If you are interested in long-term survival enough to be read­ing this paper, it is not necessary to belabor the necessity of stockpiling food. The questions addressed in this paper are: how much to stockpile, what alternatives are available, and how to replenish the stockpile while in use.


Most Survivalist writers recommend at least a one-year stock­pile for each member of your unit. The Mormons even have this concept as part of their doctrine. In the end, how much you stockpile will depend on your perception of what events could happen, their potential severity, and your financial, transportation, and storage capability. In setting your goal, keep two aspects in mind. First, you do not need to acquire it all at once. A little extra purchased each week will quickly add up while allowing you to take advantage of sales. Second, you do not need to stock either the quantity or variety which you are using today.

According to Organic Gardening magazine, the average American consumes 1,450 pounds of food a year. While this sounds like a lot of weight, it must be remembered that much of it is water weight (1,450 pounds is about the weight of 200 gallons of water), emphasizing the importance of selecting survival food for your stockpile, if it must be transported (which already has most of the moisture removed), with a separate water source at the survival location for reconstitution or processing. The 1,450 pounds is broken out as follows:371 - fruit and vegetables, 143 - cereals, 239 - meat and fish, 353 - dairy products and 344 -miscellaneous.


Retort Pouches

The development of precooked food contained in a retort pouch (which is sandwiched layers of laminated bag made of plastics and aluminum foil that are adhesively bonded and designed to withstand the rigors of thermo processing), goes back to the late 1950's.

After the WW-II and the Korean War, the Army-attempted to find a substitute for the C-rations. By the late 1960's, the Army was field testing retort packaged food in Vietnam. Retort packaging is now widely used in Japan and much of Europe. In fact, almost all of the milk sold in Greece, Austria and Switzerland; is in retort pouches. However, retort pouches have had a very slow introduction in the U.S. due, in part, to the rigors of FDA testing.

Why has there been growing interest in retort packaging? Some of the reasons are:

- The food is already fully prepared. All that is required is to heat it up.

- The shelf-life is equal to or greater than canned goods. Actual shelf-lives have not yet been determined.

- No refrigeration is required even for such perishable items as milk or meat.

- The food is somewhat better tasting due to controlled mass preparation before packaging and a very short processing time prior to consumption.

- Retort packaging weighs less than canned goods since additional liquids required solely for cooking, are not required.

- They are easily prepared. All that is required is to drop the pouch into boiling water for 3-5 minutes. The water, still clean, can then be used for other purposes. If hot water is not available, the pouches can be warmed by placing them next to the body or any other heat source.

- Retort pouches are self-contained so that preparation, clean-up and disposal problems are minimal.

- Both the total processing time and energy required from field to table; are less than for canned and frozen foods, while the quality is comparable or superior.

With all of these advantages or benefits - there are some disadvantages like weight, limited availability and the retail price.The latter two should be overtaken once retort packaging comes into widespread use in the U.S. The weight is only a disadvantage when compared to other foods.

Projections, perhaps overly optimist, have been made that by the mid-1990's almost all processed perishable foods, both canned and frozen, will be sold in retort pouches. The supermarkets in my area served as a test market and still carry the '" la Carte" brand by Kraft. The 8 ounce pouches cost ranges from $1.59 to $1.99 each. The five current choices are Beef Burgundy, Beef Stew, Beef Stroganoff, Sweet and Sour Pork and Creamed Chicken. They are usually found near the Hamburger Helper and seem best served over a bed of rice. While the cost is currently high per serving and the choices limited, retort packaging bares watching as a potential candidate for a survival food stockpile.

If you would like to sample a single pouch, send me $3.00 to cover the cost and postage at P.O. Box 33399, Dayton, Ohio 45433. Indicate first and second choices from the five cited. If you are already familiar with retort pouches and are interested in a bulk purchase, send for a brochure from Sky-Lab Foods, 4 Ware­house Lane, Elmsford, NY 10523.

The Mormon Plan

The Mormon Plan for food stockpiling consists primarily of four items: wheat, sugar, powdered milk and salt. From these four basic ingredients, a wide variety of food can be prepared. The advantages of the Mormon Plan are that these four food items are relatively inexpensive and readily available. However, a portable grain mill will be necessary to process the wheat into flour. The most often recommended book on preparing meals from wheat is Passport to Survival by Esther Dickey.


The concept of freeze-dried food is that the food, once fully prepared, is quick frozen and then the moisture is removed through a vacuum process.

Freeze-dried food is popular with backpackers, due to its light weight. For example, a package of Turkey Tetrazzini sufficient to make 14.8 ounces, weighs just 3.2 ounces in the package, which is a 4.6:1 ratio. It is prepared by reconstituting the moisture by adding hot water to the package. Shelf-life appears to be indefinite.

The variety offered is very attractive. For example, some packages contain Pacific Shrimp w/Cocktail Sauce, Chicken and Rice, Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce, Noodles and Stroganoff Sauce with Beef, Tuna Salad, Eggs w/real Bacon Bits and various fruits and vegetables.

The primary disadvantage is the retail cost, which may be as high as $5.00 per serving, due to the cost of processing and limited demand. I do not foresee any significant decrease in the cost in the immediate future.

I do not think that the taste is as good as canned goods, but when backpacking, or in other situations where weight is an important factor; the light weight more than compensates for the cost and slight taste difference. Freeze-drying seems to affect the taste of fruit the most. Most camping, backpacking or mountaineering supply stores as well as most survival goods companies, offer a variety of freeze-dried foods.


Dehydrated foods are simply ones in which the moisture has been allowed to evaporate by heat. It differs from freeze-dried in that it is predominately dried in a raw or partially prepared state and then usually needs further processing prior to being consumed.

Foods, such as carrots, onions, peppers, bananas and celery are sliced into small, thin slices. They are then either air and/or sun dried or put in an electrically ventilated and heated processor designed for that purpose, which is recommended since it is far easier to maintain the required temperature, sanitation and humidity controls. If properly prepared and stored; dehydrated foods will last for several years. Another advantage is that the removal of the water greatly lightens the food as it is reconstituted to its original state in much the same manner as freeze-dried. Dehydrated foods have a good potential for a survival stockpile. The process is simple enough to do it yourself and the cost is little more than the cost of the basic food. It is quite cheap if you grow your own vegetables. For further information, I recommend reading Dry It – You'll Like It by Gene MacManimam. There are a number of electrical dehydration units on the market.

Survival Food Companies

Several companies, through distributors, sell prepared survival food kits. They are usually dehydrated or freeze-dried foods offered in pouches or in nitrogen packed cans. Some of the items available in the cans are soy protein powder, sea salt, apple crystals, mung beans, freeze-dried onions, peaches and tuna, and hard red winter wheat. The basic difference is that freeze-dried comes in either complete meals or one item in a can.

A typical unit consists of a 12-month supply of food for one adult with about 1,800 calories and 80 grams of protein per day for about $1,000 to $2,000. Some distributors will allow you to buy individual cases. The one-gallon size cans average about 5 pounds each. The manufacturers of which I am aware of are: Arrowhead Mills; Neo-Life; and Mountain House Foods (Oregon Freeze-Dried Foods) Check out the websites for their literature and the distributor nearest to you. You can find "survival food distributors" all over the World Wide Web. Stores, distributors and wholesale suppliers are everywhere. Most of the distributors offer sample packages to allow you to sample various offerings. This is a good way to find out if you will like what they are offering.

The food is sent freight-collect, which can be expensive. It may be worth your while to go pick up the items ordered. Many of the items offered such as brown rice, wheat, sea salt or corn meal, are available in normal packaging in your supermarket or health food stores; usually for less money. You will have to determine the trade-off between cost and shelf-life.

Grocery Items

Your local supermarket sells many items, which have excellent potential for survival stockpiling. The chart below shows just a sample of potential items at January 1980 prices. The shelf-lives given in the chart were taken from a government publication. I consider them to be extremely conservative. I estimate maximum shelf-life to be at least four times those shown.

Potential Survival Foods (Prices as of 1980 as stated above)

