Survival 101: How to Calculate Your Daily Calorie Needs in the Wild

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, and pandemics can keep you from obtaining supplies, but how much food do you need in a survival situation? Although your body weight affects your food intake, you can survive on half of the caloric intake you’re used to as long the food has the necessary nutrients.

Adults can survive on 1250 calories a day if the food is nutritious and accompanied by at least a half-gallon of water daily. With a lower caloric intake, you should take vitamin supplements and include plenty of protein for energy. At a minimum, store three weeks of food for emergencies.

Unless you’ve lived an isolated life away from society, you likely understand how natural disasters and public health crises can inhibit your access to food and water. Although government agencies, such as FEMA, recommend a week’s worth of food and water for disaster preparedness, recent events have proved that some people are left stranded for several weeks before emergency personnel can reach them.

Most advice on survival practices focuses solely on the people in your home. However, carrying extra supplies is wise and humane if you have to help a friend or elderly neighbor. When stockpiling for a possible survivalist situation, try to purchase additional items to aid those who are not as prepared as you. You can’t help everyone, and your family and friends should be your top priority.

Types of Food For Survival

Before you plan for the worst situation imaginable, remember that you’re purchasing items for survival. Survival food should differ from food for comfort. The twelve-pack of cola and the family-size bag of chips are comforted you can and should do without.

However, you should select food that the members of your household can consume without too many complaints. Children are unlikely to consume canned lima beans or sauerkraut, even in a survival scenario.

Choose food your family enjoys, and try avoiding processed snacks with little nutritional value. If you lose power, you can consume perishable food from the refrigerator or freezer before you rely on non-perishable goods.

Refrigerated meat or poultry must be consumed before items are in the freezer. Still, you can limit how quickly your refrigerator’s temperature increases by keeping the doors closed as much as possible.

The following lists include essential non-perishables you should purchase to prepare for a survival situation that can last three weeks or more.

  • Canned goods
  • Purified water
  • Dehydrated fruit
  • Nuts
  • Rice and pasta
  • Freeze-dried meals
  • Oatmeal
  • Vitamins

I store Ready Hour food on top of my home-packaged beans, rice, and other items. Their 3-month food supply is one of the better deals out there, and it provides a full 2000 calories a day, unlike many other manufacturers.

Canned Goods

Canned goods should include high-protein items like canned tuna. Of course, if anyone in your group is allergic to tuna, you can opt for canned chicken, beef, or sausages. Tuna is the healthiest of all the canned meats, but if your family cannot tolerate it, you can offer a lower protein alternative.

Other canned foods with a long shelf life include soups, vegetables, and fruits. Canned peaches, pineapples, and pears are ideal because they contain a substantial amount of edible liquid. Products with a high-water content will keep you hydrated, and sufficient hydration is necessary for emergencies.

Although soup is excellent survival food, some brands are packed with sodium. Try to buy low-sodium soups that won’t make you too thirsty after consuming them. If your group complains about the soup, add a small amount of table salt or herbs.

Purified Water

Clean drinking water is essential for emergencies. The minimum requirement is a three-week water supply that provides at least a half-gallon per person every day. You can purchase purified water from the grocery store or buy a premium water container and a portable filter.

You may encounter a situation where your purified water supply becomes damaged or contaminated. For instance, someone in your family may unintentionally drop several gallons of emergency water down the stairs of your basement.

If this happens, you can distill water from an outside water source. Distilling is more effective than boiling because it removes any trace of heavy metals or minerals.

Dehydrated Fruit

Dehydrated fruits such as dried bananas, apricots, raisins, and cranberries are excellent sources of fiber and essential vitamins. Keep the fruit sealed in plastic bags or airtight containers to protect the food from pests.

You can purchase dehydrated fruit from the grocery store or dry your food with a dehydrator.


Some survivalists do not recommend nuts because they are hard on your teeth. If sensitive teeth are prone to cracking, you can avoid the nuts. However, nuts are high in protein and can be stored in containers without refrigeration.

Hikers have relied on trail mix (which includes nuts) for long journeys and usually return without too many broken teeth. Your body needs salt but try to find nuts or nut mixes with low sodium content. Some mixes are loaded with sodium and exceed the minimum daily requirement per serving.

Rice and Pasta

Rice and pasta are excellent carbohydrate sources and are simple to cook and store. You can add canned sauces and dried herbs to make them more appealing and tastier, but avoid premade sauces containing high preservatives.

Rice, canned tuna, and veggies may not be a four-star meal, but they will keep you energized during a crisis. Store the rice and pasta in sealed containers away from heat and humidity.

Freeze-Dried Meals

Freeze-dried meals can vary from inexpensive packets with a short shelf life to high-end survival meals with a quarter-century shelf life.

The cheaper freeze-dried meals in the grocery store are suitable for a few meals, but you should not rely on them for long seclusion. For under two dollars a meal, the inexpensive packets often contain high levels of sodium, sugar, and preservatives.

Freeze-dried food has decreased in price and made huge leaps in flavor over the past five years. I would recommend Ready Hour food. You can see my full review of their meals here.


If you keep oatmeal in a cool, dry location away from heat and humidity, it will keep for two years. Oatmeal is high in fiber and carbohydrates and contains essential nutrients like iron and potassium.

Eating plain oatmeal every morning can be a drag for some family members, but you can liven it up with a small amount of honey. Honey is not essential to human survival, but it has a longer shelf life than any natural food product and can cheer up anyone tired of bland food.


When an emergency reduces your caloric intake and you don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s wise to supplement your meals with vitamins. Although some previous foods contain essential vitamins, some people consume less under stressful conditions.

To keep your household healthy and alert, purchase a three-week supply of vitamins.


Government recommendations concerning disaster planning have significantly changed in the last fifteen years. Before 2005, officials suggested having a three-day supply of food and water stocked in case of an emergency.

This 72-hour period was thought to be the length of time it would take rescuers to reach your location during a natural disaster. However, recent events have proved that emergency personnel cannot always reach isolated communities after a disaster for weeks.

To ensure that the members of your household are well cared for, at a minimum, you should have a three-week supply of food and water in the event of a survival situation.

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