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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.
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.
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.
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.
Think long-term and shelf-stable. You want to stock basic pantry staples, essentials, and foods that last the longest.
- Canned meat – Chicken, tuna, salmon, Spam, Vienna sausages, etc. You can also can your own beef or deer meat.
- Canned vegetables – We keep a steady supply of green beans, spinach, beets, peas, a few cans of mixed vegetables, a little bit of corn, etc.
- Crushed tomatoes – Great for making sauces and soups.
- Canned fruits – Pears, mandarin oranges, peaches (perfect for peaches and cream oatmeal), pineapple, etc.
- Bullion, broth base, or stock
- Soups – I especially love Amy's Organic Soups, since there are many gluten-free options.
- Pasta – We don't eat a lot of pasta, but I do stock a little bit of gluten-free spaghetti. My kids also love Ramen noodles.
- Riceland Rice
- Dried beans – Again, we don't eat a ton of rice and beans, but it's always good to have a supply of both because they're very sustainable.
- Potatoes or potato flakes
- Condiments like mayo, mustard, ketchup, Miracle Whip, etc.
- Peanut butter or other nut butters
- Salad dressings – If you're able to grow your own lettuce, this will be nice to have.
- Spices and seasonings – Especially Badia seasonings. And as long as you have salt and pepper, you have flavor.
- Shelf-stable parmesan cheese
- Taco shells or corn tortillas
- Oils – Olive oil, coconut oil, etc.
- Flour, including my favorite gluten-free flour (or ingredients to make your own gluten-free flour with a grinder)
- Active dry yeast
- Sugars – Pure cane sugar or granulated, brown sugar, and powdered sugar
- Honey or other sweeteners
- Baking ingredients – Xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder, etc.
- Extracts – Vanilla extract, almond extract, caramel extract, etc.
- Cereal – About the only cereal I keep in stock is Cheerios.
- Jams and jellies – I love making strawberry jam, blackberry jam, peach preserves, and apple jelly.
- Applesauce and apple butter
- Maple syrup – Perfect for making maple brown sugar oatmeal or enjoying on pancakes.
- Crackers and Saltines – including gluten-free saltine crackers.
- Nuts – Peanuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc.
- Simply Cheetohs Puffs – My secret obsession.
- Chocolate – including chocolate chips.
- Pet food – Don't forget your furry friends, or your feathered friends if you have chickens.
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
KITCHEN PAPER PRODUCTS
- Plastic food storage bags
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap
- Parchment paper
- Wax paper
- Paper towels and paper towel holder – We keep a few, but we're more likely to use our Norwex rags since we've gotten them.
- Trash bags
- Storage containers
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.
- Water Jugs – We like the jugs with a spigot, since it can act as both water storage and a faucet.
- Water bottles
- Food dehydrator
- Matches or lighter
- Coleman Camp Stove
- Over the fire grill or tripod grill
- Portable charcoal grill with charcoal
- Dutch oven with Dutch oven tripod
- Cast Iron Skillet – Our 10.25-inch cast iron skillet is our go to skillet for just about everything. We also love our larger 12-inch skillet and deep dish skillet.
- Pot holders or welding gloves – These gloves work so much better than ordinary heat resistant gloves.
- Can Opener
- Percolator – Our favorite way to make coffee over the campfire is to cook it the cowboy way, with coffee grains added right into the water. A percolator gives options for making your morning brew.
- Camp stove toaster
- Collapsible wash basin or sink
- Scrubbing pads and wash cloths and quick drying towels
- Campsuds – We keep a big bottle of biodegradable Campsuds at all times. It's perfect for washing dishes and even yourself.
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.
- Toilet paper
- Diapers, Pull-Ups, or other items for young children.
- Baby wipes or Body Wipes
- Household Cleaners and Wipes – We typically use our Melaleuca cleaners (Tough & Tender and SoluGuard) or our Thieves Household Cleaner.
- Laundry detergent
- Fabric softener – Or better yet, dryer balls.
- Drying rack – If the power's out, this comes in mighty handy.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Hand soap – We use Dr. Bronner's to make our own. It saves a ton of money.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Lotion and lip balm – I especially love my Calm & Centered Cream for restless limbs.
- Toothpaste, toothbrushes, and dental floss
- Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen – both for adults and kids.
- Mucinex, Oscillococcinum, or other cold medicines
- Allergy meds like Benadryl
- Cough syrup and cough drops
- Activated Charcoal
- Blood sugar test kit/strips
- Rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, bandages, and other first aid supplies
- Essential oils and diffusers
- Candles, rechargeable batteries, flashlights, etc.
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.
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.