Last Minute, Inexpensive Food Preps

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Dried goods for your prepper pantry. Photo by Aaron Doucett on Unsplash.
Canned and dried goods for your prepper pantry. Photo by Aaron Doucett on Unsplash.

My wife texted me from Walmart last week: “They have 20-pound bags of jasmine rice for $21. Should I buy one or two?”

I texted back, “You know how much we eat, so you decide.”

She bought two. We haven’t seen jasmine rice in our local Sam’s Club for months, and it is our favorite variety of rice. Two was the right call, in my opinion, but she made that decision on her own. Made me a proud prepper husband.

Each bag is 181 servings. Each serving is 180 calories. If the two of us have one serving of rice each five days a week, that’s 36 weeks’ worth of rice. Another way to look at it is these two bags of rice will provide one tenth of our caloric needs for six months. That’s a good foundation on which to build.

Rice remains one of my favorite grains for preppers. It is widely available on store shelves, it is not too expensive, and it is easy to cook. It also combines well with many other foods, sauces, or spices to create different meals.

A Lucky Find

I haven’t been to Walmart for a month, but I was at Dollar Tree the other day to pick up a couple of items. I was surprised to see they had Hormel beef tamales in a can for $1.25. This item is more than $2 at Walmart. Needless to say, I bought the only two cans they had in stock. This is not my favorite form of meat in a can, but it was a great price.

Combine the can with some of the rice, and you’ve got two dinners with 360 calories each. In a pinch, with limited food supplies, that’s not too bad.

The point of these two anecdotes is to assure you it is till possible to add to your food stockpile without spending an arm and a leg. You just have to be judicious in your shopping. Buy in bulk when possible, take advantage of sales, and don’t ignore the dollar stores.

Here are some additional ways to add to your food storage in a cost-effective manner.

Grains for Breakfast

Oatmeal is no longer as inexpensive as it once was, but it remains relatively low cost when bought in bulk. Ten pounds is up to $14.88 at Sam’s Club, up from $9.38 in November 2021. (That’s a 59 percent increase–ouch!) Each box has 113 servings of 150 calories each. If we were relying on oatmeal for breakfast, we would add some fresh or dehydrated fruits gathered locally or a dollop of honey to enhance the flavor and boost the calories.

We also like grits for breakfast, which Sam’s Club sells at the low price of $8.48 for 15 pounds. That’s 183 servings. One serving of grits with two eggs on top is more than 300 calories. That should get your day off to a decent start.

Of course, we can always toast our homemade whole wheat bread and serve it with our eggs, or combine them into French toast. Pancakes are another breakfast favorite. If you don’t have a grain mill of your own, then buy flour and learn to bake break, biscuits, rolls, and other baked goods. If you buy the store brand, 5 pounds of flour can be less expensive than a single loaf of bread.

Canned Meat Alternatives

Canned chicken, roast beef, spam, chicken, salmon, and even tuna have jumped in price so much that I can’t include them in a list of inexpensive food preps, but canned foods with meat in them, such as the beef tamales I mentioned earlier, are a less expensive alternative.

Chili is another good example. A can of chili is about half the cost of a can of meat, and when mixed with your serving of rice provides good nutrition and a bold taste. Beef stew is also less expensive than a can of roast beef. A can of corned beef hash is less expensive than corned beef.

Even cheaper is a can of beans, which can be had at Walmart for as low as 78 cents per can. While buying a bag of dried beans is more cost effective, canned beans are more convenient and need far less preparation time. Around here, dried beans are at least $1.25 per pound. If you can find them for $1, snap them up and store them in your prepper pantry.

What to Avoid

While shopping, avoid single-serving pouches of meats, tuna, pastas, rice, and other foods, as they package these items for convenience, not savings. The only time we buy them is when we are outfitting our bug out bags or our car emergency kits.

To save money, avoid brand names and buy the store brand whenever possible.

Quick, Inexpensive Ways to Add Calories to a Meal

In an era in which half the country seems to be overweight, it may sound odd to talk about adding calories to a meal, but as prices rise out of reach or food grows scarcer, you may find there are times when you are still hungry after your allotted meal. Here are a few of things that can help but cost only pennies:

  • Cook a packet of ramen and divide it among two or more of you, using it as a side dish for your meal. Ramen is no longer 10 cents per packet, but it should be less than a quarter. One packet provides 370 calories.
  • Spread peanut butter on bread, toast, or a couple of crackers. Two tablespoons of JIF peanut butter have 190 calories. If you are not having meat or beans, peanut butter can add much-needed fat and protein to your meal, and it is satisfying and fulfilling. Should you have a peanut allergy or be out of peanut butter, viable alternatives include buttered bread, honey as a topping, or bread dunked in olive oil.
  • Add sauce, salad dressing, mayonnaise, or butter. If you eat a bowl of lettuce from your garden, the dressing adds needed fat and calories. Sauces can also add taste and calories. I had a struggling actor friend in New York City who would add barbecue sauce to her rice and stir it up; that was her dinner.
  • Drink a glass of milk, if you can afford it. (I’m seeing reports of milk up to $7 a gallon.) Or, drink something sweet, like sweet tea or a powdered mix you reconstitute. If it has sugar in it, you’ll get a boost of calories. Sugar is still less than 40 cents per pound. You don’t want to live on it, but if you are getting only 1,200 or 1,400 calories per day, something sweet will be welcome and give you some energy.

Keep Prepping

I mentioned once before that I planned to stop topping off my food preps, and I have done so. Now and then, however, I find a good deal and I can’t help myself. I’m also keeping track of what we consume and if we get low on something, I’ll have to restock. We’re not there yet.

Whatever stage you are at, I encourage you to stockpile what foods you can, when you can.

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