12 Strategies to Build the Ultimate Prepper Food Stockpile

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Author of How to Prep When You’re Broke and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course

In every relationship, there comes a time when you have to sit down and take a serious look at the future.  Where do you want to go?  Are your goals compatible?  Are things working as they stand right now, or do some changes need to be made? Creating the ultimate prepper food stockpile is no different.

People create prepper food stockpiles for many different reasons, and because of this, there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula for doing so. You must figure out what your goals are and develop a road map towards achieving them.

Having a food supply just makes sense.  Every time there is a disaster, the masses become hysterical, and chaos ensues because there is no food available because of our “just-in-time” food delivery system. (Remember March of 2020?) Your stockpile can also mean the difference between continued freedom or forced compliance to get food.

There are three basic types of food supplies.  Let’s look at these food storage ideologies. Then take the most applicable strategies and combine them to create your own version of the ultimate pantry.

The Bunker Pantry

This is the most “hardcore” of the prepper food stockpile types.  A Bunker Pantry is the type of food supply that could keep you going for the next ten years without a single trip to the store.  Sure, it might be a little bit boring and lacking in variety, but it is a supply that will see you through any disaster and allow you to remain in your shelter.  This type of pantry focuses on huge quantities of long-term foods, repackaged carefully to resist spoilage due to pests or the elements.

If this is the type of pantry you’d like to build, focus on staples that last a long, long time, such as wheat, rice, dried beans, salt, and sugar. These foods can be purchased in bulk and repackaged by the user, or you can purchase them already packaged up through vendors like the LDS warehouse or online food storage websites.

Add emergency food buckets and freeze-dried foods to this for a bit (but not a lot) of variety. Here are some tips on food buckets.

The pros are that this kind of food supply can be created very quickly. If you have the money to do so, you can order all this stuff at once and shuffle it into your store room. As well, once you have it stored away, there’s a lot less rotating required. You can get it and forget it.

The cons are a very limited diet that may not be healthy for a long period of time, food fatigue from eating the same stuff for ages, and expense. This is by far the most expensive way to create a prepper food stockpile. As well, takes a lot of space to store this much food, so generally, a dedicated area must be used as a storeroom.

The Agrarian Pantry

This type of pantry is the kind our ancestors had.  Most of the food is acquired during the growing season, and only small shopping trips are needed to supplement this throughout the year. It combines enough basic staples for the year ahead with enough of your preserved harvest to get you through the next growing season.

This type of pantry must be replenished every year. Basically, the items in your pantry are purchased and put back with the intention of consuming them within the next 12 months.

The pros to this prepper food stockpile are that it’s healthy, loaded with variety, and sustainable if you are growing or acquiring your food locally. I find it really enjoyable to preserve food and I like to be creative with the ways I put food back. (Get more ideas here.)

There are a few cons to this method as well. Not everyone has the space or ability to grow food. Farmer’s markets, where I used to get tons of fresh food to preserve, have become expensive artisan havens. A bad harvest can mean a lean year ahead if you are unable to supplement with store-bought goods. And finally, it’s a lot of work, and not every prepper is up for that.

The Bargain-Hunter’s Pantry

This is the type of pantry made famous by the extreme couponing shows.  Using a variety of strategies, people can amass an enormous quantity of food for very little money.  Couponing, sale shopping, bartering, and buying from outlet stores and warehouses can help to create a pantry full of packaged items.

The great thing about the bargain hunter’s pantry is that you can build up a huge amount of food on a very limited budget if you’re a smart shopper.

But there’s a downside to this method as well. While this is a great way to get started or to supplement your other strategies, this can make for an unhealthy diet.  Much of what you are acquiring is highly processed, and without a lot of personal discipline, you aren’t building a balanced pantry but just stockpiling whatever is the cheapest.  If you use this method, you must be extremely careful not to end up with a pantry filled with low-quality carbs and lacking in protein, fruits, and veggies. (Cheap ketchup is NOT a vegetable)

Combine the best of each strategy to build the ultimate prepper food stockpile.

The best prepper food stockpile combines the three strategies listed above to create the optimal supply for the needs of your particular family.

The key is organization.  Keep the following tips in mind to create the best possible pantry.

  1. Keep an up-to-date inventory so that you know what you have
  2. Catalog your coupons by type and expiration date
  3. Track the sales cycles.
  4. Keep your products rotated into your kitchen so that you don’t lose foods to missed expiration dates.
  5. Store longer-term foods in optimum conditions to prolong their viability.
  6. Maintain a list of what is needed to balance your pantry nutritionally so that you can focus on those items when an unexpected bargain pops up.
  7. Buy pantry staples (like beans and grains) in the largest quantities you can manage in order to maximize your savings. (Learn more.)
  8. Remember the adage “Store what you eat and eat what you store.”  It isn’t a bargain if you purchase something no one in your family will eat.
  9. Supplement your pantry by growing as much as possible in your particular circumstances, even if you are just adding a windowsill herb and salad garden. (Learn more here and here.)
  10. Tap into your inner hunter-gatherer with strategies like foraging, fishing, snaring, and hunting.
  11. Purchase seasonally and in large quantities from local growers (or harvest from your own gardens).
  12. Become a food preservation expert and stock up on the necessary tools and supplies. (Learn more.)

Use these strategies as a jumping-off point for your own ultimate prepper food stockpile. You may be able to improve your existing pantry by borrowing strategies from a different pantry type.

If you’re looking for more information on creating a pantry, I have a really popular course about building a pantry on a budget that you can take online. If you want hard copies of the information, check out my book, Prepper’s Pantry.  I also compiled every food-related post from this website into a physical book called How to Feed Your Family No Matter What. It contains all our content on the storage, acquisition, preservation, and preparation of food.

Which is your favorite prepper food storage strategy?

Do you focus on one of these strategies over the others? Did you start out with one and then evolve to another? Do you combine all three? Do you have any advice for folks who are new to pantry building?

Let’s discuss pantries, food storage, and strategies in the comments section.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand Survival.com You can find her on FacebookPinterestGabMeWeParlerInstagram, and Twitter.

Picture of Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived, and 3) PreppersDailyNews.com, an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. She is widely republished across alternative media and  Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses. You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

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  • I have food and water for a week of no water, cold weather gear and supplies for a power outage, 5gallon buckets of rice, beans and oatmeal. I also have a two weeks supply of canned goods and I’m working on a third. Space is an issue; I live in an efficiency in the city. I now have a three item back up of most essential goods. “Two is one and one is none.”. It took me a good year plus to do all this w/working overtime. Times are tougher now and things are getting worrisome. I do also have an emergency fund. I’m content w/my preps. I’ve also bought some of your books. Thankyou for all you do.

  • And here lies my dilemma… with multiple food allergies/sensitivities I am always second guessing if I have enough back stock. Most all prep supplies are incompatible for our personal health needs. I shouldn’t have rice, beans, peas, corn, dairy, wheat & varying other healthy vegies/fruits.

    We eat mostly fresh bought/grown in season vegies, grass fed/finished meats (no antibiotics). We are very healthy right now thankfully so talking myself into the processed packaged goods to store for SHTF times, goes against every part of my being (for us-no judging). I will get sick & be in a worse state than I am now & would probably be ok with dying when SHTF! Lol, sorry I’m using humor mixed with sarcasm here.

    I have worked at having 3s of what I do have though. For decades I was good at stretching our food budget using everything up weekly for a house of 6. Once the kids have gone, this took a bit of internal stretching to not feel extravagant.

    I love Daisy’s inspiration, humor, vigilance & strength through these last few years. It has grown me in many ways!

    • You could can some of the meat you’re already buying and can or dry some of the vegetables that you can have to give you a little back-up.

      • Canning my vegies this year is my goal! I wish I’d paid more attention to Mom canning while I was in high school.

        Thank you for the inspiration!

        • Jennifo
          Like yourself, I avoided the pressure canner until this past year 2023. I have both a Presto and an All American. I ended up using the Presto as it was easier to set up for me than the other one. Was I worried, oh yes! I am a water bath canner and have been for many years.
          Found an online teaching class (Utube) doing carrots for a beginner, she was learning how to use a pressure canner. It was the one watched when I did my first canning session to get use to using the canner, next item was broth.
          I was so worried I had the canner in the kitchen, and I sat in the living room watching it. It was as close as I was going to get to that piece of equipment. Am still cautious of that equipment but I am getting comfortable using it.
          One recommendation on the carrots, instead of salt a little sugar instead. My first batch was with a little salt as recommended; they all went into the garbage. Now I use a 1/4 tsp of sugar per pint or less when canning them. Still not my favorite vegetable but they taste a lot better than the first batch.
          Hope this helps you. By the way I was over the 65+ mark when I started my expedition into pressure canning.

