Enough Food For A Year (Level 3 Preparedness)

“Prepping and Preparedness 3” is a level of being prepared for up to 1 year.

Check the series overview (linked below) for my logic and reasoning why I split it the way that I did. And also re-read the sections on Food Preparedness for Level 1 & 2.

The following information is intended as a guideline. The details will require research, time, and work on your end. But it’s really not complicated. Lets get started:

Food Storage Beyond 3 Months | Up To 1 Year


There are several logical reasons that immediately come to mind for storing extra food to last up to one year.

  1. Food prices never go down. You’ll save some money in the long run.
  2. The convenience of having your own ‘mini grocery store’ at home.
  3. Preparedness & peace-of-mind for an extended time of difficulty.


There are a few drawbacks, or things you’ll have to deal with.

  1. The physical space to store all that extra food.
  2. Probably some additional equipment needed to accommodate this.
  3. It will cost some money to set yourself up.
  4. Time will be required for the overall process.
  5. Others may think you’re ‘nuts’.

Choosing Foods For 1 Year Storage

I’ve been doing this for awhile (writing on this subject, and storing foods). Search this blog for all sorts of related topic articles, recommendations and beneficial reader comments within those articles.

With that said, my NUMBER 1 recommendation is to DIVERSIFY the foods and food groups! This will take time and effort. But if you tackle this project one step at a time, you’ll get there…

If you want to do this quickly: It might be the way to go for some people who simply want the quick peace of mind without delving deeply into the process. I get that. And that’s okay with me (everyone has their own priorities). You can buy a 1 year supply of food (or 3 mo. or 6 mo.) in one shot. It will be relatively expensive, but if that’s not necessarily and issue:

Best Choice to Buy a 1 Year Food Supply

If you’re going to go that route, here’s what I suggest:

Get in contact with Ready Made Resources. They have been with us a preparedness sponsor for nearly 10 years, and I trust them fully. A family business operating in Tennessee and authorized distributor for a number of excellent preparedness food brands.


Okay, back to do-it-yourself food storage for a year. Here’s what I have done. I have purchased and supplied my own foods and food groups generally as follows:

  • Dry foods bulk (rice, beans, wheat berries, flour, oats, pastas, salt, sugar, dry milk, coffee!, etc.)
  • Canned foods (grocery store – meats, veggies, soups, stews, other stuff…)
  • Home canned foods (do it yourself – from garden bounty, store sales, meats)
  • Food for the chest freezers (meats, veggies, oils, variety of other stuff…)
  • Freeze dried (professionally done – meats, veggies, ready meals)
  • Dehydrated (professionally done and DIY – premixed meals, veggies, etc.)
  • Spices, Condiments, that kind of stuff… (Important !!)
  • Oils (freeze for long term storage)
  • Professionally packaged food kits (variety of mfgrs.)
  • Processed / boxed foods (to an extent)

Technically you don’t have to diversify too much to supply enough ‘calories’ for a year. Rice & Beans are way cheap, and a ‘survival combination’. One could stack a lot of that along with a few other things to fill out a year. But you’re sure going to get food-fatigue!

That’s why I say diversify.

Be Conscious Of Shelf Life Differences

I have made mistakes over the last decade in this area. Some foods will not last as long as others. Even though so called “Best-by or Sell-by” dates are not end-of-life dates, the stamped (or looked up) time frame should be a guideline for consumption.

Know and understand the shelf life differences between freeze-dried, dehydrated, grocery canned, dry dairy products, packages of processed foods, etc..

Typically, grocery store canned foods you’re looking at about 2 years for better flavor/nutritional value.

Dry foods like rice, wheat berries, and others will store for decades if packed right. Though dry beans will get very hard after many years — again – learning through research or one’s own trials.

Still other foods like sugar and salt (and other foods) will last ‘forever’.

The intent is not to go through the list here for shelf life of all things. But to prod you to become aware and educate yourself how long you might expect ‘this or that’ to sit on the shelf before going ‘off’ or bad.

Food Rotation | Even More Important

It’s always good practice to try and eat what you store and store what you eat. At least to an extent.

But when you have LOTS of food, like enough for a year, then it will be important to make some, or most of that storage part of your daily/weekly meal plans.

Otherwise it’s going to sit there, and some of it’s just going to eventually degrade or eventually spoil. A well diversified food storage will enable you to go into your mini grocery store, pull what you need for your upcoming meals, and then replace what you took out afterwards. Rotate.

