So, what foods should you stockpile in case of an emergency? First, it depends on what type of emergency. There are many kinds – natural disasters, power outages, wars and pandemics, for example.
We don’t know what kind of emergency will strike when, so in this guide we will cover the general emergency where you may not have time to react. If you do get time to prepare, all the better.
You want to begin stockpiling as soon as possible, but slowly. We will cover exactly how you should do this. Don’t go rushing out and buying everything at once.
This guide will show you the strategy – how you should stockpile and plan everything out, while keeping it all organized.
Ready, let’s begin!
- What To Look For in Food
- Things You Need For Stockpiling
- Maintenance and Rotation
- How Big Should Your Stockpile Be?
- What to Consider When Planning Your Stockpile
- How to Create Your Stockpile
- Planning the Stockpile
- What Foods Should You Stockpile?
- Baking Ingredients
- Bars – Protein, Granola, Power, Cereal
- Beans, Dry or Canned
- Candies, Hard
- Cereal, Dry
- Chocolate, Dark
- Fruit, Canned
- Fruit, Dried
- Fruit, Freeze-dried
- Jams and Jellies
- Juice in cartons
- Liquor, hard
- Maple syrup
- Mashed Potato, instant
- Meals, ready-to-eat
- Meat, Canned
- Meat, Dried
- Milk, Canned/Boxed/Powdered
- Nuts and Trail Mixes
- Oatmeal and Oats
- Oil, Cooking
- Pasta, Boxed/Canned
- Pasta Sauce
- Peanut Butter
- Powdered Drink Mixes
- Ramen Noodles
- Rice, White
- Root and Hardy Vegetables
- Salt and Pepper
- Sauce, Jarred
- Snacks, Healthier
- Soup, Canned/Cartoned
- Spices and Herbs
- Sports Drinks
- Sprouts and Seeds
- Stock and Bouillon
- Vegetables, Canned
- Vegetables, Freeze-dried
- Vinegar, White
- Water, Bottled
- Whole Grains
What To Look For in Food
These are the most important criteria to look for when considering what foods you should stockpile:
- The entire stockpile covers all your nutritional needs
- Does not require much energy (or no energy) to cook
- Can be kept for a very long time (years)
- Strong packaging that lasts through disasters and contamination
- A variety of foods so you don’t get food fatigue
Your stockpile should include all kinds of foods so you get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. In a disaster or emergency, you may be using more energy than usual, so this is especially important.
Examples of nutrition you need:
- Protein from meat and beans
- Vitamins B and C from frozen or canned fruit and vegetables
- Minerals from meat, fish, fruit, veg, nuts, milk
- Carbohydrates from cereals, oats, rice or pasta
You will notice that a lot of these foods may seem like they cannot be stockpiled. All you need to do is find the long-term equivalent or substitute of the same food, which may be canned.
Low to No-Cook Foods
You will not always have power to cook food, and it may even be dangerous. For example, if there is a gas leak, lighting a fire is a very bad idea. You may want to only include no-cook foods in your stockpile. Unless you’re a full-on prepper though, we recommend having a mix of no-cook foods and ‘normal’ long-term food, as you might still be able to cook.
No-cook foods may be freeze-dried, which means that it doesn’t require cooking before you eat it. Foods that need cooking and use up a lot of energy to do so include: pasta, rice and dry beans.
Cans are the very best packaging for long term food storage. They are almost indestructible and food is safe from contamination. Even if there is a flood, cans are sealed from floodwater.
Jars are not safe from flood water. Water can enter in from under the lid and contaminate the food inside. So if you’re ever in a flood and the jar has been in contact with floodwaters, don’t eat!
Other than cans, you can buy airtight containers. The best way to ensure nothing can get in, is to use mylar bags. These pouches can keep light, rodents and air out extremely well. Vacuum sealing mylar bags of food, then keeping them in food-grade airtight containers, is the best way to store food, besides canning.
Avoid Food Fatigue
You don’t want to be eating the same meal every single day. Be sure to include a variety of foods and flavors so you don’t get food fatigue. In any emergency, morale is very important. Try to have different foods of different tastes to keep everyone’s morale up.
We might not think about it much, but eating the same thing over and over gets depressing! Humans derive pleasure from taste and food, so this is not something to overlook.
