So you've cleared out enough space to build the prepper pantry of your dreams. You've collected enough buckets for food storage, your shelves are ready to be filled with prepper food, and your vacuum sealer is locked and loaded.
Filling that space with the best emergency food, of course. In this article, we break down the ideal survival stash and discuss what needs to be in your survival food list.
Ready? Here we go.
What Foods And Supplies Should You Store In Your Prepper Pantry?
First rule of survival food storage: choose shelf-stable, non-perishable goods.
These are foods that you can store at room temp for long periods of time without refrigeration. Remember, during an emergency like a hurricane or a snowstorm, the power grid would be the first one to go down. No electricity means that everything in your fridge would potentially go bad within a week tops, so always consider the shelf life of the items before putting them on your grocery cart.
Choosing shelf-stable foods also means that you don’t have to rotate or replace them as often as you would fresh goods. That means less food wastage and better long-term planning.
Once you’ve got that down pat, you can then narrow down your food supply selection based on the following criteria:
Food That You Personally Like Or Use Daily
We're firm believers of stocking up food that you personally like, or stuff that you're already using on a daily basis. If you're going to be stuck eating the same type of food for a period of time, it better be something that you enjoy eating, or at least you're already familiar with, right? As long as they keep well, then stocking up on your favorite food is no problemo.
For example, if you love to eat pasta, go ahead and stock some up. It’s shelf-stable, easy to prepare, and can provide you with much-needed carbs anyway.
Got a sweet tooth? Stash some chocolate bars and candy. These treats are delicious for sure, but they also help you keep your calories up and boost your morale at the same time.
If your family prefers a certain brand of oatmeal or cereal, include it. It’s really not rocket science.
The items that you pick would really depend on what you personally prefer, but here are some common comfort food that you can include:
- Peanut butter
- Jellies and jams
- Hot sauce
- Pancake mixes
- Snacks like Pop-tarts, Cool Ranch Doritos, or Chex Mix
Storing food that you already like brings a little bit of comfort and ease during otherwise stressful times. If you've got kids who are picky eaters, this tip is extremely useful, too. Not only does this make survival a little bit bearable, but it also gives you and your family a semblance of normalcy.
Now, what if the food you like isn’t shelf-stable, as in the case of fruits, vegetables, or meat? Easy--- whip out that dehydrator and start drying the heck out of those goodies. Dehydrated foods, when stored properly, can extend the shelf-life of your favorite foods from mere days to months.
It's also important for you to start incorporating “standard” survival food like beans and rice into your daily diet, so you can get used to them, learn how to prepare them, or cook them in a way that would suit your preferences or palette.
Ready-to-eat food are your next survival food storage staples. You simply don’t have the luxury of time during an emergency situation. Disasters also take out most of our modern conveniences like water, electricity, and gas, so it's important that you stock up on food that require little to no preparation.
This category includes the following items:
Canned food ain't the healthiest or tastiest, but they're some of the most convenient stuff that you can eat, and they're actually quite filling, too. You could go for canned meat, tuna, salmon, baked beans, various soups, sauces, or hey, even some good old SpaghettiOs.
Short for Meals Ready To Eat, MREs are infamous for their, well, less-than-desirable taste and notorious tendency to clog your pipes. They will, however, fill your caloric needs like nobody else's business, so having a couple of packs in your pantry is still worth it. There are different MRE brands and meal sets available in the market today, but almost all of them are packaged in the same tough mylar or plastic container. These packs have enough calories to fill your daily requirements and can include a main dish, starch (potatoes, tortilla wraps, or pasta), dessert, juice mixes, and coffee.
Dried fruits and berries
You can chomp on fruits and berries without any preparation. They contain a significant amount of calories, antioxidants, and a bunch of macro and micronutrients, plus they’re really tasty too. Eat them as is or mix them with stuff like oatmeal to make a more interesting meal.
Nuts and trail mix
Nuts like pistachios, almonds, peanuts, cashews, and walnuts are awesome ready-to-eat survival food. They're also rich in protein, good fats, and B-vitamins. Chop some dark chocolate and throw in some raisins and you've got trail mix, which is also handy to have in a survival situation.
Don't underestimate the power of a good energy bar. They're tasty, nutritious, and are easy to store. They’re also lightweight and packable, so don’t forget to put some in your bug out bag, too.
Who doesn't like jerky? They're delicious, offer lots of protein, and can be eaten right off the pack.
Pemmican is an ancient, ready-to-eat survival food invented by Native Americans. It's made from dried meat, dried berries, and animal fat. Here's how you can make your own pemmican at home.
Peanut butter is a survival pantry staple because it's tasty, shelf-stable, nutritious, and most of all, ready to eat. Slap it on a sandwich with some homemade jam and you’ve got a filling meal.
Crackers aren't the tastiest or most filling food out there, but they make for a convenient snack during emergency situations.
Food High In Energy And Nutrients
Survival means doing a lot of manual labor and physical activity. You also need to stay alert to make the right decisions or evacuate the area at a moment’s notice, so you’ll need all the energy you can get.
Here are some prepper foods that will fill your tank:
More than half of the world eat rice every day and for good reason: it provides a lot of energy. Rice comes in all shapes and sizes, but the most common types are white and brown rice. Brown rice is more nutritious than white rice, but the trade-off is that it has a longer cooking time and a shorter shelf life. You can buy either type for really cheap and just repack them into food-grade buckets or mylar bags to make them last longer. You can prepare and eat them with other dishes or cook up delicious risottos.
Just like rice, pasta is an excellent source of carbohydrates. It's filling, comes in many varieties, and can be cooked in a lot of different ways, too. Most Americans are also more familiar with pasta compared to rice, so preparing it might be easier for most folks. You can buy a 25-pound bucket of pasta, or go for smaller packs as in instant mac and cheese, or ramen noodles.
When prepared right, beans can be some of the tastiest, most versatile, and nutritious foods that you can have in your prepper pantry. They pack a lot of protein, carbs, fibers, and nutrients like folate, iron, and a whole lot of minerals. Just make sure to soak the beans and rinse them thoroughly before cooking. This helps the beans cook faster and also reduces the gassiness that comes after you chow it down.
Nothing says health food than chia seeds. They're tiny but they're packed with so much nutrients like fiber, calcium, b-vitamins, manganese, magnesium, protein, and fatty acids. You can create chia pudding by mixing the seeds with milk, or you can eat them with fruits and nuts. They can last for years as long as they're kept in a cool, dry place.
Like chia, quinoa is another popular health food that's rich in a bunch of good stuff like lysine, fiber, Vitamin E, amino acids, iron, and calcium. Their shelf life is pretty decent, too. When stored in mylar bags or airtight buckets, a few pounds of uncooked quinoa can last for around 8 years.
Aside from being rich in protein, fiber, and loads of minerals, pure rolled oats are also gluten-free, making them an excellent option for those with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. They're cheap, versatile, and can be kept on the shelf for a long time. The best part is that you can easily mix and match it with other supplies in your pantry, like powdered milk, cinnamon, honey, and dried fruits to make a hearty meal.
Other bulk grains and nuts
Olive oil's 24-month shelf life isn't that impressive, but it's insanely dense in calories (about 119 in a single spoonful). You can use it for cooking, or you can drizzle it on salads to increase their caloric value. It's rich in antioxidants, as well as vitamins A and E. Aside from olive oil, you can also try stocking up on coconut oil or palm oil for cooking.
Powdered milk has the same nutrients as fresh milk. It's got some much-needed carbohydrates, calcium, Vitamin A and B, and can be enriched with zinc as well. The only difference between powdered and fresh milk, really, is their shelf life. An opened carton of fresh milk can last only a couple of days without refrigeration, while powdered milk can last for years.
Tea is one of the best things that you can store in your prepper pantry. It's relaxing, easy to prepare, and has tons of health benefits. Some teas can soothe headaches, cure upset stomachs, and even have antibacterial properties. You can buy tea in little bags or go for the loose-leaf variety. You can also make some from the plants that you can find in your survival garden.
Whey powder isn't what you'd consider "normal food" nor does it taste spectacular on its own, but it will provide you with a lot of protein when meat can't. See, just 2 scoops of whey powder can already meet 50% of your daily protein needs. That's already a lot if you need to regain or build muscle strength, especially in a survival situation. To use whey powder in your preps, just sprinkle it onto some food (think: mashed potatoes) or mix it up with milk.
Ghee or clarified butter is a staple in Indian cuisine. Unlike regular butter, it keeps really well even without refrigeration. It’s way cheaper than butter powder, too. As long as you keep ghee in a cool, dry place, it will stay good for months…even years. It's a good source of fat, calories, and Vitamin A, plus it's guaranteed to make your food taste better.
Freeze-dried food is more expensive than most of your survival fare, but their extra long shelf life, relatively substantial nutritional content, and good taste more than make up for its hefty price tag.
What we love most about freeze-dried meals is that they add a lot of variety to your pantry with minimal effort. Imagine: you can get a delicious meal like beef stroganoff, mac and cheese, or breakfast skillet by simply adding hot water to a freeze-dried food pack.
Freeze-dried food also come in various sizes and packaging. You can get them in individual or two-serving ziplock pouches, #10 cans, or large buckets. The pouches are great for when you’re prepping solo or on-the-go, while the cans and buckets are more cost-effective if you’re bugging in or are preparing emergency food with a family.
We’re big fans of food companies like Mountain House since most of their offerings are delicious and true to the dish’s usual taste, but there are tons of other good brands out there. Here's a guide to help you decide which freeze-dried food brand is best for you.
Just like your gear, the items on your survival food list should also fulfill different purposes. That way you save on shelf space and produce a wider variety of meals. Here are some food items under this category:
This seems like a no-brainer but you wouldn't believe how many people forget to store enough salt in their pantries. Salt is not only good for keeping your food tasty, but it also helps keep your body fluids in balance and is useful in a lot of situations like food preservation, simple home remedies, and homesteading. Since salt is an important commodity, you can even use it as a bartering item when SHTF. Salt can't turn bad, but if you want to prevent it from forming clumps, you can repack it inside mylar bags or in airtight jars.
Spices and herbs
There's a reason why those European explorers traveled halfway around the world in search of spices, you know. Aside from giving flavor to your food, spices also have a lot of health benefits and can even deter pests from gnawing through your stockpile. Some of the most common spices that you can store include dried garlic, black pepper, chili powder, chives, and dill.
It's best to go with whole spices since they keep their flavors longer than ground spices, plus they’ve got an indefinite shelf life. In addition to spices, you can also store dried herbs like thyme, oregano, basil, and sage for their cooking and medicinal benefits. If you can grow a little herb garden of your own, even better!
Bouillon cubes are dried stock, which can come in various flavors like beef, chicken, vegetable, and occasionally, pork. It's dehydrated soup, basically. While they're not a necessity per se, you gotta admit that bouillon cubes are pretty darn handy in case you want a hot and tasty meal.
They're full of flavor and can significantly enhance the taste of otherwise bland meals like potatoes, rice, or soup. You can also use bouillon to make gravy, or cook stews and casseroles. They're compact, extremely cheap, and can last for about two years when stored properly. What's not to love?
White flour can only last on the shelf for about a year, but you can do so many things with it. You can make bread from scratch by mixing flour, vegetable oil, a pinch of salt and a bit of water, and then baking the mixture in a dutch oven. You can also use flour to cook up something familiar like some tasty pancakes. You can make other survival prepper food like hardtack and bannocks from flour, too.
Dehydrated or powdered eggs are just as useful as their fresh counterparts. The only difference, really, is that they last longer and occupy less space. For reference, a #10 can approximately contain 72 eggs in total. You can use powdered eggs as is or use them in practically any dish that requires eggs.
Raw honey can last forever. It doesn't go bad, and there's so much you can do with it. Here's a full breakdown on why you should store honey in your survival stockpile.
Alcoholic beverages aren't just good for parties, they can come in handy when SHTF, too. Hard liquor with 40-60% alcohol content like vodka and whiskey can be used as disinfectants, anesthetics, bug repellents, and even fuel. Plus, they make for valuable barter items.
There are about 50 different ways you can use vinegar in your survival preps. Aside from being a key ingredient in salads, marinades, and quick pickling, you can also use vinegar as an all-around natural cleaning agent. Use it to get rid of stubborn stains on clothes, scrub grime from tiles, unclog sinks, and kill weeds in your survival garden, among other handy things.
Food You Can Buy In Bulk
Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money, especially if you're prepping for a long term bug-in scenario. Food staples that you can buy in bulk include:
- cooking oil
The trick to making these supplies last longer is in repacking them in better containers, like sealed mylar bags, #10 cans, or food-grade buckets. Adding an oxygen absorber inside these containers before sealing also deters spoilage. Repackaging these items also helps you to plan your meals, and divvy them up according to your daily calorie needs.
As mentioned earlier, you can also buy freeze-dried meals in large buckets and kits. Fancy 140 servings of eggs? Brands like Wise Company offer those products and more. Other freeze-dried food companies have vegetable buckets, breakfast pails, or food kits with assorted meals inside.
Various Dehydrated And Preserved Foods
You can never go wrong with dehydrated food. Get a dehydrator and take it out for a spin. You'll soon find that you can dehydrate almost anything, from meat to fruits and veggies and whole meals. Learning food preservation techniques like curing, fermentation, canning, and smoking is also extremely important since it allows you to extend the shelf life of fresh food.
Don’t Forget To Store Water and Fluids
Last but definitely not least, don't forget to safely store adequate amounts of water. You’ll need water to hydrate, prepare food, reconstitute freeze-dried or dehydrated items, and clean your utensils, so prepare at least a gallon of water a day per member of your family.
Other fluids that you can store include canned soups and juices.
Filling your prepper pantry with all this emergency food can be daunting, but take it easy. Gradually add some items to your stash (a couple of cans during your regular grocery run can do wonders), rotate them as necessary, and before you know it, you've got a survival stash that can withstand any disaster.
Got expert tips that we might have missed? Sound off in the comments below!