Thursday, December 20, 2007

Budget Survival - Basic Food Storage

Hardcore survivalists say you should store one to three years worth of food for each person in the household. This means nothing to the average person. We are going to look at some realistic numbers that will help you visualize and plan for the amount of food you should store and how that relates to your daily nutritional requirements.

We use 5 gallon buckets for storage. They are easy to move and hold a considerable amount of food. Here is the math 1 gallon = 16 cups so 5 gallons = 80 cups of whatever you are storing.

Rice Stocks

Lets say you eat one cup of dried rice per day. This is a common high energy food so one cup a day would be reasonable. That's 365 cups of rice per year or 22.8 gallons. Lets round that up to 25 gallons for the sake of easy math which gives us five-5 gallon buckets per person annually.

Note that it takes about 30 pounds of rice to fill a 5 gallon bucket. It will cost you about $60 for your 150 pound annual rice supply.

One cup of dried rice will make 3 cups of cooked rice with a total of about 650 calories.

Bean Stocks

You should eat one cup of dried beans every day. Beans have a very high nutritional value and one cup should do. That's 365 cups of beans per year rounded up gives us 25 gallons or five-5 gallon buckets per person annually.

It takes 32 pounds of pinto beans to fill a 5 gallon bucket. This will cost you about $90 for your yearly supply. I would recommend purchasing several different types of beans for variety. Do not mix the beans in the buckets, each bean type needs its own container. Pinto beans are used in this example because they are a good average bean. All varieties will have roughly the same caloric values.

One cup of dried pinto beans will make 2 1/2 cups of cooked beans with a total of about 620 calories.

Flour Stocks

Using the following simple ingredients you can make one loaf of bread; 3 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons (1 pack) of yeast and 1 1/8 cup of water. There are roughly 14 fat slices per loaf and you will eat 4 slices per day totaling two loafs per week. Our 5 gallon bucket of flour holds around 26 loafs of bread. At two loafs per week our bucket of flour will last 13 weeks.

You will need four-5 gallon buckets of flour per person annually. Now lets throw in an extra bucket so you can make bread for trade and possibly some cakes, that brings our total up to five-5 gallon buckets for one person every year.

Every bucket holds 25 pounds of flour and 26 packs of yeast. Just put the packs of yeast in with the flour this keeps everything that is necessary for the bread together. A five bucket supply will cost you about $82 per year per person.

One slice of bread contains 110 calories four slices per day contains 440 calories.

Other Stocks

Additionally you will need spices, sugar, barley (for beer), powdered milk and instant potatoes. We are not going to delve into amounts or costs of these items because
they are not necessary for survival and will vary greatly depending on personal preferences. You should also stock a several year supply of multi-vitamins.

The base stock of food will fill you up on 1710 calories per day, not nearly what Americans normally consume but nutritionally adequate. Personally I would recommend augmenting this plan with some dairy (powered) or egg products (freeze dried) and some Twinkies.
Only purchase dried foods that will not freeze, no canned food. This storage plan does not cover infants, growing children or people with special dietary needs. An adequate water supply for food preparation is necessary and not addressed in this plan.

Everything here can be prepared on a wood stove or in a solar over. The list is meant to hold you over until your garden can start producing. The basic one year per person supplies listed above will run you around $230 total, on a personal note I am ashamed to admit that I have spent more than that on a single meal. Think about how much we currently spend on food as a society and how many people that would feed world wide using this plan.

After analyzing the needs addressed above I realized that my partner and I only had about six months worth of food stocks rather than the one year supply I had originally assumed. Over the next couple of months we will be up stocking our supplies to total about two years worth of food. In January I am also going to attempt to live off the supplies listed above minus the Twinkies.


Future Farmer said...


Where is the best place to buy these supplies ?

BigBear said...

An Asian market would be a good place to start. Walmart is probably the cheapest if you can stomach shopping there. They have bulk 20 pound bags of rice and beans.

Future Farmer said...


What do you think of these 6 gal supperpails.

They have several package deals at this site.

BigBear said...

Future Farmer,

The only thing I don't like about them is the price. The packages cost more plus shipping looks to be six dollars per bucket. But it would be easy and they have everything you need.

Future Farmer said...


