Wednesday, June 3, 2020

I know I need a TEOTWAWKI Pantry, but where do I start?

WWII Rationing Food Line Up at Butcher Shop, England 1942 
The most recent 60 day (and counting) free trial of communism (the lock downs go way beyond mere “socialism”) offered up by the COVID crisis have caused many families to pause and consider what they would do if going to the grocery store didn’t just mean reduced quantities or choices in foodstuffs, but if literally the shelves were bare, and the resupply was uncertain. As in, Venezuela bare. As in, people in Poland “unavailable”.  Under communist rule, those in the Soviet bloc would join any line and buy whatever was on offer because inflation was so rampant that you had to exchange currency for SOMETHING tangible, tradeable or useful immediately, before your money was completely devalued and, supply chains in the modern American sense were a joke and so you bought what was available, when it was available, and a thriving barter economy resulted. Speak to anyone who lived in the Soviet bloc during this era and they are quite clear it sucked.

There are many websites devoted to pantry planning with each person having their own ideas on "what" someone should have in their pantry as “essentials”.  That is not what this post will be about.  In the first instance, all families are unique.  What may be “essential” pantry items for a southern family of Scots-Irish stock may be totally inappropriate for what a Vietnamese extended family on the West Coast would feel is “essential”.  As well, pantry choices that over rely on carbohydrates like rice, flour and beans are not completely appropriate for diabetics or anyone with metabolic syndrome who need to consider foods that will satisfy and nourish, but also don’t spike the blood sugar too quickly. A well stocked pantry will have a balance of healthy foods that includes a wide variety of proteins, vegetables, fruits as well as starches and healthy fats.

Charlotte Walker's Well Stocked Pantry

The best time to get started with a TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) pantry is of course, yesterday.  Or last week.  Or last year.  The next best time to get started is TODAY.  And the easiest way to get started is to buy 2 of what you would normally buy, if it is a long term storage item and not perishable.  Even better if your local grocery chain runs BOGOs (Buy One, Get One) offers as loss leaders to get people into the store.  BOGOs are an excellent way to start building an emergency pantry.  You need to realize that YOU are your own food bank.  No one is coming to rescue you.  No one is coming to save you.

Meal planning

Take some time to write down one week/7 days of meals (1 breakfast, 1 dinner for 7 days) that are your family’s favorites and “go-to” comfort foods. Use that as your template to build your TEOTWAWKI pantry.  This plan is easily extended from initially planning for one week to buying for two weeks, to four weeks, to eight weeks …..  You get the idea.  Or you could start initially planning on supplies for two weeks, then double that for four weeks, then sit down and write another 7 days of meals that your family enjoys and add that to the rotation.  Just concentrate on a decent breakfast and dinner/supper for now.  The rest can be considered and will be discussed later.  Baby steps. Let's first focus on figuring out how many calories you will need to consider, and then how to break down those calories into a percentage of protein, carbohydrate and fats as we determine how much to buy and store.

I know a lot of people, especially in urban centers, don’t have supplies on hand to make 3 days worth of meals, let alone two weeks.  One of the reasons given is “lack of space”.  Totally understood.  So get creative in your “space”.  Tough totes can be purchased for not a lot of money to store TEOTWAWKI meals and emergency medical supplies and medications under a bed, or make an extra heavy duty shelf in a closet, up high, for your TEOTWAWKI.  Not everyone has the space for an instagramable pantry, and you don't need one.  Focus on practicality and functionality.

If space is limited, try and get creative with heavy duty shelving suspended from the ceiling or some basic see-through totes with locking lids for under bed or couch storage. Just make sure you have measured the space to ensure that they will fit under your bed.

You will also want to keep track of your menu plans and ingredients list and the supply on hand. I have never formally had a tracking system because I've always felt pretty confident that my current pantry would sustain us for a very long time, and that resupply would be easily available. I have since changed my attitude and have begun the process of putting into place an inventory tracking and forecasting system. Our family circumstances have also recently changed; from planning for a family of 8 I am now planning for an empty nest household of 2, and my planning posture also needs to change. For example, I have stepped down from canning and storing in quart size jars and mylar bags to 2 cup pint in most cases and so on. In other words, no one size fits all. There are several menu planning systems out there, from 52 week old school paper book ones to sophisticated software. A regular schooled bound notebook set up the way that works best for you works just as well as one you buy.
Calories Count

Okay, for those not aware, there was recently a “scandal” in the prepper community.  There is a large body of people who like to buy freeze dried and dehydrated foods designed to feed a person/family for one month, two months, years …. You get the idea.  You know the products.  

