The cheap survival food is also the longest-lived and the most proven survival food a prepper can store. When a post-apocalyptic event strikes, dry staple foods stored in oxygen-free containers are the cream of the crop. Our ancestors survived on dry staples, and you can survive on them too.
What is Cheap Survival Food?
Cheap Survival Food is dried staples such as hard grains, wheat, white rice, pasta, and beans. These survival foods are inexpensive, purchased in bulk, and have a proven track record of helping cultures survive thousands of years. When packaged with Oxygen-free storage, most foods will store for 15 to 30 years.
- White Rice
- Hard White Wheat
- Hard Red Wheat
- Dried Beans
- Dried Pasta
- Grain Corn
- Rolled Oats
- Dried Potatoes
- Dried Vegetables
- Dried Fruit
- Table Sugar
- Hard Grains
- Soft Grains
- Non-fat Powdered Milk
- Powdered Juice Drink
- Powdered Eggs
- Instant Coffee and Tea
There are many ways to go about hoarding survival food. Still, no other method is as inexpensive, effective, and quick as storing 100’s pounds of white rice, dried beans, and wheat inside food-grade plastic buckets lined with Mylar bags and treated with Oxygen absorbers.
I have packaged 500lbs of wheat, white rice, and dried beans to keep foods from oxidizing and kill bugs, eggs, and pupae.
When I started hoarding food for long-term survival, I was a little intimidated by packaging food with Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. It had a kind of technical voodoo that seemed somehow above me.
After packaging food this way, I was a little embarrassed. It is so easy, so effective, and so inexpensive. Packaging food in Mylar is like having a food storage super-power. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, and if I can do it, anyone can.
Learn how to package these foods for long-term storage. Read the Ready Squirrel article “Mylar Bags For Food Storage: Beginners Guide.”
Cheap Survival Foods (Top 20)
#1 White Rice (Top 4 cheap survival food)
I primarily store long-grain white rice for long-term storage because it is the cheapest and most available in my area. In reality, any white rice will do.
Avoid storing brown and other colored rice for long-term storage because the rice’s high lipid or fat content reduces the maximum shelf-life to about 18 months.
Dried white rice has a shelf life of 5 years if left inside the store packaging and 30 years plus if stored in an oxygen-free container.
#2 Hard White Wheat (Top 4 cheap survival food)
Hard white wheat is high in gluten and can be used for leavened and unleavened bread.
White wheat has the mildest flavor of hard wheat, so it is easier to transition from store-bought bread to homemade bread.
Hard white wheat stored in long-term storage should be purchased as wheat berries because the husk has been removed, eliminating oils that reduce shelf-life.
Wheat is one of the oldest staples, first cultivated 11,000 years ago, and that’s a long time to prove yourself as survival food.
White wheat stored on the shelf life has a pretty long shelf-life but will likely contain hatch bug eggs.
For this reason, re-package wheat into oxygen-free storage for a 30-year shelf-life.
Store wheat and not flour if you have a choice. Whole wheat flour is the most nutritious and has a poor shelf-life, and white wheat is hyper-processed with a maximum shelf-life of 10 years.
Wheat berries provide whole grain flour, which is the most nutritious flour when processed. In addition, wheat maintains a 30-year shelf-life until milled.
Wheat has a lot of uses in the pantry: you can cook it whole and eat it like porridge, mill it into flour to make baked goods, or sprout wheat for micro-greens.
To learn the best type of cheap wheat to store for long-term storage, check out the Ready Squirrel article “Best Wheat Berries for Long-term Storage.”
#3 Hard Red Wheat
Hard red wheat has more protein and tastes gamier than hard white wheat. Use it for leavened and unleavened bread and other baked goods.
Because Red Wheat tastes wilder than white wheat, test it before storing it in bulk.
Learn how to store wheat for maximum shelf life. Check out the Ready Squirrel article “Storing Wheat to Outlast You.”
#4 Dried Beans (Top 4 cheap survival food)
Beans are a powerhouse and should be included in every long-term emergency pantry. They make an incredible entry as an inexpensive bedrock food for long-term survival, full of protein, calories, and carbohydrates.