    • Have you considered storing mostly dehydrated plain meats (like beef and chicken) and vegetables that you can tolerate (maybe carrots, potatoes, peas, etc.)? It’s expensive but Mountain House, Augason Farms, Nutristore all have absolutely plain foods that are dehydrated and hold most of their nutrients. Just stay away from the “meal combos” and items with additives. Sometimes Brighteon Store has organic options.

  • Good article and as always, an enjoyable read.

    I would like to share an alternative to all the above pantries. One that I am forced to implement due to specific circumstances.

    I am in a unique position being unable to consume the majority of what is considered food. Much shorter for me to list what I am able to eat vs not.

    I have found a lifestyle that enables me to continue to thrive physically, mentally and emotionally. I have been strictly carnivore for a few years, eating one meal a day mostly. Will include a limited variety of fruits and honey on occasion along with a pure, all natural wine.

    This restricted diet is very expensive if attempting to procure all organic, free-range, pasture raised options. So I have to get what is available and avoid eggs and pork due to commercialized farming methods for feeding their livestock (primarily corn/soy).

    Due to very limited and expensive options for stockpiling such foods, I have decided to sell all my possessions and relocate to an area where raising my own food, sheep and goats, chickens and such, the way wildlife exists around the world. Plenty of modern examples of this throughout the eastern continent, Europe, Middle East and Asia.

    This way of life enables me, my family included, to live virtually self-sustaining with little need for the outside world. I am able to produce the healthiest foods from my livestock that is raised completely on how God, nature intended.

  • At present, my pantry is a cross between the agrarian and bargain hunters pantry. I think this is a good place for anyone to start because if SHTF, I have at least a year to figure out my next step.

  • Some random observations

    The posted expiration dates on food packages is the seller’s “best taste until” date but the real longevity date (while it varies from food to food) can be much much longer. You have to do your own research to determine that … food by food.

    There are other issues as well. If you store grains or beans without turning them into flour with a grinder, they can last many decades. Then once you grind them (I have a Country Living” grain mill that can be hand or motor operated) into the minimum quantity needed for a day or two before cooking, while fresh flour might only last a week without refrigeration, the rest of that grain or beans stockpile can remain in decades long storage until you’re ready to use needed minimum quantities again. BTW … cleaned (long ago) beans made into flour can be edible after only 3 minutes of boiling water time … saving you greatly on cooking energy time and expense.

    Another issue that can change the food “expiration date” is your (or yours) sometimes changing medical conditions. Foods you stockpiled perhaps long ago may suddenly expired for your purposes if you have a sudden medical diagnosis that prohibits specific foods. Or perhaps such an event might only apply to somebody in your family. So the effective expiration date can vary depending on a person’s changing medical needs.

    Even another thing that can change that expiration date is new research on various kinds of contamination of some foods, whether mercury in some kinds of fish or arsenic in some kinds of rice, etc, etc.

    So the real and changing expiration date for you (and or your family individuals) can vary wildly over time.


      • I saw somewhere that there is a recommended way to cook rice and remove a significant about of Arsenic. You boil the rice for 10 minutes then change the water. Most of the arsenic will come out with the water.

    • Just a note about long term bean storage. They get really dried out and need to be cooked forever, or (better process) in a pressure cooker. We had some lentils, which are usually fast cooking, take ages to get soft.
      We always buy in bulk and rotate but these were given to us by a neighbor and it was quite an experience. They weren’t super-packed in a storage kit, just stored in a food grade bucket.

  • Our pantry is a combination of all 3 plus … but the best thing that anyone can do is prepare your mind , LEARN all that you can , and try/practice you preps . Do not wait till you need to use them in an emergency! Daisy has a lot of information in the books . Do something , even just a little something , it will soon add up to a lot … check out a foraging website , I use Foraging Texas and Adam Harrigton ” learn your land” or diy a cell phone charger from ” multi electric ” on youtube or how to make a ” twig stove ” out of cans that you would normally trash.

