My first venture into food storage was an expensive one. I didn’t know what I was doing, so I stocked up on a lot of food that was typical of our young family’s diet back then — boxes of cereal, granola bars, and cans of ravioli.
When a different kind of storm is on its way in the form of a pandemic, economic collapse, or another worst case scenario that threatens your family, moms everywhere respond to their maternal instincts to protect and care for the ones they love. Since food is at the top of our families’ needs, emergency food storage is a basic, simple step to prepare.
A good goal for beginners is a food storage pantry with at least 3 weeks worth of food. That food should be nutritious, appetizing to your family, inexpensive, and simple to prepare.
If you’ve been losing sleep over scary headlines in the news and empty grocery store shelves, there’s no time to waste. Use coupons and grocery store sales to get the most bang for your buck and examine your budget for any expenses that can be eliminated to free up funds for your prepper food storage.
Let’s first do some math
Initially, planning for 3 months worth of meals is a little intimidating because it’s planning for 90 breakfasts, 90 lunches, and 90 dinners. However, when you start with a 3 month food storage menu and very, very simple meals, you can accumulate quite a bit of food quickly and frugally.
Factors that will affect your food storage meal plans are:
- The size of your family
- The ages and appetites of your family members
- Your budget
- Food preferences
- Allergies/food sensitivities
Moving forward as I make one recommendation or another, if it’s something that won’t quite suit your circumstances, pause and think of alternatives that would. The overall concept is keeping things simple, inexpensive, easy to prepare, and duplicatable. Everyone in your household should be able to prepare most or all of these basic meals — an important consideration in case you or the adults in the household are incapacitated or away from home.
So, let’s take a look at numbers.
You’ll need to have ingredients and meal/recipe lists for a daily breakfast, or 90 breakfasts. If your family doesn’t typically eat much for breakfast or maybe skips it altogether, then no worries. My doctor tells me that breakfast isn’t, after all, “the most important meal of the day”, so don’t be guilted into feeling you absolutely must stock up on breakfast foods. Of course, if you have young, growing, and hungry children in the household, then this meal is probably not optional.
Considering that one large 42 ounce container of oatmeal has about 30 servings, if you were to have a daily serving of oatmeal, you would only need 3 of these large containers plus any additions like honey, raisins, or other dried fruit. Boom. There’s 90 servings for you alone. If your family loves oatmeal and you need to feed 4 hungry mouths every morning, then you’ll need 12 large, 42-ounce packages of oatmeal.
If you’re planning on 3 meals every day, then you’ll need to stock up on ingredients for 90 lunches and 90 dinners. Sounds intimidating and expensive, right? Well, my philosophy is always to keep it simple, and in a crisis where food prep may not be convenient or is the last thing on your mind, consider having a late afternoon lunch/dinner in place of 2 separate meals — lunch and dinner. That will save you money and you can always utilize the leftovers as a late-night snack or lunch/dinner the following day.
The following 3 month food storage menu suggestions incorporate soups, bread/sandwiches, pasta meals, easy casseroles, gravy over rice/biscuits, and rice and bean recipes.
Suggested meal totals by week and then the total of each meal for a 3 month supply. Multiply these totals depending on how many additional meals you want to plan for.
- Two batches of soup per week = 24 soup meals
- Two pasta meals per week = 24 pasta meals for 3 months supply
- Daily sandwiches = bread and sandwich fillings for up to 90 meals (lunch/dinner or both)
- Rice and beans recipes twice per week = 24 rice/beans meals
- One casserole per week = 12 casserole meals for 3 months
- Gravy meal = 12 or more of these meals for 3 months supply
An example of a meal schedule might look like this:
MONDAY: Oatmeal breakfast, peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch, chicken and rice soup for dinner
TUESDAY: French toast for breakfast, leftover chicken and rice soup for lunch, country sausage gravy over biscuits for dinner
WEDNESDAY: Eggs and leftover biscuits, tuna sandwiches for lunch, Macho Mexican Rice for dinner
THURSDAY: Oatmeal, leftover Macho Mexican Rice in a tortilla for lunch, spaghetti for dinner
FRIDAY: Cold cereal with protein powder drink, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato and kale soup for dinner
SATURDAY: Leftovers for breakfast, grilled cheese sandwiches, pasta with Alfredo sauce
SUNDAY: Pancakes and eggs, chicken salad sandwiches, tuna casserole
To get you started with putting together your own 3 month food storage menu, here are some of the simplest ways to stock up.
