A question popped up on our Facebook page of how a real food-oriented (or Paleo) person might survive in the context of an apocalyptic Zombie Invasion. Upon giving it some thought, we realized this was an important question to address. All that fresh food in our household won’t last us long, and we aren’t about to abandon our health (and our ideals) in favor of the closest bag of Doritos, right?
As a result, we believe we owe it to our readers to share our plan for survival when the undead come calling. Here’s hoping we never need it.
Survival in a Zombie Apocalypse Starts With Food
The late Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “An army marches on its stomach,” and we agree. The key to survival in a Zombie Invasion is proper nutrition. You need to be able to count on your body for consistent energy, clear thinking, and stable moods— all things that come from fueling yourself with Good Food. (If you haven’t read our new book, It Starts With Food, yet, your first preparative task is to do so immediately.)
Don’t Eat This
Some, in an apocalyptic situation such as this, might resort to cannibalism. However, it’s safe to assume that cannibalism just isn’t an option here. The most abundant source of food—the undead—are decidedly off limits if you want to avoid joining their ranks.
Also off limits for Good Food enthusiasts are the perpetually “fresh” offerings one might find on the shelves of a convenience store. A Twinkie, can of Rock Star, or Oreo snack-pack might be awfully tempting when you’re on the run from the groaning hordes, but can you really afford to make that many bathroom stops along the way? Plus, the blood sugar and hormonal dysfunction that comes along with all of that junk food will leave you feeling tired, sluggish, cranky, and foggy—and you can’t afford to be anything but alert and ready for action.
Some folks will advise you to stock up on grains, beans, flours, and various food-like-products-in-cans, but we don’t think it’s necessary to go to those lengths to survive. (And the hit to your immune system from eating all those grains and legumes means you’ll be less likely to fight off the minor chomping you received from your neighbor’s undead-but-still-surly teenager.) Yes, with proper planning and preparation, we are confident you can make it through the Zombie Apocalypse without having to rely on foods that make you less healthy.
Eat This Instead
Experts recommend that you have between 1,500- 2,000 calories worth of food per day available for each adult in the household. This might seem a little inadequate for those on the larger side of the spectrum, but in this situation a little calorie restriction (without malnutrition) might not be a terrible idea. (Shoot, it may even be beneficial.)
Create your basic Zombie Survival Stockpile with the following items:
Duh. As much as you can get your hands on.
Fat is a dense source of calories and should play a big role in your survival food stores. It can be especially helpful to children, the elderly, or injured members of your party who may not be able to consume enough food volume to supply them with adequate energy.
- Animal fats: Fresh fats like lard, tallow, or duck fat can be a valuable asset, but need to be kept refrigerated or frozen until needed. Once thawed, their shelf life is only around three months, so eat these up first, because your electricity won’t be around forever.
- Butters: Salted butter and ghee will store for six months to two years if unopened and kept cool. (Don’t worry about clarifying your butter, as only the most dedicated would attempt a Whole30 during the Zombie Apocalypse.) Eat these first, before the power goes.
- Oils: If stored properly, oils (like coconut) will keep for up to two years before beginning to oxidize. Buy fats in opaque containers and store in dark places to keep out light and heat. Keep them cooler than room temperature (about 70 F), or refrigerate them, if your power is still on.
- Coconut milk: Coconut milk is not only a good fat source, but it is also rich in magnesium—which can help with muscle cramping and soreness after a day of running from reanimated corpses. When stored at room temperature, an unopened can of coconut milk has a shelf life of three years.
- Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are a good way to get vital fats and nutrients in a convenient, easy-to-carry package. (And worrying about your 6:3 ratio is kind of silly when you’ve got the undead at your door.) Find a cache unshelled—in their natural state, they can be stored in a cool, dry place for six months.
- Meat: We know you’ve got lots of healthy meat in your freezer—and hopefully, you’ve thought ahead and stocked up on propane or charcoal for your grill. Eat this stuff first, as (we hate to beat a dead horse) your power could go out at any minute.
- Organ meats: Zombies don’t groan “graaaaaiiiinnnsss,” they groan “braaaaaiiiinnnsss”—and for good reason. The brain is the most nutrient-dense organ in the body of living creatures. While we would not suggest that you snack on the brains of other humans (or zombies), consider freezing some cow or lamb organ meats for extra nutrition early on in your ordeal.
- Canned proteins: Tuna, salmon, and chicken have shelf lives of over five years. While we’d advise you to look for brands without a bunch of added ingredients, the small amount of soy that can be found in most brands shouldn’t pose as much of a health risk as the hungry undead running around outside.
- Dried meats: Beef jerky can have a shelf life of up to two years. Jerky-based meal kits, such as 100% grass-fed, organic, vacuum-sealed Primal Pacs, are the perfect option for your stockroom.
- Protein powders: These processed proteins are another good source of emergency fuel. They have a shelf life of at least a year (often more, if you keep the containers closed tightly and in a cool, dark place), and can be easily mixed with water, juice, canned veggies, or baby food. If you know you tolerate dairy well (good thing you did a Whole30, right?) pick up some SFH grass-fed whey protein, or stick with egg white protein from NOW Foods.
- Dried vegetables: These can be eaten dry or added to cooked meals to rehydrate. Opt for nutrient dense veggies – sweet potatoes, butternut squash, beets – to maximize the benefit you’ll get from a small amount of food. Properly sealed dried veggies should keep for eight to ten years.
- Dried fruit: Nature’s candy can be a ray of sunshine on an especially dark day. The thought of a “treat” (and all that concentrated energy) may give you a psychological boost, and dried fruits are easy to store and take with you on the road. Don’t worry about feeding your Sugar Dragon here – you’ve got bigger battles to fight. Most dried fruits will keep for about five years.
- Baby food: Get your veggies without having to cook or heat. Most baby foods will keep unopened for a year. Stock up on veggies and fruits, but watch out for added cereals. (In terms of scariness: gluten > zombies.)
- Canned vegetables: Another good source of vital nutrients (and carbs). High-acid canned foods such as tomatoes can be stored on the shelf for a year or two if cans are kept in cool, dry, clean places. Low-acid canned foods can be stored on the shelf for two to five years.
Just Because the Zombies are Coming…
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what you’re going to eat when the undead come calling, but if you’ve read up on our 9 Factors then you know that your health depends on more than just nutrition. Good Food alone won’t carry you through the invasion, so here are some ideas on how to keep yourself holistically healthy and improve your chances of survival.
Sleep is essential for everything from hormone regulation to injury rehabilitation. While it might be tempting to fight the urge to rest, sleeping a bit now is far preferable to catching the permanent sleep of the undead if you’re too tired to evade or destroy.
Now’s not the time to dive face-first into that case of whiskey you found in your neighbor’s basement. Just staying alive in the face of a Zombie Invasion is going to take significant awareness, effort, and alertness on your part, so plan your indulgences intelligently.
Running from, avoiding, and fighting zombies in an all-out effort to save your life and your loved ones just about covers it as far as exercise goes. If you find yourself needing extra exercise, either (a) you’re a CrossFitter— the only group crazy enough to plan a WOD during a Zombie invasion, or (b) you probably haven’t been pulling your weight, and you’re likely going to be the first one the group sacrifices to the zombie hordes.
Running for your life, fighting for survival, and potentially beheading gangs of the living-impaired can be kind of overwhelming, so practice positive thinking. When you’re in the middle of a Zombie Apocalypse, it can be really tempting to dwell on the negative. Sure, you’re besieged by the undead on all sides, you probably had to decapitate a neighbor for the sake of your own survival, and you’re running short on booze. But there has to be a bright side, right?
