One of the preparations we’ve made that makes me feel more comfortable is having a well-stocked pantry. I know that if we lost our income or the world went crazy, Phil and I could easily eat from our pantry for several months. We also have long-term storage food, but our pantry assures me that when an emergency occurs, I have a window of time during which life won’t be normal, but it won’t be totally chaotic either.
I call it grocery-store prepping – buying and storing multiples of the things that we like and use so that we have a well-stocked pantry that we can eat from for an extended period of time. The products I’ll identify below have relatively long shelf-lives – often several years. Obviously, that’s not “long-term” storage food, which we also recommend that you have, (you can read about different kinds of foods for long-term storage here), but investing in long-term storage food often requires a significant cash outlay. By comparison, adding to my stockpile of chunky soup can cost as little as $1.50 a can.
I’m happy to have a rotating supply of food that I’m familiar with and that is easy to prepare. AND, I can buy them a little at a time or go hog-wild when they’re on sale.
So what kinds of items are great for grocery-store prepping? The short answer is anything with a shelf life of a couple of years or more. But how about more details than that?
I break my grocery-store prepping list into five categories. Here’s a sample list:
- Soups (both for cooking and for eating) – In a pinch, you can eat them without heating them. (The non-condensed ones, at least.) They’re also great for stretching or adding flavor to other foods. Soup over rice or pasta makes a flavorful, filling meal that is economical and uses relatively little fuel to make.
- Vegetables – We don’t eat many canned vegetables in our house, but I’ll be glad to have some when fresh is no longer available
- Fruits – Ditto.
- Beans – High in fiber and protein, good for you, and cheap. Can also be eaten without cooking. Stock up on a variety of different types.
- Meats – Don’t just limit yourself to tuna. Try salmon, chicken, and if you’re brave you can go for the “little fishes” – sardines or herring. Phil loves them. But then, Phil genuinely loves Spam, too. I try to avoid them.
- Peanut Butter – High in protein and calories with a shelf-life of two years. It’s good to have peanut butter around in an emergency.
- Spaghetti Sauce – Goes on sale frequently. Stock up. You know you’ll use it.
- Mac-n-Cheese – It’s comfort food in most households, and comfort food is important.
- Rice and noodle side dishes.
- Couscous – If you’ve never had it, give it a try. It’s a form of pasta that cooks very quickly.
- Brownie or other dessert mixes – You’ll want some dessert foods if the lights go out. Buy mixes that require only water added.
- Toilet paper
- Facial tissues
- Paper towels
- Paper plates
Personal Care and First Aid Items
- Feminine products
- First aid creams and medicines
- Allergy medicine, if you use it
You can do a lot of prepping by adding a few items to your grocery list every week. Watch for sales and save. Our neighborhood Big Lots had a 20% off sale recently. We spent $60 and bought bags and bags of food that will go on our shelves. When products we like are on sale, we often buy them by the case.
The food in our pantry is food we eat, so at any given point in time you won’t find all the categories full. But when a shelf begins to get empty, we watch for sales or simply begin buying two of an item when we need it. You’ll find that your shelves fill up pretty quickly.