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How To Build A 6-Month Food Stockpile On A Super-Strict Budget

How To Build A 6-Month Food Stockpile On A Super-Strict Budget

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Despite what you often see on TV and in the movies, stockpiling food is not only for those with conspiracy theories or living through a zombie apocalypse. It is now a part of life for those of us who are “what if” people or those with very strict budgets.

Let’s face it: It’s not easy getting by in today’s economy. If we can save a little money on what we need to live by building a stockpile, then that’s what we should be doing.

This Is The World’s Healthiest Storable Survival Food!

You may or may not be a fan of TLC’s Extreme Couponing, but I like to watch it just to see what those folks have built up. That being said, I do find some of the people featured on the show to be misguided. I was watching an episode not long ago where a woman said she and her family disliked a specific food – even though she had purchased 100 boxes of it. This is one thing I’m going to warn you about. Never put something in your stockpile if you and your family won’t use it. It’s a waste of time and storage space.

Items To Stockpile

Everyone has their own personal preferences on what they like to eat, so you should take that into consideration as you start building your stockpile. Begin with staples that you’ll use every day. Luxury items should be the last thing you put into your stockpile. Below I list general items to have in your finished stockpile if you want a roughly six-month supply for two people. You can adjust accordingly based on the size of your family.

Canned vegetables

  • 20 cans or so of each type of vegetable you and your family eat regularly.
  • I keep five cans each of peas, butter beans, kidney beans and carrots for myself since my son doesn’t care for these. He prefers French-cut green beans and will eat corn, so I keep about 30 cans (combined) of those.
  • I also use fresh and frozen vegetables, mainly broccoli, to make up the vegetable portion of our meals.

Canned fruits

  • A six-month supply for us is 30 cans since we don’t eat a lot of fruits in my house. I tend to put these through my juicer for smoothies.

Canned meats

  • I try to keep 20 to 24 cans of tuna in water, 10 large cans of chicken, three to five cans of bean-less chili for chili dogs and five cans each of Spam and Treat.

Canned soup

  • For 6 months, I would keep a total of 30-40 cans of the soups your family likes.

Canned and packaged additives to make meals

  • This can include cans of cream of chicken, cream of mushroom, cream of celery and broths for making meals. Also, keep taco seasoning and various mixed spice packets on hand for adding to whatever fresh meat you may use. A six-month supply for me would be 3-4 cans of each of the soups, 10 or so of the taco seasoning pouches and 10 or so of the broth. They’re always useful since there’s so much you can do with them.


  • This will depend on if you are a baker at all. I am not that much of a baker so I keep about 10 pounds on hand. If you make your own bread and pastries, you may want to keep closer to 50 pounds on hand for six months.


  • This, too, will depend on if you are a baker and if you add sugar to your coffee and tea. For us, this is roughly 8 pounds of white sugar and 1 pound of brown (for oatmeal).


  • We eat more rice than pasta so I have two, 1-pound boxes of instant rice and about 5 pounds of regular rice.

Boxed One-Skillet Meals

  • I try to keep 10-20 boxes of these on hand, since they are relatively quick and easy meals. When stored properly they will last the entire six months without going stale.

Boxed starchy sides

  • This includes Au Gratin potatoes, scalloped potatoes, instant potatoes, instant stuffing, etc. Again, about 10-20 boxes because they make great additions to meals or can be meals on their own if needed. Most of these are single meal items, although the instant potatoes 1-pound box can be stretched to four meals.


  • I tend to keep three to four boxes of each of our preferred cereals. Be careful about how many boxes you keep on hand since they can go stale faster than you expect depending on the humidity.

Dry or evaporated milk

  • I keep one of the largest boxes of dry milk on hand for use in cooking and I make homemade cocoa in the winter with it. I have 10 cans of evaporated milk on hand for those few times when I’m short on regular milk and use it for making things like macaroni and cheese.

Make “Off-The-Grid” Super Foods Secretly In Your Home
Many people think that once you have your stockpile set up, you don’t have to touch it again until you’re ready to use something. That is not true. You will want to be sure to rotate your stock so that you don’t end up with a stockpile full of stale foods. And remember: Add a little extra than you took away from your stockpile to keep it growing.

What stockpiling advice would you add? Share your thoughts in the section below: 

Discover The Trick To Saving Thousands At The Grocery Store. Read More Here.

