Survival food and long-term storage foods are expensive and bulky. And while it may be convenient to order five-gallon buckets of food that will keep for 30 years, it isn’t always affordable or accessible.
But you don’t need to purchase expensive survival foods to stock your prepper pantry.
Instead, you can fill your survival pantry using foods from the grocery store.
You can easily fill your survival pantry using foods from the grocery store. You’ll want to purchase and safely store a variety of nutritious foods that you know your family will eat.
Purchase a variety of canned goods like meat and vegetables, (see our article on the best canned foods for survival), dried goods such as pasta, flour, oats, sugar, and salt, some healthy fats such as coconut oil and peanut butter, and of course, some comfort items such as instant coffee, as well.
In this article, we’ll go over how you can stock your prepper pantry with grocery store items. Then, we’ll show you how to break the task down into manageable pieces so you can easily accumulate and store your favorite long-term foods.
1. Make a Plan for Your Pantry
You can stock your prepper pantry at the grocery store, but you’re going to need to do a little planning to get it right. You need a variety of foods that will last a long time.
Keep in mind that FEMA recommends having at least two weeks’ worth of food and water on hand per person in your household. If you don’t have any food stored, start with gathering a two-week supply and then adding from there.
You’ll need a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person per day for cooking and drinking, but more is better if possible. Here is a food storage calculator article we wrote to give you an indication as to how much of each item may be a good idea to store.
What Should You Look For in Storage Foods?
When shopping at the grocery store, you’ll want to invest in foods that have the longest shelf lives. According to the USDA, properly stored, shelf-stable foods will last indefinitely. Although most foods have a best-by date that tells you the peak time to consume the food, it will likely last for much, much longer. Some foods will lose flavor and nutrition over time but will still be edible. Remember to watch for:
Foods with a long shelf life. Even though most shelf-stable foods will last indefinitely if they aren’t compromised in some way, try to choose the foods that have longer best-by or use-by dates to have the tastiest, most nutritious food.
- Easy to store. Try to choose shelf-stable foods that don’t need any kind of freezing or refrigeration. Foods that have sturdy containers will last much longer.
- Easy to prepare. The least amount of preparation is ideal for short-term emergencies, although you’ll want to be able to cook when there are longer-term emergencies. So choose at least some foods that require little to no preparation.
- High Calorie. You want a lot of caloric bang for your buck so try to choose foods that have a high-calorie density.
- Nutritional Value. Look for foods that have as much nutritional value as you can so you can have vitamins and minerals as well as calories in your meals.
- Variety. Appetite fatigue is a very real thing if you have to eat the same foods over and over again. Try to choose a variety of foods with lots of different spices so you can make your meals different and interesting.
- Comfort foods. Don’t forget to include some comfort foods and foods that your family just loves to eat. Comfort foods can boost morale during difficult times.
- Dietary Issues. Don’t forget to take dietary restrictions into consideration as well. Does someone in your family have a special diet or special needs? You’ll want to include this in your shopping as well.
- Foods that are affordable. Although you could purchase a year’s supply of prepackaged survival foods, the cost would be enormous. So instead, look for affordable survival foods at the grocery store, such as the ones on our list.
Once you have two weeks’ worth of food on hand, you’ll want to start expanding your pantry to include larger portions of a variety of foods.
Grains and Other Dry Goods
Grains will store for a long time, are versatile and can make a lot of different dishes, and are nutrient and calorie dense. Although wheat berries would store longer than wheat flour, you probably won’t find wheat berries at a typical grocery store. Even if you do, you’ll need a grinder to be able to use them for cooking. But there are plenty of other options. For example:
- Rice: White rice typically stores longer than brown rice.
- Dried corn
- Oats: Steel-cut oats, rolled oats, and instant oats will all last under the right conditions
- All-purpose flour
- Instant grits
- Potato flakes
- Sugar. Plain white sugar typically has a longer shelf life than brown or powdered sugar.
- Baking Soda
- Baking Powder
- Bouillon Cubes
Beans and Legumes
Dried beans and legumes will store indefinitely when stored properly. They are packed with protein, fiber, and calories and can be used for all kinds of meals. Beans are an economical choice, as well. While dried beans will store the best, you may want to have some canned beans on hand as well since they don’t need any preparation to eat. Consider the following:
- Black beans
- Navy beans
- Kidney beans
- Pinto beans
- Chickpeas/Garbanzo beans
Many types of dried beans can also be used in the garden to grow more beans.
You’ll want to add some fat to your prepper pantry for extra calories, flavor, and satiety. And you can purchase a number of different fats that store well. Generally, they’ll also have a 1 to 2-year best by shelf life, but they may last longer under ideal conditions. Certain fats, such as peanut butter, will turn rancid over time but might still be edible even if they don’t taste good.
- Peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Vegetable oil
Meats and Other Proteins
You’ll want to add some canned protein to your prepper pantry, which is easy to find and relatively inexpensive at the grocery store. For example:
- Canned tuna
- Canned chicken
Additional Canned Goods to Add to Your Pantry
- Chicken Broth
- Canned beans
- Spaghetti Sauce
You may also want to include some extra items, such as:
- Powdered Milk
- Instant coffee
- Pure Vanilla Coffee
- Hard Liquor
- Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
2. Start Shopping
To make shopping easier, you may want to create a one-month meal plan using a combination of the foods listed above or similar items. First, take your meal plan, and make it into a shopping list. Then, you can multiply the list by 12 to turn it into a year’s plan.
You don’t need to purchase every item at once but make a plan to add to your prepper pantry every time you shop. Then, if you aren’t in a rush, you can shop wisely to save money.
- Shop when there’s a sale
- Buy in bulk
- Use coupons
- Choose store brands or less expensive brands of food
3. Store Food Appropriately
Storing your food is just as important as bringing it into your home. First of all, you want to protect your food from damage. Things like heat, light, moisture, pests, and oxygen can degrade and destroy the food in your prepper pantry.
You may need to repackage your food into long-term storage containers.
Canned goods you are going to stock up on need to be stored away from heat and light. Keep them away from moisture which can cause the cans to rust. And make sure they don’t get dented, which can allow oxygen and pathogens to get into the can and ruin the food.
Dried goods, such as flour and potato flakes, can be divided into smaller portions. Then, seal them into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Storing flour long term is a great idea and one we wrote an entire article on.
Foods like dried rice and beans can be stored in food-grade five-gallon buckets. When possible, separate larger packages into smaller ones so that you don’t risk introducing pathogens into the beans when you take out what you need.
Make sure everything is clearly labeled with the ingredients, purchase or storage date, and the best by date.
4. Rotate Your Stock
Make sure you keep careful stock of what’s in your pantry so you know what you have and you know what you still need to purchase.
Use the First in, First Out principle to practice good rotation. Always cook from the oldest stock you have on hand, and replace it with new items. This way, you’ll always have the freshest food available.
5. Look for the Holes
Look for any ‘holes’ or missing nutritional or comfort items from your pantry and continue to restock and add to it over time.
Final Thoughts on Filling Your Survival Pantry from the Grocery Store
With some careful shopping, you can fully stock your survival pantry from the grocery store. Remember to keep a variety of foods both for nutritional and emotional reasons. Store them safely and rotate often to have the healthiest, freshest food on hand all of the time.
Do I need to purchase everything on this list?
No, you don’t need to purchase everything listed here. These are just ideas to help you formulate your plans to stock your pantry. If there is an item you don’t like, you can just leave it off your shopping list.
Can I stock cold foods?
Yes, you can fill your fridge and freezer if you like. Freezing is a great way to store perishable foods for long periods of time. However, keep in mind that in certain SHTF scenarios, there may not be any electricity to keep your fridge and freezer running, so you’ll need to plan alternate means of storing those foods.