This is the first installment of my year-long prepping journey.
For the next chapter, check out My Year of Eating Like the World Ended – Report 2 of 13

The Prepping Journey Begins

You don’t have to believe that any day now, we’ll face a global pandemic… or that we’ll be struck by an EMP and be sent back to the Stone Age… or that martial law will be declared… or that the zombie apocalypse is just around the corner… or any of the other popular world-ending “SHTF” scenarios to prep. 

All that is required is an understanding that life is messy. It’s chaotic and unpredictable, and sometimes, stuff just happens. Life throws you a curveball. When that happens (and it inevitably will), doesn’t it just make sense to have the resources at the ready to deal with it? 

A hundred and fifty years ago, no one would know or even notice if a tree branch fell in the middle of nowhere.

Now, if a tree branch falls in the right part of the middle of nowhere, it can take out a power line and leave tens of millions of people without power. It has happened before, and it will happen again. 

Do you know what else can happen? Hurricanes. Tornadoes. Fires. Floods.

When those things happen, it’s going to disrupt many, if not most, of the critical services that make modern life possible. Wouldn’t it be great if stuff like that ever happened, you could carry on with your daily routine without missing a beat—because you had the foresight to do a bit of planning and preparation?

At the root, that’s what prepping is

Why Did I Begin Prepping?

Every person who preps is different, and as such, every person’s goals are different. There’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” prepping solution.

My own preparations have been shaped by my first winter in Appalachia. I moved to a sparsely populated part of Southwest Virginia from Myrtle Beach to realize my lifelong dream of living in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Coming from the beach, I knew less than nothing about life in the mountains. And in truth, I hadn’t seen snow in more than a decade.

I arrived at my new home on January 14, 2015, at a little past four in the morning in the middle of a snowstorm. You can imagine my surprise.

My surprise grew to shock when I woke the next morning to find that the only road off the mountain was impassable. It would remain so for the next four days.

It would be overselling it to say that if it hadn’t been for the kindness of my new neighbors, I would have died. Though my situation was nowhere near that dire, I can say that those first four days in my new home were cold and miserable.

Lesson learned. I vowed that I’d NEVER let anything like that happen again. Once the road reopened, I stocked up on food. A week’s supply in reserve at first, and then two. Then, a full month. Then three. Then six. At that point, I stopped to reassess.

Obviously, there was no plausible scenario in which a simple winter storm would prevent me from getting to town for six full months. So, wasn’t that overkill?

For that specific scenario, it certainly was. But, of course, snowstorms weren’t the only thing I had to worry about. I’m a freelance writer, so my income is unpredictable. Each week, it starts at zero, and there are no guarantees it’ll go higher. What if a deep recession hit and the work dried up for some time? How would I eat, much less keep the lights on?

My answer to that question was to PREP, and I settled on a one-year stockpile of food, on the thinking that a year’s supply would give me more than enough time to make other plans and get a more permanent solution in place. With that thought in my head, I duly began building that stockpile.

Building My Stockpile

I didn’t really have a plan or strategy beyond “one-year,” so as funds became available, I’d make a few additions. When I saw something on sale, I’d grab it. I made lots of trips to the local Dollar Store, raiding their frozen foods section. That kind of thing.

My efforts kicked into overdrive when one of our three big local retail chains announced they were going out of business. For two weeks, I made the trip down the mountain to load up a cart and haul all sorts of goodies away from Magic Mart at 40% and 50% off. I felt like I had struck gold, and during that time, I basically transferred Magic Mart’s canned goods section to my house.

Then I chanced to find a special offer on freeze-dried foods from a company called Valley Food Storage. A one-year’s supply of subsistence-level food and a free 50-gallon rain barrel for about a thousand bucks. What was not to like about that? So, of course, I made the purchase at once! (I admit – my decision to buy was based in no small part on the prospect of getting that spiffy rain barrel!)

At that point, though, a disturbing thought occurred to me. 

I had all this food, but was it the right kind? Was it enough? If I suddenly found myself having to rely on it as my main (or only) source of food for a year, how well would it hold up? How well would I hold up, for that matter?

I realized I had answers to exactly NONE of those questions, which is how this experiment came to be. I wanted to know. I wanted to test it, and myself, so I resolved to do just that.

The Experiment

I made that decision on September 5, 2018, about an hour after I’d made the purchase from Valley Food Storage. With that thought in mind, I saw no reason to delay. Why not start the very next day, and just add the freeze-dried stuff to my stockpile when it arrived? So that’s exactly what I did.

Goals and Objectives

Here’s what I hope to get out of my year-long experiment:

👉 I want to find out how well I can survive for a whole year on my current stock of food. To that end, I’ll be looking at questions like:
🠲 How was my health impacted (I’ll be tracking my weight and BP and making note of my mental state as the experiment progresses)?
🠲 What needs to change when I rebuild it after the experiment ends to make it better?
🠲 What are its weakest points?

👉 I also want to find out exactly how much space it takes to store an actual one-year food supply.

👉 Finally, this experiment will help me create a “set and forget” blueprint for a robust 1-year, 1-person food supply with a 25+ year shelf life. I don’t want to have to rotate food stocks. I want to be able to create a list of ingredients I can buy, throw on a shelf, and forget about until and unless I need it. 

Given that I recently turned fifty, building this “set and forget” supply will effectively last the rest of my life. If someone younger follows my blueprint, they can rotate it out in a couple of decades. They can eat on their stock for a year knowing that it’s already been field tested, and they won’t have any problems living off of it. The exact blueprint will be published as part of the last report in this series.

I have seen and heard about people living off of “emergency food” for a month. But to my knowledge, this is the first time someone has publicly documented trying it for a whole year.

Another of my hopes then is that anything learned by doing this will serve as an educational tool for anyone who’s interested in prepping by giving them access to a firsthand account of practical, day-to-day hands-on living under conditions of (simulated) crisis and the longer-term impacts of using the supplies we’re all diligently building up.

Where The Rubber Meets the Road

The first thing I did then was to establish some basic rules for myself. I decided to keep it simple:

  • No trips to the grocery store until the second week of September 2019
  • No trips to restaurants
  • No getting friends and neighbors to go for me
  • I take a good multivitamin now and have more than a years’ supply on hand, so that will continue. If I run short of something, the vitamins will help keep me healthy, or at least healthy-ish.
  • Because any crisis that would involve not going to the grocery store for an entire year would have to be pretty epic, I’ll intentionally stay close to the house as much as possible. (In an actual disaster where food supplies were disrupted, going to town would be dangerous—if not deadly.)
  • To further create the illusion of a genuine crisis and to increase my isolation, I’ll swear off news sites for a whole year
  • I will allow a few cheat days. After all, I still have to maintain my relationships with people who are not part of the experiment. So, my birthday, my girlfriend’s birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day will not be “experiment days.” Thanksgiving will be, however, as I want to have one major holiday eating like the world ended.

So that’s it. I can trade for food, grow my own (very limited options here, since I’m currently renting), or hunt/fish/forage to supplement my stocks.

To that end, I brought my two nearest neighbors, Mike and “Granny” (no idea what Granny’s real name is – she’s just granny to everyone in the area) into the fold, outlining what I had in mind so they wouldn’t think I had lost my mind when I started approaching them with potential trade deals on food.

My health isn’t great, and I take blood pressure medication, so I gave myself permission to make monthly trips to the drug store to pick up more of that. But again, no food buying allowed—medication only.

I also resolved to keep monthly track of my weight and blood pressure. If my experiment started impacting my health, I decided that would be sufficient grounds to pull the plug on the experiment, rebuild the stock in a healthier configuration and try again.

Finally, I gave myself $100 to make any last-minute purchases to round out my stocks and stores, figuring that it would be fun at the end of the experiment to reassess and see what, if anything, I would have bought differently with that last bit of funds.

Armed with a set of rules and guiding principles, it occurred to me that the next thing I needed to do was to take a complete inventory. After all, how could I possibly make informed decisions about what I needed to buy with that hundred bucks if I didn’t know what I already had?

So, I grabbed a notebook and a pen and started cataloging every scrap of food I had in the house. I’m including that inventory here so you can see what I started with.