Plan for simple prepper food storage meals
One hearty dish that serves up a high level of nutrition and can be super-frugal is soup. To get your prepper food storage going, stock up on ingredients to make at least 24 batches of soup — 2 soup meals per week for your 3-month food supply.
If you make double batches, you’ll have leftovers for the next day. As a first step, buy high-quality bouillon in bulk, such as Thrive Life’s beef and chicken bouillon. I like this brand because I can buy it in larger quantities instead of the small jars of bouillon at the grocery store.
Soup recipes generally contain some sort of broth, vegetables, protein of some kind, herbs and spices, and, often, a starch such as rice or barley.
So, in addition to enough bouillon to make 9 batches of soup, add:
- 1 or 2 #10 cans potato dices. This will provide potatoes for both soups and chowders.
- 1 #10 can of each vegetable (dehydrated or freeze-dried) you typically use in soup: onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, corn (for chowders), mixed vegetables, etc.
- Tomato powder for tomato based soups. You can also use this to make homemade pasta and enchilada sauces.
- 1 #10 can instant milk for chowders
- Rice, beans, and small pasta can be added for extra bulk, calories, and variety. See this article about meal stretchers for more ideas.
Do you have to buy these ingredients in such large amounts? No, but in the long run they’ll end up lasting longer and will be more cost effective, but go for store-bought cans of soup if that’s what it takes to get you going! Use coupons, buy generic brands, and shop store sales, and you’ll end up with a very large stash of canned soup, quick.
Calculate how many cans you’ll need for 24 soup meals and then set that number of cans as your goal.
Learn how to bake a loaf of homemade bread
If you already know how to do this, stock up on enough ingredients to make a loaf of bread per day if you have more than four people in your family, or a loaf every other day for smaller family units or individuals. Keep the recipe very simple, as your goal is to stock up quickly, using every penny and dollar wisely.
You’ll use bread for sandwiches, toast, garlic bread, French toast, bread crumbs, etc. You can buy flour and store it in an airtight container. Before storing the flour, place it in a container with a tight lid and freeze it for at least ten days. This will kill off any microscopic insect eggs so there won’t be any nasty surprises when you’re ready to use the flour.
Stocking up on wheat is desirable because it has a much longer shelf life than flour, and once you have wheat, you can grind only the amounts you need each day or week so you’ll always have fresh flour. If you’re like most people, you don’t know too much about wheat. My free video class with wheat-storage worksheets is a great place to start, and you can get immediate access here.
Plan at least 24 pasta meals
Pasta meals are inexpensive and it’s very versatile. Along with pasta itself, you can buy 24 jars/cans of ready-made pasta sauce or buy enough ingredients to make 24 batches of homemade sauce. Here’s my very favorite recipe that happens to be ultra-simple with frugal ingredients:
Marinara Not From a Jar!
2 large cans whole Italian tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c. tomato paste
1/2 c. olive oil
1 crushed garlic, or more, depending on how many vampires you plan on warding off later tonight
1 T. minced onion
2 T. minced parsley
1/2 t. crushed dry oregano
1-2 T. fresh basil, thinly sliced
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally or until sauce is reduced to about 1 quart.
Plan on eating a hot vegetable and slices of garlic bread with each meal. This utilizes your homemade bread and hot veggies can either be from your stash of dehydrated/freeze-dried, canned or frozen veggies from the grocery store, or home grown.
Whip up white gravy
A batch of white gravy is easy to whip up with flour, milk, and some form of fat (butter, bacon grease, or oil). Buy a #10 can of sausage crumbles and make your own sausage gravy served over homemade biscuits. If you’re stocked up on ingredients for bread, you’ll only need to add a can of shortening for the biscuits (see my recipe here). If you choose to stock oil, read more about how to extend its shelf life.
Use butter as your fat, add a little garlic, salt, and you’ve got a nice white sauce to pour over pasta or egg noodles. With some cooked vegetables, you have pasta primavera.
Plan on a “white gravy” meal once a week with a couple of biscuits and gravy breakfasts thrown in the mix. A good white gravy is the basis of a super-hearty meal, and since the ingredients are probably in your kitchen right now, you might as well start practicing making a batch yourself.
Once when my fridge was almost empty and I had a hungry 17 year-old son ready for dinner, I cooked up several pieces of bacon, chopped them up, and then used some of the bacon grease for a batch of white gravy. I mixed the bacon back into the gravy and poured it over a few slices of toast. The kid. Was. In. Heaven. This would also work with rehydrated sausage crumbles.
