How long would the food in your average supermarket support one person?

I’m sure you’ve thought of it before, if the door of the supermarket were locked and you were the only one left, how long you could last before you starved. Well, I have anyway. Obviously supermarkets vary in size so I’m looking more for a ballpark idea. If you were locked in a fully stocked Giant Eagle say how long before you would starve?

Obviously there’s the issue of perishability, presumably you’d start with the fresh stuff and work your way on down until you got to the cans. For the sake of this hypothetical assume that there are cooking facilities available.

It depends. Am I PMSing at the time that I get locked in?

I think you would run out of usable perishable stuff after at most a couple of weeks. Cheeses etc can last longer, of course. Is electricity still running? Cuz you can put a lot of stuff into the refrigerated section section and make it last longer that way. If not - with canned stuff I would estimate you would last at least a couple of years, maybe four. As for water - is running water still available? Because if not, stuff to drink would probably run out way before food does.

Most supermarket DO have microwaves somewhere and more importantly, things like bakers ovens, and rotisserie racks and such in the deli areas.

Also most of them sell things like canning jars. If you were smart, you could cook and can, or dehydrate, a LOT of food. Likely a years worth or four as long as you had water and electricity.

I worked in a small supermarket when I was young. What was on the shelves was only a small percent of what was stored in the basement. But let’s imagine we can only have the stuff on the floor.

Our Ensure display held 5 cases of Vanilla Ensure. Each case of Ensure held 24 cans. Each can of Vanilla Ensure was 250 cals. 8 cans a day will get you 2000 cals. That’s 15 days of cals from the Vanilla Ensure (8 oz can). If I remember correctly we had dark chocolate, milk chocolate, plain, strawberry and, I think, coffee.

We’ve got a total of 75 days in the 8oz cans of Ensure. These can be left towards the very end. What have we got besides?

P.S. All math was done by me. This means there is probably a mistake somewhere.

For the sake of the hypothetical assume water is still running.

I’d imagine that even a pitiful supermarket has at least $200,000 of food inventory. If we assume you are being careful about your consumption and can get by on $10/day (which actually seems generous), that would be five and a half years. (Should probably subtract 15% due to fresh food spoiling before you can eat it.)

But it’s probably more. Heck, the cereal aisle alone probably has 1000 boxes in it. At half a box a day, that’s five+ years right there.

Another way to look at it:

Let’s say a normal day at a supermarket has at least several hundred people shopping for an average of three people each, for a week. Call it 400 * 3 * 7 = 8400 people-days of food. And even without the normal restocking, those shoppers wouldn’t come close to cleaning the place out.

OK, but is there a can opener?

I think you could easily support one person for their natural life. Take flour for example. One 5 pound bag of flour is about 10,000 calories, or enough food for 5 days. A typical store is going to have 50-100 in immediate stock. So that’s a year on flour alone. Do that for all the staples like rice, beans, pasta, and sugar, and you should easily reach 15-20 years of food life.

Then we can move on to more processed things like instant oatmeal, pancake mix, cake mix, pop corn, and things along those lines. There’s probably 100 boxes each of those. That should be another 10 years worth of calories.

Moving on to processed food, there are boxes of cereal, snacks, premade cookies, cakes, chips, and a couple aisles worth of food. Two bags of pretzels is a days worth of calories. These foods probably won’t ever go bad, though they probably won’t taste very good after a decade. This section, again, probably has enough calories for 15 years.

The frozen section will last a while, and has a ton of calories in it. Think about it. It’s densely packed, and a good 50 times larger than your fridge/freezer at home. Spoilage is an issue here, but I’d say you could manage 3-5 years on this section.

So that’s 45 years worth of stuff. I haven’t even considered things like cheese, canned soup, candy, booze, soda, or high calorie food precursors like crisco or vegetable oil.

IMHO the amount of food isn’t a problem. It’s getting it to last, which becomes a crap shoot after a decade or so.

Hmmm…the supermarket I go to has probably around 5000 or more kg of rice in stock at any given time, at 100grams a day that’s already 50,000 days, then for instant noodles, I would estimate easily another 10,000 packets, at two a day that’s another 5000 days.

If the freezers keep running - I would say that (perishability aside) one person wouldn’t be able to finish all the food in a supermarket in their lifetime.

Most of those items have a shelf life of a year or so, at the most. Now, “shelf life” typically means that it’s the period of time in which the manufacturer has determined that the product won’t go bad or stale, given normal storage conditions. Could it last longer? Probably. Will it magically become toxic the day after the shelf date? Almost assuredly not. However, beyond “not tasting very good”, after a few years, you probably will start to see decomposition starting in a lot of those, as well as vermin possibly getting into them. The packaging on many of those isn’t completely airproof, and the adhesives on the packaging may also start to fail as the years go by.

I’m also reminded of a story about a Star Wars memorabilia collector, who was given an unopened package of Boo-Berry cereal, which contained some sort of Star Wars premium – the cereal would have been from the late 1970s; I heard this story in the late 1990s, so the box was probably 15-20 years old when he opened it. He reported that the entire contents of the bag of cereal (inside the box) had reduced to a pile of blue goo, filling only the bottom 1/3 of the bag. :stuck_out_tongue:

In short, I wouldn’t count on anything other than the canned goods and frozen foods being particularly edible after a couple of years.

There are in my local supermarket (as well as all other sorts of kitchen tools and utensils).

I think beans and rice can be counted on to do better than Boo-Berry cereal.

Bear in mind that the goal is to stave off starvation - standards for freshness and use-by dates can be relaxed a bit.

IIRC cereal used to be stored in wax paper type bags. New plastic ones should keep it fresher.

Yes, in the cooking tools section. It’s usually close to the cleaning aisles.

Some of the supermarkets I know (and they’re super-, not hyper-) also have some bedding available; no furniture, but sleeping on a pile of comforters has to be better than doing so on the floor.

I don’t disagree with either of your statements, but treis was hypothesizing that the packaged goods (including cereal) could be counted on to stay in an edible / nutritious state for decades. The packaging in which those foods are marketed simply isn’t designed for long-term storage…I know that the rice my wife buys (Riceland) comes in a cardboard box, with the ends hot-glued shut. Dry beans tend to be packaged in thin plastic bags. Without extraordinary means to keep them from decaying (or being consumed by vermin), I think that it’s a crapshoot that even beans and rice are likely to keep for decades.

Eat the fresh stuff first, followed by refrigerator and freezer food, and save packaged and canned goods for last. You could live till you died of something other than hunger or thirst.

So basically the supermarket holds enough to feed one person until it spoils. In fact I think the average supermarket could do the same for up to 5 people based on the numbers we’re seeing here. Some of the “super” stores could probably manage 20 or more.

Vermin might be a problem, but we are positing an individual in the supermarket actively attempting to preserve food and keep vermin out, not a free for all, right ? In that case, how long could the stuff last if say, the individual double and triple wraps things like rice and beans as he eats other containers, moves items that are vulnerable to the best sealed storage (say, inside freezers and fridges, even if they are no longer working) and saves the canned food for last ? I suspect the answer to that is past one mans lifetime, although I suspect you’d be down to only canned food at the end, due to spoilage, not because you ate it all.