There is a whole industry that has grown up around the prepping and survival community. This industry is working overtime to provide everything from pre-packaged meals to the latest survival knife. And while I appreciate their efforts in providing everything needed to survive a disaster, I don’t always appreciate their prices.
The truth of the matter is, when you buy survival food and supplies, you’re paying a premium for it. That’s not really unfair, as there’s a lot of work that goes into making those products and packaging them for long-term storage. So, what you’re paying for is somebody else’s work.
Of course, that’s not the only option there is. You can package that food yourself and save a bundle. Take MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat), the current iteration of military combat rations. Those are great portable emergency foods, just as ideal for a bug out as they are for combat. But they are rather expensive, even in the civilian version. But you can make your own MREs, which may not be as fancy as the commercial ones, but will take care of your needs nevertheless.
In fact, you can find all your survival food needs at the same place you’d buy the ingredients to make those MREs, your local grocery store. After all, isn’t that where we get most of our food from anyway? If that’s the case, why not use your neighborhood supermarket as your survival food headquarters?
You can get every bit of food right there, at your local supermarket, without having to buy it at a premium. For that matter, you can buy a whole lot more that you’ll need for a long-term urban survival situation. When all is said and done, you should be able to complete most of your survival stockpile right there, saving yourself a bundle of money and in many cases, buying foods that your family is already used to eating.
So, what kinds of survival foods can you find at your local supermarket?
Let’s start with sources of protein, since those are usually the hardest to get. You can find:
- Jerky – can be reconstituted for use in soups, or just eaten as is
- Canned chicken
- Canned tuna and salmon
- Canned beef – available as shredded beef, stew meat or chili
- Other canned meats – there’s lots to choose from, including Spam and Vienna sausages
- Peanut butter – not only a good source of protein, but a great comfort food too
- Beans – there are lots of kinds of beans at your local supermarket. Stock up on pinto beans (Mexican style), kidney beans (for making chili) and lentils (great for soup. You can also find other types of beans, such as lima beans, black-eye peas and garbanzo beans. While you may not be used to eating all these, they all work out well in soups.
- Nuts – all nuts are good sources of protein, as well as the good type of cholesterol
Related: 10 Foods Not to Store
We’ve already talked about canned meats, but there are a wealth of other canned goods you can find at the grocery store. One of the best things about canned goods, is that they will keep forever. You can forget about the expiration date on most canned goods and keep them for 20 years or more. The only exception is those things that are “canned” in plastic jars (metal cans and glass jars are great). Those aren’t actually canned and will go bad with time.
One of the major things to buy canned is vegetables. A true survival diet doesn’t usually contain those. But that’s only intended for short-term consumption. If you’re going to end up living off your food stockpile for more than a month, you’ll need the micro-nutrients that we get out of fruits and vegetables.
- Vegetables of all types – necessary for the micro-nutrients they provide. Also provide a fair amount of carbohydrates for energy
- Canned fruit – like vegetables, an excellent source of both micro-nutrients and carbohydrates. They also have a fair amount of sugar in them, which is something you’re going to find that you crave in a survival situation
- Soups – While stockpiling soups isn’t a very efficient way of using space, some soups are very useful for use in other recipes, such as cream of celery and chicken broth.
- Tomato paste – this is a universally useful ingredient for lots of different types of foods. You’ll need spices to go with it, but with the right spices, tomato paste can become either spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce or chili base.
- Spaghetti sauce – It’s amazing how many things taste like spaghetti, if you just cover them with spaghetti sauce. Can’t get your kids to eat eggplant? Just bread it, fry it and douse it in spaghetti sauce. You’ll have them eating it in no time.
- Bullion – beef and chicken bullion are essential as soup starters. In a survival situation, where you are trying to make do with what you have, soup may become a rather common staple on your table. Having bullion to start with will make a much more tasty soup.
- Condiments of all sorts – If your family is like most, your kids love ketchup. Like spaghetti sauce, covering things with ketchup is a great way to get kids to eat it. For that matter, ranch salad dressing works pretty well too. Stocking up on condiments will reduce complaining and get your family to eat what you serve them.
- Jams & jellies – While not really a necessary survival food, if you’re going to have peanut butter in your stash, better put some jelly with it.
The biggest portion of most people’s food stockpile is actually dry foods. That’s because they pack the most bang for the buck. We’re used to eating a diet which consists of about 40% carbohydrates, which come from those dry foods. Fortunately, they are easily adapted to survival situations.
- Hard Red Wheat – whole-grain, unground wheat will keep much better than ground wheat. So, you’re better off buying it like that. Of course, that means buying a grinder as well, so that you can grind it when you need to use it. In addition to the red wheat, consider:
- Rolled oats
All of these grains can be used for baking a variety of foods, as well as using them for side-dishes. Add to them:
- Pasta (of various shapes and sizes) – so much can be done with pasta, from everyday spaghetti to soups, casseroles and a host of Italian dishes
- Cornmeal – cornbread anyone?
