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The Beginner’s Guide to Survival Food

Who would have thought the world’s supply chain and inflation would have been spackled all over the news in 2022? Supermarkets do not look the same and there are lots of people starting to get nervous.

Building up your survival food storage is one of the very best ways that you can fortify yourself and your family against serious disasters. You can build up your survival food stores in a number of ways and we are going to discuss them all in this article.

Empty shelves in a supermarket

I have spent 10 years improving my position as a prepper and the real peace of mind came when I started putting up emergency food so that my family would eat even if the supermarkets were empty, the trucks weren’t running or the US dollar was so inflated that it couldn’t buy you anything.

How Many Calories Do You Need?

Before you buy anything you must calculate your survival food needs. You have to know how much food you are going to need to weather the next storm. Your emergency food storage can go a long way as long as you have enough of it.

Right off the bat, I will give you a tip. When you buy “3 MONTHS WORTH OF FOOD” from a survival food company you are getting 3 months’ worth of food for ONE PERSON. In the early stages of buying food storage and prepping in general people can get confused about that.

So, how much food do you need to store?

The calculation is simple. Take the number of people in your home and multiply it by 2000. That’s your daily caloric need. A family of four needs 8000 calories a day in total to meet their needs.

Now, you take that information and make a call on how long you want to feed your family in a serious disaster. Is that one week, 3 weeks, 1 month, or 6 months. This gets intimidating fast but I think I can put your worries at ease.

My recommendation is 3 months’ worth of food for everyone in your home. There has not been a major disaster that lasted that long since the great depression and 3 months gives you time to rethink your strategy if you are dealing with a collapse. You can grow a garden in 3 months!

Beyond that, your food storage goals become very personal. It is up to you and your family to decide how far you want to go with your own personal food stockpile.

What is Survival Food?

Survival food, emergency food, emergency food storage, these are all names given to shelf stables foods that are easy to prepare and can be stored in large enough quantities to be effective in a disaster. Survival foods can be bought in a variety of ways from specialty companies who make this their bread and butter, big box stores, or even your everyday supermarket.

We are going to explore the most important foods to store and where to get them in this beginner’s guide to survival food. We will look at emergency food kits, freeze-dried foods and even teach you how to DIY your own long-term food storage.

Shelf Stable Dry Goods

Shelf-stable foods can be bought in a number of ways. I want to first talk about why they are so important and what makes them a viable survival food. You will find there is a lot more variety in emergency food supplies than you might assume.

With a variety, there is no reason why you cannot create survival meals that are nutritious and delicious.

Storage shelves with canned goods

Canned Goods

Canning technology was designed to preserve food for our soldiers in World War II. It is such an incredible and effective process that we still use it to this day. Canned foods last a very long time and eating canned food beyond its shelf life is actually a pretty common practice.

As a basic rule of thumb, acidic canned foods can be eaten 18 months past the best buy date on the can. While nonacidic foods like canned meats can be eaten up to 5 years passed the best by date!

The variety of canned goods gives you all kinds of options though my advice would be to focus on canned meals and some of your favorite canned foods. Soups are great, too because they heat and eat. Keep it simple with survival food.


Grains last quite a while on the shelves as is. With a little enhancement, you can make them last for years and years! Things like rice, flour, barley, quinoa, pasta, and farro are all great shelf-stable grains that can be stored as survival foods.

Grains are a very important part of your emergency food plan because they are very high in calories. They can really help you meet those calorie goals for your family.

Dried Beans

Black beans, pintos, kidney beans, lentils, red beans, are all great sources of fiber and protein. You can do a lot with dried beans and they last forever! The packaging will shred and biodegrade before the beans themselves go bad, so long as you keep them dry.

Learn to cook dry beans and then start buying them so you have plenty.

Canned Proteins

I know we talked about canned foods already but specifically canned proteins are worth mentioning because in a disaster those cellophane meat packs are the first things to go. You should remember this from 2020.

If you have a robust selection of canned proteins then you are less dependent on what the supermarket has in its meat case. You can still have meat-based proteins by storing canned proteins at home.

Fats and Oils

This is an often overlooked survival food but it is one that is very hard to replace. Having fats for your diet and for cooking is a very important part of any nutritious emergency food plan. Storing things like olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, and even lard gives you access to fats that you need to cook and fats that you need for your body to work properly.

Fats and oils are essential not just for cooking but for your overall health.

Grocery Store Survival Food

While you might think you need to visit a place like Valley Food Storage to get your survival food, lots of people are stocking up on survival foods each week at their grocery store! If you look at the list above you will see a bunch of foods that are on the shelves at your local grocery store.

Frankly, everything we mentioned above can be found at any grocery store.

Buying your survival food storage at the grocery store is a great way to get started and it is easy on the budget. You can get away with spending an extra $10-$20 a week on extra canned goods, grains, beans, and fats. In a matter of months, you will be accruing lots of food storage.

Simply buy 2 bags of rice when you need 1 and pick up a couple of extra cans of soup or meat each time you visit the grocery store. In no time at all, you will be stacking survival food.

Grocery store survival food options

10 Must-Have Food Storage Items

1. Rice

Since rice is so calorie-dense it is one of my first recommendations on the list. You can buy it in almost any store and you get a bunch of choices when it comes to size.

2. Beans

With serious shelf life and a high fiber and protein profile, beans are a must-have food storage item. They are also very cheap and match really well with your first food storage item!

3. Parmalat

Not a lot of people keep this shelf-stable UHT whole milk on hand but I find that it is the perfect food storage item to have on hand if you use milk or have milk drinkers at home. It lasts nearly a year, too!

