The absolute bare minimum of food that you need to survive (though not in particularly good health) is three foods, to provide the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
1. a grain for carbs and some protein
2. an additional protein source
3. and vegetable oil for dietary fat
Wheat, amaranth, quinoa, and oats are all fairly high in protein. The wheat flours highest in protein are the “hard red” wheats (winter or spring). White pasta is 14% protein as a percent of total kcal. A pound of white pasta (dry weight) has 60 grams of protein. Amaranth, quinoa, and oats are also good sources of protein. So you could survive on just one of those grains and vegetable oil. You would have enough protein, carbs and fat. But an additional protein source would be helpful.
Rice has much less protein than any of the above mentioned grains. Long-grain white rice is only 7.7% protein as a percent of total kcal. A pound of long-grain white rice (dry weight) has 32 grams of protein. If rice is your staple food, you definitely need an additional source of protein.
Corn (maize) does not have enough essential amino acids, nor enough total protein for survival. You would need multiple additional sources of protein if corn were your staple food, providing most of your carbs. So, don’t use corn as your staple food.
Grams of protein per pound
Amaranth: 61.5 g
Oat flour: 66.5 g
Oats, Quaker quick: 62.2 g
Pasta, white: 59.2 g
Quinoa: 64.1 g
Wheat flour, hard red winter: 57.2 g
Wheat flour, hard red spring: 69.9 g
Wheat flour, hard white: 51.3 g
Rice, long-grain white: 32.4 g
Rice, long-grain parboiled: 34.1 g
Rice, long-grain brown: 36.0 g
Cornmeal whole-grain yellow: 36.8 g
2. Nuts, Seeds, or Legumes
Of course meat, poultry, fish, egg, and dairy are all excellent sources of protein. But this post is about bare minimum survival, so the best candidates for additional protein are: nuts, seeds, beans, and other legumes.
Soynuts are dried mature soybeans, often roasted with oil and/or salt. They are high in lysine, an essential amino acid, and they are higher in total protein than other nuts/seeds/legumes. As an additional protein source, you need to eat about half as much soynuts as you would peanuts or sunflower seeds or beans (dry weight) to get the same amount of protein.
Rice, lowest in protein in the above list, provides 32 g protein per pound. Your additional protein source should provide at least 22 to 25 grams of protein, which brings the total up to 54 to 57 g protein per day. That is generally sufficient for an adult man or woman. The Institute of Medicine recommends 46 grams of protein/day for adult women and 56 g/day for adult men, at a minimum.
2 oz. Soynuts 23 g protein
3 oz. Pumpkin seeds 26 g protein
4 oz. Peanut butter 25 g protein
4 oz. Peanuts (dry roasted) 28 g protein
4 oz. Sunflower seeds 24 g protein
4 oz. Dried beans (white) 27 g protein
5 oz. Walnuts 22 g protein
The soynuts are relatively inexpensive, and have the most protein per ounce. Peanuts and sunflower seeds are also inexpensive and high in protein. To be honest, the soynuts are not my favorite; they are a little too dry. Soybeans are lower in oil than peanuts or sunflower seeds, and that affects taste. But they are very healthy.
I should also point out that 4 oz of dried beans is a lot of beans. I don’t think my digestive system or yours could handle a quarter pound of dried beans per day. What about canned beans, baked beans, and similar foods? Dried beans are 20 to 25% protein, because there is little water content. Once the beans are cooked, the relative protein content is reduced by the addition of water. It takes a full one-pound can of baked beans to give you only 22 grams of protein. Wax beans are even lower in protein than baked beans. So canned beans do not have as much protein as you might have thought. You are better off with the nuts or seeds.
3. Vegetable Oil
The best type of vegetable oil for survival will have both essential fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3. Canola oil and soybean oil are good sources of both types of fat. I also store olive oil, grapeseed oil, and cold-pressed sunflower seed oil, and I throw an extra flaxseed oil (plastic bottle) in the freezer for good measure.
How much oil do you need per pound (dry weight) of grain? About 2 fluid ounces (4 tablespoons) per pound of grain. Those figures work out fairly well on a per day basis too. A pound of grain (rice, pasta, flour) is 1600 to 1700 kcal and the oil adds about another 500 kcal for a total of 2100 to 2200 kcal/day. Your additional source of protein will add anywhere from 250 kcal for 2 oz soynuts to nearly 700 kcal for 4 oz of peanut butter. You will have more than enough total calories and plenty of fat and carbs. Many people will need less food per day than that amount.
This analysis finds that you need to store one pound of grain and 2 fluid ounces of vegetable oil per person per day. That quantity may be more than you need, depending on kcal/day and what other foods you have in your diet. But it ensures that you have at least the minimum amount of dietary fat, if worse comes to worst. So that’s 30 pounds of grains and 60 fl. oz. of vegetable oil per person per month.
Note Well: it is NOT healthy to eat only the bare minimum of protein, fat, and carbohydrates from as few foods as possible. This is NOT recommended!!! This post was an exercise to see what might be the least amount of food for survival purposes, when all other options have been exhausted.
What I’ve learned in researching this post is that wheat (pasta, flour) and most other grains are much better staple foods than rice or corn. I hadn’t realized how great the difference in protein content is. I’m also surprised as to which nuts, seeds, and legumes are the best sources of protein. Soynuts (a legume) give you the best bang for your buck, but pumpkins seeds beat out other nuts/seeds for protein content.
That said, you should store a WIDE VARIETY of different foods, and pay attention to fiber, vitamin, and mineral content as well as protein, fat, and carbohydrates.