As promised in yesterday’s prepping and survival blog post, today I’m explaining my cheapest-possible entry-level stored food kit. I purchased all of the items in this kit yesterday (at Walmart), for a total price of a few pennies under $20. Your prices may vary. I chose store-brand version or little-known brands of foods to get the cheapest prices. You might opt to spend a little more than $20, if you think name-brands are preferable.
For this blog post, I chose to consider the bare minimum of food for 20 days. It is survival rations, not 3 square meals a day. However, I don’t suppose that anyone would be living off of just these foods for those 20 days. In all likelihood, you would have some food still in your kitchen. You might have various spices, some random cans of vegetables, some odds and ends in the freezer. These food items, when added to the macronutrients of this 20-20 food kit, will make the meal more palatable, and add more flavor, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Spreadsheet for the 20-20 food kit (PNG image, opens in new window/tab)
The above spreadsheet analyzes the 20-20 food kit in terms of calories (technically called kilocalories or kcal) as well as macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. There are only 5 foods in the kit — I told you it was the bare minimum — pasta, long grain white rice, dried legumes, granulated sugar, canola or soybean oil.
The oil provides dietary fat. Canola oil and soybean oil are each good choices because they contain both essential fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3. The total amount of fat as a percent of total calories may seem a little high at 26.2%. Similarly, the total kcal of just over 2500 may seem high. But I consider that if you are dealing with some disaster scenario, you may be more physically active than usual, and therefore need more calories. Vegetable oil has a high caloric density and keeps well. It is an easy way to store dietary fat and calories.
The pasta should be plain white pasta, not whole grain. The rice should be white rice, not brown rice. The oils in the bran of any whole grain will go rancid after some number of months. Refined grains and refined sugar keep very well, even indefinitely. So although whole grains are more nutritious, choose the refined grains for long term storage. The rice should be long-grain, not medium or short grain. The reason is that long grain rice has more protein than medium or short grain rice (according to the USDA). Rice is not high in protein to start with, so pick the long-grain variety.
I chose 6 lbs. of pasta and 10 lbs. of rice for this kit, rather than 8 and 8, mainly because the rice was less expensive and came in 10 lb. bags. If you don’t mind breaking the $20 limit, you can choose more pasta and less rice. Pasta has more protein than rice, but less carbs. The 20-20 food kit is a little too high in carbs at over 65% of total calories and a little on the low side for protein, so that trade-off would be fine.
Pasta and rice provide plenty of carbs and some protein. Theoretically, just in terms of macronutrients, you could survive for the 20 days on just rice or pasta and vegetable oil. But let’s add some fiber and more protein; that’s what the dried legumes provide. The 20-20 kit provides only 52 grams of protein per day, at just over 8% of total calories. That amount is sufficient, but on the low end of recommended amounts. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 10% of total calories be from protein. However, we have 52 grams of protein per day, which is just about 10% of a 2000 kcal diet. The math is 52 grams times 3.87 kcal per gram of protein (an average value), divided by 2000 kcal, equals 10 percent. Also, the IOM recommended amounts of protein are 56 g/day for adult men and 46 g/day for adult women. These numbers average to 51 g of protein per day. So, at 52 grams per day, this food kit does have sufficient protein.
By the way, the 20-day food kit is not necessarily 20 days food for one person. It is 20 person-days’ worth of food. So that could be 10 days’ worth of food for 2 persons, or 5 days’ worth of food for 4 people, etc.
For the dried legumes, I chose one pound each of lentils, split peas, and red beans. The spreadsheet just uses 3 lbs. of lentils for the nutritional analysis. These legumes all have approximately the same percent protein, about 23 to 24%, and they are each complete or nearly complete in terms of essential amino acids. Pair any of these legumes with a grain such as pasta or long-grain rice, and you have all the protein and essential amino acids that you need.
Finally, we come to the granulated sugar. Is this food choice just empty calories? Yes, but what’s wrong with that? You need calories to survive. Sugar also makes any meal more palatable, which is important if you are living off of rations for some number of days. But if you think that this food kit has too many calories (over 2500 per day), you can simply use less sugar and less vegetable oil. You will get the same amount of protein. You don’t literally have to eat all of this food in 20 days.
The purpose of this exercise was to show that you can store food as a preparation for various possible emergencies without spending a large amount of money. But I have plenty of food stored in addition to this one $20 kit. See my previous post for my 90 person-day food kit. So if I was to make a recommendation to readers, I’d certainly suggest spending more than $20 and storing more food than 20 days’ rations. See our advertisers for a wide variety of foods of every kind for long-term storage and many other prepping supplies.