4. Powdered Mashed Potatoes (Idahoan)

They are not as good as Mom’s mashed but they are full of calories, cook up in a minute, and are such small packets that you can literally store thousands of them!

5. Canned Soup with Meat

Eat it as is or pour it over potatoes or rice. It’s a quick meal.

6. Canned Meals

You should always have a few meals that are ready to go on-demand. These meals are great when you are dealing with calamity. You dump, heat, and serve. Beef stew is a great example.

7. Crisco

It’s not healthy but it’s a fat option that lasts forever and is pretty cheap.

8. Salt

Salt is so important to keep on hand. It does all kinds of things from seasoning to preservation. Also, do you know where your local salt cave is? (that is a joke)

9. Flour

This basic of baking is great to have on hand because you can use it to make all kinds of savory and sweet baked goods.

10. Seasonings

Bland food will drive you crazy if you are stuck eating it for the long term. Be sure you also stock up on all your favorite seasonings.

Long Term Food Storage

The food that you source from the grocery store will have some kind of shelf life. While most foods can be eaten past the best buy date, there are few foods that will survive a decade on the shelf and remain safe to eat.

You want confidence in the food you feed your family, right? In a disaster, you do not want to open the 10-year-old can of peaches out.

Long-term food storage is freeze-dried or specially sealed dry foods that are protected in a bucket, Mylar bags and also contain oxygen absorbers to keep the food inside safe from pests, moisture, and other contaminants.

Long-term food storage can be non-perishable food, dehydrated or freeze-dried. When these foods are stored properly they can last up to 20 years! Now, that is long-term security when it comes to food. This means you can store buckets of food and even give some to your kids when they move out!

Food Storage Companies

Readywise Food Kits

When I got my start in food storage it was with the help of these large food storage companies. Businesses like Emergency Essentials, Augason Farms, and Legacy Food Storage were some of the first places that I bought from.

I started buying Mountain House for camping trips and that is how I learned that they were just so easy to prepare. There is room in your survival food plans for all of these kinds of foods. They are all very beneficial.

What the larger food storage companies do well is combine freeze-dried ingredients to make great long-term food storage meals. Without a freeze drier of your own, you simply cannot create these freeze-dried meals that have a 25-YEAR shelf life. They can be very helpful when a disaster comes along.

They can source large quantities of ingredients if you do not have a means of doing that. However, it has been in my experience that with a club membership at a big box store like Costco, you can get great value in creating your own long-term food storage.

At this moment I have a few recommendations for the best long-term food storage companies and what they do best. If you plan on buying survival food kits, I would suggest you use these companies, from my experience.

  • Best Value and Variety: Ready Hour
  • Best for Bulk Ingredients: Augason Farms
  • Best Tasting Meals: Readywise

DIY Long Term Food Storage

While there are many companies that make great long-term food storage for you to buy, you can make your own. Of all the survival and prepping skills that a person can learn, you should prioritize this one. Being able to bucket your own food with a 25-year shelf life gives you so much power and peace of mind.

This process seems intimidating but it is actually very easy and once you run through it you will use it more and more to stack all kinds of calories in 5-gallon buckets for the next disaster or emergency.

At its essence you are just taking shelf-stable foods, dumping them into Mylar, adding the right size oxygen absorber, and then sealing the bags. They can be stored in 5-gallon buckets for more protection.


  1. Find a clean space with plenty of room for packing food in 5-gallon buckets. A table helps, too.
  2. Clean a large scoop or cup that can be used to transfer your shelf-stable food into Mylar bags.
  3. Take a 5 gallon Mylar bag and open it up inside a 5-gallon bucket, just like you would a trash bag.
  4. Fill the bag halfway and then add a 2000cc oxygen absorber and finish filling. Leave yourself about 5-6 inches of the bag to seal.
  5. Once your Mylar bag is filled inside the bucket you can use a hair straightener to heat seal the Mylar. It seals easily and as long as you are thorough your food will be protected inside.
  6. Add the lid to your bucket and you may want to date and label the bucket, too. This will help you as time goes on and you forget what is inside.

That’s really it! Making your own survival food is really not that tough. It can be done in the afternoon. This is an essential emergency preparedness skill to practice.


Dehydrated apples slices make great survival food

Another way of taking control of food storage and producing your own survival food is by learning to preserve food. If you learn how to preserve food then you will be able to add fresh foods to your repertoire and turn those into survival foods, too.

A fresh apple can be dehydrated, freeze-dried, or cooked and canned. These skills go a very long way. If you take your dried or freeze-dried apples and store them like any other long-term food storage, then you will have made your own survival food from fresh apples.

Preservation is perfect for the garden harvest or when you come across a serious sale at the supermarket. You can turn those berries that are on a deep discount into jars of berry jam and jelly that will safely sit on your shelf for years!

For food storage preservation you should learn skills like dehydrating, air drying, freeze-drying, and canning.

Be Better Prepared with Food on Hand

Whether you decide to stock your shelves with Mountain House or your own homemade survival food kits, you are going to be better prepared when you have extra food on hand. I hope we have opened your eyes to just how easy it is to start storing extra food for bad times.

When it comes to survival food, I personally like to hit the problem from all sides. I like to take advantage of all the options around me. That way, as things start to fail I can quickly change my focus and move to another option. In 2020 Augason Farms stopped taking orders on long-term food storage because they were basically out of stock!

Be prepared to adapt to an emergency or disaster.

For more information on survival food, check out our page on Food.