Our family has been preparing to become self-reliant and survive adversity for many years. Recently we put our preparations to the test and accepted the challenge to live for 90 days without shopping for food. We lived solely off of the foods we had stored, what we could produce in our garden, and what we could barter for with our friends.
Is it possible to live exclusively off of food storage for 90 days or more? It is definitely possible to live off of the foods you have stored for 90 days and even much longer. Our family is living proof. It takes careful planning and preparing to live comfortably on basic food storage.
In this post, we are going to share with you what we learned during our 90 Day No Shopping Challenge. See the original challenge post, 90-Day Challenge—Survive Solely on Food Storage and Garden. Take a peek at the resources we had at the beginning of our challenge.
Rules of the 90-Day No Shopping Challenge
These are the official rules of our no shopping challenge. We produced weekly videos of our adventures and posted them on YouTube. You can find links to them at the bottom of this post.
- No trips to the grocery store to purchase food
- Meals, snacks, and treats must be made from items in our personal food storage and garden produce
- Bartering and sharing is acceptable
- True emergency purchases may be made but must be disclosed, documented, and changes implemented to our storage plan
- Daily documentation of foods consumed and challenges faced
- The challenge will begin on July 21st and end on October 18th
Exceptions to the Rule
- Family vacations when it is impractical to bring food storage
- Social obligations (i.e. business meetings)
I am pleased to announce that we conquered the challenge and didn’t even have any emergency trips to the grocery store during the 90 days.
We Were Never at Risk of Starving
We have a large family and are prepared to keep all of us fed for a year or more. We have a short term food storage with shelf-stable foods that we eat on a regular basis.
In addition, we maintain a long term food supply with basic staples including wheat, Kamut, white rice, corn, rolled oats, pasta, beans, powdered milk, dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits and vegetables, salt, and other basics.
We also have fruit and nut trees, berries, grapes, and grow a garden every year. We bottle, dehydrate and store much of our garden bounty. Our shelves are stocked with bottled tomatoes, fruit, preserves, and even medicinal herbs and tinctures.
Our goal is to be self-reliant regardless of the challenges that we may face in life. We have been slowly building our resources and skills over many years. Because of the years of planning and preparation this 90-day challenge was actually easily accomplished.
90-Day No Shopping Challenge Weight Gain or Loss
One of our viewers asked us to share the effect that the challenge had on our weight. The results of the weigh-in are below.
- Jonathan lost 6 pounds and attributes that weight loss to a lack of junk food and easy calories.
- Kylene lost 5 pounds which surprised me. I felt that I was actually eating more food because I was constantly trying to satisfy my craving for chocolate that is usually easily taken care of with a small handful of chocolate chips. However, I admit that not having junk food around probably helped.
- Kenni and Kristi are unwilling to disclose actual numbers. They both admit that they had gained weight over the summer due to a lack of their normal intense exercise routine. Once dance started up again they quickly started to slim down.
- Ben’s weight stayed exactly the same over the three month challenge. He ate a massive amount of food like any typical teenager and still didn’t gain any weight.
90-Day No Shopping Challenge Money Saved
Jonathan’s best estimate is that we probably saved $700 due to the following factors:
- No money spent buying fast food or at restaurants
- No impulse purchases
- Ate mostly basic inexpensive staple foods
- Reduced waste and salvaged foods we normally may have wasted
- Depended on garden produce for much of our food
We may have actually saved more but it is difficult to determine exactly how much money we saved during the challenge because we will need to finish restocking our supplies.
Plan for Variables
It is best to develop your plan for the specific needs of your family. However, as we learned in this challenge, there are also variables that you may want to build into your plan.
Increase in Number of People to Feed
It is a good idea to plan for fluctuations in the number of people you need to feed. You never know when tough times may mean that you have additional house guests. This happened to us during our challenge. We had an adult child move home temporarily and 4 of our grandchildren visited on weekends.
Our guests actually doubled the number of people that we had anticipated on feeding. A good lesson to learn that we should be prepared to care for family and friends who fall upon hard times. Sometimes the challenge may only affect our family, such as unemployment, but other times an economic downturn can also hurt others.
Houseguests may have unique preferences to be considered. My grandchildren are used to a diet with a lot of refined foods. However, they love my refried beans, soups, and Grandpa’s whole wheat waffles. I store regular maple syrup especially for them. I know that I go through a lot more pinto beans and cheddar cheese when they are staying with us.
I store some foods in our storage, especially for our guests. I store both regular peanut butter as well as old fashioned peanut butter to make sure that each member of our family can enjoy the kind that they prefer.
Food preferences have changed as our family has matured. The kids used to love Spaghettios but now they just sit in storage. It is better to eliminate them from our storage and replace them with something they like to eat.
Our diets change with the seasons. In the summer, we eat more salads and cold foods while the winter is filled with hot soups and chili. We take advantage of fresh produce from our garden during the growing season while we rely on our bottled foods during the cold winter months.
It may be a good idea to develop your storage around a few different menus to adequately plan for eating during all seasons.
Survival Food Storage Tips
There are a few valuable tips that I’d like to share with you that we were reminded of during our challenge.
