With everything going on right now, we all see how important it is to have a well stocked pantry. I am not an expert prepper, but I have been stocking my pantry for the past couple of years. I have one small working pantry in my kitchen where we keep our daily supplies and another long term storage pantry in the hallway. We mainly keep canned goods and paper products in the larger pantry. We also keep our fridge and freezer in the kitchen stocked with items we use daily and what we need for our weekly meal plans. We have a second fridge/ freezer in the garage that we keep stocked with beer, drinks and overflow supplies. The supermarkets have been struggling to keep necessities stocked so it’s important to learn how to stock your pantry for hard times.
Step 1 in Stocking Your Pantry for Hard Times:
The first step in stocking your pantry for hard times is to clean out, organize and inventory what you do have already in your home. How else will you know what to purchase if you don’t know what you have on hand? I cleaned out both of our pantries recently, threw out expired items and made sure the appropriate items were in the correct pantry.
Now my kitchen pantry isn’t Instagram worthy, it’s small but I think most people have pantries that look similar. Maybe one day I will have matching labeled canisters to store everything in a cute way but right now I needed to focus on function not aesthetics.
I started by taking everything out of the pantry, cleaning the shelves with disinfecting wipes. Then I threw away any expired items and set aside items for donation that I know we will not use. My local homeless shelter is my go to for food donations. Then I separated the food by what I use daily and wanted to keep at hand in our kitchen pantry. The extra items and multiples of the same food went into the hall pantry for longer term storage.
What to store in your working short term pantry:
When I was done, I placed everything away in an organized manner, grouping like items together. I made a couple snack boxes with small plastic storage bins that I already had to make packing lunches easier. The main categories I used to organize my pantry were: baking, vinegar, breakfast foods, pasta, rice, oils, bread, canned goods, seasoning packets, popcorn, nuts and canned snacks and then lunch snacks.
What you keep in this working pantry should only be items that you use daily during meal prep. Think about what items you and your family use for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. You want these items to be easily located and organized so that you can grab them as you need them and you can also keep a visual inventory of what you have and what you need to buy. When I use something up, I go ahead and add it to my grocery list on the fridge.
What to store in your long term storage pantry:
For your long term storage, you want to keep these items well stocked:
- Canned Goods: variety of beans (black, refried, baked, kidney, etc.), protein (tuna, salmon, chicken, Vienna sausage), tomatoes (whole, diced, sauce, paste), vegetables (corn, green beans, carrots), fruit (pineapple, fruit cocktail, peaches, pears, mandarin oranges, apple sauce), soup/ stew, pasta sauce and condiments (mayo, ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, salsa, marinade).
- Boxed Items: pasta salad, variety of pasta, beef/ chicken stock, snacks, cereal, mac n’ cheese, rice, potatoes, bread mix, pancake mix, etc.
- Paper Products: toilet paper, paper towels, tissues and disposable plates, cups and silverware.
- Other items that are shelf stable: peanut butter/ jelly, oils, baking supplies, granola, olives, green chilies, home canned food, ramen noodles, sloppy joe, pesto and gravy.
- Water is the most essential item to store. Generally, most organizations recommend one gallon of water per person per day. So for instance, if you are planning to have enough water stored for your family of four that lasts for one week, you want to have at least 28 gallons of water. That seems like a lot and it is when you think about where you plan to store all of this water. I use bottled water as opposed to gallon jugs so that I can maximize storage space and if we had to leave the house, it’s easier to stuff some water bottles in my backpack.
Basic Tips on Stocking Your Pantry for Hard Times:
- Store what you eat, and eat what you store- do not buy items that you and your family will never eat just because they are shelf stable. As you use items, replace them right away and rotate the oldest items to the front or top of the stack.
- Start slowly by buying a little extra each time you go to the grocery store. You do not have to buy it all at once. This is a process and not something that is done overnight. Keep it simple- buy one for now and one for later.
- Take advantage of sale items to increase your storage.
- Utilize mail order/ delivery services for pantry staples like Amazon Pantry or Walmart Grocery Delivery.
- Make a list of what you need and stick to it. Do not go to the store without a list, you won’t buy what you really need, you will make too many impulse purchases.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. And that is easy to do. You can see lots of preppers online that have spent years, sometimes decades building their stockpile and that will make you feel inadequate. But everyone had nothing when they started out, so just commit to starting.
Other Non-Food Items to Store for Hard Times:
- Hand crank radio
- Flashlights and batteries
- First Aid kit
- Prescription and OTC medications
- Candles, matches, lighters
- Camp stove
- Gas grill and filled propane tanks
- Wood and fire starters
- Self Protection: guns and ammo, knives, mace, taser
- Cleaning supplies
- Disposable gloves, masks, PPE
- Pet Supplies
- Household Binder including paper copies of important documents
I recommend starting out by gathering enough supplies for your entire family to maintain at home for 72 hours. Once you have that, add enough to maintain for 1 week, then 2 weeks and so on. I think most people realized that they were not prepared to stay at home for a long period of time when the Coronavirus broke out but they see now how important it really is to be prepared. Did you feel prepared and if not, what have you been doing to change that in the past couple of weeks?
You might also enjoy reading our tips on How to Get Prepared for an Emergency.
Stay up to date on the CDC’s recommendations on how to protect yourself and all of the latest information on the coronavirus.