In defense of stockpiling

You say potato, I say po-tah-toe.

You say tomato, I say to-mah-toe.

You say hoarding, I say prepping.

image by Seattle Municipal Archives

That may not be exactly how the lyrics go, but to some people, stocking up/stockpiling is the same as hoarding, and hoarding is evil.  I disagree, and here are five reasons why it’s smart to stockpile everything from food to tools to toiletries and beyond.

  1. Stockpiling buys you time. If the store shelves are empty, it’s a whole lot easier to begin using food in your storage pantry than it is to suddenly become a master gardener, growing your own fresh produce and raising your own animals for food.  You can get the garden started and not go hungry because you have a pantry filled with stockpiled food.
  2. We still live in a land of plenty.  If I decide to go to Costco and buy a dozen packages of their toilet paper, it doesn’t mean that some poor soul across town is going to have to start using pages from the phone book.  There is plenty of food, plenty of toilet paper, plenty of batteries, etc. to go around.  It may not always be that way, but it is now, and we can use that to our future advantage.
  3. Stockpiling is a whole lot easier than scavenging.  If you have extra machine parts, extra windshield wiper blades, extra light bulbs, and extra laundry detergent, you won’t have to dig through dumpsters, scavenge in alleys, or prowl through a junkyard.
  4. In certain crises, having a stockpile of food and supplies can keep you safe.  You can hunker down in your home rather than brave crowds of equally desperate people.  You’ll be able to stay far away from a pandemic outbreak or a run on the banks.  You’ll have what you need while a panicked society settles back down to a new ‘normal’.
  5. If your family can remain fairly self-reliant, at least for a while, the family can remain together and intact, without individuals venturing out looking for supplies, water, and the like.

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  1. Tom Usher says

    Here's a sixth: stockpiling saves money. We buy food when its on sale, usually looking for those deep, deep discounts. We put it on the shelf and eat what we have, using the oldest first. This has cut our food bills by a big percentage with the added benefit of always having 6 months or so of food on hand. Frugal and prepared. Who says prepping is expensive?

    • Brian says

      Exactly, it is been one of the best inflation hedges one can have since food costs have risen so much in the last few years particularly.

  2. MaryB in GA says

    Absolutely Lisa! By having stores of what we need, if there are supermarket runs, we preppers are not part of the problem, making it worse for those who are not prepared. We can stay out of the fray, thus reducing the runs on needed goods. I think people criticize stockpiling for mainly two reasons: 1. either they just refuse to accept that anything like that could happen, choosing to be deliberately blind to it, or 2. they do believe it can happen, but don't want to change their current lifestyle enough to prepare. These people aren't willing to give up their weekly mall excursions, catching the latest movie and eating out all the time. They act like they can't afford to stock up, when they really aren't willing to make sacrifices in order to. I know many people who fit into these two categories.
    MaryB in GA

  3. Dennis says

    Hi Lisa
    This is a great article. Another point to consider is that the folks who have stockpiled prior to a shortage are actually helping the situation for their neighbors, not making it worse. Two examples:

    •If I have stockpiled food when tshtf, I won’t be at the grocery store competing with my neighbors for the limited supplies available. So there will be MORE food for others because of my stockpiling.

    •Because I have supplies, I will be in a position for (limited) sharing with others in need

  4. Staff Sergeant says

    My personal view on this is that Stocking up BEFORE an incident is preparing. Stockpiling AFTER an incident is hoarding.

  5. Sierra Dave says

    I say go on the offensive. Use the term stupid or wasteful when they buy stuff individually. "That's stupid to buy cans individually. You're wasting money! Buy them when they're on sale. So what if you have extras."

    Lie, or stretch the truth. Say something like " I heard the government advises stocking up on a month of food." Keep it vague. I am sure some government somewhere advises that. :)

    Know your enemy, know yourself, and you will be victorious. In this case, know which buttons to push. If logic and reason don't work, use fear and public opinion. "Your not stocking up like everyone else?"