Store Plenty of Fats
Cooking from the basics requires significantly more fat than you may think. Olive oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oil are all very valuable ingredients when you are cooking from scratch.
We ran low on butter and I had to start rationing it. Benjamin made butter a couple of times from the milk he obtained from our neighbor’s cow. However, it just wasn’t enough. The canned butter turned out to have a bit of a weird flavor and the kids did not like it.
Store an Abundant Supply of Basic Staples
Basic staples such as wheat, rice, beans, oats, pasta, flour, sugars, salt, baking soda, fats, dehydrated vegetables, and spices are foundational items. They are the tools that allow you to create basic nutritious meals.
Dispose of Old or Less-Desirable Foods
Storing foods that are no longer edible gives you a false sense of security. Foods may be edible much longer than you think. Check out the post, Food Storage: How Old is Too Old?
Nutritional content is important. The best way to avoid having to waste food is to store the foods you like to eat and keep them rotated. During our challenge, we discovered some foods that were just too old and were no longer safe to eat.
We immediately disposed of them and went through our stored foods carefully to ensure that the foods we kept were safe and could provide adequate nutrition for our family.
Keep Storage Area Well-Organized
Our storage room is fairly well organized. However, there were a couple of times during our challenge that I thought we had run out of an item, only to discover some later that had not been put away in the correct location.
Grow a Garden
The fresh fruits and vegetables produced in our backyard were an amazing blessing during our challenge. We had fresh herbs to flavor our meals. A variety of fruit to add to our meals including berries, apricots, plums, peaches, pears, watermelon, and apples.
One of the big benefits of growing a garden is the ability to produce food that will build and renew your food supply. During our 90 day challenge, we probably added more food overall to our supply than we ate.
Fresh Eggs are an Incredible Resource
Fresh eggs are highly valuable when you are living on limited resources. We averaged 11 eggs from our chickens daily. They eat scraps and forage in our orchard. We do provide them with some grain each day but the majority of their food is free.
We had eggs in baked goods, pancakes, crepes, frittatas, quiches, and had them boiled, fried, and scrambled. One of our favorite lunches includes sautéed vegetables and herbs in scrambled eggs. Jon likes his smothered in salsa and jalapeños while I like mine with cheese. We would usually have the eggs with toast and fruit on the side.
We never seemed to get tired of the eggs because each time we harvested the veggies from the kitchen garden we had something just a little bit different. It was incredibly nutritious and didn’t use very many supplies from our storage. Eggs are one of the most valuable items produced on our little homestead.
Use and Rotate Food Storage
Develop your plan based on foods that you use in your everyday life. If that means that you store boxed meals, then store boxed meals. Especially when you are building a 90 day supply, include all of the shelf-stable ingredients that your family actually eats.
This will lessen the impact on your family when you are required to live off of your food supply. It also helps to eliminate waste as you rotate through your food regularly.
Foods We Missed the Most
The thing that we missed the most in our challenge was not being able to go out to eat. I had not realized just how much we enjoyed the social aspect of eating out. We have developed so many traditions around food.
Whenever we took the kids to the doctor or dentist, we rewarded them for good behavior with a trip to a fast-food restaurant or treat from the store. Jonathan usually takes me out on a weekly date where we get alone time and a chance to build our relationship. I missed our dates most of all.
Convenience foods (chips, crackers, cold cereal, etc.), chocolate chips, candy, fresh dairy (sour cream, whipped cream, yogurt, cheese), ice cream, watermelon (before the harvest), canned pumpkin (for Ben’s pumpkin bread), and lettuce (during summer heat) are the foods that we missed the most.
Benefits of Our No-Shopping Challenge
- Food became very precious and we stopped wasting it. We learned to appreciate our resources like never before.
- We learned new skills and perfected others. Benjamin learned how to milk a cow. I perfected my natural yeast bread making skills.
- The creativity and resourcefulness in our family blossomed. I was amazed especially with the children as they learned how to work and barter for the items that they wanted and needed.
- Our diet became significantly healthier as refined foods were eliminated and replaced with fresh garden produce.
- We learned to be satisfied with less. After a couple of weeks, we became accustomed to our new situation and were just happy with what we had to eat.
- We have refined and perfected our storage plan. We identified holes that we did not know existed. We learned things about ourselves and our food preferences.
- We have a higher level of confidence in our level of preparedness. We realized that we could have actually continued the challenge for another 90 days and survived. While Jonathan was all for that, the rest of us refused and enjoyed our trip to the store and going out to eat.
- Bartering was not a regular event at our house. We learned that bartering is a powerful tool and now know how to use it to meet our needs as well as to help others.
Increase in Food Storage Levels
We ran out of several items during the 90 days and have increased the basic storage levels for several items in our storage.
- Cat food – 6 (25 pound) bags
- Chocolate chips – 10 (4.5 pound) bags
- Butter – 40 pounds butter (in the freezer)
- Coconut sugar – 25 pounds
- White flour – 75 pounds
- Meat – 75 pounds (in the freezer)
- Raisins – 10 pounds
- Parchment paper – 4 rolls
- Additional backup spices
Decrease in Food Storage Levels
We also identified items in our food storage where we have overages. These items take up valuable real estate on our shelves and need to be replaced with items that we do use on a regular basis.
