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Best DIY Portable, Protein Rich, Survival Food That Won’t Break the Bank

Avatar for Chris Thompson Chris Thompson  |  Updated: October 4, 2021
Best DIY Portable, Protein Rich, Survival Food That Won’t Break the Bank

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In this article we will look briefly back in history at a time when both fuel and food were in short supply.

Will it happen again?

At some point it is indeed possible and of course we need to be prepared. After that glace back we’ll learn a DIY way to add to your light-weight, portable food preps by creating “Quick-Cook Beans and bean meal along with delicious multi-use aquafaba”.

Some Backdoor Survival readers are probably too young to remember the trucker strikes of the 1970s when gas prices increased by over 100% in a short time; from about 30 cents per gallon to 70 cents as a result of the oil embargo.

Today those prices may seem laughable but consider how it would affect you if today the cost of gas went from $3 to $7 per gallon practically overnight!

The wait in line for your turn at the pump was up to an hour in larger cities. On top of that, the fuel storage tanks may be empty when you finally pull up, making it necessary to wait until your next assigned “even” or “odd” day to get in line and begin again. This is not fiction or exaggeration it actually did occur, as those over a certain age can attest.

Is it any wonder that independent truckers (owner–operators) made a stand that started with one angry, frustrated trucker (J.W. Edwards, aka River Rat) whose truck stopped on I-80 in PA? He picked up his CB microphone and the proverbial dam broke. During this strike some truckers lost their homes just so they could afford to keep their rigs.

Some lost their rigs and never went back into the trucking industry. They had been making decent money but if they couldn’t get fuel, they couldn’t work. When their fuel costs more than doubled, their income decreased significantly.

Is it any wonder then that the Council of Independent Truckers (CIT) staged strikes across the U.S. and these shortages and strikes lasted for many months before a shaky settlement was finally reached?


Here is how that gas shortage and independent trucker strike affected food delivery in the Northeast where we lived at the time.

Many grocery chains had to close their doors temporarily. Some stores stayed open with limited food. Toilet paper was at a premium when you could find it. Occasionally non-independent truckers could deliver food but with more folks vying for the limited food and toilet paper, the grocery stores usually closed within an hour of the food delivery…sold out, doors locked.

Sometimes arguments and fights broke out in grocery markets and in the gas lines. That was almost 50 years ago when civility was usually still practiced and normal folks had a little more patience. I can’t imagine how that same scenario would play out today—well, maybe I can, and it’s not pretty. See BDS article, “Are You Toilet Paper Prepared?” for a great way never to run out of TP.


So could this shortage happen again? Absolutely! And there are low rumblings within the trucker community right now. You’ve probably read about the Slow Rolls’ that have recently begun in various states across the United States and are planned throughout this spring and into the summer, 2019. It’s low key now and may be under the media radar or it is being ignored by the media, but it is there and is brewing. Truckers are again rightly disgruntled.

Although this time the root cause is different, the threat to the ever decreasing number of independent truckers’ livelihood is at stake. Time will tell if the problem will increase this summer. At this point we can’t know what the outcome will be. The independent truckers have less impact on the transportation industry than they had in the 1970’s but in this crazy world a surprise seems to be around every corner so of course, being prepared is one major key to a more secure future.


Living in a farming section of the country, I know that the federal government has made attempts to take more control over all aspects of food production as well as small truck farming and dairy production. They even seek to regulate backyard gardening through tightly controlled restrictions and over-the-top “rules” – and no “accusation” of rule breaking has to be “proven”!

The mere suggestion of an infraction of the arbitrary rules can close down a farm or cause farmers to have to pay large fines which they can ill afford.

Controlling food transport may be another way for the federal agencies to reach their “total control of food” goal. As small owner-operated independent truckers are forced out due to more regulations that remove the monetary incentives to stay in business, it will be easier to control the mega transportation industry. The same is true of meat and dairy production and of organic produce.

Yes, fuel and food shortages can repeat what happened the 1970’s. Only this time, over 40 years after the first strike, the world is a far different and more volatile place and it is hard to predict what might happen. My point then is simply to heed the Scout motto: Be Prepared! – prepared for shortages and challenges of any kind that you think you may be facing. Only you know the strengths and weaknesses that are in your preparedness plans. The challenge is to identify the weaknesses and move forward to begin to correct them as you can…..even if you are only able to do it in a small way.…do something.

As a prepper community we have a leg up in this area. But lately I’ve been thinking about things we can do to make life a little easier now and in the future as we continue to gather, store and use our emergency food supplies.

Portable Emergency Foods

Some of the currently available high energy foods are listed below and definitely have their place in go bags and other prep applications.

  • Dried or wet pouched fish and chicken: These are fully cooked and ready to eat. Spam also comes in a pouch fully cooked.
  • Cured bacon or salami – (usually high in carcinogens). There are ways to DIY cured meats but even then you must be careful about premixed curing rubs which contain nitrites. This applies to using jerky rubs as well.
  • Protein Bars: These bars are an easy energy source but are very highly priced if you are considering buying for a family to rely on. For example, Quest bars cost $25.00 for 12 bars. Yes, they are high protein and they do fill a need, but if there are four people in your evacuation group and they each have one bar a day for one week, the total is $58 dollars plus tax. They do have 9 gms. of protein per ounce so having some of these bars is a good idea if the other ingredients in it agree with you. I think the bars are about 2.2 ounces each. Nice if that is within your budget. There are many types and brands available.
  • Nut Butters: Nut butters are nice when they are packaged in individual units because they are convenient, but again they are relatively pricey when purchased that way. In jars, even if they are made of plastic, they are too heavy for a pack but having this at home is a good choice since just about everyone enjoys them. Of course, this seems to be a high allergen food for many people. Of all of the nut butters, peanut has the highest amount of protein with 7 gms. per ounce, 2 gms. higher than the nearest competitors: almond and cashew butters. The Justin’s brand comes in individual packet size.
  • Nuts and Seeds: These have the added advantage of being filling but they also go rancid easily if you are fleeing a situation during hot weather. The last thing you want is a wonky stomach at a time like that! Stabilizing them in a date or fig based nut/seed bar does allow the seed or nut to last a bit longer.


I was looking for a flavorful, nutritious food at a very reasonable cost to add to traditional trail foods that are regular players in a go bag or other prep scenarios that may also be used at home. So here is a quick, easy way to add to your light-weight, portable food preps in a way that will be within even the most modest of budgets.

This is a good fiber/ caloric food, is tasty, easy to make and use, light-weight and can be eaten with or without taking the time to start a fire when on the move or during a situation such as a power failure. It was important to me that it be portable, easy to use, shelf stable and healthy.

The instructions below can be used with a variety of dry beans.

CRANBERRY BEAN: aka-Borlotti bean, Shell bean, Crab eye or Rosecoco

The only store where I have been able to find packaged cranberry beans in Maryland is the Food Lion Grocery Chain. I’m going to be in Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia this week and will check to see if the Food Lion in those places carry them.

If you cannot find cranberry beans, then great northern, kidney, cannellini beans or chickpeas work well. The cost for the pictured one pound bag was $1.49. The instructions below can be used with a variety of dry beans.

How to Make Your Own “Quick Cook” Beans

When cooking beans the pre-soaking process can take from an hour to overnight, depending on the kind of bean. Then making the bean soup can take another hour or two. Who has that kind of time?

*Just a side note here: You can dehydrate canned beans from the store. They don’t need any soaking or cooking since they come already cooked. After drying they reconsitiute easily. It’s a good way to dehydrate if you just want to add a few small bags of dried beans to your stores, however it is quite a bit more expensive when done this way and not cost effective for a group or family.

The process below for using dried beans will take upfront time but after that initial time investment you will be all set to have a hot mug of bean soup while on the trail in a matter of 20 to 25 minutes. Or you can eat the beans like popcorn without stopping your journey! Here’s how it’s done.

Items Needed:

  • 1 lb. dry beans of your choice (increase poundage if desired)
  • Salt and other spices to your liking.
  • 1 large heavy pot
  • Water
  1. Rinse beans and remove any flawed beans or pebbles.
  2. Put cleaned beans into the large heavy pot.
  3. Cover with water 3over beans.
  4. Bring to boil, then cover.
  5. Turn off heat
  6. Allow to soak until beans have increased somewhat in size. (1-2 hours depending on size of bean)

Soaking: Water should be 3” above the beans as they soak. The beans will take on water and begin to swell. At this point you can choose to do a “quick hot soak” or you may choose to soak overnight (covered).

Quick Hot Soak: Bring the beans to simmer, turn off heat, cover and allow to soak for about an 1 ½ hours while the heat is off.

After soaking as above, return to heat and bring to a low simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the beans have not began to scorch at the bottom of the pot. Below.

Continue simmering as the beans begin to soften. I like to use a long handled wooden spoon with a wide flat base because it gives me a good indication of any early scorching that might be starting and I can lower the heat. This is more apt to happen when the beans begin to thicken (as seen below) so stay close and stir often at this stage.

