Clay on Survival Foods for COVID-19 Crisis (How to Avoid Eating Your Pets)

Things are changing rapidly as the COVID-19 epidemic sweeps the nation, and all signs point to the very real possibility of quarantines for all. Italy is already in lockdown, the state of Washington is talking about it openly, and it may be right for you whether mandatory or not.

For those of us that are, ahem, “the preparing types,” this one actually doesn’t look all that scary. If our previous worst-case scenario was hiding out in the damp/snowy woods, everything we own in a backpack, hunted day and night by enemies with superior technology and organization, this one is actually downright laughable. You mean, stay at home with all my years of preps, and likely the lights and power stay on? Be serious. That is a vacation, not an event!

Other episodes in this series:

And I get it. Two months ago, I would be right there with you. But as many of you know, I was recently subject to some personal tragedy, which has left me scrambling over the last three weeks to replace all my years of preps. Right now, and on a budget. It wasn’t easy, and some shortcuts had to be taken. Which has prompted me to write this week’s column about food and water procurement in the current state of panic.

If you a regular reader of GunsAmerica Digest, odds are pretty good that you had a stash of food and supplies well before the current crisis. And to be honest, this column probably isn’t for you. It may help with some last-minute needs, but odds are that our normal subscriber base is just as resourceful as I am in this arena. But this is definitely one you can pass on to your friends and family that were not paying attention, to help them on their way. I’m also betting that we have a whole new group of readers, out there looking for some answers from a trusted resource. Welcome!

Click on the pic to watch Paul’s video that walks you through a calorie-per-dollar approach to building quarantine food supply. It’s a must-watch, particularly if you want to avoid eating your pets in the future.

I’m not going to beat a dead horse on gathering food, especially not when we already have some excellent video segments from GunsAmerica Actual on calories per dollar (click on the above photo to watch Paul’s video on Youtube) and why normal food is better than whiz-bang ninja prepper 30-year-shelf-life specials. I strongly recommend you watch it, that is one I have shared with my own family and friends over the last couple of weeks. I am, however, going to add a few supplemental things I have learned from my own experiences.

For you guys that don’t know me, I am a prior service Reconnaissance Marine and Special Forces Soldier. Which in this case, means I have done more than my fair share of survival/ semi-starvation exercises. I don’t normally add that into the column, but it is relevant for today’s discussion.

To the calories per dollar point, meats and carbs tend to have a lot more than canned vegetables and fruits. If you look at the label on something like a can of green beans, you are going to notice that it has next to nothing for calories. Like 60 total in the can, which counts as 2-3 servings, and for usually 50 cents to a dollar per can. In a raw calorie match, ravioli or spam beat the pants off corn and peas. If you are short on money or shelf space, go with the higher calorie item, always. But don’t forget that veggies supply needed nutrients, as well as keep you regular. If you are going to end up without them, make sure you grab a bottle of fiber gummies and multivitamins.

Beans and rice are the dry food weapon of choice for most of us. And provided we still have access to potable water, an excellent choice. You can go a really long time on these two, as anyone that has ever been poor already knows. Speaking for myself and my stash of pinto beans, it also packs in some hidden advantages. Pinto beans not only have a gaggle of protein, generally the most expensive part of the meal but 15 grams of fiber, which helps offset the rice. But, two points to add if this is your long term survival plan.

Beans and rice are both very low in fats, which is something you MUST HAVE to properly absorb nutrients (a spoonful of high-fat peanut butter with each meal would go a long way to keeping the balance correct). This isn’t a concern for most of us, as in normal life we carry around enough fat to handle it. But in a long term situation, your body stores are going to run out. Which can lead to something called either protein poisoning or “rabbit starvation.

Rabbit starvation is a phenomenon of having plenty of meat, but actually starving to death because your diet lacks the fats to absorb it. In fact, the US Army Arctic survival manual recommends eating nothing at all, if only rabbit is available. For an easy visual, I am big fan of the TV show “Alone” on History Channel. It’s a survival contest where people go out by themselves and survive, last one standing wins.