You can consider the day-to-day functions of survival – finding food, moving from place to place, etc. – your active recovery. You’re welcome.
In a ZA situation, you’re going to have to learn how to take care of the injured and ill yourself. Check out this PDF on wilderness first aid for basic procedures for dealing with injuries in a survival situation, and this page on natural remedies from the Zombie Preparedness Initiative.
Look at the Zombie Invasion situation as an opportunity to better yourself as a person. For example, if you’d like to practice generosity, look for ways to be generous with your fellow survivors. Perhaps you share some of your raisins, give up an extra pair of socks, or refrain from using the laziest member of the group as a human shield.
Fun and Play
Find ways to turn your daily activities into games, and engage in some healthy competition with your fellow survivors. Challenge yourself to improve your axe-throwing accuracy, see how long you can make that cup of dried egg whites last, or behead one more zombie tomorrow than you did today.
For more information on Zombie Theory and how you can best survive the Zombie Apocalypse, check out these resources:
- Are you really prepared? Take this Zombie Survival Test.*
- Origins: Influenza + Rabies or Mad Cow Disease
- The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks
- Zombie proof house
Do you have additional zombie survival tips for Paleo people? Share them in comments.
*Whole9’s results? We have only a 50% likelihood of surviving the Zombie Apocalypse. Our lack of experience with automatic firearms and Resident Evil 4 probably hurt us.
Subscribe to the Whole9 Newsletter
Fill out the form below to stay updated about Whole9 articles, discounts and events.
Graham Lutz says
I could handle everything about the zombie apocalypse until I have to start eating baby food.
Loved this. The CDC actually has a section of the website dedicated to surviving a zombie apocalypse.
What if you are turned into a zombie but want to stay paleo? How do you identify sufficiently healthy humans with a proper 6/3 ratio? The last thing I’d want to do is eat a person who’s been living for years on cheez whizz and Oreos.
I’m glad to learn more about how to have healthy food available during emergencies, but I was a bit sorry about the tone that you took in your article. There are so many good reasons for keeping some food stored – prolonged electrical outages (like we’ve had in my area last week), severe weather of all sorts, earthquakes, and even job losses from layoffs or disability. Even if we do everything we can to become and remain healthy, we are all at risk of injury or illness that can keep us from working for weeks, months, or longer.
One of my favorite reasons for stocking up on storable food right now is inflation. The price of food has been going up MUCH faster than my income for quite a while now. Money kept in a bank earns far less than inflation, so stocking up on food than I eat regularly is a better investment than money in a bank, and is a lot less risky than the stock market.
I also grow most of the vegetables and some of the fruit that I eat. There are some great varieties that store easily for long periods of time. I have garlic and onions that will last on my kitchen counter or in a cool room in my house from when I harvest them in summer until the following spring. I’m still eating fresh sweet potatoes and butternut squash that I harvested last October.
It is also pretty easy to harvest up to 20 different kinds of fresh greens and root crops from your small garden all winter, too, even if you live in a cold climate with temps down to -10 or – 20 F. I use simple unheated cold frames that cost less than $50 to protect plants in 4′ x 4′ raised garden beds. Cold hardy vegetables tolerate repeated freezing and thawing, and even become deliciously sweet during winter (plants create their own antifreeze with natural sugars).
Robin S. says
Khaled – Good call! We should have thought about that question. Although, I’m guessing the glazed over look and substantial spare tire would give you a bit of a clue. Just keep an eye out for anyone who looks like Mark Sisson and you’re probably good.
Debra – Our true purpose with this article was to let people know that they can and should store up Good Food in case of a disaster or other circumstance (all Zombies aside). We want folks to understand that they don’t have to go back to oats, beans and rice for survival.
I hear people comment on them now and again, but am I missing something?
Hey–just wanted to say–I finished my first Whole 30 yesterday!!! I did it! And I am thrilled. I posted about it a few minutes ago.
