Few natural sensations are as debilitating as the feelings of hunger. I've read the statement that the human body can last 3 weeks without food. What a nightmare! We never want it to get that bad. Let's explore the principles of emegency food storage and production so we never have to know that kind of hunger.
The principles of food storage promise peace of mind and security during an emergency situation. Becoming self sufficient in food production can make that peace of mind a long-term lifestyle.
Author Note: I'm a Mormon
Let me start out with a quick note about the primary author of this article: I'm a Mormon (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). If you don't already know, Mormons are urged to be self sufficient and adopt a "Provident Living" mindset from the time we can talk. Planning ahead, storing emergency stashes of food, preparing for emergency, and growing a garden are activities most of us do naturally. That said, I'm by no means an expert so we'll include research from multiple sources and non-LDS opinions in this article.
Our objective as a prepper is to protect and provide for ourselves and those important to us. We believe that in order to do that we need to have food on hand for and extended period of time as well as having the skills and resources to produce more food.
Food storage is the stockpiling of food for a period longer than what a household might consume in a week or two. It requires some foresight to set aside a budget to build up the food stock.
Resources: Mormon's Preach Emergency Food Storage
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints invests a tremendous amount of resources into producing, transporting, and storing food as a church. It urges its members to follow suit and store a supply of food storage.
The Church was inspired to create a "Bishop's Storehouse" concept. From the Church's website: "The bishop has the responsibility to care for the poor and needy within the boundaries of his ward. One resource available to accomplish this task is the bishops’ storehouse—a place where those in need can go to obtain food and other supplies at the recommendation of their bishop." The church dedicates many millions of dollars per year to feeding and supplying those in need.
Members are urged to first establish a 3-month supply of food. The goal is to store longer-term food as well for up to a year per household. Cans of grain, oats, potatos, dried milk, sugar, etc. can be purchased and stored for decades. We regularly rotate the food into our day-to-day meals to keep the long term food fresh.
I grew up with a room in the basemen of our home called the 'storage room'. We had food and supplies there that would last for at least a year. There was great peace of mind growing up because we knew we wouldn't go without if something happened to our family income or an emergency happened.
Some organizations recommend a few days of extra food. The federal government suggests a 3-day supply of emergency food at minimum. Some see a 3-month store of food as a great starting point. Imagine how durable our society would be if every household had 3 months of supplies on hand. Some target 1 year as the goal. The food includes all the nutrients needed to sustain healthy life, including water.
Because we're preppers, we think 3 days is a very short survival window. We're going to assume the Mormons are on to something with their time frames. Storing 3-12 months of food is the objective. How do I get there?
Start by setting a goal to get to 1 month of food per person in your household. Once you have achieved that goal shoot for 3 months. Keep storing until you get to 12 months.
Should your food storage be all raw foods? Should it be dehydrated meal pouches? We've managed our food storage for years and have found this to be the best combination of food:
Building up a stock of food requires some discipline and budgeting. Most households can't go down and buy a year's worth of food in one setting. Here are some principles to building up your storage.
It's not uncommon for preppers to have sealed cans of wheat, oats, rice, sugar, pasta, dried fruits, etc onhand. The goal is to have food that will maintain its nutrient value and not spoil for decades. That means no perishables are included. Do some research to learn how to buy or can your own long-term supplies.
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While food storage is a great concept, not all emergencies allow us to have access to it (i.e. evacuation or outdoor survival). Sometimes you need to produce your own food.
Some food production methods can produce food immediately. Some require patience and skill.
We've found that producing food in a number of ways at a time produces the best yield. Set some snares, set your fishing line, carry a bow and arrow or gun, forage for known plants, etc. Check the set items regularly between foraging outings.
Let's go through the various survival food production options.
Calories and nutrients can be found in a lot of wild plants. However, some are poisonous and can make your situation worse.
Many berries, roots, bark, grasses can be eaten. Knowing which ones is the key. Here's what you need to do:
As Scouts we've eaten raspberries, gooseberries, huckleberries, wild potatos, wild asperagus, and more.
Experience: Huckleberries in Bear Country
On a late-summer campout with the Scouts we visited a mountain lake in Northern Idaho. We set up camp and went down to the lake shore to plan out the next day. The boys wanted to hike around the lake so they could pick huckleberries on the sun-facing hillside. One of the boys pointed to the hillside to show the other boys. They all stopped short - there was a black bear hutched over right in the middle of the huckleberry patch.
We opted not to go up that night and kept the bear spray nearby that night.
The next day the bear was gone. We hike the trail up to the patch and quickly realized why the bear was there. The berries were ripe and very pentiful. We ate until we thought we'd be sick. What a crop!
In the recommended survival handbook we noticed something (yeah, we read it cover to cover). The book gives you a method to test plants before you eat them. If you don't know what the plant is, there are some techniques to see if it will affect your body negatively.
Hunting wild animals (small game or big game) can yield rapid results. Some areas have birds, rodents, large game, etc. You can trap, shoot, strangle, stab or hook many of them if you know what you're doing.
My wife is TERRIFIED of this prospect...insects may be the best source of protein in a survival situation. They are typically plentiful, they are packed full of nutrients, and most are edible.
Experience: Grilled Grasshoppers Are Kinda Like Popcorn
I spent 2 years in Mexico City as a missionary for the Church. We ate so many things I would never consider in the US. We ate liver, pig's feet, tripe, cow brain tacos, pig snout, fish eyes, cactus, and more. However, none of it was as memorable as eating grasshoppers.
One day my companion and I were walking by a school. It's not uncommon for street vendors to sell small bags of food (pumkin seeds, popcorn, snacks, etc) to the kids. However, this vendor had a large bowl-shaped grill with a fire underneath. My companion got excited and ran to the vendor. The man took out a bin full of live grasshoppers. He opened the lid and dumped dozens onto the grill and quickly covered it with a lid. We could hear the hoppers bouncing around like popcorn. As soon as they all were done hopping, he lifted the lid and stirred them around like you would stirfry. Once they were browned he dumped them into a small plastic bag (like you would popcorn) and poured Valentina hot sauce on top.
My eyes must have been huge because they kept looking at me and giggling. I could barely handle the anticipation of what I was going to have to do.
The vendor exchanged the grilled hopper snack bag for a peso and my companion grabbed a handful and popped them in his mouth. I was dreading his next words, "have some!"
I froze and then took one off the top. I looked at him, the vendor, and the small audience of children who had gathered to watch the gringo eat bugs. There was no escape. I popped it in my mouth and started to chew. The taste wasn't bad and the texture was manageable, except for the legs. They were hard to chew and got caught in my throat. I finally got it down. What a spectacle I must have been.
There are companies out there dedicated to producing insect-based foods. One report suggests that the rapid population growth on Earth will require insect production for key proteins. Insects require fewer calories per pound of food than large animals and they are easy to cultivate. They have insect burgers and other formats.
With a rapidly growing population, it's not unrealistic to assume that insect protein will be a major staple in the future.
In many parts of the country there are a large number of animals. Some don't hibernate so they're available year-round. We're going to highlight some of the hunting techniques we found in the SAS Survival Handbook recommended earlier.
The 4 rules for setting a trap:
Learn to set a snare trap from basic gear. The videos below illustrate how to set and bait basic traps.
A primitive bow and arrow can be used to acquire much needed protein in a survival situation. While traps are a passive method of hunting, archery requires finding game and sneaking up on it and then accurately shooting it with an arrow. A bow is relatively easy to make with a knife and paracord. A little practice can help you dial in your shot.
Shooting an animal can be a challenge - even in the best of circumstances. Avid archers hunt annually with the best gear and may or may not find success. Shooting an animal with a primitive bow without spooking it first is even more challenging.
We recommend starting with snares and setting a fishing line before actively hunting. However, we recommend employing as many methods of food production as you can without expending too much energy.
Hunting with a firearm is the easiest method to shoot and kill game in a survival situation. Pistols are somewhat effective because they have a very short accuracy range. Rifles are very effective.
The caliber of bullet makes a difference as well. .22 bullets are very small and work effectively on small game like rabbits, squirrels, etc. They can even work on an animal as large as a deer if the shot is placed correctly. Larger calibers are better for deer, elk, moose, etc.
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Fish are a great source of protein. They're pretty easy to clean, cook and very healthy. Fishing comes with challenges though:
We recommend fishing but only as long as it's providing results. If you aren't catching fish, leave your hook baited and leave it as a passive method while you forage, hunt, or trap. Don't waist time and precious calories watching your hook if nothing is happening.
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We like the idea of gardening your own food. In a long term survival situation the ability to farm high-calorie, highly nutritious plants can make survival a long term prospect.
The movie "The Martian" depicts Matt Damon farming potatos to survive on Mars. He has a controlled environment where he can produce water, fertilize the sterile martian soil with human feces, and plan potatos they had planned to eat for Thanksgiving. The calories in potatos go a long ways, especially when combined with proteins.
Experience: Mom's Garden
Growing up we always had a garden. We were required to plant, till, weed, fertilize, and water the crops. We never produced enough to sustain our whole family just off of the crops but we did have a pretty decent yield.
Mom would have us plant potatos, corn, zuccini, peas (always eaten off the vine), and more. We'd spend entire evenings as a family learning to raise the crops.
The best way to learn to raise crops is to practice. If you have land, dedicate a portion to a garden. If you don't, buy a planter and raise some small flowers or edible plants, just for practice.
Experience: Father-in-Law's Garden
My father-in-law is a rancher. Anything he touches grows. His garden is no different. Even the animals liked the crops. He had a bandit stealing corn every night so he set up an eletric fence around the garden. One summer night I was wandering around the yard while on the phone. I saw a skunk waddle over to the garden. Suddenly, I heard "ZAP, ZAP!!" A vulger smell followed.
That poor little skunk went in to raid the corn again and touched that electric wire with his nose. In shock, he instantly released his defense valve and sprayed the whole area. We ended up losing part of the crop because the smell never left the plants. Maybe we should have let him have his take.
In a survival situation you don't want to have to learn how to raise crops. Practice before with your family or household. In an emergency, you'll be thankful.
Many normal seed companies protect their sales by breeding seeds that grow for only 1 year. Heirloom seeds can be reharvested year after year. The key is to collect seeds at the right time for next year's crop.
If you buy seeds for survival, buy heirloom.
Imagine an emergency where communities make a run on stores and there are widespread shortages - think COVID-19 toilet paper shortages but across all groceries. Can you imagine what it would mean to your household to have food ready to eat for a year with the capability of farming more? What a sense of relief to be able to feed your household for a long time.
We recommend in our emergency essentials checklist that you carry fishing gear, hunting snares, paracord to make a bow, etc. We urge you to take your essentials kit with you into the outdoors and other settings.
Begin preparing your food storage and food production gear today.