If we were to have a major environmental disaster, or a significant disruption in fuel or electricity then I guarantee it would be a bad time to be trying to get to the grocery store. This is where a food reserve comes in. The crisis will likely pass, and if you have spent a little effort preparing then you will not be one of the people fighting over whatever is left when something goes wrong.
There are a number of places that will sell you dehydrated or freeze dried food with a 30-year shelf life that tastes really good. My favorites are http://www.thereadystore.com/ and http://www.mountainhouse.com/. I use this stuff when I go backpacking since it tastes great and is lightweight. The problem is that a one month supply of food will cost about $520 or about $17/day. This makes is a little prohibitive if you are on a budget. If the option is spend $500 on something you will probably never need or pay off a credit card, most people will hopefully pay the credit card.
However, we are talking about an emergency situation here, we are not eating for fun or flavor, but for survival. If that is the case, once people start starving I guarantee they will be happy to eat just about anything. With that in mind I suggest the old standby - beans and rice. This is a staple of people all over the world. It provides most of what you need to survive and stay healthy, and it goes well with just about anything else that you are able to come by. Most importantly it is really inexpensive and stores for a long time. See here where I ate some 14 year old beans.
The cost of surviving on beans and rice is less than $1.50/day. Even with extras such as salt, sugar, spices and oil it is still only $2.30 per person per day. Starting with a 5-gallon bucket you can start preparing for about $43. If it is a choice between paying down a credit card a little bit or having almost a month of food if things get bad. I suggest you get some food. The breakdown is below, the prices are from Walmart May, 2014. If you eat this for a month you will be pretty hungry all the time but you will not starve. Portions are for an adult woman who is not extremely active.
|Product||Weight LBS||Servings||Calories per Serving||Total Calories||GramsProtein / Serving||Grams Protien Total||Grams Carbs / Serving||Grams Carbs Total||Price|
|Daily Recommended||2000||Daily Recommended||56||Daily Recommended||130|
|Days of Food||20.405||Protein/Day =||59.10316099||Carbs/Day =||389.9534428|
The hand warmer is used to remove oxygen from the bucket after it is sealed. Get a bucket with a rubber gasket in the lid. The sealing wax is melted and poured around the lid just to make sure it is air-tight. Keeping the contents sealed and free of oxygen will easily double the shelf life. I would expect that this would last easily 5 years. After that it should still be good for a long time although it may not taste or cook as well. Beans that are really old tend to not get as soft when you cook them. If possible store in a place that is cool and does not have a lot of temperature variation, such as a basement, or even dig a hole and bury it in your yard or under your house.
Also you should consider getting a pressure cooker. You will use less than a quarter of the fuel when cooking and it will make cooking the rice and beans a simple 30 minute process, instead of a all-day ordeal. A dutch oven would also be handy if you end up having to cook over a camp fire.
Other things you should consider storing are water, candles, fuel (gas, and propane). Also bleach and soap and something to purify water. You can use bleach if you need to for water purification. A person needs about a gallon of water per day at least for cooking / drinking and minimal hygiene. A supply of seeds would be handy even if you don't have a garden at the moment. I suggest something like this.
Hopefully nothing goes wrong, and every 5 years you can open a bucket and not have to worry about shopping for rice or beans that year.