Ideas for cheap food storage

Like many others I am living on a fairly strict budget. Adding to my food storage is not always easy as I have two boys that I must keep fed. In some recent discussions with other like-minded folks the subject of “budget foods” came up. Basically those are foods that can be bought very inexpensively to add to a program to increase the overall food stores.

Let’s look at a few “budget foods”:

  • Rice – Rice is super cheap with larger bags of 20 and 50 pounds running around $20 – depending on brand and where bought. Rice is prepared easily and stores for many years under the right conditions. Rice can be included and combined with numerous other foods to make some very tasty meals. My favorite is to open a can of beef stew and dump it on a bed of rice.


  • Beans – Not my favorite but beans are another very inexpensive and versatile food. Dry beans can store for years. My favorite method of eating beans is in a chili or in a soup with lots of other ingredients. Beans are a great candidate for packing away in mylar with oxygen absorbers.


  • Ramen Noodles – A favorite of my oldest boy – Ramen Noodles have fed poor collage students and families for years. Inexpensive and several flavors available (chicken is my favorite) – these dry bricks of noodles are very high in sodium- and also very light. $25 can get you 10 cases of Ramen Noodles.
  • Pancake Mix – Yup…..pancake mix. There are numerous “add water only” mixes that can be bought for just a few dollars and can provide literally hundreds of pancakes (big boxes). Add a couple bottles of syrup and many meals can be made on the cheap.
  • Peanut Butter – Doesn’t have the longest shelf life (1-3 years) but offers up high protein and high calories. Peanut butter can also be a morale booster for the young ones.
  • Pasta – Mylar pack loads of spaghetti noodles and put away a few jars of spaghetti sauce and many high-energy, easy to prepare meals can be made. We are talking cheap! 

Alright folks – these are just a few ideas. How about you add to the list. What inexpensive foods would you recommend to be included in a food storage program?


20 survival items ebook cover
Like what you read?

Then you're gonna love my free PDF, 20 common survival items, 20 uncommon survival uses for each. That's 400 total uses for these dirt-cheap little items!

Just enter your primary e-mail below to get your link:

We will not spam you.

23 thoughts on “Ideas for cheap food storage”

  1. Not inexpensive, but coffee is a must have in my preps. I also look for sales on chunky-type soups to go along with that rice. Also watch for sales on Chef Boyardee type products. Old fashioned oats, not instant, can be inexpensive if you watch sales. Know your local grocery, keep an eye on regular prices and watch for sales all the time. I often purchase items off the ‘manager’s table’ at half price or cheaper. TY for the info on PB, I didn’t realize it had such a short shelf life, I’ll have to keep an eye on that!

  2. My son discovered that Ramen noodles don’t have a huge shelf life. For a couple years he was essentially living on them. After ‘getting tired of them’ he started cooking.

    Fast forward two years. Well, then he ‘rediscovered’ the ones in the back of the cabinet, and when cooking one it really smelled rancid. Turns out, there is a lot of fat in them due to how they are processed. They do go rancid, just like any other oily food – peanut butter for instance.

    Mixes, like pancake mixes, also have a shortened shelf life. Be sure to use and replace them during the year and you should be good to go.

    • Aldi sells powdered peanut butter mix in a small bag, bulk? who knows?
      Canola oil makes the Ramen noodles go rancid faster, AND, the “flavoring” packets, most all of them contain MSG (Mono sodium glutimate) bad for the brain cells

  3. Sorry, no can do. I can’t tolerate grains or legumes so none of the cheap stuff works for me. I have to eat meat and veges at the moment to stay healthy.

    If I’m going for calories I would have a kilo of honey, a kilo of peanut butter and a litre of coconut oil. At least I can eat all of them although the honey would need to be either a short term or emergency calorie requirement to provide high energy as spiking the blood sugars is not a good idea.

    I would eat rice to stop me from starving but it wouldn’t be worthwhile eating wheat as it sends me blind, amongst other symptoms. I can tolerate an amount of peanut butter for calories but not in a long term situation, though peanuts are more tolerable than beans or lentils.