    • zxjim says

      From what I've heard, the government is recommending a minimum of 90 days food storage…in private memos to government employees. That's a good enough reason for me to prep. (As if the daily news wasn't already a good reason.)

  6. jen in michigan says

    Absolutely correct! My stockpile saves me time and trips to the store when I run out of something. It allows life to continue much as usual when the electricity goes out several times a year or when my road is impassible during the winter. It saves money because I stock up when everyday items are on sale. It means I have batteries when a grandchild's toy stops running and medicine when there's a boo boo or someone gets sick. It makes my family feel secure.

    Failing to plan is planning to fail.

  7. Falcon says

    Let me put it like this, better to have and not need rather than need and not have. We stockpile can goods, dried rice and beans etc. In 1978 while on a military training exercise we were issued c rations from the early 1960 and they were canned food. Canned food doesn't expire if the can isn't dented and keep in a climate controlled area, this is why you will only find "best by dates" on canned goods now which only refers to the best flavor. My rice and beans i store in 2 litler soda bottles after washing and drying the bottles, keeps bugs and moisture out and make them easy to store and transport……………………………..

    • lee says

      I like glass jars for stockpiling….not using 5 gallon pails with mylar…glass jars are glass afterall… can see the food, and its safe from insects and critters….I've got some exp canned goods and I am trying to use them up…..I BOIL the hell out of them for one thing….at least 10"….

      I've always bought ahead…..but still you know, sometimes you go to make a certain recipe and what do you know….you have to run to the store for "something" for the recipe…

  8. Tia says

    I just say something like I am trying to stay ahead of inflation. For example a couple years ago there is no way I would have paid over $2 for a 5lb bag of sugar, now it is almost $3 for a 4lb bag. Instead of raising prices companies are making "new packages" that have less in it for the same price to try and hide inflation.

    • Roxy2711 says

      This is so true! They just came out with a "New Package" for the crackers my family loves… Turns out they are less crackers in their fancy new box…but for the same price of course!

    • Bets' says

      LOL so true. And yes, I'm stockpiling coffee! It's affordable now, but it could go up to $25-$50 a lb. Who thought gold would go up to almost $2000 an oz.

  9. says

    Great post !
    I remember the panic that happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was a child. My Mom went to our local grocery store and there was hardly anything left on the shelves. She came home with a few things but not enough to sustain our family for very long. It was so scary how people panicked, never mind the threat of nuclear war !

    Stockpiling has been a way of life for us for many years, even in the years of peace and plenty. Some stockpile gold and money, we stockpile things that sustain life first !!!

    • danab says

      that is because you are a responsible, intelligent adult ,capable of rational, critical thought. Pretty rare in America today

    • Rob_Crawford says

      Never mind the Cuban Missile Crisis — what about the normal weather? Having some supplies on hand means not having to fight through the crowds trying to get all the milk and bread out of the store in front of a snow flurry!

  10. Steven says

    Excellent post!! There is nothing like the sinking feeling of having money for something, but realizing that you have arrived too late and there are none of them left to buy. I regularly eat canned soup, beans, etc while rotating my stock that is more than a year past the can expiration date, and there is no noticeable difference from a new one. Studies show ten years is still ok. With the way things are going, we can either stock up in serious quantity now, or explain to our children why they have nothing to eat later. The only down side is that somehow after things do go bad, everyone will somehow expect to have a claim on your supplies. Supplies will only last so long, though, so a plan of long term survival has to include some form of gardening and livestock that can regenerate in the future. Don't wait till the last minute to get into these two areas, they are essential.

