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Calculating Long-term Food Storage

October 14, 2021

In the past several years, I’ve heard a lot about preppers, and I’ve watched many videos on how they prepare. One topic of discussion that comes up regularly is long-term food storage. This food is intended to sustain individuals in the household for x-amount of time. Some keep a month’s supply of food on hand while others keep a year or two stashed in their pantry.

What continues to amuse me is up until about sixty years ago, having a storage of food in the pantry was common practice. Perhaps people living in cities were less inclined to keep a month’s worth of food on hand, but those living in the country dedicated space, time, money and energy to having a well-stocked pantry for the brutal winter months.

In today’s climate, my family would have been considered preppers because our freezer was full of deer meat, rabbit meat, fish and various items bought from the grocery store. By the end of October, shelves in the cold room were stocked with preserves my mother had done down: chow, pickles, cranberry jam, blueberry jam and a host of other foods picked from the garden or gathered from the forest that surrounded our neighbourhood.

Many of today’s preppers gauge how much food they need by calories. They’ll set a number, say 2,000 calories per day for an adult, then calculate how many calories of food to store. I’ve seen this done in many videos by popular preppers on YouTube. Ultimately, someone comments that the prepper probably miscalculated and won’t have enough food. I second that. And it has nothing to do with miscalculating calories.

My mother never measured food stores by calories, yet we always had enough. At one point, there was 12 of us (Mom, Dad, me and my nine siblings) living in the house. Needless to say, Mom had her hands full keeping our bellies full.

Being number 10 of 11 kids, I don’t recall how mom knew how much food was needed to sustain us, but I think it was probably similar to what I do. It’s the simplest way of calculating food needs, but it will take a little effort.

First, let’s dismiss the whole counting calorie method. It’s useless. It will always be wrong because calories cannot measure daily consumption properly. The calories in a bag of frozen peas are not the same as those in a box of chocolate bars.

The ideal way to know how much food is necessary is to track how much is eaten. Some things will be easy to measure. I eat two eggs a day. I need 14 eggs a week. I have one tea a day. I need 365 tea bags to sustain me for a year.

Other food items will take a few weeks to figure out. For example, I know on average, I use 1 kilogram of honey a month. I use about a pound of bacon each week. These food items are used rather quickly, so it’s not difficult to calculate a month’s supply.

Other things, such as salt, baking powder, sugar and flour take much longer to measure. About 15 years ago when I became dedicated to knowing how much supplies we used, I created a list for things that lasted more than a week. Beside the item, I wrote when I opened the package and when it was all used. I did this for about two years to get an average of how long a product lasted. If you do this, remember to record the weight or volume of the product.

This record gave me a clear picture of what I needed for x-amount of time when the kids were small. I’ve re-evaluated this a few times and now that the kids are young adults and supplement their food by buying while outside the house.

I prepare for the future, but I don’t call myself a prepper. I’m just doing what my ancestors have been doing since the beginning of time: securing food. We could call this old-fashioned, homesteading or any other given name, but I call it normal.

Taking charge of my food gives me control over my . . . food.

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