The Myth of Stored Food, by Pete Thorsen

Many preppers think if they merely store food then they are done–that they have saved their family. And that might be true if they experience a natural disaster in their area which does not allow shopping for a week or so. They have their stored food and just use that during the emergency. Later–if they remember they buy replacements for the food they used–they made their family much more comfortable during that emergency by having that stored food. Plus one for the prepper family. But what about a long term nationwide disaster? What if it is a total economic collapse, or something similarly widespread and enduring? What if it is like Venezuela, which is lasting ten years? Will the prepper family’s stored food save them then? Certainly it will; until it is gone. Stored food is great to have because storing food gives a prepper something he cannot store, time. By that I mean time to produce his own food. Time to find food sources. And obviously no one can store time.

So by all means do store food. And in a short length emergency situation you will be very glad you have that food. Actually, during any length emergency you will be happy to have stored food. The trouble with stored food is that it runs out. If you store a month’s worth of food then it’s gone in a month. If you have a year’s worth then after a year it is gone. So when you store food you are really storing time. So, yes, store food but also have a plan.

A Plan for Restocking

Have a plan to restock your stored food. Have a plan to augment your stored food while you are consuming it. But how to do that if the stores are closed?

That is where your plan comes into play. If you have chickens then you will augment your food storage with a continuing supply of eggs. If you have a cow you will have a steady supply of milk to stretch your food. You could go to the river or lake and catch fish to bolster your food stocks. You could walk the area and forage for wild food to add fresh greens to your meals. You could go hunting to add fresh meat which would stretch your stored food supplies.

Those things are great and would all help to some extent with your limited stored food supply. But they would only be a supplement and at some point your stored food would still run out. Maybe your one year supply of food could be stretched out to even two years. So you have gained that incredibly rare commodity; more time.
Obviously instead of just augmenting your stored food you must have a way to generate more food that you can then store so you have a perpetual food supply. Well, that sounds great and all but is that even possible?

The answer is yes and no. If you live in an apartment the answer is no. If you live on a couple acres of land in the country and have a good water source and some able-bodied people then maybe the answer is yes, you can sufficiently produce your own food. The first obvious thing is a garden. A big garden. But that is not enough unless you have the ability to preserve the excess food that your garden will hopefully produce. This means you would need some way to dehydrate the garden produce or the means to pressure can your excess garden produce. Please note that I said the excess garden produce. Why? Because you and your family will be also eating out of that garden, while it is producing. This means you have to plant a garden big enough to produce perhaps five times or more as much as your family regularly eats.

Some Ground Truth

Here is a guiding principle: If your garden produces for two months and produces five times what you can eat during that time then you have all that much excess to save and eat later when your garden is done for the season. So have a big garden and a dehydrator, and a pressure canner with plenty of the canning jars and more lids than you ever think you will use. And do at least a small garden now so that you learn how to grow things when your life does not depend on it. Is that garden going to supply all your family’s needs for a whole year until the next garden is producing? No, it won’t. You need more.

But you have those chickens so you will be fine. Likely not. At some point those chickens will want a break from all that egg laying. A fox will eat a couple of your chickens and you will have less. The chicken feed you bought is now all used up and it’s gone. You did plan for that, right?

You had a couple roosters and you let a few batches of the eggs hatch so you had little chicks running around. Most of those chicks didn’t make it but some did so you have more chickens now than when you started. Because you have excess chickens once in awhile you have chicken for supper.

Besides planting a big garden you planted millet and corn and other grains that you harvested and now you have that stored to feed your chickens during this coming winter. Some of those new seeds you set aside for planting next year.

The chicken you eat once and awhile is great because you have a family of meat eaters. How to increase your meat supply? Yes you go fishing once in awhile but you don’t always get fish and the lazy day fishing while it is a good break from all the homestead chores seems counterproductive because for a full day’s work you only get about three pounds of fish meat. You need a better way.

Plan Ahead

Learn how to build or just buy a couple of fish traps. Do that now. Learn what a trot line is and have the required equipment ready now for if you need it later. Using just those two tools you change your fishing days. With these tools you just go and get your fish then come home again. Much less time spent.

Foraging is another option. Often foraging is only a break-even pastime at best. By that I mean you use just as many or more calories gathering as you get from the foraged greens and berries. But you can do better. Start foraging now. Get familiar with all the native plants in your area now. Learn where each plant grows, now. Then you will know exactly where to go and forage later. Remember when foraging you only take some and not all of the plants. Leave some to reproduce so there will be more there later.

