Dirt-Cheap Survival Food Supply

“Just the savings on “emergency runs to the store” has been worth it.” – E.M. Smith

Dirt-Cheap Survival Food Supply

E.M. Smith

I grew up in a Mormon Town (though as a non-Mormon) where the Mormon Church encouraged everyone to keep a 1 year supply of food. I once complained to my parents that we were not doing this and maybe the Mormons were right. Then my Dad pointed out we ran a restaurant with a big store room with way more than a year worth of food for just one family 😉

In the end, I still was interested in food storage and I’ve done a fair amount of work on it. Not least because I live almost on top of the San Andreas Fault and must be ready for weeks of “on your own”.

The Very Short Form:

It takes about 1 pound of dry food per person per day. Think of a lb bag of lentils or rice. You can buy a 50 lb bag of beans & one of rice for somewhere near $100 and be set for 100 days. 200 days on survival only rations. There’s no reason to say you can’t afford some kind of stored food.

I’ve stored both beans and rice in jars for years. Noodles too. It keeps better if stored without oxygen in the jar, but just air is fine for under 10 years. I’ve had lentils (the legume that stores best) stored for 16 years and still sprouted and grew. Do not store peas – they get hard and then do not soften in cooking.

Buy a small pressure cooker as it will more than make up for the cost in extending your stored fuel supply. I have this one and it works great for 2 people:

I use 1/2 gallon canning jars. Just pour the dry goods in and spin on the lid. No money? Well, buy your regular foods in larger jars and wash / reuse them. I have some stuff in quart jars that were originally olives and artichoke hearts. It takes longer to build up a supply of stored food, but it is free.

Canned goods keep for at least a year in good quality. Then there is a slow loss of flavor. At 2 to 3 years they start to be uninteresting and things like canned meat can start reacting with the can lining. But are you really going to store 3 years of SPAM? I’ve seen folks make a block of cans into a “coffee table” with a board on the top and a cloth drape over the stack – you do not need a garage of food… Just sliding cases of cans under the beds can give you months of food – and prevents the cat hiding under the bed too 😉

So if you regularly eat green beans, peas, corn, and refried beans, just buy twice as much each week. Put 1/2 into “storage” and eat the rest. At the end of the year you will have 1 year of “the usual” in stores. Now drop back to buying “the usual amount” and each week, pull that much off the block under the bed and replace it with the new. Now you are never eating food more than 1 year old (and well inside the quality range) while having 1 year of canned goods in “storage”. (Note that these are “wet” – so you need more pounds / day than the “dry” if you are only eating this stuff – OTOH, it already has water in it so you don’t need that much water storage).

Having a mix of both “wet” and “dry” goods can easily give you a year or two of stored food in not that much space. A closet is about enough.

Get a “seed sprouter” and then some of your beans / wheat / whatever can be made in to fresh green sprouts instead of porridge. In a pinch, one of your jars with cloth over the top is a decent sprouter.

More for anyone who cares to do more depth here:

Then I found out you can make some things last longer by gently heating the jars in the oven, then tighten the lids and let them cook. Works well for things that don’t mind heat, like crackers or dry cereals. I did a test jar of rice and it stored nicely for over a year:


If you think you will be “restarting society” after a year or two and want to be prepared to start a major garden, you can easily store seeds. Despite the package saying they are only good for one year, in fact, frozen they keep for decades. IF your freezer fails in the end of life as we know it, well, you needed to defrost them anyway 😉


All of this can be done “Dirt Cheap” and without a lot of inconvenience. Once you have the stored inventory, then you are back to the regular run rate on food costs. I’ve used mine several times when “between jobs” and it’s also nice when you have that “Darn, out of {sugar, salt, rice, Oatmeal,…} moment and realize it’s just down the hall in the closet… Just the savings on “emergency runs to the store” has been worth it. Furthermore, if you buy some of it as “giant size” at warehouse stores like Costco, then you can actually end up getting most of it “for free” compared to the local high priced grocer.

I now regularly buy the giant size can of coffee and “decant it” (using a canning funnel that costs about $1) into what started live as 24 ounce jars of peaches. The coffee in each jar stays fresh as it is sealed. So I get cheaper coffee, I’m never out, and in an emergency I’m likely “set” for about 2 months on my withdrawal deadline 😉 A couple of quarts of loose tea keeps for years, BTW. Takes many months to drink it all 😉

My jars (in cardboard box with newspaper crumple around it) came through a 7.x earthquake just fine. They are also water and rodent and bug proof. Jars, they are your friends.

25 thoughts on “Dirt-Cheap Survival Food Supply”

  1. A very timely opinion. I have been doing the same thing as you. I started with the list “100 items to disappear first” and focused on the food items. Everything that you eat and everything that comes out of the ground.
    White polished rice can be stored indefinitely. The same goes for raw honey and dried beans. We have lots and lots of both.
    The tuna in oil and broth being sold at Walmart and the sockeye salmon being sold at Walmart currently has a Best Before date of late 2023 and the shelf life is obviously a lot longer than that.
    I like Walmart because they have low prices and very high inventory turnover. Items pretty much go straight from the production line to Walmart.
    Dried beans of every type are a very good call. You can’t have too much . And do stock lots of cooking oil. Keep oil in a cool dark place like most other things you store.
    Here is a kick-ass list of things you can store for an extremely long time. Most of these are things you can buy at Walmart or other local source.