Even some of the more expensive foods like (for example) professionally packaged #10 cans of dried powdered egg, cheeses, dairy products… This specific group (dried dairy) will tend to degrade beyond 5 years (generally). So stay aware of your dates and consume the product prior. Then replace (unless you didn’t like it)!

Label the Dates

Make use of a sharpie marker. Since I just mentioned #10 cans: When I receive new, I write month/year on them (typically the top).

When we process a new batch of home canned chicken, or pasta sauce, or whatever, we write the month/year on the lids.

Wherever it’s appropriate, mark the date. Most grocery store items already have some sort of date. But not everything you pick up might indicate that.

How Do You Know When You Have Enough Food Storage For A Year?

Really, it’s a lot to do with calories. Plus, and importantly, a diversified nutritional value.

Try To Count The Calories

After awhile, you will get a feel for it. But prior to that, you’re going to have to get some data on how many calories are in the various foods that you put up on the shelves (or wherever you put them). How many calories do I need?

For the sake of simplicity and for the average adult, factor 2,000 calories per day. That’s 730,000 calories for a year (in case you were wondering). You’ll burn more than that when being laborious. But this will get you in the ball park, so to speak.

For example, I figured out how many calories are in a 5-gallon bucket of rice, dry beans, and wheat berries. They’re all about the same (coincidentally). About 50,000 calories. That’s about 25 ‘survival days’.

I also figured out that a 5-gallon bucket of wheat berries when milled into flour will make about 25 loaves of bread. If 25% of your daily calories were to come from your own bread, then you’re looking at about 3.5 buckets of wheat berries for a year.

Look at your canned foods. Read the labels. Figure how many calories are in various types of canned foods. Multiply it out.

You might do an internet search and discover that beef, on average through the various cuts, might be about 1,000 calories per pound. How many pounds are stored in your chest freezer? See how this works?

Maybe you do what we do and process a batch of home canned chicken breast once in awhile for protein on the shelf (no refrigeration required). Well, a pint canning jar will hold about 1 pound of chicken. And one pound of chicken breast has about 500 calories. So if I wanted 30 ‘survival days’ worth of this, them I’m looking at 120 pint jars. See how it works?

Whereas if I home canned beef instead, that same quantity will get me about 60 survival days. What about some of both? (diversify)

There’s about 1,600 calories in a one pound box of spaghetti. Just two dozen boxes will provide about 20 survival days all by itself! (Though we need to consider overall nutritional balance too!) See how you figure this stuff out?

What about the oils? Wow are they loaded with calories! For example olive oil has about 1,900 calories in one cup. A 48 ounce bottle has 5,700 calories. You’re going to need oil for cooking and such!

The trick is to get a sense of how many calories are in various food items – and figure it out. I’ve even built a spreadsheet for this stuff. It works…

After awhile you will just kind of know when you have about enough to last for a year. But don’t forget if there’s more than one person! Now you need twice as much.

Where Do I Store All This Food?

It does take some considerable space to store enough food for a year, depending on your choices. Especially if you’re looking at two or more people.

Heavy duty shelving units. 5-gallon buckets too (they stack). Some food in your freezer (chest freezers are great).

Basements can be great for some of it. But be vary wary if it’s damp down there. Cans will rust. Boxes will absorb the moisture. Run a dehumidifier if you need to.

Many homes are built on a slab. No basement. Now you need to get creative. Spare room? Other utility space with extra room (or make some room). Closets?

A garage will work. But be careful if it freezes out there (or gets too hot in the summer). If there’s liquid in it (e.g. canned foods), you don’t want it to freeze. When it’s HOT, the shelf life is reduced. Same concept goes for outbuildings.


Operational security. Earlier I wrote that some people may think your ‘nuts’ for doing this. The sad truth is, most people no longer have the notion to store extra food for ‘just in case’. And when you’re talking about a year, most people cannot fathom a scenario where this would ever be necessary.

Sure, the odds of calamity such that you’ll need to draw on all that food is low. But it’s high impact. Not many preparedness-minded people will do this either, and that’s okay too. And I will never remark in a negative way towards anyone who feels fine about having a month or several months of food storage instead.

The point I’m trying to make is that you probably want to hide the fact that you’re doing this. And it can be challenging if you have a lot of food.

