Grocery Shopping, Inflation, and the Cost of Calories

Corned beef hash
A can of corned beef has is great for preppers to store. It provides about 700 calories spread across protein, carbs, and fat.

We are expecting a couple of my wife’s friends to stay here for a few days, so we went to the grocery store where my wife usually shops without me. We bought many things we don’t normally buy, including ice cream and other frozen desserts, an apple Danish, shrimp, lunch meats from the deli counter, fancy cheese, and artisan breads. Then we went to Walmart to pick up a few other things.

I had not been to the grocery store for six months. It surprised me at how expensive things were. For example, simple cans of Campbell’s condensed soup were almost $2 each. That shocked the heck out of me. When you go shopping every week, it’s harder to see the price increases because they creep up just a few cents every month. When you go only a couple times a year, the changes are obvious. Food inflation is here, and it is far more than 4 or 5 percent per year.

Of course, this inflation might be especially noticeable to me because I usually shop at the large club stores and occasionally a Walmart. We may not always need the large sizes you get at Sam’s Club, but the dollar savings were obvious.

Stocking Up at Walmart

In our regular Prepper Shopping Basket Inflation Report, I often say where you shop matters. Going from the grocery store to Walmart drove that point home. Walmart may not have as much of a selection, and it may not have as many fancy products or brands, but shopping there is cheaper than shopping at our local grocery store.

The lower cost was obvious in the canned foods and other packaged goods. In fact, I bought 8 cans of Hormel’s Mary Kitchen corned beef hash for $2.36 each to replace cans we had eaten, and added three cans of Great Value roast beef, which was 12 ounces for $2.74. I should note that this is up from $2.50 in our March 19 report on adding meat to your survival stash, an increase of 10 percent.

Cost per Calorie

While the canned roast beef remains a good source of protein, the cost is now 0.83 cents per calorie. We don’t want to spend $16 per person per day (for a 2,000 calorie total) on our prepping food, so we would use the roast beef as an ingredient in something else, such as a stir fry. By mixing it with rice and vegetables from storage, you can lower the cost of your meal, give everyone a few ounces of meat, and enhance the taste and protein in your meal. Use meat like this to stretch your prepper supplies.

I should add that we believe our calorie needs will increase in a post-SHTF scenario because we will be doing more manual labor. We will need fats and protein in our diet because of the increased caloric demand and to complement the large quantities of grains in our long-term storage food plan.

Compare the roast beef to the hash, and you see that the corned beef hash is a far more calorie-dense food than the roast beef. If you are throwing foods in your bugout bag, and have to pick between the two, take the hash!

A 14-ounce can cost and contains 684 calories, making it 0.35 cents per calorie. It also has about 43 grams of fat, 41 grams of carbs, and 31 grams of protein. This puts the hash right up there with Spam and Dinty Moore Beef Stew for packing the most calories into a can.

Diet and Survival

Anyone who looks at the fat or carbs in the hash or Spam and shudders is not thinking like a prepper. Being fat is a first-world problem and when our standard of living goes away, so will the obesity pandemic in America. When the trucks stop running or the electricity goes out for good, all the cakes, cookies, chips, sugary-drinks and other products that provide empty calories will quickly disappear off the store shelf. Those who survive the first winter will be weight less than they have been for years.

In 2016, inflation and shortages caused the average Venezuelan to lose 19 pounds. I expect it will be worse in a global disaster. A couple months into a TEOTWAWKI disaster, your desire to eat healthily will be overwhelmed by your desire to eat anything at all.

If you have medical restrictions, such as celiac disease and can’t eat gluten, then I understand your desire to stockpile gluten-free foods, but I expect most self-imposed dietary restrictions to go out the window in an emergency. There may come a point when a starving vegan would fight you over a can of hash.

Beat Inflation, Prep Now

I spend about $30 for these canned goods which will go in my prepper pantry. That’s 25 servings of food, or close to 6,500 calories, that have best-buy dates in 2024. Already the cost of beef has increased, so don’t wait. Make purchases like this a couple of times a month, and you can build your prepper pantry, too.