- Tuna doesn’t need to be on our list. We have found that nobody ever eats it and we ended up feeding it to the cats when we ran out of cat food.
- Commercially canned pears, applesauce, and fruit cocktail just sit on the shelves because everyone prefers our bottled fruit.
- Spaghettios were originally bought because the kids liked them. Taste preference has changed and now no one eats them.
- Canned soup is rarely eaten because delicious homemade soup is always on the menu. We only need a few cans to get us through a short term power outage or similar emergency.
- Pasta used to be a staple ingredient in many meals at our home. However, gluten allergies and low carb diets have made pasta another item that just sits on the shelves. We will still stock macaroni and cheese for the grandkids but we do not need to store as much pasta as we used to.
Lessons Learned from Our No Shopping Challenge
The past 3 months have taught us some powerful lessons and given us some unique insight that we didn’t have before. Let me share a few of these with you.
Addicted to Grocery Shopping
I am addicted to grocery shopping and stocking up. I was surprised at the psychological need I had developed to purchase whatever was on sale. Missing 2 big case lot sales was rough. I think that I am able to make better decisions now about what supplies I really need, and what I don’t.
Creating all of the meals and baking bread from scratch takes much more time than I had originally calculated. There was no longer an option to pick up a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk at the store.
The bread had to be baked and the cow had to be milked. Butter had to be churned. Fruits and vegetables had to be harvested, washed and prepared. Beans had to be soaked and cooked. It just all takes a lot of time.
Planning Ahead is Hard
No longer was a quick stop to get food at a drive-up window an option. I had to plan ahead and take food if we wanted to eat. Many times I actually went hungry due to poor planning. I learned to get creative making snacks, muffins, and foods that traveled well.
Overall our diet was significantly healthier. Processed foods were eliminated from our diet and replaced with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
One surprising comment from the kids after going out to eat and shopping on Saturday is that none of them felt good. It doesn’t take long for sugar and preservatives to affect the way we feel.
Rough Start – Gradually Got Easier
The first couple weeks of the challenge were much more difficult than the rest. We were detoxing from a life full of sugar and preservatives even though I thought we ate a healthy diet.
Figuring out our new reality took a bit of time but then we adapted. By week 3 we were accustomed to our new life and functioning quite well.
Mom Needs Chocolate!
I have actually survived for a couple of years without eating refined sugars. I usually allow myself real maple syrup, honey, and a little bit of coconut sugar. A few months before the challenge I had started eating a little bit of chocolate and I was hooked all over again.
A small handful of chocolate chips totally satisfies my craving. I usually eat it mixed with raw almonds, pecans, raisins, and sunflower seeds. However, knowing that I could not get chocolate intensified the craving.
I still tried to avoid refined sugar but we ran out of coconut sugar. I am a much happier person with a storage room filled with chocolate chips.
Advanced Planning and Preparation Makes All the Difference
We were able to breeze through this challenge with relatively few issues because we developed a plan and executed it well. We actually use the foods that we store.
If we had planned on doing this challenge in advance, I could have taken inventory and purchased more of what I thought we might need. But then it wouldn’t have been a valuable test of our preparedness level.
We made the decision, held a family council, and started the challenge the following Sunday. Lessons were learned, notes taken, and plan revisions are underway.
Bartering Makes Life More Enjoyable
We were able to barter for some of the items that we were missing. Our friends were a great blessing in our lives.
We bartered chocolate chips for kale. Cow milking privileges for fresh produce. The kids hauled hay for Subway, pizza, and Chinese food. The girls babysat for chocolate chips. Overall, whenever there was a great need it was filled by bartering either skills or supplies that we had.
Garden Produce is Delicious
Our garden was an incredible blessing during the challenge. We know how to grow delicious foods during our growing season but need to work on the ability to grow food year-round. A greenhouse is on our to-do list.
Real People Have Real Needs
Real people have unique needs, dietary requirements, and preferences. It is important to build a plan with them in mind. In our family, the men were tougher and complained less.
We need to store a lot more chocolate for the girls. Kenni, Kristi, and I are a bit softer and appreciate the finer things in life. We are a bit more emotional when our chocolate levels get low.
We are Ready for Future Challenges
One of the best lessons that we learned is that the Jones Family is ready for the challenges in our future. They will still be difficult and we may not enjoy them, but we have done a good job of preparing for them.
Jones Family Action Plan
The only way to improve is to evaluate the lessons learned and develop an action plan. This is our action plan in response to living off of our food stores and garden produce for 90 days.
- Celebrate our success!
- Update storage plan to meet new needs
- Restock supplies to new PAR levels
- Organize storage rooms
- Dispose of foods we don’t use or that are getting old
Overall the 90-Day No Shopping Challenge was a Great Learning Experience
We are excited to announce that we successfully made it through our 90-Day No Shopping Challenge. Lessons were learned. Our plans have been revised and the new plans are in the process of being implemented.
Could you live off of your stored foods for 90 days if you need to? What can you do to improve your food storage?
Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones