Most preppers start out by building a stockpile of food and other supplies to use in case of emergency. That makes sense, as without the right supplies it’s hard to make it through any crisis situation. Of course, that raises the question of what to stockpile. While that may seem like an easy question to answer, it’s really not. Several books have been written about the subject, none of which offer exactly the same advice.
The biggest problem in deciding what to stockpile is that there is no way of knowing for sure what type of disaster is likely to strike; so there is no clear way of determining what to buy. Because of that, most preppers base their purchases on the assumption that nothing will be available, so they’d better have it on hand. If you think about it for a minute, that’s the only way to do it, which really makes sense.
This stockpile is based on you bugging-in, rather than bugging-out. Most people will end up bugging in during a crisis, so it makes sense to have the appropriate food stockpile in your home. If you have a secure, private bug-out location, you’ll want to duplicate your home stockpile at that location as well.
When selecting food for a survival situation, there are several things that need to be taken into consideration. This isn’t buying your regular week’s groceries multiplied by 10, but rather buying food that you will use instead of your regular groceries. That may require eating things that your family isn’t used to eating. Nevertheless, eating strange food is better than not eating anything at all.
As you are selecting foods for your emergency stockpile, you need to consider the following:
- You may not have electrical power, so your refrigerator and freezer may not work.
- Most foods aren’t packed for long-term storage, with the exception of canned foods.
- You want foods that will give you the maximum nutrition for the minimum bulk.
- Avoid all types of “snack foods” as there is no way to store them for long periods of time.
Most food you buy in the grocery is packaged with the idea of you buying it and using it within a relatively short period of time, let’s say a couple of months. Therefore, you’ll have to repackage most of what you buy, in order to prevent spoilage. However, even with repackaging, not all foods will keep well for long periods of time. Generally speaking, the more a food is processed, the worse it is for long-term storage.
What you really need to store are staple foods. You can make a fairly nutritious diet out of grains, beans and canned goods. Properly packaged for storage, these foods will keep for years, and still be as tasty and nutritious when you take them out; as they were the day you bought them.
Here is my list of foods that you should stockpile to get your family through a crisis:
- Pasta – High carbohydrates and stores extremely well. You can make a lot of different dishes with pasta, from Italian food to casseroles.
- Whole grains – Flour doesn’t store well, but whole grains do. If you have a grain mill and whole grains, you can make your own bread, pancakes, cakes, cookies and other baked goods.
- Rice – Rice is a great source of carbohydrates, which will store well. Buy the whole grain rice, not the quick rice. Quick rice has a very limited shelf life. Like pasta, there are a lot of things you can do with rice.
- Breakfast cereal – This falls into the category of comfort food, especially for kids. Don’t buy the sugary children’s cereals, but the more basic ones, like Cheerios. Properly packaged, this will keep well for a long time.
- Beans – Dried beans of all types store incredibly well for long periods of time, are easy to cook, nutritious and one of the few non-meat sources of protein around.
- Canned meat – You can buy chicken, tuna, salmon and other meat products which are canned. Spam, while being something that many people make fun of, is a nutritious meat product. Meat will be the hardest type of food to find during a crisis, so stock up well.
- Beef (or turkey) jerky – Dried meat, whether jerky or dehydrated meat, is great for long-term storage. If you make your own jerky, be sure to trim off all fat and salt it heavily for preservation. When it’s time to use it, you can reconstitute the jerky in soups. It will absorb the water, flavoring it at the same time.
- Summer sausage – Summer sausage, like many “cured meat products” (what we call lunchmeat) is created to keep for a long time. Typically it is vacuum packed as well, making it ideal for long-term storage. During survival time, it can be eaten plain, or cut up to be put in soups and casseroles.
- Cheese – Another great source of protein. To store cheese, it needs to be triple dipped in wax, making an airtight seal around the cheese. In this form, it can be kept, without refrigeration, for years. Even if cheese forms mold, it will only be on the surface. Simply cut that part off and the rest of the cheese is still good.
- Canned vegetables and fruit – Provides essential vitamins and keeps for a long time. Don’t throw the packing water away, as it will contain vitamins as well. Instead, use it for making soup stock.
- Powdered milk – While most people don’t particularly like the flavor of powdered milk, when you don’t have any access to other milk, it’s wonderful. It’s also necessary for baking and provides needed calcium for proper bone growth.
- Spaghetti sauce – With pasta and spaghetti sauce, you’ve got the start of a meal. Add what you want to finish it out.
- Soups – The nice thing about making soup in a survival situation is that you can make soup out of almost anything. I’m not talking about stocking up on Chicken Noodle soup here, but rather soups like cream of mushroom, which can be used for making casseroles.
- Bullion – This is another necessity for making soups. Dry bullion powder stores well, takes minimal space and can add a lot to your homemade soups.
- Sugar – While most mothers try and keep their kids from eating too much sugar, it is an essential ingredient in making jams and jellies, and preserving fruit. You will also need it for baking. Sugar will keep pretty much indefinitely if stored properly.
- Honey – Whereas sugar will keep pretty much indefinitely, honey will really keep forever. You can’t beat nature’s methods for making things that are both good and good for you.
- Salt – Salt is an essential for survival. It’s also the main needed ingredient for many types of food preservation, especially for preserving meats. With a good stockpile of salt, you can make cured meats, salt fish and smoke meats as well.
- Spices – Your family may have to get used to eating different things than what they are used to. Spices allow you to mask flavors or add flavor to things that are too bland. Be sure to stock up on the types of spices that your family likes, so that you can make food that they’ll like.
- Baking essentials – Since you won’t be able to run down to the corner for a loaf of bread, you’ll probably be baking your own. Make sure you have a stock of baking powder, baking soda and yeast on hand.
- Peanut butter – Okay, this is pure comfort food. However, it is also quite nutritious.
- Dried fruit – A great way to keep fruit on hand. Properly dried and packaged, it can store for several years.
- Nuts – Another good source of protein, as well as fats. Nuts store amazingly well and add a lot to baked goods, vegetables and even meat dishes.
- Cooking oil and vegetable shortening – Necessary ingredients for cooking and baking.
- Coffee and Tea – Once again, comfort food, but this time for the adults. Many of us don’t function well before our second cup of coffee in the morning.
- Hard candies – Great as a reward for kids and also for energy when you need it. Hard candies keep for years as long as they are protected from moisture.
I realize that this list seems rather extensive, but I’m assuming that you’re going to be stockpiling enough food to last you several months, if not a year. While you can get by for short periods of time with much less, for a prolonged period of time you’ll need to have a well-balanced diet. You’ll also need variety in your family’s diet, as that is important to keep everyone’s morale up.
Before buying anything, take the time to figure out about how much of each food type you’ll need. In other words, if your family uses a loaf of bread every two days, and your survival plan includes that much bread, then how much of each of the ingredients do you need to make that much bread?
One system that works out very well for determining how much to buy is to develop a two-week menu for your family. With that in hand, you can easily total up how much of each type of food you’ll need to prepare everything for two weeks. Multiplying that out will give you an idea of how much food you need to last your family for any period of time.
Whatever you do, don’t try to run out and buy a year’s worth of food in one week. Take your time. Start by building a two-week stockpile; then increase it to a month. Keep adding, a month at a time, until you reach the point that you feel you need. Keep your eye open for sales as well, as that will provide you with needed opportunities to save money.