How much is enough? Rationing

Updated: Mar 14, 2020

How much food is enough? is a common question for people new to storing emergency supplies. In this guide you will learn how to calculate rations, figure out how many days of food you have, and what absolutely NEEDS to be included. WARNING: Math is involved (YUCK!)

Rationing is not recommended for children 16 and younger, and people with health conditions should consult with a physician. This is not a guide for general nutrition and is for use in emergency food storage only.

Figuring out how to ration and how much you need everyday can seem daunting, but once you know how, it's very easy. The average person burns 2000 calories a day. If we are talking about the ideal long term diet, the numbers need to be tailored to the person and a consult with a nutritionist is recommended. But for storing emergency food, general amounts are used.

Types of rations:

Full rations are used when food shortage is not an issue and when individuals are doing a lot of physical labor. These amounts are designed to allow a person enough energy for their tasks and maintain muscle mass. Full rations for men are 1800 calories a day including 45 grams of protein. Full rations for women are 1600 calories a day including 40 grams of protein. Ideally the calories should be split between carbohydrates and fats with carbohydrates as the majority.

Reduced rations are used when food supplies are an issue but not an urgent one. A person can survive with minimal muscle loss for an extended period of time on reduced rations. Reduced rations for men are 1500 calories a day with 35 grams of protein. Reduced rations for women are 1200 calories a day and 30 grams of protein. Some muscle loss will happen after an extended period of time but will not be critical.

Starvation rations are for when food shortage is critical. It cannot be sustained for an extended period of time without severe muscle loss, weakness and in time medical complications. Starvation rations should only be used in dire circumstances for a short periods of time such as knowing that you HAVE to hold out for more supplies for a couple of weeks or traveling for 3 days or less. It is not a long term solution to food shortage. Starvation rations for men are 1200 calories with under 30 grams of protein a day. Starvation rations for women are 1000 calories and under 25 grams of protein a day. Severe muscle loss WILL occur in a short amount of time. Physical labor should be avoided as much as possible while on starvation rations. The risk of dizziness and collapse is very real on these amounts. If possible, extra water rations should be given to help the body flush ketones and maintain proper kidney function.

First you need to know the average calories per day your group will need. As most groups are a mix of ages and genders, count up every person's daily calorie allotment and this is your group's total calories per day. For children, please use the daily recommended amount appropriate for the age of the child. Rationing is not recommended for those 16 and under.

So now you know how much your group will consume per day. How many days will your supply last? Count up all the calories from all the food. Pay close attention to the label where it says amount per serving and servings per container. Multiply the calories per serving by the servings per container to calculate that items calories. After all your calories are counted, divide them by the total calories your group will need per day. This is how many days your food will last.

Use the same methods as above but with protein instead of calories to make sure you have enough protein in your rations. While using your supplies you will still need to count out the calories and protein for each individual when handing out the daily rations. Remember that men, women, and children need different amounts per day.

Example: This is what the calculations look like for a group with 2 men and 2 women. We will be using full rations, and a total calorie amount of 100,000 in their food storage.

cpd is calories per day



1800+1800+1600+1600=6800 total calories a day needed for the group or tcpd


So this group has enough food supplies to last 14 days.

Water is a little less complicated. Each person needs 1 gallon of water a day for hydration and hygiene. Remember that water used to cook with counts toward this amount. Water rations can be cut to half a gallon per day by cutting hygiene use. Less water is not recommended and more may be needed in high heat and physical labor. Multiply the amount per day, per the number of people in the group.

Example: 1g per person in a group of 4, for 30 days means a minimum of 120 gallons of water needs to be stored.

On top of making sure you have enough food and water to last your group for the number of days you are planning, make sure to add a calcium supplement, vitamin c tablets and a multivitamin. Non perishable food is notoriously lacking in vital nutrients. Lack of proper vitamins can lead to serious conditions such as scurvy from lack of vitamin C and rickets caused by a lack of vitamin D in children.

Again this is a guide for emergency food storage only. It is not a replacement or recommendation for regular daily use. To find out what is best for you, for a regular daily diet please consult a physician or licensed nutritionist. Happy prepping!

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