Survival Food Series: What To Eat When There Is No Food

What will you do if your family is starving and there is no food to be found? This fear is always in the back of our minds, and the answer lies in nature. Nature has all that is needed to survive. Even if wild game, berries, and plants cannot be found, there are still edible choices to be found.

Tree Bark

There are many choices of tree bark that can be eaten. In fact, the Native Americans used certain tree barks as dietary supplements. Some of the most popular edible choices would be aspen, birch, willow, maple, and pine trees which are very common in cities and forests alike. In an article found on the subject, “the Eastern White Pine tree  is high in vitamin C.  Consuming pine needles or brewing pine needle tea is a great preventative and cure for scurvy caused by lack of vitamin C in the diet.”  Subsequently, gathering pine cones and roasting them over the fire, will draw out the seeds inside the cones which can be eaten. These are very tasty and again rich in Vitamins and nutrients. You can also use the cooked seeds to grind into meal for flours.

In an article from,  other parts of the tree offer nutrition as well.  The oak trees fruit (the acorn), has been used by American Indians for soup and pudding.  The nutmeat inside should taste slightly bitter or even sweet. If the taste is unpleasantly bitter you can remove the taste by roasting. If it is so bitter you can’t stand it, you will have to leach out the tannic acid by soaking them in fresh water overnight. Also, the oak leaves (if pests are not on it) are edible raw.  The article also discusses that the maple trees will provide year around food guaranteed.  The seeds are edible raw or roasted and can be pounded into flour.  The sap can be obtained in early spring by drilling a hole in the tree.  This thin sweet sap is filled with nutrients and is moisture giving.

For the choicest strips of bark, be sure to go for the nutritious, tender inner layer known as the cambium. (Eating the outer bark would be no more pleasant than chomping into your bookshelf.) If some resin or gum oozes out as you pry off the main course, be sure to lap it up for quick energy.

Cooking Methods:

• Raw. Shred finely and chew thoroughly.
• Slice it into strips and boil it to make a rustic pasta. Top with sap, dandelion greens, or insect parts (see entry #2).  Alternatively, you can add the noodles to a stew.
• Dry and grind into flour. The ground bark is pretty versatile and can be mixed with water into a breakfast gruel, baked into bread, added to soup for extra body, or even guzzled straight like Pixy Stix.

Source –


Our earliest ancestors dined on insects. And, for some countries, it is considered a delicacy.  There are suggestions that our earliest ancestor’s diet were mainly from eating insects.  The reason why humans evolved and survived was because of their limitless diet and willingness to eat anything. And as unappealing as the thought of eating insects are, they are a huge source of protein and a great food for survival.

According to the Special Forces Survival Guide:

  • Attract insects at night with a light.
  • Find crawling insects under stones.
  • Termites, locusts and the larvae of ants make good eating. Brush them from their undersides of stones and place them into a container of water. The larvae will float to the top.

In an article from mental floss, it was suggested:

  • Avoid brightly colored bugs which have a tendency to be poisonous.
  • Always remove any shells, wings or other textural offenses.
  • Cook the insects before eating, to kill off parasites.

Here are a few of the more traditional cooking methods:

Crickets and grasshoppers: First, pluck off the barbed legs, because they can chafe your digestive tract. Then, roast the body for a snack that’s both crunchy and nutritious.
Ants: Boil for 6 minutes to neutralize the formic acid of the stingers. After that, inhale them by the handful.
Caterpillars: They can give you a mouthful of tiny hairs, like licking a kiwi, so bite off the heads and then squeeze the insides into a pot. Boil and serve warm.
Worms: The dirt from the insides must be removed before they can be eaten. This can be done by starving them for one day, or squeezing out the dirt by hand.

Source –

It is advised to stear clear of centipedes, scorpions and caterpillars.


Chewing on grass is a great way to get some added nutrients into a starving body. Do not eat the grass. Just chew on it to get the juices out and spit it out.

Related Articles:

Survival Food Series: 25 Survival Seeds You Need For Your Garden

For Most People, Eating Bugs Is Only Natural

Edible and Medicinal Plants

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published November 29th, 2009
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  • Surely you do not mean to advise people to inhale ants!

  • Chris,

    As unappealing as it sounds, in a survival situation, those ants may mean the difference between life and death.  Boil the ants first to remove the poisons. 

    In Les Stoud’s book: Survive! Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere — Alive, he discusses how he almost exclusively lived off of scorpions the entire time (he pulled the stinger off of course) he was in the desert.  The point is, in a life or death situation we must get rid of our plate frights and do what is needed to keep us healthy enough to find other means of food.