Item/Size Price per Pound Estimated Shelf- life in Months*
Dried beans/peas, 1 Ib. (large lima, small lima, pinto, great northern, Michigan navy, lentils, marrow and kidney beans, black eyed and split peas) Avg. $ .49 18
Pork and beans, 7 lb., 2 oz. $ .3718
Thin spaghetti, 2 lb. $ .4912
Elbow macaroni, 3 lb.$ .3912
Sugar, 25 lb.$ .28Indefinite
Salt, l lb.$ .23Indefinite
Instant rice, 28 oz.$1.0812
Flour, 25 lb.$ .1918
Powdered milk, 4 lb.$1.366
Powdered potatoes, 40 oz.$ .6812
Sunflower seeds, 5 lb.$ .4012
Tuna, 4 lb. 2 ½ oz.$2.1312
Sardines, 3 ¾ oz.$1.6712
Oatmeal, 2 lb. 10 oz.$ .3612
Vegetable oil, 3.78 lb.$1.4712
Instant coffee, 14 oz.$6.8218
Instant tea, 4 oz.$11.0018
Beef bouillon crystals, 3 ¾ oz.$3.5412
Baking soda, 4 lb.$ .3512
Canned turkey, 6 ¾ oz.$4.0418
Canned beef stew, 2 lb. 8 oz.$ .8818
Canned chicken soup, 51 oz.$ .438
Canned lemon crystals, 2 lb. 13 oz.$1.3418
Canned tomato juice, 46 oz.$ .246
Canned fruit cocktail, 17 oz.$ .5818
Hard candy, 7 oz.$1.2318
Canned peanuts, 1 lb. 8 oz.$1.5712
Powdered cream, 1 lb. 6 oz.$1.5212
Powdered black pepper, 1 lb.$3.7924
Raisins, 2 lb.$2.0012
Water soluble cocoa, 30 oz.$1.6412
Garlic salt, 13 oz.$1.4724
Onion salt, 13 ¾ oz.$1.8024
Dehydrated parsley flakes, 1 oz.$17.4424
Meat tenderizer, 3 ½ oz.$4.0724
Vinegar, 128 oz.$ .3018
Pickling spice, 3 ¼ oz.$9.6018
Honey, 4 lb.$1.1518
Popcorn, 4 lb.$ .3824
Peanut butter, 4 lb.$ .9018
Canned corn, 6 lb. 10 oz.$ .3518
Canned pears, 6 lb. 10 oz.$. 6718
Canned mixed vegetables, 6 lb. 10 oz.$ .3318

* Stored in the package or container in which they were purchased.

The optimum temperature for storing canned goods is 70° F significantly reduce shelf-life. Never eat a can of food if the ends are bowed out, the seams are rusty or if it doesn't smell quite right when opened. I recommend taking a leisurely stroll through several supermarkets. Evaluate all of the items for their potential in terms of quality, cost, weight, taste, nutrition and shelf-life.

I would like to draw your attention to one item in particular: In his book Can You Survive? Guidelines for Resistance to Tyranny for You and Your Family, Robert E. DePugh recommended including dog food for human consumption as a part of a survival food stock­pile. His logic is that both canned and dry dog food are designed to provide a diet balanced in essential vitamins, minerals, pro­teins, fats and carbohydrates over a period of time for dogs and would also provide these for humans. He cautions that dogs pro­duce their own Vitamin C and thus recommends supplementing a dog food stockpile with Vitamin C tablets. He recommends dry over canned as more economical, requiring less storage space and being generally better tasting. He noted that 100 pounds of dry dog food has about as many calories as 2,000 pounds of fresh potatoes. I have tasted dry dog food and, while the two brands I tasted were somewhat bland, I would have no qualms about eating it under survival conditions. Some of the newer "moist and meaty" dry dog foods may be more palatable. The labels read like "good for you" human food. The cost and storage aspects are also attractive. Its average cost is between $. 35 and $ .50 per pound for the largest bag. If kept in the bag in which it was packaged, I suspect that its shelf-life would be several years and its shelf-life would increase substantially with an airtight container. Under survival conditions, dry dog food could be used as a main course, snack, or to give a meaty flavor to a vegetable stew. It could also be served with reconstituted powdered milk and sugar and eaten like cereal (Here Granny, have a bowl of Cycle IV). If a sudden catastrophe developed and there was a run on the supermarkets, you may be the only one going directly to the dog food section. This advantage could make a decisive difference in your long-term survival. Mr. DePugh's recommendation to include dog food as part of your survival food stockpile is well worth consideration.

(Mr. DePugh is the founder of the Minutemen. His book is available from Hale Publications, P.O. Box 395, McDonald, OH 44437).

Most grocery store items are not packaged for long-term storage. If you intend to rely on them, you should rotate them. Once you have your levels built up to what you desire, then rotate them by using the oldest stock and placing the replacement stock at the back. You may want to consider buying grocery items by the case from one of the no-frills food outlets. The price is less and the food is already conveniently packaged. Any food purchased should also be marked with the purchase date as a reference.

Dried Bean Caution

The April 1982 issue of Organic Gardening cautioned that stored edible dried seeds (beans) are subject to infection with Aspergillus flauvs, a fungus which produces a substance called aflatoxin (among the most powerful cancer-causing substances known).

Organic Gardening recommended putting a stick of cinnamon; several clove buttons or several sprigs of thyme, in the storage containers since they act in an antifungal manner.

Their warning should be kept in mind if you plan to include dried beans as part of your food stockpile.

