$1.70 a Day – 90 Days Emergency Food Kit

Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason October 23, 2017 09:19

$1.70 a Day – 90 Days Emergency Food Kit

One of the biggest obstacles people see when they think about preparedness is cost. They’d like to be prepared to survive a major emergency, but they just don’t think it’s realistic. That’s not really surprising. After all, the average cost of feeding a family of four for a week is over $200, according to the USDA’s figures. The bare minimum you should consider as an emergency food reserve is enough for two weeks, and how many of us can afford to spend $400 on extra food? Realistically, to survive a nuclear attack or similar disaster, you should be looking at a three-month food reserve. That’s thirteen weeks – an extra $2,600. It’s no surprise that most people look at the numbers and decide that, while they’d like to be prepared, it just isn’t achievable.

There are cheaper options, but they’re not much cheaper. You can get a bucket of dehydrated food for a bit over $100 that claims to feed four people for a week, but that’s based on an energy intake of just 1,822 calories a day. That isn’t starvation level – quite – but you’d be pretty hungry all the time. Realistically, however long this type of food pack says it will last, you can cut it by about a quarter. If it says it will feed you for a week, count on five days. That means 90 days’ worth is 18 buckets – close to $1,900, plus tax.

Related: DIY $20 Survival Food Bucket

The good news is that an emergency food supply doesn’t have to cost anything like that much. You’re not buying normal groceries, after all, and this is survival food – the aim is to keep you alive and healthy. A lot of the cost of your weekly groceries is stuff that doesn’t need to go in your emergency supply. Instead, you should focus on cheap staples.

If you look online you’ll find survival food lists promising to let you build up a food reserve at a cost of a dollar a day per person. This is actually pretty easy to achieve. The only drawback is that they’re usually aimed at supplying food to two to three weeks, and the nutrition they provide reflects that. If you want to prepare a full 90-day supply it’s going to cost slightly more – but not a lot more. Here’s how to build up a three-month survival food supply for less than $155 per person – just $1.70 a day.

The Basics

Your first priority is to get enough energy to keep you alive. I’ve aimed for a target of around 2,250 calories per day – significantly more than most emergency food supplies provide. The bulk of this is going to come from carbohydrates, with protein and fat added for balance.

The cheapest, and longest-lasting, sources of both carbohydrates and protein are dry goods. To take advantage of that, this menu is based on three staples – rice, pasta and dried pulses. These are easy to store, can be bought in bulk and are very versatile. Cooked rice or pasta can be easily flavoured or mixed with other ingredients to give an energy-dense meal.

To give the right balance between carbs and protein, the basic daily allowance is split into 6.5 ounces of rice, 6.5 ounces of pasta and 3 ounces of beans or lentils. These are all dry weights, and once they’re cooked it will be more than double that. Obviously you don’t need to eat exactly this amount every day; you can have pasta one day, rice the next and beans or lentils added wherever you want. What’s important is your average intake.

When buying rice, always go for white. The bran layer on brown rice makes it more nutritious, but it also contains oils that will go rancid in a few months – white rice will last almost indefinitely if it’s properly stored. Here you can find 19 more foods that will outlast you. Go for long-grain rice, which has a slightly higher protein content. Parboiled rice has a higher vitamin content; enriched rice is even better, so go for this if you can. Buy twenty-pound bags and you can get it for under 50 cents a pound. To give a three-month supply, get 40 pounds of rice per person.

White pasta is also the best choice, for the same reason – whole grain pasta contains oily husks, which will go rancid quite quickly. Beyond that, it doesn’t matter much what kind of pasta you get. If you stick with own-brand, and buy it in bulk bags, you can get a variety of shapes for around a dollar a pound. Again, you’ll need 40 pounds of pasta per person.

Sugar is another good way to add calories. Some nutritionists claim that sugar is “empty” calories, but that isn’t relevant. Any calories are important in a survival situation, and an ounce of sugar a day will give you another 100 of them. The easiest way to use it is in tea or coffee. Store six pounds of sugar per person.

So far we’ve mainly looked at carbs, although rice and pasta do contain some protein. To boost that, add dried beans or lentils. Both of these are very high in protein, and also contain dietary fiber. You can add some variety here, too; lentils, chickpeas and various types of beans are available, and while they cost more than rice or pasta you can still get them for under $1.50 a pound.

Finally you’ll need some fat in your diet. The best option here is canola oil; it’s inexpensive, versatile and healthy – it’s low in saturated fats and helps lower cholesterol levels. Adding two ounces a day to your diet will give you an adequate fat intake and around 400 more calories a day. To last three months, add 1.5 gallons of oil per person.