Learning where to go to get forage plants will save a whole lot of time but still might not be enough to really be worthwhile. So maybe you just forage plants that you know will give you way more bang-for-the-buck. In this case plants that are packed with calories. So, what plants are they?


It is also time to go nuts for nuts. Nuts are packed with the things you need in those small packages. They can be a key sources of fats in your diet. Walnuts, butternuts, hazel nuts, chestnuts, acorns, beech nuts, hickory nuts, pine nuts, whatever kind you have in your area. Learn now ahead of time where to find the nut producing trees in your area so you do not have to waste calories and valuable time later in searching. Mark the locations on your local map. Oh, you do have detailed maps of your surrounding area don’t you? And not just on your cell phone!

Learn now exactly when the nuts are normally ready for harvesting in your area. Learn which ones are ready first so you know where to first and where to switch to after that spot is done. While you are harvesting the nuts bring your twenty-two rifle and also harvest a couple squirrels for supper at the same time. Squirrels actually taste pretty good but don’t have a lot of meat on them. You’d better shoot at least three! Learn now how to use the nuts now when you have spare time. You do know that those acorns have to be soaked in a couple or three changes of water, right? Pick as many of those nuts as you can, and bring help. Your garden is done now so everyone can harvest nuts. The nuts store well and can be added to many things that you normally eat. Or just eat them as a treat. But do harvest and eat them!


Besides those squirrels that you shot while harvesting all the nuts it is getting time to get real about hunting. You do have plenty of canning jars left over after harvesting everything from your garden right? Well, you can use those jars to can the wild game meat with your pressure canner. Or you can use some of that wild game meat to make jerky. Or instead make Biltong out of the meat. You do know how to make jerky and Biltong, right? Well the time to learn is now when you have plenty of time. Instead of watching Dancing with the Stars research how to make various kinds of dried meat. Once you learn how, then make sure you have what ingredients you need. And try making some of each now, so if you screw up you won’t die of starvation. Um, you did store a whole bunch of salt didn’t you? Salt is incredibly inexpensive now and might be almost impossible to get if there is ever a nationwide emergency. Buy some salt now!

So when the weather cools start hunting. While out foraging you did keep an eye out for game sign, right? Whenever you are away from your homestead you keep alert and you look for anything that might be useful later. Always keep track of what vegetation that you are stepping on in case it is edible so you would know where to find it when the picking season is correct for that particular plant. Some are in the spring, some summer, and for some plants it is in the fall. Learn and be alert. Part of that is watching for game trails. Animals often change locations or habits with changes in the seasons. Learn where they go so you can find them whenever you want to meet up with them.

So you have done all of those things and you are out of some stuff and you have an excess of some stuff. Now would be a good time to visit the neighbors, to barter. You have gotten to know them already, right? You know if they raise hogs so you could likely trade some stuff you have for some lard that they have an excess of at their house. You know that they have milking goats and that they make their own cheese so you could trade for some of their excess cheese. No one will have everything. There has always been trade all around the world, since time began. Maybe you don’t have any excess that you can trade but you have skills that you could trade. Or if you have limited skills, then maybe just trade some hard labor.

You Can Do This

Your family can survive because you planned ahead and you learned many things now while you have spare time and full access to the wealth of knowledge that mankind has amassed through the centuries. And you’ll have that stored food that translates into stored time.


  1. All good points. This got me thinking because I have been heavily focused on buying auguson farms buckets, MRE cases, and some mountain house breakfast cases. As well as my other assorted spam cans and rice and beans. Gotta get productive in my garden building (already have the compost started), and looking into maybe a chicken coop.

    1. If you buy stored food and plastic buckets or military MREs you must then store them inside of metal containers or Furman will chew right through them.

  2. Nice, thought provoking article. Here’s some food for thought.
    *Practice growing & storing high calorie crops – corn, sweet potatoes & potatoes
    *Plant fruit trees & berry bushes NOW; you want them mature so they generate plenty of food for you and so that their roots are deep enough that they don’t need much, if any irrigation anymore
    *Large animals will require too much feed. The grains you need for them will provide more food for humans than the animals generate – chickens & rabbits would be best

    1. And along with those fruit trees and berry bushes, stock up a huge supply of sprays. Yes, you can do this organically. For example, last week the peach and plum trees got sprayed with lime sulfur for leaf curl (no fruit if your trees get hit with that, as has happened to us in the past), and the raspberries got the lime sulfur for spur and cane blight, which I know from past experience linger in my area. Once the potato leaves break through the ground, and once the tomato plants go in, they will both be sprayed every 3 to 10 days with copper sulfate. This year, I’m not waiting for the leaf spot to hit as it has for the past three years. Dormant oil will go on the fruit trees in a few weeks to smother insect egg cases. There’s much more.

      The point is you can lose an entire harvest from insects and fungal diseases. Be prepared to deal with these. And many of the sprays have indefinite shelf lives. Copper sulfate and dormant oil do, for example. I am concerned that as we slide into the cold period being brought on by the the grand solar minimum, my area of the country will see more and more fungal disease from the cooler, damper summers.

      1. Great points. Along with being prepped to treat those pkant ills, selection of resistant varieties or more correctly avoid planting susceptible varieties is a wise decision.

        I also decided to plant several varieties of each type of fruit an berry. My records show that the big variations in flowering season by up to 2 months, and cool summers compared to following hot summers, have huge differences in harvest periods.

        One year we had blueberries (I have six varieties) all the way from June through late September. The following year was warm winter and hot summer: all blueberries were done by July 4th, 10 weeks earlier than the prior year. Then the next
        year, plants produced very little due to the hot prior summer season!

        Bird depredations are common in the PNW, and even worse aare deer damage. Investing in tall fencing and netting are critical investments.

  3. The author lays out reality of survival during a long-term nationwide disaster. Just planning for grid-down is daunting.

    One place to start is determining, ‘How long would your stored food last?

    Calculate ‘A’: the approximate number of calories in your stored food.
    Then calculate ‘B’: the approximate number of calories needed per day (just multiply number of people times the average daily calories required per person).
    Lastly, divide ‘A’ by’ B’.

  4. Love the trot line comment about fishing, also think nets. Set em and come back for your catch, you can’t be out all day for a few bluegills, as fun as that may be. Hunting to, takes too much energy and time. In a Survival situation you need to trap. Snares are my number one. Think trot line for deer. Cam lock snares which may be illegal in normal times will be indispensable in those bad times.
    When we burn our own calories we need production.

    1. I agree about trapping. I seek information on good commercial traps for small game, where to place them, bait, and how to safely set the trap without hurting myself. I am quite accustomed to using all my fingers. Plus, an injury after SHTF could be big-time bad news.

      Carry on

    1. Unless you use something like tattler lids that are reusable, most lids are used once. You might get a second use out of them if they are not damaged

  5. The whole point of the article is to get everyone thinking. Prepping is a daunting task to begin. But the obvious start is with stored food to buy you time later. The trouble is most people think once they have some food they are done and maybe they are if that is as far as they want to take it. I can understand that too. Nothing may ever happen.
    I have LTS food that I have started to rotate because of age. That is long time and nothing has happened yet, maybe it never will. But I WILL replace the older food with new because I do feel something will happen.
    The largest part of any prepping is planning. Plan now for your future no matter what that future may bring.

  6. This is a good read. The information here is great for thinking of what we might not to thinking of, planning and practicing.

    In my view only, the land that can produce a garden, a forest that has game and water bodies that have fish are rare. We need to learn all the things mentioned in the article but reality is that “usable” land is owned by someone, there will be millions of people out there wanting that same squirrel or fish. Even the perfect location and all the skills to make that location work may not be enough until there are less mouths to feed.

  7. This is very thought provoking and a good start, but I promise, it isn’t as simple as this. Our family decided to live like this as a trial. It isn’t this simple. We have raised all our own beef, pork and chicken for years now. I sprout my corn for the chickens and let them free range. But I was buying the corn and there is no way to store enough corn or grow enough corn to feed enough chickens to produce enough eggs to keep us in eggs. I have the chickens for the bug control and fertilizer, since I am also milking a cow. This year, we are planting a very big garden to help feed the animals. For the milk cows, I am planting okra. Mostly the milk cows eat grass, but they don’t produce cream on just grass. I have been giving them cottonseed meal and cow feed. The okra is a close cousin to cotton, and similar nutritionally, so I am growing the okra instead. The cow will occasionally get mastitis if you don’t keep her nutrition the same. That means that you have to get medicine. You have to breed the cows somehow, and they have to be staggered about 6 months. You have to have fences for those cows on enough land that will support them. You have to have minerals so they don’t get sick. We have planted garden for years, but this year, we are being much tighter about it. The problem: we weren’t good at sprouting seeds, and we didn’t have new seeds. What happens when your seeds are old?