Of course, if you’re going to do any baking with those, you’ll need to be sure to have the baking supplies to use:
- Baking soda
- Baking powder
- Sugar – not only for baking, but for sweetening drinks. Sugar becomes very valuable in times of crisis
- Powdered milk – nobody likes drinking powdered milk, but it’s great for baking with
- Powdered eggs – like the powdered milk, think of it more for baking, than for eating as eggs
- Vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar – great for more than just cooking
Other Important Foods
While those are the major categories of foods you’ll want to stockpile for survival. There are a number of other things you should consider; such as:
- Coffee – especially if you don’t function well without it
- Honey – will literally last forever, if kept unopened
- Spices – your family will probably end up eating a lot of things they are not used to. You can make those strange foods taste a lot more palatable by having a good stock of spices, especially your family’s favorites, whatever they are
- Salt – not only necessary for survival, but also the number one food preservative in the world. Stock up plenty, as you’ll need it
- Cooking oil – you might want more than one type here, not just your standard canola oil or vegetable oil. Some oils, like coconut oil have longer shelf lives and have been found to have medicinal qualities
- Dry fruit – goes well as an alternate for the canned fruit, especially when you have to carry it with you
- Hard candies – great treats for kids of all ages. Hard candies, unlike other types of candy, won’t spoil with time. If kept dry and ants are kept out of them, they last virtually forever
One of your biggest needs, and hardest to store enough of, is water. The normal rule of thumb is one gallon per person per day of purified water, just for drinking and cooking. That doesn’t take into account what you’ll need for cleaning, bathing and watering your garden. There’s no way you can store enough water to meet all your needs, but you should try to store as much as you can.
More Than Just Food
That list should take pretty good care of your food needs. But you have many other needs too. Fortunately, the local grocery store is a great place to find many of these things as well:
Let’s start with things you’re going to need for your home:
- Toilet paper – uh, this one’s obvious
- Disposable lighters – the easiest fire starter around
- Wooden matches – the second easiest fire starter around
- Cotton balls and petroleum jelly – work some of the petroleum jelly into the cotton balls to make one of the most effective and cheapest fire accelerants available
- Charcoal lighter fluid
- Charcoal – you might end up cooking on the grille a lot
- Pest killers – they will literally be coming out of the woodwork
- Cleaning supplies – the best way to keep the pests out, is keep your home clean
Then there’s stuff to take care of yourself:
- Soap – lots of soap, including anti-bacterial hand cleaner
- Personal hygiene supplies – please!
- Feminine hygiene supplies – if you want peace in the home…
- Over-the-counter medicines – to take care of sniffles, upset stomachs and the like
- First-aid supplies – injuries happen, in the wake of a disaster, you can count on a lot of them happening; more than normal
- Vitamins – if you’re not eating right, this could help keep you healthy
But some things just don’t fit in a category:
- Candles – if the lights are out, you’re going to need to see
- Batteries, for flashlights and other portable electronics
- Aluminum foil – for cooking with, buy the heavy-duty kind
- Plastic bags in various sizes – useful for a host of different things
- Canning jars and lots of lids – hopefully you’ll be growing food in your garden. Being able to can what you grow will be an important part of your ongoing diet
- Alcoholic beverages – great for medicinal purposes, as trade goods, as well as the more common use
- Bleach – can be used for cleaning, as well as purifying water. Eight drops is enough to purify a gallon of water
A Note About Food Storage
I’ve already mentioned that canned goods will keep virtually indefinitely, without anything else being done to them. But those are about the only foods you can buy in the grocery store, which are packed for long-term storage. Everything else is packaged with the intent that you will consume it within a few days or weeks.
But you’re going to need to make your food last much longer than that, especially if you want to use it as your survival stockpile. Fortunately, there are ways of doing that. Of course, wet foods can be canned; but you’ve got to do something else with dry foods.
- Five gallon “food grade” buckets, with lids
- Six gallon Mylar bags
- Oxygen absorbers
- Vacuum cleaner with a hose
- Hair straightener
- Magic marker
- Rubber mallet
Please note that you won’t be able to find these items at your local grocery store. You can buy the food grade five gallon buckets at the big home improvement centers. But the Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers will have to be purchased online. Just do a search for oxygen absorbers and you should find several suppliers.
This is a fairly simple procedure, which is best done with bulk foods. After all, we’re talking about filling five gallon buckets with it. If you decide to do smaller quantities, you can buy smaller Mylar bags and put several of them together in one bucket.
It is best to have some help when doing this. The oxygen absorbers are very fast acting. So if you don’t close up the packages quickly, they’ll just absorb oxygen out of the air, rather than the air in the buckets. That won’t do you any good at all.
To package the food:
- Place the six gallon Mylar bags, open, in the five gallon buckets.
- Fill them with appropriate dry food, one type per bag. Leave about one inch of space at the top of the bucket.
- Mark the outside of the bucket, in several places, with the contents.
- Using the hair straightener, seal the top of the bag, leaving only enough unsealed to fit the vacuum cleaner hose in.
- Place a oxygen absorber in the bag, through the opening. From this point, you need to work rapidly.
- Suck out the air from the bag with the vacuum cleaner. Don’t put it into the bag far enough that it sucks out the food; just put it barely in the opening.
- Seal off the opening with the hair straightener.
- Fold the top of the bag down and place the lid on the bucket. Use the rubber mallet to seat the lid on its seal.
These buckets should be stored in a cool, dry place. Most dry foods, including everything mentioned above, will keep for about 20 years, if stored like this.