Related: Cracking Open a Ten-Year-Old Bucket of Food

Rounding it out

This basic diet will keep you going for two or three weeks, and perhaps up to a month. After three months, though, you’ll be short on some essential nutrients – and probably extremely bored, too. If you want to survive for this long you should add some extras. These will make the diet more balanced, and a lot tastier.

Salt is essential. The typical modern American diet contains too much sodium, but your body does need some to stay alive – and the basic rations we’ve looked at don’t contain enough. A quarter ounce of salt a day is plenty; it will add taste to food as well as keeping your nervous system working. You’ll need 1.5 pounds of salt per person.

Unless you’re a vegetarian, you’ll miss meat. Adding an ounce a day to your diet will make it much more palatable, and meat is also a good source of protein and iron. Any meat will do – Spam, canned beet or chicken, tuna or whatever you prefer. Cans of chili or stew are a good choice, too. Because of the size of typical cans, and the problems with storing opened ones, you’ll find it easier to have larger quantities of meat every few days instead of an ounce every day. Aim for the equivalent of six 15-ounce cans per person.

Related: 10 Long Shelf-Life Canned Foods Every Prepper Should Consider Stockpiling

Vegetables are also a good addition. They also make food more interesting, and they contain fiber as well as carbs and sometimes protein. Opened cans of vegetables can be safely stored for a few days, if you use snap-on lids for the cans or transfer leftovers into Tupperware. Vegetables are also relatively cheap, so get 24 15-ounce cans per person.

Finally, add some extras to add flavor and variety. Hot sauce, herbs and spices, vinegar, garlic powder and tomato paste all let you create tasty meals from basic ingredients. A lot of this is stuff you can throw into a bag as you evacuate the house and head for your shelter, so you might decide not to add it to your actual emergency supply. Don’t forget instant coffee or teabags, too, and get a supply of creamer if you use it.

So, now we have a basic list of food for each person. You can find more detail on our spreadsheet, but this is your shopping list:
• White long grain rice – 40 pounds
• White pasta – 40 pounds
• Dried pulses – 17 pounds
• Canola oil – 1.5 gallons
• Granulated sugar – 6 pounds
• Iodized salt – 1.5 pounds
• Canned meat – 90 ounces
• Canned vegetables – 22.5 pounds

These quantities were rounded up to the nearest convenient unit, so if you stick to the recommended daily intake you’ll have a small amount of slack. The figures in the spreadsheet have been rounded again to the most economical retail packaging. For example, at Walmart you can get just over six pounds of sugar by buying one 4lb and two 20oz bags – but it’s cheaper to get two 4lb ones, and you end up with more sugar too. Obviously, if there are two of you just buy three bags, which will reduce the cost per person.

This diet is designed to be as affordable as possible, but still supply enough energy and nutrients to keep you going for months at a time. It works out far cheaper than emergency food buckets, and has more energy too. It also gives you the flexibility to create interesting meals by adding a few simple extras that you probably already have in your kitchen.

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Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason October 23, 2017 09:19
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  1. CCTer October 23, 15:14

    You did a good job putting together a basic list with some explanation for bare bones requirements. Once someone has the items on this list, I would highly recommend that they need to do some more research on improving it. The most important part missing from this article would be to include an emphasis on water and the amount needed per day by each person. Both freeze dried foods from emergency kits and items in this list will require water for cooking. Remembering the “rule of 3s”, we can only survive approximately 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food, water should be part of this article. Thanks again for the info, I will add it to my collection that I use to help instruct others.

    Reply to this comment
    • EddieW October 19, 03:20

      Don’t know if here or other, but showed how you can almost always get water from a tree!! One way was to put a large plastic bag over a big bunch of leaves…might need 5 or 6 or more sacks! The other way was cutting a small triangle in the trunk sharpen a stick, and stick it into the tree, so water runs off the tree. catch a few gallons every couple hours!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Rascal October 23, 18:42

    Are beans the same as “pulses”? I add up 7 pounds instead of 17. Which is correct? Thank you for the article.

    Reply to this comment
    • Fergus December 5, 12:49

      Hi there. Yes, pulses take in beans, lentils, chickpeas and a few other things. 17 pounds of pulses is three months’ worth for one person. I get loads of lentils, because I like lentil soup and also (if you have some Indian seasonings) dal.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Kangaroo October 23, 19:20

    I would just like to mention while you are storing all these dry goods, I always put a couple of bay leaves in all dry goods, it keeps the bugs out for ever. I also put them in my closet musty mold gone or anything that is going to be closed up for awhile.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Nita October 23, 20:24

    Love this list! I have a ton of beans, and have slowly been putting up salt, sugar, and spices of all kind. I could cook straw and make it tasty. Love this site!