Also, “if” modern times crashed into disaster, then guess what will happen when people know about your stash…

The Takeaway

It’s a process. Yes, it’s a lot of food and a lot to think about. If you’ve already hit Level-2, then this is the next step if you want it to be.

Even if nothing happens, I still like the #1 and #2 advantages that I listed above!

It involves more product. More diversification. More space. Some figuring. Maybe some concealment. But it sure is peace of mind, at least for me ;)

[ Read: Preparedness Level 1 – 4 Series Overview ]


  1. we live in a one bedroom apartment so im REALLY limited on what goes where without a real lot of closet space we already have storage tubs all over the place so we are REALLY limited any ideas ??

    1. kevin have you replaced your box spring with 5 gallon buckets of food supplies yet? 24 with a sheet of plywood over it fits under my queen sized bed. At nearly 50K calories per bucket that’s 1,200,00 calories divided by 2000 calories per man days = 600 days.

      I’ve seen the same style used to turn side tables out of 2-3-4 buckets + plywood + fabric cover depending on size of side table for your reading lamp.

    2. 5 gallon buckets don’t take much space… Line the back of the closet where nobody ever reaches for stuff, stash buckets in the kitchen cabinets…

      Other option is go the MRE route, they take a lot less space but a steady diet of them is hard on the digestive system, plan on probiotics and a fiber supplement of some sort…

      1. be careful storing mre’s, they were never intended for long term storage!

    3. I 2 live in a 1 bedroom apartment , and am lucky enough to have a secure storage room within the complex this is small but very secure and private with enough space for 6 feet of shelving and room for buckets on the floor . an inquiry to the landlord or about storage / garage might be a good idea :)

  2. Inventory
    Inventory INVENTORY!!!!!

    You’re going to have stuff (food) scattered all over the place.
    How you going to know where it is and the dates on that Can of Beans in the basement stuffed behind 30 other cans of Tuna?

    PS: put the BB Dates on the Inventory, and if your good at Excel put an auto-flag to let you know what’s coming due for Spoilage AND to Buy

    Did I mention an Inventory works for all kinds of stuff, like Fuel and Medications…..

    1. You are so right, NRP!
      I have a full inventory of all of our 5-gal buckets and our food storage room. I don’t inventory our pantry or the 2 kitchen cupboards that hold foods because I can see it all in front of me.

      But our closets? Ugh! Keeping inventory of the contents of each closet is something I am now working on. Since there are only 2 of us, we have spare closets that have become areas for extra food storage. A few weeks ago I dug deeply into far back reaches of the closet floor in a spare bedroom closet — I saw a large plastic container of unbleached All Purpose flour that had another container on top of it. It was dated 2016!! I pulled it out to give it a test, hoping I didn’t have to throw that much flour out (about 15 pounds). No off-putting smell, and the flour looked fine…but baking with 3 year old flour was the test. So far, the flour has held up and has been used for muffins or cookies.

      This was an eye-opener for me, so I am doing a full inventory of each closet. I surely don’t want to throw food away because my closet food storage is organized!

  3. I have more than 610,000 calories of long term storage (mostly # 10 cans) which would give me almost 1700 calories per day for a year (more than my usual 1300-1500/day) as well as a lot of shorter term storage (pasta, beans, canned food, dry milk, coffee, spices, frozen food, etc.) to last a few more months plus meds, vitamins, cat food, kitty litter, tp, soap, toothpaste, extra toothbrushes, cleaning supplies, batteries, etc. etc.

    A few years ago I had a handyman build a wall of shelves in my basement, 7 feet high, 20 feet wide, and 2 feet deep. There are sturdy doors to keep prying eyes from seeing my stash if they happen to come down to the basement. Everything is stored above floor level, and it seems to be staying pretty dry.

    I have a spreadsheet to keep track of my freeze-dried and dehydrated long term storage, but I stopped keeping a list of my other stuff. It was too much work. Every few months I go through my short term stuff to make sure all the oldest is at the back (or bottom) and to make sure I am not running low on anything.

  4. “Make use of a sharpie marker. Since I just mentioned #10 cans: When I receive new, I write month/year on them (typically the top).” I use a sharpie and mark mine with the expiration or ‘Best By’ date (e.g. X-20201003). For rice, sugar, etc. I put in in mylar bags and mark the date of packaging (e.g. 20190305)

  5. NOTHING goes in a freezer or on the shelf without being labeled what it is and when I stored/canned it. And glass canning jars are great for small quantities of dried goods. Get a food saver with the vacuum attachment! Vacuum sealed beans don’t dry out!

