Prepping 101 – Prepper Food Storage

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Last Updated on June 8, 2021

When you start to consider prepping, one of the first things you need to start prepping for is your prepper food storage. Simply put, food is one essential you need to live and your family must have a sufficient supply of food on hand to keep you fed should any emergency strike. Because of our just in time supply chain model, most grocery stores do not have more than 3 days’ worth of food stocked.

The shortcomings with JIT were clearly evident during the early days of Coronavirus and many retailers are gearing up again because they are expecting additional shortages. In any type of emergency or disaster situation, the store shelves are cleaned quickly and they aren’t restocked immediately. The empty shelves themselves start to panic shoppers who buy more than they need.

It only takes one empty shelf for consumers to start panic buying. It doesn’t even have to be a shelf of product they normally buy.” Rachelle King Retail Industry Strategist and Thought Leader

You do not want to be one of those people who realize you have nothing in the house for dinner and a major snowstorm, hurricane or other event is imminent. You will go to the grocery store and find bare shelves as they did during hurricane Sandy. This happens in every instance where people could face the possibility of going hungry. The stores are cleaned out and the larger your city, the quicker the shelves are bare.

Not only will there be no food on the shelves, but the shelves could stay that way for a long time. What if the roads are impassable? What if there is some supply disruption. You could be out of food for a long time and this should never happen. You eat every day and so does everyone else. Running out of food should not be an option for your family at least for a reasonable amount of time.

The importance of your prepper food storage

FEMA recommends 3 days’ worth of food and water to last most common emergencies and I would say 30 days is a better goal to shoot for. If you have a month of food stored in your house you can worry about other things like getting back to your family if you are away from home or not going out in the first place to fight the lines of panicked people who waited until the last-minute or crazy thugs looting stores nearby.

Empty shelves are one reason why your prepper food storage plan needs to be robust enough to last you for the duration of the shortage.
Empty shelves are one reason why your prepper food storage plan needs to be robust enough to last you for the duration of the shortage.

There are ways that prepper food storage can be complicated and costly but it is possible to start with a very simple list of items that you can purchase from your local grocery store or big-box chain like Wal-Mart, Costco or Sam’s Club. In fact, you are probably buying these foods every week already.

I have compiled a simple preppers food list of common foods that you can go get today that will allow you to feed a family of 4 for 30 days. If you have more or fewer people or giants in your family tree then you would need to adjust accordingly. This isn’t survival food or MRE’s or something you would expect to see in a fall out shelter, just normal food.

Basic Foods should make up your food storage

I shop at Costco or Sam’s, but you can get all of these at your friendly neighborhood grocery store. You may have to adjust the quantities. I like Costco and Sam’s because I can buy larger containers and have to worry about fewer items, but you can also use sites like At a store, you can also throw these into your cart and nobody is going to look at you like you are a deviant. If anyone does ask you what you are doing, just tell them you are having a big Chicken Stew or some other neighborhood type of event.

Augason Farms Long Grain Brown Rice
Brown Rice bran and germ layers contain more nutrients than white rice, making it a naturally healthy choice for your food storage supply and everyday use.
  • Rice – First off, buy a 50lb. bag of rice. These contain 504 servings and I don’t know too many people who won’t eat rice. It is simple to cook and stores for years if you keep it cool and dry. This bag at Sam’s costs about $19 now. OR you can buy the storage buckets and keep that rice good for a much longer time.
  • Beans – Next buy a bag of dry beans. This will check off the Beans part of your Beans, Bullets, and Band-Aids list. A good size bag is about $5 and makes 126 servings. Buy two if you think your family would like them.
  • Canned meat – Cans are great for fruits and vegetables and anyone can find something they will eat. For canned meat, I recommend tuna or chicken because it tastes a heck of a lot better than Spam and you can easily mix that into your rice. For the meat, you will need approximately 35 cans. Each can have about 3 servings and this will be the most costly, but they last over a year usually and your family probably eats chicken or tuna on a semi-regular basis anyway so restocking this should be simple.
  • Canned Vegetables – you will need about 40 cans of vegetables and again this can be whatever your family will eat. Expect to pay around a dollar each so $40 for veggies to last your family a month.
  • Canned Fruit – again, simple fruits that your family will eat. These can even be fruit cocktail if that is the safest thing. At Costco, they have the #10 cans of fruit like pears or apple slices and each of these has 25 servings. 5 of these will cost about $25 and give your family a daily dose of fruit.
  • Oatmeal – Good old-fashioned oatmeal is simple to cook and store. A normal container has 30 servings each so purchase about 4 of these and your family won’t starve for breakfast. At $2 each that is about $8 for breakfast for a month for a family of four. Could you exchange Pop-tarts? Maybe, but I find oatmeal more filling and less likely to be snacked on.
  • Honey- Honey is a miracle food really as it will never go bad if you keep it dry and cool. Honey will last you forever and Sam’s has large containers that hold 108 servings. You can use this in place of sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth. Honey even has medicinal properties and you can use this to add some flavor to your oatmeal for breakfast.
  • Salt – Same as honey, the salt will never go bad if you keep it dry and helps the flavor of virtually anything. You can buy a big box of salt for around $1 and that will last your whole family a month easily.
  • Vitamins – I recommend getting some good multivitamins to augment your nutrition in the case of a disaster or emergency. Granted, rice and beans aren’t the best and you won’t be getting as many nutrients from canned fruit and vegetables so the vitamins help to fill in the gaps and keep you healthy. One big bottle costs about $8. You will need to get a kids version too if you have children small enough that they can’t or won’t swallow a big multivitamin.