    • I feel like I could’ve prepared my kids for their boot camps when they were younger ! ;). Dang, wish I’d been a prepper sooner!

      When they’d complain there was nothing to do or that we were ‘SOOOO’ cheap when we wouldn’t buy them a new phone…we should’ve called for a family weekend emergency planning session & live off grid for the weekend. I bet they would’ve really appreciated Monday morning at school !

  • I’d really like to explore the issue of food storage for people with varying dietary restrictions. When it doesn’t work to store the traditional grains, rice and beans nor TVP etc we have to think outside the box. Judging from several comments already submitted, others too are wrestling with this. I’m eating a sort of paleo diet although the only meat I eat is poultry. But I’m mostly avoiding the food that isn’t part of a paleo diet.

  • I have a combination Bunker/Agrarian Pantry. I have a bunch of the staples (Rice, Quinoa, Beans, Lentils, Wheat, Salt, Sugar, Honey, Canned Goods and Freeze-Dried) plus Fresh/Canned items from my garden. Plus my Chickens are always good for Farm-Fresh Butt Nuggets. Also I get fresh fish from the lake down the road.

  • A challenge I have yet to overcome is how to organize & store spices & herbs. Some are in tiny little containers, others are in mason jars, regular & large mouth. With all the variations in size – & how long they last on the self before reverting back into dirt – I don’t know how to even begin to make a “spice cabinet” which holds them all and in a way I can find them fairly easily. Does anyone have any plans for such a cabinet, or method of storage?
    Simply putting them on a shelf just isn’t working very well.

    • I had my DH build me a specific set of shelves that has shelves built to the sizes of my jars so I have very little ‘wasted’ space. It works perfectly for me. Hope that helps.

    • Greetings, Helot. I have two plastic boxes that hold my spices. These boxes would hold boots. I separated the jars in half by alphabet to make finding them easier. I wrote the initial of the spice on the lid. Each box has half of my duplicate spices. Some I go through faster, so I have more of those. They are easy to stack on a storage shelf in a cool, dark place, and easy to sort through.

    • Hi Helot. I also have an assortment of containers for my spices. I got tired of shoving them into the pantry, so I now keep them on the back of my kitchen door, in one of those large over-the-back of the door shelves. I bought the large one with six or seven shelves. I found it at Wal-Mart for around $40. It is wonderful for holding my spices, including the ones in Mason jars.

    • Like you I have a ton of spices! IMHO, they were the MVP of the pandemic kitchen. I took some small cardboard boxes and organized them by cuisine, i.e., Mexican, Cuban, Italian, Asian, etc. They are stored in my pantry with a label on each box.

      By observation, I realized there are some spices used almost every day, like salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, rosemary etc. I keep a small supply next to the stove.

    • I keep my spices in half pint and qtr pint canning jars. I made pretty lid circles with the spice name and keep them alphabetically in a drawer. I have a drawer for regular spices and one for baking spices. I buy in bulk and store the extra in labeled vacuumed sealed jars. I just switch the lids when I need to replace a spice.

  • I’ve got the bargain hunters pantry with a Lil mix of bunker. My sister in law helped me rearrange stuff and we found boweevils in some of the flower n oatmeal. I was really upset that I hadn’t been able to go through my preps in over 3 months, but now that I’ve been canned (pun intended) at my job due to a recent car accident I have more time to organize, body prevailing. I totally get what you’re going through with your ailments Daisy. It’s frustrating. Hugs n prayers for you.
    We’ve actually been having to use some of the prep items due to the economy and no money for food, and believe it or not but I’m still getting tomatoes n green onions in my greenhouse during this winter blast here in Texas. I think that greenhouse was the best prep I bought on black Friday. I did lose over 40 tomatoes from my open above ground bed garden because tarps n heat lamps just didn’t cut it.
    I think I’m more stocked up on dog n cat food than people food, to be honest. O just found out my California refugee neighbors are preppers and we’ve been bringing food to each other n ideas n a couple plans and the husband is good friends with my husband so my hubby more on board now.

