Shocking Foods That People Ate During the Leningrad Siege

C. Davis
By C. Davis June 18, 2018 07:07

Shocking Foods That People Ate During the Leningrad Siege

Novels about survival and handbooks are helpful, but history is one of the greatest teachers. In studying survival techniques, I decided to look at some of the historical sieges and how residents survived. One of the most tragic events in history was the siege of Leningrad, claiming over one million lives, mostly from starvation. Also known as the 900-day siege, it has much to tell us about how and why people survive.

Leningrad Prepares for War

When the war began, the people of Leningrad expected to fight, and many did join the army. Women and children left behind practiced hand to hand combat in preparation for the war. Unfortunately, their fight was ultimately the fight to survive on little to no food or water. Their training failed them and, although they had warning, their preparations were insufficient.

Rationing Began Immediately

Shocking Foods That People Ate During the Leningrad Siege

I have had the privilege of reading parts of the diaries of people who survived the siege, and I found the information shocking and motivating. At the beginning of the siege, the city had approximately a 90-day food supply and began rationing immediately.

As days went by, rations shrank. Eventually, a person’s daily ration was equivalent to a small portion of bread, about the size of a bar of soap, or a handful of flour—much of it stretched by dust or other non-food items. On some days the markets never opened because there were no rations available.

Within 4 to 6 months, most residents of Leningrad had lost a third to almost half their body weight. The rations were severely depleted, and the people were starving. I found so many stories of families eating foods and non-food items that would normally never be eaten.

Here are only a few examples of how these courageous people survived the 900-day siege.

Berta Zlotnikova, a teenager in Leningrad, wrote:

“I am becoming an animal. There is no worse feeling than when all your thoughts are on food.” (Source)

Arkadii Lepkovich, observed:

Even relations between mother and child, husband and wife, have been made completely inhuman. Fathers would steal bread from their own children. The whole city has become this way because the battle for life has brought despair to every living individual. (Source)

Valia Peterson, a 13-year-old girl wrote in her diary about her stepfather who have eaten her dog:

“I hated him terribly. Hunger uncovered his filthy soul, and I have got to know him. When my stepfather died I was ready to jump for joy, but I was too weak and did not have enough strength.” (Source)


Shocking Foods That People Ate During the Leningrad Siege

Throughout the siege, I found many stories of people trading their valuables for food. Food was the most valuable item available. I read stories of people trading a gold watch for a small crust of bread, jewelry boxes full of gold and silver items traded for small amounts of food—not even enough for a meal. The markets were dangerous places, if someone suspected that you had food, he or she might do whatever he or she could to steal it from you.


Water also ran out, but fortunately, the city was located near a lake. During the winter, residents melted snow for water. Clean water was difficult to obtain and even after boiling, the water often had a bitter or rank flavor caused by contamination. Many people survived on water alone for days.

Additionally, since so many of the potential non-food items were prepared by boiling, bad water made it even more difficult to eat the strange foods. But eating was necessary to gain enough energy to survive one more day. A clean water supply is necessary for your health.

Smuggling Food In

When the lake froze solid enough to support traffic, people were able to smuggle food into the city across the lake; however, many died in this attempt. They could freeze, fall into the water, be captured or shot for their cargo, or they might run into army factions and die in battle. There was money to be made smuggling, but most who brought food into the city did it to help the starving people. The government brought in as much food as possible, telling smugglers that they were saving lives with every load.

Adulterated Foods

As food ran out, the government, bakers, and consumers began to try to stretch flour by adding other substances. Sawdust and plaster were the most common contaminates. The goal was to fill the stomach and hopefully get a little nutrition in the process.


Very quickly the birds, dogs, cats, rats, squirrels, and other animals vanished from the city. Preppers who intend to survive by hunting and fishing should take notice. The entire city and surrounding areas were hunted daily for anything that could be eaten, and animals were highly desirable. If a horse fell, it might be carved into meat portions by people nearby before the owner could even assess its condition.

People were very hesitant to eat their pets, especially when they had been in the family for many years. So, they began trading their dogs and cats with neighbors so that they would have food they could eat.

Eating Non-Food Items

However, none of these strategies were sufficient; people were starving. They began looking through their possessions for items that could be eaten. An old lipstick contained fat that might yield some nutrition. Carpenters glue, library paste, window putty, toothpaste, cough syrup, cold cream and petroleum jelly were quickly consumed. People ate the glue from the bindings of books, then burned the books for warmth.

Wallpaper paste was filling, if not nutritious. Families would peel the wallpaper off the walls and extract the paste from the paper. Some ate it directly from the paper; others would cook it to attempt to extract the paste, then eat the broth.

Any item that contained calories was considered as a substitute food. Fuel sources such as cottonseed cake, animal foods such as cat food, and flax seed grown for cattle were eaten. Fermented sawdust was used to make soup,

I read one story of a family who mixed toothpaste into a batter and fried it in linseed oil to make a sort of pancakes, which they quickly ate. Leningrad residents also made pancakes from face-powder and other ingredients that might yield some nutrition or just fill the stomach for a short while.

Leather items like belts, briefcases, and leather clothing were a valuable food because they yielded a somewhat nutritious broth; and after much boiling, the leather became soft and was made into a sort of pate or jelly that was eaten. I also found stories of families eating fur coats.

In areas where sugar had been boiled and processed, the topsoil was scraped up and sucked on to remove all the sugar that might have boiled over into to soil. The sweetness was extracted, and the dirt spat out.  Where sugar factories, candy factories or warehouses were bombed, the soil underneath was eaten in the same way, sucked on to remove any sugar that may have soaked into the soil.

Scientists at universities and laboratories in Leningrad turned to eating the broth that they used to culture bacteria. Residents collected pine needles, thistles, weeds and other plants to use as food or to extract the vitamins.

There Was Never Enough Food

Shocking Foods That People Ate During the Leningrad Siege

During the siege, residents lacked enough sustenance to fuel their bodies, and they were often weak from lack of food. They learned to slow their actions to prevent fainting and falling. If they fell, they might not have the strength to rise again and might die where they landed. The hunger in their bellies was strong, and they often ate things that they knew were not food, to stop the hunger pangs. Their bodies aged quickly from lack of nutrition and their strength was quickly sapped. Many did not recognize themselves in the mirror. There were stories of people who died in the streets on their way to get their daily ration. It happened so often that people became immune to the sight and stepped around them.

Unfortunately, there were also many stories of cannibalism. Most people abhorred such practices and would rather die of starvation. However, there were others who preyed on the weak.

By the end of World War II, most of the people of Leningrad were near death. Many had given up hope, and some had not eaten in so long that when the food hit their stomachs, they suffered severe agony and sometimes death. When food began to flow slowly into the city again, people were slow to believe that their troubles were over.

Related: 7 Survival Foods Made by Soldiers During WWI

The Siege Ends

However, when the roads opened, and the government began to pass out cabbage and carrot seeds, the people began to celebrate, knowing that they would live. They planted every available scrap of land with cabbages, potatoes, and carrots as they grew stronger from a steady supply of food.

Very few families survived the Leningrad Siege intact. Most lost half their family members or more. The young and the old were particularly vulnerable. In those who survived, the constant lack of food tore many families apart, causing family members to turn on each other, fighting over food.

I hope that these stories have helped motivate you to prepare, as they have me. If you do not have any food supplies put away, consider starting. If money is a problem, buy rice and beans. At bulk stores in my area, I can purchase 50 pounds of rice for under $20. Beans are about $1 a pound in volume. Ideally, you want to stockpile an assortment of food, but the people of Leningrad would have traded most anything they owned for a cup of rice.

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C. Davis
By C. Davis June 18, 2018 07:07
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  1. Ray June 18, 10:27

    Very very sad

    Reply to this comment
  2. Labienus June 18, 10:41

    Finally a food list without hardtack in it.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Hoosier Homesteader June 18, 11:53

    I’ve said this in other posts, but it bears repeating for this one. Wild eatable plants. Learn what and where they are in your area. Become a student. Youtube is a great place to start, but get a field guide. And, don’t forget about trees. Seeds, fruit, leaves, bark and sap are also to be researched where you live.
    I’d rather have wild onion soup than wall paper glue….

    Reply to this comment
    • Mellis June 18, 14:04

      Too true. You’re absolutely right.
      But without proteins, you can still starve to death.

      Reply to this comment
    • Cody June 18, 14:08

      Hoosier Homestead.
      I also live in Indiana.
      Are there any good books on edible plants in the northern midwest region.

      Reply to this comment
      • Hoosier Homesteader June 19, 00:00

        Go to and you’ll have plenty to look at. I have a Peterson’s Field Guide that I refer to now and then when I need to check things.
        That will get you what want for Indiana, but you can never have too many reference books.

        Reply to this comment
      • RonC June 19, 01:42

        Anything written by Samuel Thayer…Especially his first two books.

        Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady June 18, 14:51

      Have to agree that wild onion soup would beat wall paper paste. But so would nettle soup or pine needle tea. Their problem was not even plants were left because there were too many people concentrated in the area.
      Smugglers were good bringing in food but mass escape with some serious winter shelter would have been better. That was the point of siege…to kill and cause surrender. Strong brave people outlasted the army. That took determination even in the face of starvation.

      Reply to this comment
    • Energetic1 June 18, 16:11

      Leningrad is frigid climate close to the Arctic circle. the growing season for plants, edible or inedible is very short. I’m sure all plants were all grabbed and eaten quickly when they were growing. They probably also ate a few deadly plants too considering they were eating wallpaper glue and dirt. While I too would rather eat a wild onion or dandelion than paper glue, you can’t get a wild onion out of frozen earth.

      Reply to this comment
  4. left coast chuck June 18, 16:17

    At that time wallpaper paste was just flour with water added. When the flour dried it stuck to the wall. It was for that reason that wallpaper was peeled off the walls and the paste washed or boiled off the wallpaper. Also, paper is cellulose, the fiber contained in plant material. It is edible although its nutritional value is limited.

    While one can eat dandelion leaves and roots and other native plants, that kind of diet does not provide enough caloric content to nourish the human body. We need protein, carbohydrates and fat in order to flourish.

    Recently I read a book about a mountain man’s exploits on the western frontier. He talks about a mapping party that took longer to reach their destination than they had planned on. They ate their horses and mules as they died from overwork or malnutrition. Even so, although they had plenty to eat, the animals lacked body fat to the extent the men in the party had no energy due to the lack of fat in their diet.

    I had never considered that fat was an important part of our diet. In fact, I have always avoided eating the fatty parts of meat, carefully trimming the fat from any meat on my plate. That was often the source of conflict with my father who had gone through the depression. I have been told that the summer I was born, 1937, my father and mother lived on eggplant tomatoes, the small egg-shaped yellow tomatoes which they had planted, blackberries which grew wild in the field next to their house and eggs from the chickens they raised. They didn’t dare kill a chicken to eat until it stopped laying eggs. They did that so they could use what little money they had to buy food for me.

    So from my father’s viewpoint, I was wasting good nutritious food by carefully trimming essential fat from the meat. From my viewpoint, not having gone through his life experience, he was getting on my case for not eating what I considered to be garbage, fit only for the dog. I don’t think we ever bought dog food. The dog got table scraps with vegetable peelings mixed in and cooked. Bones were broken up and the marrow went into the stew for the dog.

    From as far back as I can remember we always had enough to eat although I do remember during the war years, we never had butter. Oleomargarine was white with a yellow pill that was mixed into the margarine to make it yellow. Meat was scarce. Most of what we ate was what would be considered waste today. Chicken was not frying chicken, it was stewing chicken.

    When Roosevelt promised a chicken in every pot for Sunday dinner he was not talking about a bucket of KFC, he was talking about a stewing chicken that was killed because it was no longer laying. That would include the neck, the gizzard, the liver and the heart. Think about the depths of hunger in the country where promising an old hen for Sunday dinner, the premier meal of the week was the kind of political talk that got a president elected.

    During the early days of WWII, a great many men were rejected for duty because they were so severely underweight they didn’t meet the army standards which were low because we needed a lot of men to meet the German challenge.

    An additional large number were rejected because they had rickets, beri-beri, diminished eyesight due to poor diet and other nutritional conditions attributed to poor diet.

    Today, unfortunately, the opposite is true, a large number of potential armed service recruits are rejected due to being grossly overweight. I recently read that only 30 percent of the young men applying to the armed services are fit for acceptance. That is not just due to dietary problems but also due to drug use and criminal background. That is appalling. Out of 1,000 men only 300 are fit for acceptance and it is not like the standards are so high.

    Before you spend your hard-earned money on buying “emergency food” be sure to check the total caloric content of the package you are contemplating buying. Divide the total caloric content of the bucket or box or whatever by 2,000. That is the number of calories you need on average per day. The number varies, but below 2,000 calories per day, unless you have an especially slow metabolism, are a thin, small woman or an old guy like me, you are going to need at least 2,000 calories per day. You will need more if you are chopping wood, hauling water, fending off bad guys or bugging out carrying a 50 pound pack. When you have divided the total calories in the bucket by 2,000 that is the number of days that bucket of food will support, not the month or six weeks that the advertising says it will support.

    If you eat fewer calories than you need to sustain, your body will go into starvation mode. Your metabolism will slow. You will become lethargic, finding it hard to do the normal chores you know you must do. You will find your thought process significantly slowed down. It will be hard to concentrate on what you must do. You will make dumb mistakes.

    In an ETOW situation, you may think the world is populated by zombies. They will have a blank look on their faces. The gait will be slow and shuffling. Their posture will be stooped. They will be dull-witted and seem stupid. Those are normal folks suffering from too few calories per day.

    If you are contemplating buying “emergency food” also look at the protein content. Protein is essential for muscle maintenance.

    LAPG is having a sale on “emergency food” currently. I looked at the “meals”. The only protein is from the beans & rice servings and the dried milk servings. Even those, the high protein servings only provide 7% of your daily needs for protein. You would have to eat 15 of those servings to get one day’s protein needs. The other servings provide 3%. Guess what your muscle mass is going to look like when that bucket is empty.

    Midway is also offering the same “emergency food”. It is offered by a major supplier of days’s rations. Even Mountain House which is touted as the cadillac of emergency food only offers 1800 calories per day in their package deals. I checked Costco’s emergency food and only the Red Cross package contains 2100 calories per day advertised. The rest are a sham.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with stocking up on freeze dried emergency supplies, just consider the cost and be careful to check the caloric content when you are figuring out how much food you are stocking away. If you stock away 4 buckets of food that is touted as a 30 day supply of food for one person and you total up the calories and it comes to 23900 per bucket and you divide by 2,000 you will find that is 12 days worth of food, not 30. You are going to be damned hungry by the end of the month.

    Sorry to go on so long, but this is a topic I have spent considerable time investigating. I too made the mistake of buying “30 days of food for one person.” It was only when I started checking on actual caloric requirements that I discovered that the whole thing was a sham. There are a couple of companies who are selling food that is close to your daily requirements but it is up to you to be prepared and check the actual caloric content. It’s okay to buy 23900 calories of food just be aware of what you are actually buying and carefully check what you are buying. 7% of a day’s daily requirement of protein is okay for a couple of days but carbs alone won’t provide the muscle mass you will need.

    Reply to this comment
    • sally June 18, 19:17

      Thank you for your comments. Eat whole foods, have a variety stored in a variety of ways and rotate your food. best way to keep it edible and reasonably nutritious. You are absolutely right about the 30 day buckets for one. and be careful all the freeze dried food. Better have lots of water or it will suck all the moisture from your bowels and you will die of a blockage. Get healthy and get off all your prescription drugs. A healthy body is your best preparedness item!

      Reply to this comment
    • Colorado Mountain Man June 18, 20:39

      ABSOLUTELY ! to the 10th power, I really hope a bunch of younger folk out there take time to read what you have shared here. Those of us that remember those times have an advantage on those trying to “imagine” hard times. There is no one I know (other than one sibling I have left) that could know how “rich” we felt when Daddy traded off some dressed out old layers for some sorghum molasses, there was no sugar; kept all the feet for chicken noodle soup (homemade noodles cause we had flour and eggs). We did not know we were poor because “city folk” really had it tough…but nothing even close to Leningrad ! God Bless America(n’s) !

      Reply to this comment
    • Chris F. June 18, 22:04

      Thank you so much for all the research you’ve done, Left Coast Chuck — a big time savings that we already instinctively knew but didn’t put in the hours to prove. While it’s a very long story on how we ended up with enough food to feed 10 people for at least three months without resupply (in the end despite a great deal of fan-fare they never arrived), we’re still eating staples dated from 2012 and 2013 on a daily basis and it’s still fine.

      Flour, pasta, lentils, pinto/navy/red/black beans, corn meal, corn flour, only minimal amounts of rice (it’s a nutritional dud) since our stored quinoa and barley have more to offer, split peas, steel-cut oatmeal, 16 grain hot cereal, old fashioned popcorn, even milk powder has survived very well over the years. The key, we found, is to repackage and store everything in half-gallon glass mason jars with oxygen eaters, then check each seal quarterly. Any jar that has lost it’s seal gets re-sealed and sent to the front of the line for consumption, regardless of date.

      Saving the cases of canned tuna, salmon, sardines, oysters, and also the jars of peanut butter and tahini made us seriously paranoid. Things still worked out by wrapping each can or jar in cheap plastic bread bags, then burying them with Bentonite clay ($10 per 50 pound sack at the feed store) contained in Tupperware totes. We did the same thing with cans of olive oil plus jars of lard and beef tallow, hoping to save them for the long term. Turns out, everything mentioned above has been fine so far even after as long as five years.

      “Best By” dates often mean nothing at all from manufacturers who assume a consumer will store their products in original packaging, per our experience.
      That said, we really screwed up by packing the oldest cans of seafood and fats at the *bottom* of the totes covered in clay (it was a simple operator error in my part when we came up with the desperate plan to save so much food for the long term), therefore I can’t say exactly how the six year old seafood and fats have done quite yet. No smells that we can detect, and I can only hope that the clay will help contain any disasters that we might find at the very bottom of the totes in the next couple of years.

      Of particular note: the one category of foods that we’ve had to throw out were the unprotected commercially produced cans (from canned corn to Rotels, peas to stewed tomatoes, and then the soups were just nasty to get rid of in the end).

      “Sorry to go on so long” — herein is my personal thanks for all the information you’ve provided, by going on so long in return! I’d been meaning to investigate the nutritional values of various long-term survival food companies, yet never found the time. Thank you so much!

      On a final note, further explaining why we ended up with so much food originally intended to comfortably feed 10 people for at least several months without re-supply. My advice is to never, ever create or manage a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching prepping and homesteading with an all-volunteer unpaid board of directors. Without vested interest or skin of their own in the game, they will eventually very cheerfully walk away while leaving you holding the bag when any real work enters the picture. On the bright side, at least we have learned a lot about advanced prepping and homesteading skills that few others in this day and age have gained — although yes, we continue to enjoy food today that was originally intended for many others who never showed up. Their loss. Just a suggestion from experience: never found a non-profit with an all-volunteer board is all.

      Reply to this comment
      • Clergylady June 19, 13:43

        Lol. I second that thought on volunteer boards for a non profit organization. I now am president of a non operative corporation. I closed that one about 2005. Live and learn.

        Reply to this comment
    • Dannysea June 19, 00:40

      L-C Chuck, your words are always sought out and read. I make copies of some of your tidbits to keep myself focused. And try to always to give you the credit you deserve.
      Your paragraph that starts with “In an ETOW situation…” I only added a note of the protein deficiency you also talk about therein.
      Thanks buddy. Have enjoyed your bike articles and more over the years.

      Reply to this comment
    • IvyMike June 19, 02:44

      Love your stories Left Coast Chuck. My Dad grew up in the Depression, out in the Texas hill country, everybody lived close to the edge but if they didn’t have shoes they at least had catfish and varmints to eat. He joined the Army Air Corps in WW2 and they introduced him to fancy cooking. He went to college on the G.I. bill and eventually made a comfortable living but never forgot that fancy Government food and we were raised on it, Spam, Vienna sausage, hot dogs, lots of beans and bacon, potatoes, and BISCUITS (YUM). Instead of fancy survival rations this is the kind of high calorie, high fat food needed in a long term stressful situation. You can supplement with native plants, but I know the name and edibility of every plant in my county and if that was all I had to eat I would starve, duck potato, tufa, yellow nutsedge, wild plums…God put the early spring greens like mustard, dandelion, and docks as beautiful vitamin tonics to help us recover from the starvation of winter, but he/she definitely requires us to bring the canned chili.
      Years ago I had a young Mexican working for me, Ranulfo, he was developmentally disabled because he was a Garbachero. The S already done hit the fan in a lot of countries, in Mexico tens of thousands of people survive by living in the massive garbage dumps around big cities like the DF and TJ, mining for material to build shelter, for recyclables to buy food, drinking water from springs that arise in the heart of the landfills and are horribly polluted with pesticides, heavy metals, decaying organic matter…those are the Garbacheros. Hope you read and write more about sieges from Athens to the Warsaw Ghetto, take a break to cheer up, then read about the Garbacheros. The conditions people can survive are shocking and inspiring at the same time.

      Reply to this comment
  5. TruthB Told June 18, 16:24

    The point was missed here. The Germans had laid siege to the city for 900 days. They did not surrender! They proved stronger than their enemy.I seriously doubt that an American city could match this.

    Reply to this comment
    • Claude Davis June 26, 01:59

      I seriously doubt any modern western city could match this. Two generations ago, yes. Now? Unlikely. People in advanced societies just aren’t that resilient anymore.

      Reply to this comment
  6. left coast chuck June 18, 16:30

    Very interesting. Over the weekend I posted a question asking about protein and total calorie count in the packages that were listed in their Saturday e-mail flyer. I got an answer today that only the chicken noodle soup contained meat and that the total package contained 9440 calories. But when I went to try to pull up the ad again to see how many days the bucket was advertised for I can’t find it on their website although I did several searches including going down their entire list of both the names of their vendors and the total list of products. Zero. Nadda.

    Somehow between Saturday and 0900 Monday morning that offering has disappeared. Inquiring minds wonder.

    Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady June 18, 19:29

      Left Coast Chuck; Interesting point on calories and protein. Many wild meats are rather lean also. Most all edible plants have at least some protein but no fats. Rabbits are notoriously lean but there is one strip of fat near each side of a mature rabbits back. Its usually left with the hide. I usually include it in a spicy stew I like to make with rabbit or chicken legs.
      Folks that came through the deprsession often seem to eat a higher fat diet than is popular today. My in- laws enjoyed “grease gravy” poured over fried eggs, biscuits and milk gravy made with a rue of flour and bacon grease, and fried potatoes…that extra gravy was just hot bacon fat. They were hardworking farm folks and not fat. I asked for my plate without that extra hot grease. They looked at me like I was odd but served it as I requested and I enjoyed it very much.
      To have survived more than 900 days under such harsh circumstances is incredible. Strong people!

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck June 19, 00:05

        Clergylady: If you read Frank McCourt’s book “Angela’s Ashes” he talks about growing up poor in Ireland. Breakfast often was bread soaked in bacon grease washed down with tea with lots of milk and sugar. He attributed his poor eyesight and bad teeth in adult years to his vitamin deficient diet when he was growing up. A vitamin deficient diet is especially hard on young people as they need all the calories, vitamins and minerals to form a healthy body during adulthood.

        I still like to sop up the bacon grease in the pan with fresh bread after we are done frying the eggs in the bacon grease. Pure ambrosia. That was my one exception to my aversion to fat was bacon and bacon grease. How could anybody not like bacon????

        Reply to this comment
  7. Allen June 18, 21:48

    Lot of good comments here about how much protein and other things you need on a daily bases. But it SHTF for real. No matter how much you got you may have to ration it to the point your getting below the daily needs or Like turn a 30 supply into a 60 waiting for crops to come in. Or an unexpected addition to your group that turns out very valuable to your needs. Would be taking up sum of your 30 day supply. Example when SHTF happens 25 years from now Your to dam old to defend if you was 50 today well someone you know as being trustworthy dependable an young. Joined your group. You’ll need him more than he will need you and your 30 day supply just went down or ration it to last 30 days.Point is you can’t really go by those planes because you can’t tell whats going to happen and when, thus even the best prepper may have to eat the wallpaper glue. Hell you may be on vacation 300 miles from your supplies with no way of getting there other than on foot. Just to find out when you got there it was considered abandoned so others used up your supplies. Now what do you do.

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader June 19, 02:37

      The comment about rationing food while “waiting for the crops to come in” may be a lot longer than 60 days. It could be more than a year. Then where would you be? You would have to try to stretch that meager supply beyond its limits. The point is, if you’re planning on eating what you can grow, it may be a very long wait. You’re going to need to store a lot more than 30 or 60 days worth of food. Best to have a year or more available. Gardens are unpredictable at best. This year, for example, we got only 9 pounds of green peas before the vines quit producing. Last year, we got 16 pounds which, for us, is only about a 6 month supply. The green beans are not producing and neither are the tomatoes. Why? We can only guess. Probably the stifling heat or the very strong UV rays we’re having, both unusual for this time of year where we live. We also had monsoon-like rains for a couple of weeks and now, nothing. Even our herbs have bolted (gone to seed) already. If we had to depend solely on our garden, this year we would be in trouble, and the next year would be extremely lean.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Paul June 19, 02:49

    Please look for books by Euell Gibbons such as Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Gibbons then produced the cookbooks Stalking the Blue-Eyed Scallop in 1964 and Stalking the Healthful Herbs in 1966. These are great books for learning edible plants and recipes and great stories about some of his cooking, meals and exploits.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Miss Kitty June 19, 05:21

    I read a while ago that the Mormons used to require members to have a several year stockpile of basic food items including honey, peanut butter, flour, powdered milk and other items that I forget. Perhaps it would be a good idea to use their plan as a template – and if it’s not included I would also suggest a hefty stockpile of any edible and long-lasting oils/shortening available. Even if your olive oil turns, you can still use it for other things. Growing high protein/high fat foods like sunflowers, soy or peanuts is a good thing to give at least a small portion of your garden to trying.
    Also, acorns have been a food staple in the past but require a lot of processing to make them edible. If you have oaks growing near you it might be worth processing some this fall to get a feel for the proper way of doing it – best to know ahead of time what to do.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Mary June 19, 12:35

    Thanks to all of you who shared. Yes, I love my bacon grease and I use lard for pie crusts and sometimes biscuits. The fat in meat is where the flavor is. Currently the fresh fruit is coming on such as mulberries, strawberries, black raspberries and the cherries. If the gift is provided, take it and save it.

    Reply to this comment
    • Homesteader June 19, 13:56

      I use lard in chocolate chip cookies, biscuits, and even popping corn. One thing I’ve noticed about using lard – food seems to be more satisfying in smaller servings than when other oils or shortenings are used.

      Reply to this comment
  11. Clergylady June 19, 16:12

    I Love the comments from everyone. Good bits of advice scattered through.
    My family wasn’t Mormon but we had the advice from the church groups founder, that died in 1915, to keep no less than a full years amount of food on hand at all times. By gardening and drying or canning we usually had that or more on hand. It was also suggested that everyone who could, should leave the cities. It would be safer and healthier.
    I love country so even though I’m not part of that group I believe the advice on foods and country living was spot on. She also advised eating at least one dark green vegetable every day.
    It was in that church youth group program that is simular to scouting where I learned a lot of good survival skills. I had to put up a good fight to get into the boys auto mechanics class. 🙂
    I made sure all my kids could cook, can, and dehydrate foods, do laundry, simple mending at a minimum, change a flat tire, change oil in a vehicle, knew basic survival skills, and everyone knew first aid basics. All still stay certified in first aid. Everyone could shoot straight, clean and maintain their firearm. Everyone could field dress an animal, skin and cut it up also. They also learned to frame a building, do simple lights and switches, basic plumbing, various types of roofing, siding, painting et.
    My oldest son went on to do many things over his 22 year carrier in the Navy. One of those things was teaching electronics for five years. He called home one time to say thank you for teaching him the basics and how to think and figure things out , oh and thanks for teaching us discipline. ” I can tell immediately who grew up with critical thinking skills and who came from a home with discipline. They are prepared to learn.”
    Prepping should include teaching the next generation the skills they may need.
    My Air force vet son lives in a city where he and his wife both work in a VA hospital. They now own a home with a large backyard. He has made more cabinets for food storage in the tiny kitchen and added cabinets and medicine cabinets in the bathroom and shelves in the closets. He’s started building raised beds for gardening. The rest of the back yard will have grass and a small patio. Room for their two large dogs to run. He trimmed and shaped up a scraggly tree in the front yard. Where did he learn to do those things? The first school…at home… from his parents.
    Another son earned his living for years as a truck stop cook then decided to change professions and helped build a big cheese factory and stayed on in maintainance. He is able to do wiring, plumbing, food grade welding on stainless steel pipes, figure out mechanical malfunctions quickly, helped build a methane plant when he went to work for a meat packing plant. A life built on basic skills learned at home and made a great living while he was at it. A serious head injury ended his working days but he can still do all those things, just slowly and deliberately. He has rebuilt my parents little home here on my property and will live there with his wife and daughter when they return from a couple of years living overseas.
    My daughter, the wise leader, told her husband how to make home repairs by discussing what needed to be done and how it could be done so her willing husband thought he thought of it. :). She grew edibles in her flower beds and a child’s plastic pool when they had a home. Now in an apartment she grows vegetables in pots on a tiny balcony and has herbs in pots in a kitchen window. He has retired and she will work a few more years. He was a city boy and she a country girl. They keep a few months of food on hand and rotate through it. Also always have two weeks worth of water on hand. Not a lot but space is limited. They have ridden out two Florida hurricanes and needed that stored food and water. They fill the bathtub and more containers when storms came close. Their jobs required them to stay there and not evacuate. That has changed with her new job and his retirement. Still having food and water on hand is a good habbit.
    The food discussion here is interesting. Some vitamins and minerals are water soluble and some are only in fats. Example is vitamin
    E found in fats and the heart of whole grains. Vitamine C is water soluble so when vegetables are cooked in water, it cooks out into the water and too often gets thrown out. Steaming or stirfrying quickly helps preserve what isn’t damaged by heat. We save any cooking liquids to use as soup broth or to make stuffing with dry bread or cornbread. Keep the rich flavors and food value. Most often I freeze the broth and it there is enough saved up to fill a few pint jars I can it. Mom used to dry it in the sun on rimmed cookie sheets and use it like bullion powder.
    When you make a stew or soup and eat the broth you are saving both water soluables and fat soluables so you get all the vitamins and minerals. You need fat of some kind to carry the fat soluables. Preparation methods are important, especially if the variety of foods is limited.
    Oh LC Chuck I do like bacon and bacon grease… Just in moderation. A bit here or there for rich flavor or a pan of milk gravy made after the bacon is cooked, so every tiny bit is not lost, to pour over fresh buttermilk biscuits or toasted homemade bread …. mmmm. Thrown in some panfried potatoes and a couple of fresh eggs and I could eat it any time of day.

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  12. Carl Thomas June 20, 04:32

    Great commentary concerning a dark moment in history. There won’t be any sieges into the future or great land armies confronting each other. War between the great powers will go from tactical nuclear exchange to strategic level in the northern hemisphere. 80% of the population will be killed within the first few hours while the remnant die of radiation poisoning, sickness due to drinking polluted water, lack of pharmaceuticals for diabetics, food etc. So too this remnant will predate on others to survive. The living shall envy the dead. The southern hemisphere will fare better due to the lack of major industrial cities etc., but the seasonal mixing of the northern and southern atmosphere during hurricane/typhoon season will bring the massive radiation contamination southward until they too start dying in great numbers. It’s tragic that the MIC keeps selling large numbers of conventional armaments to our already heavily taxed population because tanks, armored vehicles et. al. materiel for war are archaic tools to wage war. The greatest enemy to survival will be your fellow citizens in the end of days. Lastly concerning survival food the best one is making pemmican. The recipe is simple and should be kept so; e.g., lard, lean meat, and berries, either blueberries or cranberries. That’s it. Pemmican will keep almost forever and will provide all that’s necessary to survive another day. So too stockpile lard/Crisco for future use. Even if you have to spoon down lard it will stoke your body with 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 for carbs. There are no essential carbs only proteins. Lastly, primal man didn’t eat everyday. It was feast or famine after a kill they ate well, then the pickings might be quite lean until another successful kill. No fat guys in the group although women were kept fat and healthy as possible for childbearing. That’s why women survive men is due to their greater fat storage within their structure. Fat…fat…fat is the name the game along with protein from meat and vitamins from berries. Most pemmican sold on Amazon etc. deviates from the traditional recipe and I don’t recommend purchasing them. Learn to make your own and make lots of it. So too eat it when you hike or just for fun like jerky. You’ll feel smug knowing you have the world’s ultimate survival food. I hope my commentary helps. Thanks to all of your for you constructive input. : )

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    • Clergylady June 20, 19:22

      Sounds like a nightmare but certainly not impossible. Makes one wonder if the strange grotesque fish of Chernobyl could be a warning. Everything you would breath or grow would be contaminated. But if you’re alive you have to keep on going.
      It’s surprising what you can survive on. I ate three hotdogs or hamburgers a week for most of 2 years and then survived living off the land for 10 months. Not going into the story of how and why but it was a hard part of my life and cost me most of my teeth. Living off the land I actually ate better and came back 10 pounds heavier. Mostly muscles.
      Enough food to keep your health is pretty individual by sex, age, and activity. Well thought out post.

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    • Claude Davis June 26, 01:57

      You make a lot of good points, but I’m not so sure there won’t be another conventional war. Plenty countries are still equipped for one, with Russia being a great example. Europe has pretty much disarmed itself, so if Putin decides to set all his tanks rolling west, who’s going to have to stop him? Most likely the USA. Asymmetric warfare doesn’t just mean ISIS or the Taliban; a war where one side has thousands of tanks and the other doesn’t is pretty asymmetric, too.

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  13. Allen June 21, 14:49

    It was a gruesome time, and I see people making their statements of what you need per day to stay healthy and others commenting on local plants. And even others on preppers, But what I noticed in the above story, These people where cut off from the outside world. Pets, Trees, plants and game all striped way before the 900 day end, Any person looking better and healthier than the others would have been a target for his/her supplies. Imagine this happening today in Los Angeles. Austin, New York City or Cincinnati hostile forces keeping everyone from entering or leaving. The store bought food would all be consumed withing the first week 3 weeks at most. City preppers may make it a few more weeks but their neighbors would notice they aren’t starving thus they become targets for raids and will take what you have by outnumbering force. within the third month all pets and edible plants would be gone. Reminder here this is in a city packed with people. and no supplies coming in. To last 900 days in a city like Los Angles with a population as of 2016 at 3.9 million Any prepper in that city wouldn’t stand a chance other than living comfortably for a few days to a few weeks more. than the others So protein and other things like that wouldn’t mean shit after 3 or 4 days with nothing in you. As you read fathers taking from their children. We say I would never do that. But at the same time you never been that bad off. Do you really think you could, I mean really after days upon days of hunger pains. The kind that makes you forget who and what you are. We are so well at saying what we would and wouldn’t do when we’er seated at home without those problems. But searching our own souls with that much hunger pain what would you really do. Is the question you can’t answer without going though it. And those that didn’t go though what you had to would have the goal to judge you for what you did or didn’t do to survive. Fact is if your in a major city that gets cut off from the world like the story above for 900 days what would your chances really be like even as a prepper.

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    • Clergylady June 21, 17:53

      James town Virginia winter I believe it was 1609-10. Starvation and canabalism.
      Other stories of bad times, mostly winters, but not nearly 900 days. Incredible survivors.

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  14. Carl Thomas June 21, 20:16

    Thanks again to all who’ve contributed to this article, no doubt a grim subject both from the past and possibly into our future. I forgot to mention that another outcome to strategic nuclear war is the electrical grid will be fried worldwide including auto ignition systems, generators etc. due to the massive EMP effect as a function of such a war. So those of us that believe out gens will work, think again unless you store such in a EMP protected shelter. You can find plans for such on web from a simple metal garbage to can to a doghouse design that could enclose a small generator. But a warning comes with such. Anyone with a surviving gen will become an instant target due to the noise of such in operation. Predation from the unprepared will come from all directions. If one has planned well so they can eat, it’s best not to live large and to let yourself get disheveled; I.E, unwashed, beard, clothes somewhat dirty and to avoid contact with strangers at all cost, so too armed with a 9mm at all times in battery. If someone approaches warn them to standoff and not to come any closer. They can state their business at a distance and be ready. I hate to close on negativity, but the odds are most won’t survive including myself a prepared individual. None of us know how our end will come but at times it’s the function of something quite simple and our stupidity. The ultimate question: Will surviving be worth it in the dystopian, broken world lying in smoking radioactive ruins? It’s been said the living shall envy the dead. / : |

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  15. Clergylady June 26, 03:16

    Survival is an inborn drive in many. Those without it will give up steal some then decide to let it go and die. Survivors will have some stores because they start out preparing from year to year. They will survive on little more than determination and a willingness to consume whatever there is. Boiled belts and shoes or strange living things. Work will not be a stranger. Danger will be only a minor inconvenience weighed against death. The tough ones will make it.
    Not sure how many Americans will work so hard and be so tough. Some surly will.

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  16. Moebius July 3, 20:09

    I write zombie novels and in my first book I had the characters do something I remembered my grandparents teaching me…
    They would lay out screen on a tin roof and then put down slices of peaches, pears, apples, and then cover it with more screen and weigh that down with rocks.

    Nowdays folks pay good money for a Solar dehydrator. I doubt my grandparents would have even known the word, but they knew how to survive… and it really didn’t take a lot of land for my grandpa to feed him, my grandma, and anyone who came to visit. They had chickens, and cattle on the property as well…

    In my next books I made them cookbooks, but the idea being as time goes on there will be less and less access to store bought food, and modern technology unless people reinvent it, or are able to maintain and support it…

    but the idea is that so many folks rely on fast food, if “zombies” came you’d need to know how to cook. Alot of folks don’t know how to make things as simple as butter…

    All the books contain are gonna contain a lot of real recipes, but next I was going to have bone soup, and people cooking shoe leather and belts… and I knew about Pemican cause of that lost ways book, but I also have found some cookbooks that talk about racoon, posum, nutria…

    Realistically you could couldn’t build a shelter if there was an all out nuclear war unless you planned to stay underground for a long time…
    . The half-life of Uranium-235 (U-235) is 700 million years, while that of Plutonium-239 (Pu-239) is 24,000 years. One thing they are studying for radiation clean up is things like Sunflowers actually… (remember someone mentioned that above). Some plants that help absorb radiation in doors are:

    Cactus. Cactus is one of the most popular succulents thanks to its easy growth that does not require too much care. …
    Betel leaf plant. The betel leaf plant, or piper betle, is the leaf of a grapevine which belongs to the family of Piperaceae. …
    Snake plant. …
    Spider plant. …
    Aloe. …
    Stone lotus flower.
    Also, Spider plant, Aloe, and Snake plant all are good for cleaning out stuff like benzene and formaldehyde from indoors…

    Which makes me think about that house in northern Europe which is inside a green house, but you’d need to use lexan to incase it from folks wandering around, and even then… if folks saw someone surviving and doing well you’d know they would want to move on it… perhaps if you could find a box canyon like a louie lamour novel. You’d want to ingest plenty of stable iodine to keep from being effected by radioactive iodine, but you’d still not want to stay exposes to breathing radioactive particulate matter lest you develop ars (Acute radioactivity syndrome).
    However, just cause you are exposed doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get it. Atleast from what I read none of the folks working Fukishima got it.
    Anyways. I’ve enjoyed reading what you’ve had to say, that’s why I like writing about what I do… I like to exercise my brain.

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  17. Clergylady May 29, 06:36

    Live rural. Learn to butcher and garden. Have jars, lids, water bath and pressure canners. Seeds for future gardening. Gardening tools. Nails and screws, hand and power tools. Learn, then learn somemore. Even with help you’ll find survival a struggle if SHTF. Hunger is a harsh taskmaster. The balance of needed vitamins and minerals and proteins and fats are a laugh when starvation and survival are breathing down your neck. Survive then work on doing better.
    The native peoples here on the desert where I live have been tiny people. With increased food availability each generation is getting taller. Much taller. Excess weight is now common and the younger generations no longer know hard physical work nor survival skills. The old recipes are now the feast day foods but little else still survives. I’m sure that’s true of most people alive today.
    Some know construction skills but can they build without the supplies from the local building supply center? Some hunt but is it just one deer a year or can they really provide year around? Can they clean and cut up the animal and prepare some of the meat for future use? Can they tan the hides and make clothing or footwear from the skins. How many spin wool then knit or weave to make other needed clothing? My great great grandmother used to grow flax and prepare the fibers and weave the cloth. I don’t know anyone still possessing that total skill.
    Were focusing mostly on food and that certainly is an immediate need but if life as we know it is ever gone who’s supplying the rest of the things we need. In years or months things need to be replaced. How many are going to bug out only prepared for days or weeks? Then what? Ammo will run out. Where are the traps and skills to keep going? This is severe cold country in most winters. Even with the forests across the mountains who will cut, split, or haul that wood? Electricity and propane will no longer be the heat of choice! Vehicles will be stopped when gasoline isn’t available what do you do? When gas is gone most generators will be silent. How far ahead should we think or plan?
    I’d guess most country folks and older folks will have a leg up on the city folks and youth. Still, some from both backgrounds may have needed skills. We also need to remember a good part of the government may have survived in special shelters. They may be well prepared for a future with or without all of us.
    We need more than food to get through hard times and survive in whatever future would be on the other side. But food and learned skills are a good place to start. I know the hard times folks go through effect the rest of life.
    I’m watching the insane violent weather reports of the past few weeks. Spring has been rough. From tornadoes to flooding the times are hard. Weeks and weeks of wet fields at planting time have delayed planting or gone on so long planting time is past and farms are being lost. Now its homes washing away or blown away. Yesterday eastern NM had 11 tornadoes in one day. That’s a years avaerage of tornadoes. From Oklahoma to the east coast the weather is rageing. I wonder how many have even slight preparations in place. The last few years it’s been western fires. How many bug out bags are ready to grab and run? Mine are ready, IF there is time for a warning! If an EMP happens there is no warning time and it may take a while for the public to realise that is what happened. So when do you bug in or out as the case may be? When do you drop into selfprotection mode? When do you go to ground or underground as the case may be? Life is full of uncertainties. Where are all your preps? All the eggs in one basket? Some things stashed here and there? Sure makes you think.
    I guess prep the best you can. Have things stored at home and some scattered as well. Have some packed items ready to grab and run but maybe copies of papers in safe deposit boxes as well. Have cash on hand and savings accounts also. Like most folks I’ll just do what I can and keep learning and planning to do more. I can’t cover every eventuality. But you’d better believe I’ll be doing my best. I don’t want to bug out. But I will if necessary. I don’t want to be the person refusing to evacuate who disappeares with the storm. I’d rather return to help rebuild.
    Glad to see new folks showing up and being part of the conversation here.

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  18. Vellegazelle August 28, 15:21

    I doubt we would be able to access any of our money in the event of EMP. There are no manual systems in place, to determine how much my account contained pre-EMP. So we’d all be SOL. Better to keep a stash in an accessible place outside of financial systems.

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