Survival Food – Feeding your family when the SHTF

Cooking Survival Foods

A year’s supply of commercial survival food can cost thousands of dollars for a single person. Now add up all the members in your family, and most people would be hard-pressed to find that kind of money just lying around the house.

Time and time again, I have readers emailing me in a panic over these issues. For some, it’s actually the one thing that prevents them from getting started in the first place.

You really don’t need commercial survival food to be prepared. In fact, you can find everything you need at your local supermarket or grocery store (if you know what to look for.)

  • Look for foods that have a long shelf life.
  • Look for foods that you normally eat, and buy a couple extra every time you go to the store. (A survival situation isn’t the best time to be experimenting with new foods.)
  • Stock up around the holidays. Holidays can be a great time to score some prepping deals. If you have an extra freezer, you can sometimes pick up things like 20lb turkeys for under $5. For around $100, you can stock your freezer with enough meat to help you make it through the year. Just think of what a help that would be during a crisis like a job loss or a temporary reduction in income.
  • Bulk beans and rice – Believe it or not, you can sustain yourself for a very long period of time on little more than beans and rice. For under a hundred dollars, you can build up a decent size stockpile that will last for a while.

Having food in a survival situation means learning how to be self-sufficient.

HunterAnother part of this whole emergency food equation means learning how to find, capture, and cook wild foods. From knowing how to find the wild edibles in your area to learning how to hunt and fish, you need to have multiple ways of providing for your family during an emergency.

Hunting: At a minimum, I would suggest buying a .22 rifle. They’re inexpensive, and you can stockpile a very large amount of ammo without breaking the bank. Buy one now, learn how to use it, and be confident in the fact that during an emergency you can provide for your family.

Fishing: If you live anywhere near water you should have a fishing pole and a basic tackle box. For under $50 you can buy enough gear to feed your family indefinitely.


  1. You can also get into canning and dehydrating too. They do take some time and a bit of effort to begin with but will pay off over the long haul AND likely save money as well.

    • old country
      November 25, 2013 at 2:13 am

      do not forget if your canning using jars ,you might want to stock up on the sealable lids.
      just a thought,

  2. Great post!

    I agree with your comments on the “survival food.”

    More and more, survival food is becoming a big commercial business. This means that it is DEFINITELY NOT the cheapest route.

    Plus, it’s even more expensive because you are buying a year’s worth of stuff all at once.

    If you are stocking up little by little, you can easily purchase a few extra cans and/or non-perishables a little at a time.

    And then when you can more easily and naturally rotate your storage in and out (i.e. if you have a box of food that expires every month, it’s a lot easier than 9 buckets that all expire at the exact same time).

    I was raised a city kid, but I’m becoming more and more keenly aware of the need to know how to hunt and fish–for emergency food during disasters, as well as cheaper food in the meantime.

    Finally–GARDENING. Gardening is a great way to eat cheaper produce. Produce can be expensive, which is a bummer, because it deters a lot of people from eating healthy food. Gardening is a good way to combat that. And Millenium Fly has the right idea with canning. You can grow all summer long, can your crops and then eat them until spring!

    Party on.

  3. Kt
    November 8, 2011 at 2:04 am

    I would also cook a few meals for practice. What’s the use of having all those beans if you do know how to cook them.(tip on the beans soak them overnight, it will save cooking time/and fuel, goes great with some chopped up beef jerky). Print out recipes and make notes for subitutes that you can use. And spices can made a big difference between a meal and grub, stock up on those to went they are on sale too…you could always trade the extra spices.

    • TwoCor8b11
      November 9, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Also…learn techniques for reducing fuel use, and get high-efficiency devices like a rocket stove that can cook with little fuel and/or alternate fuel. Cooler corn and cooler beans require less fuel to prepare for example.

      • old country
        November 25, 2013 at 2:05 am

        TwoCor8b11 -please what do you mean by theses terms cooler corn and cooler beans.never heard that term before.

  4. mountainspirit
    November 8, 2011 at 6:07 am

    One thing I have learned, when stocking for SHTF situation buy and or package your food in one meal quantities, and learn to cook to where there is no left overs. By doing this you won’t have to store left overs, less food goes to waste, and as you add to your supply you will have a better idea of just how fast or slow you and your family go through particular items.

  5. All good ideas but growing a garden can mean stocking up on larger, better quality foods in huge volumes and made to your liking by growing what you love to eat. Don’t wait until you HAVE to know how to grow some food or your crop could turn into a miserable failure.

