Do you want to start a prepper pantry but have no idea where or how to begin? It is a good idea to add this prepping skill to your arsenal.

In this ultimate guide, I will teach you how to start a prepper pantry, what foods to stock, how much of each food you should stock, the reasons you should start a prepper pantry, and some prepper pantry items for your pantry you may not have considered.

After reading this information, you will know how to create a well-stocked prepper pantry and will be completely prepared in the event of a disaster. You can continue on your road to reliance later, by increasing the amount of your supplies in order to be ready for a long-term crisis such as food shortages.

Prepping Pantry

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What is a Prepper Pantry?

A prepper pantry, or a survival pantry, as it is otherwise called, is a stockpile of food and non-food items that are stored in an area of your home for short-term or long-term emergencies. Its main purpose is to provide emergency food for your family in a crisis such as a job loss, a natural disaster, or economic situations where food and supplies may not be available. Pantry or survival foods(foods with a long shelf life) are kept in dry storage especially for an emergency situation.

Prepper pantries can be basically three types of pantries – a Working Pantry, a 72-Hour Pantry and a Long-Term Food Storage Pantry. Let me explain them all to you.

The Working Pantry

This is the easiest and most affordable way to start a prepper pantry. It is similar to your everyday pantry that is common in most homes. Although these are smaller than a prepper pantry, it is usually a bit larger than a normal food pantry.

The working pantry usually contains the items you normally use in your home. These may be canned items you have preserved yourself or canned and boxed items from your grocery store.

This type of pantry is rotated constantly and the oldest items are used first. Traditionally, these food products can be kept in your kitchen cabinets for fairly long periods of time.

Working pantry with common dried food in canning jars

72 Hour Supply Pantry

This type of food storage pantry is meant for short-term situations and is the bare minimum recommended by the CDC. This type of pantry is meant for things like a short-term power outages, evacuations, etc.

We started with this type of pantry the first time we found ourselves struggling after a bad storm hit Central Florida where we live. We lost power for four days and was not in a good position. Trust me when I say that only happened once!

Consider foods with a good nutritional value that do not need to be kept cold or frozen, last a long time, and make sure to include plenty of water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. 

These types of items can be included in an Emergency Go Bag. This “kit” is small enough that you could pack it up and take it with you if need be. 

emergency go bag

The Long-Term Food Storage Pantry

These types of pantries are much larger and are designed to store shelf-stable foods and supplies to endure anywhere from a year up to 25 years or more. The most common items in a long-term food storage pantry are usually non-perishable.

These types of pantries are sometimes referred to as a Backup or Emergency pantry. They are meant to allow your family to survive through more major events such as an economic crisis like a food shortage or a natural disaster.

This type of pantry is the backbone of the prepper life, as it is based mostly on long-term food preservation. This pantry includes freeze dried food, emergency supplies, and survival food buckets.

Items commonly found in the long-term storage pantry include:

  • MREs (meals ready-to-eat) or freeze-dried meals
  • 5-Gallon buckets of bulk foods (wheat, flour, white rice, sugar, oats)
  • Canned goods (home-canned, #10 cans)
  • Vinegar, Cooking Oils, ghee (clarified butter)
  • Powdered Items (milk, eggs, drink mixes, protein powders, vegetable and fruit powders)
  • Salts and spices
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Bottled Water
  • Alcohol
  • Seeds
  • Pet Supplies
  • Cleaning Supplies
  • First Aid Supplies
  • Hygiene and Household supplies
  • Dry beans
  • Peanut Butter

Reasons You Should Start A Prepper Pantry

Whether it be a major crisis, economic collapse, or sudden illness or a job loss, being prepared can give you a greater peace of mind. As food prices continue to rise and supplies seem to becoming harder and harder to find, now is the time to start a prepper pantry regardless of what size.

Two main reasons to start a prepper or survival pantry may include the following:

  1. Convenience – Having a pantry can save you time when it comes time to preparing meals since you won’t have to run to your local grocery store as often. Often times, depending on the size of your pantry, you will even have more than you may need.
  2. Food Security – When others are panicking because the grocery store shelves are empty, you will know that you can still feed your family in a nutritious way without worry. You, therefore, will eliminate the panic others may struggle with.