    • Meat is actually bad for you (not as good as fresh fruits and vegetables anyway). Vegetables take 3 to 4 hours to digest, meat takes from 6 to 8 hours to digest. Cheese can take 8, 10 or even 12 hours to digest. Casein (in milk & dairy) cannot be digested by the human adult, the enzyme rennin (which breaks down casein for digestion) ceases to be produced after age 4 to 4.5 at the latest. Native peoples and blacks are more intolerant than whites to milk and dairy for some reason. A whole egg changes the Ph balance of the human stomach to 1.8 (that’s like battery acid). Human Ph is between 6.8 & 7.2 just like the Ph in a hot tub is matched to our body Ph. “Food” for thought.

      Hope this helps.

      • Protein is a necessity to any diet, and when shtf, we will all likely need more energy to get us through more stressful and active lives. I have diabetes, so veggies without protein will not suffice, and there is only so much of legumes that my digestive tract can handle. Many of the freeze dried meats available are very expensive, but it is possible to dry one’s own meat in a food dehydrator or in an oven at a low temperature, around 150 degrees for around 16 hours. Of course, to make the food last longer, it would need to be preserved in some sort of vacuum-sealed pack. I think some of the more extreme shtf scenarios are being placed as a marketing ploy on You Tube just to incite more gullible people into purchasing a lot of crappy foods that are high in sodium, MSG, GMOs, etc. (I would say no to many of the suggestions above, like Chef Boy Ardee, Ramen noodles, heavily processed and GMO-laden soups, mixes, etc.) The government has not regulated the food industry as they should be and has not yet required labeling of GMO products, but the public outcry is pushing them in that direction. As Crisco and other corporate food giants who have been slowly poisoning the American people for years are starting to introduce more non-GMO products, they are left with stores of the outmoded products that no one wants, and the fear and panic of people on a budget is having these unhealthy products flying off the shelves in droves. Don’t be fooled. Do your research, and you will see that there are ways to dehydrate and prepare many foods on your own. I already own a food dehydrator, but it would be a good investment, and it will save you thousands in these pre-made “prepper ready” products that are overpriced, and the vast majority of them are not organic, gluten-free, or GMO free. Powdered eggs are sold out on a lot of these sites due to the panic, but you can make your own powdered eggs. Just buy the eggs of your choice in bulk when they are on sale (for me, I go with organic, which means they have to be from chickens that have not consumed GMO feed), then put them on the dehydrator sheet made for making fruit rolls. They do not have to be cooked first, but you can if you want. Dehydrate them for 14-16 hours (follow instructions on your dehydrator), and voila, powdered eggs on the cheap.

  4. Frugal living should be a way of life for all, IMHO. Even when we have “plenty”, if we remain frugal, there is enough to share with many.

    Ramen noodles, as I recall, are full of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), a proven neurotoxin. Might want to skip those.

    Beans are high in protein and dietary fiber; there are so many varieties out there – just be aware that red beans should be soaked several hours before eating, and that water rinsed off carefully, as they contain large concentrations of phytohemagglutinin, a toxic lectin; actually, all beans contain this compound, so they should all be soaked at least 4 hours and rinsed, but red beans contain the most of it. Symptoms of its toxicity include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can appear within as little as one hour and last for several hours. Just soak and rinse before cooking, and it won’t be a problem. If you’re experiencing a great deal of gastrointestinal distress upon consuming beans, they probably were not soaked and rinsed carefully.

    Lentils are an excellent food source, as well, and can be just as versatile. I personally love chick peas in many dishes – and who doesn’t love hummus? I buy dried split peas and store those in mylar with OAs; split pea soup, seasoned with veggies and a bit of Cajun Andouille (or other ham or sausage) is wonderful!

    White rice is not very nutritious, but you can mix it with brown rice and a small amount of wild rice (1/2 part white to 1/2 part brown to 1/4 part wild rice — which is very expensive) for a more interesting, more healthy rice dish. Brown rice does not store as long or as well as white rice, since it still has the bran germ attached, which is the most nutritious part of the grain. Store your brown rice very carefully – again, mylars are useful here, with OAs to keep oxygen out. I then put mine down inside a steel “garbage” can (a new one I bought just for this) and store at room temp. Cultivated wild rice is not as expensive as “true” wild rice, and just as tasty, IMHO, and nutritious, although some might disagree. I buy it in bulk from online sources out of Minnesota, but our local health food store also carries it in bulk. We eat a lot of rice blend.

