Your Guide to Survival Foods

Your Guide to Survival Foods

I understand the importance of being prepared for unexpected situations. With everything from natural disasters to supply chain disruptions becoming increasingly common, having a stockpile of survival food is a wise decision.

Brief History

The concept of survival foods has a long history. During World War II, soldiers carried K-rations, compact and shelf-stable meals designed to provide basic nutrition in harsh conditions.

In the post-war era, the focus shifted towards civilian preparedness. The Cold War saw a rise in the popularity of fallout shelters, often stocked with canned goods and dehydrated foods.

Today, the survival food market is more diverse than ever. There are options for every budget and dietary need, from long-term storage solutions to grab-and-go emergency kits.

Why Prepare? The State of Emergencies in the US

According to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI),In 2023, there were 28 weather and climate disasters, exceeding the previous record of 22 set in 2020. These events resulted in costs of at least $92.9 billion.

This total may increase by several billion once the expenses for the December 16-18 East Coast storm and flooding, which affected states from Florida to Maine, are fully accounted for. These disasters can disrupt power grids, transportation networks, and access to fresh food.

2023 Event Details
Total Disasters 28 separate weather and climate disasters costing at least $1 billion
Deadliest Events 492 direct or indirect fatalities
Cost of Damages $92.9 billion

Types of Disasters

Type Details
Winter Storm/Cold Wave Event 1 event across the northeast U.S. in early February
Wildfire Event 1 event (firestorm destroying town of Lahaina on Maui Island, Hawaii)
Drought and Heat Wave Event 1 event focused across the central and southern U.S.
Flooding Events 4 events (California, Florida, eastern and northeastern U.S.)
Tornado Outbreaks 2 events (central and eastern U.S.)
Tropical Cyclones 2 events (Idalia in Florida and Typhoon Mawar in Guam)
Severe Weather/Hail Events 17 events across many parts of the country

 According to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) survey conducted in 2023, over half of Americans (51%) felt ready for disasters, with 57% having taken three or more preparedness actions.

Top actions included gathering or updating disaster supplies (48%) and creating a plan (37%), while fewer engaged in community planning (12%) or local involvement (14%).. This highlights the need for proactive measures like stocking up on survival foods.

California Wildfires: As of June 2024, California has already experienced several major wildfires, burning millions of acres and displacing thousands of residents.

Tornadoes in the Midwest: The first half of 2024 saw a surge in tornado activity across the Midwest, causing significant damage to property and infrastructure.

Power Outages: We assess how major events affect electricity reliability by comparing SAIDI and SAIFI values in affected states with the U.S. average (5.6 hours of outages and 1.4 outages per customer)

*SAIDI (System Average Interruption Duration Index)

*SAIFI (System Average Interruption Frequency Index)

Survival Food Options

Canned Goods: Canned vegetables, fruits, meats, and beans are a classic choice for emergency food storage. They're readily available, affordable, and have a long shelf life (typically 2-5 years).

Canned Goods

Preparation: Requires can opener, heating may be needed

Benefits: Long shelf life, familiar taste, variety of options

Macronutrients (% of Calories): Carbs (30-50%), Protein (10-20%), Fat (10-30%)

Freeze Dried Food: Fruits, vegetables, and meats can be dehydrated, offering a lightweight and compact way to store food. Dried foods are typically high in nutrients and have a shelf life of 5-25 years depending on the type and storage conditions. However, they require rehydration before consumption.


Preparation: Add water, stir

Benefits: Lightweight, good nutrition retention, long shelf life

Macronutrients (% of Calories): Carbs (40-60%), Protein (20-30%), Fat (10-20%)

MREs (Meals Ready-to-Eat): MREs are pre-packaged meals designed for military use. They offer a complete meal with a long shelf life (3-5 years) and require minimal preparation (often just adding water).


Preparation: Heating pouch with water (may require additional water source)

Benefits: Convenient, pre-portioned meals, no cooking required

Macronutrients (% of Calories): Carbs (50-60%), Protein (15-20%), Fat (25-30%)

Emergency Food Bars: These bars are packed with calories and essential nutrients, making them a convenient option for on-the-go preparedness. They typically have a shelf life of 2-5 years.

Preparation: Ready to eat

Benefits: Lightweight, portable, good source of quick energy

Macronutrients (% of Calories): Carbs (50-70%), Protein (10-20%), Fat (10-20%)

Survival Seeds: For long-term preparedness, survival seeds offer the potential to grow your own food. They come in various packs with vegetables, herbs, and grains that can be stored for 5-25 years depending on the variety. However, planting and harvesting require knowledge and resources.

