Will Your Food Storage Lead to Starvation? Calories Count!

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food storage calories

Food storage is a key component to your family’s preparedness plan. There are many decisions that need to be made. Which foods are best for storage? Which will my family prefer? How do I store it properly?

Dehydrated Foods?

Freeze Dried Foods?

Every Day Pantry Foods?


Buckets? Cans? Gamma Lids?

UReal Meat or TVP?

GMO Free? Gluten Free?

I could go on and on. Ultimately, there is no RIGHT answer. Every family’s needs are different as far as what to store. But there is ONE issue that affects us all that MUST have our attention:  Calorie Count.

Notice I did NOT say “Number of Servings.”

Food storage calories vs. Number of Servings

The majority of food and kits marketed for preparedness purposes tout their products as “30 day kits” or “100 servings per bucket” or something similar. Red flags pop up in my mind if there is no calorie count listed plainly and without research. If you can’t find the calorie count per serving, you MUST do the math yourself.

For example, there is one company (I’m not going to name names) that has what they advertise as a “One Month One Person Ready To Go Bucket” that includes 72 “servings.” Just based on the name, one would assume that a single person would be able to eat for one month, right? Let’s do the math.

I had to search for quite a while to find the calorie count information for this company’s foods. When I finally found it, it was on an unrelated website. The average calorie count per serving for the specific foods included was 185.  Multiply that by the total servings (72) and you get 13,320 calories. Divide that by 30 to get your daily allotment and you’ll discover that you get to dine on just 444 calories per day to make this kit last the full month it claims to hold.

That’s not survival. That’s slow starvation!

Based on my height, weight, age and gender, my Basal Metabolic Rate (how many calories I burn per day doing nothing but resting) is about 1,500 calories. (Determine your personal BMR by using this calculator.) In a SHTF situation where I would need to use my food storage, I would likely be very active doing what I needed to survive, not laying in bed all day. How well will 444 calories sustain me? What I would need is a minimum of 2,000 calories per day… which means this “one month” bucket would only last me FEWER THAN SEVEN DAYS.

A friend of mine owns 12 of these buckets. He thought he had a full year of food until I asked him about calorie count. He realized that based on his caloric needs, he actually had just short of three months of food in his stash. That’s less than a quarter of what he thought was on hand. Three months of food on hand is an excellent food stash. It might even be sufficient for the majority of disasters and emergencies he would face. At least now he has an accurate assessment of what is really on his shelf.

TIP: Learn more about common food storage myths by reading Top 10 Food Storage Myths and watching the embedded videos.

Another example of a food storage plan that is shy of providing the necessary calories is a blog post claiming that you can “feed your family of four for one year for less than $300.” It included a specific list of very simple items to buy, how to cook and serve it, and even how to store it. Overall it contained good information, except for one thing: when I did the calorie math, the “one year for four people” provided under 100 calories per person per day! Based on a flat rate of 2,000 calories per day, that one year plan would last that family of four only 16 days! If you want a two-week food stash, it’s an excellent option. But I fear for those who falsely believe they have a full year of food on their shelves.

When it comes to food storage plans, companies, and claims, be skeptical and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How to figure food storage calories for your family

So what should you do to ensure you have enough food storage?

  • Decide how how many weeks, months or years of food you want to have as part of your preparedness plan.
  • Calculate the number of calories needed for each member of your household.
  • Go through your current food stash and do the calorie math.
  • If you’ve planned your food storage around specific recipes, how many calories per serving will those recipes provide?
  • Determine if you have enough food or if you need to add more.
  • Through use and rotation, continue to keep track of your total calories on hand and make purchases as needed.

It’s is important to note that I am not saying that you shouldn’t buy foods that “hide” their calorie counts. Some of them are good quality, tasty, and/or economical choices despite the lack of full disclosure about calories. You just have to know how many calories are in each of those servings so you can make an informed choice on both the dollar value and how long it will truly last your family.

Have you worked out a calorie count for your food stash?

Refine your food storage pantry with these resources


14 thoughts on “Will Your Food Storage Lead to Starvation? Calories Count!”

  1. Absolutely outstanding article! Only God Himself knows how many lives you just saved, if people will read and heed the advice. Thanks a million (calories).

  2. Eye opening piece to say the least. We have to be honest with ourselves and ask, since the shft food sellers are hiding the truth and substituting servings for calories then how much of the other stuff we purchase from shft providers is also lacking in quality. As you said, “Red flags start going up.” Really, one has to wonder. Best wishes.