My Stockpile Inventory

My Food Inventory

  • 14 tins of coffee
  • 10 4-pound bags of sugar
  • 2 Casserole Dishes of Chicken Casserole (from Mike’s family – part of a get-well package)
  • Half a dozen containers of veggie beef soup (from Mike’s family – part of the same get-well package)
  • 36 packs of pop tarts (assorted)
  • 21 cans of white chicken meat
  • 6 cans of tuna
  • 59 cans of chicken noodle soup
  • 35 cans of split pea soup
  • 25 cans of tomato soup
  • 24 cans of ham and mac and cheese
  • 24 cans of beef stew
  • 21 cans of chili
  • 48 cans of mini ravioli
  • 5 jars of peanut butter
  • 4 frozen dinners (Rigatoni)
  • 15 frozen dinners – Fettuccini Alfredo
  • 8 frozen dinners – lasagna
  • 14 bags of assorted mixed nuts
  • 2 boxes of cheese sticks
  • 2 boxes of broccoli cheese bites
  • 2 boxes of stuffed mushroom bites
  • 1 box of instant grits (6 packets)
  • 3 boxes of scalloped potatoes
  • 5 frozen dinners – Salisbury steak
  • 5 frozen dinners – meatloaf
  • 12 (26*) bags of assorted frozen veggies
  • 22 hot pockets (assorted)
  • 4 small canned hams
  • 24 cans of corn
  • 24 cans of green beans
  • 24 cans of peas
  • 6 cans of peaches
  • 2 bags of flour tortillas
  • 4 boxes of microwave popcorn (six packs per)
  • 30 (36*) pork chops
  • 2 packs of sirloin tips
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 2* Roasts
  • 12 (14*) sirloin steaks
  • 1 bag of shredded cheese
  • 6* loaves of bread
  • 1* gallon of milk
  • 8 cans of condensed milk
  • 10* single slices of pie
  • 1 small container of quinoa (about half full)
  • 2 bottles of syrup
  • ~2 pounds of brown sugar
  • ~2 pounds of flour

Note: The numbers with an asterisk (*) are the modified inventory, after spending that final hundred bucks! Also, note that I’ve got tons of relatively perishable food as part of a “get-well” package from my neighbor’s family.

Not long before the beginning of this experiment, I was bitten by three brown recluse spiders and am still feeling some residual effects (one of the three wounds went necrotic, and they had to flash-freeze it and cut some dead tissue away – OUCH!). So, I’ve got more real food on hand than I do under normal circumstances.

Toiletries Inventory

Although I will allow myself to pick up toiletries as needed, I wanted to track my supplies of those as well to see how long they’d last, so I inventoried that too:

  • 6 deodorant sticks
  • 4 big containers of body wash
  • 80 double rolls of toilet paper
  • 10 tubes of toothpaste

Freeze-Dried Food Inventory

I planned to inventory the freeze-dried food when it arrived. Although the experiment was underway by then, I’m including that inventory here before I dive into the day-to-day execution of the experiment. 

Here’s what I added when I unboxed my goodies from Valley Food Storage:

  • 4 bags of Strawberry Cream of Wheat
  • 6 bags of Strawberry Oatmeal
  • 5 bags of Gluten-free Pancakes
  • 10 bags of Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal
  • 9 bags of Multigrain Cereal
  • 6 bags of Apple Oatmeal

40 bags x 10 servings a bag = 400 Servings

  • 10 bags of Thai Coconut Curry
  • 10 bags of Mac and Cheese
  • 5 bags of Chicken a La King
  • 10 bags of Sweet and Sour Asian Rice
  • 10 bags of Irish Pub Cheddar Potato Soup
  • 15 bags of Mango Habanero Chili
  • 10 bags of White Bean and Lime Chili

70 Bags x 5 Servings a Bag = 350 Servings

Grand Total: 750 Servings

Bearing in mind that the serving sizes are geared toward subsistence level living, I resolved to (mostly) double my serving sizes as I began to put these additions to use in the kitchen. When I post my daily menu, I’ll specify how many servings I consume.

