Some guys don't pack much in the way of food -- if you can go for days without much to eat and not have your performance suffer dramatically, then good on you. But most of us will start to notice a fairly significant drop off in performance after a day or two, though adrenaline can mitigate some of that. We're putting together a survival kit, so it makes sense to add some food.
To get rolling, make sure you've read through last week's tip of the week on the calorie-to-weight ratio. Calorie-to-weight, shelf life and prep requirements are going to be the main requirements you look at when sorting out your food. Use a baseline of 100 calories per ounce.
If you are disciplined and pay enough attention to your kit to rotate food once a year or so (not a big deal), you can pack most any kind of shelf-stable food into your bag. If not, you'll need to look at specialty stuff like Mountain House and MREs.
I like to pack zero prep food for breakfast and lunches...and really kind of snack through the day as hunger strikes. Things like energy/protein bars, Snickers bars, trail mix, beef jerky, almonds, single serve peanut butter and crackers, that kind of thing. Stuff that you like, that you would be happy to eat if running for your life.
If you need some inspiration, here's an old post where I was playing with "Bug Out Meals"...I need to take another crack at 'em, but you get the idea. Note your expiration dates.
If you need something to last 5+ years without problem, there are MRE versions of many snacky-type foods. Emergency Essentials and other MRE sellers can help you out if you need those. The MRE snacks/desserts/side dishes are the best parts, too.
For dinners, I'm fine with doing a little bit of work, though your could certainly just add a few more protein bars and such. There's a morale boost to having a decent meal at the end of the day, and if you're living out of a bug out bag, a morale boost is a good things to have.
There are again lots of off-the-shelf options that you can find at the local Wally World. You want just add water type stuff...Cup O' Noodles, olive oil and a pack of chicken can make a fine meal. Instant mashed potatoes, Lipton noodle/rice side dishes, quick prep Mac n' Cheese, Hormel Compleats...there's lots of options.
For longer shelf life, I often go with Mountain House because they are easy to prep, meet the calorie/weight baseline and generally taste pretty good. If you like breakfast for dinner (like I do), check out Mountain House granola, which is just add cold water.
Mountain House and other sells a 3-day supply of freeze dried meals, which I would avoid here, not only because of the expense, but because you probably don't want to be boiling up water for every meal of the day. If you're chilling at a base camp or cabin somewhere, that's one thing. But if you're driving, hiking full out, runnin' and gunnin', that's another.
MRE entrees and similar are fine too, and they take zero prep if you're on the move. They don't usually have very good calorie-to-weight ratios, though.
If you have some kind of hot drink/beverage of choice, add those in as well, even if just for the morale booster. Single serve packets are the way to go. Bullion cubes and ramen noodle flavoring packets can be used to make a decent broth and flavor wild game if you're able to get yourself a stew going, Carl Weathers style. Jello, the sugar variety, is also a favorite of hikers - throw it in hot water at night for a hot, fruity drink, then eat the Jello-y left overs in the morning.
Don't go crazy on utensils. You need one utensil to eat with...spoon, fork, spork, chopsticks, whatever. You sure don't need one for every meal. They don't weigh much, but you don't need ten. I like the Light My Fire Spoon/Fork/Knife design quite a bit. I have one in plastic, kind of want one in titanium.
I try to pack around 6000 calories worth of food, and would tend towards more than less--you can burn up a lot of calories in a day of physical activity. Below is a sample food list of stuff to give you an idea and around what I'd pack. Your tastes/preferences will vary (clearly no nut allergy), so mix it up accordingly.
- 4x Met-Rx Big100 Colossal Meal Replacement Bars - 410 calories, 3.65 ounces each (buy these on sale, usually around $2 a pop, I like the Super Cookie Crunch).
- Total: 1640 calories, 14.6 ounces
- 2x Mountain House Blue Berry Granolas - 520 calories, 4.75 ounces each -
- Total: 1040 calories, 9.5 ounces
- 2x Kirkland Trail Mix - 400 calories, 2.55 ounces each.
- Total: 800 calories, 5.1 ounces
- 2x Mountain House Lasagnas - One of their better flavors. 600 calories, 5.7 ounces each.
- Total: 1200 calories, 11.4 ounces.
- 2x Single Serve peanut butters - Add to bar, granola, eat straight. 250 calories, 1.7 ounces each.
- Total: 500 calories, 3.4 ounces.
- 2x 1.25 oz Blue Diamond Almonds - I like the bold flavors a lot. 255 calories, around 1.6 ounces each.
- Total: 510 calories, 3.2 ounces.
- 3x Land-O-Lakes Hot Chocolates - These are SO good, best hot chocolate brand I've found. 140 calories, around 1.3 ounces each.
- Total: 420 calories, 3.9 ounces.
- Total: 6110 calories, 51.1 ounces. Just under 120 calories/ounce.
I also like the occasional caffeinated water flavoring, but they've got zero caloric value, so not included in the above. You'll also notice there's a mix of stuff...options for meals depending on the circumstances. A few mints or little candies probably would make the cut, too. Not the end-all-be-all list, but something to get you started.
So, for this week, take your $40 and head on down to the local grocery store, maybe swing by REI and maybe hit up your favorite MRE retailer. The above list is well under the $30 mark, and you can do it for less or more, depending on how important shelf life is and how much specialty stuff you get (MH and MREs add up).
Anything left over, pocket for the coming weeks.