Top 10 Foods for Stocking Up

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image: selection of various foods, beans, bananas, pasta, rice, apples, oats, wheat, bread, crackers, potatoes, yams

To get started with the basic building blocks of food storage, these are the top 10 foods I recommend. If these aren’t a good fit for your family, for whatever reason, stock up on the alternatives that you’re currently using. Be aware of the enemies of food storage, and always try to store your food in the most optimal conditions possible.


Once ground, wheat is the building block for varieties of bread, tortillas, flatbread, pizza crust, and more.  I’ve stocked up on hard red wheat for hearty breads, general purpose hard white wheat, and soft white wheat for pastries.


On its’ own, it’s a side dish.  Mixed with herbs and a vegetable or two, it’s a simple main dish.  It’s a great meal-stretcher when topped with, or served alongside, main dishes such as a stir fry.  Note: brown rice contains oils that will eventually become rancid. If you can keep it stored at very chilly temperatures, say below 60 degrees, it will be fresher, longer. Otherwise, plan on a shelf life of about a year or so.

Dried milk

Without electricity, fresh milk will go bad in hours.  Fresh will be difficult to come by in an emergency situation unless you own a cow or a goat.  Dried milk provides not only milk to drink, but milk to use as an ingredient in other dishes. Also, look for shelf-stable milk that comes in cardboard cartons. It’s a very good option to dried milk.


Stock up on table salt at your local Costco.  It’s inexpensive and has multiple uses. I’ve purchased boxes of Kosher salt, along with the regular iodized table salt.


Buy canned beans and dry beans in different varieties. They’re versatile,  economical, and a good source of fiber. Canned beans are already cooked and only need to be drained and rinsed before eating. Dried beans can be ground into a powder and added to everything from cookies to soups.


Canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, tomato puree, etc. Watch for them on sale and then grab a few dozen cans. Learn how to can and dehydrate tomatoes. They’re the basis for salsas, soups, stews, and sauces. I’ll bet you’ve eaten something made from tomatoes in the past 48 hours!

Other canned veggies and fruit

These will help provide important nutrients and variety to your recipes and have a very long shelf life. If you can’t stomach canned veggies, try dehydrating your own or purchasing freeze-dried.

Peanut butter 

High in protein, yummy on warm, freshly made bread!  Add some honey, and you have a winner! Keep a new, sealed jar in emergency kits for a quick dose of protein when you might need it most.


Without oil, you’re pretty much stuck with boiling your meat and veggies. The problem is that oil goes rancid very quickly. Most oils have a shelf life of only a year. Some food storage experts recommend packing vegetable shortening in canning jars and using a Food Saver jar sealer to vacuum out all the air/oxygen. Stored this way, shortening can stay fresh for years as long as it’s stored in a cool location. When using it, just measure out what you need for a recipe, melt it, and have oil. While many of us have moved away from using vegetable oil, this is probably the best option for having a supply of oil on hand long term.

Dried pasta

Another meal stretcher and a kid-pleasing dish any day of the week.  My own kids have been known to dip bow-tie pasta in ranch dressing. I really, really like the egg noodles from Ready Reserve Foods, which are actually dehydrated. As they cook, they expand and become thick, hearty noodles, much like the homemade noodles my mom used to make.

Sugar and honey

Okay, that makes eleven, but I’ve known women who were ready to kill when deprived of sugar for too long! Both honey and sugar will last indefinitely.

NOTE: This article was originally published on September 3, 2009. My blog had launched only 4 months prior! This list continues to be what I recommend for basic food storage, so I wanted to publish it again with additional information.


69 thoughts on “Top 10 Foods for Stocking Up”

  1. Great list! Wheat is definitely a miracle worker since you can also sprout it as a vegetable, use it to make wheat meat…
    such a versatile and amazing staple for food storage. Can't get enough!

  2. Also, if your readers keep an eye out for, and other great coupon sites, they can watch for sales on beans, tomatoes, peanut butter, pasta, rice, etc. Coupons are a great way to stock up faster and for less.

    1. Aldi's…my husband and I save $200 and go for it!!!
      Veggies are limited, but at 55 cents a can, and asparagus $1.09??
      I love their store.

  3. We will be canning about 40 pounds of chicken this weekend! Trying to get our food storage up to snuff. It's often a tad bit overwhelming.

  4. Yes! It is overwhelming, but 40 pounds of chicken is an awesome step! Depending on how you prepare it later, that's at least 20+ meals! Good for you!


  5. I laughed out loud with number 11. I would kill for sugar/honey too…. Great list… I am sure I have everything covered on this list… even 11. 😀

  6. I'm glad I'm not the only one whose crazy sweet tooth acts up every once in a while! Good for you for having your food storage goals met!


