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How to Ration Food + Inventory Sheets

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Do you have enough food to last your family for 30 days? What about two weeks? Have you ever taken a total food inventory or had to ration food? 

These are all questions we should be asking ourselves. As a nation, we take food for granted and assume it will always be there when we want it.

I can’t ever recall a time where the store shelves remained empty- until now. Learn how to ration food so you don’t run out. Plus print our FREE Food Inventory Sheets and enjoy our Budget-Friendly recipes!

empty food shelves in the crisis

Rationing Food

Unless you’re old enough to remember the great depression and WWII, I doubt you’ve had to worry much about rationing food. We are very fortunate people and few of us have ever truly experienced real hunger.

Unfortunately, times are changing and food security is a real threat. As a mother, the thought of not having enough food to feed my family is frightening.

Other than being on a diet from time to time, I’ve never had to ration food for my family. The closest I’ve come to it is when we went through hurricane season living on the coast. 

Now I go to the stores and the shelves are empty. The food supply is being affected by recent events in the United States.

It’s not a matter of what I want to cook for dinner but more what can I cook with the ingredients available to me. The situation we are facing with food shortages is real, no matter what the reason, the fact remains the same.

Food imports are frozen and the production companies can not meet the demand. Of course, this crisis will end, but there’s another one right behind it. 

What does it mean to ration food?

There are several different reasons someone may need to ration food. It won’t always be a hurricane like we’ve had in the past or a world-wide crisis like we are in right now. Some of these situations could be

  • Loss of job
  • Family Emergency
  • Weather Emergency
  • Natural Disaster
  • Global Pandemic
  • Local Food Shortage
  • War

Whatever the reason, you need to have a plan in place. When you ration food it means you take the food you have, divide it among the people you need to feed and the number of days you need to feed them.

When you ration your food, you serve it out a little at a time so it lasts longer. Each person needs to understand the reasoning behind the need to ration the food and agree to only consume his or her portion. 

Enjoy every bite. When you take your time to chew and savor every bite we consume less than we would if we rushed our meal. Chew each bite 20 times and make every meal last around twenty minutes or more. 


How Much Food and Water Does Each Person Need? 

When you are planning on a food emergency or just preparing for the unknown, it’s important to take into account your family’s specific dietary needs.

If someone in your family is gluten-intolerant, avoid storing foods with gluten.

Include something that each member of the family enjoys along with shelf-stable foods and those that are high in calories and nutrition.  

Babies, the elderly, sick people, pregnant women or women who are nursing will all need to consume more as well as those with higher activity levels. 

Adult Women Estimates range from
1,600 to 2,400 calories per day 
Adult Men 2,000 to 3,000 calories per day 
Young children range from 1,000 to 2,000 calories per day, 
Older children and adolescents varies substantially from 1,400 to 3,200 calories per day, with boys generally having higher calorie needs than girls.

Foods High in Calories and Protein 

If you still have time to add to your food storage, stock up on non-perishable foods or those with a long shelf-life that are high in calories and protein. Sometimes food storage is limited and the food you do store must be of high-quality and content. 

Examples of healthy foods that are high in calories and or protein are

  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Nut-Butters
  • Oats
  • Grains
  • Fish
  • Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables
  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Beans
  • Seeds: Pumpkin, Sunflower
  • Milk

Food Inventory

The best time to do a food inventory was yesterday, the second-best time is now. It may be too late to get supplies if a natural disaster strikes so knowing what you have in stock is essential to your ability to ration food if needed.

If you know that a crisis is looming or a disaster is coming, start rationing food before you have to otherwise your family may consume too much of your food inventory. 

We’ve created inventory sheets for you to print out and keep for your records and update as you rotate through your supply.

Each sheet has places to list items, how many servings an item offers, serving size, location (freezer, cabinet, etc.) and expiration date. 

Download Food Inventory FREE Printable Sheets

Assess your food inventory and divide the categories between perishable and non-perishable as well as expiration dates. Plan to consume the foods that will expire and go bad first.

Enter your ingredients that you need to use first into a recipe planner to see what dishes you can come up with.

Make sure to stick to the serving size for portion control as well as ration control. 

Ration Food With Meal Planning

The best way I know how to budget my family meals is to meal plan. I start by searching the store ads for what is on sale and matching ingredients from what I have in storage by checking my Food Inventory Sheets.

While I’ve always meal planned and coupon shopped, I never really rationed our food or meals. I’ve taken for granted the idea there would always be more.

When meal-planning, try to pay attention to portions and serving size. If you have four people in your family and the recipe says eight servings, freeze the remaining servings for another meal. 

If you are fortunate enough to have a heads-up to plan for a crisis or disaster you can plan your meals ahead of time and stick to a budget and a menu.

I created our Two Week Family Meal Plan for Crisis and Disasters after we were trapped for a week at home after a hurricane and again when we were under quarantine.

Most of our menu suggestions you can make without power and are shelf-stable. 

Two Week Family Meal Plan For Crisis and Disasters 

Budget-Friendly Family Recipes

When a global crisis or a family crisis is looming, it’s not time to eat high on the hog. Making our pennies stretch is as just as important as making our food stretch.

Here are some pretty good budget-friendly recipes that your whole family can enjoy. 


Tater-Tot Casserole

By Sam Crandall of Northern Marsh Farms

While these recipes are not geared for from scratch, it’s easy to convert over to mostly homemade products, which we do frequently. Tater tot casserole can work with just about any kind of meat (or none at all in a real pinch). 


  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 lbs meat roughly, enough to make a layer in the bottom of the casserole dish (ground, chops, whatever you have on hand)
  • Frozen green beans or mixed veggies
  • Shredded cheese (optional)
  • Bag of tater tots.


  1. Layer the bottom of the pan with the cooked meat
  2. Mix soups and veggies and layer on top of the meat
  3. Sprinkle the cheese
  4. Add a layer of tater tots
  5. Bake at 375-400 for 45 minutes or until the casserole is up to temp and the tots are brown.

Redneck Parmesan

This is a family favorite and so easy to cook. 

By Sam Crandall of Northern Marsh Farms


  • 2lb spaghetti or another type of noodle, cooked.
  • Frozen chicken patties
  • 2 jars spaghetti sauce
  • 1 pack provolone or mozzarella slices or 2 lbs shredded.


  1. Put down a layer of patties
  2. Add a layer of noodles
  3. Sprinkle a layer of cheese
  4. Top with Sauce
  5. Bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes.

All you’re doing is getting the chicken up to temp and melting the cheese.

Food and Water in an Emergency

Being prepared can make the difference between calm and chaos in your family. It can also mean the difference between your family eating or going hungry. Below are two good resources for preparing for an emergency, no matter what it may be. Print these out to add to your preps to help you prepare for the unknown. 

Food and Water in an Emergency from FEMA

How do you ration water?

Water is the most important nutrient to the human body, you simply can’t live without it. Your body is constantly losing water and needs to be rehydrated daily.

In perfect conditions, an average human can go three to five days maximum without drinking water. The experts recommend we consume eight glasses of water per day but people who exert more energy or those who are sick will require more.

Without adequate water consumption, the body will stop functioning properly. 

Do you know how much water your household uses per day or per month? You can use this Residential water calculator by the City of Bellingham Washington to figure out your water use and consumption so you know how much water you’ll need to store in case of emergency or crisis. 

Toilet Paper Shortage

Here we are five weeks into quarantine and still not a square to spare of toilet paper. NO matter how many times I visit the stores, the shelves remain empty.

Whether you are swimming in Charmin or counting your squares, it’s always wise to have a Plan B for your T.P.! Check out five alternatives for toilet paper!

What Food Preps Do You Suggest? 

Do you have a recipe for a budget-friendly family meal? Any food prep suggestions or your tips for rationing food and water? Please share them with us!

empty shelves at stores- how to ration food

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Carol L

Tuesday 2nd of August 2022

One thing I have found is the difficulty in finding prepping foods for a diabetic. I got T2D from stress at work. I CAN'T eat beans, rice, pastas, grains, quinoa, etc., ANY form of sugar: honey, maple syrup, etc. (yes, there ARE substitutes I can consume, like Bocha Sweet, and swerve, but they aren't truly healthy for you like honey is....)

Now many Americans are getting diabetes from stress. This leaves us without ready calories for an emergency situation. ALL foods (take a look at your links for recipes) require at least ONE of the foods I can't consume. Making it very difficult to plan meals. Note, too, that the banned foods are the most shelf stable. I am at a loss...I do have dried dairy, cream, milk cheeses; and canned meats, nut butters in my stock pile. But trying to make an actual MEAL from most of it is hard to do, and certainly no recipes available (mostly) Most KETO recipes are not meant for an emergency situation. Guess I'll have to do all the work and try to find some good workable recipes myself! Thank you for the very informative post! PS: I use family cloth for most of my TP I started buying large packages of TP (this was BEFORE Covid) so I have probably 30 packages of 18 rolls or more...for barter! Funny thing, just as covid began here in the US, I started a major remodel that included lifting my house to build a new foundation under it , and ALL of my preps were over 5 feet in the air and not available to me!!! So while there was a huge TP shortage and I had tons of it at home, I could not get to it.