    Pancakes are also very versatile – you can do so much with them. We prefer waffles and like to throw a few roasted nuts on top. Every now and then, we go to Cracker Barrel for their sourdough french toast, which we love; they serve one little bottle of syrup, but I always ask for two. Whatever I don’t use, I bring home with me, including the bottles. The little bottles are perfect for tinctures, if you just want to share a small amount, and that syrup is the real deal. You’ve already paid for it – may as well enjoy it all.

    Nuts are an excellent source of protein, store easily, and can be added to many dishes to add interest in texture, flavor, and nutrition. Nuts are “in season” now, so, this is probably the best price you’ll see for a while. I find that the warehouse store has the best price on nuts, like many things. Nuts store well in glass jars with tight-fitting lids, away from heat and light; I use the Pump’nSeal to remove air, or the vacuum attachment from my FoodSaver.

    My local grocery marks down meats the day before expiration, and I have come to know just about when they will be put out, so, sometimes I “lurk” around the meat dept. during that “window”, and it usually pays off. I can save as much as 50% off original prices; we’ve been eating “kill dated” meat for years, and we’re still here. If you have a family member or friend who does not work a traditional 8-5 job, they may be able to help out here.

    There are lots of ways to live frugally; those who have learned to do so already have an advantage over those who are about to be forced to become frugal and will probably melt down over it. Give yourself a “well done” if you’re frugal!!!

  5. PS: While mixes surely do have a shelf life (and if it contains wheat products, you need to pay attention), you CAN lengthen that shelf life by storing them immediately in mylar with an OA of at least 300ccs (I prefer 500ccs), seal, mark outside of bag with contents and expiration date; store in a temperature controlled environment, away from heat and light. I find this extends the shelf life of packaged products by at least double what the package claims. I do this will gelatins and other packaged foods, of which we eat very little, anyway.

  6. Peanut butter is very easy to make yourself; just store the peanuts, and they store best “in shell”; salting them before storing might help preserve longer, if you don’t mind the salt in your food supply. You can also shell them and store, but shelf life will be shortened. Just shell, – then roast them 6-8 mins @ 350 deg. F before processing into pnut butter – cool before procesing; whirl around in a food processor (even a hand crank will do); add a small amount of your preferred sweetener (experiment until you get it the way you like it); and store in a glass jar with tight-fitting lid, in the refrigerator for longest shelf life. A day or so in the ‘fridge will help it set up properly, as well. You can add a bit of extra oil of choice if your peanuts don’t produce enough oil for a smooth product.

  7. There’s a peanut butter powder product called “PB2″(even has chocolate flavored, for a poor man’s nutella) that is pretty decent, as far as emergency rations goes. And it will keep a whole lot longer than normal peanut butter & takes much less space than whole peanuts for grinding.

    They say to just mix it with water, but I’ve found it’s much better tasting (and texture) if you also add a little peanut, coconut, sesame or palm oil. I don’t imagine that olive would taste all that great. You wouldn’t want to use corn, soy or canola because of their GMO status.

  8. I have to laugh, ServantHeart, I have such an aversion to chickpeas! I used to have to stock them on the salad bar in one of my early jobs, and the smell of the canned ones truly turned me off…I can’t even bring myself to TRY hummus!I love lentils, and we have those. I always soak my beans overnite so that should hopefully take care of the toxins. TY for tip on storing peanuts. CM, TY for the advice on ramen noodles, I know they are loaded w/MSG, but perhaps vacuum sealing them would lengthen shelf life. They are cheap and easy, and while not wholy nutritional, I think they are a useful addition to stores as well as being a comfort food for the younger generations. James, could you post a link for the PB2? I think I’ve seen a similar product but i dont recall where. Harriet, I understand what you are saying, you have had great results with your dietary changes, and I continue to wish you well going forward.

    Great thread Rourke!

