Making an Emergency Food Stockpile: DIY Approach

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By Bryan Lynch •  7 min read

There are many companies out there that offer a variety of emergency or survival foods options. Some of them are good and some of them are bad. However, they do share one common theme. And that is a high price tag per meal.

emergency food stock

Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s) or food bars are popular emergency options because they provide an entire meal in one package and have a shelf life of several years. So let me them as a quick price example.

A case of MRE’s usually comes with 12 individual meals. Right now, on average one meal is roughly $12. At three meals a day, that is $36 per day and $1,080 for the month. For a family of four that would be a cost of $4,320 for a one-month food supply.

To be fair I understand that these long shelf life foods are supposed to be supplements to regular food items and not necessarily eaten for every meal. But that is not always the case. When you consider that kind of cost for survival food items it is easy to see why people are so reluctant in building up an emergency stockpile.

However, there is a healthy and more affordable option. This is especially true for a one-month supply. Given the short-term duration of this plan, I am not going to be counting calories but more focused on having three meals a day.

I would like to quickly note that I have nothing against most prepackaged survival foods. Whether they are MRE’s, dehydrated pouches, or buckets of food. I have owned and eaten several different types of survival foods and I enjoy them. The purpose of this article is to simply provide an affordable alternative.

Food stockpiling takes a ton of time. If you want the entire plan laid out, make sure to check out this blueprint on stockpiling.

Getting Started with a One-Month Stockpile

The first thing to do is to create a one-week meal plan. This can be done either on a computer or a piece of paper. If you are doing it on a computer I suggest printing it out so that you can take it with you to the store.

It is going to be a simple column and row design with the days of the week as rows, and the meals listed as columns. Here is what it should look like:


Next fill in the items that you wish to have at each meal. Since this is your food list you can make it however you want to. Also, adjust it according to any medical or dietary requirements.

In my opinion, the best way to go about this is to choose items that do not require refrigeration. This is because during an emergency it is very likely that power could be lost. But this does not mean you cannot cook if you plan on alternative methods.

Here is an example of how to fill in the table:

Monday1 cup oatsPasta dish /stew/chili/soupSame as lunch
TuesdayPancakesPasta dish /stew/chili/soupSame as lunch
WednesdayCup of oatsPasta dish /stew/chili/soupSame as lunch
ThursdayPancakesPasta dish/stew/chili/soupSame as lunch
FridayCup of oatsPasta dish /stew/chili/soupSame as lunch
SaturdayPancakesPasta dish /stew/chili/soupSame as lunch
SundayCup of oatsPasta dish /stew/chili/soupSame as lunch

Some of you may be wondering why lunch the same as the dinner meal? This is to save resources and time. By making a large amount of soup at lunchtime cooking resources (fuel) only have to be used once rather than preparing another meal. This will also save time as the food could be eaten cold or briefly warmed up. Have pasta one day, then stew, chili, and then soup. This will help to keep the menu from becoming too boring.


Food stockpiling takes a ton of time. If you want the entire plan laid out, make sure to check out this blueprint on stockpiling.

Once you have created your one-week food menu multiply it by four to replicate it for the rest of the month. Hey, I never said this was going to be the most exciting menu but it is affordable and it will get you through.

Next, multiply the amounts of one food item per meal by the number of people you plan on serving.

Let’s take the breakfast example of one cup of oats per person.

If there are two people in your group you will need two cups per meal. According to the above menu, oats are served four times a week. That means for one week you will need eight cups of oats to feed two people. Eight cups multiplied by four (four weeks in a month) is thirty-two cups of oats for the month. It may take you a little bit of time to figure this out for your group size but it really is that easy!

Don’t Forget the Condiments!

This is an easily overlooked part of emergnecy food prep but it is so important not to forget the condiments. Why? Because when you are prepping on a budget the menu is going to be rather bland, boring, and repetitive. But by adding in a little sugar and spice and everything nice, the meals will be much more palatable. Items to consider are:

The Cost Breakdown

For the breakdown, I will be creating a food list based on the menu example above.

It will be for one person for one month. Prices per item will vary depending on the brand you choose and where you live.  

This will bring the total cost to $150 for feeding one person for one month. That is roughly a tenth of the cost of the MRE example at the beginning of the article.

Creating a 1 Year Food Supply for Family of 4

This is the typical family size and so let’s do the calculations take the numbers from above.

To feed a family of 4 for one-month, you will need the following:

We can just take that and multiple by 12 to get a 1 year food supply for a family of 4:

When looking at the numbers, they can seem high. But think about it; it’s a FULL year’s supply of food with 3 meals a day.

If you are serious about prepping, take it slow and build up that stockpile over time. Keep an eye on expiration dates as well!

Wrapping It All Up

That may still seem like a lot of money to some people and I can understand that.

But the beauty of creating a menu like this is that it will be made up of items that can be eaten regularly and rotated out. Unlike prepackaged survival food that will sit on the shelf for years until you are forced to eat it before it goes bad.

Also, remember that when you are making the menu, use items that you will eat. Just because I put chili on my list does not mean you have to get chili. Substitute it for something you like. By writing this article I hope that you will see being prepared does not have to be expensive and you can very easily make your one-month emergency food stockpile.

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.