Last season, an absolute maniac of a contestant managed to kill a moose, the first big game animal ever harvested on the show. It should have been game over at that point, he could outlast anyone. Right? Well, a problem arose. Scavengers managed to steal his separated fat store from the moose. So despite him eating multiple pounds of lean meat every day, he was still starving to death and losing weight compared to his counterparts eating nothing. It is worth watching, as we all now have some time on our hands.

Unorthodox solutions:

Your local grocery stores may or may not be wiped out at this point. It seems to be region dependent. Right now I could go buy a pallet of spam, but not a stitch of hand sanitizer or toilet paper. Food, in my opinion, should be much higher priority. What can you do if that is gone already? Here are a couple of out of the box solutions:

You can eat dog food. That sounds savage, and I am positive not FDA recommended. It actually isn’t that bad. Maybe I come from a strange place, but I’ve done it as an experiment. Dog food has a reasonable balance of nutrients, and for the most part stores cheap. Dry dog food is kinda like a bland cereal, chase it with plenty of water. A quick check reveals my dogs get about 327 calories per cup, which beats most canned foods. We have seen in recent years recalls of dog food made in china for contaminants, so buyer beware. But I’d still prefer this to plague rats if push comes to shove.

Restaurant supply stores. Just because the local grocery chains are out of food, doesn’t mean everyone is. Restaurant supply stores carry bulk items and are off the beaten path of most people. A 50-pound bag of dehydrated eggs and 10 gallons of cherry pie filling wouldn’t be my first choice of apocalypse food, but I wouldn’t turn it down either.

You aren’t going to like this one, and neither are the kids. But if the chips are truly down, you can also eat your pets. Or the neighbor’s pets. Dogs and cats as calories seem like an abomination here in the Western world, but it isn’t out of the question. Do I have your attention, now? Good. This isn’t a game. The stakes are high, and fluffy is a lot less valuable than you. It is the hard heart that kills, and for a lot of situations in the near future, a hard heart may very well be a valuable asset. I suggest you get used to that idea right now! (Or — stock up appropriately so you don’t have to resort to eating Fido and Mr. Mistoffelees).

I hope you all have a stash of goods assembled, and even better that this all blows over. I hope you can all laugh at this column in two weeks (especially at the notion of eating pets – LOL), over the local pizza buffet because COVID-19 burned itself out. But I’m not counting on it. As the situation unfolds, I will be doing more columns about surviving. In the meantime, I highly recommend you look at some of the past articles from GunsAmerica Actual. See you next week (If there is a “next week”).

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About the author: Clay Martin is a former Marine and Green Beret, retiring out of 3rd Special Forces Group. He is a multi-decade and -service sniper, as well as 3-Gun competitor and Master ranked shooter in USPSA Production. In addition to writing about guns, he is the author of “Last Son of The War God,” a novel about shooting people that deserve it. You can also follow him on twitter, @offthe_res or his website,

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  • Bobs your uncle March 14, 2020, 5:39 pm

    Corona? put on a hazmat suite, gloves and a mask and remove all bottles of Corona from your refrigerator, next place them in a container filled with ice, drive then to my home for proper disposal, place the container on my front lawn, step back and run for your life, you are now safe. I’ll take it from here.

  • Backwoods Okie March 14, 2020, 11:48 am

    Don’t forget a couple of medium live traps from the farm store. Possum and raccoon are excellent sources of fat and are just right for one meal.

  • Ricky B. March 14, 2020, 11:37 am

    I’ve always thought my neighbors cat, Snowball, looks kind of delicious. It’s kind of small though so I’m not sure how many calories that’s gonna provide.

