Survival Debate: Bug In Food Options

What food options should survivalists stock up on in a Bug In scenario?  The options seem endless, some easy to pick, others more Emergency Foodcomplicated or requiring more detailed support to work.  It’s a good healthy debate for us.  Tell us what you think or what you’re doing.  I have to admit of all the things I plan for as a part of my own personal over all Bug In course syllabus, I am a bit slack on the pantry prep.  Sure, it is loaded with enough standard can goods to last a couple weeks.  Some of it is stuff I probably would never eat in good times, but be dang thankful to have after the grid is down for a month or more.

The Home Plan

I have soups in the can, and dry pack Ramen soups.  There are two dozen cans of assorted veggiesHow to Bug In but often more.  Canned meats include tuna, chicken, Vienna sausages, crab meat and salmon.  There are other canned goods that can be eaten alone or used to fix other dinners such as mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots, broths, and such.  I usually try to keep ten pounds of potatoes and a bag of onions.  I have flour, sugar, and tea bags.  There are other foods, canned or in glass bottles including cheese spread, jellies, and salad dressings.   There is mayonnaise and mustard.  I usually have pickles, olives, and peppers.  I have some bottled juices of several kinds.  In one pantry drawer are cans of ready to eat stuff.  These selections include chili, ravioli, tamales, spaghetti, mac’n’cheese and such.  I have assorted boxes of crackers.  There are breakfast cereals, tarts, and some sweet stuff.  There are packages of cheese crackers.  If I dug deeper, I could find more.

If the Grid Stays Up

I fully recognize one tough fallacy in my planning is to rely on standard utilities mostly city water, but electricity as well.  I also have natural How to Bug In for Survivalgas for the kitchen stove, fireplace logs, and hot water heaters.  I could do without electric power at least for a while.  I don’t have a gas powered generator as I don’t want to have to wrestle with the fuel issues.  I could revisit that.  I mainly need water for sure.  My refrigerator is stocked with regular type foods that would perish quickly without power.  Ditto on the freezer which is always overflowing with meats, frozen vegetables, frozen dinners of all sorts, entrees and snack on stuff.  Some of that food would last a few days as it thawed out eventually.  For sure if I lose power, I will be pretty screwed in short order.  If I lose water then some of the foods I have would be more difficult to fix.  For that reason I keep a reserve of 20 gallon jugs of water in the garage, and 2-3 cases of bottled drinking water.  I know that is not much back up for an extended Bug In.

Also Read: Going Off Grid Part I

Perhaps my biggest shortfall is in thinking that civil control would kick back in and essential services will once again come back on.  It may not.  I suppose that is just the risk I am willing to take to Bug In.  Personally I would rather have a shingle roof over my head than a nylon tent.  I’m too old for extended camp outs.

Feasible Alternatives

The big question for me is and may be for you as well is whether or not to invest more in long term storage foods aka survival foods since I Emergency Foodplan to Bug In.  Be that freeze dried, water reconstituted, ready to eat, MRE’s or this type of containerized food.  Should I put money into shelf foods for six months to more than a year out?  I guess that is by definition one of the most basic questions to SHTF survival anyway.  How long will we be stuck in any survival scenario, a week, month, years, or for the rest of our natural lives?  Like I said before I might not buy canned carrots for me to eat, but if I went several weeks without food, I’d darn be wolfing them down.  I feel the same about powdered potatoes or boxed dry eggs.  My fingers are crossed it does not come to that.  But I understand I may get real hungry while you Bug Out folks are eating potato flakes.

Also Read: Survival Debate – What Is The Ultimate Survival Vehicle?

I have a good friend that is building his own SHTF survival plan.  He keeps a huge garden in the summer, raises rabbits for food, and has chickens for eggs.  He keeps 2-300 pounds of rice on hand since his wife is Korean.  He has 50 cases of bottled water that he trades out for fresh.  He maintains an electric generator for his refrigerator and freezers in his machine shop.  He just bought a 90-day supply of survival foods.  He is way ahead of the game.  Way ahead of me anyway, but I still wonder even in his case with so much more in terms of food support did he need to spend hundreds on plastic pickle buckets of dry packaged foods.  Additional back up is never a bad thing?  What do you think?

What Do You Think?

So, you plan to Bug In, too?  What is your food situation?  What are you planning to do?  Do you have other ideas, options, or opinions?  Please share them with your Survival Cache brethren in the comments below.



John J. Woods
Written by John J. Woods

John J. Woods, PhD, has been outdoor writing for over 35 years with over 3000 articles, and columns published on firearms, gun history, collecting, appraising, product reviews and hunting. Dr. Woods is currently the Vice President of Economic Development at a College in the Southern United States. Read his full interview here. Read more of John J.'s articles.

31 thoughts on “Survival Debate: Bug In Food Options”

  1. Great article.
    Would put garden at #1, non perishable food #2, and noticed that picture of charcoal and would hope that I would need it but fresh food needing an open fire is probably not going to be high demand. Plus you can burn anything to boil water.

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  2. I always liked the idea of a "bug in" more than "bug out". We try to keep cold packs in the deep freezer just in case of a power outage. They can be tossed into a cooler or left in the freezer to help keep stuff ice cold. You can also throw some blankets over the freezer and put a emergency blanket on top of that to keep it insulated longer.

    My only problem with MRE type meals is the NEED water to rehydrate. No water, no consumable food. So from my perspective canned is the way to go if you have little space. Now just to learn how to store water for the long haul.

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    • Pack of dry ice in freezer for when the power goes out. i opened a few up and stuffed the top of freezer with beach towels and did not open for days. everything still very well frozen.

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    • Actually with actual MRE's you do not need to hydrate anything. Mre's themselves are a bit pricey in my opinion, but they are fully self contained ready to eat meals, Hence, "M"eal "R"eady to "E"at. just need 2oz of any type of water to activate the FRH heater and your styling. If you have no water thats ok as well, they are fully cooked, You will just have to eat them cold. I have actual experience living on these for almost 18 months so you can do it, but with 24 total meals to choose from it gets to the point your just eating because you have to. I do implement these into my food storage and I plan on buggin' in. If you have the means I wouldn't solely depend on these but I would have some in my plan.

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    • How to store water for the long haul: 8 drops chlorine bleach per gallon. If you store city treated tap water, just use clean containers, and treat the water before consuming. There are all sorts of barrels available to store water, and you can pick up food-grade containers at bakeries and restaurants, I think (have not tried this myself yet). One cup bleach will sanitize and preserve 1000 gal of water for a year.

      Also, please do an internet search for WaterBob and similar items made to line your bathtub and fill with water. They have built-in or supplied siphons and are very reasonably priced.

      Do not forget about the water in your water heater – but be careful as most people do not keep their water heaters set at a high enough temp to keep bacteria and their toxins under control. I'd use that water only for washing unless you keep it above 140 degrees.

      Keep every plastic bottle you buy, wash out, and fill with water. You can't have too much. Also there are ways to surreptitiously collect your rainwater (running downspouts into barrels hidden in your garage, burying rain barrels, etc) if your neighborhood does not permit visible rain barrels.

      It's never too late to expand your water saving capabilities and methods!

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  3. my food preps are somewhere beyond FAIL, down near the EPIC FAIL, region.
    I've begun to question whether even three years of bug-in food will be enough…
    (hard to stay even three days ahead)

    my Son gave me another Irish history book for Christmas, specifically about the potato famine/genocide. it's hard to ignore the fact that food exports continued throughout the entire period. aid was very slow in coming because the powers, meant to discourage dependency on government. (their words)
    … so while one can't eat bullets, it is prudent to have lots of 'em. Rahm isn't the first to "never let a crisis go to waste".

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  4. would it be out of the question to keep your pantry, as though you were living aboard a blue water sailboat? it seems like everything a survivalist needs is already a routine aspect of someone else's hobby. we just need to pull it all together…
    We're adventurers! that's the ticket… I'm not some dangerous "survivalist", I'm an adventurer… yeh Adventurer.

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  5. so there are are 3 people in my family including me so for a 20 day plan we have what is on hand the first day then a "day bucket" in a 5 gallon bucket so each has 3 gallons of water, food for different days M.R.E.s and dried food and so we have plante of food.