    I’m not knocking the fancy survival packs with long-term storage that are widely sold on the internet. They’re a great idea. But you don’t have to go that route. You can do a great job of prepping by shopping locally. Keep stockpiling. Don’t stop. I’m an investor and stockpiling is definitely a type of investing . Every food you stockpile will be more valuable as time goes on. A lot more valuable.

    And one last thing. It’s important to start stocking right now. If you wait until everybody is stockpiling then you waited too late because that’s when the rationing will start.

    Peace from BC

  2. for those who don’t know much about food production, high temps used to produce many foods destroys at least 405 of the foods nutritional value. So, freeze dried foods really are best for long storage.

    We have a combination of canned foods, store bought canned foods, freeze dried foods as well as canned dry goods. This is a combination of items to give us a variety of choices for our dietary needs. Sprouting following best times to harvest, meaning peak nutrition periods should learned and practiced as sprouting can produce super high nutrition but not much energy from carbs to sustain one. You will need bulk, roughage and minerals. Supplies of vitamins would be a very good idea. A, C, D3, E, a good multi B pack would be good and a good absorb-able calcium. Obviously water filters with a good supply of filter replacements.

    We even included a compost toilet just in case it gets so cold we can’t flush and lots of TP. It’s the simple things LOL.

    Remember to store up lots of freeze dried coffee and sugar. If you have space and funds some form of creamer. Your life will be improved as folks love to trade this stuff. never ever ever forget to keep an over supply of salt. Sea salt is very good, Himalayan is better for it’s mineral content. Sea salt has a better supply of iodine. There is no iodine in Himalayan salt.

    Good luck.

  3. Here’s a tip… If you put a small piece of dry ice in your dry food containers with the lid slightly loose until it is gone, and then seal them up they will be good for 25 years.

    Mold is the issue with dry goods. The dry ice gives off carbon dioxide which is heavier than all the other gasses in air and will displace every bit of the oxygen out for you.

    Mold cannot grow in a carbon dioxide environment. This is how the long term storage food products are processed to last 25 or more years after freeze drying.

    There is a simple inexpensive way to home freeze dry foods to put in these dry jars also if anyone is interested.

  4. good advice;-)
    a mate stored rice in 20litre black screwlid plastic drums she forgot about them, and they werent in great conditions in storage for well over TEN yrs
    when we opened them the white rice was perfectly ok no weevils or deterioration.
    I always wash and save any agee type lined poptop style lids n their jars
    theyre fine for jam preserves pickles etc as long as you bottle HOT from the preserving pan allow a few minutes in jars for steam to halt then place lids on(idea is to prevent condensation) theyll still pop down tight
    any that dont get used first.
    oldfashioned chutneys and pickles my mum and i used to do using parrafin wax plugs to seal , would last at least 4yrs stored properly(beeswax if you can get it, works as well but wax moth might be an issue in some places)a mix of both is good too. personal experience in commercial canned foods is 4yrs for everything BUT not fish.
    I have had canned peaches tins corrode and leak after 5yrs but my bet was the actual tin/liner was faulty.

  5. Great advice!
    I haven’t even started yet since the fall was kinda mild in
    the SE (was warm in October) and I’m not yet crushed under 9 stories of snow. This morning I ate at Hardees and a biscuit and gravy was $3.36, with coffee. Still survivable but not as cheap as a year ago!

  6. Back in the day I kept 6 months of canned coffee in the pantry, I used & restocked a can every month.
    The world might ending but I was going to have my coffee! These days I keep a months worth…

    That was a good write up!

    • Coffee will be a very valuable currency, as will many foods and spices that cannot be grown in our latitudes.

      The world was first explored because food was too bland… Fixing bland food is still, and will always be a very serious perpetual never ending search.

  7. I’d like to point out two things i’ve noticed this past

    1. the documentary bbc big chill*, they pointed out an interesting thing ive noticed the past few years. More rain. In the doc they said that with a colder climate in northern europe (where im at) there would be more rain. And there has definitely been more rain the past 5-10 years.

    2. Im more and more convinced the popular youtubers warning about cold weather is goverment agents, because they all propagate the two things the elite is pushing on us. Bitcoin and cannabis. Bitcoin is pushed by the elite to have even more control and to abolish psysical cash and cannabis to sedate the population. I dont think I need to say who the youtubers are. They all use fear to control their viewers saying the price of food will triple in two years and when 2 years has passed food has not tripled at all. Fear is a powerful tool to control, dont be fooled by wolfes in sheeps clothing.


