Beginner’s Guide to Stocking a Working Prepper Pantry

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How to stock a working prepper pantry, with ideas for food and household supplies, ways to stockpile on a budget, easy ways to organize and store food, recipes for meals, and a free printable checklist.

For a long time, Dan and I have both wanted to spend some time stocking our pantry and household supplies. We've always stockpiled to a small degree, but we've wanted to take it further.

working prepper pantry full of shelf-stable canned food and supplies

One thing or another has kept us from really jumping all in, whether it's keeping our finances in order or actually having the time to plan and implement.

Like I said, I've always had this tendency to keep a little stockpile of things we use on a regular basis. I'm pretty sure my growing up on a farm has a lot to do with my habits, and I count that as a good thing.

There are so many reasons to keep a working pantry full of survival foods and household supplies you use on a daily basis. Whether it's an illness that could warrant staying home, a natural disaster, spring storms with the threat of power outages ('tis the season here in Arkansas), job loss, you name it, a prepper's pantry is a really good idea all 'round.

We've personally experienced power outages, job loss, and illnesses that have kept us from getting out to the store. Life happens, and it's good to be prepared.

So how can you get started, and what kinds of things do you need to stock up on? What even is a working pantry? And how do you do all this on a budget? I'm going to answer all of these questions and more as you keep reading.

You'll also find a FREE PRINTABLE CHECKLIST and a VIDEO OF OUR PANTRY toward the bottom of this post.

Need to know how to make a weekly meal plan from your pantry? <– I've gotcha covered!

WHAT IS A WORKING PREPPER PANTRY?

First you need to know the difference between a working pantry and an emergency pantry. And then you can decide which is right for you.

An emergency pantry is basically a side stash you collect for emergency use only.

A working pantry, on the other hand, is a pantry you stash with all the foods and supplies you use on a regular basis, and you use a rotation system, so nothing is wasted.

By rotation system, I mean you're constantly pushing older things to the front and putting new replacement items in the back, so older foods are used up first.

emergency food supply, including canned vegetables, canned fruit, and more

We've always kept a working pantry, and we knew right from the start, that's the kind of pantry we wanted to continue to build. With special dietary needs, like diet-controlled diabetes and a gluten intolerance, it's important that we stock the kinds of foods we can eat without literally dying or living in misery.

We also didn't want to waste one can, one crumb, or one nutritious morsel of food. When we're constantly rotating and using the foods we collect, that pretty much ensures that nothing will go to waste.

HOW TO STOCK A PANTRY FOR THE FIRST TIME

How to even get started and how to stock a pantry on a budget are both questions that demand answers when you're just getting started.

Getting started is easy as long as you have paper and pencil. I actually have a little notebook (or Field Notes) I use, as well as my Notes app on my phone. Both help me keep track of what we need to continuously stock and things that are running low.

Go through your cabinets, as well as your fridge and freezer. Compile a list of all the foods and supplies you use on a regular basis.

I'm talking food, spices and seasonings, medicines, cleaners, paper products, water, other drinks, essential oils if you use them, etc.

Even if some of the foods are frozen, you may be able to start collecting things that are shelf-stable in their place. For instance, frozen/fresh chicken… You can start collecting canned chicken in its place (or better yet, can your own).

Think about how much your family uses in any given week, and write that number down next to the item. Multiply that by the number of weeks in a month, and you know how much you need for a month's supply.

best survival food like home canned applesauce, evaporated milk, and honey on white shelves

This may seem overwhelming at first, but just take baby steps. Speaking of which…

LET'S TALK BUDGET AND MONEY

Whether you're trying to stock up on a budget, or you've come into a windfall of extra money, there are specific ways you can scrimp and save to make the process less painful on your bank account.

  • Take a small part of your weekly grocery budget, and dedicate it to stocking your pantry.
  • Shop at Aldi or other grocery discount stores. We find some of the best deals on canned food at Aldi.
  • Watch sales and BOGO offers at ALL your local grocery stores. This will require going to more than one store.
  • Watch instant savings or discounts at big box club stores, like Sam's Club. They often have sales, where if you buy so many of one item, you acquire a significant discount.
  • Compare Amazon Prime Pantry prices to local prices. Our oldest, Jacob, makes all his own bread, and one way I've found to more affordably get his bread flour (when it's in stock), is to order a Pantry box from Amazon.
  • Use coupons if you can get your hands on them.
  • While I haven't personally tried this, my neighbor sometimes finds “damaged” deals on Amazon, where she'll get a big package of something that has been slightly damaged, but still usable, and is significantly discounted.
  • If you get a Christmas bonus or a tax refund, or maybe you're self-employed and have a really good month… Take a small part of those earnings, and invest them. I say invest because this truly is an investment into your own, as well as your family's, health and well-being.
  • Sell something to stock your pantry. Just about everyone has things just lying around the house they could likely sell that would help them get a good start.

Of course, you can also garden and grow things to can, but gardening takes money too. So it's important to figure out what will work for you and your family without causing undue strife or stress.

And now we get to the meat of this post (no pun intended).

WHAT FOODS SHOULD I STORE FOR SURVIVAL?

Now your list of foods may look slightly different from mine because of our family's partial dietary needs (diet-controlled diabetes and a gluten intolerance). But for the most part, the foods on this list are survival foods every prepper should have in their pantry.

shelf-stable canned foods and survival foods in cabinet, including crushed tomatoes, green beans, oats, and dried fruit

Think long-term and shelf-stable. You want to stock basic pantry staples, essentials, and foods that last the longest.

popcorn, Bisquick, and other gluten-free flours in working pantry cabinet

WHAT ABOUT DRINKS?

  • Water – Now you don't necessarily have to go out and buy a bunch of water. You can repurpose milk jugs and juice jugs by washing them out thoroughly and filling them with water.
  • Coffee – Also, powdered creamer if you like cream in your coffee.
  • Tea bags
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Juice – I stock grape juice because my boys love it, and my oldest craves it if he's sick.
  • Ginger ale, Sprite, or other tummy calming drinks
  • Propel powder packets – I buy these in case we need to replace electrolytes when sick. They have zero sugar and zero colors.
  • Dry milk – I purchase canned dry whole milk, and if we don't end up using it by close to the expiration date, I'll use it in recipes, so it's not wasted.
  • Dry buttermilk – Our oldest makes the most delicious gluten-free fried chicken with this.
  • Wine or other alcohol

Recipes for Beginning Preppers

Recipes you can make with fresh or canned ingredients, whether you need breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Swap out fresh for canned, freeze-dried, or powdered ingredients straight from the pantry.

KITCHEN PAPER PRODUCTS

EMERGENCY COOKWARE AND UTENSILS

If you're really serious about prepping, you'll stock certain types of cookware, as well. Probably a lot of things that are on my camping kitchen list.

Things like…

household cleaners from Melaleuca and Young Living in a working pantry, SoluGuard, Thieves Household Cleaner, and Tough & Tender

HYGIENE, FIRST AID, AND HOUSEHOLD SUPPLIES

While I want to focus mainly on food and kitchen in this post, it's also a good idea to think about your entire household. To get you started, here are a few suggestions.

hygiene, first aid, and household supplies in a working pantry cabinet

LASTLY, WHERE TO STORE EVERYTHING

If you have a large house with lots of room, and preferably a basement, you're set. But if you're like us and have a tiny pantry with not a whole lot of extra storage space, you have to be creative.

Instead of thinking, “I don't have room for that”… I want you to think outside the box.

Can you purge and get rid of some things to make more room? Do you have a closet you can clean out and use? What about a dresser drawer or empty shelf? Do you have room underneath beds or a futon? How about an empty tote or bin?

Have a crawl space or an attic? We actually store potatoes we grow in our garden in our crawl space because they keep better in the slightly cooler environment.

white food grade bucket with gamma lid for gluten-free flour

Keep in mind for some of your dry ingredients, you may need food grade buckets with gamma lids for storage. We usually buy ours at Lowe's.

Look around your home, and figure out where you can make room and where you can stash supplies. Where there's a will, there's most definitely a way.

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WATCH OUR VIDEO TO SEE HOW WE STOCK OUR PANTRY

WHAT TO READ NEXT…

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how to stock a prepper pantry

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