Things You Need For Stockpiling
The first thing you need is a manual can opener. Imagine having a basement full of canned food but not being able to open any of them – what a nightmare! Have multiple can openers to be safe.
Okay, it’s not the end of the world if there is no can opener. Here are three ways to open a can without a can opener. Don’t worry, you won’t starve!
The next thing you need is a storage location. You want a place that is: cool, dry and dark.
Moisture, air, heat and light will destroy your food, and so will rodents and critters. Pick a location that is safe from all these.
Ideas for storage places include a basement, attic, cupboards, closets, under the bed and under the stairs.
If there is power, a chest freezer will be very handy. If not, all the food will be spoiled. If you want to include frozen food, make sure to have plenty of non-frozen food as well.
Maintenance and Rotation
Maintenance of your food stockpile is very simple. We’ll cover it quickly before moving onto building the stockpile itself.
There are only two things you need to worry about:
- Checking expiry dates
- Organizing the stockpile
You only need to check expiry dates about every six months. All the long-term foods will last at least this long.
Organize the stockpile while you are building it. As long as you order things from earliest expiry date to latest, so that the earliest expiring food is at the front of the pile, you’re good.
The best way to organize your food items is by item and category. Have all the pastas together, canned beans together, and so on.
Being able to rotate your stockpile makes things easier to access. If you can’t easily access the food, you won’t check on it, and you won’t properly maintain it. You can get rotating can organizers to help with this.
How Big Should Your Stockpile Be?
How big and how long you want your stockpile to last depends on you. For an average family that isn’t too serious about prepping, 3 days or 72 hours is a good start, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means you should have a three-day supply of food and water for the entire family.
If you want a short to medium-term stockpile, make one that lasts 2 weeks. And for the preppers, 3 months to 1 year of food and water is ideal.
The CDC recommends that you store one gallon of water per person per day. They also recommend that you have a 2-week supply of water.
Since humans can survive a lot longer without food than water, even if you did the 72 hour stockpile, consider upgrading your water supply to 2 weeks.
What to Consider When Planning Your Stockpile
These are the things you should keep in mind when creating your stockpile:
- Efficiency first – pick foods that provide maximum nutrition and calories for minimal bulk
- Decide foods based on each family member’s calorie and dietary needs
- You will need to repackage a lot of stuff
Because most foods from the store are not packaged for long-term storage, except cans, you will have to repackage almost everything. Put everything into mylar bags and airtight food containers, and they will last much longer.
How to Create Your Stockpile
The best way to create your stockpile is to do so incrementally. Start off with a 1 week stockpile, then increase it to 2 weeks, then double it to 4 weeks. And after you have a one month stockpile, make it 2 months, and then 3 months and so on.
There are a few reasons for doing it this way: you won’t blow your budget, you won’t have buyer’s remorse, and it’s just more manageable.
That means, each time you do grocery shopping, you can buy an extra or two of a specific item.
Planning the Stockpile
Very shortly we will deep dive into the specific foods you might want to include in your stockpile. It is important to plan everything before you go out and buy.
The last thing you want is a disorganized, messy stockpile where you don’t know how long your food will last or how many meals you have left.
Here is an example of how you can plan out the stockpile. You can create your own sheet or list. It’s basically making a meal plan for a week or two. Then, simply repeat the same meals. Or, you can make it more varied, it’s up to you!
As long as you keep it well organized and documented, you’re good.
Make a Master Spreadsheet
We recommend using something like an Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheets to keep track of your inventory. List all the items you have according to category, then you want to include columns for how many you have of the item, what meals it will be used for, nutrition or calories and expiration date. If your stockpile is huge, include the location of the food in your house and the shelf.
It might also be a good idea to make a sheet or table for each family member before making this master spreadsheet, in order to help you plan out meals for everyone.
Start with a meal plan for your family, and record calories for that day. Then extend this to 7 days, then 14 days. It’s up to you how you want to do the meal planning.
After you’ve got the meal plans sorted, then you can create the master spreadsheet.
And if using technology is too complicated? Simply use pen and paper to keep track of everything!
What Foods Should You Stockpile?
Now let’s get into the actual list of foods. Some of these may come as a surprise as there are fresh foods here. These would ideally be bought just before an emergency, but since you can never tell when an emergency may strike, you should still have them prepared.