    One of my favorite tips to beginner gardeners is grow some potatoes in a pot or barrel by placing the “seed” around the bottom on 8″ of sand or soil and add mulch as the plant grows. Adding some wood ash layers helps make larger potatoes. Kennebec are good producers. People could live on good potatoes.

  6. Les
    November 10, 2011 at 10:25 am

    also, if you happen to spot the wire racks, that store cans, rolling them out one at a time (oldest first) it would be useful if your stockpiling by buying a few cans at a time, by allowing you to easily rotate and consume the oldest first, extending your expiration time.

    Also recommend, dried pasta’s, and if you have a garden, canning is a great what to be prepared, and at the least, save a little shopping money that can be spent to buy addition food stuffs.

    if you have an an extra freezer, many stores have a buy one get on offer on meats and other items that have been on the shelves for a while, but not yet expired, stocking up a little and cooking the older items, as you buy new ones, will do the same, buy extra time with more stuff in the freezer.

    Fishing, hunting, either by yourself, or when other go and have extra, stocking the freezer before needed is also a way to go, along with stocking up on seeds for gardening,

  7. Charles Wesley
    November 14, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    I am 65 yrs. old, have lived in the country all of my life, I would just like to make a couple of comments. Because the electric grid will probably go down when the shtf one might want to invest in a good camping stove and a supply of fuel also invest in a dutch oven, pots and pans that can be used over an open fire and learn how to use them, all the food in the world will do you no good if you can’t cook it. Along the same lines, can and/or dehydrate your food, freezing it is great but if the electric goes down you will have a freezer full of spoiled food.

  8. Austin
    November 24, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Gardening is great for making cheap easy food and for when your surviving, but gardens take a while to grow. What will you eat while waiting for that food? I for one would definetly would be hunting, fishing, and one that most people miss is scavenging or gathering. Look for bird eggs or other local plants. Learn to set traps…A LOT!!! And learn your local plants, which to eat and which not to eat.

  9. Jim F
    December 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Another tip would be to get a 3-5000 watt genset or if u can find a diesel 10k set, used, cheap…jump on it. Then start stockpiling fuel with an additive that will keep it for years. YES, U’ll need the containers as well.

    If u use ur genset only when needed it could last for years.

    Growing ur own food is a very smart project. U can start anytime even indoors in the winter. Try to hide ur garden from prying eyes so as not to encourage poaching ur stuff. Bye some “Danger Poison” signs to post near the garden…this could slow’m down a bit.

    And YES, learn to fish dammit. It’s relatively easy to do. Get the equipment and learn!!!!

    Gotta go now……..

  10. December 20, 2011 at 9:29 am

    A human can die just hours after dehydration and most food sources could be wiped out very quickly if you are not prepared. Check labels on cans before you buy and then periodically after. Freeze dried foods do work extremely well. Dried beans can work very well also, as long as you have a heat source.

  11. This is a great post. I think so many of us are so used to living only for the moment that the thought of not being able to buy food for a few days can cause panic.

    We need to change our lifestyle especially in the area of buying groceries. It takes very minimal effort and money to start stockpiling food on a tight budget. Simply buy one or two more of whatever is on sale, and stick it on the shelf. Keep rotating your foods as they accumulate and that way everything will stay dated and fine to use.

    For most of us, when the SHTF, we will be stuck at home until a plan emerges, so having a good supply of food on hand will be extremely valuable.

    Be Prepared!

  12. I upgraded my dehydrator, and really love it. I love how you can condense your food down into something much smaller when you take the water out of it. I have done a lot of canning, but I find that the jars take up a lot of space. I highly recommend and excalibur dehydrator if you can find one that is reasonably priced.

  13. Sandra
    December 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Dontvforget your oils, veggie or whatever a little oil can go along way and open yourself to many many new recipes in my family we have always saved our bacon grease and we use it in a lot of stuff green beans, popcorn, great to fry eggs in may also help with food fatigue and it’s free if u eat bacon and you can save now

  14. Thelma
    January 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    If the shtf we will all suffer. Learning to live off the grid now would take some of the sting out of the bite. Get the Mylar bags and start prepping. Learn how to cook on an open fire. Practice making candles and soap and learn how to sew. Prices of food are creeping higher and higher. Closing our eyes to whats coming is foolish. We must prepare for ourselves and teach our children to do the same.

