Building Your Survival Pantry

The first step of building your supply of emergency food starts at the grocery or warehouse club store.  Captain Dave encourages people to buy and store grains, to obtain well-known brands of long-term storage food, and to add MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), backpacking food, and sports bars/energy bars to their stash.  However, that is step two.  Step one is to start small by building the store of traditional, commercial foods you keep in your larder.

This existing food reserve should not include food in your refrigerator or freezer because in the event of a power failure, you cannot count on those items remaining edible for more than a day (fridge) or three (freezer), at most. So half a cow or deer in the freezer is great, but you may have to cook, smoke and/or can it on short notice, should the power be out for a long time.

You should be able to easily build a small cushion of food — enough to last three weeks or a month — simply by adding commercially available dried or canned foods to your pantry.  Captain Dave recommends the following as the minimum to comfortably feed a family of four for a month, but feel free to build on it based on your personal tastes and needs:

  • 10+ pounds of dried pasta — multiple varieties
  • 1 jar or can of pasta sauce per pound of pasta
  • 10 to 20 pounds of dried beans, such as kidney beans, northern beans, garbanzo beans split peas and lentils
  • 2 to 5 pounds of barley
  • Dried bean soup mix
  • 10+ pounds of rice.  Get large bags, not packets or mixes.
  • 25+ pounds of flour
  • 10 pounds of corn meal
  • 10 pounds of sugar
  • Baking powder, baking soda, yeast packets
  • 1 large can of shortening
  • Salt and spices, including onion flakes
  • Bullion cubes, coffee and tea, hot chocolate mix
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • 5+ pounds of crackers, multiple varieties
  • 5 pounds of peanut butter
  • 5+ pounds of powdered milk
  • 30+ cans of canned vegetables, many different varieties
  • 6+ cans of diced tomatoes or similar tomato products
  • 24+ cans of canned fruits, apple sauce, etc.
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins, banana chips
  • 24+ cans of soup
  • 12+ cans of pasta in meat sauce, such as Chef-Boy-R-Dee brand
  • 12+ cans of meat products, such as Spam
  • 12+ cans of beef stew
  • 8 cans of baked beans
  • 8 cans of other beans
  • 24 cans of Tuna or other canned fish
  • Powdered potatoes, unless you have 20+ pounds of fresh on hand
  • 2 pounds of oatmeal plus other hot cereals
  • 6+ boxes of cold cereal, preferably healthy varieties
  • Several jars or cans of nuts
  • Cooking oil

Based on this limited selection you could have meals like the following:

Breakfasts

  • Cold cereal with powdered milk
  • Hot cereal
  • Scratch-made pancakes
  • Scratch made biscuits
  • Scratch-made cornbread
  • Potato pancakes
  • Scratch baked muffins

Lunches

  • Canned soup with crackers
  • Scratch made soup with beans, barley, rice, etc.
  • Peanut butter sandwiches on scratch-made bread or crackers
  • Tuna salad sandwiches on scratch-made bread or crackers
  • Canned pastas

Dinner Entrées

  • Pasta and sauce
  • Split pea or other soup
  • Beef stew
  • Rice and beans
  • Canned meat

Sides for dinner or lunch

  • 3-bean salad
  • Canned vegetables
  • Rolls, bread sticks or slices of fresh-baked bread
  • Corn bread
  • Rice
  • Baked beans
  • Mashed potatoes

Desserts

  • Rice pudding
  • Canned fruit
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Scratch-baked cakes and confections

Snacks

  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter and crackers
  • Raisins
  • Baked goods

Keep in mind that in an emergency, not only might you lose the contents of the fridge, you may not be able to use the microwave or food processor.  You might need to heat soup over a fire or cook pancakes on a camp stove. So everything must be relatively simple to prepare. Avoid single-serving packaging because everyone must eat the same item at the same time with no complaints. (If they are hungry enough, they will!)  And it means junk food like potato chips, nachos and French fries will be gone in the first few days, so be prepared for grumbling.

A quick examination of your cupboards and cabinets will tell you how much you need to add to ensure you have enough food for a week or two. If you have a few packages of pasta, some cans of vegetables, a box of crackers and a jar of peanut butter, you’re halfway there. But if you have a habit of dropping by the deli or fast food drive through every time you’re hungry, or shopping for the evening meal on your way home from work (as many single, urban dwellers do), you’ll need to change your habits and stock up.

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