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  6. My food preps are arranged on three levels: 1)0-2 weeks, mostly refrigerated and frozen foods; 2) 2 weeks-6 months, 'normal' canned and dried foods like Ramen, canned chili, vegetables, meats, etc. ; 3) 6months-infinity/death (whichever comes first), mostly #10 cans of freeze dried and dehydrated foods in considerable variety and quantity. My large yearly garden (and much smaller greenhouse) along with backup seeds (heirloom) should help supplement our diets, as well as sprouting seeds for wintertime greens, but I recognize that they are quite visible for uninvited 'guests' needing to supplement their diets. The horses (that are basically pets) and the goats (that are not) will become additional 2nd level supplies since their feed stocks come from a feed store(s) that are unlikely to remain in business for long after SHTF. A large dehydrator and little water to spare will pre-decide their fates! Besides, my dogs have to eat and the neighbors have horses, too, hint, hint! Besides, my neighbors like my homemade jerky; though it's usually beef or chicken! Unfortunately, except for rabbits and birds, almost no large game (not considering the neighboring horses) live within a 50 mile radius of the home/BIL, and without gasoline for a vehicle, hunting would be very limited, and home defense considerations would be of higher priority! Personally, for water storage, I use several 6 gallon water jugs that I rotate by using them to help refill an elevated 250 gallon water tank that refills animal water tanks/buckets, and immediately refill them, one by one. Also, I have 40 1-gallon water jugs of distilled water in the house (rotated every 6 months, hint, mark the rotation dates on the jugs) and 2-100 gallon water Bobs for the bathtubs, which I hope to have the time and water pressure to fill when SHTF. Fortunately, it is now legal to collect and store rain water here, that stupid law finally being changed two years ago, and a major river runs only about 15 miles away (as the crow flies) so long-term water resupply shouldn't be too much problem! Good Luck!

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  7. I just completed my 1st annual reorganization and inventory of my supplies. I started last January and am happy to say I've accomplished alot. In the past year I have collected canned goods, dry goods, did my own dehydrating, pressure canned meats and started a modest garden. I gave 106 bottled gallons of water along with a 35 gallon tank, our large jacuzzi and trailer water tank. Now I can see what I need and plan to have another productive prepping year. This year I want to double my water storage ,get a manual grain mill and many other things as well. I believe all my preps will come to use before Obama leaves office, therefore I decided last year when I started that my money will go further in buying the types I mentioned rather than spending more on the long tern freeze dried foods.

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  8. I didn't go through all the comments, but I have freeze dries foods, beef jerky, cans of soup, vegies, fruit, chocolate mixes. I also have my bug out bags, plus what I carry in my truck at all times. I am a ham radio operater, so when we get a call out, it is usually about 72 hrs. or longer. Also have blankets, pillow and a sleeping bag that I carry too.

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  9. I live in the country and have access to water from ponds and my well. I have a 2 year supply (for one person) of long term storage food. I also have a LARGE amount of rice and multiple varieties of beans. I raise chickens for eggs but can also be swayed to butcher them if needed although they aren't real good meat birds. This is all very well and good for bugging in. Bugging out would see me taking my long term storage food (as much as I can carry) and hitting the trail. My only concern with the long term storage food is that it doesn't pack enough calories per meal and would need supplementing. I have looked at a few others companies and Emergency Essentials may be my next purchases.

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  10. My wife figured out, that one a REGULAR basis, we have a two-week menu, of items we normally eat. So, in her (definite) OCD (which I am grateful for) mind, she calculated out, what we would need for one year's supply of our normal food we NORMALLY eat.
    2 weeks times 26(52 weeks a year), and we quickly had our normal consumption requirements for logistical purposes. We added to that amount, another 25% for "exigent circumstances", and proceeded to stock up in a methodical and orderly fashion. We are now "there". We've also added additional items to avoid "menu fatigue".
    The question MOST people ask, "Is it EASY?" Nope, nothing worthwhile ever is. Consistency IS critical to success. Hope this helps somebody out there.

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  11. Sounds like you wil not last long in a real shtf event. Sorry to be blunt but people that dont tell the truth about this stuff in order to not hurt someones feeling is not doing them a favor. You dont have nearlly the amount of food you need and cooking it over a store bought charcoal will bring everyone for miles around to your door. Bottles of water is a very expencive way to store water. Get a 55 gal drum and fill it at home then every few months dump it out and refill it to keep it fresh. If you want to live buy a country place to move to and retreat to. Store two years of everything you need to live. Have a private well. Find someone to train you in security and defence and get in to the best shap you can. If you dont wont to live dont lisen.

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  12. why not take up canning your own foods – harvest from the garden, can the product. Pretty much anything can be canned (even cakes) and if you do it always healthy. Most home canned products last anywhere from 18 months to 2 years if sealed properly

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  13. I have been trying to get my parents to "stock up" for years! But unfortunately they still do not see the benefits in doing so! Even with SUPER STORM SANDY, and having no power for just over a week, They say they cannot do it because it "costs too much!" I have tried to show them how to build up at least a 6 month supply by just spending a few extra dollars each shopping trip and using coupons! But they still wont do it! Another excuse "We're too old to do anything!" dad is 84 and mom is 70. We usually have a big garden every year and I try to get mom to can/jar some of the veggies but most of the veggies end up rotting in the garden or in the fridge before we can use them!

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    • I wish I still had parents! I would stock them up and help them do their gardening and canning to just make sure they would be OK. My supplies would consider them, as I would bring them into my domain when the SHTF. If they are that old you need to prepare for this for them. There comes a time when we become our parents guardians and I would give everything I have for the chance to do that again. Stay prepared my friends!

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  14. simple
    LISTEN TO ME………One year cased water 3 bottles day/person. one year peanut butter, one year jelly, one year canned spam, one year rice, one year black beans. EZ spend $400-$500 each of five trips to a wholesale club. if you don't live by the ocean like I do to get salt water to wash your ass, buy a whole lot of huge cases of paper towels, the thick restaurant kind. THEN , spend another $500 on traps for every size game from birds to deer. I live by the ocean so already have a spear gun and warm and frozen water wetsuits, spear a fish a day in under ten minutes. fishing with a pole is a waste of your day, just like hunting with a rifle, set A hundred traps and check daily you will be alive and fat a long time. THE REST YOU IMPROVISE !

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    • Have seen the future map the navy has? If Yellowstone goes fish die! So do deer,rabbits,birds,chickens and us if we don't plan right. I'm still trying to get over Planet X! LOL!

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  15. Over the past two years we've have stocked sufficient food and materials to last my family of three for six to twelve months. As with many who have responded, I've tried to create a blend of canned veggies from the garden (near term consumption) mid- term: tin canned veggies and proteins, and far term with freeze dried items) with the goal of providing a menu as close as possible to what we eat now. Condiments, bullion cubes, spices, etc will go a long way is keeping foods interesting in a SHTF scenario. We've given a critical eye to those items that are necessary but will be hard to find or duplicate such as soaps, toothpaste, feminine products, toilet paper, towels, baking powder/soda, drink flavoring, etc. Since we believe that our present circumstance will likely end up in a shelter in place scenario, last year we began turning our back yard from grass to raised bed gardens for the purpose of providing the family with fresh vegitables for immediate consumption and canning for our stocks. Our biggest issue is availability of water. I've read in the past that effective planning requires 2 to 3 gallons per person per day. We recently tested that theory be limiting water consumption to 5 gallons weekend – the result was that we need to stock a lot more water. To that end, we've been purchasing 4 and 5 gallons of water and looking at other options to provide a reasonable amount of water in our stores.

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  16. Not sure where you live but when it rains you should be able to set up some form of catchment for rainwater collection.

    We have over 100,000 litres of rainwater storage that we use for both the house and gardens.

    The water in one of our tanks (32,000 litrres) was in store for seven years before we used it in the house, no pre treatment, and it was as good as the day it was collected.

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  17. I am always amused by those that think they can "live off the land, growing a garden and hunting. I live in the perfect place for hunting and I don't think much of it.
    First, your garden will take six months to produce a livable harvest, for half a year. During that time your lil chunk o heaven is a target for everything that eats, four and twio legged. A garden of living size and scope must be a full time job for somebody or several memebers of your group or your kidding yourself.
    Hunting? If the SHTF, every nimrod in the world will be in the bush, at least at first. Mostly they will be scaring things off. A suggestion of traps was made, very good, but not for deer sized animals, for birds and rodents, cause that's all that will be left in short order.
    Better to prepare for a long duration stored food situation if you are in a place where you have the room and resources

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    • I pretty much agree. If you are going to have a garden, you get it going now and keep it going. It does take a lot of work. We just moved, but we had an aquaponics setup at our previous house. Great produce production, but required power to keep the water moving. Serious drawback for survivability, but great for sustainability. We have a generator (portable) that plugged into the old house, but we need to set that up here. Good for the short term, like keeping frig and freezer going until you have used those foodstuffs first. Need a better water supply. Game? Lots of hunting here, but I'm not a hunter, at least not yet. Raising rabbits would be a good protein source.

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    • what about 5 gal. buckets you can raise almost every thing in them, from lettuce to potatoes and berry's , tomatoes, carrots' beets or anything. you can grow them in the house in the winter too. I have done this. potatoes can produce seed potatoes even if the plant roots are under water they grow on the stock.