All of the preppers food list above will feed the average family of 4 for right at 30 days and makes a great start to your food preparations. The meat was the most expensive part but the bill comes to around $500 give or take but this will vary by where you live. Should you stop there? No, but this is just a good starting point and you should expand from here. I would keep all of these items in your pantry along with your regular groceries and rotate these to keep the contents fresh.

Canned food is hard to beat on your preppers food list, but make sure you have variety, use your stores and rotate routinely.
Canned food is hard to beat on your preppers food list, but make sure you have variety, use your stores, and rotate routinely.

What Next?

Once you have 30 days of groceries in your pantry I would recommend looking into storing larger quantities in Mylar bags or purchasing freeze-dried foods and bulk grains to augment your supplies. You would also need to plan for basic necessities like hygiene (hello toilet paper!) and different food items.

What else should you have? I would recommend several large candles (very cheap at Walmart) or a propane powered lantern, matches or lighters, batteries for flashlights a good first aid kit, radio, and plenty of water. You should also add bullion cubes and spices to make the meals more palatable. Is this going to be as good as some toaster strudel or 3-egg omelets from your chickens in the morning? No, but this list above will keep your family alive.

Water is covered in another post, but for a month you will need 120 gallons at a minimum. Storing this isn’t as easy as groceries but there are lots of options.

This should get you started on your prepper food storage preps and you can build on from here. Let me know if you have other ideas I missed.

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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Good article! Really simplifies things One thing though… about the honey. When you buy honey in many grocery stores you are getting a diluted product that may be mostly corn syrup. If you want real honest honey — which is what everyone thinks they are getting — you really need to go to a bee keeper who sells what they produce or a farmer’s market setting for the same reason. Also make sure your vitamins are of the highest quality to avoid ingredients that will not promote health.



Good point. If its possible, I agree you should be buying local from a Beekeeper in your own area. The honey will be better for you to boot as the bees will be collecting nectar and pollen from what is blooming near you. Ideally, you can raise your own bees and get the honey yourself, but speaking from experience this is an expensive, time consuming hobby. It is much easier to visit the farmers market and pay an extra dollar or two for some quality local honey.



Thanks Geni,

That’s a great point. Ideally you would be raising your own bees for the ultimate in self-sufficiency, but beekeeping is an expensive and time consuming hobby. The local farmers market is a great place for quality local honey that will be better for you as well. A lot of store chains have a local section also so you may be able to pick something up in the grocery store that came from your town or near to it.



Just wondering if there is a calculator or spreadsheet on how much I would need for a family of 7; two adults, 2 teens boys, 11 year old boy, 9 year old girl and a 6 year old girl.


Rebecca, That’s a great question. I am sure there are some calculators out there, but I don’t have one. What you can do is go back caloric needs. There is a chart at that you can use to get your calorie requirements for the family and then extrapolate that out by the amount of time you want to keep everyone fed. Remember that in a emergency situation, you will likely be working more so err on the high side of calorie needs. The bigger stored food vendors will give calorie counts on their website for each package so you… Read more »


Thank you.


single serving Tuna in pack’s, bought box of each condiment at BJ’S, cuts back on waste, bought 2 case’s of each vegetable, store brand plus third for current usage, rotate as we go, finish a case by a replacement. Used empty 2 liter soda bottles and filled them with water, plus have a 20×40 inground, bought several gallons of bleach, with 7 people here, have enough water to provide 8 gallons of water a day per person. can also boil the water for 10 mins prior to drinking. Found a gentleman on Craigslist who sell’s 5 gallon bucket’s with lids… Read more »

John Stebbins

Make sure you purchase some Mylar bags to store your food in The link is for 10 5 gallon bags with oxygen absorbers. I would also recommend 1 gallon sized bags as well for smaller storage, this way you won’t have to break open the 5 gallon bags as often. Also, make sure the buckets are food grade if you plan to store directly in them and buy some food grade diatomaceous earth to sprinkle over the top of the grains to keep the bugs out. Definitely need to make sure that you know what was in the buckets… Read more »

John Stebbins

You forgot flour brother. Cotsco and Sams Club are good bulk places to shop, but if you live in Texas you can also visit HEB. They have excellent meal deals. As well, they have a lot of good HEB Brand products like Canned chicken 5 for 5. 😀

Pat Henry

Thanks John,

I think I left Flour off because it has a shorter shelf life than most of the other items, but stored in sealed Mylar bags it would last much longer.


