If you wanted to conserve space, and look at pure calories and dollars what would a 1-month food plan look like? I run the numbers and have created a minimalist's one-month food storage plan.
In my previous article on a one-month food storage plan for 1 person, I choose mostly canned and boxed items. That plan is designed to be common foods, we eat on a normal basis. It is also designed not to ration calories. Half the items require cooking, and half would taste better if warm. You can see my full plan here: One-Month Food Stash for Less Than $150
What would a month of food look like if you made a few different assumptions:
- Minimize cost
- Minimize space
- No Rationing (1,500 calories/day/person)
- But 2 meals a day.
- Cooking methods readily available
This would be a completely different approach to a food storage plan made of canned goods and favorite snack foods. This plan is designed for those you are:
- Space limited
- Funds limited (paycheck to paycheck)
Situations this plan could mitigate:
- Disruption that temporarily close your grocery store
- Personal job loss and income shortage
- Lack of reliable transportation to the store
- Extreme weather conditions (snow storm, hurricane, tornado, etc)
Meal #1: Breakfast
Protein bars are a great breakfast because they are shelf-stable, don't require cooking, can be eaten on the go, and are quick to eat.
Cliff Bar vs Gatorade Bar
Cliff Bars are approximately $1.45 per bar and contain 260 calories.
Gatorade bars are approximately $1.50 per bar and contain 360 calories.
If we are looking to minimize cost and also space, we want a caloricly dense and cheap bar. These two bars are roughly the same size. If we look at cost per calories we see which one is more economical.
Cliff Bar: $0.0056 per calorie
Gatorade: $0.0041 per calorie
Using this benchmark we see the Gatorade bar is a better deal. However taste may drive your purchase decision. The 360 calories of the Gatorade bar is meal sized, even if it doesn't feel like it.
vs Oatmeal + Jam
Let's look at another example of a cheap breakfast food: Oatmeal + 2 tbsp of Jam. This is assuming a serving is 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal (150 calories) with strawberry jam (100 calories per 2 tbsp).
Oatmeal: $0.0025 per calorie
Jam: $0.0016 per calorie
Oatmeal + Jam: $ 0.0041 per calorie.
Oatmeal and jam is exactly the same cost per calorie at the Gatorade bar. Both could be options for our short-term food storage plan. I think the protein bars are denser and take up less space. While jam is calorically dense, oatmeal is not. Oatmeal also has to be cooked, so for our plan we will include Gatorade protein bars for breakfast.
Meal #2: Lunch/Dinner
Rice and beans are by far the cheapest method of calories. Nearly every society has rice and beans as the staple of it's diet. They are easy to cook, cheap, and give you the calories to make it through the day. Depending on spice availability, they may not always be the best tasting, but they will allow a person to survive.
(Prices quoted are from Walmart in 2-3 lb bags.)
Rice: $0.05/oz = $0.00055 per calorie
Quinoa: $0.21/oz = $0.0025 per calorie
Black Beans: $0.08/oz = $0.0011 per calorie
Pinto Beans: $0.04/oz = $0.00055 per calorie
Lentils: $0.09/oz = $0.00053 per calorie
Given this sampling of rice and beans options we see Rice and Lentils are the cheapest calories available. Pinto beans are very close to lentils, so you could swap them out by preference. Quinoa is remarkably more expensive per calorie than the others. For this one-month food storage I will choose pinto beans and rice, as I like pinto beans better than lentils. Lentils however may store more compactly then pinto beans.
Before considering how much space our rice and beans take up, we first need to know how much we need to survive (not necessarily thrive). The idea of eating only rice, beans, and Gatorade bars for a month is unappealing but you would survive.
Rice: 206 calories/cup (cooked)
Beans: 286 calories/cup (cooked)
Meal #2 needs 1140 calories, so as not to ration calories.
1 cup rice + 1 cup beans is 492 calories
2 cup rice + 2 cup beans is 984
3 cups rice + 2 cups beans is 1190
So for dinner/lunch we will have 3 cups of rice and 2 cups of cooked pinto beans. Salt should be included at a minimum to spice the beans. (Maybe also Beano or Gas-X too...)
Scaled to a Month:
90 cups (cooked rice) => 45 cups uncooked =>22.5 lbs
60 cups (cooked beans) => 30 cups uncooked => 15 lbs
30-60 tbsp of Salt
Scaling these numbers to feed a person for a month we get approximately 23 lbs of rice, 15 lbs of beans, 30 protein bars and ~4 cups of salt. Let's also add a multivitamin to fill the gaps with any missing nutrients.
30 Gatorade protein bars => $1.50 per bar => $45 for a month
Multivitamin (average $0.04 each) => $ 1.20
2 pints of salt => ~$3
23 lbs of rice => $ 17.60
15 lbs of beans => $ 9.60
Monthly Total: $76.40
It seems to me the expensive part of this plan is the protein bars but I think they provide diversity to the meal plan and also sugar and fats. And we saw that oatmeal and jam was just as expensive per calorie. For $77 dollars, a person could survive for a month. Given they also had plenty of water to drink and to cook the rice and beans.
This plan includes less items than my other 1-month meal plan. This plan is also, cheaper, more boring, more gas inducing, and a minimalist approach to food security. To see my other plan:
This one-month food plan would keep you alive, it will not keep you happy. But it could be used to majorly supplement what is already in your food pantry. Maybe this is just too over-analyzed for you, and price per calorie is not something you care about. I get that, but I like numbers. As they say, a man's gotta eat, and this will keep you fed.