One of the more popular products in this market space is Wise Foods. They spend A LOT of money promoting their product and their long term food storage plans.  It is alleged they made representations about how long a certain “meal plan” would last, and claims about the length of storage for their products.  The lawsuit alleges that some of the meals would only provide as little as 450 calories per day per person - woefully inadequate.

Wise Foods is in the middle of a legal settlement over these claims.
“This class action, known as Miller v. Wise Company Inc., U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Case No. 5:17-cv-00616-JAK-PLA, alleges that on its website ( and packaging, Wise made misrepresentations and omitted material information about how long its Long-Term Food Kits would last and how many people they would feed. The customers who brought the case (the “Plaintiffs”) allege that as a result, customers were induced to pay more for those products than  they otherwise would have.”

Some people who have YouTube accounts devoted to commentary in the prepper space have commented that when customers opened their kits the meals were moldy and/or the calorie count was woefully low and inadequate.  Customers were also very upset that Wise Food company had turned over “highly confidential” customer purchase records to the government as part of the lawsuit. Wise denies these claims but is settling. There are a few Youtube videos around with commentary for and against Wise's position and I am not going to get into that here. I post merely as a "heads up" and a cautionary tale as to why you should take charge of your own pantry planning.

So, the moral of the Wise dispute IMHO is that you are better building a “customized” pantry that best suits your families’ needs, then spending the money on a “survival kit” marketed by one of these companies.

How to figure out how many calories to plan for? 

My goal with this post in the series is to give you some tools and calculators to help you plan and build an appropriate and customized pantry that suits your family.

A good starting point when doing your planning is to use one of the many online calorie tools where you input your sex, age, height, weight and activity level to give you an idea of how many calories you need to maintain your weight.  Note that this is just an overall calorie number, not a breakdown of calories by starches, proteins, fats etc.  And not all calories are created equal, but more on that later.

This is an example of a calorie counting calculator you can use to customize how many calories you will need to plan for in your customized pantry for YOUR family, to ensure that there is adequate food as a baseline. It is always good to err on the up side, as there will always be spoilage, waste, etc.

So let’s consider a sample couple ("Dad" and "Mom") trying to figure out where to start:
Dad, 44,  is 5’11”, 180 lbs, “moderately active”
Mom, 42,  is 5’8”, 160 lbs, “lightly active”

Using the Calorie counter app linked above:

Dad:  To MAINTAIN his current weight he needs at LEAST 2750 calories a day.
This is SIGNIFICANTLY more than the “based on a 2,000 calorie a day” guidelines on your food labels. I would budget for at least 3,000 calories a day for a SHTF pantry.

Mom: To MAINTAIN her current weight she will need at LEAST 1970 calories a day at her current activity level.

They would need to plan on a minimum of 4700 calories a day, of which a minimum of 10% should be protein based calories. Most "kit" plans would be severely under these calorie needs. I have found that most people SEVERELY underestimate the number of calories they will need per meal for each family member. Remember, the calorie app above was for "light" or "moderate" exercise. In a true SHTF situation, your physical activity would go up much more especially if you are chopping wood for fuel, walking long distances because transportation is no longer available, gardening, etc.

Consider what your scenario will be for your circumstances and adjust the calorie requirements accordingly when doing your planning for menus and buying. It is not unreasonable to factor in at least 3,500 calories a day minimum for an average active male working outside. Your body also burns through a lot more calories when you are outside in the cold; if you live in a colder part of the country you need to factor that in too. There is a reason why military MREs for Russian, Finland and our own US Artic rations are heavily caloric and have a lot of fats in them.

check this out - Russian Special Forces MRE has 5,000 calories and 5 Entrees!

Cold weather = more calories needed.

Remember, in this situation, it is better to plan for "too many" calories per person and be able to extend your food storage then have "too little". Too many plans, including the "survival kits" when you do the actual math, rely on far "too little" calories. You can get a good guesstimate of how many calories you will burn doing various tasks using a calculator like this one:

click here for Calories burned doing gardening

In this phase of your planning, if you are relying on pre-made goods as part of your ingredients, take a good hard look at "recommended servings". Many "serving sizes" are ridiculously low for an average healthy male. Instead, calculate how much is a reasonable amount that your family member would eat and use those caloric values instead. For example, if a "serving size" is 1/2 cup (which one prepackaged macaroni & cheese box mix claimed), and you know that your family eats an average of 1.5 cups per serving, then you need to multiply the "recommended serving" by 3 per family member. Just because something says on the box, "serves four" doesn't mean it will actually serve 4 of your family in a real SHTF scenario when your calorie intake is most likely going up dramatically.

