I found this Dirt Cheap Emergency Food Storage Plan online, and I can’t remember where!! I didn’t write it, but I’d like to share it with you all, so others may also be prepared in an emergency. Sorry in advance for the bad spacing!
The ANYWAY, Very Cheap, System of Food Storage for
Emergencies and/or Inflation for People Who Think They Cannot Afford Food
While people in other countries MAY think that their government will come
to their assistance quickly in a natural disaster, and Americans *used to*
think this, we know from bitter experience in New Orleans that this is no
longer true, More recently, three entire years after Katrina, we know that
many, many people in Houston received very inadequate help after Hurricane
We have a very large country, very prone to natural disasters of one
kind or another. Hurricanes, forest fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, ice
storms, mud slides: fortunately, the bad effects of at least some of these
disasters can be mitigated by sensible preparations.
Americans have also seen TERRIBLE inflation in food costs for the past
year. Foods costs across the USA vary a lot by area, but my husband and I
estimate that – in our area – the prices for foods have risen from 30% to
40% *IN THE LAST YEAR*.
These figures are, of course, not reflected in the official
government-issued statistics on inflation; the government removed both food
and energy costs from the inflation statistics a while ago. But we are
experiencing this terrible inflation in food costs, and we know darned well
what we are experiencing. We aren’t stupid.
OK, moving right along – what can we do?
Can you scrape together $5 extra each week for about three months (at MOST,
and maybe you will need the extra $5/week for less time than this)? If you
can, I can suggest a food storage plan for you. If you cannot, then I
cannot help you with storing food.
I believe that most people can manage $5 extra per week for about three
months (at most – and it should be less time than this, as you will see in
Part Two). This can be in food stamps instead of in actual money;
food stamps will work for this. If you can get food from a food pantry or
food bank, that will also help.
If you can get more money together, you can accomplish this plan faster.
But if you can only get that little bit extra money together – and not
permanently, only for a while – you can do this plan; you cannot do it
*instantly*, but you can do it.
In what follows, I’m assuming that you live alone. If you live with other
people, you’ll need to increase quantities.
1. First step: Set a goal, make a plan, write it down. Write down what
you need to do each week to accomplish your goal.
The initial goal I suggest is this:
To have on hand, at all times, enough water to keep you alive for one
To have on hand, at all times, enough natural and nutritious food –
no junk food – to keep you alive and functioning for one month *without
needing to cook anything*.
This food must not require refrigeration, and it must keep for a fairly
This – to me – seems like a very reasonable *initial* goal. When you have
accomplished this initial goal, then you can stop and re-assess the
You may want to stop there. You may want to increase the variety of food
that you store. You may want to get some means of cooking in a power
failure (assuming that your kitchen stove is electric, which is the worst
You will probably cook some of the foods that I suggest *in normal times*.
But you can safely eat these foods without any cooking at all, if
If you need to evacuate the area, if you have a car, or a friend or
relative with a car, you can take some of this water and all of this food
If you need to evacuate the area and you must do it by public
transport, then you can only take what you can carry. Some things cannot
be helped. So there’s no point in worrying about them. I try hard to be
prepared for what I can be prepared for, and to let the rest go without
fretting about it. I pretty much succeed at this now.
OK, so how are you going to accomplish this initial goal?
First, you must learn and follow the Basic Rule of Food Storage: Use what
you store, and store what you use.
This means that you must ONLY store what you will actually eat. You will
*regularly eat all the items you store*.
People with more money can afford to buy other foods for storage.
But people with very little money – like you and like me too – cannot
afford that. We must USE WHAT WE STORE AND STORE WHAT WE USE.
I am assuming also that you can only get to a regular, normal supermarket.
So I’m going to suggest a plan that can be accomplished completely, totally
at a normal supermarket (as they exist in the USA, the UK, Canada, probably
Australia and all of Europe and so on).
If you have an Aldi’s you can get to, or a Wal-Mart Supercenter, these will
probably have the same foods cheaper, so that would help. If you can get
to a store that sells bulk foods, you can probably get one particular item
cheaper, so that will help. But if you cannot – OK, you can do this at a
Don’t forget – you are going to set your own goal (which may be the goal I
suggest or may not). And you are going to write down a plan to accomplish
this goal; week by week.
Then you will start on your Plan.
Here’s what I would suggest for Phase One of your Plan. Phase One may take
you a week; it shouldn’t take more.
1. A hand-operated can opener. I think there are people who only have
electric can openers (I myself have never had an electric can opener). If
you only have an electric can opener, then please buy a hand-operated can
opener the first week. It can be a cheap one. You can buy these in normal
supermarkets, although perhaps a Dollar Store will have one cheaper.
2. If you have a gas stove, make sure that you have matches. We have a
gas stove; it has electric ignition. But when the power is off, we can
light the top burners (only) with a match. We cannot light the oven with a
match, because the burners are sealed in and inaccessible. But we can light
the top. So far as I know, you can light the top burners of ALL gas stoves
with a match. So buy a box of matches if you don’t already have them.
4. Do you have a bottle of multi-vitamins on hand? If not, please buy a
bottle of multi-vitamins. They don’t need to be expensive ones, the
cheapest ones available will do. If you can only afford a small bottle,
buy a small bottle now and get a larger bottle later. We try to keep one
year’s supply of multi-vitamins on hand. But please get enough for at
least 30 days, that’s important.
3. Store enough water for a month. Water should definitely come before
food: people can go without food an awful lot longer than they can without
So far as I know, everyone who has running water in the USA and Canada can
safely drink the water that comes out of their taps. You cannot afford to
buy water. So you will store the water right as it comes from the tap. You
are going to store enough water to keep you alive for a month.
This is a minimum of one gallon per day. You’re not going to drink a whole
gallon of water any day, but you are going to wash your hands at least once
per day and you can splash some water on your face (then catch it in a
dishpan or pot and use it to wash your hands).
So you’ll need 30 gallons for one person, for one month. What can you keep
You may already have this much water: if you have a hot water heater in
your home or apartment, see if you can figure out to drain it. You might
need to slide a dishpan under the drain place, but you can probably do
I don’t want you to do it now; I just want you to know that is a
possible source of water if you need it. I want you to know how to do it
if you need to. If you cannot figure it out, ask someone who knows how if
you possibly can.
Large, empty clean soda bottles, with tops, are great for storing water.
Ask everyone you know if they can please give you the empty bottles if they
drink any soda at all.
Empty clean apple juice bottles are equally good – or any fruit juice
bottles. Ask everyone you know to give you fruit juice bottles. I drink
V-8 juice occasionally, and it comes in very nice reusable bottles too.
Empty clean whisky or wine bottles are also fine – again, ask everyone you
know. (Some cheap wine comes in gallon or half-gallon glass jugs – these
If anyone you know buys bottled water, those bottles are fine too.
If you cannot find ANYTHING else, then you can keep water in clean plastic
milk jugs. They are not the best container, but they are better than not
keeping any water at all. Milk jugs will become brittle and break
eventually, but they should be OK for a month. (Meanwhile you can work on
getting better containers.) Wash milk jugs very carefully and rinse,
rinse, rinse – then fill with water and keep them out of the sun.
If you have any empty 5-gallon buckets, they will be fine too.
I do not recommend drinking water from a bucket UNLESS THAT BUCKET IS FOOD
SAFE; some are, but some aren’t. Would I drink water from a bucket that is
not food safe IF IT’S THE ONLY WATER AVAILABLE IN AN EMERGENCY? You bet I
would; it would be an awful lot better than no water at all.
You might be able to get large buckets by asking at a doughnut shop – the
icing for doughnuts comes in buckets. They are food safe. You might be
able to get some from a supermarket bakery and again they will be food safe
– also perhaps from a sandwich shop.