Apples can surprisingly be stored for up to 6 months. If you have a cold, dark place like a basement or root cellar, this is possible. Otherwise, at room temperature they will keep for 2 weeks. Apples have lots of nutrition – vitamins, fiber and carbohydrates. Try to have them in your stockpile.
We’ve lumped baking ingredients into its own paragraph for ease. This includes baking powder, yeast and leavening or rising agents. Even if you don’t bake, these ingredients will be very useful if there is nothing to eat and you have power to cook. Bake bread! We’ve included flour and eggs later in the list.
Bars – Protein, Granola, Power, Cereal
Protein, granola, power and cereal bars are nutritionally healthy and can last six months. They are great at staving off hunger. Plus, they contain a lot of good proteins and carbohydrates.
Beans, Dry or Canned
These are an absolute must on your list. Canned food is the most indestructible, so stock up on these beans! Dry and canned beans last forever, and are an excellent way to get protein. The only disadvantage is that they take a long time to cook. For dry beans, you’ll have to soak them for a while, which isn’t the best if you need food now.
Beans have iron, carbohydrates, protein and fiber. Eat by itself, as part of another dish or a side dish. Types of beans include: kidney, black-eye, baked, lima, haricot, pinto, garbanzo. Also include legumes and chickpeas.
This one is for the kids. During an emergency, as we have mentioned, keeping morale up is important. Give your kids hard candies as a reward. Hard candies provide energy and can be kept for years.
This one is also a must. You’ll need to repackage cereal into airtight containers to make it last past its use-by date. Choose cereals that are whole grain or multigrain, not the sweeter ones. These are healthy and filling with a good amount of nutrition.
Cheese is a good source of protein and calcium, and some can be kept for a long time. Hard cheeses like parmesan can be kept for months. If it’s triple dipped in wax, it can last years. Freeze-dried cheese, which you can put over your pasta, lasts 25 years.
Dark chocolate lasts a lot longer than milk chocolate because it doesn’t contain much milk, which spoils faster. Depending on the temperature it’s kept at, dark chocolate lasts between 2 to 5 years.
Cocoa can be used for baking or a nice, warm drink. This is a great option for lifting your spirits up!
This is an important comfort food for most adults. Freeze-dried coffee lasts 25 years, instant coffee 2 to 20 years. Stock up on your favorite brand!
Use cornmeal to substitute for flour.
Use cornstarch to thicken soups, stews and gravy.
Whole-wheat and wholegrain crackers are best for nutrition, but don’t last as long as plain crackers. You’ll need to repackage them (vacuum-seal is best) and they’ll last longer. A good substitute for bread and sandwiches.
Powdered eggs are the long term equivalent of eggs, and you can use them for baking, or making omelets and scrambled eggs. You can also preserve fresh eggs for long term use. Besides meat and beans, eggs are a great source of protein.
Flour is important for a stockpile, because bread can be a vital source of food. Flour doesn’t keep long in its original packaging – up to 6 months. In airtight containers, it lasts up to 10 months. Mylar bags are your best bet for long term storage. Here’s a detailed article on how to store flour long term.
Canned fruit such as tomatoes, peaches and mandarin oranges are essential. Tomatoes especially, are high in vitamins A and C, and antioxidants. Canned tomatoes and fruit can keep for one to one and a half years.
Dried fruit is another form of fruit that is a must-have. You’ll get a good amount of nutrients if you have all these types of fruit on hand. Remember, the aim is to replace what you’d usually get from fresh fruit. Dried fruit lasts for several years and includes apricots, prunes, raisins, cranberries, oranges and blueberries. Eat them alone, with cereals or oats or in baked goods.
To really keep fruit long term, you can freeze-dry them. This article explains how to freeze dry fruit. Freeze-dried fruit can keep for 25 to 30 years, according to the Spruce. Since fruit is so important to the human body, for fiber, nutrients and vitamins, this may be a very handy thing to learn.
Ghee is a good replacement for butter. If you don’t know what ghee is, it’s just butter with the milk solids removed. Because of this, it lasts a lot longer. It keeps for months in a cool, dark place or years in a freezer.
Hardtack is a mixture of flour, water and salt that was historically used by sailors on long journeys. You can easily make hardtack with this recipe. Although it’s bland and isn’t a fancy meal by any means, it’s a great survival food to have on hand. Make sure to soak it before eating.