    1. TheSurvivalMom

      There's a bit of information about quinoa on my site. From one of the articles, "Quinoa has the most protein of all the other grains. In fact, it is considered a complete protein since it contains all eight essential amino acids. In my opinion this is a great grain to have in your food storage because it is a complete protein. Millet, quinoa, and white rice are staples in my food storage."

      1. Mary Lou Johnson

        Something native americans have always used was wild rice. It is a very filling, high protein that can be eaten as a breakfast cereal, mixed with meat, as a snackfood with honey…same with the frybread. No long prep time…great with honey

  7. I know this sounds crazy–but those big garbage barrels with rollers from Lowe's hold lots of water and in the long run are cheaper than Lowe's 5 gallon buckets I use for my oats/rice/sugar.

  8. Just finished canning 100lbs of fresh tuna. Best sandwich ever: home-canned tuna on home made, whole wheat bread. This has been a staple in our home since I was in 3rd grade. Now we are passing it on to our kids. Is canning chicken as easy as tuna?

    1. Yes, chicken, rabbit, pork, lamb; all those need to be pressure canned, just like fish, and are just as versitile. We raise all those, plus deer/elk in season, and it's simple to cube meat and stick it in a jar instead of filling yet another freezer. I like to can the chicken and rabbit on the bone, as it seems to have a good flavor, and a lot less work. We cook the bones and make broth to put on the raw-pack meat. The more flavor, it seems like the less meat is needed for a meal.
      If you raise/buy a pig, you can render the extra lard and that can be canned, too. You have to specifically tell the butcher to give you back *everything* though, or they'll keep the parts they don't think people will want.

    1. we have been canning since i was born i guess me and my wife are now canning veggies and jams and jellies and my favorite apple butter. We also have a small bussiness growing all types of berries but i have never canned any type of meat any information on this would be greatly appreciated a reply here on the site or anyone who reads this can send me an e-mail at would be a great help. I know the e-mail address is a little odd but me and my wife owned a paintball proshop for about 5 years lol.

  9. I have canned since I was little, my grama and my mom taught me. My husband only likes homemade so we have a root cellar, butcher our own animals and grow our own foods. I know that its sounds old fashioned but we have done this for many years. I also gave canning lessons this year to friends. I think this is the way to go. We have stored enough for a few years because of planning ahead (I was a girl scout)

    1. I heard a few months back that canning jars were hard to find in some places because so many people are getting back into canning — more for preparedness than the novelty, I'm sure!

      1. I just discovered that the LDS cannery in our area sells canning supplies. The jars they have right now are a thinner glass than Kerr and Ball brands, but, they are considerably cheaper and still rated for home canning. They didn't have wide mouth quart jars…they are the ones that look like mayo jars…with shoulders.

        HTH someone. :o)

  10. May I recommend Celtic sea salt over regular table salt. Sea salt has many trace minerals and is not processed as table salt is. A bit pricier but well worth the extra money

  11. Its like you read my thoughts! You appear to grasp so much about this, such as you wrote the guide in it or something. I think that you simply could do with a few percent to drive the message house a little bit, but other than that, that is great blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

  12. How do you preserve foods for long term? Many foods go bad — rancid. Canned goods generally have Use By dates that rarely go beyond 2014. Even home canned goods don't keep beyond 2-3 years. Do freeze dried really last 25 years?

  13. I am new to the prepping world. I am 26 years old with lil ones. (Family of 5) please any directions on canning meats and other food items, information on how to store food, longevity of foods, websites that are helpful am also interested in how to make cider, and anything useful. Any information can be sent to

  14. I read your site almost daily, and follow you on FB. I aspire to BE a prepper, have made some token attempts, and really need to read your list of excuses for not prepping. I know you’ve written one. 🙂

    I’ve been in an apocalyptic fiction reading phase lately, and recently read one free for Kindle, and one of the things it said was that you could live on beans and cornbread. Is that true, in your opinion? Is that meal complete in nutrition? Mostly just curious, though beans and cornmeal would be pretty easy to stock up on, it seems.

    Thank you for all you do in educating us, I really need it!

    1. Luanne, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if that free Kindle book had been written by a man. Beans and cornbread are okay for occasional meals, but food fatigue is a real issue and there are numerous nutrients missing in that meal! By all means, store a variety of beans and learn how to use cornmeal in multiple recipes (polenta, tortillas, jonny cakes, etc.), but branch out and store wheat, peanut butter, rice, and more. Do a search here on the blog for my top 10 foods to store and other food storage articles. The key is to store ingredients that can be used to create dozens of different recipes. Trust me, you’ll be a whole lot happier than the guy eating beans and cornbread at every meal! (Also try to attend some of my webinars on food storage topics!)