If you have a cat, you may have empty cat litter buckets. I do NOT
recommend drinking water stored in a cat litter bucket – although they are
not dirty: the actual cat has been nowhere near them. They are not
food-safe plastic. But if you have no other possible way to store water,
it would be better than having no water at all. Maybe you have a friend
with a cat who will give you some of these.
You don’t need to treat water in any way if you replace one-third of it
every month. Just count how many bottles of water you have stored, and
dump out, rinse, and refill one-third of them each month on the first of
the month. Then none of the water will be more than three months old.
Where to put the water? Let’s just say this: if you really want to do
this, you’ll find a place to put the water.
I will also make one more suggestion about water: for some natural
disasters, people have considerable warning. Hurricanes do not sneak up on
people; ice storms or blizzards generally don’t either. We have warning.
I have always seen advice to fill your bathtub with water if you think the
power may go off. It seems to me that this is terribly bad advice: I have
always tested the bathtub in every one of the many, many places where I
have lived and every single one of them has a slow leak through the drain.
No bathtub that I ever lived with will store water overnight – in the
morning, it’s all gone.
But what you can do is to put any kind of large container(s) in your
bathtub and then fill the container(s) with water. I’m thinking here
specifically of the very common 18-gallon Rubbermaid or similar totes used
to store various items. Many people have these around. But ANY large
container will do for this purpose.
That way, if the container should spring a leak, OK, it’s in the tub
anyhow, no problem. If the container does not spring a leak, you’ll have
You can flush the toilet with this water or drink it (in an emergency only)
or wash with it, whatever. If you have warning, you can also fill any
large pots and pans you have with water, and any 5-gallon or cat-litter
buckets you have too. Fill any containers you have with water if you have
warning of a hurricane or ice storm.
You should be able to accomplish the initial water storage goal (and the
can opener, matches, and multivitamins, if necessary) within one week.
Next you sit down and think about water. You might decide to store more
water, or you might decide that this is enough water. You can work on
getting better containers for the water too, especially if you had to use
milk jugs – they will become brittle and fall apart eventually.
Congratulations on a job well done! You’ve accomplished Part One now. Now
we’ll move right along to Part Two.
By the way, I’m calling this the ANYWAY, Very Cheap System of Food Storage,
because you are going to eat these foods *anyway*. You’re going to eat
them as part of your regular diet.
People with more money can store foods that are different from their
regular diet. People with very little money cannot do this. They must
store foods they’ll eat anyway…. problems or (hopefully) no problems!
In Part One, you took care of water storage for a month. You also
determined that you already have – or you bought – a manual can opener, and
matches if you have a gas stove, and at least a month’s supply of
Now we need to think about food. The initial food goal I suggest is this:
To have on hand, at all times, enough natural and nutritious food –
not junk food – to keep you alive for one month *without needing to cook
This food must not require refrigeration – and it must keep a long time.
This seems to me a very reasonable *initial* goal; after you have
accomplished this, then you can reassess the situation and decide where you
want to go from there. You may want to stop there. You may want to get
more varied foods. You may want to get some way to cook in an emergency.
You may want to continue to with more of the same foods.
OK, how to accomplish this initial goal, and to spend the minimum necessary
This is what I suggest; but I caution you: you are going to be eating
these foods *regularly* and *anyway*. If you are allergic to any of the
foods I suggest or cannot eat them for some other reason, or you just
cannot stand them, then you need to find a substitute.
The quantities given are for one month for one person. If you have more
than one person in your household, you will need to increase the
The first food that I suggest you buy is rolled oats: you can buy – in
every supermarket that I have ever seen in the USA or Canada – regular
rolled oats or quick-cooking rolled oats. (I hope you can eat oats; it is
difficult to find a substitute for them because you can eat them uncooked,
and that is not true of most grains. I know of two possible substitutes,
but they cost considerably more. More on that later.)