Tuna or chicken casserole
Tuna or chicken casserole is a simple budget-friendly dinner and very food-storage friendly. Multiply the ingredients in your recipe times 12 in order to serve it once a week for three months. Keep in mind that the size of tuna cans has been decreasing, much like those containers of ice cream that keep getting smaller and smaller! You might have to buy more cans of tuna in order to have the same amount of actual tuna.
In order to make this once a week, buy 12 cans of the soup, 12 cans of sliced mushrooms (or use freeze-dried mushrooms), and splurge on a #10 can of freeze-dried jack or mozzarella cheese. Add other ingredients that you’re personally fond of in casseroles.
Rice and beans can be your budget’s best friend
The classic meal of beans and rice is versatile and the ingredients can be stored for years.
Keep in mind that repetitive meals can be quite boring, so stock up on a variety of beans, buy multi-bean mixes, and different types of rice. Most importantly, stock up on spices, herbs, and seasonings! Keep them stored in a dark, dry, and cool location for longest possible shelf life.
Just this simple array of ingredients will allow you to make dozens of different dishes. Check out this recipe book for more ideas.
More simple dinner ideas
For more simple dinner ideas, buy 100-day Pantry by Jan Jackson. Choose a recipe, multiply the ingredients by 12, and start shopping! Prepper food storage can be simple and something everyone can do.
Your dinner menu will be complete with soup/chowder twice each week, a pasta meal or two each week, tuna or chicken casserole, white sauce with vegetables served over noodles, and two dishes of rice and beans.
Keep the simple theme going with breakfasts
Breakfast should be the simplest meal of the day. Depending on your household, your breakfasts may be very small meals, consist of leftovers, or be the same few recipes/meals again and again. For example, on a weekend you might make a large, 9×13 pan of hearty oatmeal-based protein bars and have them available for quick breakfasts along with coffee, milk, or a protein powder drink.
Oatmeal makes a healthy and filling breakfast and has the added advantage of being versatile. It’s also inexpensive. Some stores carry oatmeal in their self-serve bins, along with beans, cornmeal, etc. Three pounds of oatmeal will provide 30 servings. Figure out how much you need to buy in order to have an oatmeal breakfast 3-4 times per week, one serving per person, per day.
For an easy change, make baked oatmeal, and buy extra oatmeal if homemade granola, oatmeal cookies, and homemade granola bars sound good to you. In addition, buy a few pounds of brown sugar and/or quarts of honey, extra cinnamon, raisins, and any other add-ins you and your family enjoy.
A few other breakfast suggestions
Plan on adding things like pancakes (homemade or using a mix like Bisquick), French toast (from the loaves of bread you’ll be making), homemade muffins, gravy and biscuits, and eggs for the remaining breakfasts. Leftovers are good, too. Keep breakfast quick, easy, and filling.
Cooking three meals from scratch will get old fast. There’s nothing wrong with planning on canned ravioli, chili, tuna sandwiches, canned stew, peanut butter and jelly, and even Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (stock up on instant milk and butter powder to have on hand when fresh isn’t available).
One category of food you will find yourself having to shop for again and again are fresh foods like butter, milk, and produce. This article provides plenty of food-storage-friendly options for fresh foods so you’ll have them on hand for your 3 month food storage supply.
Freeze-dried cheese is pricey, but it can be used in quesadillas with homemade tortillas, sprinkled over a baked pasta dish, pizza, and so much more. When it’s rehydrated, it melts and tastes just like real cheese. In my opinion, it’s worth splurging on a can or two, and then using it as a luxury ingredient, sparingly. I keep cheese in my freezer, but for long-term storage AND a quick way to reach your food storage goal, freeze-dried is a really good option.
Finally, make sure you have at least one alternative way to cook your food and heat up water. If a Sun Oven is too pricey, many people make their own solar cookers. Many moms on this blog have been using an energy efficient rocket stove, such as EcoZoom,which I personally use, and find them easy to use. Should your power go out or energy rates skyrocket, cooking a few meals off the grid will be smart.
The 3-Month supply begins with a single shopping trip
Circling back now to where this article began, stocking up on ingredients for simple food storage meals can be daunting until you begin making lists of meal/recipe ideas and doing a little math so you’ll know exactly how much of each ingredient you’ll need for your 3 month supply.
Remember to keep it simple, frugal, and easy to prepare. Your prepper food storage will build quickly, and you’ll be prepared for the next everyday emergency or worst-case scenario.