Regardless your reasons or which type you choose to start with, prepping is smart and could mean the difference in survival for your family in case of an emergency.

Empty shelves in grocery store

Where Should You Put Your Pantry?

Just as in real estate, starting your prepper pantry is all about location, location, location! And the best location is a dry place that stays cool, is predominantly dark, and certainly pest-free.

You may need to utilize more than one space in your home. A cool, dry basement or a specific room built for a regular pantry would be perfect. However, not everyone has that opportunity so you may have to be a bit creative.

Your space should be large enough to at least support some type of shelving to store food, and have some room for storage food-safe buckets.

pantry in basement

Other places to store foods may include:

  • Under the stairs
  • In a closet
  • In a cabinet
  • Under a bed
  • Over a doorway
  • Storage furniture
  • Root cellars

10 Steps To Starting a Prepper Pantry

Follow these steps to create your own Prepper Pantry in your home. Take things one step at a time. Think through your decisions and plans. 

Make some to-do lists to include stocking up on water storage, purchasing oxygen absorbers to control moisture content and making lists of the kind of food you need.

  1. Have a plan with an end goal in mind. Know what type of prepping you are starting, short-term or long-term.
  2. Have a budget in place. Know what you will spend and how often.
  3. Know how much your family consumes each week. This will help you determine how much food to store.
  4. Know where everything is going. You need to have a place for everything.
  5. Learn and know how to meal prep.
  6. Know the shelf life of everything you will store.
  7. Shop the sales for what you need not just what is on sale.
  8. Learn rotation of foods.
  9. Don’t panic and start hoarding unnecessarily.
  10. Go at the pace your comfortable with. Prepping takes time.

Now let’s look at the steps one at a time.

Click HERE to get your FREE 10 Step Checklist to Start a Prepper Pantry

1. Have a Plan And a Goal In Mind

You can’t possibly prep for everything that could take place. However, you can start with the types of emergencies you may deal with in your area. 

I prep for hurricane evacuations and power outages, along with water shortages. These are common emergencies that have taken place where I live in Central Florida. 

I do have a long-term food storage pantry, but I do concentrate on the items that will help us most for the above issues first. Bottled water, easy to make foods over a grill or open fire, oil lamps, and generators, are a few examples.

Decide your plan based on your possible scenarios and go from there.

2. Know Your Budget

It is so easy to simply buy that case because you think it is a great deal, only to find that you spent too much that week and now can’t find the money to buy necessities like milk or bread. 

Set a budget for your grocery shopping. Know what you have to spend each week. When you don’t have to buy certain items, use that money to purchase the extras or sales items.

And speaking of sales, don’t buy something just because it is on sale. Price check other brands first. Often times the best known brand is the same price on sale as the regular price of a store brand if not more.

Use coupons. Shop the sales. Spend what you need to. Save even more money by growing a survival garden on your property.

Budget including food

3. Know What Your Family Consumes Each Week

It is very important to buy and store what your family will eat. Do not buy sardines in cans if nobody likes them. You will only be wasting money.

Instead, make a list of the items your family consumes on a regular basis. If all of the food in your prepper pantry are foods that you eat regularly, you are much less prone to finding out of date food due to poor rotation. This is because you will go through your food types regularly and nothing will be left behind.

Knowing what your family eats regularly is the first step. You must now decide how much to store. There are food calculators online available to figure this out such as this one from Morning Chores.

I recommend you keep track of the food you use on a normal week, up to a month, and then multiply that by how many months you are stocking up for.

As an example, if your family consumes 10 lbs. of potatoes a week, 10lbs x 4 weeks. = 40 lbs per month. If you are stocking up for 12 months you will need 480 lbs of potatoes for the year.

4. Know Where Everything Is Going

Having a lot of food available is great, but only if it has a place to be stored. Think and plan ahead for where you will store your food and non-food items.

You may think you do not have much space available for a long-term pantry, however, there are plenty of foods that can be stored in places outside of your actual prepper food pantry.

I listed some common storage places for food above. Do these work for your home? Think of out of the way places that you can store items. 