My $100 Last-Minute Purchases

After completing my inventory, I slept on it before making a plan for how to spend that last hundred dollars. The next day, I went shopping and added:

  • 14 additional bags of frozen veggies
  • 10 single-serving slices of pie (to give myself a treat on special occasions)
  • 6 loaves of bread
  • ½ gallon of milk
  • 2 roasts
  • 4 more sirloins
  • 6 more pork chops (our local grocery has insane meat specials)

A Few Shortcomings

Having taken a much closer look at the exact contents of my inventory, several shortcomings immediately became apparent. In no particular order, I reckoned those shortcomings to be:

  • I’m a coffeeholic. I have no idea if 14 tins will be enough for a year. I’ve never bothered to track it. Also, I put sugar and milk in my coffee – that’s going to be a problem because I’ve got a partial gallon in the fridge and some in reserve. The cans of condensed milk will stretch things a little, but we’re talking weeks, not months, and certainly nothing close to a year.
  • There are very few sweet treats and snacks in the stockpile – certainly not enough for a whole year.
  • There’s almost no fruit.
  • Even with the additional bags of frozen veggies, my supply won’t come close to lasting a whole year.
  • I’ve been in the habit of eating steak/chicken/pork several times a week. That is going to have to change. Immediately.

So…there are challenges ahead, to be sure. That’s okay, that’s part of what I’m doing this for! I want to test not just my stocks, but my creativity, and from the look of things, I’ll need to be both clever and creative to get through the year. I’ve always considered myself to be fairly clever, and I’m not a picky eater – let’s put those things to the test!

Trading Supplies

The very first thing I did then, on the evening of September 5, before the experiment even officially began, was to propose my first trade deal.

My neighbor Mike builds furniture out of wood pallets. I offered him as-needed use of my table saw and other tools, plus my labor in ripping two pallets a month apart for him for raw materials in exchange for:

  • Half a dozen eggs a month
  • One venison steak a month
  • And two gallons of milk a month

He agreed, and I felt as though I was off and running! One problem solved, but I was absolutely certain that as the experiment progressed, there would be many others.

That detail attended to, I went to bed and prepared for the beginning of the experiment. When I woke up on the morning of September 6, I’d start eating and acting as though the world had ended…

Daily Food Diary for September 2018

Here’s the daily menu and calorie counts for the (partial) month of September, along with observations about mood and health.

Note: I’m building in an estimated 300 calories a day for the two pots of coffee with milk/sugar that I drink. Yeah, I know – if I’ve got high blood pressure I should probably cut back, but – coffee is my writing go-juice. No coffee, no writing. No writing and bills don’t get paid. My fingers just freeze up and go on strike. Can’t have that.

Thurs, 09.06.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastChicken casserole700
LunchMore chicken casserole700
DinnerPop Tart snack (pack of two)400
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories2100

First day!

I spent it writing, binge-watching Amazon Prime videos, and enjoying my neighbor’s wife’s excellent home cooking as part of the care package they gave me.

I should get bitten by Brown Recluse spiders more often! On second thought…uh, no. Anyway, “only” 364 more days to go!

Fri, 09.07.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastPop tarts!400
Lunch2 Hot Pockets480
DinnerChicken casserole700
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1880

Used up the last of my current gallon of milk. I used part of my “last hundred bucks” to buy a half gallon, which is in the freezer, but I don’t want to touch it yet.

Breaking out the condensed milk and pouring two cans with four cans of water into the milk jug I just emptied. Different flavor but not bad. I can get used to that for a while.

Looking forward to taking delivery on my first gallon from Mike, though!

Sat, 09.08.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastPop tarts!400
LunchYet more chicken casserole700
DinnerVegetable beef soup from the care package500
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1900

Heavy rains today.

Phone kept going off, blaring warnings about flash floods. These, I laughed off. If I see flooding, it means most of the rest of the country is underwater.

The rains didn’t bother me a bit – had too much writing to do anyway.

Power stayed on, but there was some flooding in nearby Galax. After fourteen hours at the keyboard, my brain feels like Jell-O.

Sun, 09.09.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastMore Pop tarts!400
OthersHalf coffee150
Total Calories1250

Sick today. Lingering effects of the spider bites, I think.

Had a visit from Sharon this weekend. She brought up some salad makings and a serving of a different variety of chicken casserole that she made (topped with Ritz crackers and poppy seeds). These obviously add marginally to my total food stocks, but I’m hoping that readers won’t begrudge me a salad.

A nice, relaxing visit.

Mon, 09.10.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
LunchLast of the salad400
DinnerHot pockets480
OthersHalf coffee150
Total Calories1030

Not feeling much better today. Sweats and shaking.

Spent most of the day in bed. Sharon went home but left me with the remains of the salad, and that delicious looking chicken casserole.

Tues, 09.11.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
LunchSharon’s Chicken casserole900
DinnerHot pockets480
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1680

Feeling better. Hurricane warnings on my phone.