  9. The chemical flavor packets in Ramen have always bothered me. The price of Ramen only bothers me in a very good way. They may go rancid, but I am going to keep stocking them. I will not use the flavor packets, ever. However, there are many, many ways to use Ramen noodles and there are several websites that have many ideas about how to use them. They cook up quickly which is another reason to keep them in your preps. I haven’t eaten a packet of ramen in years, maybe a decade. I would and will when I cannot get fresh fruits and veggies and meats and dairy. I will cook them up with canned meats, canned or dried veggies, and seasonings and spices from my collection.

    There are rice noodle packets which I prefer, but are harder to find and are more expensive. I eat them when I can find them. Rice noodles always cook up faster.

  10. Maybe I’m being nieve here but can someone explain to me why its bad to eat the GMO stuff if your in an emergency situation and that’s ALL you have!? Can it cause immediate health issues that can pose a problem? Thank you!

  11. Jennifer, of course if all you have is GMO food and you are starving, then of course you will eat it as it will keep you alive in the short term, whatever its long term consequences. But should you choose to put GMO products in your storage? I suggest not. Some would say that GMO food is safe but I’ve not seen any research to suggest this is the case. I have seen research which suggests it isn’t safe and with an interest in health I wouldn’t eat it if I had a choice. When we build up our preps we have a choice as to what we put in it. For me that doesn’t include anything overly processed. So for me I will keep herbs and spices but not processed foods such as pancake mix or mayonnaise. In my understanding the health issues of eating GMOs are likely to occur over months and years, not weeks unless you are conceiving or newly pregnant.

  12. Although I support the “labeling” of “GMO” foods we need to understand that genetically engineered food products have greatly succeeded in the fight against malnutrition and are the main weapon used in creating a sustainable food source to feed the hungry in impoverished countries. There is not one single “credible” study that documents ANY harm from GMO foods… not one! I support the labeling… not the fear mongering.

  13. I grew up with a family of rice eaters. We eat rice on our every meal because it is cheap and so easy to prepare. It also gives high level of energy. I’ll try storing those other foods you mentioned though. Looks like they are good alternatives to rice.

  14. What I have noticed is a bit of bias here regarding personal choices. I don’t care what anybody likes or prefers as the main consideration is the food healthy meaning mostly natural and not made unhealthy by chemical additives or an excessive amount of salt or fat. We all need a balanced diet and it’s counter productive to label certain foods as good, bad or whatever. The other consideration is will it keep for a long time. Of course we can stock and rotate and replace with fresher produce, canned, frozen, dehydrated, freeze dried or fresh. And there are few foods such as grain that can last for years and years. So you’d better have some seeds and even chickens or rabbits for meat when your dry stuff runs out or you crave more than oatmeal, beans, noodles and canned meats.
    Even with fresh food available, long term food storage is something one should be able to do and the methods of storage (Canning, dehydrating, smoking, etc.) all have advantages and disadvantages and based on individual skills and resources/finances some are easier and cheaper to perform than others. Thus we see people who become experts at dehydration for example while others get into canning. And as long as we have power and the stores are open, we should use the easy methods (Vacuum storage, electric dehydrators) and make the harder or more involved methods like canning and smoking skills to acquire as we learn and can afford the equipment. We don’t HAVE to buy special foods, but even if we buy simple, wholesome foods, the need for implementing long term storage preparations still means we have to equip ourselves with the equipment and knowledge to carry out our goal.

  15. I like jerky that has been vacuum packed in small amounts. It can be boiled for broth and the meat can be shredded and added to noodles, rice, or legumes. Helps extend things. Even the homeless know the value of a cup of broth when not having a lot to eat.

  16. WOW!! here I thought I was doing well in preparing, but after reading all these, not so much! I have ramens, canned spaghetti, tuna, chicken, some beans/rice, PB, PBJ, etc. but after all this? guess I’m not so prepared as I thought. seems everything we eat, no matter what, isnt good for us…..I hate to cook, so I keep stocked supplies simple, just me and hubby, and 3 furballs. and we’re all up there in age, so keep things on hand for hurricanes, storms etc, have way to cook if power out and so forth. but guess I’d better start thinking differently huh?


Leave a Comment