The milk in my coffee was disappointing this morning. But I skimmed the cream off the top of the new jar of milk and look forward to cranking out some ice cream for dessert tonight!
We’ve been slowly stocking up on these types of things. We dehyrate any extra veggies ourselves. We only stock things we will actually eat NOW and rotate them. For example, we don’t stock any protein powder because we don’t eat it. ever. We don’t stock any canned veggies because they’re gross and they will still be there 10 years from now if the zombies don’t come by then. We do buy veggies in glass jars like tomatoes and roasted red peppers. We also stock seeds for sprouting because they keep for a while and we actually eat them during the winter. Sprouts seem like a good “green” produce to have if the zombies come especially during winter.
Mostly we do this because buying in bulk saves us money and time.
Thanks for the morning LOL! You have great points and reminders.
Zombie Apocalypse or potential major earthquake, we actually have an emergency kit in our (walled) backyard. It has a LOT of canned fish, and some good sized bags of nuts. Some fake-food emergency rations, for a worst case scenario. A first aid kid and doubles of our medications. A 55 gallon drum of water and water purification tablets. A few children’s books and games.
And COFFEE!!! Really, people, you don’t want to be facing the undead while undercaffeinated. Caffeine holiday or no… this is one time you want to be prepared!
Possibly the best analogy in the history of analogies, “In terms of scariness: gluten > zombies”
Robin S. says
JJ -Coffee! Of course!
Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan - Whole9 EE says
OMG! I love this so much! It’s the perfect food-oriented companion to our Zombie Attach Preparedness (ZAP) Workout. You’re right: no one should be thinking about training DURING or AFTER the zombie apocalypse, but I sure want to train hard for it now! :-)
Zombie Attack Preparedness Workout
Don’t forget the option of pressure canning. You can do bone broth, stews, and veggies (pickled or otherwise), and fruits and store them in a cool, dark place for a long time. I think in the winter when my electricity has gone out and I’m hiding out from zombies, some bone broth on my propane stove would sound really good!
This is perfect. Preparing for hurricane season will allow me to use these strategies in case I end up without power again for 2 weeks (like we did during Hurricane Ike)! Thanks for the info.
Melissa Hartwig says
@Graham: For me, it would be jerky. I loooove Primal Pacs and Gourmet Grassfed, but a girl can only eat so much jerky without getting sick of the flavor. Baby food is cake! (In fact, we eat that now on a regular basis.)
@Khaled: That’s a tough one. The humans who are easy to catch are probably sedentary, eating a crappy SAD diet, and therefore quite unhealthy. And the fit, buff, healthy ones are probably going to be too fast and too strong to catch. Let me know if you figure this puzzle out…
@Debra: It goes without saying that these are tips that we can all apply to “real life” situations, like blizzards, ice storms, hurricanes, and other natural disasters. But writing and article about the Zombie Apocalypse was so darn fun, we could not resist!
@HannahLee: Glad you enjoyed!
@JJ: Holy crap, how could we have forgotten coffee? (Answer: because Melissa has been decaffeinated for almost 2 years now.) If our storage shed did not include coffee, we’d be in trouble for sure – at least, until Dallas came out of the withdrawal stage. Good idea to stock those things up in the case of natural disaster – it’s just good common sense.
@Kimberly: I assure you, we don’t know anything you don’t know on this one… but planning and preparation are the name of ANY healthy living game, even in extreme circumstances. (And you know how we like to have fun around here…) Congrats on your Whole30 success!
@Jen: Great strategies for situations that are far more likely to occur in our lifetime than a Zombie Invasion. Glass-jarred veggies is a great addition – we do the same, with tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, etc. Thanks for the addition.
@Ted: We liked that one too.
@Melissa: How did we forget to link to that one!?! I loved that article of yours – thanks for sharing. There is no such ting as over-prepared when it comes to the ZA.
@Amie: Fabulous recommendation! Bone broth in the middle of a ZA would be delightful. Thanks for sharing!