Decided to venture into town to see just how bad it was. Grim picture. Lots of empty shelves.

Was glad I made the trip because it underscored the point that although I’m simulating a disaster, the possibility is quite real.

Found a carton with 10 frozen eggs shoved way back in the back of the fridge. Brought them to the front to let them thaw. If they pass the sniff test, I’ll eat ‘em.

Wed, 09.12.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
Breakfast4 eggs w/ chopped bell pepper (salad remnant)370
LunchHot pockets480
DinnerPop Tarts400
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1550

Lots of wind and rain, but nothing that materially impacted me.

Phone kept blowing up against with flood warnings. Just kept my nose down and kept writing.

Used all but two of my cans of condensed milk to keep me supplied.

Thurs, 09.13.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastStale, generic Apple Jacks210
LunchStale, generic Apple Jacks210
DinnerHot pockets480
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1200

First fruits of my trade deal with Mike!

Got a gallon of milk, a venison steak, and six eggs – that gives me an even dozen now. Sweet!

Also found a box of stale, generic Apple Jacks in the back of a seldom opened cabinet. Pulling it front and center and will eat it. Good thing I’m not picky.

Dismantled two pallets for Mike.

Fri, 09.14.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastApocalypse Pizza110
LunchApocalypse Pizza110
DinnerPB&J and Pop tarts630
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1150

Invented a new recipe – Apocalypse Pizza!

Sharon had brought a small pouch of pepperoni to put on the salad. There were 12 slices left. I figured that if I added them to a grilled cheese, I’d basically have a pizza, minus the sauce, so that’s what I did! Used all 12 slices today.

Sat, 09.15.2014

MealFood EatenCalories
Breakfast4 eggs and the last of the bell pepper from Sharon’s salad370
LunchHot pockets480
DinnerVenison steak and Green beans270
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1420

I had originally intended to cut my venison steak in half and freeze it, but it just looked too good! It went on the grill. That, plus a can of green beans made for a decadent dinner.

Eating like that, it doesn’t feel like I’m denying myself anything – of course, I can’t do that often. My stocks are very limited. If I want them to last a year, I’ve got to be careful, but it was a nice treat.

More rain today and unseasonably cold.

A bit of good news late in the day – email confirmation that my freeze-dried food order had been shipped!

Down to my last four hot pockets (boo!)

Sun, 09.16.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastFried Egg Sandwich300
LunchVeggie beef soup (from care package)500
DinnerVeggie beef soup (from care package)500
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1600

Steady rain and still surprisingly cold up here. Just planning to stay inside, write and binge watch Netflix.

Note about the fried egg sandwich: I can’t actually fry an egg. Always break the yokes.

But I’ve got these spiffy things that go in the microwave. Egg goes in, lid goes down, and in two minutes, I’ve got a reasonably close approximation of a fried egg. I’m not picky, so that works for me.

Mon, 09.17.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastVeggie beef soup500
LunchHot pockets480
DinnerHot pockets480
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1760

A momentous day in the experiment – ran out of something – no more hot pockets.

Tues, 09.18.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastVeggie beef soup500
LunchVeggie beef soup500
DinnerSmall steak and green beans370
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1670

Cut one of my sirloins in half and ate it with a can of green beans. Ate the last of the soup from my care package from Mike’s family.

That pretty much uses up all of the non-frozen or canned foods. They held out surprisingly well, but now it feels like we’re getting into the guts of the experiment.

Wed, 09.19.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastPop tarts!400
DinnerIrish Cheddar Pub soup and half a steak (double serving)760
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1690

YAY! My freeze-dried food arrived today. Spent the afternoon unboxing and inventorying.

Also hunted down and killed two HUGE spiders that arrived in the box with the food. Given my recent bad experience with spiders, I did not let them live.

Managed to find homes for all the freeze-dried stuff. Delighted that it’s so space efficient!

I’m not thrilled with the Coconut Lime Curry or the insane amount of chili I have (counting the canned stuff), but…no biggie.

Promptly ripped open a bag of the Irish Pub soup to experiment with it and cut up the other half of my steak from last night. Delicious!