    Reply to this comment
    • Fergus December 5, 12:35

      Same here! Some beans and lentils, a few well chosen spices and a spoonful of molasses can make a really tasty meal.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Ken October 23, 23:20

    None of this will be of any value unless you are armed to the teeth with piles of ammo and being willing to kill anyone attempting to relieve you of your supplys, iniformed or not.

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  6. Ken October 23, 23:20

    Damnit thats Uniformed

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  7. JustHere999 October 24, 00:12


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  8. Otter October 24, 07:06

    Good cost effective article for families! Inexpensive Sawyer water filters are a nice addition as well.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Wannabe October 24, 16:17

    I understand the right to self defense and stand your ground, I am willing and able to do so. Just make sure it is last resort and not first response. Better and easier to talk someone down to reason than to shoot them up and cause more trouble with retaliation or even with authorities hunting you down. Remember, it only takes one bullet to be killed with and all those piles of bullets and stock piles of food will then go to someone else. Just use discretion and quick level headed thinking before pulling the trigger.

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  10. CCTer October 24, 22:16

    Additional thoughts. Look into ways to make smaller packets for long term storage. Put them in buckets or boxes. You can barter or give away smaller packs if need be. Recommend dispersing the supplies to different places in your house.

    Reply to this comment
    • Fergus December 5, 12:53

      That’s an excellent point about having small packs available for barter (also why you’re better getting small gold bars than coins). The supplies in this article are basic survival-level rations though, so personally I’d be reluctant to barter them. I *might* if something sufficiently tempting was on offer, but they’d be pretty far down the list of things I offered to trade.

      Reply to this comment
  11. EasyPrepper October 25, 00:11

    I strongly support the idea that everybody can afford to prepare a basic survival pantry! You did a great job showing how. There are lots of ways to improve the taste profile with spices or canned meats, Wertz Beef and Pork are my favorite.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Labienus October 26, 21:19

    Try adding hard tack to that. Some creativity while making it and eating it will make it rather enjoyable.

    Reply to this comment
    • Fergus December 5, 12:55

      I’m a huge fan of hard tack. If you want something that’s a bit tastier, but doesn’t last quite as long, the Roman Army had their own version. Use wholemeal flour, add a tablespoon of olive oil for every pound of flour, then enough water to make a stiff dough. I’ve kept it in a linen bag for six months and it was fine.

      Reply to this comment
  13. Clergylady January 15, 22:45

    I keep plenty of beans, split peas, lentils, soup mix beans, rice, whole grains like barley and wheat. I also dehydrate celery, parsley, onions, carrots, multiple herbs – leaves or seeds and tomatoes. Some dry thing are powdered, and some I leave as chunks, whole seeds or leaves.
    I also have sugar, molasses, syrup, flour, seasonings, bullion powder or cubes, whatever we really like.
    We have canned, frozen, smoked, and dried meat products. I also have some canned powdered eggs, tvp, evaporated milk, et. There are also canned vegetables, fruits, peanut butter, jars of jelly, tomallies, sauces, and even soups, chili, pasta in sauce all ready to heat and eat. Dried veggies are ready to add to soup, soak and steam, powder and add to broth powder for a drink. We have powdered milk, buttermilk, some mixes that take little more than water to use. Always we have and use rolled oats, ground flax, Brown sugar, seeds for sprouting, iodized salt, black pepper in a shaker and whole or multi colored in grinders.
    I have seeds for a garden, edible flowers, and tree fruits. I’ve stared fruits here. We raise rabbits, chickens, and ducks.
    This is for rotation as regular food storage. It could last a long time but it’s there when social security checks just quite cover bills and groceries, between growing seasons when we eat fresh as much as possible or we can feed company. I discovered there are even dry, preflavored, refried beans that are fast and taste good.
    I’m not a big canned Spam fan but even the generic ones are ok fried and added to dishes. Seasonings become key to making anything palitible.
    Grated cheese, bread crumbs, butter et become key to good eating. Learn what works together, practice recipes and cooking styles. Food can be good eating, healthy, and not too much work. I love cooking and eating out of doors.
    Try camp cooking on your bbq or a fire pit. Learn different styles of Preperation and cooking. Can you cook in your home without your stove? Can you cook once in the morning and eat hot food later without power?
    There is so much we can all learn. I have baked at a campfire with foil and cardboard, in a heavy pan on the fire or by a fire or in a camp oven that can set over a fire or on a wood stove. I have a small solar oven. I made a parabolic reflector for students in a science class and we roasted hot dogs and boiled water in front of it. I have a homemade bbq made from half a metal barrel and expanded metal over the wood /charcoal fire and used bed frame metal for the stand, an old gas stove being converted into a smoker to use apple wood from the annual pruning of a neighbors trees, fire pits with metal over the top to retard sparks or cook on. There will be rocket stoves, flat rocks to cook on a dug out dirt stove, and rock oven in the Side of a stone fire ring. These will be mostly for students to learn on. I don’t have a K-12 school here any longer but I still teach friends. No charge… Just seems like the right thing to do for my community.

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  14. Sean October 18, 16:41


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  15. Clergylady October 19, 08:03

    I was widowed 16 years ago. I lived 16 miles from town. The engine in the car froze up the week before my husband died and with his passing I had an empty bank account. (Social security claws back the last check even at the end of the month.) And a zero income from there on out.
    That was my SHTF year. I lived on food we normally had on hand. I didn’t have the critters at that time. I had lots of home canned veggies, soups, crushed tomatoes and pasta, beans, seasonings, oil, a case of Crisco a neighbor had given me. There was coffee, teas wild and purchased on sale, some sugar and syrups including molasses and honey. There were homemade jellies and dried fruits.
    I walked a 4 mile loop up in the hills and back every evening so I arrived home with an armfull of sticks. I later devised a bag to carry sticks to make a fire to cook and heat water. I made it home well after sunset but about the time it actually got dark so my neighbors didn’t know how desperate I was. No flashlight after a while as I didn’t have many batteries around. ( I now have a solar battery charger and lots of batteries around)
    I did have access to a tiny irrigation ditch through a lot of the year. It was fresh mountain water. Then I figured out a pasta sauce can with a homemade wire handle could fit down the 4″ well casing and with some work I still had water.
    Almost one year later friends from another state planned a trip passing right by here. They brought me an older tiny car a lady in their church was no longer using. It needed a battery, tires, and then registration, license, and insurance would make it legal to drive. I sold things in my yard till I could buy used tires mounted for $5 each, a used battery from a wrecking yard, and enough to make it legally mine and ready to drive. In three more weeks I had a job. I still walked every evening for weeks to get sticks to cook over but I did splurge on fresh butter, eggs, milk and bread. I drained the last of the gas from my old car to drive to work till I had a paycheck. I put a quart jar of homemade soup in the car window every day to warm it some. Then what was left was dinner or the start of dinner. I still had food as I’d still grown some garden started after my husband died in July. I canned some but dried most of it because the heat needed for canning was too much for me to provide on armfulls of sticks.
    I grew up in a home where canning and drying were a regular part of life. We had a garden but always found places to glean or pick your own fruits. We picked enough to can for a year and would often sell to neighbors as they wanted to can for their families.
    It was how most of us lived then. It saved me from begging the year my husband died. Sure there were food stamps but not much more for a single adult. Today my home is nearly as well stocked but there are two of us. We could reasonably make it half a year and we still have ducks, chickens, and rabbits. Fresh meat and eggs but I don’t have 6 months stores for them. Some I get fresh for 6 months out of the year. I supplement with sprouts part of the winter. But the birds require grains and the rabbits need greens or purchased pellets. We’d have to be eating them to save some for breading in a long haul.
    Overall a good thought provoking article.
    It sure stirred up memories reading it again.
    I’d finally had to leave my land to work in a larger city. Then I remarried and we started buying a place in the hills but near enough I could still work in town. We retired. Then a son was badly injured and we helped him. That was expensive and we ended up Loosing that lovely home. Now we are back at my old place getting it all liveable and less like a junk yard done by a stepson and squatters.
    We are 80 and 71 at the moment. My husband hit a rare pacemaker problem two weeks ago and I got to practice my rusty CPR. He’s had surgery and a new lead is in place. But it makes me aware of how vulnerable I’d be on a single income and alone. It also makes me appreciate friends even more.
    A friend invited me to stay with her while my husband was in the hospital. It was literally with her. Lol. A son is staying with her for now so we slept in the same bed. We were like two kids talking and giggling and laughing most of the night. It saved me hours of driving and took my mind off of my worries.
    You need a stock of food and a source of water but have a few really good friends and be a really good friend to them. They are worth more than all the gold any of you might be storing away.

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  16. VT October 20, 21:10

    No thought seems to have been given to cooking fuel or time(beans can take up to 8hrs to boil),no menu planning either and prices seems very high(just got years supply of pasta under$.50#). Some suggestions;ramen (1pack/day),oatmeal(4-6 oz dry/day),canned meals(spaghetti sauce for pasta,stew,chili without beans or chili starter),mac and cheese instead of 2/3 elbow mac,tuna in water not oil,what are you going to do with that oil?you have no use with those ingredients,dry Masa to make tortillas(better than bread),spices and seasonings(whole,dried store better),more canned,dried vegetables. Develop menus but add vitamin pills to prevent malnutrition.

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