Please don’t buy instant oats which are generally jammed full of sugar and
artificial flavor and are a rip-off. But regular or quick-cooking rolled
oats are a very valuable food.
You may call these ‘oatmeal’ or (as in the UK) ‘porridge’ or ‘porridge
oats’. They’re the same thing.
The usual brand I see in supermarkets is Quaker Oats. Store brands would
be fine, and might well be cheaper. If you can get to a store that sells
foods in bulk, they might well be cheaper there.
Yesterday, we bought regular rolled oats – in two large plastic bags – at a
little general store here that has a few bulk foods. We paid $0.71 per
pound – we bought approximately 15 lbs of rolled oats.
I eat these regularly. My husband also eats ‘porridge’ for his breakfast
regularly – he prefers the quick-cooking oats and he has enough on hand at
present; so we didn’t need to buy any for him yesterday.
We’ll come back to the price per pound in a little bit…..
You can eat these oats in one of three ways – and two of them do not
require any cooking because oats are actually partially cooked before we
buy them, as part of their processing. This is why we can eat them
uncooked. I do eat them uncooked, regularly, in homemade muesli.
1. Cooked, in normal times. Then you have hot oatmeal for some of your
breakfasts. This is a very valuable and nutritious food. Add raisins, or
other fruit, and if you wish, serve with milk. My father didn’t put milk
on hot cereal (including oatmeal), he dotted it with butter or margarine,
then sprinkled a little cinnamon and brown sugar on it. Hot cereal is nice
that way too. You can cook oatmeal either on the stove top or in the
microwave. Just follow the directions on the box. If you cook it in the
microwave, it wants to puff up and get all over the place. Use a VERY
oversized glass cup or casserole dish: that will prevent this.
2. Uncooked, and mixed with fruit and yogurt – this is called muesli. I
eat it for breakfast most days. Just the uncooked oats, fruit, plus
yogurt. Add raisins and sunflower seeds if you wish, during normal times.
You can soften the oats by mixing them with yogurt (or fruit juice) ahead
of time, or you can do it, and then eat them right away.
3. As a cold cereal: in this case (and I eat this too), you put the oats
in a bowl, add raisins if you have them, perhaps a sliced banana if you
have bananas. Then you pour milk over them and eat them as a cold cereal.
If you have no milk, you could use fruit juice. If you have no fruit
juice, you could use water.
The nutritional value of rolled oats (with no additions) is as follows:
Rolled oats, dry – 4 oz Calories – 434
Grams of protein – 18
You could eat – IF YOU HAD VERY LITTLE OTHER FOOD AVAILABLE BECAUSE OF SOME
EMERGENCY – 8 oz of oats daily. That would give you 868 calories and 36
grams of protein. This is a *very* substantial part of a woman’s calorie
and protein requirements; it’s even a substantial part of a man’s calorie
and protein requirements, for that matter.
So I’m going to recommend that you wind up with 15 lbs of rolled oats *per
person* for storage for emergencies – figuring on eating 8 oz of them per
day. I do *not* recommend that you eat this many ounces of oats except in
case of dire emergency.
I do recommend that you eat oats for breakfast two or three times per week
*in normal times*. I do this, I eat about 4 oz of oats for breakfast
(about 1/2 cup), along with fruit and yogurt. Or if I want a hot
breakfast, then I cook the rolled oats with raisins, then slice a banana on
top, and add milk. It’s a very substantial and good-tasting breakfast.
How much will this 15 lbs of rolled oats cost? Well, let’s assume that you
must pay more than the $0.71 we just paid per pound. Let’s assume you pay
as much as $1.00 per pound. The 15 lbs of oats will have cost you about
Once you have managed to save the 15 lbs, then you just keep replacing it;
never let it go much lower than this. Or you can decide to buy more and
keep 20 pounds on hand, if you prefer. Or 30 lbs or even 50 lbs. I
wouldn’t keep much more oats per person on hand than that. But they do
keep a long time.