At this point the beans are done. They are soft, creamy, and have a meaty flavor. A thick bean broth has formed as you can see above. This broth tastes wonderful and can be used in a number of surprising ways that we’ll discuss later in the article.

Dehydration and Rehydration:

After the cranberry beans are cooked on the stove, well drained of all of that beautiful Aquafaba (save it of course), and towel dried but still damp, it is time to seasonings.Add sea salt or any spice you might enjoy i.e.: chili powder, curry, onion or garlic powder, lime zest, garam masala, Chinese five spice etc. You could even choose to go sweet if that is what you like. Then place them on dehydrator screens. Beans will be clumpy so separate them a little.

Don’t worry about getting each bean separated because as they dry they will do that. Any dehydrator will get the job done. If using the round type dehydrator the trays may need to be rotated every couple of hours to assure even drying.

Dehydrating times may vary from 8-10 hours. I have left them up to 12 hours just because I could not be home to take them out of the dehydrator and they were fine.

The beans below are for snacking or you can throw a couple of handfuls into any soup or stew for added body and richness.

Oven Dehydrating

If you don’t have a dehydrator, that’s okay. You can simply place the cooked beans on cookie cooling racks which have been placed on a cookie tray to catch any dry crumbs that drop through the racks. Or just place drained beans on a jelly roll pan with sides. Dehydrate at 125° degrees until fully dry and brittle. The time varies with the variety of bean and the trueness of oven temperature but 8-12 hours in the oven usually does the trick. Check for dryness frequently. Since you are using radiant direct heat and not with hot air heat it is easier for the beans to burn. Watch them closely.

Aquafaba (aka: bean broth, bean water)

Delicious enough to serve in any upscale restaurant!

Ways to Use Aquafaba

  • It’s a stand alone delicious soup. Aquafaba is full of deep, robust flavor. It is packed with protein and is a good nutritional substitute for bone broth. I understand that it is beginning to be popular in vegan circles. It can be used to “beef-up” soups and stews, adding an umami (meat-like) flavor. I use this if a family member or friend needs an uplift during cold season.
  • Aquafaba can be used as a direct replace egg white replacement in meringues. Usually this is made from chickpea broth. If you have ever purchased a can of cooked chickpeas you may remember the thick liquid that covers the beans in the can. This chickpea aquafaba is the best bean broth to use in baking cookies, cakes and breads as an egg replacer. There is about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of this liquid, so about 8 to 12 tablespoons in each can of chickpeas. It amazingly whips up just like egg whites! You can use the “aquafaba juice” that is in the canned chickpeas for whipping or make it yourself from cooked chickpeas, then use the peas to make hummus. There seems to be no waste when it comes to using beans.
  • You may also freeze aquafaba for later use. A good way is to freeze it in ice cube trays and when frozen remove the cubes and put into freezer bags for easy premeasured use.
  • This broth can be dehydrated then powdered which makes it a super portable high protein food. Of course, if you are on the move, make sure to have your water filter along to use before adding creek water etc. to rehydrate into drinkable bean broth.

Introduce New or Unusual Foods Now

It’s important to experiment and learn unique ways to use and combine your stored food supply. There are so many ways to step up your game plan and move out of your comfort zone. It can produce some tasty results that add variety and flavor to emergency foods. Having variety in your emergency storage can be lifesaving. History has proven that there are those who will actually starve to death rather than eat the same things for prolonged periods of time.

Diversify experiment, broaden your food horizons, and especially vary foods for your children. When they are part of the planning and process they are more likely to eat new foods. If there are true allergies I’m certain you have made sure you have appropriate variety and nutrition available for them, and may have already experimented with foods with survival in mind. You can’t effectively introduce emergency foods to your family for the first time when so many other things may be changing around them. If you have fun with presenting new foods before an emergency and getting them on board perhaps your kids will become food allies. This simple strategy can lessen stress and increase unity.

How to Use Your Dried Bean Products

  • Once fully dehydrated, the seasoned beans can be eaten as a portable dry snack. They have a hard pretzel-like crunch. This has limited use and doesn’t make a “meal”, but is a tasty trail crunch.
  • If you crush the dehydrated beans in a bag with a meat tenderizing mallet and then grind them into a coarse cornmeal type consistency, they rehydrate easily in water. Just add enough filtered water to slightly over-cover the meal and allow to sit and rehydrate for 10-12 minutes. Next, simmer slowly, adding sufficient water until the thickness is to your liking.
  • If you can knowledgably forage and add some wild garlic, dandelion, violet greens or flowers, stinging nettle, berries, seeds, wild mushrooms, etc. of course there will be added nutrients and taste.
  • One advantage of having the dried lightweight bean meal in your backpack is being able to have hot “Cream of Bean” soup or gruel relatively quickly, using a small portable pop-up stove or a wood fire. I add a little salt after they are ground into meal and have salt available in my go-preps.