Preparation: Requires planting and growing

Benefits: Renewable food source, high in nutrients

Macronutrients (% of Calories): Varies depending on seed type

Factors to Consider

Dietary Needs: Do you have any allergies, food intolerances, or follow a specific diet (vegetarian, vegan, etc.)? Choose options that cater to your dietary restrictions.

Shelf Life: Consider how long you want your food to last.

Storage Space: Think about the space you have available for storing your emergency food supply.

Budget: Survival food can range in price.

Palatability: Don't stockpile food you won't eat! Choose options that are appealing to you and your family.

Calculating Your Survival Food Needs

How much food should you store?

Number of people in your household: Adults typically require more calories than children.

Dietary needs: Consider any dietary restrictions or allergies in your family.

Length of emergency: Aim for a stockpile that can last at least 3 days, ideally 7 days or longer.

Sample calculation to estimate your food needs:

Adults: Assume an adult needs 2,000 calories per day (source: USDA MyPlate).

Children: Children aged 4-8 typically require around 1,200-1,500 calories per day.

Stockpile Duration: Aim for a 7-day supply.


A family of 4 (2 adults and 2 children) would need approximately:

Adults: 2 adults * 2,000 calories/day * 7 days = 28,000 calories
Children: 2 children * 1,400 calories/day * 7 days = 19,600 calories
Total: 28,000 calories + 19,600 calories = 47,600 calories

Remember: This is just an example. Adjust the calculations based on your specific needs and preferences.

Building Survival Foods List (2-Week Supply):

Non-Perishable Staples (2,000 calories per person per day):
  • Canned beans (2 cans per person per day)

  • Canned vegetables (2 cans per person per day)

  • Canned fruit (1 can per person per day)

  • Canned tuna or salmon (1 can per person every other day)

  • Dried Pasta (1 cup per person per day)

  • Canned diced tomatoes (1 can per person every other day)

  • Canned tomato powder (1 can per family)

  • Canned or dried fruit (1 cup per person per day)

  • Rice (1 cup per person per day)

  • Oats (1 cup per person per day)

  • Peanut butter (1/2 cup per person per day)

  • Canned soup (1 can per person every other day)

  • Salt (1 tsp per person per week)

  • Sugar (1/4 cup per person per day)

  • Cooking oil (1/4 cup per person per day)

  • Powdered milk (1/3 cup per person per day, rehydrated)

  • Shelf-stable cheese spreads (optional)

Freeze-Dried Meals (supplemental, 400-600 calories per meal):

  • Mountain House Breakfast Scramble (2 pouches per person)

  • Mountain House Beef Stew (2 pouches per person)

  • Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef (2 pouches per person)

  • Dried fruits and vegetables 

  • Canned meats (Keystone Meats) - (1 can per person per day, rotate stock every 3-5 years)

  • Freeze-dried meats (companies like Mountain Essentials or Emergency Essentials) - (individual packets for variety, rotate stock every 2-3 years)

  • Peanut butter (high-protein source, 2 tbsp per person per day)

  • Nuts and nut butters (almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, provide healthy fats, 1/4 cup per person per day)

Snacks (2 servings per person per day):

  • Granola bars (high protein and fiber)

  • Trail mix (nuts, dried fruit, seeds)

  • Energy bars (variety pack)

  • Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, cranberries)

Beverages (1 gallon per person per day):

  • Bottled water

  • Powdered drink mixes (variety pack)

Water Filters or emergency drinking water pouches

Storing Your Survival Food

Cool, Dry Place: Choose a location that is cool, dry, and protected from light. Avoid storing food in attics, basements, or garages, which can experience extreme temperature fluctuations. Aim for a consistent temperature between 50-70°F.

Airtight Containers: Transfer food from original packaging (especially cardboard boxes) to airtight containers to prevent moisture, pests, and spoilage. Consider options like Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers or food-grade plastic buckets with lids.

Label Everything: Clearly label your food containers with the name of the food, the date it was purchased, and the expiration date (if applicable). This will help you stay organized and ensure you use the oldest items first.

First-In, First-Out (FIFO): Rotate your stock regularly, using the oldest items first and adding new items to the back of the storage area. This prevents food from expiring before you have a chance to use it.

Cooking During Emergencies

Camp Stove and Fuel: A camp stove with a reliable fuel source (propane, white gas) allows you to cook hot meals.

Portable Grill: A charcoal grill can be used for cooking outdoors with proper ventilation.

Fire Safety: Always prioritize fire safety and follow local regulations when using open flames.

No-Cook Options: Stockpile some no-cook options like protein bars, canned fruit, and pre-cooked meats for situations where cooking is not possible.

Being prepared with a well-stocked survival food kit provides peace of mind knowing you and your family can weather any storm, literally or figuratively.

By following these guidelines, you can create a reliable emergency food supply that caters to your specific needs and ensures you have access to safe, nutritious food during challenging times. Remember, preparedness is key!

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