vegetables, preserve them, to raise and butcher livestock, or to hunt than it does to make the trip to the grocery store.
- Providing your own heat is also calorie-intensive. Chopping wood increases the energy you need by thousands of calories per week over the current lifestyle of flicking a switch to turn on the central heating. Even if someone else provides the wood, you’ll still have to stack it, carry it in the house, and keep the fire going – which still requires more physical work than turning the thermostat dial.
So while you’re probably off to a good start, let’s look at some factors that may cause you to revisit your stockpiling plan.
Input needs to match output.
If you are at a healthful body weight, maintaining it boils down to one simple fact – the energy you take in needs to match the energy you expend going about your daily life. A deficit of 500 calories a day will mean you lose one pound of body fat a week – which is great for some of us and not so much for others.
So if you currently need 2000 calories a day to keep everything ticking over and to maintain your current weight but your new lifestyle means you will need 3000 calories a day by eating the 2000 calories you currently consume you are going to lose two pounds a week…every week.
While this might be nice for a while, for many people, it isn’t going to be nice on an ongoing basis. Not many people carry enough excess weight to be able to handle a loss like this on an ongoing basis. To put a real-life face on it, over the past year, the average weight loss of Venezuelans has been nearly 20 pounds. And if that’s the average, it means half of those people lost more than that.
And then there’s a lack of nutrients.
In addition, although you wouldn’t starve to death eating a diet of rice and pasta, you would reach a nutritional deficit in a short period of time. This could lead to depletion of vital vitamins and minerals, which in turn will lead to weakness, debility, and deficiency diseases that are rarely seen in the United States.
Don’t forget rabbit starvation. If you haven’t heard of that, it’s a term that was coined by Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, who took part in the ill-fated Greely Exploration in the late 1800s, during which only 6 of the 25 original explorers survived. Stefansson observed that those who ate only rabbit, a very lean meat, ate incessantly but were never satisfied, but those who ate fattier meats like moose, beaver, and fish were satiated. There have been many cases in which “rabbit starvation” – a diet that was absent of fat – was considered the most probable cause of death.
Fats will play an important part in a post-collapse diet. Having just over twice the calorific value of carbohydrates and proteins fats can add a calorific boost to diets that are deficient in the overall calories consumed.
So what should you add to your stockpile?
There are things you can add to your stockpile to help stave off the nutritional effects of a collapse for a bit longer. Most of these items will last a very long time if properly stored. These items can help to stave off malnutrition, starvation, and food fatigue in the event of a long-term situation in which our lives dramatically change.
The links below are to the products we keep in our own stockpile. Feel free to substitute with your own favorite brands or locally sourced items – this will give you a starting point if you are looking for high-quality choices.
- Vitamin and mineral supplements – get the best quality ones you can and store them optimally in a cool dark place.
- Nutritionally complete meal replacements – these are useful to have around if someone has been ill and is not yet able to return to a solid diet. While perhaps not the most “whole food” choice, they make a great addition to bug-out bags and backpacks as they have a high calorific value and are protein based. If you get the individual packets as a dry powder to mix with water they hardly add any weight to a pack.
- Dry milk – this adds protein in a shelf-stable format (as well as a sense of normalcy for kids – or grown-ups – who like cereal and chocolate milk.) I use this hormone-free brand – some of the less-expensive stuff that you can buy is from cows treated with growth hormones.
- Additional stored food – I like a combination of buckets of dehydrated food that take up little space in your stockpile and are already packaged for the long term along with #10 cans of healthy additions like fruits and vegetables. We also keep on hand some vegetable soup mixes, freeze-dried meats, and freeze-dried vegetables that can easily be added to other dishes for extra nutrients.
- Protein powder – An unflavored version can be added to all of those rice and pasta emergency dishes for a healthy dose of protein. This brand, while expensive, is completely free of additives and chemicals. We also stir it into creamy soups and mashed potatoes. Flavored protein powders can be added to water for a sweet beverage with some nutritional value. There are less expensive brands you can add instead, but be warned that they may contain chemicals, additives, HFCS, and fillers that some people will not wish to consume. “Gainers” are used by bodybuilders to get a lot of calories in one shot and can be used post-collapse for the same reason. This one adds 1600 calories per serving.
- Fats – I stock coconut oil by the gallon – literally. Not only does it last basically forever, it has about a million different uses. You can get “peanut powder“(assuming there are no allergies in the house) to add to shakes or baked goods for more healthy fat. The powder can be reconstituted with water in a 2:1 ratio. Also, if you raise animals for meat, be sure to render the fat for many future uses.
Take a look at the prepper food supply you have put back.
Factor in the extra calories that will be required during an emergency and look at the range of nutrients. You may discover, to your dismay, that you need to top up your supplies to cover the deficit. Of course, wouldn’t you rather find out now that you haven’t got enough than five minutes after the store shelves are stripped bare during the first two hours of a crisis?
Do you have any clever additions to your stockpile that others might not have considered? Share your ideas in the comments section below.