  8. Apparently not interested…

    It’s all good… My clan will be of those few who do make it through. 🙂

    • yes, i have hand crank but its bloody tiring and I find i need to put the wheat through it at least 3 times as it wont grind full grains fine enough the first 2 through
      if I had only that? Id be modifying the crank to fit onto a stationary bike, or running it off a small generator.
      assuming loss of power will happen via a CME or other epic fails

  9. How to protect your cache when neighbors are scavenging… how to disguise smell of cooking food that will lead them to your door… How to dispose of trash without it being seen…How to keep sanitary and have some form of toilet paper. RX and OTC Medicine, …lots to about.

    • and you reminded me
      Iodine!!! for water purification as well as medical and for keeping thyroid safer if rad was an issue
      ausie price is about 30 a litre for 30% betadine
      even if teowawki didnt happen its a FAR cheaper way to buy it and share with friends. I always keep a litre on hand for horses n dog injuries as well as my own. 10% is better but it does “bite” and is around 50 a litre

      • Mercurochrome is what was put on me as a kid….good stuff but I haven’t seen it on shelves in a long time.

  10. would love to know how to freeze dry at home.
    I tried without success to build a unit. By lowering air
    pressure you change the boiling / evaporation rate. I
    chased the humidity levels all over the place with temperature
    and vacuum but couldn`t get it done. If someone knows how
    PLEASE post it.

    • Keep in mind the Incas freeze dried foods back when. “Freezer burn” is indeed “freeze dried”. It takes a little longer but it can be done with just a freezer. I use a large stand up deep freezer so that quite a few trays can be loaded in at a time.

      I have a 12v computer fan mounted inside to circulate air around supplied with a small 110 ac/12v dc power supply. Every time I load a batch I toss a new bag of cat littler in the bottom with a bunch of holes punched in the bag to soak up and retain moisture from the air.

      Slice everything thin and spread it out in one layer on the racks, leave it for 3-4 weeks to completely freezer burn, and it will be ready to bag or vacuum pack on a dry day. 🙂

      This is a reference just to explain more about the different ways…


  11. A few years ago when prepping was a new “fad”, a show came out that went from disaster to survival. The one thing that stuck with me is the infection from small cuts can kill. Bacteria kills just as surely as starvation. Soap, and cleanliness will go a long ways and gain knowledge on how to stich skin.

  12. For those who had pioneering ancestors, think about this…folks marched from the east coast to the western frontiers with little. A wagon, a team and grit. They had most of what they needed with them to survive the travel and set up a foot hold when they reached the destination. They had knowledge of improvising, adapting and over coming adversity.
    If you are going to stay in place then plan that way. If you are going to leave, then plan to mobile. But what ever you do…make a plan. Disasters come in all sizes and are momentary or last years.

  13. Been prepping for years Here’s how I figure my Preps. One thing I learned years ago in prepping, Is to put up stables foods which will store well and for a long time, giving you the most for your dollar. I’ve invested $46.30 in food Total Calorie Count of 137,550 Calories Divide that number by 2000 Calories per day equals enough food for 1 person for 69 days. I know many of you are going to say, I wouldn’t eat that, every day. Please bear in mind I am only trying to show with a little investment you can come up with foods which will last for years when properly stored. Rice Can be stored for 20 or more years using a Food grade 5 gallon Bucket, a 7mil Mylar Bag and O2 absorber. Same with the dried beans As for the Peanut Butter I’ve test Jars of Jiff purchased 10 years ago. Never been opened and store in cool dry dark place. You have to mix it up since the oil has separated, but it is edible. I’ve been prepping for over 30 years and have eaten 20 year old rice way before O2 absorber and 7mil mylar bags. Back when we poured straight rice into a 5 gallon food grade bucket placed it in a metal shop during the summer time with temps of 140 degrees on the inside an freezing in the winter and the rice was good, discolored but good. Since I’ve started using the O2 absorbers and Mylar I’ve got 9 year old rice now and it’s just as fresh as the day I packed it.
    I used to buy big Mylar bags the 6 gallon size for a 5 gallon bucket was able to store 33lbs. inside of the bucket. Now I’ve started using the new zip lock Mylar bags designed to stack inside of a 5 gallon bucket. Each bag holding around 10lbs.
    Other items you can store for years is Oatmeal, Instant Mash Potatoes providing there’s no extra’s or Diary products. I have stored Flour now for over 4 years using the above process with the Mylar and O2 absorbers. And as I stated just as fresh as the day it was store. We recently purchased a grain mill and have started buying Red and White wheat as from what I understand it can be stored for years and you just grind what you need as you need it. Same with corn, Pop Corn being the best for grits and corn meal. Any dried pasta will store for years if you use the above process.

  14. Stationed at a USAFSS surveillance site in the far-west Aleutian Islands many years ago, we encountered quonset huts full of 25-year old WW II rations from 1943, perfectly edible after a short boil.

    Laying in staples, nothing fancy, and rotating supplies to maintain an “ever-normal granary” costs very little, and is definitely proof against rampaging zombies during the Apocalypse.

  15. Root cellars provide healthy, fresh vegetables throughout the winter months. There is a wealth of information about building these structures. (The rural people of Newfoundland were masters of this art).

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