Surplus Military and Civil Defense Foods

As the military switches over to the new retort pouches, some surplus field rations should become surplus.These may be avail­able through the normal Army/Navy Surplus Stores or from auction at Defense Surplus Property Sales. Civil Defense is also disposing of the foodstuff stockpiled in fallout shelters. According to a January 1982 newspaper article, the "survival ration crackers" are still edible and tasty, even those made in the early 1960's. They are being disposed of due to the current Civil Defense crisis relocation philosophy versus the old stocked shelter plan. It must be recognized that individuals are the last ones on the list for disposition of surplus government property. Since social agencies will no doubt snatch up any surplus foodstuff, it is unlikely that any will be available for your stockpile. Keep on the lookout anyway as you may get lucky.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements

Chances are that food may be catch-as-catch can in a crisis situation. For this reason, you should include both vitamin and mineral supplements in your food stockpile. I also recommend stocking sea salt because of the trace elements it contains. There are a number of ads for mail-order companies which sell vitamins and minerals in bulk in Prevention magazine (published by the Organic Gardening people). Recommended is Lee Nutrition, 290 Main St., Cambridge, MA 02142.


Include a variety of spices in your survival food stockpile. They can enliven an otherwise plain meal.

Replenishment While in Use

I recommend assuming that the crisis will last an indefinite period of time. Implement a sensible rationing plan from the start. Try to rely on your food stockpile as little as possible by supplementing it with fresh produce, greens and meat.


If you do not garden now, I recommend that you do so. It can supplement your present grocery budget and also gives a sense of partial self-sufficiency. By gardening, I mean organically, since it builds up rather than deplete the soil as synthetic fertilizers and insecticides do. Organic Gardening magazine is considered by many people to be the best in the field.

Seeds should be an important article in your survival stock­pile. Most people do not save seeds from year-to-year. Those who do so will be at an advantage if new seeds are not available. Growing and Saving Vegetable Seeds by Marc Rogers is an excellent reference. You might also consider buying extra packages of seeds and then using them the second year, buying fresh seeds for carryover. Fortunately, most seeds are fairly inexpensive, especially in the fall.

Dried beans from your survival food stockpile may also be used to garden if they have not been stored too long. You can try to germinate some indoors to check whether they will still grow. All it would take would be one carefully tended sprout to produce future fresh seeds. Hybrid seeds will not reproduce true to either parent. To save seeds you will need to use standard varieties even though their yield will be less.

Wild Plant Foraging

Edible wild plants should not be overlooked or underestimated in hard times or survival situations. However, since most people do not have a day-to-day knowledge of most wild edible and nutritious plants, extra effort will be required to gain that knowledge.


In addition to hunting, fresh meat can also be obtained by growing your own. There are three animals which seem to be prime candidates: chickens, rabbits and goats. All three animals are relatively easy to raise, require little space and can be raised on available food. Chickens produce both meat and eggs. Rabbits provide hides, fertilizer and red meat. Goats provide dairy pro­ducts and occasionally hides and meat. Of the three, rabbits seem the most practical.

While technically an insect, for people already living in the country, bees may be a practical addition. They would provide both honey and beeswax for candles.

Any animal, or their by-products, would be potential barter items if you had excess.

Living off the Land

I do not recommend planning to live extensively off the land, although the equipment to do so should be stocked. In particular, animal traps and fishing equipment, such as trout-lines; should be included.

One of my Uncles, who lived through The Great Depression in the country, has told me that so many out-of-work men tried to supple­ment their supper table with game that the game became very scarce. This same type of thing is liable to happen in another crisis situation.

I recommend buying at least one copy each of two good survival books. One should be kept at your survival location (or put in your bug-out kit) and the second should be kept in your vehicle trunk. Two books I recommend are Bushcraft: A Serious Guide to Survival and Camping by Richard Graves (his chapter on animal snares and traps is excellent) and The Survival Handbook by Bill Merrill.


In preparing your survival food stockpile, you have many options available and should use as many as your situation allows for variety. I suspect that you would quickly grow tired of eating only freeze-dried foods.

A point which needs to be emphasized is that you can build up your stockpile a little at a time, if necessary. The important thing is to have a list of what you want to stock and a plan or schedule for stocking it.

You should also consider the preparation needs of the food. For example, freeze-dried food usually needs from 1 to 2 cups of hot water per packet. Some grocery store items will need to be boiled for a period of time, such as whole grain rice, before it can be digested. If sufficient water looks to be a problem, per­haps retort pouches are an answer.

Lastly, you can view your stockpile as an investment. If you purchase an extra can of beans for $ .40 and one year later it now sells for $ .50, you have realized a 25% return on your investment.


Most of the books cited in this paper can be obtained from .Mother's Bookshelf, P.O. Box 70, Hendersonville, NC 28791.The address of Organic Gardening is 33 E. Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18049.



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