    Chris if you are interested, here is some nutritional data on some different edible insects.  Unfortunately, ants were not mentioned in this post, but the protein amounts in the mentioned insects is off the charts!

    • theophilus

      I think he meant that ‘inhaling’ may be the wrong word, as it implies you are sucking them into your lungs.
      The rest of us knew what you meant.

  • Just wanted to say thanks for this

  • As far as Les Stoud is concerned, the general concencus (here in Northern Canada at least) is that he is pretty much useless when it comes to survival aside from his comic value.

    The guy cannot even catch a fish. He makes survival look grudgingly painful as he feeds on insects surrounded by a landscape that everyone knows provides plenty of small game, fish, even larger game… Instead of showing people how to make deadfalls, or how to track game, and survive he feeds on bugs, his survival advice would leave the average joe dead in a week. Most times Les cant wait to get out of the bush after a few days, what sort of message does that send to would be survivors who may not have that option?

    Bear Grilles is far superior ;D

  • James,

    First things first, I am not even going to get into a Bear Grilles vs. Les Stroud.  WWIII would break out!  🙂  Both guys do a pretty good job of shedding some much needed light on survival skills.  And even though Les Stroud prefers bugs over wild game, he’s showing the audience that food is available — even if it has 6 legs. 

  • Mike Litoris

    If it REALLY came down to eating warmed-up caterpiller innards in order to survive: I’d say GIVE ME DEATH instead.


    Thanks I am having ants for dinner over a fire (Really I am!!!):)

  • I can’t say

    Thanks, this really helped on my report/debate.

  • Harry Wellington

    Thank you!!! i realized i love eating worms every day! It saves money too!

  • protn7

    is this a joke? in the uSA we get food stamps.

    • Peterjohnjoseph

      Yeah.. I’m pretty sure if the situations arose that would put you in a position where eating bugs or tree bark would be your only means of surviving, your food stamps would be as worthless as paper stamps.

  • Paul Denet

    Or you can also eat people.

  • uy89y8

    Ants (little black and fire ones, no clue to the big fancy/fuzzys) taste like a little drop of lemon. They aren’t bad.

    Bark is hardly worth the effort. The inner most layer near the wood of the tree is best. I wouldn’t eat bark or grasses but you can dip/chew them to get some nutrition.

    You are likely going to be boiling/soaking any acorns,bark,leaves from trees. x10 if it’s anything oak. However it’s plentiful, so worth looking into.

    Moths and “things you will attract with light” will taste like death powder If you are going to eat them, maybe the main body but no way the wings. Even cats pucker in from play eating a moth and they eat raw mouse ass.

    Dandelions,cloves,etc are all great should you be so lucky. However with wild plants you need to know your shit. If it’s not as obvious as a dandelion to you, you are playing with fire. It’s a lifetime of information to need and you won’t always know. So many deadly look alikes and they all give seem to give very bad deaths. I’d know how to prepare a makeshift activated charcoal because anything other than expertise/ a godly gift of natural obviousness can be fatal otherwise. Even if you did survive, in a weakened state no less reducing odds, the fight would sap you of vital resources as would the cure.

    Mushrooms are a million times more complicated than plants. It’s the phd level of what’s that nature shit. You must know your shit. Hopefullly your mistake has you getting high on cubes (vastly improved mental senses at lower doses, crazy energy +but a little crazy- a likely major resource burner overclocking the brain/eyes/senses) and not vomiting out your intestines.

    Bugs are fine. Snakes…don’t slice into the venom sack or the whole meal is fucked, so waste some meat by cuttinga few inches down from “neck” Plants are fine if you know what’s what. Shrooms are fine if your a devotee, math wise the lay man is fucked picking them.

    Most moss/lichen seems edible. It’s a great dressing for wounds, or if water purity is a concern and no fire, water near it is pretty safe. Dry it out and it’s akin to dryer lint as tinder.

    Preferably, assuming you’ve no weapons to speak of for easy hunting (you could try to spear a deer, but we aren’t all in touch with our old rambo roots now are we ) , make some traps for small game and fish. Meat wins over guesswork with plants as unless you are playing the vulture for week old corpse, it’s a safe abundant food source.

    If you ever want to just die, get greedy and see how much meat a bear has. Go pick a fist fight. If you win, you should have a random rabbit upload the vid on youtube and be rewarded with your own orchards and harem.

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