One person wrote back in another forum a criticism of eating beans and rice, mostly based on some valid issues. Let's look at the issues of cooking them, why I suggest them, and how to deal with those issues.
Most of the world, billions of the 3rd world, don't eat a diet anything like what Americans or Western societies eat. Despite that, they continue to survive and thrive on the limited nutrition sources that they have.
The very base diet must provide common elements. People need essential amino acids, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Remove any of these elements, and malnutrition and weakness results. Remove sufficient caloric intake and clean water for biochemical reactions, and malnutrition, disease, dehydration, weakness, and death result.
In a perfect world, when calculating food needs, we would sit down and look at the number of necessary calories based on a strenuous amount of work (Cal) and multiple that based upon the family members we are providing for (people) and multiple that based upon the number of days of any crisis. People come in all sizes, but most people don't need to eat as much as a 70 KG man (154 lbs). To build in some goof proofing of caloric needs, let's build in some fudge factor by using the assumption that everyone needs the same calories that a 5' 9” man weighing 154 lbs aged 30 and doing strenuous exercise for a sixty day period of uncertainty. It could be far more of a period based on a long crisis or you might have more family members living with you (expect this), and as a result, it's better to adjust this based upon YOUR anticipated needs.
Cal x people x days
2500 calories x four people x 60 days = 600,000 calories
Of course your children will need less, but they're growing, and their nutritional needs are vital since they have smaller reserves. In truth most people are in bad health for doing daily strong exercise. Some obesity helps you for a draw against caloric deficits, but rapid weight loss due to too low intake will really hurt you in the long run. If you think there is the remotest chance you will need a bigger reserve of days or that friends and family might “move in”, then you need to scale this.
Security and Eating
In a perfect world, we don't want to cook at all for security reasons. MREs are very good at feeding hungry soldiers, but of course they will grumble on eating cold food. No one is happy with eating them, but eating a fast meal that will sustain people with sufficient calories and nutrition and not use fire and not require rehydration (water for cooking) is better but not ideal.
Not cooking means not having to go outside in an uncertain world, and gathering firewood, lighting it, cooking it and producing food odors, creating smoke, taking time to do this, extinguishing it and producing smoke, cleaning pans and dishes, etc. Cooking outside produces all kinds of food odors and allows “zombies” to home in on your territory.
Let's be rational, and not go overboard, and look at past history. While it's possible that a survival situation could degenerate into a situation like “The Road”, the chances of a severe crisis are smaller than say a global economic crisis like the Great Depression. There are many scenarios of terrible crisis. You'll have to make a realistic assessment as to the depth of a crisis, and based upon what you think, not what I think, store adequate provisions based upon your assessment as to the depth and type of crisis.
Storing provisions and equipment for 60 days is a start only. So assuming that things are bad like the Great Depression, but we're not fighting off “zombies”, and fearful for surviving, then we can return to a rational explanation of what you might do.
In many 3rd world nations, women and children spend an inordinate amount of time moving around to harvest sufficient food items, water, and fuel for fire in order to eek out an existence in their village.
Do a reading of all of my posts. I've deliberately detailed in broad strokes some ideas about this. I'd recommend you do some outside reading, as this is a very concise topic on SHTF scenarios and prepping, so there are limitations.
Having a village means the people are not nomadic, but fairly stationary and subject to carrying capacity. The reality is that nature can't provide for more than 500 people in a very tiny area of land without a lot of effort to raise animals and crops and timber and digging a well. In addition to those subsistence farmers, very necessary hunting of animals and fish, along with gathering of herbs, wood, edible plants, outside water, will all occur.
Very little of the US is rural enough or not densely populated enough to do this. Mostly we are a nation of specialists without rural skills and unable to perform with the level of farmers from 3rd world nations.
If the SHTF seriously we are doomed, and there is very little we can do to provide for that kind of Mad Max scenario. We simply have way too many people, and without the skills, or the availability of materials, or the chance of growing sufficient items, or gathering them in sufficient quantities, to survive. Seriously.