John Stebbins

Oh, and after reading the comments…. you could also buy the single or multi serve packs of Salmon. Tastes WAY better than tuna, has a higher Omega-3 vitamin count and way less mercury! You should limit tuna to 1 can per week tops due the mercury content. Especially if pregnant.

John Stebbins

Oh, and cannot forget powdered milk!


If electricity goes out how can a person cook the beans, rice, and oatmeal?

Pat Henry

There are lots of ways depending on what you have available. You can read a post we wrote about cooking when the grid goes down.


Steve Branchaud

Paper products come in handy too. When you have a limited supply of water plastic silverware, paper plates, cups, napkins come in handy, and don’t forget the toilet paper.


Looks like a good list but I would add some meats to it just for the extra protein and for diversity. Cheers

Pat Henry

Thanks James! I agree completely and they should already be in the list.


When people talk about storage, they concern themselves with shelf-life, etc. and while that is essential, they also need to consider that they may not have access to extra water and fuel/energy/heat for cooking. They also may have to evacuate their premises and cannot take their food storage with them. They may lose track of their can openers and other tools that require opening canned goods and bottles. Be sure to add items that are in packaging that can be opened with your bare hands, that require no water or cooking. They won’t have super long shelf-lives but you can… Read more »

Pat Henry

Thank you for your comments Chidori, Rice and beans do require water but I think you might be minimizing the benefits of each as well as their nutritional value. I would much rather have a meal of rice and beans than a power bar. Yes, power bars do not require water, but they don’t have anywhere near the calories. They also have many more chemicals and additives and won’t store as long as (properly stored) rice and beans. I do agree with you that when it comes to survival you will take what you can get. If you are on… Read more »


I used to see powdered split-pea and lentil soup mixes at the co-op. They were sold in bulk and could be reconstituted into a high-protein meal with hot water. Haven’t seen them in years–anyone know where they could be found, or how to make this? I’m betting if you soaked, cooked, and then dehydrated beans, you could create a nice storeable protein.


I am storing canned chick peas and lentils. Admittedly you need 2-3 times as much, but they can be eaten straight from the can. If cooking, the cans contain water that can be used for cooking up with some of your other ingredients. I also think the canned food is less likely to spoil or be subject to infestation if not stored that well. We already often cook using them so its just a matter of increasing our pantry stores from 3-6 tins to 20-40 tins. They stack well so they don’t take up that much extra room actually.


Oh, our cans have ring pull openers, so can be easily opened by hand. But I don’t think misplacing all our can openers is a likely risk.


Vitamins degrade over time, so be aware of that. Depending on the vitamin, oxidative degradation can occur, which is why we don’t have a good solution for long term space missions other than growing plants to replenish vitamins. Stored food will not remain as nutritious after about 1 year, where you must consume more to gain the equivalent amount of nutrition. Here is a study done as an example of some of the literature out there: Smith, Scott M., et al. “Nutritional status assessment in semiclosed environments: ground-based and space flight studies in humans.” The Journal of nutrition 131.7 (2001):… Read more »


Also, this is a good paper showing several variables and effect on vitamin stability.
Smith, J. L., et al. “Effect of Intralipid, amino acids, container, temperature, and duration of storage on vitamin stability in total parenteral nutrition admixtures.” Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition 12.5 (1988): 478-483.


I suggest getting a dehydrator and investing some time in drying vegs. I’m not sure how long they keep, but months at least, and they taste great dropped into boiling water for soup.


Oatmeal storage can be tricky. It can get moldyyyyyy…. Storage pails. Honey males a great anti septic. Honey powder. Got a cut or pink eye? Honey is a great sugar substitute. Endless possibilities…

Thelma Jane Moseley

Personally I would not stock a lot of tuna for the shtf because if that’s all you have then you will be forced to eat it and it is loaded with mercury and it will kill you. Some guy on youtube said he ate ten cans of tuna everyday for a week and ended up in the hospital with mercury poisoning. Lets say you only ate six cans but you also ate salmons three times a day. It’s your choice just be careful.


Great list that I will be fully implenting at some point in the future. At the moment, I live off grid in an RV, so I don’t have sufficient room for storage, nor are conditions ideal for storing most foods. (gets too hot inside at times) What food I have began storing, is the freeze-dried packs. (same as I take on hiking trips, Mountain House, which are much more palatable than MRE’s with a far superior shelf life) I’d say I have an honest 20 day supply built up. Once I finish building my house, (which I have designed an… Read more »

Jeffrey York

Very detailed, and extremely helpful for someone like me, who is just starting out and doesn’t want to waste money or shelf space. Many thanks!

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