Thurs, 09.20.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastApple Oatmeal (double serving)260
LunchIrish Pub Soup (w/steak)625
DinnerIrish Pub Soup (w/steak)625
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1810

Forgot to mention that I got my spiffy rain barrel. Don’t have a use for it here at the rental, but it’ll keep, and have an important role to play later on.

Slow day. Just writing, writing and more writing. And Amazon Prime videos.

Finished off my first bag of Irish Pub soup and the steak I added to it. Loving that!

The Apple Oatmeal is also delicious. I could get used to this!

Fri, 09.21.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
LunchMeatball sub!900
DinnerSpaghetti and Meatballs1000
OthersHalf coffee and 4 cookies590
Total Calories2490

Sharon came up for my birthday!

She brought some homemade meatballs with her, and an awesome handmade card AND a drone for my birthday! Loving all of it! Oh! And cookies! My favorite – Sand Tarts! 

This, however, presents a bit of a conundrum. I don’t want to keep taking “free” food from her, so I made a trade, giving her one of my sirloins and one of my roasts to counter the food she brought to me.

Sat, 09.22.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastEggs! (split with Sharon)300
LunchMeatball sub900
DinnerLast of the spaghetti700
OthersHalf coffee and 4 cookies590
Total Calories2490

Used up all of my eggs having a deluxe breakfast with Sharon before she headed back.

Spent the day watching Sci-fi and relaxing. Good stuff.

As Sharon was leaving, we discovered a MASSIVE wasp nest built on the side of the house…gotta do something about that.

Sun, 09.23.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
LunchMeatballs (yup…just meatballs)600
Dinner1 serving of multi-grain cereal180
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1520

UGH – my first experience with the cereal was a disaster. Hot, runny Sugar Smacks. Not pleasant. Will have to experiment to see if I can get it to taste better…

Tried to do a test flight with the drone – an aerial recon of the wasp nest. Gust of wind smacked it against the house. Will recharge the battery and try another time again.

Mon, 09.24.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastMulti-grain cereal360
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1660

Mystery solved on the multi-grain cereal. Just use less water. Treat it like oatmeal. It’s actually quite good!

First assault on the wasp nest. Spray and retreat when they start mounting a defense. Big as it is, that could take a while.

Tues, 09.25.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastMore multi-grain cereal360
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1700

New recipe – DoomSketti!

Mixed a full bag of freeze-dried mac and cheese with sixteen meatballs. Surprisingly good! Loving it. 

Continued my attrition war with the wasps…

Wed, 09.26.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastYet more multi-grain cereal360
LunchLast of the cookies440
OthersFull coffee and bag of freeze dried Pineapple510
Total Calories2265

Finished off the last of my Sand Tarts – man those were delicious. Gonna miss them. 

Ate some more DoomSketti, which I like much more than I thought I would. 

Also destroyed the wasp nest – HUGE progress! 

And – I got a “care package” from one of the people following my experiment. She’s a rep for another freeze-dried food company, “Thrive Life Freeze Dried Foods” – I got two snack packs of dried fruit, two lunch entrees, and one dinner entrée. 

Again, that complicates things, so I’m planning to hold a Thanksgiving potluck and will use the entrée there, along with my other roast. I wouldn’t have done something like that under normal circumstances, but I’m trying to offset the unexpected food—and that seems like the best approach. It allows me to sample these new treats but find a way of shedding other parts of my stock to compensate.

Thurs, 09.27.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastMulti-grain cereal again (last of the first bag)180
LunchLast of the DoomSketti955
OthersFull coffee and freeze-dried apples450
Total Calories1585

The Thrive Life freeze-dried fruit is quite good.

I went to their website, and they have an amazing selection of fruits – something my current stock is seriously deficient in. I will put my thinking cap on and decide on some hard numbers, but I’m 100% sold on the idea of using them to add some daily fruit to my diet when I rebuild my stocks at the end of the experiment.

Epic writing day. 14 hours. Back hurts. Head feels like Jell-O again. Arthritis acting up in my hands. Bleh.

Fri, 09.28.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastStrawberry Cream of Wheat (double serving)340
LunchMac and Cheese and Ham in a can460
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1100

When Magic Mart was going out of business, they had a ton of this mac and cheese and country ham in a can. I bought two cases of it.

Now I know why it was still on the shelf. It’s awful. As is the Strawberry cream of wheat.

