By Mike Pomranz
Updated February 22, 2016
© H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

When most of us head to the supermarket, we’re thinking about our grocery lists: Pop-Tarts, Cheez-Its, an 18-pack of Busch Light—the essentials. But Dr. Lewis Dartnell has something else on his mind: survival.

Dartnell, a British astrobiology scientist who penned the book The Knowledge: How To Rebuild Our World From Scratch, recently conducted research on just how long a single adult could survive if stuck inside a grocery store during an apocalypse—zombie or otherwise. His answer: a pretty substantial 55 years.

The scientist and author was specifically speaking to larger stores, but when it comes to the most important items necessarily for long-term survival, non-perishable goods and hydrating liquids, big supermarkets have enough of these supplies to keep an adult alive for over half a century—assuming that adult is alone and doesn’t have to fight off other people with a paring knife he stole from the kitchenware aisle.

However, despite his findings, Dartnell isn’t encouraging people to shack up in their local Publix. Instead, his research was part of a larger look into just how unprepared society might be if something catastrophic was to happen. “Clearly we shouldn’t be worrying 24/7 about a potential apocalypse but it’s interesting to take a snapshot of where we are now and how we’d fare— individually and as a society,” he said. “People’s survival instincts are strong but without a greater focus on Stem (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, the speed at which we’d return to ‘society as we know it’ would be seriously impeded.”

Essentially, Dartnell believes we need a better plan than trying to sprint to the nearest grocery to try to stay alive. “Rather than duck and cover, the country needs to know how to stand and recover from any disaster,” he continued. Or we could just build more supermarkets—like, a few hundred million more.