    • Yeah! Good point, do not forget to prep for your (hunting or not) dog / cat. Also flea treatment and deworming if you like to have them indoors 😉 greetings from The Netherlands

  • Greetings, All. We will each have a stockpile that is unique to us. I do like to shop at CostCo stores for dry goods, then put stuff in smaller bags when I get home. I have learned, however, that with just two of us, some of the larger canned products are just not practical. I purchase the normal size cans/jars that are on the regular supermarket shelf. When we lived in the country, our garden was very extensive and I canned as much as I could. We have since moved and I no longer have twenty jars of canned tomatoes on the shelf, so out of necessity, I have started purchasing to replace our home canned and frozen foods. I will see a bargain on meat, then get the necessary ingredients to create dinners. These are pressure canned, seven quart jars in my canner, and reside on the shelf until we want to eat them. I am working my way up to having man different dinners available to just reheat. I made of list of at least 52 different meals that I can pressure can – minus dairy, eggs, cheese, and pasta. As we age, it is getting very easy to just pull out a jar and reheat it knowing that it is spiced just the way we like it.

  • Thanks, Daisy!
    As many people here have commented, it’s a LOT harder to prep when most of the family is restricted to a keto/low carb diet. Canned meat is expensive but necessary: canned fish, coconut products and UHT cream is generally not expensive. Cannot buy powdered eggs for love nor money here in Australia. 🙁
    I kept a thorough inventory until a crisis made that impossible, and now it’s too late to resume. Basically, wherever there is a space, there is stored food. I estimate a 2 year minimum supply for the family
    Foods that expire quickly are stored in more visible and checkable locations.
    Sadly growing food where I live is not possible. I have tried and cried for years and have to face reality. I can, however, sprout seeds and beans in jars and sprouters, so there are jars of beans and seeds everywhere.

    • Lynda Hynes
      You can purchase your eggs from the grocery store or local farmers market and powder them yourself.
      If you have a dehydrator or you can use your oven. The setting temperature for the oven in USA wattage would be 225 degrees. You will blend the eggs well then place them on a clean baking pan with the special baking paper (oven). If using a dehydrator, you will place them on either one of their sheets for such foods, or baking paper to process your wet eggs.
      You will need to stir them while they are in the drying process to make sure they dry properly. When this process is finished you can store them in either Mylar bags with an absorber or a canning jar with an absorber. The canning jar will require a cover to protect the contents from light. I have used old worn out socks the upper portion to make a blind cover for these items.
      Hope this assists you on this process. If you have other questions please post them, and I will do my best to share my knowledge.

      • Thank you, Antique Collector. I do have a dehyydrator but have not been able to get the sheets required for making powdered eggs. Will try harder. I like your old sock idea to block out the light!

        • Lynda Hynes
          You do not have to have their special sheets for dehydration. You can use parchment paper, but not any of the others.

  • I have a combo of all 3 types. I am in a transition time, lost DH, moving nearer kids and grands. Have given a lot of pantry to them, trying to figure out who needs what where. Since I will be living on the same property, working on storage areas and new garden spots as well as a food forest.

  • I did a combo of bargain hunter and bunker pantry when I first started in 2020. I had far too many and widely varied “what ifs” swimming in my head when I first started and my results were disjointed and somewhat random.
    This past year I either ate through some of my things or just did not add to it. Now I am in a better frame of mind to look at this from a less panicked and hectic viewpoint and have been considering exactly what it is that I am prepping for and how best to achieve that goal. Plus I need to watch sodium content on my food choices due to blood pressure issues so some of those bargain type foods are off limits now.

  • It’s a bit of all 3. I also have a BARTER box of items that I have bought that I tried but don’t want to eat.
    Before I started my prepping, I cleaned out every closet, cabinet and drawer. Sorted through everything, and then either zip-locked it for bartering or storage into the proper category of prepping. It made space and allowed me to make lists of what I have and needed.
    I was surprised to see how many hotel trial sized items I had. Save as much as you can in regards to jars, bags and rubber bands. All usually Free!

  • I am in a conundrum as to what to store. We both are eating a fresh food low carb diet. I have stored, beans, pasta, rice etc. The thing is, we rarely eat those. So as of now, I have stored a bit of that (several months of it) and freeze dried foods. If I eat carbs, I blow up like a balloon in no time. I used to eat KETO and lost 55 pounds doing it, but now I just try to stay away from carbs and ANY sugar. My wife is a bit different as she has not gall bladder and can’t eat a high fat diet. Wow…. smh

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