Even though jars of honey from the supermarket have expiration dates, the truth is that honey lasts virtually forever. After a while, honey forms crystals or changes color, but you can still eat it. The only thing you have to worry about is if it has been contaminated, which will cause it to go off.
Many people eat honey when they’re sick because it boosts the immune system. It’s also better than sugar as nature’s sweetener, plus it keeps much longer. Put this one high on your list!
Jams and Jellies
Take these out of the jars and put in airtight, plastic containers.
Juice in cartons
Juice in cartons keeps longer and replaces fresh juice.
Lentils are a great long-term food, but they take a long time to cook.
Hard liquor can be used for disinfecting and sterilizing wounds, or to unwind. It doesn’t go bad even after it’s opened, so having some around could be handy.
Just an extra something to put on your pancakes or to bake with. Also consider corn syrup.
Mashed Potato, instant
Get some instant mashed potato for carbohydrates without having to cook.
Having some ready-to-eat meals can add variety to your stockpile, but they can be expensive.
Canned meats, including fish, are a must for protein. Your other sources of protein are beans and eggs, and some vegetables. If you’re vegetarian it’s up to you if you include this, but make sure you get enough protein.
Canned meat and fish includes tuna, chicken, turkey, salmon, sardines, spam, corned beef, bacon, and ham. And yes, all of these come in cans. These are excellent for no-cook meals when you have no power. Keep a large amount of canned meat in your stockpile. It’s also worth remembering that meat can be hard to come by in emergencies.
These cans can last 2 to 5 years. Canned oily fish is rich in omega 3, which helps to prevent strokes and heart attacks. Chicken and other meats contain many of the minerals (like zinc) and protein that you need to survive. Stock up well!
Another form of meat to have on hand is jerky and biltong. These dried pieces of meat can be kept for a year or two, and are another emergency source of protein.
Biltong and jerky are similar, but are created using different processes. Where jerky is dehydrated to cook the meat, biltong is marinated, cured and then air-dried.
Examples of dried meat include beef, deer, pork, poultry and lamb.
Canned, boxed or powdered milk replaces fresh milk and is an important source of calcium and vitamins. Canned and powdered milk stored in airtight containers can last up to ten years. Once opened, follow the instructions on the packaging to know how long it’s good for.
Even if you prepare your stockpile well, it will be difficult to get the same level of nourishment you would usually get from eating normally. This is where multivitamins or supplements will help to replenish your system with the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Nuts and Trail Mixes
Unsalted is better, as salt will dehydrate you. Vacuum-packed nuts will last a very long time. Examples include walnuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews and almonds. Nuts contain a vast amount of energy and calories. Nutrients you’ll get include potassium, vitamin E, protein, magnesium, fiber and fatty acids.
Oatmeal and Oats
Like cereal, keep this on hand as it contains fiber and nutrients. This is why oatmeal is a good survival food.
Cooking oil is essential if you want to cook. Olive and vegetable oils don’t last as long, but coconut oil has a shelf life of 2 years, so you may want to consider it. Oil is also high in calories.
Pasta and spaghetti made with semolina flour and water will last the longest, but here’s a guide on types of pasta and how long they keep for.
Pasta is a fantastic source of carbohydrates and is just as important as cereal for your grain needs. It also keeps for many years, depending on the type of pasta. Not to mention you can make a huge variety of meals with it.
Pasta sauce is almost as important as the pasta as the two make a very quick meal. But you can also use pasta sauce as a base for minestrone, for side dishes or as a topper.
Peanut butter has a very high amount of calories, protein and healthy fats. It can last two to five years in an unopened jar. The oil and solids may separate, but it’s still safe to eat. Also consider other nut butters. It may not be the healthiest food, but it contains a lot of energy, which is important for emergencies.
This is another emergency food like hardtack, except its origins are from indigenous North America. Pemmican is dried meat from animals like bison, elk, moose and deer and mixed with fat. It’s a dense, high energy food which was used by Arctic and Antarctic explorers. You can make your own pemmican by following this recipe.
This one you need to be careful with. If you are able to grow potatoes long term, this may be better than storing them. Storing potatoes long term is tricky but here’s how to do it anyway.
The reason we put potatoes on this list is because as a survival food, potatoes are the best. You can literally eat just potatoes for months and survive. It is full of carbohydrates and has some of the nutrients you need. However, potatoes are also lacking in many things, which is why you would only survive a few months eating this alone.
