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Top 10 Cheapest Emergency Foods


Top 10 Cheapest Emergency FoodsCreating a stockpile is expensive, and you want to make sure whatever you pick gives you the biggest bang for your buck. That means looking at more than just the price tag. Emergency foods are really about calories and sustaining your body, so you need to figure out the cost per calorie.

You need calories to live, so if you can find the cheapest emergency foods that also give you the most calories, you’re winning. Those are the foods you want in your stockpile, but not all foods fit into that category.

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So, let’s take a look at ten of the cheapest emergency foods you can buy that also give you the most calories. (Please note that costs will vary depending on where you are or what site you purchase from.)

Note: For each food, I included the number of calories you can get for a single U.S. dollar. We’ll count down from least calories per dollar to most calories per dollar.

Cheapest Emergency Foods

10. Canned Tuna

Every stockpile needs more than one type of meat, and tuna is a great option. Be sure to look for canned tuna in oil, as it has far more calories. May as well get as many as you can.

Amazon sells a 48-pack of Chunk Light Tuna in Oil for less than $50 (as of this writing), so you can get it for less than a dollar a can. How does that break down for your servings?

Each serving has 160 calories and an impressive 20g of protein. So, you pay $0.54 per 100 calories. However, considering what a high source of protein this is, it is worth the price.

Calories per dollar: 186

9. Powdered Milk

In times of an emergency, you might not have a source of fresh milk, but you do need calcium in your body for optimal health. That’s why all fully stocked pantries need to have powdered milk. Not only can you use powdered milk in recipes (I use it in my bread machine recipe), but it can be reconstituted into drinking milk.

You can buy whole milk powder from Amazon. They have many choices, including Peak Dry Whole Milk Powder. For less than $70 (as of this writing), you can get an 88 oz tub. You can mix ¼ cup of the powdered milk into a cup of water to make drinkable milk.

Each tub has around 104 servings, and each serving is 120 calories with 7g of fat, 8g of carbohydrates, and 6g of protein. That equals $0.62 per serving.

Calories per dollar: 192

8. Dried Beans

Pretty much all beans are high in calories, usually over 100 calories per 1/2 cup. Plus, they are very high in protein, which you’re going to need if you’re living on survival food (which is mostly carbohydrates).

Of all the beans, black beans aren’t quite the highest in calories, but they’re my favorite, and I found a better deal on them than anything else. Amazon sells a four-pound bag of Iberia black beans for a very low price. 

You can get over 3000 calories for less than $12 in most places.

Calories per dollar: 320

7. Instant Potatoes

Every prepper needs to have some comfort food in their stockpile, and mashed potatoes are just that. While they don’t add protein or fats, they’re a great source of carbohydrates, which is needed during an emergency.

You can find pouches for $1 in most stores, but there is another choice. Amazon sells Chef’s Quality: Mashed Potatoes Complete Instant. This is a 5.44 lb container of instant potatoes for less than $30 (as of this writing). In this container, you get 145 servings! Each serving has 60 calories; it’s only ½ cup of prepared mashed potatoes.

So, what does that equal? You pay $0.19 per serving; that’s a lot cheaper than the pouches in the store. Even if the store pouches are double the serving size, that’s only $0.40 rather than the $1 you typically pay.

Calories per dollar: 322

6. Peanut Butter

Having peanut butter on hand is always a good idea. It’s a source of fats and protein. A single serving of peanut butter contains 190 calories, 16g of fat and 7g of protein, and it tastes so good. It’s filling, so a little can go a long way.

The cheapest peanut butter I could find is at Walmart. You can buy a 40 oz container of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter. Each jar contains 34 servings, and it only costs $5.44. That equals $0.16 per serving size of 190 calories.

Calories per dollar: 1188

5. Pasta

Pasta goes into every stockpile. It’s filling and stretches to fill multiple bellies. If you have kids, as I do, pasta is the best way to make a cheap meal that everyone likes and keeps them full all night.

In general, pasta is easy to stockpile. I’ve found that, in most cases, it’s not cheapest to buy pasta in bulk. What’s cheapest is to buy the single, store-brand boxes from Walmart. Each box of Great Value pasta is 16 ounces for $0.82. The only way that I can find it cheaper is if I have a coupon.

How does it break down? Well, each 16-ounce box of pasta has around eight servings. Each serving is 200 calories, so you pay $0.10 per serving or $0.05 per 100 calories.