    1. re:

      Cotton is the most sprayed crop.

      The pesticides accumulate in the fats / oils of the cotton plant… the seeds.
      Feeding cottonseed to animals increases the beautiful tasty marbling as a result of massive inflammation. Before that point, the animal is very sick. Antibiotics may be required.
      The pesticides in cottonseed accumulate in the fat of the animal… including the milk.
      Calfs, swine, and humans consuming the cow milk or meat accumulate a geometrical-increased dose of pesticides.

      The cause of most modern disease is traceable to inflammation. Arthritis. Allergies. Cancers. Degenerative eye diseases. Dementia.

      Since cotton is not a food, I would argue against using cotton seeds for food.

      I wouldn’t stand up-wind of the stuff without a moon-suit and respirators.

      * * * * *

      antibiotics for animals

      Each use of antibiotics results in decreased effectiveness because the bacteria mutate.

      Consuming animal products with antibiotics transfers the reduced effectiveness of those antibiotics to the eater.

      Peak Oil was 1970.
      Peak Mining was 1950.
      Peak Agriculture was 1980.
      We passed Peak Antibiotics sometime in 2002.

      We are in Post Antibiotics.
      A cut, a scratch, a bite, GSW. Infections set in. Prior to the development of antibiotics in 1940 or so, many of these were fatal.

      How often do you shake hands with a immigrant from a country with zero ideas of health? Peace Corp volunteers in Africa laugh about digging a latrine trench… by next morning, the locals filled it with their deceased family. And continue using their gardens as their toilet.

    2. In my experience, depending on the plant, you will just have lower germination rates if the seeds are old but stored properly. Last season I had herbs and pumpkins growing that sprouted from 2 yr/o seeds

  8. where I live the small wild game population (squirrels, rabbits, turkeys et al) would be decimated almost to extinction within 45-60 days if all the country folks around here started hunting for survival food stuffs immediately after a grid down event. There probably would be very few deer left in the eastern part of NC. So my point is I don’t think one should factor in small game as a food source unless you get the jump on it as soon as the shtf starts.

    It will, as the article points out extremely well, be about our abilities to farm, garden, preserve and store food we produce ourselves for long term use. Just mho however.

  9. FYI for those of you who are not currently gardening, having seeds and proper seed storage is essential. Growing a large garden from seed is not as easy as one thinks. I have opened a lot of “survival seed vaults” only to find that half of them don’t germinate or sprout. Saving seeds from your garden produce each year is a learning process. How well the garden grows is dependent on mother nature (weather, bugs and critters, unplanned disasters, etc.) and a lot of experience.

  10. A couple years ago it was not unusual to see six or seven deer in my yard each night, and my neighbor counted 14 at one time.

    But a nearby corn field has been turned into a front yard and we see fewer deer than before.

    So large game isn’t the answer that it used to be for us.

  11. Keep in mind that hunting and other similar forms of resource-gathering will not be as plentiful in a severe crisis. We have millions of hunters in America, and while the current license and tag systems work well enough to make sure nothing is wiped out, folks faced with starvation will be taking all they can get. If everyone with an empty pantry and a .30-06 starts harvesting deer to feed their families, there will soon not be nearly as many deer. I remember my grandpa telling me that whitetail deer almost went extinct in Texas during the Great Depression. That’s also the time I’m told our family was eating possums and squirrel brains. Produce your own resources as much as possible. It is also a good idea to be able to produce some sort of commodity that others will want, but be unable to make themselves. If you have plenty of honey, for example, you could probably find a way to trade that for corn or some other needed product. Everyone and their dog may start a garden, but most people are scared of bees. Have both.

    1. I read something recently that in certain areas of the country, the forests were about clean of game by 1930. Not just deer, all game. And since the current population of 330 million is about 200% larger than the 1930 population of 123 million, that means there will be that many more desperate people hunting an increasing small number of animals. Same would apply for fish, I suppose, and while I have always planned on hunting and fishing as supplements in a catastrophic event, I’m beginning to have my doubts.

      I’m especially thinking of the neighbors in my rural area who have probably not put in food storage and definitely do not have gardens or chickens (I can see into their yards as I drive down our road), who will be out in the woods hunting once the food supply is cut off. So Pete is correct. Plan for as many sources as you can because you may end up needing all of them.