  15. Tennessee
    January 2, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    My suggestion; buy and learn to shoot a good-quality air rifle. It will be more than capable of killing small game animals and birds and can be a lifesaver in dire emergencies. A good supply of pellets can be bought for nearly nothing and is easier to carry or conceal than rounds for a powder burner.
    Growing easily-stored items such as winter squash and pumpkins is also beneficial; they need only an area that stays cool without freezing to last all winter if you have the right varieties.
    Set up a top-bar hive or two of honeybees; the honey can be used in so many ways, including bartering for other items. The wax can be used for candles, lube for hand loaded ammo or bartered to others for needed items. They also provide pollination services for your crops, although the resulting seeds may not grow true to type if you have more than one variety growing.
    Just my thoughts on the situation.

    • Donna Jean
      November 13, 2012 at 10:27 am

      It’s also a lot quieter than a powder burner! Won’t attract any unwanted attention!

  16. Kiwi Dave
    June 28, 2012 at 7:43 am

    Next time you have a holiday weekend or a few days off switch off ALL of your utilities and see how you get on. If you’re really brave pack your BOB and pitch your tent in the backyard. Try living rough NOW before you have no way back.

    Then take stock of what worked and what didn’t. You’ll be surprised how much you learn about prepping from doing instead of just theorising.

    When you can do it for a weekend, try it for a week. Then go camping for a fortnight with minimal food.

    Start building your skills now. You’ll be glad you did.

    And if nothing happens, you’ll have a kickarse time.

  17. Terry
    October 5, 2012 at 12:46 am

    Amazing no one mentions solar cookers! They are easy & cheap to make and do a great job. Many styles & instructions are on the web.

    • shud23
      October 5, 2012 at 5:11 am

      I fully agree with you on this one. One can save many resources suring the summer, esp. here in Texas. A person needs more than one way to cook their food. Even if you have to use the manifold on your vechicle to warm up a can of beans.

  18. glenn packer
    October 6, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Wild game isnt going to last long with 300 million people running around looking to eat them.

  19. Austin is right – it takes a while to get that garden up and rolling so that no matter what day it is, something can always be harvested — I’m more than fortunate as gardening can be done 365 in my neck of the woods.

    I’d say it takes at least 4 months before you can waltz out of the kitchen and grab a meal from the garden. That of course assumes there is no two-year drought or crop failure. Hmmmm. We all need a lot of freeze dried, beans, rice, canned goods and home canned veggies, meat and fish to get us through what is coming.

    Another factor — gardening has a learning curve. It does require some luck — Living Under Correct Knowledge. Get some basic gardening books with lots of pictures to inspire and help you along. When the internet goes away we’ll all need our knowledge resources (books) close at hand.

    Good luck prepping to one and all.

    The Seed Lady

  20. sara
    November 7, 2012 at 8:40 am

    I live in a 2bed apt in the suburbs of Rhode Island…what is the best way to start prepping when you have no space for extra freezer, generator, etc? I love all the great ideas above but they seem suited for someone who lives in a rural area or has their own land. thanks

    • David
      December 15, 2012 at 10:06 pm

      Hi sara, i live in RI as well. You will have to make due of the space you have or possibly get a storage unit close by.

    • Enter your name...
      April 2, 2013 at 3:31 pm

      There is maybe room under your beds to store stuff and in closets or bookshelves. I would get canned food easy to heat that needs little cooking, spam, chilis,fruits, soups etc. also you can dehydrate foods too. Get a little grill or camp stove and some canned propane. If you have any windows you can have window gardens, if you have a patio you can container garden?

  21. LeighAnne
    December 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I am surprised I have not seen mention of getting a good bow and some arrows. You can only use a bullet once but you can clean and reuse an arrow and if need be you can make arrows and they don’t make any loud noises to alert others of where you are. The last thing you want is for people to know you are prepared because people will do anything when they are hungry and scared, not to say don’t help others but just be careful when you do.

    • sassy
      April 2, 2013 at 3:33 pm

      I have picked up a compound bow and a compound crossbow and a few arrows. I also picked up crossbow pistols. I will start us off practicing with some of these soon. I have picked up a few hunting arrow heads but need to pick up and learn how to make some arrows too.

  22. Standing On The Brink in MO
    January 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    Sara from RI,
    I’m lucky to live in MO away from cities, but I feel your concern. Though you have limited space, you do have options. Do you have old phone books or the like that you can put under each leg of your bed? Put low profile storage containers or food service size cans there or whatever else you can think of. End tables? Have a yard sale! Get rid of them & make some extra cash, then get some buckets or solid boxes for storage & throw some table clothes over them. Who needs to know what your tables are made of? Or what’s under your bed? Granted it probably won’t hold as much as you’d like, but hey, when it’s limited, do what you can! Hope it helps! Get inventive! God bless & good luck!

