We hear a lot about how much food Americans waste.
Recent estimates from Penn State University researchers show 30% of the food we buy ends up uneaten, spoiled, or wasted in one way or another.
But we rarely see studies about how much food Americans store for emergencies. What we do know is that nearly half of Americans don’t have emergency supplies or first-aid kits prepared for unexpected disasters.
The first step you can take right now to prepare yourself for days, weeks, or months without food is to check your inventory.
Most people realize far too late that they don’t have enough food far too late into a crisis. When they do realize that they need to build their stocks, they typically mass buy the cheapest carbohydrates and proteins on the shelf.
These tend to be dried beans, bread, canned goods, and rice.
Staple foods may vary depending on where you live, but nationally, new stories usually report massive runs on dried beans, bread, canned goods, and rice during times of crisis.
How We Used to Build Our Food Stockpile
Like many people, Matt and I would cling to the core food items outlined earlier in the article when we went to the grocery store.
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak (before the statewide shutdowns and social distancing measures) Matt and I made several trips to the store a week. We would throw 4 rows of canned beans, a loaf of bread, and some bags of rice into the cart without any regard for how much we actually needed to fuel our bodies in the event that we couldn’t get to a store.
We figured we would just keep stockpiling until we ran out of space or lost easy access.
After approaching our food inventory from this faulty mindset, we developed a system that helps us calculate how many days of staple foods we have and how much more we need to add in order to reach the amount of days we want to be covered for.
Introduction to the Staple Stock Inventory Tracker
Our food inventory system consists of 3 parts:
By the end of this 3-part system, you’ll know how many calories you have among the 4 main meal categories and how many days those calories could last you.
Step 1: Calculating your daily caloric needs.
If you hate math like Matt and I do, then you’ll love this tool, which will help you determine your individual calorie needs in less than 30 seconds.
We use the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE) calculator for finding your daily calorie needs based on your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level.
When I put my information into the calculator, it reveals that I will need 2,010 calories per day to maintain my current weight.
Step 2: Assemble your stocks into 4 categories.
After you determine your calorie needs for a single day, open up your cabinets or head over to your pantry.
Look at the items you have and divide them into 4 categories:
Make note of how many cans and bags you have of each of these goods.
Step 3: Add up the total calorie count of your stocks in each category. ‘
Once you know how many cans you have, find the calorie count of each can and tally up the totals.
Pro tip: If you organize your cans by product type (i.e. canned corn versus black beans or garbanzo beans) and find the calorie count of one can, then you can multiply that number by how many of that type of product you have.
For example, if I have 8 cans of black beans and there are 420 calories of food in each can, multiply 8 x 420. That will give me 3,360 calories for that particular product.
After you’ve found the total calorie count of all items in each of your primary stock categories, take that final number and divide it by your individual or your family’s total daily caloric needs.
This number will tell you how many days of food you have in your staple stock.
When I conducted this exercise on my own food staples, I discovered that I only had about 14 days of food prepared in dried beans, bread, canned goods, and rice.
Again, I did not include other more luxury items or comfort foods like macaroni and cheese, trail mix, candies, crackers, and the like, however, you certainly can tally up those numbers to get a very specific and accurate assessment of your entire food stocks.
Don’t Forget About Nutrition
Although we are not nutritional experts, we do recommend considering not just the calories that you are putting into your body, but also the nutritional value of those calories.
Tracking your macros is a great way to guarantee you are getting the protein, fat, and carbohydrates you need to maintain your current weight. Macros is short for macronutrients, and these are nutrients that supply your body with energy. It’s what most of the food you eat consists of.
You may want to calculate the protein, fat, and carbohydrates in each of your staple categories to get an assessment of the nutritional value of your stock as part of your food inventory.
If so, we suggest using If It Fits Your Macros calculator to get a free breakdown of exactly what your needs are.
Once the calculator gives you those numbers, write them down and then follow steps 2 through 3 as indicated above, making sure to divide the total macronutrients and calories in your staple inventory by your total daily calorie count, as well as your daily macronutrient composition.
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