  12. I tried to explain in the article that you need food from many sources. Be cause NO source is for sure. You can be the best gardener in the world and Mother Nature can ruin your garden in one day.
    You can have fifty chickens and something could kill every one of them and be completely out of your control.
    Your cow that you depend on could die from many different things that you could not control.
    There could be a severe drought or severe floods that kill or move all the wild game from your area. That drought could end any chance of wild foraging for that year (or more).
    With no grocery store to depend on you are completely at the mercy of the weather and your hard work and skill.
    In hard times people die. Sometimes good hard working smart people die. Each of us can only prepare so much. I could have a stroke tomorrow. I could slip and fall and break my leg. My entire family could eat bad food and either get really sick or die. The list of bad things that can happen to each of us is endless and many of those things we cannot see coming.
    You just do what you can now. You learn, you store, you train, you just do what you can that might just let you survive later.

    1. In a SHTF world, the stored food is there to make the transition to a new normal smoother. Unless you have a warehouse you can’t store enough food to last till things are back to “normal”. Regular canned goods from WalMart will last years so you could build a stash for less money that way than by buying a bunch of dehydrated food.

      One thing to factor in is the die-off that will happen when the people in the major population centers battle each other for limited resources in the urban areas and then as they spread out into the nearby more rural areas looking for all that bounty that you country folk just have to have in your basements and barns. Sickness, injury, depredation, these are going to reduce your competition for limited resources, provided you can remain under the radar long enough for the thinning of the population to take place.

      Also be aware that a large garden plot or fenced in field will attract unwanted attention from people that are getting pretty hungry or are afraid of getting hungry. Remember that some people’s idea of prepping is to get to know who the preppers are in the area so they can come by and take their preps.

      1. Most of the chaos in large urban centers will remain in or very near those areas. Some will spill out into close proximity rural areas. Rural areas that are fifty plus miles from urban areas will likely see little of the total chaos. Transportation will be the big issue for those in the cities. If things are so bad there is no food there certainly will be no fuel at that point. Also the likelihood of blocked roads and highways will just increase travel problems along with all the violence.
        If your job allows you to live a distance from a large urban center then I would strongly suggest moving. We live over two hundred miles from any large city. While I know we are safer here than most places I also realize that no place is ever truly safe. All we can do is what we can do.

  13. Unless you are REALLY remote. I would not plan on getting any calories from fishing or hunting. When everybody and their brother is out hunting local wildlife populations will get decimated VERY quickly.

    Also, while nothing wrong about knowing where local nut trees are, your first step should be planting your own. We got almonds, walnuts, chestnuts, and hazelnuts last year. And we are hopefully going to get some pistacio’s this year.

    Try and do at least 4 to 6 of each type. Even better get a couple of varieties that bloom and different times.

    And of course don’t forget your regular fruit trees (apples, pears etc).

    Also gardening wise, you get way more calories way easier with root vegetables than with grains. Something to keep in mind.

  14. I’ve already located wild plum trees and “wild” asparagus, more likely leftover crowns from abandoned homestead locations, along my primary and secondary routes between home and our BOL. Snare materials and the knowledge of how to use them to capture the small birds that will share the plums are packed in my BOB and brain.
    Another important aspect is for tribe members to at least sample the foods of tomorrow. While I am not a picky eater, and neither are my offspring, we all have the distant relations who are unfamiliar with vegetables, think that Taco Bell is exotic cuisine, and only have a kitchen at home because it came with the house.

  15. I think we need to also consider if the foods we are growing and the livestock that we raising will provide the nutrients that are needed to stay not only alive but also healthy. Poor nutrition can lead to disease that can also lead to death.

    I think the biggest challenges where I live (Northern US) will be getting enough vitimin C. Strawberries, elderberries, chili peppers, Broccoli and rose hips are what I’m planning on to supply our Vit. C

    1. @3ADscout, do some research on evergreen trees. We have an abundance of eastern hemlock (tsuga canadensis) where we live. We make tea with it, which provides vitamin C. There are other evergreens that are edible, but please do your research. Cattails are also a great food source, as well as being useful for many other things.

  16. It is absolute essential to prepare for the long term. There is good advice in the article and in the comments. But, I a real SHTF situation most who will die will do so in the first three months (maybe six months). That will be the challenge. And depending on where you live and what type of a crisis it is the food, or lack of food, will probably not be your biggest problem. The world could go medieval in a week or two and there won’t be any gardening or canning until the physical violence sorts out the winners and losers. Or, it could simply be a long slog back to prosperity without excessive violence and crime. But prepare for both.

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