How Much Emergency Food Should I Store?

Just about every new prepper we speak with inevitably asks the question, “How much emergency food should I store?”

It’s a great question because, fired up by enthusiasm and not much research, you may be tempted to race off to the nearest food store to mindlessly stock up on tons of energy bars, canned soups, oatmeal and juice boxes.

But hold on there.

While those foods may be good for temporary relief of hunger, are they really what your family needs if an emergency lasts a couple of months…or even a couple of weeks?

Imagine your family’s reaction when they’re on their fifth straight meal of soup and oatmeal with a juice chaser.

Serious Prepping Means Serious Foods.

When you’re planning your emergency food storage program, you need to begin with survival food basics—healthy food staples—that will keep you and your loved ones alive.

Once you have that quantity stored, you can switch over to nutrient-packed foods. And after that, add foods that are enjoyable to eat.

how much emergency food should I store

As long-time preppers, we recommend the following food priorities:

  • Survival food first (rice, beans and wheat)
  • Nutrient packed foods second (fruits and vegetables)
  • Enjoyable foods third (pre-packaged foods and sweets)

So given that, to maintain weight, the average woman needs about 2000 calories per day versus 2500 calories for men, (allowing for factors like age, current weight, activity levels and others), just how much food does your new emergency food pantry really need?

The Menu Approach
Some preppers have found that the best strategy is to go into minute details about which food items to store and how much.

For example, they’ll write up multi-week meal plans that lay out each meal, and then add up all the ingredients those meals will require. That’s their shopping list.

If you don’t want to go to that length, create a one-week plan instead and multiply it by the number of weeks you’re storing up for (2 weeks, a month, 2 months, etc.)

Preppers Tip: Throw in an additional recipe (like your best bean salad or casserole) for variety every few days. Your family will thank you for it!

Naturally, this method requires ingredients with a good shelf life (canned, dehydrated, freeze dried, etc.) so think this through carefully as you incorporate your favorite recipes into a meal plan.

The Bulk Foods Approach

In this approach, preppers focus not so much upon specific recipes and meal plans as upon generic foods that can be adapted to many different recipes, and easily stored long term.

These foods may include fruits and vegetables, grains, canned and dried meats, fats and oils, beans, milk and dairy, and sugars.

Incidentally, for a list of some of the best foods for long-term storage, check out this link.

Let’s say you have a family of 2 adults and two children (over 7 years of age). Here’s what a popular online food storage calculator suggests you use as a guide:

Family of 4, 2-Weeks Emergency Food Supply


Note: if you store wheat, be sure you have some type of grain mill to produce flour. Here’s a list of some of the more popular grain mills sold online.


You have so much variety to choose from: canned, dehydrated or freeze-dried meats like beef, beef jerky, bacon, spam, chicken, fish (tuna fish, etc.), ham, hamburger, lamb, lunch meat, mutton, pepperoni, pork, turkey, and more.


Store up on family favorites like strawberries, blueberries, apples, banana chips, fruit mixtures, applesauce and fruit juices. Vegetable options include carrots, corn, green beans, peas, tomatoes and onions. Freeze drying and dehydration give you an almost endless variety of options.


Beans fit into so many recipes and have the added benefits of being both nutritious and easy to store. Popular emergency beans and legumes include dried beans, soy beans, lima beans, split peas, lentils, dry soup mix and total legumes.


Be sure to store quantities of those fats and oils you can use in many different recipes. By the way, if you don’t use many of these items in your daily recipes, some of these above quantities may sound a bit high—so store a bit less! Common stored fats and oils include shortening, vegetable oil, peanut butter, salad dressing, mayo and total fats and oils.


Milk and dairy products are another ingredient group critical to so many tasty recipes. For emergency food supplies, be sure to add your choice of powdered milk, evaporated milk and other long-shelf-life products.  


Your sugar supplies might include a combination of sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, powered juice mix, molasses, and flavored gelatin.


For a family of 4, we recommend you store the above quantities of salt, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, jams and vinegar. For larger families and longer emergency periods, increase as necessary.


This is how much water your family of 4 would need for a 2-week supply. We also recommend you stock up on good water purification devices to extend these supplies. Remember, you’ll need water not only for drinking but also for cooking, cleaning and bathing. Always store more than you think you’ll need. Use between 8 and 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water for sanitation.

“How Much Emergency Food Should I Store?”
The Simple Truth:

Store as much as your family needs for whatever length of time you think they’ll need it. Avoid storing up on large quantities of low nutrition snacks and convenience foods.

Store nutritious, high shelf-life foods that can be made into a variety of recipes. Always be mindful of what your family likes to eat and lean towards those foods first and foremost.

You will find a wealth of information on canned, dehydrated or freeze-dried foods online, and that may be a good place to begin.

Don’t forget to add an occasional treat or two to your pantry, as well. Nothing lifts spirits better in trying times than a delicious surprise snack or other delectable goodie from your pantry’s back shelf!

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