Growing potatoes for survival would be an excellent idea, so look into it if you have garden space.
Powdered Drink Mixes
Fruit drinks, tang, lemonade and juice are good to have on hand for hydration and some vitamin C.
Stock up on ramen noodles as they make a very quick meal and can be used as a base for a more nutritious meal. Add extra ingredients like canned vegetables and meat or eat alone for fast calories. They have a long shelf life and come in all sorts of flavors.
White rice may not be as healthy as brown rice, but since the oil has been removed, white rice lasts a lot longer and is perfect for your stockpile. White rice lasts virtually forever if kept in airtight containers. You also have to make sure there are no insects or bug eggs as that will completely spoil the rice. Rice, like pasta, is extremely versatile and full of carbohydrates.
Root and Hardy Vegetables
This includes potatoes, but root and hardy vegetables have a longer shelf life than other vegetables. You should have some set aside although their lifespan will not be as long as your true long-term foods.
Potatoes, cabbage, whole carrots, brussel sprouts and celery are some vegetables to keep in a cool, dark place with airflow. They will keep for 3 to 4 months if stored properly.
Salt and Pepper
Besides being your basic seasoning ingredients for cooking, salt can also be used to cure meat and create jerky. Shelf life is indefinite.
Sauces like ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, soy and barbeque are good to have for cooking or for extra flavor. You can also use them instead of cooking oil.
Healthier snacks like popcorn, pretzels and fruit leathers can be a treat while adding some calories. Try not to pick snacks like chips that are full of salt and may dehydrate you.
Low sodium soups are best, but all varieties of canned soup would go well in your stockpile. They make a quick meal, can be used to create a more elaborate meal and there are so many flavors to choose from.
Spices and Herbs
Herbs and spices, like salt and pepper, are necessary for cooking and provide much needed seasoning.
Drinks like gatorade and powerade contain electrolytes that help you to rehydrate quickly.
Sprouts and Seeds
In case you need to grow vegetables, having some sprouts or seeds that grow quickly can mean fresh greens for your family. Here’s a list of greens that sprout quickly.
Stock and Bouillon
Stock cubes, bouillon paste and cubes and powdered bouillon are essential for creating soup from scratch. You can also make stews or use it for flavoring. They come in cans or cartons and last one to two years.
Sugar lasts forever and is another necessary ingredient for cooking and baking. You can also use it to preserve fruit.
Like coffee, this is another comfort drink to lift your spirits.
Canned vegetables will replace your usual vegetable intake. Canned beans, carrots, potatoes, peas and corn will keep for one to two years past the use-by date. Vegetables with high acidity will not keep as long. Do not eat from cans that are swollen as it could indicate bacteria.
Freeze-dried vegetables are one of the best foods to stockpile. Their taste beats canned vegetables, and they retain all the macronutrients and micronutrients of fresh produce. To eat, simply add water to rehydrate them.
White vinegar can be used for cooking or disinfection.
As we touched on above in water, this is your most essential ‘food’. You need one gallon per person per day, two gallons is better. Half a gallon is for drinking, the other half for washing and cooking or rehydrating food.
Bottled water keeps indefinitely. To get a higher mineral intake, try mineral water. You can also buy distilled water or purify your own water. Here’s ten ways to purify water. After that, you can store your purified water in jars, jugs or containers.
Whole grains contain a lot of healthy nutrients and fiber. The main advantage of whole grains is that it keeps a lot longer than flour. To be able to have bread long term, consider getting a flour mill. Then you can turn the whole grains into flour. After that you can make bread, cakes and any other baked goods.
Soft grains like oat, rye, quinoa and barley keep for about 8 years. Hard grains like buckwheat, durum wheat, flax, kamut and dry corn can last 12 years. You can make them keep even longer with proper storage methods.
Hopefully this guide helps you decide what foods you should stockpile, as well as how to do it. The key things to take away are:
- The stockpile covers each member of the family’s nutrition needs
- To slowly gather items for the stockpile and make it easy for yourself to maintain
If you want to be even more prepared, we have an article on how to live off grid, so you can also generate your own energy for emergencies, which would allow you to cook food.
If you would like to grow your own food like the sprouts and seeds we mentioned in this article, check out our ultimate guides on how to begin gardening and vegetable container gardens for beginners.