Followed the directions and it came out like concrete with a strawberry aftertaste. Those two are officially my least favorite things in my stockpile. Will focus on eating them so I can get them out of the system and give my taste buds something to look forward to, once they’re gone. The next couple of weeks are going to be brutal if that’s what’s on the menu, but so be it.

Sat, 09.29.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastStrawberry Cream of Wheat340
LunchMore awful in a can460
DinnerPop tarts400
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1500

It’s a sad day when the high point of your diet…the thing you look forward to all day is a freaking pop tart.

This current crop of food is beastly bad. Can’t wait till it’s gone! Only one way to make that happen though, so…down the hatch.

In a real emergency I would be glad for it, so I’ll eat it and make the best of it.

Sun, 09.30.2018

MealFood EatenCalories
BreakfastMore strawberry cream of wheat nastiness340
LunchMore awful in a can (mac and cheese and country ham)460
DinnerPop tarts400
OthersFull coffee300
Total Calories1500

T-minus twenty-two cans of mac and cheese and ham in a can remaining.

OMG, between that and the strawberry-flavored concrete I’m having for breakfast, I’m not sure I’ll have any taste buds left. Whose idea was this crazy experiment anyway?

Tell you what – when I rebuild the stocks, I know two items that are definitely NOT getting invited back. UGH. I’m going to dump ALL of the strawberry cream of wheat from all bags into the biggest bowl I’ve got – that way, I can watch as the levels recede, knowing that once the bowl is empty, it’s gone. I don’t have to deal with it ever again. Ever. Again. In my life.

A Short Review of Valley Food Storage

This is the first time I’d ever experimented with freeze-dried foods, and although I was game to try them out, my girlfriend was deeply skeptical. 

An Image of Apple Oatmeal for Review of My Year of Eating Like the World Ended
An Image of Irish Pub Cheddar Potato Soup for Review of My Year of Eating Like the World Ended

When the food arrived, she saw that they were made with all-natural ingredients and weren’t laden with nearly as much sodium as she feared. She felt a lot better about the experiment in general and is now more-or-less on-board with it. That’s a good thing because I did not want this experiment to cause problems in my personal life!

As to the food itself, at this point, I’ve tried:

  • The Multigrain Cereal
  • The Apple Oatmeal
  • The Irish Pub Soup
  • Mac and Cheese
  • And, much to my regret, the Strawberry Cream of Wheat
An Image of Mac and Cheese for Review of My Year of Eating Like the World Ended
An Image of MultiGrain Cereal for Review of My Year of Eating Like the World Ended

I’ll make additional notes about the company’s products as I incorporate more of them into my menu, but for the moment, here are my impressions:

Taste and Preparation

It’s a great company with good tasting food. I’m a single guy and not much of a cook, barely able to do more than boil water, so this freeze-dried stuff is perfect for me because not even I can screw it up. It’s super easy to prepare, and I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the taste.

I did learn rather quickly that the cooking instructions on the back of the packages are hit or miss. In most of the cases, they recommend adding too much water, which makes the food a bit on the runny side. In the case of the Cream of Wheat, the instructions call for far too little water, which gives it the consistency of concrete.

Nutritional Value

One question I’ve gotten from people who have been following the experiment day to day relates to the nutritional value of Valley’s products. I double checked, and surprisingly, as of this writing, the company does not list that information anywhere on their website. So, I’m taking a series of pictures of the nutritional labels of each of the meals I have from them and will include those pictures here, so you’ll have the information.

An Image of Nutrition Facts: Multigrain Cereal
Multigrain Cereal
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Apple Oatmeal
Apple Oatmeal
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Irish Pub Soup
Irish Pub Soup
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Mac and Cheese
Mac and Cheese
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Strawberry Oatmeal
Strawberry Oatmeal
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Thai Coconut Curry
Thai Coconut Curry
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Chicken a La King
Chicken a La King
Nutrition Facts Label of Sweet and Sour Asian Rice
Sweet and Sour Asian Rice
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Mango Habanero Chili
Mango Habanero Chili
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Tomato Basil Soup
Tomato Basil Soup
An Image of Nutrition Facts: White Bean and Lime Chili
White Bean and Lime Chili
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Buttermilk Pancakes
Buttermilk Pancakes
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Cream of Evil
Cream of Evil
An Image of Nutrition Facts: Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal
Maple and Brown Sugar Oatmeal

My Personal Rating

Of the foods I’ve tried so far, I give most of them four stars, with the Irish Pub soup getting a perfect five, and the Strawberry Cream of Wheat getting a two. It’s nasty, in my opinion. Concrete with a strawberry aftertaste.