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  1. I am at the point where I think the most cost-effective, sensible way to build up an emergency pantry is dehydrating. A good quality dehydrator is now within financial reach of anyone willing to save the less than $100USD price for a good basic machine, and once the foods are dehydrating, shelf-life is so fantastic it makes the effort of saving to make the purchase a no-brainer. Yes, there is the need to purchase the bagging but that’s still better than the weight and worry (over seam safety, etc, with tinned and home-preserved by canning/bottling) of tinned goods.

    Stacking to store, or transporting (in a BOB) dehydrated packets is SO much easier than tins, and practically eliminates the need to rotate.

    Add to that all one needs to use dehydrated foods is water to rehydrate, a knife (to open) and a dutch oven or kettle to cook on any cooker from a rocket stove to an open fire.

    There are some foods that can’t be dehydrated but there are far more that can be. I know my emergency pantry is far better managed now I’ve switched to dehydration from tins and home canning/bottling. And it’s very, very cost effective particularly on my fixed (and small, oh wow is it small!) income!

    • Depending on the emergency, but assuming that one would have some way to cook, it will save money and space to keep basics on hand like flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, etc., also dried eggs,cocoa and so on. Instead of having to keep boxes of mixes and cans of cream soup, you can easily make your own from the basic ingredients.

      Also, I agree with Sunnie Mitchell about dehydrating. For instance, a half cup of dehydrated mixed vegetables cooked together with rice makes a nice skillet meal. You just add spices and salt, etc. I keep packaged bouillon on hand for things like that, too. You can dehydrate a whole garden full of tomatoes and have them ready to rehydrate for anything. I powder some and add a little cornstarch to keep them from clumping, then make tomato soup or sauce or just put a little in a pot of soup.

      There are a lot of ways to cut space and expense if you cook and even bake a little. I would rather bake than go without bread. 😉

    • We are getting a dehydrator, and in addition to it we have already gotten a “food saver” vacuum sealer. The combination of these 2 “small appliances” can make food last for months to years instead of days to weeks. The food saver is also great for waterproofing documents that may be needed after a SHTF situation that you want to keep safe (also works great for waterproofing and space reduction of bulky items like toilet paper)

  2. You should keep in mind that any food that you buy can also be used for barter. I swap 2-can’s or 2-boxes of this for a box of that. Sugar and Salt are very important. People still have a sweet tooth. Salt can be use to preserve meat,a mouth wash and you can gargle with it for a sore throat. You also have to continued with the fact that there may be no power in your area. Whatever I buy, can I cook over a fire and how do I cook.
    A great camp fire meal when we go camping is the hobo style of cooping. Make a pouch of of aluminum foil add what ever you want to cook, meat cut up, add potatoes,carrots corn,butter, salt and pepper and add some water. Make sure the top of your pouch has a chimney so steam can be produces. Seal it up on all sides,you might want to use 2-sheets of foil. Then put it on the edge of the fire on the coils. Should take upwards to an hour not directly into the fire. Should you put it into the fire directly keep an eye on it so it does not burn up. Pull it out of the fire,NO BARE HANDS. What you have is a cooked meal that you did yourself. Great job. If it’s under cooked,reseal and put it back in the fire. Prepare for what’s to come America,it’s going to get worst! SP

    • Walmart sells 40 lb bags of Morton pool salt for less than $6.00/bag …. buy 5 or 10. There are no additives, buffers, adulterants.

      • Only problem with this is that there is no iodine added. Listened to a medical Dr. On radio, stated that in his opinion : the increased use of sea salt over iodine added table salt Is partially responsible for the dramatic increase inautism in America.

        • That is completely incorrect, and autism is not caused by lack of iodine in the diet in any way, shape, or form. As someone who should know, I challenge you to show me even a single study that can support this so called Doctor on the radio. I can already tell you that you will not find one.

          Besides, even if there is no extra iodine in your daily salt, and it’s not coming to you through any other normal dietary means, this can be easily cured with a multivitamin, which should be taken daily anyways. Not getting other vitamins like C and B vitamins is rather more serious than low iodine, anyways.

  3. Larocque, you might want to do your math again – Daily caloric intake X the number of people in your unit. Sounds like your stores might last a month, if that. Good luck. I would agree that dehydrated foods are best. Make sure you have a means of purifying enough water for everyone and enough to cook with…
    The alternative, of course, is to restructure the entire monetary system (and burn the corrupt politicians and bankers at the stake) before the SHTF. Courage people, eyes open, no fear!