Note that you are now buying the oats *as part of your normal breakfast
regime*. So you don’t need to set aside separate ‘food storage money’ for
oats anymore; you can use your normal food budget for this. This gives you
more money for other food storage.
If you cannot eat oats for some reason, the only two substitutes that I can
think of *that don’t require cooking, do not require refrigeration, and
keep a long time and are very nutritious* are sunflower seeds or
Scandinavian-style crisp bread, such as Kavli and Wasa Brod. The crisp
breads are available in normal supermarkets. The crisp breads are mainly
whole grains; they are nutritious. I don’t know if sunflower seeds are
available in normal supermarkets or not. If they are, you want to buy
uncooked, unsalted, sunflower seeds if at all possible. They won’t keep as
long as oats or crispbread, however. (Sunflower seeds would be a really
valuable addition to your oats, if you can afford to buy them. In normal
times, they should be kept refrigerated or frozen.)
Now what other foods do I recommend you start buying for the *bare bones
minimal, cheapest possible, useful food storage*?
I recommend that you buy canned beans too. Not baked beans, just plain
canned beans. There are many kinds, they all have approximately the same
food values, and they all cost about the same as far as I know. If you
live alone I suggest you buy the small cans of beans – approximately 16 oz
per can. There are black beans, kidney beans, white beans, pinto beans,
many, many varieties.
In normal times, you can base many, many dinners on beans – tacos, chili,
soups, frijoles refritos, salads, beans and rice, etc.
In normal times, you’ll probably want to cook most of the beans (but they
are used in salads and cold plates too). You don’t *need* to cook them.
You can buy one kind of beans only, or two or three, etc.
I base our dinners on beans *at the very least* two nights per week. I
recommend that canned beans be rinsed very well with cold water before
eating (in normal, non-emergency times) if you are concerned about sodium.
Even if you aren’t concerned about sodium, I think they taste better if you
rinse them first.
You can find hundreds, probably even thousands, of bean recipes on the Web.
RecipeSource.com is one of my favorite recipe sites; just put ‘beans’ in
the search box and you will be presented with 2008 recipes using beans!
That’s a lot of bean recipes.
Beans are *good food*, and they are a very versatile food. They are also
good for your health.
I’m looking at a can of black beans; they are probably my favorite kind of
beans. The can of beans has (the whole can, in total) 315 calories, and
24.5 grams of protein. If you ate the whole can of beans, which I only
recommend in case of emergency, plus 8 oz of oatmeal, this would give you:
1183 calories, which – together with two other foods I will recommend in a
minute – would be enough for a woman to keep going for quite a while in an
emergency, indefinitely, in fact – unless you are already emaciated BEFORE
the emergency. You also probably have at least some other food in your
house, which you could add to your diet.
It would also give you 42 grams of protein. This is not the RDA for a
woman’s protein, but it would certainly keep you going for quite a while,
well more than a month. You wouldn’t develop malnourishment in a month’s
time if you were eating this much protein each day together with the
calories you would have. Many women throughout the world live *their
entire lives* with lower daily protein figures.
Other beans have very similar food values.
What does a can of beans cost? We can get them (or we could get them
anyway, until very recently for about $0.50/can ON SALE ONLY). But let’s
even say that you need to pay $1.00 a can. I don’t think you will, but I
don’t know what food costs in other places, after all.
If you plan to store 30 cans of beans (per person), then you would need to
spend $30. BUT you can also start eating these beans regularly, as part of
your normal food. And I would recommend that. Then if you know that you
have eaten two cans of beans in a week, and you are still increasing your
supply of beans, you buy four or six cans. Simple.
When you get up to 30 cans of beans, then reassess the situation. You can
maintain that inventory, or buy more beans. Up to you.
Let’s assume that you want to accumulate the 15 lbs of oats and the 30 cans
of beans before you start eating them…. You have now spent $45. If you
can only spend $5 per week for food storage, this will have taken you nine
weeks. If you can spend more, you can do it faster.
