Trying to guess how much food you’ll need for meals next week is a pretty daunting task, so can you imagine what it is like to calculate how much food you need for a month, or a year, or even three years?
I’m going to introduce you to a few methods of determining your long-term food storage needs. This is just an introduction as I won’t be laying out menus or recipes for you (there are tons of sites I’ll drop down in the references for you below), but I will help you walk through getting a handle on just what you need to know.
Calculating Your Food Storage
There are many different ways that you can use to determine what you need for your long-term food storage needs, and I’m going to share the two easiest ones with you here. Both require some time and patience to implement and both can be adapted to meet your family’s needs.
Track Your Meals
This method allows you to track what you eat already, then breaking it down by ingredients and tracking over the number of months you want to stock for. It can be made specifically for your exact needs.
Here’s the idea: We’ll take this a step at a time to make it easy, but you’ll find that it comes quickly once you get the ball rolling. If you were ever a Once a Month Freezer Cook, you’ll recognize this method.
- Take your family’s favorite meal.
- Write out the recipe X 12 (that’s a year’s worth of that meal if you have it once a month).
- Buy enough of that product to stock your pantry for the year for that meal.
- Do it again for the next meal.
You can get a fuller explanation of how it works with my Build a Better Pantry Challenge.
Pro: It is specific to your family’s needs – whether dietary or simply food preference issues.
Con: It can be too narrow for long-term. If you do it based off of only one week or one month, your food changes throughout the year, and you need to be proactive about making sure you have the variety for long-term.
The Food Storage Calculator
Food Storage Calculators are meant to be quick and easy plug-in tools to help you figure out exactly what you’ll need for a family over a course of time:
Number of family members X Basic ingredients to make most meals = What you need to store
It breaks down food into it’s most basic ingredients and gives you an idea of how much you need to store over a period of time to make just about anything basic meals you need to make for your family.
There is a variety of them available, either from self-reliant groups, food storage blogs or long-term food storage companies. I would recommend these two:
LDS Food Calculator
Pro: Quick and easy and relatively complete for a broad, generic diet. And it’s already done for you!
Con: It can be daunting to look at, and it is generic, so if you have special dietary needs, you’ll need to be aware of them and adjust accordingly. You’ll also need to learn a new way to cook if you don’t already cook from scratch.
Note: Neither calculator is the last word. You may find things on it that you’ve never ever used in a million years and don’t plan to for a million more. Or, you’ll find that their recommendation is so low for you that it’s almost like you’ll never have it in stock. Use it as a guide – not a commandment. Increase what you know you need to increase (water), delete the things you don’t need (but be sure to replace it with something similar for calories as well as substitutions). Make it work for you and your family.
I’ll Need How Much?!
So, about that daunting thing.
Either method feels daunting, time-consuming and virtually impossible to tackle. But I promise you, they aren’t. They do take some time and some planning, but this is not a race we’re in, it’s a long-term change in how we store food for our family. Do not expect to be able to do this in 2 hours and be completely prepared.
You can use the above-listed food calculators to get an idea of the minimum food storage recommended. Remember, these are the basic minimums. Their water recommendations don’t include what you’ll need to clean with, to reconstitute food with or cook food in, etc. The bare minimum recommendation is 1 gal. of water per person per day, but you’ll need to plan to store more and make plans on how to acquire more in the event of an emergency.
Now what? I don’t know how to cook from scratch!
The problem is that if you’re not a cook who tends to cook from scratch, but does from more prepared ingredients, all this ‘raw’ ingredient sitting in your pantry and long-term food storage begins to just overwhelm you! And unless you are prepared to jump in with both hands, both feet, and your head plus a full kitchen of tools, you’re probably going to quit before you even get through your first week.
So let’s take two small steps to get going!
Use the Track Your Meals method. This will allow you to get as particular about your ingredients as you need to be, while still keeping with storing food for your family.
So let’s take the example of Spaghetti & Meatballs. It’s a fairly quick and easy meal. It can be as few as 3 ingredients: 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, 1 package of noodles and a meal-sized portion of pre-made, frozen meatballs.
So in your calculations, instead of the individual ingredients to make noodles from scratch, spaghetti sauce from scratch, or even making meatballs from scratch, plan your pantry for those 3 ingredients X how many weeks/months/years you want to stock for.
You’ll need space for all the pre-packaged ingredients, but you’ll have them. If the power goes out for a week from a storm, and you have some alternative cooking methods already available to you, you’re going to be okay.
You want to begin to move away from relying only on prepackaged foods because it’s more expensive and less healthy. But to move to a complete from scratch lifestyle is really difficult unless you are all in.
So here is my suggestion to begin making that transition: Pick up a few food storage cookbooks and find a few blogs that concentrate on learning to cook with food storage or from scratch. Begin to replace your premade foods with recipes where you can learn to do them yourself.
Pick a few really easy things at first, like pancake mix. You may LOVE pancakes and love the convenience of just buying the box every month, but did you know that you can store the raw ingredients for it and make it from scratch in no time at all? And you can even pre-make a mix and store it on its own if that’s more helpful for you! Try this one from Alton Brown which is our favorite right now.
Brownies are another perfectly easy thing to buy in a box and just make. But did you know it’s also super easy to make from your food storage as well as create the mix in bulk to have available whenever you have a craving? Try this food storage recipe for brownies that have a secret food storage ingredient!
Want to go a step further? Learn how to make noodles. Not only do you no longer have to store those bulky boxes of pasta noodles but can you store enough of the ingredients to make your own on your pantry shelves. The meatballs? Either learn to make your own and freeze your own or substitute them with freeze dried ground beef. It will be a little different having it in the sauce as opposed to meatballs, but it’s a great alternative. And the sauce? Maybe that’s Step 2.5. Buy in bulk, in season, and can your own!
Meals in jars are also a great way to begin building a from scratch pantry that can help you develop a mindset of cooking from scratch but still saving loads of time that those prepackaged foods save you. I’ve got a list of 101 Meals in a Jar recipes here, but there are also great books for reference that I’ll list below.
It’s easy to begin to switch out foods like this a little at a time then trying to go completely all in unless you are determined to make that full change right now (and your family needs to be all in for support, too!) As you begin to store enough of the individual ingredients, plus develop the skill to make the dishes on your own without the help of the store bought mixes, you can stop buying the premade and just rotate through those until they are gone. Or, donate them to a food pantry in your area!
Don’t be afraid. You can do this. Really, you can.
- Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival – LOVE this book!
- The Prepper’s Cookbook
- I Can’t Believe It’s Food Storage
- Feasting on Food Storage
- Cooking with Food Storage Made Easy
- The Meal in a Jar Handbook
Note: Some of these blogs will be using recipes that will use food storage from a big company or two. Don’t focus on that, but focus on how you can use YOUR food storage in these recipes, whether you do purchase from a big food storage company or make your own, etc.
- Food Storage Made Easy Recipes
- My Food Storage Cookbook
- Store This Not That (this is Crystal from EasyFoodStorage.net’s new site)
- Eating Food Storage – blog based on eating only food storage for a full year.
- Jamie Cooks It Up – great lists to print and recipes at the end.
- Cooking with My Food Storage
- Food Storage Moms
- Secrets of a Food Storage Mom
- Emergency Essentials
What food storage resources do you rely on?