Eating with a complementary grain like white rice or wheat beans provides a complete amino acid.
Beans can be boiled, baked, ground into flour, and added to soups or stews.
Most of the beans in my long-term storage are black beans and pinto beans because they are readily available.
The most nutritional bean for long-term storage is the soybean. Read the article below if you want to know why I don’t store it as a survival staple.
Check out the Ready Squirrel article “Best Dried Beans For Long-term Storage.”
#5 Dried Pasta
Dried Pasta is a comfort food with a long shelf-life, but there are better options for long-term storage.
I think it’s a pain to store most pasta like spaghetti, linguini, and other stick-type pasta. You waste a lot of room in the Mylar bag or you have to break up the pasta to make it settle.Scott
If you decide to store Pasta, I suggest using smaller bite-sized Pasta like macaroni to maximize storage space inside the Mylar and bucket.
I don’t consider Pasta an essential survival food; it is nice to have survival food.
Pasta does have a 30-year shelf life when properly stored, and it’s easier to prepare than making Pasta from scratch, but whole wheat kernels or wheat berries are much more flexible and provide more nutrition.
I have very little Pasta stored. My entire stockpile is six #10 cans of macaroni I purchased pre-packaged, and that is it.
I’m much more interested in flexible staples like the top four of white rice, wheat, dried beans, and rolled oats.
For me, Pasta is something I’d store if I can’t get the top four foods or if I was in the late stages of preparing my survival pantry.
Learn more about dry staple foods for a year’s supply. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “How Much Food For A Year: Proven Dry Staples.”
The only flour to consider storing for long-term survival food is white whole-purpose flour, and whole wheat flour needs to be refrigerated and still only offers a minimum shelf-life of months.
White flour isn’t as nutritional as whole-wheat flour or ground wheat berries, but it is more convenient. It’s pre-milled and ready to go.
You will have to decide, “do I want to store white all-purpose flour or wheat.”
White flour has a maximum shelf-life of 10 years if stored properly.
Professional survival food companies say 20 years, and I doubt you will get 20 years from storing flour at home. It’s tough to know the moisture content because flour is like a sponge.
Check out the Ready Squirrel Article, “Wheat VS Flour In Long Term Food Storage: Which Is Better?
#7 Grain Corn (Maize)
Grain corn isn’t grandma’s Iowa sweet corn; it is grain corn ground into flour and eaten by the Mayans, Incas, and Aztecs as tortillas.
It has a long storage life of almost 30 years.
Grain corn is used to make MASA or flour for tortillas, and cornmeal is used in cornbread muffins.
Cornmeal is an excellent complement to dried beans.
Corn needs to be treated with Nixtamalization to unlock its nutrition. To process, corn is soaked in limewater, releasing all of its nutrition when eaten.
To learn more about Maise, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “How Long Can You Store Dried Field Corn (02-free storage).”
#8 Rolled Oats (Top 4 cheap survival food)
Rolled oats are one of the few soft grains with a 30-year shelf life. Oats are full of protein and carbohydrates and are an outstanding cheap survival food for long-term storage. They fueled the Scotch Highlanders, feared in battle, and were respected for their strength and stamina. Oats were also a staple of Roman Centurians.
That is enough proof for me.
In the Ready Squirrel article, “Best Oats For Storage: Long Term Survival Food.”
#9 Dried Potatoes
Dried potatoes are not my favorite, but they are good to have on hand as a thickener for soups and stews, a coating for deep-fried foods, and mixed with flour to make potato bread. And to eat in a pinch.
Dried potatoes are not the main staple, but they reduce pallet fatigue and make dishes more interesting.
My suggestion, store dried potatoes after you have the bulk of your wheat, rice, beans, and oats in order.
A better alternative to dried potatoes is to start an emergency garden and grow spuds fresh.
#10 Dried Vegetables
You have two options with freeze-dried vegetables. You can purchase a super expensive home-freeze drying unit like a Harvest right, or you can buy professionally packaged freeze-dried vegetables in #10 cans and buckets.
Both options are expensive.
The alternative: plant a survival garden and learn home canning techniques.
Beans and hard grains can be sprouted for fresh micro-greens, so don’t forget about sprouting as an alternative. It is viable.
#11 Dried Fruit
We’re going for long-term storage here, like 20-plus years, so you have the same options for dried vegetables.
Purchase freeze-dried fruit in #10 cans and buckets, or purchase a home freeze-drying unit.
If you go the survival garden route, focus on planting fruiting bushes before planting fruit trees because they will produce fruit much more quickly.
Fresh fruit can be preserved with home canning, fermenting, or sugar as a preservative for jams and jellies.
#12 Table Sugar
Keep it dry, and it has an indefinite shelf-life. It is valuable in the apocalypse, more valuable than gold, and super cheap. Don’t poo it just because it’s got a bad wrap.
Table sugar enhances flavor and acts as a preservative.
Sugar is easy to store, keep it dry and pest-free, and it will hold forever.
Learn all about sugar in long-term storage. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Storing Sugar In Long Term Storage.”
Salt of the earth, baby. Another cheap survival food you should load up for long-term storage. It’s cheap, lasts forever, and can be used as currency post-apocalypse. Like sugar, I don’t think you can store enough salt.
Salt is a flavor enhancer and a preservative.
Learn all about storing salt in Long Term Storage. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “How many salts Do You Store For Long Term Survival.”
#14 Hard Grains
Wheat and rice aren’t the only hard grains you can store for long-term storage.
When appropriately stored for survival, you can get 30 years of shelf life out of the following grains and seeds.
- Durum Wheat
- Ancient Grains and Wheat (Spelt, Triticale, Ancient Wheat)
#15 Soft Grains
Soft grains stored properly provide 8+ years of shelf-life. Rolled oats are the exception, with a 30-year shelf-life.
Let’s hear it for rolled oats, the favored food of the Scotch Highlander.
Five soft grains
- Hulled Oats
- Pearled Oats
#16 Non-fat Powdered Milk (cheap survival food)
Not all powdered milk is created equal you want to store the non-fat type for maximum shelf-life
One of the top food items Venezuelans are looking for post-collapse is powdered milk and baby formula.
If you have all of your survival food ducks in a row, you will primarily use powdered milk as an ingredient in baked goods, but you can also drink it for nutrition.
Moment of truth. I think powdered milk is gross. I have 50 lbs of the stuff, and I’ve never touched it, but it’s good to know it’s there in case the grocery store shelves end up empty.
If you want to drink powdered milk, check out NIDO, it is a powdered milk product I’ve heard good things about.
Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Cheap Long Term Emergency Food Supply: Epic Dry Staples.”
#17 Powdered Juice Drink
If possible, look for a juice mix that offers vitamin C and other nutrients.
A powdered juice drink is essential for morale and can also be used to replace electrolytes.
Drinking only water for a year will get old. Once in a while, it would be nice to have a sugary powdered fruit drink.
#18 Powdered Eggs
They are an excellent protein source but don’t provide fat like fresh eggs.
Dried eggs can be used in all baked goods and dishes or mixed with water, cooked, and eaten whole.
In the ideal world, you won’t need powdered eggs because you’ll have a bug-out location with chickens pumping out fresh eggs you can eat or trade.
You’ll get indefinite storage life if honey is unadulterated with additives and pure.
There is a story floating around that honey found in Egyptian tombs was still good thousands of years later.
Honey can be used to sweeten drinks and baked goods or fermented into Mead (Honey Wine).
#20 Instant Coffee And Tea
Cheap Survival Food is the most fun. Let’s hear it for caffeine, pure energy, and pleasure.
Caffeine is the psychological side of long-term food storage. If you drink tea or coffee, you know what I mean if you don’t think of these as trade items.
Properly packaged freeze-dried coffee has a shelf life of 20 years.
I survived 5 years in the service on black coffee and I still drink it every day. I can’t imagine not drinking it.Scott
A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, Utah State University PDF
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Food Storage, Getting Started