For an order of $120 or more the whole thing can be shipped for $12.00.
Also the costs of 13 6 gal foodgrade pails would be close to $100.00 I think . So 13 supper pails would be about $499

Contents of the Year Supply of Grains and Legumes
13 Superpails

Contents: Qty
Hard Red Wheat 2
Soft White Wheat 1
Regular Rolled Oats 1
Yellow Popcorn 1
White Rice 2
Pinto Beans 1
Small Red Beans 1
Golden 86 White Wheat 3
Pearl Barley 1

I am looking into some Amish sources locally.

BigBear said...

Future Farmer,

I think that would work. You may need more rice but that is a personal opinion. Plus make sure you have plenty of sugar, salt and yeast.

The next step is to make the stored food edible and get some real experience preparing it.

For instance the beans need to be soaked for at least 8 hours before they can be prepared. I am used to the instant gratification of frozen microwave meals and McDonalds.

Bread takes several hours to prepare whereas now you just run to 7-11 and pick up a loaf.

uppergeorgetowner said...

Hi BigBear,

Thanks for this information. I've just found your blog and am now reading through all the posts! I would like to mention storing some dried seaweed or kelp for flavoring, as well as natural sea salt - both last a long time.

BigBear said...


Does seaweed have good flavor? I know I can live on the alloted food but it will get boring after the first few weeks.

uppergeorgetowner said...

seaweed does have some flavor - it is primarily a green/oceany/fishy taste in the stronger varieties. There are different types you can try, and are usually available at the co-op type health food stores in the bulk section. Also for flavorings, many of the dry spices are good and many have medicinal qualities. Turmeric for example, is a strong anti inflammatory and can be used to season rice but also in a chamomile tea for stomach irritation.

boodaman said...

Great post. Since this is the year I plan to get all of my food storage needs underway, I have been bookmarking as many posts like yours that I can find.

One concern I had was what to do with all of this raw food? To avoid food boredom, you need to make things as fun and appetizing as possible. I'm a great cook, but I couldn't quite grasp what I would do day-to-day with all of this raw food.

Anyway, I started looking for recipes. One site I found is pretty good:

The author is LDS. If you can ignore the religious overtones, there is a lot of useful info there especially in the case of recipes specifically targeted for long term food storage ingredients.

Anyone else have any other good sites with bulk/raw food recipes?

BigBear said...

Been living off supplies since the first and have seen the same thing. It gets old real fast. I will check out the LDS site. Thanks

Kyle D said...

I cant seem to find that site boodaman. Maybe post a link for us?

This is the first I've seen of actual numbers. thanks bigbear.

RoadScribe said...

With a limited budget for survival supply foraging could you collect items in hard plastic storage boxes and transfer to buckets with lids as you can find them for long term storage?

BigBear said...


sure, 5 gallon buckets are just easy to use and move. whatever works for you.

Anonymous said...

just wanted to let your readers know that they can go to Walmart, Sam's Club, Cost-co, and even their local grocery store (if they have a bakery Department)or bakery, donut store and ask them for their buckets and lids (make sure food grade) and they will give them to you for free, you have to wash them but what's a little frosting when you can save money

Anonymous said...

Big Bear, wanted to thank you for your site, very informative. I appreciate your breakdown of 5 gallon buckets and food amounts, can you break down the food amounts for a #10 can? Small amounts like salt, or lentils. Have your readers check out their local food stores or bakeries for free 5 gallon buckets. I did, there is an unlimited supply

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on buckets and containers. Know any sources for whole grains in New Mexico? And what are your best value online ordering sources?

UnknownLegend said...

Thank you for posting this. I started stocking up on food last year, but was not sure just how much I needed. This will help me tremendously.

Anonymous said...


what is the best way to seal supplies up to last for a really long time? are they just standard 5 gallon buckets, or are they a special type? do I need to worry about vacuum sealing either in the bucket or in bags placed in the bucket (won't that take up too much space in the bucket?) Where to start? Thanks!

desteele66 said...

Awsome,just bought land in colorado
love the ideas.Just what I'm looking for.Planning on solar and
wind for power.The rest is icing on
the cake. Way to go man,keep going.
thanks Doug,Illinois.

treejohn572 said...

Thanks for the great advice. Being able to be prepare on a budget sounds like a good thing. Self reliance packages are something that I have heard great reviews for. With all of these natural disasters happening all of the time, I always want to be prepared.

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