  6. Just a few ideas from experience.We buy and store lots of sugar.
    Any of the vacuum sealers are the way to go.If it’s left in the bag from the store for a year or more the only hope is a hammer or a course wood rasp.
    Consider lots of Ramen or Cup a Noodles.Just add some canned or freeze dried veggies and\or meat and you have a SHTF feast.
    It is super cheap for your barter stash.

    1. Norml Chuck
      On a segment of Chopped off food network, ramen noodles was an ingredient, one chef ground them up and made a flat bread with them,,
      Stuff to ponder.
      The flavor packets can be used to flavor other things too,

    2. I have tried to store Raman type noodles but the soup packages go rancid due to the oil, Tried to eat some as a test, Ick. I wasn’t poisoned but will share the dog food in the future as opposed to eating rancid soup. Speaking of dog food, check the dates on dry food, some dry food has a 2 yr life if kept cool.

  7. Another advantage of buying things ahead of when you need them:

    If your cupboards are always bare, you have to buy at full price. But if you buy ahead, you can take advantage of sales. Stores almost never run sales on things that go together at the same time. Hamburger is on sale one week and hamburger buns the next. But if you buy ahead, you can buy everything on sale. A few weeks before Thanksgiving, turkey will be on sale, but cranberry sauce, stuffing mix, etc. won’t be on sale until later.

    This week Hormel chili is 5 cans for $4. Usually it is $2.85 per can in our small town. Paper towels are $5.99 for 8 rolls. Three 8/packs of AA or AAA batteries are on sale for $5.00. Eggs are 99 cents per dozen, about half the usual price. Prices are usually high here because we are so remote that transportation costs add a lot to the cost. And our little independent store doesn’t get the discounts that supermarkets get

    In any case, if you buy infrequently and in large amounts and if you like to can or dry your own food, and you buy in season, you can save a lot on your annual grocery bill.

  8. I’ve used up most of the canned stuff (deliberately) so almost everything is in bottles or in the freezer. I suggest the sharpie and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Since I reuse lids I don’t mark the lids, but sharpie works on glass and hand sanitizer takes it right off. Sometimes it takes it off the lids too.

  9. I ran out of temperature-controlled space. Started burying stuff because it is temperature controlled then. It is a nuisance to build a concrete box underground, then a lid that can hold decent weight, then insulate, then fill it, then put the dirt back. So now I am trying direct burying of buckets with a piece closed cell foam above it.

    Considering switching to square buckets. Even when staggering buckets I figure there is almost 40% wasted space between the inside and the outside of a round bucket. No one seems to make affordable food grade buckets that are durable though… And square/rectangle.

  10. OPSEC is an important factor so we get boxes from a friend who sells liquor. Boxes that hold 750 ml round bottles are very good for quart jars. We write pictures or something else uninteresting on them, to cut down on busy bodies. They also keep light out of clear jars. Every little thing helps. Other sizes work well for pints and larger sizes.

  11. I one hundred percent agree with having six plus months of food on hand in case things get really fubar. My question is, if things get that bad, what’s the play? Help your neighbors and loved ones and shorten your supply? Be grey, and act hungry? My challenge is that I prep, but there are people in my life that I love that might not be ready when things get really bad, how do I handle that?

    1. @Food For Thought,
      Yes, that is the question / the challenge. How to handle or deal with the unprepared if it all goes fubar. I have addressed this topic a number of times over the years and it always returns comments that generally fall into one of several categories:

      – Stay gray, pretend like you’re also destitute (requires high degree of OPSEC, loose lips sink ships)

      – Hard core defense, no-one gets in or gets anything (security top priority)

      – Take in ‘select’ people who will be an asset (plan to have more food on the shelf for that)

      – Give what you can and hope for the best

      You might be interested to read the following articles and the hundreds of comments that go along with them. There’s no one answer to this problem. It’s going to be a very difficult set of decisions for sure.