  • Rotaman March 14, 2020, 2:13 am

    Hey Clay, so sorry for your personal set backs. We lost our house to a fire in 2005, so I know the struggle is real. I’m in a much better place today, and I’d like to contribute to your Go Fund Me event, but it appears to be closed. Is there any way I can contribute something to help your family out? God bless

  • Lance March 14, 2020, 2:05 am

    A 101 ways to “wok” your dog!

  • interventor March 13, 2020, 9:22 pm

    During the cold war, as emergency rations, dog food was recommended as a cheap alternative. Instructions suggested eating like cereal with powdered milk (reconstituted, of course) and take a vitamin D. Dogs get their vitamin D by licking their fur.

  • Paul March 13, 2020, 9:12 pm

    If you eat dry dog food you have to buy the right kind. The round pellets that have pin holes in them are OK. They are heated to high temperature and then exposed to air where they expand like puffed corn or rice. Any germs will be killed by the high heat and they will be safe to eat. The dog food that looks like worms or granola is not heated to high temperatures and thus is not safe to eat. Also make sure there is not fish or fish oil in the food. This is often added to make the dog’s fur shiny, but can go rancid and will make a human have bad diahrrea.

  • Rich March 13, 2020, 8:42 pm

    Good to see you back… 👍🏽

  • Old_Red March 13, 2020, 3:21 pm

    To be really well prepared you need to not change your eating habits very much. Cycling through your normal stores of rice, dried beans, pasta and making your own corn meal and flour form gain you store at home. When you see hard times coming fill the grain bins full early so you can have high value products to sell/barter when times get tough.

    Fishing will feed you a lot better than hunting will. It’s lot quieter and more productive to fish at night than it is to hunt. Verbatim search for: ((“bank lines” | “limb lines” | “trot lines”) AND “fishing”) -pinterest on Google or

    ((+(“bank lines”) | +(“limb lines”) | +(“trot lines”)) AND (+(“fishing”)) ON BINu

    Its a lot easier to survive if you already live in your “bug-out hole” and know and get along with your neighbors. If you just show up unannounced the best you a may be treated is robbed and turned away. Things may go down hill fast from there if the rule of law truly fails.

    Potential neighbors will see you a resources for them. If your a medical doctor, surgeon, medic, nurse, machinates, welder, laborer even a farm hand they have use for you. Your rich with lots of stuff and no skills unless you can continue to supply something you better find a way to be valuable to the group fast before on of your own kill you in your sleep to gain favor of some one in host group that has no use for those that can only carry someone else’s water and make no contribution of their own.

  • pete March 13, 2020, 12:13 pm

    LOL most people reading this article would probably benefit from going without food for a while! We’re not the healthiest/fitest demographic 🙂

  • Doug C. March 13, 2020, 11:56 am

    I have managed to catch canned salmon on sale for a reasonable price, which has lots of protein and fat and keeps well.

  • leon March 13, 2020, 11:39 am

    i will never eat my dog he is part of my family we got plenty of rabbits around here

    • Jim March 13, 2020, 1:04 pm

      Obviously didnt read the article or I’m missing the sarcasm.

  • Irish-7 March 13, 2020, 11:31 am

    Thanks for the info, Clay! I am still praying for your complete healing. Sorry, I acted too late to donate on the GoFundMe site. IF it reopens, please let us know with a note on GunsAmerica. I am sure you still have plenty of support out here! We did the “prepping” thing from 2011 to 2015 (first kid started college). I predicted that ammo MAY be a currency in a SHTF/WROL scenario.

  • Richard Joy March 13, 2020, 9:44 am

    Great article Clay.

  • US Otriad March 13, 2020, 4:22 am

    Prior Service here.
    Re: Dog Food

    Once upon a time in Never Never Land dry dog food was located after 3 days of bowls full of nada. A can of UNICEF mixed vegetables and a can of chicken broth was simultaneously acquired.
    A quick mix of the 3 items, a little heat and never a better meal has this Soldier of old ever had.
    As always, YMMV.

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