    • I finally bought the Sawyer Point Zero Two filter ( for about $100. I is really a water purifier and removes bacteria, cysts, and much of the virus load. Sawyer claims a ridiculous number of gallons – basically it lasts forever. I have mine hooked to a five gallon dirty water bucket and flowing into a 5 gallon pure water bucket.

  4. Another good way to go, especially for powdered goods such as instant potatoes, rice, instant pancake mix, powdered milk, etc. is to put it into air tight containers. I prefer to use Powerade and Gatorade 32 oz. bottles. I make my own labels so there is no confusion and the product within is guaranteed to last 6 months or more. For longer term storage, you can add an appropriate ‘oxygen eater’ (available in some food prep stores and online) and extend the storage of these items well beyond a year.
    Another good bottle to use for larger quantities are 2 liter soda bottles. I took up a collection at work by setting out a box and the response was more than adequate.
    Having a gas grill with either a large (150 gal or more) LP gas tank or several of the smaller 5 gal. bottles handy is good for cooking as well. If you have a wood or charcoal grill, it can be possible to not just grill but boil water for cooking or cleaning in a power out situation. By laying out aluminum foil, I have even cooked french fries (the frozen ones) on the grill as well. Don’t be afraid to be creative, but do be careful.

    • Be cautious of anything that has baking powder in the mix … if it’s in a pre-packaged ready to cook bag, then the shelf life is limited. To save baking powder for a longer time, purchase baking SODA and cream of tartar … keep separate and mix only when needed for baking. Both will keep for a long time – protected from air and light and heat …. (same as me – I don’t do well with heat)!

  5. We can meat, chicken, pork, and hamburger. Buy canned fish and have lots of beans and rice. Make a menu of 7 meals that your family likes and put enough away to repeat these meals for a year. popcorn is a great snack, and do put up some deserts, so you don’t feel deprived during this ordeal. The Mormons put up enough for a year, I am not Mormon, but I think this is good advice. Also you want to have a supply of water, esp. if you don’t have power. Water filters are a good idea.

  6. I have a hard time believing what is listed in this article is six months, even if it were just one person. makes me feel more warm and fuzzy inside knowing that I have a few hundred pounds of flour and sugar alone put away!

    • Diana … it may be a weak start … but start anyway …. if you put away one or two extra cans of this or that and keep at it …. your supply will build up. Nobody is of the impression that a survival diet will ever be ideal or up to the “standards’ before an event. Everyone will lose weight …. in my case, I hope so. Choose foods that you and the family like and eat regularly ….

  7. Just a heads up… lds.or has a fantastic site for ideas in food storage, emergency kits, water storage. There is a lot of valuable information there. It is from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or also know as Mormons. Please use it.

    • The site is 🙂

      • Honeyville has an amazing selection also, and no I have no connection to them! But we have bought food storage from them and have been very pleased, I went on you tube and typed in “meals in a jar”. Basically different people who actually teach you how to use freeze dried and dehydrated foods, vacuum seal them and when you need them, just add water and you have a meal. We have done five or six different recipes from chicken and rice to chili and they are great!

  8. Don’t forget your pets, you can vacuum seal dry dog and cat food and they will last and not lose flavor or nutriants. Also you can find things already sealed like rice in a vacuumed can it will last much longer than 6 months. Also buy packaged fire blocks at an Army Navy Surpluss store and even a camp stove that can be carried in a back pack (normally expensive in comparing them to regular stores). Same thing with making sure you have waterproofed matches, lighters are good but if you loose the flint you can’t use it. Another thing is you can seal up a change of clothes both winter and summer if your caught in bad weather, don’t forget shoes. If you have a generator you can also use and electric skillet, crock pot and coffee maker, they also have the new portable burners that are electric. We also have a large emergancy kit sealed with a good assortment of bandages both non-stick and regular, tapes, ace bandages because I was an LVN I also have sutures sissors and other things for taking care of injuries and or burns. All of our supplies are in crush resistant containers and labeled and we carriy a smaller version in our cars. Water purifying tablets, first aid, dry foods requiring only water, a container of sugar and salt. You never know if people around you are diabetic and salt replacement is necesssary in high heat areas. We rode out the 94 earthquake in Ca., our house was damaged but safe enough to stay in on short term, then we had hurricane Ike here in Tx. and had no power for two weeks. When tragic things happen hope for the best outcome but prepare for the time before help can get there.

