Camping & Survival

6 Food Hacks for When You’re Low on Supplies

food hacks - cheese

Prepping for an SHTF scenario isn’t something you can do in a day. You almost certainly can’t do it in a day when society is collapsing around you and a mob of people is storming your local grocery store. That’s why it’s important to prepare far in advance of a crisis.

But what happens when the world starts falling apart before you get a chance to stock up? How do you endure when you’re low on food, water and other essentials? Here are a few simple food hacks to keep in mind when you’re in the red.

1. Store Cheese Without Refrigeration

Cheese might seem like something you have to give up in a survival situation and the electrical infrastructure — specifically the electricity that powers your refrigerator — goes down. However, with one simple hack, you can keep your cheese fresh without a fridge.

You can store grocery store-bought cheddar cheese in a cool, dark place like a basement or a wine cellar for up to a year. You don’t have to do anything special with the packages. Just keep your cheese in a cool place and don’t mess with it until you need it.

The nice thing about this process is if you like sharp cheddars, start with mild cheese. As it ages in your cellar or basement, it will begin to age naturally, becoming sharper. This can help stretch your supplies further by reducing waste.

2. Store Apples and Potatoes Together

Apples and potatoes are both staple parts of most survival food menus, but even if you store them properly, spuds can sprout and become inedible. You can take them outside and plant them during the next growing season, but that doesn’t help you if you’re hungry now.

Instead, when you’re storing your produce, keep your apples and potatoes together. Apples produce ethylene gas as they ripen. This prevents potatoes from sprouting, helping you stretch your food supplies a little further.

food hacks - potatoes
One of our food hacks: storing apples with potatoes can make them last longer.

3. Don’t Cook for Leftovers

Under regular circumstances, cooking for leftovers can give you lunch or even dinner for the next day, but if you can’t store them, all you’re doing is wasting food.

Don’t cook for leftovers. Just make enough for you and your family to reduce waste and help stretch your food supplies once they run low.

4. Use Rosemary as a Skewer

Edible food isn’t the only thing you might run out of if you’re low on supplies. Skewers are a quick and easy way to cook up meat and vegetables over an open fire.

However, if you run out of bamboo skewers, they can get difficult to make. Instead of trying to carve your own, just use some rosemary. The woody stems of the herb make great makeshift skewers while infusing your food with a delightful flavor.

5. Ignore Sell-By Dates

Unless you’re buying meat or other perishable foods, feel free to ignore the sell-by dates on the packages. They’re designed to tell you when something might lose peak freshness or when the store has to sell it.

But unless you’re looking at infant formula, these dates aren’t a mark of whether or not the food is safe to eat.

Pay close attention to the food itself and whether it smells off or exhibits signs of being spoiled. If it doesn’t, think twice before throwing it out. In short, don’t base your food supplies on the sell-by date on the package.

food hacks - eggs
Another one of our food hacks: just because an item (like eggs) is past its sell-by date doesn’t mean you can’t use it.

6. Start With Tortillas

Tortillas are one of the easiest things to make. All you need is flour, water, salt and oil, and from there, you can turn them into nearly anything. Bake them by hanging them over a grill to turn them into taco shells.


Or, slice them into eighths, toss them with salt and olive oil, and bake or fry them for homemade tortilla chips.

You can always eat them on their own, too. If you’re bored of bread or you’re running low on flour, tortillas are a phenomenal way to stretch your resources a little further.

Bonus: Stock Up on MREs

If you’re worried about running out of food supplies, you can always stock up on MREs ahead of time. They’re designed to provide you with all the nutrients necessary to keep you alive, and you won’t have to remember any of the tips on this list.

(Not to say they aren’t important.)

These suggestions will make your food supplies stretch a little further if you can’t make a trip to the grocery store or stock up on MREs. It never hurts to be prepared, and by applying the advice above, you’ll have a lot less to worry about.

Do you have any food hacks to share that aren’t on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author:

Dylan Bartlett

Dylan Bartlett, aka, “The Regular Guide,” writes about the outdoors, survivalism and similar topics on his blog. He's an avid hiker and enjoys roughing it in unfamiliar territory. Check out Just a Regular Guide to read more of his work, or follow him on Twitter @theregularguide for updates.
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. In addition to your recommendations above, I purchased a Harvest Right Freeze dryer to prepare and package for up to 25 years of home style menus. I reduced all recipes to packages for family of 4 for daughter and of 2 for myself. After 6 months of storage, I rehydrated and tested the meals. Tasted as good as the same batch that was in my big freezer.

    Most any food not high in oils or sugar can be freeze dried. Prepackaged food like nuts, pasta and seasonings do not require freeze drying, but just package with Oxygen absorbers as you would normally.

    Anyone can email me for a copy of my “Major Premises for Long Term Food Storage” Updated after Hurricane Michael.

  2. Ignore sell by dates within reason. Sell by/Use by are not mandated, but the manufacturers estimate of optimal taste for the product. If the can is dented, swollen or shows signs of possible leakage, don’t use it. Acidic foods (like Tomatoes) last past the use by, but only for months, not for years. If the liquid level in a can is visibly down, the coloration of the contents is off, smell or taste is off, then discard it. Botulism toxin comes from the spores the Clostridium botulini bacteria produces, not from the bacteria. Because Clostridia are facultive anaerobes (they can grow in the absence of oxygen), it’s not a poison you want to mess around with. You might kill the bacteria by cooking, but getting rid of the toxin they produced requires higher heat and time.
    So use common sense, your nose, eyes and taste buds when trying out of date foods

  3. Stock up on grains and beans in airtight containers. I keep a 20 pound bag of oats and 3 large commercial size cans of pinto beans in the corner of the closet. Pour the beans with water over the oats to soak them and you have instant, no cook porridge. In a civil emergency this can keep your belly full for 2 months so you don’t end up running out of shelter to contend with the unprepared. If you want to avoid nutrient deficiencies, add cheese and vegetables as you’re able. 2 months might be enough time for civil order to be reestablished in most emergency circumstances. If society stays functional, donate the food to help the hungry for a tax break once every 1.5 years, or just use the ingredients for cheap home dinners.

  4. Tyrone,
    A true MRE does not have a use/sell by date, as they are sold to the DoD and do not have to adhere to the same regulations as store bought food. As all of the food (outside of the extras package) is vacuum sealed it will remain viable almost indefinitely, provided it is stored within the proper temperature range (see side of box).
    With a knockoff MRE, it all depends on how it was processed and packaged. Just stick to the rule and avoid anything that smells bad.

  5. To test eggs fill a small bowl with cool water and put the eggs, one at a time, in the water. If they lay down on their side on the bottom, they are fresh, too fresh to peel well if hardboiled. If they stand on end they are still good to eat and really better for hardboiling. If they float, the eggs are too old to eat, throw them out.

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