    • sassy
      April 2, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      Some very good ideas about the tables and putting bed up on blocks too.

  23. cjy
    January 14, 2013 at 8:20 pm

    Another good survival skill is knowing what’s available in your area as good foraged. wild foods are available even in the desert if you know what to look for and where to find it. Seeds, nuts, green leafy plants, roots and more are widely available resource. Mushrooms are another option but you need training to be able to identify wild foods or you might end up severly sick, or worse. Start learning now and you wont be starving when your stash runs out!

  24. James
    June 17, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    Be sure to read up on aquaponics. Aquaponics is where fish and vegetables live in a symbiotic closed ecosystem. It takes 1/10th the water to grow plants from the fish water and the plants provide the fish the filtration necessary to keep their water clean. The system provides you with fresh veges and fish. Worst part is feeding all those fish, but you can add worms to the ecosystem to minimize the cost gap. It can be done on little or no electricity. It’s a beautiful system.

  25. Greg
    August 31, 2013 at 4:48 am

    Interesting thoughts, I for one can kill an air fern and my area in NC is not real conducive to gardens, too much shade. Was wondering if the freezer is full of a years supply of meat, what happens when the power goes? This happen to me, we had a great barbeque. Dried foods would probably be better. Need to learn how to start fires without matches and other modern devices as they wear out. So if you are roughing it for a couple of weeks need to use what is at hand. Might take a look at “Living History” re-enactors, they, at least when I started, do not use anything that was not available prior to 1840. Just a thought.

  26. jen
    October 20, 2013 at 2:43 am

    It’s kinda stupid to tell people to stock their freezer if there is a collapse bc if the economy fails , that means the shelves will be bare bc the trucks stop shipping, bc the dollar will have no value which means no money -no electrical grids will function for free which means no electricity to run those freezers, which means all that food you spent your money and on – preparing for will be ruined. AND it will be more like 6 + months of collapse. If u plan for just 3 months and it turns out longer, you’d still be up a creek without a paddle. Get really real. Just try out those rations( mres)like the militery does and have been for yearslet your system get use to it now and see which one works best BEFORE that time comes…..

    • Lisa
      October 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      First off,there is more than one way to power your freezer should the grid go down. Solar, wind, gas generators, propane, etc..

      Second, even if you have no way to power it, a lot of us know how to preserve that food before it ever goes bad. My smoker would be running, I’d be salting, canning and drying everything in the freezer.

      So to say having a freezer full of food is stupid, just implies you don’t know much about preserving food, and buying when things are cheap and then freezing.

      And if your relying on MRE’s to keep you alive for any length of time, you are the one that’s going to have the long term problems. I suggest you learn about food preservation and forget the MRE’s which are not a practical or economical long term food storage solution.

      • old country
        November 25, 2013 at 2:11 am

        tell me lisa what would be wrong with freeze dried foods been thinging about it for a while on doing my own ,so how would long term be bad just asking.

        • old country
          November 25, 2013 at 3:22 am

          SORRY: Thinking not thinging lol

  27. old country
    November 25, 2013 at 2:45 am

    one thing to keep in mind if and when shtf and survivable is a must their will be lot of people trying to find food and hunting, that when the country and off grid folks will be faced with unexpected guest of all type, its hard to say how things will turn out some good some bad .
    everyone is reading survival in the wilderness article , so the country side will get flooded with hunters of all calibers, I can only hope we come together and help others and greed does not set in it will be hard times and really sad because it is all avoidable if our government would get there head out of there as; wishing everyone the best

  28. jean
    June 10, 2014 at 9:37 am

    In the early 70’s I felt the Lord was telling me to learn all kinds of ways to preserve food items. We had a garden and still garden every year. At present I am only canning and freezing but have dried fruit items and am thinking about doing some of that again. We do not care for wild meats but if we were hungry that would change. Be sure to follow directions on the various methods of food saving and even if you do not know much about it the key is to “just start” and you will learn as you go.

  29. sheila
    August 29, 2015 at 8:19 pm

    Gardening is hard to do with out a water supply. Also…better be thinking about those nuclear reactors which needs water also.

  30. Thelma
    November 25, 2016 at 8:24 am

    When this bubble burst that President Elect Donald Trump spoke about it will be bad,worse than the last one where people lost their homes. I say stock up, do the best you can and get as much protection as you can from the elements. Food and water are number one.

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