But it’s really not fair to consider these costs all as food storage costs;
you are going to put these foods into your regular diet, after all. Some
of this money can come out of your regular food budget.
Now what other food do I recommend you buy as part of your basic,
bare-bones food storage?
I recommend that you buy cans of tomatoes too; they are very useful when
cooking beans (in non-emergency times as well as in emergencies). You can
buy stewed tomatoes, or diced tomatoes, or whole tomatoes – they are
equally useful. Perhaps the diced tomatoes are a little more useful. You
can eat them without cooking them. They are perfectly safe to eat
These will provide you some vitamins and some more calories (but not many).
They will also make the beans much more palatable.
So for a month’s storage for one person, I suggest you buy – as quickly as
your money will allow – 30 (small – 16-oz) cans of tomatoes. I recommend
that you use them as part of your regular diet also.
When you have 30 cans of tomatoes, you can either maintain that level, or
increase it. Treat the tomatoes just as you are treating the beans: always
replenish or increase your supply of them. Rotate them – eat the oldest
The last recommendation for a basic, bare bones emergency food storage
supply: I’d get cans or jars of fruit. Applesauce is very useful and
nutritious, and most people like it. If you live alone, get the smaller
jars. It will make the rolled oats more palatable. Many people normally
eat applesauce; it can fit into your normal food regime nicely.
I also recommend that you get some other fruit in cans – both my husband
and I like canned pineapple packed in its own juice, so we keep a supply of
that on hand. If you prefer peaches, then get peaches, or some of each, or
some other fruit altogether.
I’d recommend building up to 30 cans or jars of fruit, just as you did with
the beans and tomatoes. Treat the fruit just as you treat the rolled oats,
beans, and tomatoes – replenish whatever you use.
At the end of this plan, you’ll have the following on hand, and your supply
of these will not diminish: you will always replenish them.
15 lbs of rolled oats
30 cans of beans
30 cans of tomatoes
30 cans or jars of fruit
All of these are now being eaten as part of your normal food regime, so all
the money to replace them should now come out of your normal food budget.
NONE OF THESE FOODS IS EXPENSIVE. And you would have enough to live on for
ONE ENTIRE MONTH.
Don’t forget to take one vitamin pill per day.
Now that you have one entire month’s food supply safely on hand,
congratulate yourself on a job well done! Then think about what you want
to do next.
The foods I personally would add next would probably be raisins and dry
skim milk. Both would add interest to the rolled oats. And you can use
both of them in your normal food regime.
The next thing I would probably want to buy is a guaranteed method of
cooking food: Sterno would do (don’t forget that you need matches to light
it). You can probably buy it in a normal supermarket or hardware store – I
have often seen it in regular, normal supermarkets. You can build a little
holder for it from bricks. Then you put your pot on the bricks, and the
Sterno under the pot.
After that, I would probably want a few herbs and spices – maybe oregano,
cumin, and chili powder for the beans, and cinnamon for the oats. Some
brown sugar would be nice on the oats as well. Maybe you already have
these in your kitchen.
I cannot think of any food storage plan that would be cheaper, and yet have
the following features:
1. The food must all be nutritious.
2. It must all keep a long time without refrigeration.
3. You must be able to eat it uncooked if necessary.
4. It must all fit into a normal diet.
If you do this, I absolutely guarantee that you’ll be glad, and that it
will give you a very good feeling of security.
I hope you will never have an emergency, but even if you don’t, you will
always feel a more secure with (at least) one month’s food on hand. This is
definitely worth the little bit of work and expense it requires.
You may want to continue and gradually build up to a three-month’s supply
or to vary the foods. You may want to think about non-food items too:
garbage bags, a basic first-aid kit, whatever you would really need in an
But always keep that bedrock, bare-bones one month’s supply – always
replenish what you use.