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  18. Every thing you have is great. I keep water but also have a well with hand pump and a good filter.Three 20lb tanks of lp gas for grill and camp stove.But don"t forget herbs and spices to make great meals,it might be an emergecy but you can still eat well.

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  19. Raising rabbits is a good idea, but, you can't just eat rabbits without some fat to go with the protein. All so, a little green stuff for some minerals.

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  20. Depending on the situation food like equipment needs to be thought of like sound it carries and can attract unwanted attention.

    After a Normal if you can call any disaster normal share help cook out on the BARBY who cares should this be a long term disaster or event I would go with any meals that require water only boiling water has no scent keep the bag closed untill the water has fulfilled its mission and the level of steam is low.

    canned goods are great but cooking causes scent to travel many blocks so consider eating cold or having
    peanut butter crackers sardines or other canned seafood high in protien and essencential oils.
    instant oatmeal and other hot cerals are good as well.

    There will be a time frame where you need to be invisable and that will change and you just need to be caeful
    People kill each other for food all the time in america they kill each other for drugs and money where there is no money or drugs thats where they kill for food. wino's back in the good old days used to kill each other for booze

    I have rabbits and chickens I keep a garden and I can tell you a garden is a hit and miss propisition one year it's bug infestation next is drought another invasion of moles or birds if it ain't one thing it's another.

    you can CAN anything right now I would be canning a lot of meat sausage hotdogs chili chicken fish etc.
    In world war II europe had killed off almost all the deer most birds worth eating and scrounged the garbage cans
    for whatever was left people were running from one place to another 60 million died and that was back when we had a lot less population.
    If your crazy enough to bar-b-q look for a hundred souls to be on your doorstep and if you think your weapons are going to impress them they may be so far gone they may pray you shoot them if they cannot get a mouthful.
    water 3 to 4 days food 30 days you could not whip your way out of a wet paper sack that is another telling thing if your still rosey and don't look like a skeleton everyones going to figure your hoarding food and they will turn you in
    all of you did realize that hoarding under martial law is a crime or did you LMAO and hoarding is whatever the power that is decides it is a day of food 5 pounds of propane a bottle of aspirin ?? ignorance of the law is no excuse so they can change the rules any time.

    Some U.N. general will be dining on your meals wile your in a gulag packed so full of people that the dead can't even fall down.

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  21. Well if Im still around after the initial SHTF "issue", My family should be ok for a bug in situation for at least a few months! Im usually quiet about my preps but the subject deserves a response. Anyone can use rain barrels to catch water- add filters if you want it cleaner. My food preps started with multiplying our usual routine without my wife knowing it and then expanding by adding a bunch of stuff we don't eat but will be a nice separation from the norm or bartering use! I planned ahead for incoming visitors. Most are family but told them to stock up on their own and bring it! For everyone that has their own idea- great! Im glad there are others trying to figure out the options. For the others that expect some agency to save them—–bye!

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  22. plan to bug in due to age/health of some family. Have a mix of gro. store foods can veg., spices, sauces, can meats and fish, frozen items, sugar, flour, meal, asst. cooking oils, dried peas and beans in bulk, rice and pasta, etc. Also have a smaller assortment of long term freeze dried items, powdered milk, etc. live in semi rural setting with well for water (generator to run pump) and ability to hold @250 gals at pressure. Also septic system for sanitation and pond to get water for flushing that does not require pump or filtration. Ponds are stocked with fish. Have fish cookers, charcoal grills, smoker grill, to cook, boil water, smoke fish and game, etc.
    I add a little something to my food stock or tool and equipment monthly. I have filled 2 large lp gas tanks while price is low in summer. I am buying an older gas stove that can be used for cooking/baking if power is out. have purchased 2 fuel tanks I intend to fill with gas and diesel for vehicles, generators, tractors, or barter-trade. I have a number of solar spotlights that can be installed at windows and used for free light source. Also am slowly replacing light bulbs with new LED lights. Expensive but long lasting and very efficient. Have a garden area and seeds but do not garden now. No time. Trying to plan and get some supplies a little bit along. Have a good assortment of firearms for hunting and security. sufficient ammo for most scenarios.

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  23. Bugging in IS a pref. choice but depending on your geographic location and the type of SHTF you have to have a plan B in case you have to leave in a hurry. Look at the fires in Tn and NC. Or on a coast line with a tsunami. Barring those situations, and again your location, if you decide to stay….you and your family members need to be prepared to defend against those who have not prepared and go "hunting " for those who have! And unfortunately a very likely scenario.

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