Food Storage: How to Calculate for Your Needs

Editor’s Note: Lee Flynn offers the following straightforward guidance on calculating how much food and water you should store. – John


Food storage is becoming an increasingly popular topic. A turbulent economy (not to mention the recent collection of natural disasters and dozens of “end of the world” theories) has increased the concern for emergency preparedness. And food storage is the best place to start when preparing to face an uncertain future.

Although many people have the desire to build up a good store of emergency food, a lot of us do not know how to do it or, more specifically, how much food storage is really necessary.

The best place to start is with a paper and pen. Before you begin buying food you should formulate a food storage plan that takes into account how many people will be dependent on the supply. Take into account not only what types of food are needed but how many servings of each.

While the ideal recommended food storage supply is one year, most people work their way up to a full year worth. There are plenty of resources available to help you calculate a food storage plan in detail, but here are a few of the basics to get you started.

The most basic and essential element of any food storage plan is water, so that is the best place to start. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) recommends having at least one gallon of water per person per day. In other words, for a household of three (the average household size in the United States) you will need three gallons of water per day in order to provide for both drinking and sanitation. It is suggested that every household should be prepared for 72 hours of emergency water, at bare minimum, so calculate one gallon per person in your household and times that by three to calculate the minimum supply of emergency water.

After establishing the minimum supply you will want to gradually build to a bigger supply. Although it is recommended that households have a full year supply of food storage, it is impractical for most families to have enough room to store a year worth of water, so try to at least get to a two week supply.

After you have planned for your water needs you will then want to gather a balanced food supply. The most fundamental way to approach calculating food requirements is based on calories. Calorie requirements are dependent on height and weight but the average female should consume roughly 2200 calories daily and the average male about 2700 per day.

From there you can determine caloric values of foods from the basic food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, legumes), and build your storage based on your household’s individual needs. If that sounds like too much math and too much work then you might want to find an online food storage calculator that will give you a more approximate number but with a lot less work. As with water, start with a 72-hour supply, then build to two weeks worth, before attempting to have an entire year supply.

Reaching a full year supply might seem overwhelming so build gradually. The economy is rough right now so many people struggle to find extra money to put toward a food storage supply. Try factoring a small sum into your monthly budget—slow and steady wins the race, right?

It might take some effort, some persistence and some financial investment, but it is well worth it for the peace of mind it brings. And if disaster does strike, it will literally be life saving.



Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and expert in food survival and long term food storage.


Author: DestinySurvival Contributor

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4 thoughts on “Food Storage: How to Calculate for Your Needs”

    1. Some of the food storage companies on the sidebar here and in the Prep Mart have food storage calculators, too. Whether you use them depends on whether you’re storing ready-made food, setting aside your own, or a little of both. Making the Best of Basics, by James Talmage Stevens, gives guidance as well. That book is featured on the sidebar.

  1. Please note that the FEMA suggestion for water is barely more than the minimum necessary to keep you alive. When FEMA says a gallon a day for “drinking and sanitation” it means avoiding dehydration and washing your hands. It takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3 gallons of water to flush a toilet. It takes water to cook rice or pasta and other foods. Forget a bath or even getting really clean. FEMA assumes average temperature and light work load. High heat and heavy work will require more water. It makes its suggestion based on the idea that everything will be back to normal in 3 days. Isaac was not a bad hurricane, but some areas still don’t have power which normally means no fresh water. Katrina, Andrew, Iniki and others have shown that the 3 day return to normal theory can be a bad joke. In fact, after Katrina, FEMA changed to a two week recommendation. Then when things calmed down, it went back to 3 days.

    I store 42 gallons per person. That is 3 gallons per day for a two week outage. Yes, it takes a lot of space. Yes, it requires regular rotation. But, twice I have been able to give water to unprepared family members without any inconvenience to my immediate family. For the record, both water stoppages were caused by power outages that lasted less than 48 hours, that is, the FEMA 3 day recommendation would have been adequate.

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