@Veronica: This idea was actually born about a year ago, when we heard from some folks doing the Whole30 on the east coast in the middle of that awful ice storm, when everyone’s power was out for days and days. Glad you found our fun-but-seriously-trying-to-be-helpful article useful.
I guess my sense of humor is misplaced somewhere on day 9 of my first Whole 30. Hope is shows up again sometime soon! I actually really appreciated this article (and I printed it out), as I was wondering just last week how I should change over my current food storage to be more in line with a Paleo type diet. Thanks a lot for providing this information!
Fantastic article – this subject has been on my mind lately as well, so the timing is fantastic. A couple of additions I’d throw into the mix:
Zombieland: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1156398/ : excellent video tutorial on surviving the apocalypse. Hilarious, too.
Zombie Prep Guide (here’s a link to part two, which has a link to part one in the first paragraph: http://talktomejohnnie.com/adventure/zombie-preparation-part-ii ), ala John Welbourn. It’ll help you round out the other aspects of the survival game in style.
In all seriousness, though, I really do appreciate this post and the wisdom in it. I’ll be referring to this post for a long time to come.
Oh – I got a 74% on the quiz! Woo hoo!
Great article that covers a very important topic for those of us that live on eating fresh food, most of which requires refrigeration. We try to keep some food storage that we rotate on a regular basis for emergency situations. Since going Paleo I’ve had to think of different items than those typically recommended to store so the ideas presented here are excellent. The past few years, I’ve started pressure canning the excess vegetables from the garden along with chicken or other meat and fruit when I can find a good deal on it. It’s great to have homemade salsa or summer squash to add to dishes come mid-winter! The canned chicken makes for a quick meal and you can control what is added. Thanks for the useful information!
I just finished watching the Walking Dead marathon. With this article now in my sweaty little hands – I’m so ready. Bring it, zombehs!
Good idea on the canned tuna. I eat that a lot even now, it’s cheap and a good source of protein. Trader Joe’s has one that’s all natural and lowest in mercury, it’s the green label tuna.
gluten > zombies
This needs to be a t shirt…
^yes to the t-shirt!
Love it! Hysterical, and still true. I agree that many people WOULD use a natural disaster to be an excuse to eat crap–but if it’s long-term, like an apocalypse, wouldn’t you rather be keto-adapted and use this as a good reason to return to “the basics” of hunting and gathering, at least, once the worst of the danger has passed and no new food is being produced? I’d be heading north and hunting. Nothing slows down the zombies like -20 weather! But I’d totally be venturing into towns to stock up on all the things you listed–some good choices! I would have overlooked the babyfood and that is a good source–even canned meat varieties!!
…and laugh if you will, we tease our teens all the time about the upcoming zombie apocalypse as a way to remind them to take care of themselves (you’ll be zombie food, I only have to run faster than YOU), and as a side-effect, they are now aware of our actual disaster awareness plan (like return to the house in the event of a hurricane, etc; wherever we are, we will come to find them there FIRST and if the disaster looks big, fill all sinks, tubs, etc with water while the plumbing still works–we all had that power outage that lasted a whole week not too many years ago)
Hello! My name is Bill and I’m with Sandpiper of California. We are the #1 military bag/pack manufacturer. I’m contacting you because we have just launched our new ZOMBIE EDITION BUGOUT BAG! These are the same bags our military uses, just now geared for the Zombie Apocalypse! It looks like this might be something you guys would be interested in. You can view the packs at the link below.
These bags are American made and have a lifetime warranty. They can be viewed at the link below. Thank you and keep up the good work!
Loved this as a Zombie fanatic and a healthy eating learner! Something I thought should be added to this list is homemade boullion cubes – broth and gelatin in a dehydrated hard cube that you can make yourself ~ just add water… Thought you would love it after reading this post, so I posted the link below. Nice work :)