In reality, only about $400 of this is “food prep” and that is in large part duplicated. I decided to do an A / B compare of some prices at Walmart and COSTCO, and while I did write down a lot of things, on many I decided to just buy one at each place.
Some time back I’d done a similar “test buy” of only the essentials and only at COSTCO. That ran out to about $130 for a couple of months of food for two people. Though even that was not the absolute minimal buy.
The bare minimum would be beans, rice, flour & oil plus a multi vitamin. Total of 60 pounds for 2 people for a month. That can be done for about $50. Of that, the bulk will be the rice, beans, and flour at about 50 ¢/pound at places like COSCO, Smart & Final, or Walmart. You will not be happy on that diet, but you won’t die either.
My basic rule of thumb is that you need about 1 dry pound per person per day for generous survival rations. (Try cooking even 1/4 lb of rice and see how hard it is to eat it all…) That can be any mix of things as long as you get enough of the right amino acids, vitamins, etc. You will also need about 1 gallon of water per person per day. For many disasters, the water in the tank of your water heater will be enough for 2 people for a month (if rationed, not used for washing, and drained from the valve on the bottom of the tank). Since most of the economic or farming collapses do not take out the water supply, I’m not going to dwell on it in this posting. For your run of the mill earthquake, post tropical storm, or failure of the electrical grid caused banking closure, the water system tends to stay working.
So the question I’ve been pondering was stimulated by the significant failure to plant for corn, soybeans, and more, in the USA; along with other crop failures from China to Europe and South America. I got to wondering: “If folks were NOT prone to being prepared, and a SHTF moment reaches their awareness, what can be done in one run to the grocery store? How much does it cost, and is there a minimal set for not much money?” Then, IF you think about it in advance, how much better balanced a set of “stuff” can you choose to buy? Basically, buying 50 Pounds of flour is very cheap. It also isn’t very useful without some oil / fat and some salt and leavening.
Since it was time to buy groceries anyway, and I’ve let our food prep inventory appreciably run down (what with Trump doing a good job an all…) I decided “What the heck, go do a ‘walk the isles intuitive buy’ and see what you end up with.” So that’s what I did. Twice. Here’s the result. About $432 of food in the back of the wagon:
Click or open the image to embiggen to about a double size.
What makes this different from a regular grocery shopping run? Nothing frozen. The only refrigerated things I bought were for use now, or nearly now. I only bought one fresh fruit / vegetable item (celery) as we were out of it. Emphasis was on “Shelf Stable” things. You can see that in the photo. 25 lbs each of beans and rice. A large jar of coconut oil ( I got a slightly smaller one at Walmart too) along with 6 liters of Olive Oil. (Yes, you could be a lot cheaper than $22 O.O. and $15 Coconut oil, but these are more healthful and store longer than soybean or corn oil).
On the left, 52 servings of “instant” oatmeal. I’ll use two for a single very filling breakfast, so that’s about a month of breakfasts for one person, just in that. A big package of SPAM along with some canned chicken. These get used with all those beans, rice and the 8 lbs of “Organic Noodles” at the very back, next to the eggs, and that 10 lbs of pancake mix. You really really want some meat to go with all that starch. Especially after the 4th or 5th day of it. I also bought a big flat of eggs. Eggs keep a fairly long time even without refrigeration (or even longer if you take steps to preserve them), but with refrigeration they will store for well over a month, then you can hard boil them and get another month. I “only” bought 2 dozen, and in a real Aw Shit I’d be more likely to buy the 5 dozen flat for not much more money. 60 eggs is one egg a day for 2 people for a month.
There’s also 8 cans each of Refried Beans and Bush’s Baked beans. A bit extravagant for an emergency supply run, but we like both and regularly eat both. It is important to have some things you regularly eat, and for everything to be something you WILL eat. One can of refried beans will make a few days worth of burritos for us. 10 lbs of flour makes more tortillas than I care to think about. Somewhere around 100+. Front & Center are 36 Fig Bars. A nice fruit treat with decent calories. (The pill bottle has 500 daily vitamin pills, so almost a year for 2 people.) Next to that a “Dozen Pack” of Annie’s fancy mac ‘n cheese. (At Walmart I bought the 5 pack of Kraft, buried in one of those bags…) Between them that’s 17 x 4 = 68 main courses. Stock 17 cans of tuna and 8 of peas for a full meal of it as a Tuna Noodle Casserole with peas added. Not so visible is the canned milk and powdered milk for use in making those meals (substituting oil for butter). In about the dead center is a bag of 150 mini sized chocolate bars. That’s 2 a day for 2 people for a month ( 120 ) with 30 for “shrinkage” along the way ;-) Nothing makes your 30th breakfast of oatmeal more tolerable than the chocolate bar at the end…
There’s a lot more hiding in the bags and at the back edge of the photo. A huge box of Ritz Crackers. That box of Madras Lentils (already cooked and spiced). Yes, you can buy lentils and make it yourself for a lot less, but there will be times you just do not want to deal with that during any prolonged Bad Times. At some point you will want to just tear open a package and dump something edible on top of some rice and “move on”. (Costco also sells a precooked brown rice / quinoa mix in a similar pouch but I already have it in the pantry ;-) Then there are 4 boxes of regular saltines, 4 jars of jam and preserves. A bunch of sardines, tuna, etc. etc. That bag of Turkey Jerky is an example to print the price on my receipt. Over the next few days I’ll be making postings with item lists and prices in them and “sample buys” for “just let me live” to “in comfort” to “in style”… along with doing some trial recipes. (So, for example, making my biscuits with coconut oil in stead of butter and seeing what it tastes like, or having tea with canned “sweetened condensed milk” in it. There’s a 6 pack of sweetened condensed milk in that pile too. Must have a cup-a now and then ;-)
In the Walmart bags there are also some “example” canned goods (again to print the price on the receipt and as they are things we eat). So peas, corn, beans, etc. Even a can of Dinty Moore stew (that I don’t usually eat but think is OK) and a can of Beef Ravioli. I can live almost forever on canned ravioli, crackers and canned vegetables ;-) Oh, and several boxes of Dried Scalloped Potato stuff. It’s one of our “regular” dishes, but I want to try it with oil instead of butter and canned evaporated milk instead of regular milk.
