SHTF Calories Vegetables

Can A Garden Produce Enough Food To Live Off Of Post – SHTF?


Today’s Guest Post Article is from Vey who is the founder of

Thanks Vey 🙂


One of the earliest goals you should set as a prepper is to have a year’s worth of food stored up, but what happens after you make it through the first year? Will your garden be able to sustain your group’s food needs?
Let’s look at how whether a garden can produce enough calories to fully sustain a moderately sized prepper group without additional livestock.


In theory, a garden can produce as little or as much food as you need it to. In reality, you have constraints, such as how much room your retreat has for a garden, how many man hours your group can spend gardening, how long your gardening season lasts, etc.

The best place to start is to figure out how much food you actually need to survive.

The average family of 4 consumers 4,000,000 calories a year, but that’s just 1 family. If you want a good shot at doing well in SHTF, you need to group up, and our previous analysis showed that a 26 member group is the ideal prepper group size.

To make the math easy, we’ll assume the group consists of 6 families of 4 and 1 family of 2, which would come in at a whopping 26,000,000 calories a year.


The average American household size is 2.6 individuals, and the average American family is 3.19. Source.The average American adult male is 5’9 and 1/2 and weighs 191 lbs. He consumes just over a million calories a year. The average American adult female is 5’4″ and weighs 140.2lbs. She consumes around 800,000 calories a year. With a teenage son and daughter, the average family needs just shy of 4,000,000 calories a year.


Our analysis of 22 of the most popular garden vegetables shows that each person in the group will need to consume 105 lbs of each vegetable to meet their daily calorie requirements. That’s 2,625 lbs of vegetables a year, or 7.1 lbs of vegetables a day. Have you ever tried eating 2 and 1/2 pounds of vegetables for breakfast? Me neither. It sounds like torture.


But that’s not the only bad news. A garden that can produce 76,000 lbs of food, which is how much you’ll need to hit your 26 million target for the group, needs to be 11.27 acres large. That’s larger than some prepper’s entire retreat!


A garden is a critical part of your food production come SHTF, but it can’t be your only source of food. You need a large portion of food to come from sustainable means: an orchard, vineyard, livestock, foraging, trapping, fishing, hunting and of course gardening.

If you haven’t planted any fruit or nut trees, now is the time to start. Most take 3-5 years to fruit. If you don’t fencing or cages in place for livestock, now is the time to start. Livestock takes a few years to figure out how to manage properly. If you haven’t planted berry bushes, set up tree stands or learned to identify wild editable, now is the time.

Forget it. You’re not living off this thing alone.

Sustainable food production doesn’t come in a $50 Survival Seed lot from Amazon. It takes a lot of years of planning and doing. If you haven’t started that process, now is the time.

Vey Prpeprlytics

The article above was kindly contributed by Vey from Prepperlytics, and the original title, “Can a garden produce enough food to live off of post-shtf” can be found on the blog.

Prepperlytics is an online website that helps preppers calculate the amount of calories that would be needed in a SHTF scenario. Vey’s site also has a number of other really useful tools that help preppers prepare. You can check out our Prepperlytics Review Here.

Vey is also a Homesteader, Programmer and a Prepper.

Thanks again for the article Vey.


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19 thoughts on “Can A Garden Produce Enough Food To Live Off Of Post – SHTF?”

  1. I’ve been adding as much permaculture as I can to increase my food production beyond just what my gardening provides. My goal this year is 1,000 pounds of food from my efforts! Obviously, that’s not coming from just lettuce. I’ve got more than 1,000 bananas either harvested or developing at the moment. Two Ever-bearing mulberry trees have produced more than 20 pounds of berries already. Sugar cane, grape vines, avocado trees, papayas, and coconut palms add lots of pounds to the production totals. Building a sustainable ecosystem on five acres is challenging, but rewarding!

  2. Hi Neil,
    Thanks for taking the time to response.

    First off, I really enjoy a good discussion on this topic, but your introduction sentence immediately put me on the defensive. It’s perfectly fine to share your opinion, and it was great that you added some references to additional articles, but I could have been done without the outburst at the beginning.

    That aside, I’m not sure why the Washington Post thinks there is 1,566 calories in a pound of corn. Calorie King shows that a pound of sweet corn, on the cob, boiled without salt is 426 calories.

    That’s a big difference. Only 4,749,696 calories on a conventionally farmed acre, not 15M.

    You only get 15M calories of corn with a GMO seed sprayed with Roundup to keep the weeds at bay. You also need large amounts of chemical fertilizer, irrigation, pesticides and the large equipment needed to spray, water and harvest it. None of that will be available post-SHTF to the average homesteader.

    You also need to factor in that a family cannot eat JUST CORN. They need a variety of vegetables. You cannot assume that 100% of your garden will be dedicated to the most calorie dense vegetables. That brings the average calories an acre can produce down substantially.

    You also need to account for disease, pests, drought, frosts, thieves, bad seeds, poor soil conditions and other factors that will reduce the yield of a homesteaders garden.

    Lastly, even if you could produce enough corn to last your family an entire year, you would need to store that corn somewhere. Which means loads and loads of canning. Thousands of jars, lids and fuel for the stove.

    And who is running security while the family of 4 tends to their acre of corn? The group needs to be larger than 4 for protection, which means the garden must be many acres to support the expanded group.

    Bottom line, Neil… A garden is an essential prep, but it’s not viable as the only source of food for a group. Corn, while a great crop, is really not easy to grow or process post-SHTF. It’s water intensive, not the easiest to grow and almost all the seeds are GMO these days. I’m not saying, “nobody should ever try to grow corn on their homestead” I’m simply encouraging people to be realistic about their expectations for a post-SHTF garden.

    1. Hi Vey,

      In defense of corn, and perhaps the point Niel was trying to share, there seems to be a disparity due, perhaps, to the type of corn being discussed.. You referred to sweet corn, to canning and jars. Soft corn, like corn on the cob or canned Libby’s cream-style corn seem to have much fewer calories per pound.

      Niel (and the Washington Post) may have been referring to hard corn — the kind used for grinding into corn meal, or making masa for corn tortillas, etc. Calorie King (nice site, btw, thanks for the link) listed corn MEAL as having 30 calories per .3 oz portion. That would yield 53.3 ‘portions’ in a 16 oz pound. 53.3 x 30 = 1599 calories. Not sure why soft corn is only a third of the calories.

      Hard corn is a dry grain. It’s as easy to store as wheat. That’s the kind I’m trying to master growing.

      Your basic point still stands, of course. The tubes of ‘survival seeds’ won’t be a magical Get-Out-Of-Hunger Free card. People can’t live on just one crop. There’s more to diet than just calories. Need carbs, need protein, need vitamins, etc.

      1. Hey Mic,
        Thanks for the response. You are quite correct, Calorie King does show cornmeal as 1,599 calories.
        Corn meal is of course ground up corn, which means the kernel has already been removed from the cob.

        The Washington Post article didn’t specify which variety of corn was being measured, but it was weighted by the bushel, which seems to mean the kernel was still on the cob. So that’s going to be fewer calories per pound than a cornmeal where the fine particles leave almost no room for air when weighing.

        I do think your point about hard corn vs. soft corn is an excellent one. I would imagine both varieties might face some of the challenges I mentioned earlier, but I can see the value of dedicating a portion of the garden to hard corn for use as a grain. I’ll work this into my recommendations going forward.

        I also wanted to say how much I appreciate a comment like yours. It was respectful, balanced and insightful.


    2. I am sorry for the harsh tone. It was intended for emphasis not for offense. Please see the -1917- Farmer’s Bulletin from the U S Dept. of Agriculture which lists the amounts of calories that can be expected from an acre of land for different crops. Corn = 3.1 million, Sweet potatoes = 2.8 million, Irish potatoes = 1.9 million, Rye = 1.8 million, Wheat = 1.7 million, Soybeans = 1.5 million, Oats = 1.2 million and Beans = 1.1 million. Note that this was before agriculture was highly mechanized, GMO seeds, and before the use of many of the modern fertilizers. It should be possible that with PRACTICE, good land management, the advantages of modern rototillers and stockpiled seeds and fertilizer that one could expect to do as well. Please note that here in the Midwest all these crops are routinely grown WITHOUT irrigation (Like I assume most of them were in 1917.). Which points out the tremendous importance of location in SHFT. See the following:

      1. Hi Neil.
        Apology accepted, and thanks for coming back to leave a follow up comment.

        The USDA Bulletin from 1917 is a really interesting read. Our differences likely come from different data sources.

        For example, the USDA database says 1 lb of raw, yellow, sweet corn has 390 calories:

        Assuming the USDA Bulletin from 1917 is using raw, yellow, sweet corn, they are reporting 1,594 calories per pound. That is of course a HUGE difference.

        Now maybe the data from 1917 isn’t referring to raw, yellow, sweet corn. Maybe the corn from 1917 is dramatically more calorie dense than today’s corn. Maybe our way of measuring calories has changed in 100 years. I don’t know why the numbers are so different.

        What is an important takeaway for me is that when presenting my analysis, I need to make clear that different sources of data will show dramatically different calorie counts. So when someone is figuring out the right mix of foods to grow, they need to first find the data source they trust, then go from there.

        On a side note, I doubt a tiller will be much help post-SHTF. Horses will have to do the heavy lifting, or we’ll have to move to a no-till garden system, which is my preference.

  3. WRONG, inexcusably WRONG. Research it. Corn produces 15 million calories on the average acre, Potatoes can produce about as many calories as corn per acre. Sure it might be hard for the average gardener to produce 1/4 as much, but that is still almost 4 million calories per acre. To tell a family of 4 that it is IMPOSSIBLE to feed themselves on on their 2 acre garden spot is irresponsible. Would it be the hardest thing you ever did, probably, but NOT impossible. Learn to garden, its probably the best preparation you can make. So get at it.

  4. Your one size fits all chart is meaningless and is based on false assumptions. A person sitting and knitting all day needs a lot less calories than one hoeing a garden or doing other hard physical work. The ambient temperature is a factor; A person needs more calories when it is -20 than when it is 20. There are many more factors that have to be considered and are not.

    The size of the garden is not important. The growing season is. Is it 3 months or year round? The method used must be considered. Is it a conventional row garden or it densely planted beds with a new plant put in when one is harvested? Are small animals integrated like goats, chickens and rabbits to produce meat milk, eggs and fertilizer. A well managed integrated garden will produce many times more than a very large mismanaged conventional garden and will take less calories to do it.

    Numbers aren’t important; you can’t eat them. What is important is to learn all the possible factors and than you have something solid to work with. These are just suggestions as I am uneducated and have no degrees.

    1. Hi Dustry,
      As you point out, there are many variables that affects how much food a garden will produce. The article wasn’t intended to be a food production strategy, but a basic analysis open up the eyes to those who think they can simply bug out of their suburban home to a cabin in the woods with a package of emergency seeds, and expect to sustain their family. There needs to be livestock, orchards, foraging, etc. if you want to produce an adequate number of calories for a large group.

      As for the calorie consumption factors…
      We build a free calorie calculator on that you can use to calculate how many calories each family member will need. It takes into consideration age, height, weight, sex and activity level. It does not factor in temperature, but given that most places have hot months where you’ll be burning a lot of calories, and cold months where you’ll be burning few, selecting a “moderately active” lifestyle should give you a good ballpark.

      Hope this helps,

  5. most of the farms in the UK with the exception of some hill farms are mono cropping, all done with the aid of fertilisers and pesticides all of which are imported into the UK, post SHTF these imports would stop and the ground would be infertile without these additions.
    growing post event would be subsistence gardening at most, what we would refer to as “allotments” or mini smallholdings, commercial agriculture as we know it would cease to be.
    and you can forget about using conventional seed, that is all hybrid and dosent grow after the initial sowing so you cant save the seed, you need a seed bank of heritage or old varieties of seed which are not hybrid.

  6. When you analyzed the calories in the 22 popular garden vegetables, were any of those grains? They’re calorie-dense. Lettuce, not so much. The usual veggies are pretty low on calories. That’s why breakfast is usually a bowl of oatmeal instead of 2.5 lbs of veggies. And then there’s proteins.

    You’re quite right that the usual hobby garden won’t provide much. A couple acres of wheat or corn without modern tractors will be a lot of work. I’ve been trying to “learn” corn and beans. I can scale it up, if need be.

    Thanks for the post.

    — Mic

    1. Hi Mic, thanks for your comments and question. Vey will be the best person to answer this, I’m sure he will be along shortly.

    2. Hey Mic,
      Yes, it included Hard Red and Hard White Wheat and Oats but did not include Rice, because Rice is very difficult to grow and process on a small homestead. I should have saved and posted the analysis, but I didn’t think about it before publishing. I may do a follow up post with the full analysis if folks are interested.

      While corn was included in the analysis, it’s actually not a great SHTF crop in my opinion. It uses a lot of water and nutrients for just the 2 ears. It’s kind of laborious to process relative to other vegetables. But mostly you’re left with just very little food per plant. It’s fine for farms to produce pre-shtf, and it tastes great, but it’s not the best use of resources post-SHTF IMHO.

      As someone who has obviously given some thought to food storage, I invite you to come visit us over at and try out our calorie calculator and tools. We built it for folks like yourself.

      1. Thanks for the tip on the prepperlytics site. Went there. Registered. Dabbling.

        Yes, I’m someone who has put some thought into real survival gardening. If things go grid-down for an extended period, it could last longer than food storage. Need to grow new food. As your article asks, will your survival garden grow -enough-. (In most cases, probably not).

        I’ve been somewhat puzzled lately, reading prepper folks’ comments to various other blogs’ posts where it seems clear that the comment-prepper puts a LOT of time into getting himself ready for battle (train. train. train), even though he’ll admit that the prospect of such battles would be rare and best avoided. Yet, that same warrior is going to need to eat every day. They might argue that it takes that much training to survive the 15 minute battle, but they can starve into uselessness in a week before any battles occur. Do they train as hard at growing their own food? Doesn’t seem so. Admittedly, farm training isn’t anywhere as much fun as arms and tactical training. Still, warriors got to eat too.

        The cans of “Survival Garden” seeds are interesting. Seems like a marketing gimmick. It’s not too hard to imagine people (non-gardeners) seeing them as quasi-magical solutions-in-a-can. It’s like a non-gun guy saying “Not to worry, dear. If someone tries to break in, I’ve got that gun thing in that box down in the basement…” (he’s never opened the box)

        Good choice not to include rice for survival gardening. It is too fussy for most folks’ land. Maybe in Mississippi or Louisiana, but I’m not. My area can do corn, but it’s a bit too far north for wheat (though I try that too.) Rye does better.

        As for corn, it can be ‘needy’ as a monoculture. I’m trying to ‘master’ Three Sisters plantings. After all, it supported many Native American tribes for centuries. The beans provide the nutrients (nitrogen) that the corn needs. So far, my results are mixed, but encouraging.

    3. All of the old (born late 1800’s on) had gardens of 1/2 acre or more. Also, a small portion was allocated to lettuce, etc. They grew lots of root crops, ie – potatoes, onions, beets, carrots, turnips, etc. They ate the greens of several as well as roots. My dad always laughed at us for eating ‘rabbit food.’ Every root cellar had a potato bin that held several bushels.
      Winter pumpkins and squash were very important, too.

      1. Hi Hillbilly Girl,
        You’re right about gardens of old. They produced the majority of a family’s food, and there were usually chicken and a family cow or goat as well.

        One of the big differences between the old ways and SHTF is the presence of a general store. In SHTF, you’ve got to produce 100% of what you need, or trade with someone else.

        Another difference is the lack of law which SHTF will bring with it. Old farmers didn’t usually have to stay up all night guarding their cattle from poachers. This will be a new reality once SHTF hits, and will require groups at least 26 people large to have a reasonable security posture. That means the 1/2 acre garden that fed a single farming family will need to expanded many times over.

        Lots to consider. Your point about the root cellar is well taken, and deserves a post all of its own.

    4. I totally agree with your last comment about preppers focusing too much on combat and not enough on food. I think a good rule of thumb is to buy a year’s worth of food so you can spend those precious first few months on a very high security posture.

      But after year 1, most of the danger will have passed. It’s really all about food from that point on. Preppers need to start thinking about sustainability, not just surviving year 1.

  7. my uncle’s garden in Canada would have been large enough to supply all his family’s needs and indeed did, but the average UK garden is too small for this to be a reality.

    1. Hey Lonewolf,
      I would agree with you on the UK garden size. I think the same goes for the US too. Most family gardens in the states provide just a fraction of the food a family would need to survive.

      There are of course many large farms in the US, but they are generally monocrops, and require huge farm equipment to manage. They’ve also been using pesticides and herbicides for years. I think an organic crop without synthetic fertilizers would have a very hard time being grown on a convention farm plot.

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