  3. Pingback: Prepper News Watch for August 17, 2015 | The Preparedness Podcast

  4. Wonderful article! I frequently use one of those food analyzer sites to give me an idea of how long our pantry will hold out. After getting an amazing deal on candy corn last fall, I added it to the list. Immediately, our “food supplies” went from three months to SEVEN! I nearly fell off my chair laughing, and it’s become a family joke. You have to be able to counter servings and calories with common sense.

    1. Lucky You! Although I once heard a comedian say that there was only 1 batch of Candy Corn ever made. Every Nov 1 all the unemployed seasonal-part-time Santa’s Elves go dumpster diving and wash and repackage it for next Halloween. He got a standing ovation. Nuh-uh, Candy Corn Rules!!
      (Not those weird flavors like mango and strawberry, though. That’s just wrong)

  5. I can attest how important calories are after enduring 3 tours in Viet Nam where we had C rations and during my first tour I lost 35 lbs mostly due to not eating canned meat products that sat in non air conditioned warehouses for a decade or more. In 100+ heat and the stress of combat I could only eat fruit and various types of cakes and such. Beef and potatoes were a gelatinous can of ugly in a can. I was a grunt and spent most time in the field. Ham and beans were called a name I will not repeat on here:-). My point is that buy the foods you want to eat and make sure you take dietary conditions under considerations as well as age and medical issues. I am 72 and diabetic so only have so much insulin on hand. I would need to eat food high in carbohydrates at first while I am hardening my location and doing more physical labor. Once that chore is finished I can eat less and take less insulin along with less carbs as I do less physical tasks. I have younger neighbors for that and we have things that I will be good at without expending a lot of calories and carbs. I will have a neighborhood militia to train and stand watch etc. Thank God for country life!

    1. RJ – You are right on point with the idea of storing what you will eat. Those with specific medical needs like diabetes definitely have a more challenging task with their food storage plan. Thanks for your comment, and for your service!

  6. Would I use the same calculator to determine BMR for a baby (6 months old, nursing but just starting solids). What kinds of food prep and storage would I need to consider or use that would be different from calculating for older children and adults?

    1. Alicia… I can tell you what I have done over the years with my children when it comes to figuring out food storage: I count them as adults. One of the main reasons is that the majority of the long term food storage items have a shelf life of 20+ years. If I figure my long term food storage based on 4 adults (instead of two adults and 2 children) then I won’t have to change things over the years. If the food is needed earlier than when they are 13+ years old and in need closer to an adult level of calories, then I just have “extra” food on hand. That said, for the next year or so for your baby, you would need to have foods that can be easily digestible for a baby new to solid foods. But if you have dehydrated or canned fruits, veggies, and meats that can be mashed you should be fine. For a specific answer about how many calories a baby needs, consider this…


  7. Do you figure out the calories of each meal you prepare for your family every day? I highly doubt it. Comparing the number of calories in a #10 can of food to the number of servings is like comparing apples to oranges. For example: 1 cup of broccoli from Brand A will have the same number of calories as 1 cup of broccoli from Brand B. On the other hand, 1 cup of Chicken Alfredo from Brand A will not necessarily have the same number of calories as 1 cup of Chicken Alfredo from Brand B. Why? Brand A might have more pasta and cream sauce and less chicken than Brand B with more chicken and less pasta. But we can’t know that until we open each one and compare them.

    We all know that if you need more calories in a crisis situation it is easy to add calories – add fat, sugar, honey, or some type of carb. A couple tablespoons of coconut oil added to any food will provide added healthy calories.

    So when purchasing freeze dried or dehydrated foods for long term food storage, a better value measure is “servings” per can plus the weight. It is easy to figure out the cost per serving for Brand A and compare it to the cost per serving for Brand B. What we’re looking for is the most value for our dollar. (We’re not talking about nutrition here – that’s a completely different subject based on different criteria and is more important than calories.) Would you rather buy the higher calorie foods with fewer servings per can, knowing full well that higher calories don’t equal good nutrition, nor provide a better value for your dollars?

    1. Jacee – I disagree. Like I mentioned in the article, you should not go by “servings” alone because one “serving” of one food will have VERY different amounts in both calories and nutrition as compared to a “serving” of another food. That’s why calories are so important to figure ahead of time. A company selling a product with 30 servings is often advertising that it’s 10 days worth of food. If you just go by “servings”… one would think you would get 3 per day and have a sufficient amount of food. And they would starve, because each of those servings only has 200 calories each. All food sold has to have nutritional value labeled on it. It’s just as easy to figure out cost per calorie as it is cost per serving. That food with 30 servings that you thought would last you 10 days… well, it’s not such a great value when you find out its really only enough to feed you for 3. You are right that you should also be choosing foods based on their nutritional content, but there is no mistake that your body needs CALORIES to function, preferably from a wide variety of sources.

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