You don’t want food just piled up on top of each other in a room. There is a chance you won’t be able to find what you need and even worse that forgotten about items may go out of date simply because you weren’t aware you had it.

pantry shelving

5. Learn How to Make a Meal Plan

One of the most money and time-saving skills you can learn in the kitchen is how to meal plan. Knowing what you will be cooking will allow you to be better prepared and it will allow cooking and prep time to be cut considerably.

Making a meal plan is basically writing down what foods you will be eating for your daily meals over a period of time, Some people plan meals week by week. Others plan monthly.

This is a great way to make sure your family is eating nutritional meals regularly. Make sure to consider any health restrictions, allergies, and preferences when planning.

You can include all three meals of the day or just dinners. The choice is yours. However you do it, just do it.

Download 2 FREE Meal Planners Below!

Monthly and Weekly Meal Planners

6. Know the Shelf Life of Everything

No matter what food items you store in your prepper pantry, make sure to know the shelf life of each item. Although most items are still good beyond their stamped dates, it is best to know yourself their shelf life.

Some stored items won’t have dates. An example would be any foods you store in 5 gallon food-grade buckets on your prepper’s pantry. You have to make sure to mark those containers when you fill them with the appropriate dates since they will not be in their original packaging.

Thankfully, this is simple with cans and boxed foods bought from the grocery store, but food you repack to store, or foods you preserve at home must have an expiry date.

Expiry date on can

7. Shop The Sales Aisles For What’s Needed Only

I mentioned this in the budgeting section above, but I felt it needed repeated here. Do not buy things just because they are on sale.

Pay attention to prices. Look at the amounts in other brands. Divide the price by the number of ounces for example and see which one has the better value.

This also pertains to sales between different stores. A sale on juice at one store may not be as big of a discount at another store. Going to 3 different stores trying to find the best deals on only a few sales items is not always the best strategy.

Consider the extra gas and the amount of time spent traveling. Is saving 50 cents a saving if you spent $3 on a gallon of gas to just grab a “sale” item? Do the math!

8. Learn How To Properly Rotate Food

Being a 16 year convenience store manager, the saying, old to the front and new to the back is burned in my brain. Let it be burned in yours.

Anytime you bring new food in, always place the newest food to the back and bring the oldest dates to the front. This rotation method is so important.

First, it keeps your food from going out of date unnoticed, second it reduces you making a mistake and feeding food that is particularly high risk to your family.

You should also periodically check your shelves for an expiration date coming soon!. Place these items in a special “use first” area so you can use them instead of lose them.

Expiration dates on jars

9. Don’t Panic and Don’t Hoard!

To panic will only mean that you will not think clearly. Don’t panic. That will not help the situation at all. Stay calm. 

Prepping in general is a process. It takes time. Buy what you can when you can. Stick with your budget. Make sure you have a plan in place. 

Hoarding means extra food and chances are no place to put it. Remember being prepared means you are getting supplies ready before an emergency and have a plan in place.

10. Prep at Your Pace

It can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to even a full year to be completely prepared. Even then, you may not have every single thing you need.

Start with stocking a working prepper pantry, then move on to a 72 Hour Pantry. From there you can start a more well-stocked pantry with plenty of non-perishable foods for longer periods of time. And doing is the best way to store enough food for your family without the overwhelm.

What Foods You Stock In Your Prepper Pantry?

Remember when stocking, the whole point is to be prepared. This means you stock food, but also water, medical supplies, and other non-food items.

Let’s first discuss what food items should be stored.

Frozen Food

Although I don’t recommend freezer items for a long-term storage since most freezers will not stay cold enough beyond the 48 hour mark without power, you can, however, stock a freezer for short-term prepping

Some common food. Items to store in a freezer for short-term emergencies may include:

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Ice
  • Quick meals (frozen dinners, pizza, sauce)
Frozen, bagged food in freezer

Quick Foods

These are the food items that will not require, water, refrigeration or cooking in any way. These are great ways to eat when you have no access to an oven or open fire for example.

Some examples of quick foods include:

  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mixes
  • Jerky
  • Snack packs (non-refrigerated jello and pudding)
Dried Fruit

Canned  and Jarred Foods

Canned foods can be food you have preserved through canning or purchased cans from a grocery store or bulk foods store.  This category has a plethora of options and many of them can be eaten without heating or needing water.

