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Prepping for Food Shortages

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Prepping for Food Shortage

It is a common saying that society is 3 meals away from anarchy. A food shortage is a very severe and deadly catastrophe (as history teaches us) but will likely not just happen on its own out of the blue. There will have to be underlying events that then subsequently will cause a food shortage.

For example, a widespread power outage (as previously mentioned) will very likely cause a severe food shortage as the supply chain completely breaks down.

Our supply chain (the very entity that provides us with our daily needs) is sensitive and frail. Supermarkets keep minimal stock as a truck arrives every morning in a maximally optimized, just in time logistics system. Just look at grocery stores one day before Christmas, or before any other holiday. All those empty shelves are just the results of everybody buying a little bit more than usual. Imagine those trucks not showing up for a few days.

Natural catastrophes have caused food shortages in poorer countries as they may also disrupt mayor transport routes, however I personally do not think this would be a problem in New Zealand.

Armed conflicts such as riots or wars will almost certainly cause food shortages if they are widespread enough. Prime examples of this will be the Siege of Leningrad (which nearly lasted 2 and a half years) or Sarajevo. In both events cases of cannibalism were a gruesome reality, among other atrocities.

Sometimes politics, corruption and missplanning alone will be enough to cause widespread famines as the history of every socialist country shows us.

During the first wave of the 2020 pandemic many people feared that the west was on the brink of a food shortage and panic buying and even fighting over supplies was starting to occur. Limitations on the amount of groceries you could buy and long lines at the supermarkets were the result. Sources told me however that without these limitations there would indeed have been shortages.


Your first and probably only “line of defence” against any food shortage will of course be an increased supply of food at your home. This is something that was completely normal 50 years ago.

The mainstream media are blaming hoarders, preppers and panic buyers for unrest in supermarkets at times of uncertainty. They do have a point if that everybody buys more than usual stores will run out. Especially if people start to panic. Certainly panic-buying AFTER a disaster has struck is NOT the right thing to do. However, continue to discourage many people from keeping bigger supplies of food at their homes, will cause exactly the wrong outcome. As usually the media are incapable of differentiating properly. Those who prepare in advance have all their stores filled up way before any panic buying might happen and will simply be the people that are staying at home.

If you gradually fill up your stores over the course of months, while the supply chain is intact you will not contribute to any shortages. You will also not have to be there when the unprepared mass starts to panic and make it a potentially dangerous place.

Way before the first lockdown began, we had plenty of food stored at home and knew that we did not have to rely on grocery stores. This was a big mental relief at a time of great uncertainty and tension. We did not enter any grocery stores for the first 2 weeks, because it was so extremely busy there. After that things started to settle down a bit and become more laid back.

Many governments, even officially endorse having a few weeks’ worth of food in your pantry. Of course, it makes sense to constantly cycle through those food stores. This means that you ideally want to stock up on the type of food that you normally eat. That way the cost of stocking up will only be the initial cost of stocking up. If you gradually do it over a longer period of time costs will be spread out too. After that you only buy what you use up. You might even come across some ways to save money in the long term by starting to buy bulk less often.

Some people (including myself) will want food supplies that last longer than just a few weeks however (I personally think that 6 months is a good timeframe to start with). In that case shelf life and preservation of food become more important. The overall topic is extremely complex. I will just be barely able to scrape the surface of it here.

A very important factor many people will forget to consider is general health. You are what you eat and if your diet is unhealthy and lacking vitamins your health will deteriorate over time. In tough times where the food supply is disrupted the medical system is nearly guaranteed to be out of action as well. There will be no meds to help you with that cough or sore throat, only your immune system which can be boosted with a healthy diet. A healthy diet is diverse and so should be your prepper pantry. Or do you want to eat canned pasta 2 times a day until the end of your days?