A calorie is NOT a “calorie”
A calorie is simply a measurement of energy.  In theory, you could meet all your calorie requirements for your long term storage by storing only rice.  Or oatmeal.  Or drums of olive oil.  You get the idea.  But, we want to build a pantry that is balanced, will meet our overall nutritional needs, and keep us healthy and strong, not just “sustained”.  A well nourished, healthy body is one that is best equipped to fight disease and stay strong.

One of the things that needs to be considered is how the body metabolizes different sources of energy.  Carbs are a perfect example.  Sugar is a carb.  Pasta is a carb.  Root vegetables that grow underground can be very carb-heavy. But how the body uses those carbs can be very different.

A wide body of research in diabetes led to the development of the “Glycemic Index”.  Patients ate specific foods and then blood glucose readings were collected and analyzed to compare how different foods spiked the glucose level in the bloodstream.  Many people started using just the GI index numbers as a score of whether or not a food was "healthy" or "better" without taking into account portion sizes, etc.  So it is important to understand the difference between the “Glycemic Index” (GI) vs. “Glycemic Load” (GL). 

What you want to concentrate on when doing your meal planning is the GLYCEMIC LOAD.  For example, some vegetables can have a very high GI (Index) and so people avoid them as “bad”, but in actuality, given a typical portion, the GL (Load) is very low.

I strongly urge you to take some additional time to consider Glycemic Load when meal planning, especially if you have family members who are diabetic or borderline (metabolic syndrome).  Younger children as well should not have a diet that is heavy on "quick glucose" foods, as any experienced parent will tell you this has a huge impact on behavior, attention levels, etc. And don't be fooled by what you "think" is healthy.

Apple Juice Just as sugary as Coca-Cola, experts warn

12 oz apple juice has 170 calories and 36 g of sugar. 12 oz of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories and 39 g of sugar. Many parents think of apple juice as "healthy" when it is loaded in as much sugar as a soda. You are better to serve whole apple slices for a treat than apple juice.

From the University of Sydney Glycemic Index Website FAQ:

To calculate Glycemic Load (GL) the formula is:

GL (Glycemic Load) = GI (Glycemic Index) x the amount of carbohydrate) divided by 100.

Let's take a single apple as an example.It has a GI of 40 and it contains 15 grams of carbohydrate.
GL = 40 x 15/100 = 6 g

What about a small baked potato?Its GI is 80 and it contains 15 g of carbohydrate.
GL = 80 x 15/100 = 12 g

We can predict from this that our potato will have twice the metabolic effect of an apple. You can think of GL as the amount of carbohydrate in a food “adjusted” for its glycemic potency

Fats have had a really bad rap - and you have the sugar industry to thank for it.  When you see something on the supermarket shelf that is labelled “low fat”, the fat is replaced with sugar. Current research seems to be showing that excessive sugar in the Western diet is a contributor to a lot of illness, including cancer, auto immune disorders and coronary heart disease.

Our bodies need good quality fats to be healthy. Adequate fats help us feel satiated and are necessary building blocks to maintain healthy tissues and to transport fat-soluble vitamins. The Keto diet is heavily centered on fats instead of carbs for fuel. It is possible to build a Keto friendly TEOTWAWKI pantry and menu plan.

Like carbohydrates, not all fats are created equal. Crisco, Oleo, Margarine, Butter substitutes are all "fats" that have no place in your emergency pantry, where every calorie has to be nutritionally potent.

After you have figured out the minimum daily calories needed for each family member, at least 10% of those calories need to come from protein, but I would recommend planning for much more protein than 10% if your budget allows. Like the overall calorie counter, you can customize your pantry planning by calculating how much protein each family member will minimally need.  Again - I can not emphasize this enough - I would really try and plus-up and work towards building an emergency pantry that is on the “high” side of the protein requirements. Body builders are extremely conscious of how important protein intake is for health, to not only build muscle mass but to maintain it.

click here to Calculate your required protein intake

Sources of protein to consider are home pressure canned or tinned meats, freeze dried meats, nuts and legumes (peanuts are considered legumes). Ground beef can be extended by making shepherd’s pie and chili with a 50/50 match of ground beef and cooked and seasoned green lentils, for example. Dairy including cheese and eggs are also good protein sources, as are whey protein powder mixes. Powdered collagen can be added to smoothies and hot drinks. If possible, unless your household has some severe dietary restrictions, try to have a variety of protein sources included in your menu planning.