  11. alicia says

    Stockpiling means I don't have to go to the gorcery store with my 5 year old, my 3 year old, and my 4 month old on a regular basis! Good enough reason for this mom! 😉

  12. says

    Hoarding/Schmoarding! Here at the $50 Stockpile, it's all about buying low and enjoying in the months to come. Store what you use, use what you store. It's called thrifty. It's prepared. It's frugal. It's only hoarding if it's threatens to topple on top of me when I go to the bathroom, narrows my hallways, or is moldering under stacks of empty cans and decades old National Geographics. Nobody will ever find my stockpile by following the smell of damp cardboard box and ancient cat litter. It's clean, organized, rotated and when close to expiration, donated so it doesn't go to waste.

  13. says

    I agree with many of the above comments. I am only a few months into stocking. I have some canned goods, rice, beans and water. I am also learning to garden and I keep chickens. I know there is a long way to go, but even now, I know I am in a better position than a lot of people should the lights go out.

  14. Shreela says

    #5 – If you live where there's heavy traffic, try to keep your loved ones off the roads after widespread power outages!

    After our roads were cleared from hurricane Ike, most traffic lights were down, at least in the southern part of Houston. Bigger intersections were having accidents quite frequently, because people weren't following stoplight rules. Instead of waiting for a complete cycle to go around, people were treating big intersections like a stop sign!

    So instead of assigning most police officers to things like neighborhood surveillance and security for the few grocery stores receiving shipments, the city had to assign officers to direct traffic at intersections.

    • UncleSim says

      The city didn't HAVE to assign officers to direct traffic. They chose to do so, because it is a very public demonstration of their ability to look busy.

      What is wrong with people treating uncontrolled intersections like stop signs? Nothing more than 3 more cars following the first one through when there's congestion to be eased by doing so. In fact, the people probably had fewer crashes than normal, because without the lights, they had to slow down and think a little more. Those who fail to step up to the challenge are quickly weeded out, and its easy enough to tell who is at fault from who is innocent… the damage is usually on the FRONT of the guilty party's car, and on the side or rear of the innocent party's car.

      The real reason your city didn't assign more officers to provide security for grocery stores etc, is because they never have any intention of doing so, and we all just pretend they're there to serve us. It is a convenient illusion, at least for those who collect overtime on their above-average salary for waving at cars during an emergency, instead of doing something that's actually useful.

  15. Jan says

    Great points! Stocking up make sense for many situations. People sometimes comment on my purchases. I just tell them I have lots of kids at my house and they eat like there is no tomorrow.

  16. Barbara says

    By definition hoarding is gathering up something there is not enough of, and keeping it away from others that need it. Those TV shows where people are stuffing their houses with junk and useless knick-knacks and sometimes garbage are not hoarding. Nobody else wants that stuff. They are mentally ill with an obsessive disorder.

    In the case the grocery stores run out of sugar, my supply is still not hoarding. I didn't go get it once the shortage started. It was already mine. I didn't deprive anybody of sufficient sugar when I got it. Whether I ate it when I bought it, or eat it as the months go by, everyone had equal opportunity to get all they needed before the shortage.

  17. Houston Mom says

    On the Wednesday before Ike hit, my husband stopped by the grocery store for a few things. The shelves were empty except for a few cans of beets, canned onions, and other misfit veggies. He asked if he should buy these, do we need them in case the power is out for a while (which it was). It felt good to say, "no, come on home, we have all we need already." The men in our neighborhood were able to get together with other well-provisioned families and bring food and juice up to the freeway where families were stranded trying to get away from the coast. But they went as a group and reported back that it was too dangerous for the women and kids to try to go up and help–people were getting desperate and acting crazy. Ike was only a Cat 2 or 3, and we had several days warning.

    • danab says

      by "well provisioned families" do you mean those that were intelligent and responsible enough to prepare for a possible emergency situation? Those bastards!

  18. Jim says

    Actually, stockpiling in times of surplus doesn't constitute hoarding, by definition. Your are just a person with some extra food and TP. Hoarding is when you stockpile a neccessity during a time of scarcity (example: supply line disruption due to strike, flood or earthquake) for that item, thus removing the item from even limited general availibility. When you prepare, you aren't hoarding because no one is denied free access to what you bought if they go to the store. When disaster strikes, those who prepared actually do a service to everyone in society who didn't prepare since they do not have to run out and purchase what they need, helping relieve stress to damaged or broken lines of supply. And when disaster strikes you don't have to compete with those 'hoarders' who were in front of the line at Wal-Mart and cleaned the shelf of mac-'n-cheese!

    • UncleSim says

      According to FDR and many govt economists, Americans were 'hoarding' gold in the 1930's. Gold they'd acquired when there was no shortage (not that there ever was one worthy of them sacrificing their holdings).

      Surely when the serious looters come for your 'hoard', agents of the 'law' will be among them.

  19. Linda says

    I have been buying extra groceries, suplies, etc. for over a year now, and this week I am really glad. I got a $198 speeding ticket. I am on a pretty tight budget so that really cuts into my grocery money. So, its great that I already have plenty of everything that can be bought ahead of time. I only need to buy milk and bread. It feels good to know I can skip buying groceries if I need to. I could actually skip for quite awhile. Which is exaclty why we do this.

  20. 57chevypreterist says

    Our family has been able to stockpile at a very discounted rate using coupons when items we use go on sale. Many items we get close to free, or actually get paid to shop when the coupon is worth more than the cost of the product! This free website has been a tremendous blessing to us:

  21. says

    I have been stocking up here and there as I can. I was and still am a fan of chickens and tried to get them down to a science. My science is this after 8 years: They will survive on worms, a vegetable, and a grain. Worms have to be established; start in 2002-2009. The vegetable (zucchini, grown too big with a tough skin, very tough to store through winter) and grain (corn) can be grown easily. The chickens totally thrive BUT in winter they can still be sketchy in laying eggs. People will tell you all sorts of things to improve winter laying, some work some don't. Come Spring they should lay eggs and hatch new chicks. This is also sketchy. Some breeds of the "best setters" sometimes still won't set. There is MUCH room for failure if you are depending on them for meat…or eggs as a sure thing.

    My science in the past 24 months for a reliable meat source: rabbits. Theyre terrible egg layers but a doe can produce up to 350 pounds of meat per year regardless of the season. Just think about it. I have been thinking about it for decades. Chickens = delicious, seasonal egg layers and chick producers. Rabbits = delicious, year-round reliable meat producers but I can only get them to lay Easter eggs (lol). They can more-easily be housed indoors as a pet, no noise, very few supplies needed.

    Yeah, I sell rabbits, but I'm not peddling here, besides, I can't ship nation-wide yet. Check Craigslist. They are cheap to get started in. Contact me for Q&A…anytime.

  22. says

    I live in Japan and we were prepped for the triple whammy: Earthquake, tsunami and nuke accident. My family had all the food and water (and toilet paper we needed)… All the while the stores were empty of water and some foods, we stood and shook our heads when we watched the people fighting to get into the grocery store. Some of our neighbors were crying when we gave them water and toilet paper… There was none at the store and one lady had a small baby.

    You'd think that in a country of earthquakes people would be prepared. Never underestimate the lack of preparedness most people have. Being prepared isn't bad, it's just plain common sense.

    • Thrifty says

      Here's another: Are you hoarding when you put your money on deposit in a bank? You'll get a far better ROI by buying now before prices go up by 20-30% in 6 months than you will by earning 1/2%pa interest on your cash on deposit! So look at it as savings.

  23. MnMark says

    If you don't understand the difference between hoarding and being prepared, you're probably not bright enough to prepare. We practice one year's food on hand. We rotate stock and only buy what we'd normally eat. No dried food meals thank you very much! We do have dried fruit, great in oatmeal and as snacks. We save money as food is steadily going up in price. We rest assured that we won't be in the soup lines or have to depend on the government for help should TSHTF, remember Katrina and the like. Also we understand the need to have as many prepared in America as possible to stave off the radicals when and if TSHTF who will be out there trying to take advantage of things to take power as has happened through out history.

  24. Nicolas Jacobsen says

    You can also eat your stock right away. This gives a bit of fat on the body, which will be a natural reserve when things get bad. If there is nothing to eat, skinny people die first. Fat people will first burn of their excess weight.

  25. joanne ryan says

    I just tell people it's for the food shelf,and then i take some there so it won't be lying! I am storing for my 4 boys and their families so i am having to be creative about storage so yes, some halls are narrow. so what?

  26. J. J. says

    Don’t allow ANYONE to make you feel bad for stockpiling. To quote a phrase that is used on our high school cross country shirts:

    “Obsessed is what the lazy call the dedicated.”

    If someone told you we were about to be invaded, you’d PREPARE. Oh yes, and you’d even buy guns, ammo etc.

  27. danab says

    Should there be a "Financial crisis" in America causing our financial system to under go a disruptive change there will be a period of readjustment. Who knows how long of a period that will be ,but logic tells us it will be painfull. If you have prepared in advance ,your pain will be less. If you are going to be dependant on the government to take care of you then you may be overly optimistic. The words "self sufficient " are no longer prided in our society . We are tought to look to the government, political parties or leaders for answers to our needs. We are not taught to be self sufficient, responsible, prepared. The time to prepare is BEFORE there's more poop than one fan can handle. Did you know Mormons are required to have 2 years of food stored? Of course you didn't . Unless Jon Stewart tells you something how the hell would you know? You're naive,gullible and most of all uninformed. You have car insurance, life insurance, fire insurance, you hope you don't need it but if you do it's there. Invest in a little "crisis insurance" if you don't need it great, but if you do…it's there.

  28. The Taz says

    This was a great post. We have finally gotten a food store that has allowed me to quit worrying about "what if something happens". We have heritage seed and are learning what will grow in our area and I have enough in canned, dehydrated and freeze dried foods to last at least a year for my family. NOW I am going to start using that food and replacing so we know what we like best. The peace of mind you have when you finally begin to get everything you need to survive at least a year is just priceless. Self Sufficient, Independent and networking with others who feel the same – along with being charitable to those who cannot take care of themselves – these are going to be the things that make all the difference in our country – and I believe it will be in the not too distant future.

  29. says

    My Grandmothers put by food all summer long. It was never called hording. It was preparing for winter when there would be no fresh food coming from the garden that was now three feet under snow. They hunted and fished. It really was a way of life. We all lived off the land. It was the norm not the exception.

  30. Linda says

    The US Army has an acronym (excuse the language):
    6 P’s = Piss-poor planning prevents proper performance

    “nuff said.

    I’m finally at a comfortable 6 months, next stop one year.

  31. Charley says


    I have a years worth of food in my pantry and cabinets
    you’d never know just by looking that there was actually that much

    when I bought 60 cans of soup because, with my coupons and the store special they were .26 cents each, the checker didn’t even blink.

    PS….I’m very happy to have found this website. I like knowing that there are so many others out there like me. Just normal people who believe in being prepared for whatever life throws at them..

  32. Phil says

    You all don’t forget WATER storage, I use eves trough (rain gutter) and rain barrels, filter it throught cabon filters and store it in 55 gallon barrels, it is recomended 1 -2 gallons per day = 28 oz drinking, washing, brushing teeth, cloths washing (with hand machine) I live in Arizona we get 2.69 inches a year minimum and still have enough water to last me a year.

  33. Andre says

    Alcohol (and especially ‘respected’ types like whiskey) could be used as bribes to get things done. Very useful in situation where the laws as we know it no longer apply.

    So yes, don’t sell it to your neighbor who has a nervous breakdown.

    Btw, you can always say you got it from a ‘connection’ to hide the fact that you have a nice stock of things.


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