  9. You need to have vitamin C in your diet too. A diet lacking in vitamin C causes scurvy. The kind of medium-term (as opposed to long-term) stored food you describe in your article lacks vitamin C. The heat of canning and dehydrating destroys the vitamin C that may have been in the ingredients before commercial processing. Tang drink mix stores well for about 6 months in the original packaging before it hardens into big a clump or stores perfectly for years in a sealed Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers or in a vacuum-sealed canning jar. A Tang beverage has the same amount of vitamin C as a glass of fresh orange juice (100% of the adult daily requirement) and half the sugar calories of juice. It also costs a lot less than orange juice.

  10. How many people is this supposed to be for? I have a family of 7, and that’s about what I buy each month.

  11. I store baby formula and use that instead of powdered milk. Tastes great , has alot of vitamins and minerals and long storage life.

  12. Coffee, tea, paper products. I leave insect and rodent traps in the area where I store my emergency supplies. No sense having little reminders of their visits or having a mouse create a nest in paper towels. Don’t forget soap, baby wipes, first aid kit.

  13. All those are great ideas! Adding to it …

    I once stored all my beans and rice in the plastic bags I bought it in until MICE ate it. I now store everything in glass mason jars. Mice can eat through plastic.

    Rice and dry beans have a shelf life that is almost indefinite. Buy a lot of it. Pasta doesn’t have as long a shelf life but it’s very long in its own right.

    Get a Berkey Water purifier with both types of filters. It purifies virtually anything (without boiling) and you can turn swamp water into drinking water very easily. The filters last a year. I plan on using water we collect from a nearby lake or from our water collectors and it to rehydrate the rice and beans and make soup.

    Sugar has an almost indefinite shelf life also. Get lots of it. Honey lasts FOREVER. Ignore the expiration dates on honey. Real honey has none! Buy lots of honey. It’s a nice source of calories.

    If you want to make bread, buy yeast.

    You need iodized salt.

    Buy powdered egg white or egg substitute.

    Buy seeds of plants that grow in your climate zone and learn how to grow food.

    Learn how to compost.

    Have a supply of guns and bullets because when SHTF you’ll be surrounded by drug addicts who’ve suddenly been cut off (illegal and rx drug addicts) and by people addicted to psychotropic medications who will be freaking out when they are suddenly cut off. I’m a doctor. You wouldn’t believe the stuff people are on. You’ll be surrounded by crazy people and you need to defend your ground and your food!

    • OOh, sweetened condensed milk is a huge source of good calories, too. Adding a can or two is a nice addition if you can afford to splurge a little 😀 And it stays good for a reasonable while.

      Oh but, you can make bread without yeast. Even without baking soda if it’s needed. It’ll turn out dense though. ;;

    • Excellent info here. Also think its a very good idea to have band aids, bacitracin, gauze, Tylenol, aspirin, Motrin, extra antibiotics you may have, toothpaste, qtips, etc…

  14. How long do those last though?

  15. Oh my god. This is the smartest article I have EVER read on getting started on an emergency food stockpile. You get super kudos for this.

    I’d agree with others, adding drinking water to your preps is an important thing.

    The best thing about these recommendations are that many of the foods you listed are either ready to eat or require little to no cooking. Assuming an emergency situation, your home may not have electricity or spare water for cooking and cleaning. Planning for that is ridiculously smart.

    For me, dry powdered milk does not work very well; it doesn’t appear to have a long shelf life. When I get milk, I usually get shelf-stable, liquid milk, like Parmalat, soy milk, or almond milk instead. It’s more palatable and seems to have a longer shelf life due to how it’s processed and packaged. If you have nuts or soy beans, you could also make your own.

    But for the love of god if you stock soy milk, don’t drink it past its recommended expiration date. It is suffering for days. D:

    Another useful thing is flour tortillas in your backups (in place of bread.) They’re usually good (if they’re the storebought type) for a good year in my experience before they get hard if you keep them from drying out in the air. I’ve never had them go moldy or bad on me; rather, they just dry out. Or you can make your own if you have flour and lard and a frying pan.

  16. Just wanted to say thanks for all the great info. We purchased a mill and a sun oven from Honeyville last year. No need for electricity, just sun, to bake breads etch and even made a stew! I love the sun oven. Have yet to use the mill but plan on doing so zoo.

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