Luckily there are heaps of options with regards to long lasting food:

Foods with a long shelf life

Freeze dried (usually) prepper super survival emergency foods

There are heaps of suppliers of overpriced freeze dried super long lasting “prepper foods” and if you want to spend the money and can’t be bothered dealing with this topic any further this might even be the way to go. I don’t dispute that these foods will get you fed in times of hardship. However, I don’t think that only relying on them is your best option. They are not very sustainable as a food source in the long term. The elevated price tag will limit the amount of that type of food you will be able to store. Another drawback is that you are storing food that you are not used to eat. Any mayor disruption will likely result in increased stress levels, even for the prepared. A change in diet is another disruption that should not be underestimated, and once it has eventually reached its shelf life you will simply have to throw it away. That said, some amount of these “super survival foods” certainly has its place. Especially since often they are freeze dried and thus very light weight. That makes them suitable to carry around if you have to get moving. Also freeze-drying preserves nearly all of the vitamins and minerals of the food, which is good for your health.

Canned foods

When talking about long shelf life food, canned food will always be among the types mentioned first. That is because canned food often lasts for decades, provided the can itself is undamaged. People have tried food, canned in WW2 and found out that the ingredients still were fine to eat. That said after a time that long some degree of deterioration of the food is certain. Also, you will find out that the shelf life given on the can will be significantly less than a few decades. More like 2 years or something. That is your guaranteed shelf life where you can be very certain that the food inside will be fine. After that it comes down to other factors. Of course, if there is a widespread famine such trivialities will not matter.

Despite the long shelf life as with all foods you store in your prepper pantry, make sure to rotate your stores regularly. That means use up the oldest cans first. This principle is called first in first out (FIFO)

Cans can come with all kinds of different foods inside. Generally speaking, you can have cans with complete meals in them (soups, stews, spaghetti, etc.) or just 1 ingredient of a potential meal like tuna, sweet corn, peas, all kinds of fruit, etc. Both have their justification and to a certain extent will be common among non-prepared households as well, as they are so convenient.

As part of your long-term food store canned goods certainly will be a main part of what you are going to store and you will want to store a wide variety of canned goods. These canned goods will be what gives your meals their variety as they will be supplementing your rice, noodles, and beans. Canning does preserve minerals, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), protein, fat and carbohydrates. However, the amount of any water-soluble vitamins (B, C) will be significantly reduced. So, with just some fresh fruit and meat added in whenever it is available you will be able to sustain a healthy diet.

Commercially canned goods are also safe to eat straight away and don’t necessarily require reheating, which is good when you either do not have the means to cook or can’t afford to do so because it would attract too much attention.

Canning has been around since the Napoleonic times and in theory is very easy if you have the right gear. Self-sufficiently living people will likely be doing heaps of home canning. We will cover this technique in the near future. As a word of warning though, if you consider home canning botulism is a risk you need to be aware of.

Pickled foods

Pickling is a technique of extending the shelf life of food by either anaerobic fermentation in brine or immersion in vinegar. Pickled foods often are also heat treated and will then last months if not years. Likely you will have some jars of pickled foods among your cache of cans. Theoretically, heat treatment is not a necessity and the technique has been around for thousands of years, most likely discovered by accident. It is another technique that will often be practiced by self-sufficiently living people. Pickled vegetables can be a great source of vitamins. For example, pickled cabbage called “Sauerkraut” was commonly used among German sailors during the 19th century as a source of Vitamin C.

Another advantage of pickling is, at a PH level below 4.6 botulism will not be an issue when home canning.

We will discuss home pickling in the future as well.


Well packed dry foods

Many dry foods such as rice, beans and also pasta will last for years if not decades when being stored the right way. White rice has been shown to last for 30 years if stored at a cool temperature and protected from the atmosphere’s oxygen. Brown rice and many other dried foods contain saturated fats that might turn rancid, but these foods will still last for years if stored correctly.

A very common method involved in the long-term storage of any dry foods is the sealing in so called Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers. People have shown cases where they tried white rice packaged in this way 16 years ago. There was no difference. Of course, you need to make sure that rodents will not be able to damage the mylar bag, for example by putting the bag into a plastic bucket with a lid.

Mylar Bags can be used for any kind of dried food, mostly rice, flour, dried beans, seeds, nuts, oats, pasta, other dried legumes, or anything else which is completely dry. As an interesting side note many of the aforementioned freeze-dried prepper super foods come packaged in a mylar bag as well. So does your coffee!

Here is a bit of further reading on Mylar Bags

Apart from Mylar bags any container that is subject to a low diffusion coefficient and can be sealed 100% airtight will work. That means mason jars or tin cans would be suitable as well. Vacuum sealer bags however, while being especially good for packaging frozen meat, they lack the metal layer of a Mylar bag and thus allow Oxygen to seep through them over time nullifying the effect of oxygen absorbers.


Bartering will always be a possibility to diversify your diet even more during tough times. In any scenario where there is a food shortage some people will have more of a particular type of food, but lack others. A farmer for example will probably have heaps of mutton/lamb and his family might be sick of it as they have nothing else. Thus, he might happily trade it for a bag of rice or some cans of fruit. Depending on circumstances leaving your shelter or house to engage in bartering will put you at risk however, especially if many people get to see how much stuff you have stored.

Your own Produce

Obviously the longer a food shortage lasts the more reliant you will be on food that you have produced yourself. Even a few fruit trees and a small vegetable patch in your backyard will help you diversify your diet and give you important vitamins. The more you constantly can produce, the less you will have to rely on your long-term food stores, thus making them last longer. As far as I am concerned if you really are into emergency preparation and think that a long-term food supply disruption is a possibility there is no way around to producing your own food.

One key fact is that “planning” to start to grow your food as soon as something happens is a stupid idea. Successful gardening, as well as keeping livestock requires skills and experience. It will take at least a few seasons to find out what works and does not work in your circumstances, let alone become good at it.

Also, many people that claim they live “self-sufficiently” truly are not self-sufficient. In times of uncertainty all the gardening supplies, seeds and drugs to treat livestock diseases will likely be sold out very soon. If you still require these to successfully grow your own food you are as reliant on a working supply chain as everybody else. Luckily many of the aforementioned things have a long shelf life and can be stored in big amounts easily, which is what I would suggest you do. It also makes sense to apply organic farming procedures to your family garden. Besides being much healthier, if you never relied on the use of heavy pesticides, you cannot run out of them.

If you grow your own produce, one time of a year you will have heaps of one thing and then will somehow have to make whatever you have last for the rest of the year. Thus, food preservation becomes as important as farming. Home canning, pickling, freezing (if power is still going), drying will be skills you will need to have. Also, the gear to do so and lots of containers will be required, and likely not readily available during a crisis (like the shortage of canning lids in the US at the moment). Knowledge on what to preserve and how will be very valuable too. In old European houses root cellars were very common where fresh potatoes, onions and carrots could be stored for up to a year.

Hunting and Fishing

Many people think that hunting will provide them with enough meat if there should ever be a disruption to the normal food supply. I however think they are gravely mistaken. There are heaps of people with firearms in New Zealand, and what do you think they all will do if food becomes desperately scarce? In a nutshell hunting on public land will become dangerous as there are way too many unexperienced and desperate hunters there. And the animals that are there will either be gone very quickly or retreat deeper into the bush. Hunting on private land will be possible for some, however those private land owners might become more desperate too and poaching will become more widespread. In that case many farmers that once were keen that you got rid of all those pests on their land will probably not be as keen anymore if they are not close friends or family. Of course, it depends on where you live. The more remote, the less such things will be an issue for you.

Fishing will have similar problems as fish will become more and more scarce and “the good spots” will be contested, by many fishermen.

Poaching of protected species, that are easier to hunt will certainly pick up in truly desperate times. If your family is starving the future of that fur seal colony down at the beach is likely the least of your concerns.


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