      Dealing With The Unprepared | Level 2 Preparedness

      Security Against The Unprepared

      Be Prepared For Unprepared People

      Who Will You Let Into Your Retreat After The SHTF

    2. Food for thought,
      That’s probably one of the toughest questions to ask another prepper. All of our situations are different. We can give advice but at the end of the day you personally have to make the decision. There really is no wrong answer. You have to live with whatever decision you make. Just as I do with my situation.
      Many add more supplies for family(related and otherwise) that they expect to show up in times of trouble. Obviously, the more family you can convince to put in some supplies for emergencies is the biggest help.
      Best of luck in your journey to the prepper way of life…

  12. Rather than lecture on how I did things right, I will remind people how I messed up in the past so you do not make the mistakes that I have made:

    1. Keeping $200 in freeze-dried food in cardboard boxes in a storage unit rather than placing this in a rodent proof metal garbage can. ( 1980’s I was young and not very bright.)

    2. buying and using paper labels only to have them fall off less than a year later due to age, cheap adhesive etc. These days, if I use paper labels at all, I use masking tape as it seems to be the most durable. I use sharpie/permanent markers.

    3. Extremes in hot/cold swings will accelerate degradation with special attention to extremes in heat. This pertains to food as well as other organic products like gunpowder as well.

    ( Statistics on gunpowder spontaneously combusting came from AZ based fire chiefs that wrote reports on fires starting in storage units because trap shooters kept their powder in these units for years.)

    Date and inventory your food and other items marking on the metal can if the label falls off. I try to use the food within a year. If I do not use it, I donate or simply stop purchasing and consume at home.

    With gunpowder, during the last ammo drought, I would sell off powder by the pound at cost to my fellow shooters. Powder was spotty in availability. I try to not have any powder in inventory more than 10 years old.

    I have been inheriting lots of old ammo and old powder in the past. The old ammo was hauled away by the local Sheriffs Office. Some of the powder was good and was either sold or used. Remember, it is an organic compound and it can and will break down just like food will. ( same rules apply: rotate your stocks and mark the cans clearly and legibly.)

    Some would ask me: Why not fire off some of the ammo that you found in a person’s estate? Some of my answers:

    Did they purchase and store this recently? ( within 10 years) New factory ammo in a caliber you have may be OK.

    If these are reloads, did they use the same care and attention to details I use when these loads were assembled? ( most of the time, the answer is no).

    So, if you have a bunch of questionable ammo or gunpowder sitting around of questionable age or viability, I would notify the local LEOs to get help in disposal of these items rather than storing and forgetting in an old storage unit.

    1. Good tips, but, if I did not know LEO’s personally, I would take another route with excess powder or ammo. I would not want to incite anyone to ask questions whether they verbalized questions or not.

  13. Another advantage to having a good supply of food on hand that needs to be rotated is you can provide others in need (out of work, family emergency, etc.) with some of your extra. Either cooked as a large meal of just give them the supplies to make their own meal.

  14. Based on calculations here


    Have put significant amount of staples away for LTS. All packed for long-duration, much in #10 cans from LDS store.

    Don’t really count grocery store food, which is short-dated and rotated, as part of LTS. But is counted as part of year one food.

    Also have current year and long-term stored non-hybrid garden seeds as part of my “food storage” for one year and longer. Fresh food, and that grown for canning, drying, root cellaring, etc. are part of the year’s total.

    As are livestock, currently pigs and chickens, but hoping to expand that next year.

    Don’t really count the elk or river fish as part of food stock on hand, but do count the trout in the creek, walnuts and apples on nearby abandoned farm, and wild blackberries that grow everywhere.

  15. I need to take a closer look at our stocked food. After seeing these numbers it will not last as long as I thought. We are working on filling our third deep freezer but it is not even close to what was mentioned in the article.

  16. I diversify. I have “wet” cans from the factory, my dry vacuum cans, factory vacuum bags, my vacuum bags, factory mylar, factory freeze dried, you name it. Then I put everything in 5gal buckets with a rubber sealed lid. I have some food in plastic totes also, where the handles lock down… The totes are pretty heavy and they save some space compared to the buckets. I’m thinking of replacing the totes with buckets though. Reason being is if we have to leave we can take them with us and they stack on top of each other quite nicely and they are water tight.

  17. Another valuable assessory for food storage is clear packing tape to secure labels and protect them, a swab w/ alcohol will erase the marker and one can re date when it is prepared for refill.

  18. Good ideas here, folks, thanks. Such uncertain days we live, truly!

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