8 Things to Know About Costco’s Emergency Food

Updated: Apr. 12, 2024

When it comes to Costco's "emergency-preparedness" options—a selection of food kits that contain over a hundred servings and last decades—the massive, newly released mac & cheese bucket is just the tip of the iceberg.

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emergency food kit
via costco.com

Costco has you covered

If you’re a frequent Costco shopper, you know that Costco is famous for selling products in bulk. Thanks to those bulk products, you can buy K-cups, toilet paper, granola bars, or any product of your choice once, and not have to worry about buying it again for weeks or months. But Costco’s regular bulk items are small potatoes compared to their massive “emergency food” offerings—enormous kits of various kinds of food with decades-long shelf lives. And those products have been getting some attention lately, since a gigantic, 27-pound tub of macaroni and cheese just joined their ranks. Here’s everything you need to know about this monster mac, as well as Costco’s other emergency staples.

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mac and cheese
via costco.com

That mac & cheese bucket contains 180 servings

Should you decide to order this product, whose full name is the “Chef’s Banquet Macaroni & Cheese Storage Bucket,” your cheesy pasta fix will arrive in a six-gallon bucket with a gamma lid and a handle. And, lest you’re worried that this bucket is just stuffed full of gooey mac, ready to scoop, fear not. The pasta and the cheese are packaged separately, with the bucket containing 180 servings of each. The elbow pasta and the cheese sauce mix are each packaged in six separate pouches, each containing 30 servings.

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mac and cheese
via costco.com

Twenty-seven pounds is a LOT of mac and cheese

Okay, the total weight is only 26 pounds and 10 ounces, to be exact, but who’s counting when so much cheesy goodness is contained in one place? According to PEOPLE, that’s approximately the same weight as 100 baseballs. Luckily, you’ve got plenty of time to eat such a massive amount of food. If you store it in a “dry, cool environment,” as Costco’s website directs, the food should keep for up to 20 years. It will set you back $89.99, which amounts to about 50 cents per serving. According to the nutrition facts on Costco’s site, each serving contains only about 220 calories. Here are 12 more secrets Costco employees won’t tell you.

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costco website
Casimiro PT/Shutterstock

Costco isn’t the only place you can get it

Technically, you can’t get it at Costco at all; it’s only available on Costco’s website, not in stores. And, as of January 14, 2019, it’s not available on the website, either, at least for the time being. PEOPLE first reported on this product’s magnificent debut on Thursday, January 10, 2019; less than 24 hours later, the bucket was sold out. Three days after that, it still bore an “out of stock” label on Costco’s website. Eager shoppers have remained on “mac & cheese watch” since then, waiting for the bucket to become purchasable again. On January 11, CNBC reported that the bucket is also available through Amazon, though you’ll spend $149.99 for it there rather than a cool $90. Unfortunately, at the moment, Amazon lists the product as “currently unavailable,” too. Clearly, the demand for this mac & cheese is sky-high! In the meantime, check out these secrets behind Costco’s famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken.

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emergency food stash
via costco.com

You can buy 600 cans of food at once

If you’re willing to shell out six thousand dollars, the mother of all emergency food kits can be yours. That’s right—for $5999.99, Costco sells an emergency food stash that can feed a family of four for an entire year. Just what do you get for six grand? Well, you get, to name just a few items: 72 cans of instant rotini pasta; 36 cans of dehydrated potatoes; 36 cans of instant black beans; and 26 cans of various freeze-dried fruits. The list goes on. The 600 cans, which amount to a whopping 36,000 servings of food, come in 100 separate boxes, each containing six cans.

And though Costco’s site markets the kit as a year’s supply, the food items have shelf-lives ranging from three years (shortening powder) to thirty years (instant pinto bean flakes, white rice, and several of the other components). This item, which comes from the Nutristore brand, only has two reviews on Costco’s site, but they’re both five-star. One customer raves that the kit is “perfect for [those] who want to prepare for the apocalypse, or lazy guys like me who only want to shop once a year.” And, hey, maybe he’s onto something; when you do the math, it amounts to a cost of only about 17 cents per portion.

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mountain house
via costco.com

A less expensive year’s supply of food is also available

If you’d rather stock up on a year’s supply of food for just yourself in one go, while spending over a thousand dollars less than the Nutristore kit would cost you, Costco’s got that option available, too. The brand Mountain House has a “1-Year 1-Person Food Storage Supply,” available for $4699.99 on Costco’s website. This offering packs just shy of 4000 servings of food into 220 cans. The reason the price point still encroaches on five grand, even though it includes significantly fewer provisions, may be due to the quality of the food. Mountain House packages complete freeze-dried meals into its cans. Should disaster strike, you’ll be able to feast on granola with blueberries, chicken stew, and chili mac with beef. Every meal has a shelf life of 25 years, with the exception of the peanut butter, which lasts only a measly ten. Here are more of the most expensive things you can buy at Costco.

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outdoor adventure
via costco.com

Mountain House also has a more optimistic option

Massive meal bundles aren’t just for emergencies and disasters! Costco’s Mountain House line also offers a meal kit targeted specifically at outdoorsy folk. It’s a $480 collection of 204 food servings called the “30-Day Outdoor Adventure Meal™ Kit.” With its promise to feed one person for 30 days, it’s perfect for campers and backpackers. Though, of course, you’re welcome to buy this kit as an emergency preparedness measure, too. The only “meal prep” consists of adding hot water to the meal pouches; in ten minutes, your beef stroganoff with noodles, chicken teriyaki with rice, or homestyle chicken noodle casserole will be ready to eat. Check out these other bizarre things you didn’t know you could get at Costco.

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emergency breakfast skillets
via costco.com

Mountain House offers more reasonable options, too

Time to breathe a sigh of relief: Not all of Costco’s emergency food offerings cost a few grand, or even half a grand. In fact, the two year’s-supply kits are the outliers. Mountain House also sells 60-serving bundles of some of its most popular instant meals. For $150, you can get six cans of lasagna with meat sauce. For $160, munch on 60 servings of Mountain House’s “dried breakfast skillet” meal: a mixture of pork sausage, scrambled eggs, hash browns, and onions that’s probably more filling and tastier than the typical on-the-go breakfast. Spend $145 for a savory stash of chicken stew. Keep it for a rainy day or eat it whenever you find yourself in a pinch at mealtime.

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emergency food bucket
via costco.com

The mac & cheese isn’t Chef Banquet’s only emergency food bucket

Rounding out Costco’s emergency food category is a kit for just $115. Chef’s Banquet, the company behind the 27-pound mac & cheese, packs 390 servings of instant meals into a seven-gallon bucket. Though the “ARK 390” weighs almost 33 pounds, it amounts to an economical 30 cents per serving. It is, however, out of stock as of January 14, 2019—perhaps the work of more people hoping to get their Costco mac & cheese fix, since the now-famous mac comprises 30 of those 390 servings. Plus: Check out the things DIYers should always buy at Costco.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest