News about a global pandemic, natural disasters, and anticipated astronomic catastrophes can make anyone feel scared and think about packing up. However, prepping isn’t always about the fear of uncertainties. Preppers often set up a prepper pantry for that sense of preparedness and peace of mind, but how does one go about it?
Here’s how you can organize a prepper pantry:
- Dedicate a space in your home to be your prepper pantry.
- Start small and work your way up.
- Find dry, dehydrated, or canned food products.
- Create a meal schedule.
- Sort perishable and non-perishable items.
- Label items with the date of purchase or expiration date.
- Consume products close to expiration and replenish.
1. Dedicate a Space in Your Home To Be Your Prepper Pantry
When starting a prepper pantry, the first thing to consider is whether you have enough space in your home. It doesn’t have to be big, but it has to match your purpose for setting one up.
Setting up a prepper pantry isn’t only about preparing for massive natural disasters. It’s also for economic and health problems that may happen unexpectedly.
Here are some possible future issues that compel people to set up a prepper pantry:
- Sudden job loss and long-term loss of income.
- Accident or illness resulting in an inability to make a living.
- Economic problems result in food shortages or inflation.
- Natural disasters, such as floods and earthquakes.
- A national state of emergency case requires people to stay home for extended periods.
Considering the reasons above, you can pretty much tell how big of a space you’ll need. Some may require enough space for several weeks to several months’ worth of supplies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends storing at least three days’ worth of food and water. A tall wall cabinet should suffice if you’re planning a prepper pantry that can cover such emergency necessities. Note that the size of the storage room is directly proportional to the length of time you envision your supplies to last.
It’s also essential to select a cool, dry place as your prepper pantry. Heat and moisture are the biggest problems with your items, and food supplies may mold or spoil more quickly when exposed to these elements. On the other hand, canned products and metallic tools like batteries and screwdrivers may rust.
Therefore, a prepper pantry shouldn’t be in the kitchen or close to it. The heat from the appliances, such as the refrigerator and vents, can damage your supplies. Additionally, use multiple-level shelves to keep some products from the floor during a heatwave.
The pantry should be around 40-70 °F (4-21 °C). Food and medicine are best stored in an area with a lower limit, while your tools can rest in a room with the upper limit of the said temperature range.
2. Start Small and Work Your Way Up
Set a budget, and don’t spend more than you can spare to build up your emergency supplies. Building a prepper pantry is meant to give you a sense of preparedness for when something unexpected happens, not to present new problems by putting pressure on your finances.
Another advantage of prepping is that you can give yourself some buffer from the sudden impact of inflation since you still have enough supplies to last you for a while as you adjust to the new and higher prices of necessities.
It also helps to buy products on sale. However, be wary of the expiration date of perishable goods. Sale items usually have closer expiration dates than regular-priced items.
Remember that as a beginner in prepping, you don’t need to hurry to fill up your prepper pantry right away. Take your time to understand what you need to avoid hoarding items that would otherwise go to waste.
Do your research and make a list of things you’ll need. Buy those within your budget and save up for the more expensive ones.
3. Find Dry, Dehydrated, or Canned Food Products
When collecting food for storage, you must consider buying products you know you can eat. In addition, choose dehydrated food products as they can last longer. A good rule of thumb is to purchase products with at least 24 months of shelf life.
Some recommended food products with long shelf life include:
- Canned meat (fish, chicken, beef)
- Canned soups and sauces
- Grains like rice or corn kernels
- Dried fruits
Although these products have a longer shelf life, one downside of having them in your prepper pantry is that some of them, such as pasta and rice, require much water to cook before they’re ready for consumption.
Therefore, you should have enough water in your prepper pantry to account for the amount you’ll need to prepare such food.
I store Ready Hour food on top of my home-packaged beans, rice, and other items. Their 3-month food supply is one of the better deals out there, and it provides a full 2000 calories a day, unlike many other manufacturers.
4. Create a Meal Schedule
The key to maximizing your prepper pantry supplies in case of an emergency is creating a meal schedule in advance. You have to make one even before the crisis occurs to reduce the number of things you have to worry about.
It can also help you determine which items to use or consume first, making it easier to check your inventory and know how long your supplies will last. Also, as mentioned, choosing products you know you and your family can consume is best. It can help ensure that no food goes to waste.
Additionally, consider the daily water and meals each family member needs when designing meal plans. You’ll need more thorough planning if some family members have dietary restrictions. That’s why planning early is crucial.
5. Sort Perishable and Non-Perishable Items
Although most people would assume that a prepper pantry should contain only food items, that’s not always the case. You must also allocate space in your pantry for essential and non-perishable items.
To make it easier to check your inventory, you can group similar items in open trays or baskets. You can also use boxes with lids or airtight containers to reduce dust buildup. In addition, organizing your supplies properly can give you peace of mind.
Some people new to prepping might think it’s okay to stock up on items with a long shelf life and forget about them until the emergency strikes. Sadly, it’s a waste of money, resources, and space because most items in a prepper pantry are perishable.
Here’s how you can organize them:
Food and Beverages
Since various food and beverage products will constitute most of your prepper pantry, there are many ways to organize them.
- By kind. You can group the same kinds of food to make them easier to find. For instance, canned fish products should go together, while dry food products like grains and noodles can take a separate part of your shelf. Those that require refrigeration should also go together.
- By expiration date. You can also sort food products by expiration date to quickly find those that should be consumed first.
- By menu. Although you can do this once the emergency has occurred, you may also make a habit if it works better for you. Organizing food and beverage by menu in boxes can also make it easier to pick one up in case you have to quickly but temporarily evacuate your home.
If your shelf has several layers (i.e., five), you can put the food supplies on the second and third levels. The heavier ones should take the lower level. On the other hand, large water containers should have their own space at the bottom of the shelf.
Spices, Oil, Condiments
Dried spices may last longer than fresh ones. Keep spices in airtight glass containers when not in use to keep pests and moisture out. Using glass instead of plastic can also ensure that no microplastics can get into your food over time.
On the other hand, oil and condiments usually have expiration dates indicated on their packaging. Therefore, you should be mindful of them. Some preppers usually buy these items in large quantities that they can use for daily consumption and still have enough left in an emergency.
If you want to preserve some food by yourself, homemade pickled fruits and vegetables can last up to six months when refrigerated, depending on the quality of materials and techniques you use.
Medicine, Vitamins, Supplements
Some family members may have health conditions that require them to take medication regularly. In such cases, it’s best to store up to six months’ worth of medical supplies as long as the medicine’s shelf life allows. Replenish your supply every two months.
You can store over-the-counter drugs like analgesics, first-aid essentials, and other maintenance medications. Keep medicines, vitamins, and supplements in a cool area, as extreme heat can significantly reduce their effectiveness.
You can put them on your shelf’s second upper level to keep them from corrosive materials. They shouldn’t be on the topmost level to avoid high temperatures coming from the roof.
In the case of natural disasters, power outages can be a pretty big problem. That’s why you’ll need a good supply of batteries. However, various types of batteries have different life spans. Do your research and check which brands or types of batteries offer good quality and long shelf life.
Cosmetics or Hygiene Products
Medicines, cosmetics, and hygiene products, including lotions and shampoos, have an expiration date. This is also another classic example of buying only what you know you can use.
While looking good may be the last thing you should worry about in emergencies, some people have health conditions requiring them to use medicinal lotions or sunscreen regularly. That’s why it’s best to buy them in large quantities with an extra pack in storage.
On the other hand, you must store toilet paper, paper towels, sanitary pads, and similar products in dust-proof packaging in a dry area. They’re lightweight but usually take up much space, so it’s best to put them on the topmost level of your shelf.
Some cleaning supplies are corrosive or have dangerous fumes that can contaminate food and hygiene products when improperly stored. A strong earthquake may knock your cleaning supplies off and damage your other items in the pantry.
Regardless of how well-sealed the cleaning products are, keep them as far away as possible from canned foods or other items stored in metallic containers. You can keep them in the bottom layers of your shelves for less risk of toppling over or set up an entirely separate cabinet for them.
Fuel is essential but a troublesome and sometimes even dangerous item to store long-term at home. It’s also important to note that it doesn’t last as long as you’d probably expect. However, if properly stored, it can last up to a year. Store it in sealed containers at around 70 °F (21 °C).
Unlike perishable items, there are many essential things you can safely store and forget about in your prepper pantry. Nonetheless, you must ensure proper storage so they’re accessible when necessary and safe from the elements. You can put them in drawers labeled accordingly.
Here are some non-perishable items you can keep in your prepper pantry:
- Candles and matches. In case of a power outage, you’ll need a light source at night. Although you can use flashlights, they require batteries. Candles can help in case of extended power outages. It’s also easier to use matches as they don’t require fuel.
- Tools. In your prepper pantry, you should store essential tools like knives, screwdrivers, and cookware. Wooden tools should be protected from termites, while metallic tools should be safe from rust.
- Survival gear. Although hopefully unnecessary, every prepper should have some items they can use in the worst-case scenario. Survival gear may include a sturdy backpack, ropes, flashlights, two-way radio, etc.
6. Label Items With the Date of Purchase or Expiration Date
The proper management of your prepper pantry largely depends on how well aware you are of the expiration dates of your perishable supplies. One way to keep track of the dates is by labeling the items.
You can also record your inventory with dates in a notebook. Update your notes regularly. As a beginner, you may update your list weekly for incoming and outgoing stocks.
However, once you’ve gathered enough supplies that match your goal and have gotten accustomed to the flow of your pantry, you may reduce the frequency to once a month or every two months. You’ll eventually notice that managing your pantry becomes easier.
7. Consume Products Close to Expiration and Replenish
Remember the “first in, first out” system when organizing your prepper pantry. It means that whatever you put in first should be consumed first. It’ll ensure that the items in your prepper pantry last longer every time you replenish them.
Many people must have imagined starting a prepper pantry but felt discouraged because it looked challenging. However, once you get the hang of it, you can develop a routine that works for you.
Just remember the following tips:
- Set up enough space for your prepper pantry.
- Only collect items you can use or consume and those within your budget.
- Sort perishable and non-perishable items.
- Keep notes of the inflow and outflow of stocks.