Ground into meal, it’s light weight and easy to transport.

Bean Meal Made Into Gruel

Think of this meal as similar to grits or cream of wheat. Compared to the aquafaba gruel is not as smooth and creamy but has a wholesome taste. It is filling and will “fill you up”. I’ve has this when on day long hikes in the late autumn. It’s a welcome meal. I also added butter powder…so good and rich.

AQUAFABA SOUP (Bean Broth)~ Not to be confused with bean meal gruel

I like to add a little cream on top when at home. It’s not likely you’ll be serving it like it’s shown here when you are in any kind of emergency or survival situation but it tastes just as good out of a canteen or metal mug! And you’ll be happy for a nutritious hot meal.

Again, make sure that you have a good water filter wherever you go. If you carry powdered milk along and are thinking about adding that, be aware that the powder should be added AFTER the water and dehydrated broth combination is fully hot. By adding milk while cooking you risk having clabbered (clotted, grainy) soup or broth! Add a little, slowly at the end of cooking and after it is off of the heat source.


Store in glass containers with oxygen packs for shorter term (6 months) or in Mylar bags with O2 packets for many years. I like to powder a good amount and then hermetically seal in Mylar and keep a variety in our individual go bags, along with hermetically sealed Mylar water packets.(See related article on BDS) The Mylar bags can be cut into custom sizes before filling and sealing to meet your specific needs.


At first glance this dry bean process may seem too involved or time consuming, but don’t be deceived. Most of the time is in waiting for the beans to dry…..while you are doing other things. My suggestion: Try a one pound bag and experiment with the process. Then when you feel comfortable and like the results and can see the true value, go whole hog, figure out the logistics and involve your friends and family. Have a good time. Make an event of it if you’d like. You’ll be helping yourself and others and have a good time into the bargain!

We don’t know if a trucker’s strike will be the cause of food shortages but common sense tells us that the road ahead isn’t rosy and that there will be shortages and most likely for a longer period of time. Preparedness is an act of hope. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

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10 Responses to “Best DIY Portable, Protein Rich, Survival Food That Won’t Break the Bank”

    • Well, since I’ve never tested that, my educated guess would be that they’d stay good for years as long as they are not exposed to high humidity or water. I would not leave then in the hot sun or in extreme heat for very long. If they are exposed to moisture and then get hot they will mold for sure. I know that this is a general answer. I have kept them without incident for about 2 years so far and they are still good. Hope this helps Mick.

  1. Good article. I’m going to try that.
    I was interested in “Are You Toilet Paper Prepared?” near the top of the article but the link seems to be broken.

    • Bruce, Just Google, “Are You Toilet Pa
      per Prepared? ” I think you may be able to find it easily. You can also look in the 2017 posts on BDS. It was one of my earlier articles.

  2. Remembering the oil embargo–a group of friends all in our 20s had a lively discussion of what we’d miss most if shipping was drastically impacted. The men all agreed alcohol and cigarettes, the women unanimously agreed it would be toilet paper and tampons! Funny we weren’t worried about water, food, medicine, etc. Luckily I was raised by parents that lived through the Depression and WW11, we always had 2-3 months of food and supplies stored in our pantry. So even though I was only 21 and single, my pantry was always well stocked. The oil embargo was no more than an inconvenience for me, except for the national 55 mph speed limit which was absolutely the worst!

    • Hey Matt in Oklahoma, There are a few of us still around who remember that gas rationing times. I was in college and several of us students formed a rotating carpool. That way one of us always had gas in the tank to get us to school. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  3. One cooking/rehydrating method you didn’t mention was using a thermos. This is a method I’ve seen for camping/bugout to use for cooking grains like rice, oatmeal, wheat groats etc. Although I haven’t tried it, I bet you could boil water, add the dehydrated beans & hot water to a thermos, throw it in your pack (or leave at the campsite) and a few hours later you’d have hot & ready beans.

    • Jenn, Great point. Thanks for adding the thermos method. I’m sure it would work, leaving room in the thermos for expansion of course.

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