In reality, the scenario most likely to happen, would be a sustained period of uncertainty in which there is large scale unemployment along with severe economic downfall. In such a scenario, smart like-minded people would band together for protection and security and to grow/gather what they need from their area, and relying upon stored foodstuffs to ride out the worst of it.
We'll become the villages of 500 people living in an area, loosely connected by circumstance, but mostly without their skills, but literate and able to adapt, overcome, survive, and thrive. In that case, we do have many resources from Peace Corp volunteers, VISTA, USAID, and NGOs who have historically gone in to learn from and work with local 3rd world residents. In doing so, they collaborated in order to manage. It's a model that I hope plays out, if the SHTF. Otherwise, they'll be anarchy.
Little things that will help
One adaptation is not to cook in traditional ways. Gathering a diminishing amount of firewood means chopping down trees. Deforestation leads to erosion and damages the soil. Trees can provide wood for building permanent tools and structures and medicines and other items.
For example, let's look at salt, something we take for granted. Try living without salt for a week in the wild, and you'll see just how tough life can be without it. Salt can be harvested by boiling down the roots from the hickory tree, but of course if you kill it through overharvesting, then you're looking at other means of gathering salt like finding salt licks, gathering sea water and boiling it down, or salty sands and purifying it like some nomadic tribes do, or reducing blood from animal harvests to find salt.
Let's say you want to build a tool handle, but all of the larger trees have been cut down. You'll have to travel progressively further away, which worsens security. You might decide instead to use deer legs for handles in order to adapt, but of course the deer like to nibble on the new buds of trees for food, so it's a losing proposition.
The best strategy is managing wood resources by using a solar oven. It's a tool I've discussed previously that heats naturally but slowly, and requires forethought and deliberate intentional actions versus regular traditional cooking fires. They also produce far less odors, but they're somewhat limited by heat produces in order to make a stew-like meal. They are great for heating up a meal, but obviously not intense enough to cook many game recipes. Modified bread can be made in them.
Combined plant proteins
Yes, in a perfect world, we'd have MREs to eat cold or heat up in our solar oven, and that would suffice. It's way easier to heat up canned stew that to find water and rehydrate beans and cook rice. Yes it takes a lot of time. Of course, while the food is rehydrating, you hopefully are not just sitting around. After it does rehydrate, you put it into the solar oven, and utilizing the best time period on warm enough days, produce a hot meal that will cheaply sustain you.
In reality, billions of people survive this way every day. They combine grown foods that their tribes have learned will sustain them historically. If not, the tribe dies. Nutritional deficiencies can exist based upon the local soil quality, the harvest season, the time of low food supply, the availability of gathered food sources, and famine.
Combining plant protein and supplementing it with animal proteins, usually provides sufficient building blocks for protein in humans. These are supplemented usually with vegetables or complex carbohydrates from plants for carbon skeletons (look it up), and vitamins and minerals. An inexpensive way to prep is vitamin supplementation. In a survival situation, when adequate vitamins and minerals may not be in the diet, can cheaply be taken care of by vitamin intake.
Ordinarily, vitamin supplementation are a waste and are excreted if not needed by the body. Otherwise, the vitamins build up to toxic levels within. However during growth period, or periods with bone remodeling (look it up), especially in growing children and young people, vitamin supplementation is vital. In addition, pregnancy requires supplementation of crucial vitamins like folic acid. Many times women are pregnant, but they don't know it. If a fetus is not provided with adequate nutrition, a spontaneous miscarriage can occur, and other than a little more blood flow that month, it's missed entirely. It would be very wise and pretty cheap to buy some inexpensive vitamins and rotate them in order to provide adequate vitamin and mineral requirements.
Beans and rice are not ideal. They take a lot of water, are portable but heavy, require cooking of some sort to make them edible, but are cheap. You can inexpensively provide food for your family, but it's not a total solution for prepping. If you wish to become a prepper in earnest, I would hope that you would read some books on the best way to do that in more intentional ways. Doing so will make things much easier and provide a more balanced, more pleasant, and more varied diet