Canned foods may include:

  • Soups
  • Chillies
  • Canned milk
  • Canned vegetables
  • Dried or Canned fruit
  • Canned meats and poultry
  • Canned fish
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Tomato paste, sauce, diced
  • Salsa
  • Broth
  • Baby Food
  • Evaporated milk
  • Jams and Jellies
Canned food on shelves in pantry

Dry Goods

These are usually the least in cost to purchase and the most common to be bought in bulk. Some of these items may require  a 5-gallon food-grade bucket, which can be expensive but necessary.

This category of foods can include:

  • Rice
  • Flours
  • Corn and Corn Meal
  • Grains
  • Dehydrated foods
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Cereal
  • Powdered food (eggs, butter, milk, protein powders)
  • Salt
  • Spices
  • Drink Mixes
  • Coffee, Tea
  • Boxed meals
Dried goods in jars

Baking Supplies

This is an easy area to overbuy for. If you don’t make brownies regularly, only buy a few boxes to get through. This is also a good area to keep the individual ingredients and try to bake from scratch.

Instead of buying a box of brownie mix, have flour and cocoa powder and sugar available and make them from scratch. This will save you money too.

Bakery Items to include are:

  • Oils (vegetable, olive, canola for example)
  • Bread flour
  • White flour
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Gelatin
  • Pectin
  • Yeast
  • Extracts (vanilla, mint etc.)
  • Vinegar (distilled and apple cider vinegar)
  • Honey
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sweeteners (Stevia, etc.)
Cooking oils

Other Foods To Consider When You Start a Prepper Pantry

Other items should be on your list depending on what you would normally use. These include the little things we often forget about when we grocery shop if they are not on the list.

These items include:

  • Condiments (ketchup, m mustard, mayo etc.)
  • Sauces (BBQ, Soy etc.)
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Bread crumbs
  • Crackers
  • Snack Foods (chips, popcorn, candy)

Water – A Must-Have When You Start a Prepper Pantry!

Besides the above mentioned foods, be sure to store water not just for drinking, but for cooking and bathing too. Remember that water will also be need for washing dishes, rehydrating dehydrated food, soaking beans, and more.

The general rule of thumb is 1 gallon per person per day, not including bathing. However, contact the CBD or your local Agricultural center to see other recommendations. 

Water can be stored in gallon jugs, individual water bottles, or in a water catchment system. Please learn how to purify water and other alternatives to make any water cleaner and drinkable.

5 gallon water jugs

Non-Food Items To Stock When You Start A Prepper Pantry

As I said earlier, food is not the only items that you should stock up on. Below are suggestions for non-food items you should stock up on too.

First Aid and Medical Supplies

Having a well-stocked first aid kit is a must even for those who do not prep. A first aid kit can be as big or as small as you feel is necessary.

Consider over-the-counter medicines you normally keep, natural remedies you wish to have on hand and supplies as well. Make sure to consider the family members needs. Things like glucose, blood testing and blood pressure supplies and even an Api-pen may be included.

Besides what is mentioned already, other common Items may include:

  • Band Aids and cloth bandages
  • Braces/Splints
  • Rubbing Alchohol
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Gauze tools and pads
  • Cotton balls
  • Medical gloves
  • Surgical Tape
  • Butterfly bandaids
  • Instant ice packs
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Face masks
  • Emergency Blankets
  • Hand Sanitizer
First Aid supplies

Hygiene Items

Good hygiene can mean the difference in your quality of life during an emergency or a crisis. These can be store bought or made yourself at home. 

Consider these hygiene items:

  • Hair Care Items (shampoo, conditioner etc.)
  • Shaving Cream
  • Razors
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Dental floss
  • Menstrual Products
  • Q-Tips
  • Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Scissors (haircuts)
  • Diapers
hygiene supplies

Household Items

These are the items you may need, and in a long-term crisis, you may have to find alternatives. Toilet paper and paper towels would be a great example. Of course there are reusable DIY Non-Paper Towels that can be made if you don’t mind a bit of sewing.

