Realistic Ideas About Gathering Food
It's wintertime. The SHTF and you're hastily looking through cabinets to see how much food you have. You estimate that you have two weeks of food by a visual check. How much do you have in reality?
Breathe. Relax. Wake up. Let's do a careful analysis based upon what I've written here. As a reminder
# of People x Minimal calories for strenuous work x Days need
4 people x 2500 calories x 60 days = 600,000
That should be the very minimum reserve you were supposed to plan for. My guess is that less than 5% of US households have that much. This is your reserve, a food cache that you'll supplement from based on whatever you can collect from Nature. There won't be much you can.
If you eat three times a day, then now carefully count up what you could reasonably put together with other things to generate 2500 calories for each person per day. That's hard with odds and ends, but of course you'll adjust what you think is a meal. Eating carefully, and in the correct order based upon spoilage will mean actually having two weeks worth of food. Panicking people eat out of stress. The excess calories are stored as fat, not wasted, but not eating is not normal for most people and will also freak people out.
Reading back, you'll see that most adult Americans are obese. This means they have 30% BMI (Body Mass Index). On a 5' 9” man, that's fat calories that will slowly transform into usable energy. Within going into all of that, that means you can make it as an adult for about two weeks, but following that, severe weakness will result. You'll lose water and muscle first, which is not good, since you're working 3x harder from increased activity.
Children are growing, and the malnutrition will affect them sooner. Read back about that and hair breakage, a primary sign followed by distended bellies. That's called kwashiorkor. Teeth will become loose from scurvy first, so you need pine needle tea.
Reading back you'll see that you'll need to adjust what people eat and when based on taking watches, inducing or delaying nap time or traveling on a full stomach and cramping. This means alterations in the three meal a day paradigm.
The SHTF didn't happen suddenly barring a bomb going off, so most likely either you didn't prepare at all for motivation reasons or lack of funds or availability of last minute supplies or whatever. What the heck do you do now?
Well realistically if you did have two weeks of food and there wasn't a danger about water shortages then immediately I would create a cache of water anyway. I'd store water needs for my family at a minimum of two weeks. When people say not to worry about water, that's exactly when I would worry.
# of People x Minimal Water x 14 days
4 x 1 gallon x 14 = 56 gallons
If you had a regular hot water heater, you have 40-50 gallons but need to know how to remove it. Don't count this as your basic water cache. That's your fall back water. Immediately think what you could safely store water in by cleaning it with mild bleach water. Then do it. You can always transfer it later, but doing it thoughtfully the first time saves you from wasting crucial time.
Minimal water will be gathered without intensive calories burned in winter. The lack of calories will kill you.
It takes a long time until you can break soil and plant things. These cost calories, it's not a free ride. It assumes you have seed, and hopefully seed that isn't a hybrid as that means you can't save seed that will germinate next season, should you be lucky enough to survive.
Usually peas are the first things followed by other cold weather crops. Plants don't need sun to germinate, but they do need warmth. Once germinated they need frost free days and lots of light to undertake photosynthesis. From today until I could reasonable begin to take tiny amounts of peas for miniscule calories and protein, without killing the plant, is four months. I can plant broccoli, cabbage, spinach, then later leaf lettuce, herbs, etc. None of those provides any amount of needed protein and very little calories. It will provide needed carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Far later as it really approaches mid Spring, I can safely plant tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, etc. Several of these will provide dense starches for calories plus protein, but they need to eaten in combination to provide essential amino acid building blocks for my children, otherwise severe malnutrition will result. From now until harvest might be seven long months.
See why people prep? In the interim period, it's winter. Animals are hibernating in their warm dens, or they've died. Animals do come out from time to time to get water or eat, but this is minimal and based upon species. Some have migrated or burrowed deep. You could fish some, but likewise many fish drop down lower in the lake below the freeze line in a state of suspended animation and rely upon built up fat stores to live into the Spring. This means minimal hunting and fishing is available. You could easily expend far more calories than you could rationally expect to collect as meat and fat.
Very little food can be harvested from plants. While there may be some frozen tubers from cattails in the ground, mice will have eaten much of them, plus the energy of attempting to dig them versus what starch they provide. Maple or birch syrup can be harvested in areas as the sap rises up (not down) into the cambium layer, but usually that's February or March based on rising temperature. It takes a lot of boiling to remove water and leave syrup. It was survival food in Winter for Native Americans, something they prepped months and months prior to save them in Winter. It's not gathered in the cold of Winter. That means that syrup is out as a survival plant based food.
Can you see why you need to prep today? Don't imagine that you can hunt, fish, or gather enough calories in Winter to offset your lack of food stores. It's not realistic. You can begin getting more animals and fish later, and there are some plants you can gather in very small amounts, else you kill the plant in Spring (like fiddleheads from ferns), but that's about it. Taking too many squirrels that you might find will mean robbing Peter to pay Paul, as while squirrel is chewy (unless you boil it for a bit), then the meat you might take later will not be there.