So I’d guess I’ve got about 3 to 5 months of food for two in that pile. Certainly some things will run out far ahead of the rest. But that’s part of the purpose of this exercise. Find out what was forgotten and what was in great excess. I can tell you right now I’ve got one jug of syrup in the pantry and it is not anywhere near enough for 10 lbs of pancake mix. The jam can take it a bit further, but I’ll need even more of both to make it through the whole bag. (Lucky for me I’m not expecting a disaster tomorrow, and if one did happen, well, there’s all that already sweetened oatmeal to get through first ;-)
So what’s the basic thought process of this “Emergency Buy Of Emergency Preparation”?
1) Is it shelf stable and reasonably cheap per pound?
2) Is it something I WILL eat, disaster or not?
3) Have I got enough “1 pound per person per day” with the money I have to buy more fun stuff?
4) What keeps well and makes this work more comfortably.
5) A sanitation measure of “Have I got the small bits that make the big bits work?” Things like katsup by the gallon for the beans, soy sauce for the rice, leavening sugar and salt for the flour (and spices & salt for the other stuff).
Start with the fundamental Beans, Rice, Oil trio, add a bag of salt and sugar and a big bag of flour (provided you know how to cook). Along with that, buy the jumbo bottle of vitamin pills (now a whole lot of nutrition related health failures are dealt with…)
Add to that some “Fast and convenient and cheap” things. I love the oatmeal packets for this use. Also canned tuna, sardines, kippers, etc. They bring with them the essential fatty acids that otherwise are desperately lacking. (Get them packed in oil. You WANT those calories and the fat.) A box of crackers and you are in good shape. (If you think refrigeration will continue working, some bigger jars of mayo helps. If not, a bunch of smaller jars) Then those ravioli or even cans of split pea soup, or those Bush’s baked beans. (I’ve lived for a couple of days “on the road” on canned ravioli and split pea soup or bean and bacon soup). Even peas and corn straight from the can are nice when you are very hungry. When, for whatever reason, you can not cook, those canned goods are a mighty pleasing sight.
So that’s why there is some jerky, candy bars, fig bars, etc. etc. To make it livable and something you can eat without cooking when the need arises.
The beans and rice together are $23. The oil varies a lot with which oil, but that Olive Oil is way more than enough and it was $22. I suspect a $5 jug of some oil is more than enough for 2 for a month.
Eight pounds of pasta is $9 for the fancy stuff ( $8 for the cheap and bland). Then the sauce is $2 a jar for the good stuff, and about $4 for a huge jug of marinara. The cost for a month of noodles and marinara is not worth thinking about. Add a big shaker of dry Parmesan cheese and the only thing missing is a big dry salami to cut slices from, from time to time.
So it goes.
Dump a can of tuna and 1/2 a can of peas into a package of that mac ‘n cheese mix. Bake it per directions. About 4 meals for about $2.50 or 62 ¢ per meal. This isn’t an expensive proposition… It ought to end up at about $1 to $3 / person per day, or about $30 to $90 per person for a month “supply”. So look in your wallet. How many months supply of things you will eat could you go buy Right Now? Why haven’t you?
Ok ok, I know. Believe me I know. On my ToDo list for tomorrow is to reorganize the pantry and kitchen cabinets and try to the the 3/4 of this that is presently sitting in bags by the back door into some kind of cupboard…
OTOH, I don’t need to buy any groceries to speak of for the next few months ;-)
So what’s prompting this attention on what is in the trendy PC Parlance called “food security” (and was called common sense when I was a kid)? Well, I’m seeing the same things this farmer is seeing. It’s a bit repetitive, but he covers the topic well. Basically corn and soy beans are way late being planted, China and others are in trouble with their crops too, the FDA is “making stuff up” about the likely crop yields, and all that is going to hit food prices, and especially meat price and availability. It starts out looking like a financial report, but most of it is one farmer, with his head on straight, explaining from an insider perspective how the meat industry and the grain industry work, and what’s wrong with them, especially in a grand solar minimum. About 1/2 hour:
So that’s why I’ve headed back into the pantry to “get it back in shape”. At present I’m a bit over stocked on rice, beans, and noodles. Not enough canned chicken and tuna. I’m intending to take advantage of the brief drop of meat prices as folks clear out stock to can some of my own chicken. Why? Well, I like dark meat more, and I like it canned with a bit of broth (bouillon) and with some fat left in it. The commercial stuff is just a bit dry / bland.
So now I’m “pretty much set” for a few months, and over the next few weeks I’ll be going through it, one meal type / category at a time, and “balancing it up”. So, as one example, make sure I have one can of tuna per box of mac ‘n cheese, plus one more can per day when I think a tuna / crackers lunch is likely, and enough mayo in small glass jars for that to work out right. (The very little jars are still glass here).
Similarly, for all those beans: Do I have the right amount of oil and spices to make decent beans? Do I want them are refried, boiled, baked, what? How’s my oil / flour ratio for making biscuits and tortillas? You get the idea. Tune it up.
All the while using my “now” food budget for things like meat that will at some point likely become a bit too pricey to be of interest. So IF I need to spend $1.50 / lb for chicken in 6 months, I’ll not care so much as all the other stuff can come from the stores in the pantry keeping the same total monthly food expenditures. That’s the idea anyway ;-)