Dried lentils and beans factor greatly in our TEOTWAWKI pantry as they are inexpensive, easy to store, and easy to cook. ½ cup of cooked lentils = 9 grams of protein, and serving them with meat or dairy helps make them a “complete” protein. I make a really delicious shepherd’s pie with a 50/50 mix of ground beef and green lentils pre cooked in beef bone broth with onion and garlic. Meatloaf, sloppy joes and chili are also excellent choices to stretch ground meats by adding cooked and seasoned lentils.

My advice would be, start your planning by making sure you have enough protein to meet your families’ needs as one of the first steps. Most people concentrate on having enough “calories” and they tend to be carb-heavy.  Smart planners work backwards and make sure they have enough protein, which is the hardest to source when things get rocky.

This first post should provide enough resources for you to take the first important step, figuring out a realistic number of calories each member of your family needs, for your situation. In summation, most people woefully underestimate the number of calories they will need, and rely overly on carbs to meet those calorie needs. Next post I will discuss proteins and different ways to store proteins for long term storage.

Update: I had previously written a post on an Introduction to Pressure Canning, and a post on some safety tips most people don't think about when starting a SHTF garden, especially important if you are in an area where you rely on well water for your drinking water and for your garden.

Because I don’t want to make this post too long, I will continue on with this series with some example meal plans with quantities need to buy and store, a variety of ideas for different long term food storage solutions, and creative ways to stretch your budget so that you can build an emergency pantry that is right for you and YOUR family that will be cheaper then buying one of the pre-planned “kits”. I will also give you sources and ideas to set up a co-op with friends or family for bulk buying and purchasing supplies and equipment for putting up food for long term storage. If you have specific requests, please feel free to comment and I'll try to address it in a future post. Thanks for your visit today, and I hope you found something of value to help you on your road to building your own TEOTWAWKI pantry.

Yours in Liberty,
- 30 -

Follow me on Twitter @StopShoutBlog if you enjoy raucous political debate. Questions, comments and concerns are most welcome.  All comments are moderated to manage spam and will post when I have time to review and release.  Profane and threatening comments will not be posted.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post friend. I would only add couple of thoughts I might have missed when I read it.

One eat what you store. Rotation keeps the old food eaten instead of tossed or "maybe if I'm REALLY Hungry" meal planning. We will be under a lot of extra stress and unknown foods are not a good idea then. Also you will find out NOW while the stores are still open what extra spices and such you want for that Rice and Beans emergency diet.

Two foods like whole wheat (get a grinder and USE it, really fresh bread is awesome),dried beans and such can be planted for more food. Right now I have several Walt-mart GV dried pinto beans growing in my garden along with squash seeds I potted up and are now in the garden for more squash. I have been planting sprouted grocery store potatoes for years. Try that with a MRE or Frozen Pizza.

Buy seeds, grow a garden NOW. A can of "Survival Seeds" and no experience will doom you friend.

Vitamins, Get some. Cheap now, the B's and C's are hard to get in most "survival" foods. Two, three years worth is cheap that a single AR magazine.

Stop shouting... said...

Thank you for your excellent suggestions. I also highly recommend that people buy some good quality vitamins now as well. We have in addition to a good quality multivitamin, extra Vit C, D and E as well as fish oil and magnesium. I also keep Quercetin with Nettle, Bromelain and B5 with 60 mg Zinc Orotate, NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine) and zinc lozenges on hand for prevention against sinus, respiratory and a wide variety of flu-like illnesses. People can do their own research on how those supplements are effective in maintaining health.

I recently just opened up a new 50 lb pail of hard winter red wheat from our TEOTWAWKI storage and am in the middle of finishing a blog post on grinding the wheat berries with a hand grinder and tips with baking. Whole Red wheat also provides protein. 1 cup of hard red wheat has about 25g of protein. 1 cup of hard white wheat slightly less, about 22g of protein.

Anonymous said...

I would like to second ANON 7:26 point "Buy seeds, grow a garden NOW. A can of "Survival Seeds" and no experience will doom you friend."

I've been learning many hard lessons with my garden and slowly working towards not sucking as much. I shudder to think full TEOTWAWKI having to rely on my garden.

Please everyone, Food, Water and security / safety are your priorities.

Anonymous said...

I would like to second and third all of the above comments. Also be on the lookout for plants of opportunity in your daily travels. I live in Virginia (zone 7a) and I have trained my eye to spot wild lettuce and mullein growing along the roadside. Easy to find and utilize.