Calories per dollar: 1951

4. Vegetable Oil

There are many different forms of fat that you could add to your stockpile. Vegetable oil is one of the cheapest and easiest to find. Almost every store that you visit will have vegetable oil available, which makes it incredibly easy to stockpile.

One of the cheapest places to get your vegetable oil is Walmart, which sells Product of Wesson Vegetable Oil in a 5-quart bottle. That’s a total of 160 fluid ounces for $20.05. Each serving has 130 calories, and a 5-quart bottle has 310 servings. That means you are paying $0.06 per serving size.

Calories per dollar: 2010

3. Lard

The first place I checked for lard was Amazon, but I was surprised to find that Walmart had hands-down the best price for lard I could find. You can purchase a 4lb bucket of lard by Armour Lard for $6.98.

That equals $1.75 per pound. There are around 140 servings inside the bucket, and each serving has 120 calories. You pay $0.04 per 120 calories.

Calories per dollar: 2407

2. Oats

Oats are another great grain and a form of fiber that everyone should have in their diet. Old fashioned oats are a versatile choice, and you can find many different brands, including generic ones.

The best value that I found was at Costco. They sell Quaker Oats Old-Fashioned Oatmeal in two canisters, equaling 5 pounds of oats for $9.49. In each canister, you receive 113 servings for a total of 226 servings. Each serving has 150 calories. That means you pay $0.04 per 150 calories.

Calories per dollar: 3572

1. Rice

Everyone wants to have rice in their stockpile, and it’s typically one of the first foods that disappear off the shelves whenever an emergency takes place. Finding the best price for rice is tricky since there are many different types of rice on the market.

Hands down, the best price available for rice in bulk is from Costco. You can purchase the Riceland long-grain rice in a 25lb bag for $10.99. In this bag, you receive 252 servings, and each serving has 160 calories. Altogether, that means it costs $0.04 per 160 calories or serving size.

Calories per dollar: 3668

Final Thoughts

Stockpiling the right emergency foods doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Remember to look at the calories per dollar to be sure it’s worth adding to your stockpile. That also lets you find the best value for your money.

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  1. Marta Zill on July 25, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    One clever idea I read years ago was to buy the cheap little solar lights you put along your sidewalk. If your power goes out and you’re a little tense about it, bring in solar lights and put them in quart jars…. don’t forget stairways and bathrooms. And remember to put them back in the ground during the day light! I’m amazed at what I learn on here. Thank you so much.

    • Wendy D McClendon on August 5, 2020 at 8:00 pm

      great idea!

  2. bruce f buwalda on July 25, 2020 at 12:05 am

    plain rice, day after day can lower moral!
    Try adding and rotating various bullion cube flavor each day for a change of pace, also dried
    onion, bell peppers, hot pepper flakes helps add to the variety!

  3. Doug on July 24, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    Also dont forget your, your spices. Prefer ones I glass. Rotate around, but have simple go bag just for spices. Just a thought. And agree totally with your top ten. Thanks for confirming. Doug

  4. Brian on April 21, 2020 at 10:00 am

    Article should have included shelf life with each item.

  5. Prepper 1UK on April 21, 2020 at 8:46 am

    I would add to that list ;
    Protein powder or
    Meal replacement powder in large 1kg tubs and
    Lowdered veg etc (including Spirilina).
    One a day will not only be healthy but its very cheap,it last’s years and is extremely compact .
    A variety will ensure if you don’t like one.
    You can mix small amounts in with the one you like. That way you enjoy your meal/drink and dont waste food or money.

  6. Merrilyn on April 21, 2020 at 8:01 am

    Calories are important but also shelf life’s is important to know. Let’s dont Spend money just to have to throw it away

  7. Tennessee Budd on April 20, 2020 at 11:44 am

    I’ll get my stuff cheaper, at my local grocery store. If I ever lose my mind (& my principles) & start doing business with Amazon, I’ll keep this article in mind.

  8. Ben on April 20, 2020 at 10:44 am

    Sam’s has some very nice sizes of gravy mix to add to your rice and/or potatoes.

  9. Eoin Stewart on April 20, 2020 at 10:07 am

    I would add as 11, corn meal. Being from The South I know it got my family through hard times during the Depression and even before and after. Lard + corn meal = “Poor Souls”. A kind of dumpling.

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