Thankfully, I’ve only got a few bags of it, so I plan to eat it consistently over the early part of next month until it’s gone. This will give my taste buds something to look forward to afterwards.

Obviously, everyone’s tastes and preferences are different, and if you love Cream of Wheat, you might like it. As for me, I would rather repair a cracked retaining wall with the stuff. But since my rules stipulate no going to the store, and since neither of my neighbors want it, I’m going to grin and bear it, and choke it down.

Customer Service

The company has outstanding customer service, and they’re totally willing to work with you to customize your order to taste. Had I known that going in, I would have specifically asked for no Cream of Wheat and focused more on the things I knew I’d like. I also would have avoided getting any of the Coconut Lime Curry, since I’m mildly allergic to coconut, but I’m hoping I can trade some of that away. If not, I’ll load up on Benadryl, and live with the hives while I slog through the bags of that. We’ll see how it goes.

An Image of Multi-Grain Cereal for Review of My Year of Eating Like the World Ended

Multi-Grain Cereal

Where their multigrain cereal is concerned, my first experience with it (using their recommended amount of water) was a near disaster, but I was able to tweak it to be more to my liking, reducing the amount of water used and giving it the same basic consistency of oatmeal. 

I think the goal of the cooking instructions was to make it more like eating an actual bowl of cereal. But in my experience, it’s awful that way and tastes a bit like hot, runny Sugar Smacks.

As a kind of sweet oatmeal, it’s much better. If you’re going to follow the instructions on the bag, I’d recommend making it the night before and sticking it in the fridge till the morning you want to eat it.


Also, and this is a minor complaint, but given the size of the bags, measuring out the portions is a pain. What I’ve gotten in the habit of doing is this:

For the breakfast stuff, I transfer it into a Tupperware bowl with a lid. Much easier to get my scoop in to measure out a serving. For the lunch and dinner stuff, I’ve just gotten into the habit of cooking the entire bag and portioning out the food after it’s cooked. It’s just less of a headache.

Helpful Hint! When you open a bag of freeze-dried food, you’ll see an oxygen absorber sitting near the top. These can be reused! I’ve gotten in the habit of transferring them straight to a Ziploc bag so I can reuse them down the road when canning/storing other foods. One less thing to source and buy!


Based on the foods I’ve tried so far then, I give Valley 4.5 out of 5 stars, although as I try more of the food, that score may change.

End of Month Summary

The Writer of My Year of Eating Like the World Ended

Since I didn’t start my experiment until the 6th of this month, this first report is technically not a full month. Also, the last report in this series will be delayed until the first week in September next year.

So far, I have to say so good! My spirits are up, and I’m eating well…I haven’t actually missed not being able to go to the store yet, but that’s mostly because I still have tons of supplies, treats, and snacks. When I start running out of those kinds of things, I’m sure my mood will sour, but for now, it’s easy street.

I’m glad. This being the first month, I think it would have been highly discouraging if I’d run into major snags or problems. I’m sure they’re on the horizon, but at least I did get something of a Honeymoon period. So far, I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t and am already beginning to formulate my “must have” list for the set and forget 1-year stockpile.

The biggest and most important thing I’ve learned at this stage is that living under simulated crisis conditions has made me much more mindful of my food supply. I’m thinking about everything I prepare, and everything I have remaining, and I didn’t before. 

I also learned some important lessons about improvising the preparation instructions on my freeze-dried food and would encourage anyone who has some as part of their own stockpiles to break out a few bags and cook with it to get a feel for it now, while times are good.

Then, if things go sideways, you already have experience on that front. Of course, if you know more about cooking than I do, you may not need to, so take that with a grain of salt.

I’ll end this month’s report with my weight and BP stats, and a picture of myself at the start of the experiment. It’ll be interesting to compare it to a picture of me after a year.

Month End Stats

Weight: 332
BP: 134/83

Update (02/19): The nutrition labels of the Valley Food Storage products can be found on the website. 

This is the first installment of my year-long prepping journey.
For the next chapter, check out My Year of Eating Like the World Ended – Report 2 of 13

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