What to Eat When Food Runs Out

March 10, 2015 by | Be the first to comment »

No matter how thoroughly you prepare, there is always a possibility of running out of supplies, and when you run short on food, things can go south pretty damn quickly. It probably won’t happen bugging in at home, but what happens when your car breaks down on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere and you can’t call for help?

Food provides calories, giving you energy to get your ass out of a bad situation, but it also gives you comfort. That’s critical to keep your mind in the right place so you can stay positive, think clearly, and make good decisions. Without the energy to keep a level head, you’re more likely to make the wrong choice, rush, or panic, leading to death.

You can survive for about 21 days without food, but you can survive for a lot longer if you can find something to eat along the way that provides at least some of the nutrients your body needs to produce energy and rebuild. Ideally, you should seek protein, fats, and carbohydrates, but our bodies are amazingly capable of adapting to varying food sources. When carbohydrates are unavailable, your liver will produce them from protein through a process called gluconeogenesis, and energy is also produces from fat through a process ketosis. Be sure to get plenty of water even when you aren’t getting enough food because it will help your body cope with the added stress of malnourishment.

Here are six things you can eat to get some nutrients when food runs out.


At 9 calories per gram, oils offer a dense source of energy. A tablespoon of oil is about 125 calories, so it’s pretty easy to hit your caloric needs for the day. It’s important to remember that you won’t get any nutrients other than fat though, so try to find a source of electrolytes and vitamins.

Food scraps

You can eat scraps that you would normally throw away under better circumstances, such as orange peels or melon rinds. They won’t have much nutritional value, but are loaded with fiber, and when combined with oils, can get your through tough times. You should avoid meat scraps though, because spoiled meat can lead to food poisoning which can be deadly in a survival situation.


This one certainly doesn’t rank high on my list, but in a pinch, crickets, worms, caterpillars, cockroaches, grubs and other insects can be a valuable source of fats and protein. They are also plentiful and pretty easy to find.

Tree bark

Strip the tender inner layer, called cambium, then boil it or grind it into a powder to make a thick soup.


I have never tried eating leather, so I can only imagine that it must taste horrible, but I’ll do what it takes to survive. You’ll want to avoid dyed or treated leather, and if possible, boil it in water to soften it. You can also shred it into chips and roast it.


Dig deep below the surface to avoid pesticides and fertilizer. Ideally, you should bake or boil it for 30 minutes to kill any bacteria. You won’t get many calories, but it’s filling and an excellent source of minerals.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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