This list can go on forever, however, try to be practical when you start stocking up on household items. Think of what you would need the most and go from there.

Here is a starter list:

  • Cleaning supplies (store-bought or DIY)
  • Coffee filters
  • Cling Wrap, Foil, Storage bags
  • Garbage bags
  • Bleach
  • Flashlights
  • Matches
  • Emergency Candles
  • Fire Starters
  • Duct Tape
  • Sewing Supplies
  • Batteries
Housesold supplies

Miscellaneous Supplies You May Not Have Considered

There are many items that may be required for emergencies that you won’t think of until the need arises. These items are must-haves, but not frequently thought of.

  • Tarps
  • Fishing Supplies
  • Gun, Ammo
  • Nails, Screws
  • Zip Ties
  • Paracord
  • Sealants and Lubricants
  • Fuels (kerosene, propane)
  • Spray bottles
  • Battery operated Radio
  • Knives
  • Hand operated can opener
Emergency radio

What Storage Options Are Available When You Start A Prepper Pantry?

There are many ways to store survival food. These include jars, food-safe containers, Mylar bags and more. You must decide the best method based on what it is you are storing, where you are storing it at, and how often you need to access its contents. 

Mylar Bags

These bags are made from the same materials used in space blankets. The may feel like they are flimsy, but they are actually quite durable and do not tear easy. This makes them ideal for some types of foods.

These bags come in a wide ranges of sizes and even thickness. They are available from gallon to 5-gallon bags. These larger bags are often used as bucket liners as an added layer of protection.

Mylar bags are great for keeping out light and preventing oxidation from spoiling your food. Some come with zipper type sealing methods while others have to be heat sealed. I always use an oxygen absorber, available Here, or a silicone packet, available HERE, to keep your food the freshest it can be.

Common uses for mylar bags  are for repacking grains, beans, baking goods, grains, and sugar.

Food Grade Buckets

Food grade buckets, most commonly 5-gallon, are excellent to protect food from heat, moisture and/or pest damage. They provide an airtight seal and are easy to use, but can be heavy when full.

These buckets have a matching lid that normally comes with the purchase of the bucket. However, I have recently seen buckets where the lid must be purchased separately.

Instead of using the standard lid that comes with the bucket you can alternatively purchase a gamma lid. These lids twist on and off which is better protection and last longer than the standard lid. 

The greatest part of these buckets is that you can stack them, but they do take up a bit of room when you have a good number of them. You can also store a good number of smaller mylar bags in one bucket which can save space.

Final Thoughts Before You Start A Prepper Pantry

Learning how to start a prepper pantry is not as hard as you may think. It is a great idea to tart small, begin with what you are already growing in your vegetable garden or herb garden. Set budget, make a plan, and above all don’t panic. 

be sure to consider enough food, especially if you are going to feed a large family. Keep any special dietary needs as well as dietary restrictions in mind for elderly family members as well as children.

Before you know it you will have learned yet another self-reliant skill to add to your resume on your own road to reliance.


  1. This is a pretty thorough list. Thank you. If you are a DIY’er, many items listed can be homemade: condiments like catsup, mustard, salsas, seasoning blends, personal care items like toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo or shampoo bars, soaps, cleaning supplies like dishwasher and laundry soaps, daily cleaners, soft scrubs, etc. The items used to make these things are often used for many other things. I purchase 5 gallon buckets of baking soda (used for SO MANY things!) washing soda (for my cleaning recipes) citric acid, epsom salts, salt (celtic and redmond, himalayan,fine and coarse sea salt, dead sea salt). Gallons of ACV with the ‘mother’, oils like olive, coconut, macadamia, almond, avocado, etc.
    Raw nuts and seeds in bulk from the farmer to avoid irradiation and jet fuel spray…and to keep them raw. (but you need to soak nuts and seeds to make them easier on your gut)
    Thank you for the post, and the meal planners and the checklist!

    1. Author

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I am glad you enjoyed the post! I do all of those things myself also! I love making all of my own sauces, condiments, even spice blends. I also make my own meals from scratch, bake my own bread and am known as the queen of vinegar uses too!Nice to hear from a fellow prepper and DIYer!

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