  15. Hello, Just discovered your site last night and I’m loving it! Reading throught this particular artical and wondering why you don’t have canned tuna or chicken on the list? I’m a newbie…so lots to learn, just would have thought given the protein content and self life that it would have been on here. Thanks!

  16. I would add seaweed to the list, very high in minerals such as salt, iron, calcium and iodine. Keeps almost indefinitely. Nori and seasoned laver would be on my list for taste, arame for high iodine content, possibly kelp or dulse shakers, (like salt shakers). Dehydrated kale, sproutable seeds for greens, seeds such as chia, hemp, flax in good packaging and rotated frequently for good source oils and veg. protein. Canned sardines, cheap, good protein, omega-3’s. Lentils – don’t need to be soaked first and cook faster then beans – high in fiber, iron and protein. I keep brown rice in my freezer, just take out a little at a time for the fridge, keeps a lot longer than 6 months. I buy a giant bag a year.

  17. minakosargent fukuda

    bryan Johnson
    I need to find out the name of a raspberrie cane that will actually ripen in cold weather, I am in Australia in Victoria and sofar have not any succsses with getting them to come up the next yr very frustrating being a greenfinger plse my email thank you ,rgdsMiko

  18. A few people have asked for directions for canning meats. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or the Ball Blue Book (NOT the antique edition!!) are great resources. A website I refer to often is the National Center for Home Food Preservation, .They do the canning research for the USDA “rules’ for home canning.

  19. I know you have salt on the list, but I want to stress it again. SALT. Store a lot more salt than you think you’ll need, because once you’re no longer eating prepared foods, you’ll need to add salt to your meals to maintain your health. If you intend to preserve foods (pickling), you’ll also need non-iodized salt in some form.

  20. Regarding your suggestion of canning vegetable oil. Are you talking about the vegetable shortening that is solid? If so, how do you can it? Just warm it up in a pot and pour into a jar? Do you water bath it or pressure can it? For how long?

    1. Yes, Crisco. Use a wooden spoon or a spatula and press it into a canning jar. Add a lid and use the Food Saver Jar Sealer to vacuum out all the oxygen. The shortening should stay fresh for years if it’s stored in a cool, dark location.

      1. If you didn’t have a food saver sealer for the jars, could you not fill the jar with crisco almost to the top. Then place a piece of wax paper over the crisco, and then place a O2 absorber on the wax paper push a little indentation in the wax paper on the crisco to keep the O2 absorber from moving about. Then put the lid on it should suck the lid tight just like a mylar bag and seal the jar. Don’t know if it would work, just a thought.

        1. The Survival Mom

          Wow. I’ve never thought of that. Interesting idea and it would be worth a try. I’d try it with one jar, store at room temperature for maybe 4 or 5 months, and then give it the sniff test to see if it’s rancid.

  21. I live in a house full of picky eaters. My family would never touch any sort of beans, so I love the idea of grinding them up and adding to foods. Any suggestions on what variety would add the most nutrition without affecting the taste – something I could “hide” easily?

    1. Casseroles and skillet meals would be the easiest. I’ve also seen recipes that call for bean “flour” and have made cookies with refried beans myself. Pretty tasty and moist!

    2. I mixed cooked blended pinto beans in with my taco meat!!! My kids loved taco type meals, but didn’t know pinto beans were in it!!! They only learned that once they wanted to learn how to make them!!!

  22. I’m not sure where I read this but I read that you can freeze olive oil and it would stay good for 4-5 years. Wondering if you have heard of that?

  23. I would like to remind people that grinding up uncooked dried beans can make people sick if they do not properly cook the bean powder. In particular, uncooked or even undercooked kidney beans will make people eating them sick, sick, sick.

    Canned cooked beans are fine. Dried beans are fine IF you know how to cook them properly. But make sure that all bean products are cooked at the appropriate heat for the proper length of time. No point in making yourself ill in the middle of an emergency. For reference see:

  24. I would add cocoa, the unsweetened kind. Can be used for baking, chocolate milk, fudge, etc. The possibilities are endless. And, due to Ebola in West Africa the prices will be going up, up, up.. And, it keeps almost forever.

  25. I was also thinking of cocoa powder whenever the thing about women killing for sugar or honey and as Nancy says it will keep just about forever. Also don’t forget baking powder, baking soda and yeast, won’t get much of a rise in bread without those things.

  26. To AmyP – Having picky eaters in the house does not necessarily make food storage difficult. The items on the list, as far as I can tell, are for long-term storage. What I did instead is this: I created 14 days worth of meal plans that my family will eat. I then purchased the groceries as I could fit it into my budget. I have a small room that I made into my pantry with shelves and each day I go shopping in my pantry for the day’s meals. I keep a running list of the ingredients needed and when I take something off the shelf – I add one to the list so I can pick up extra when I go to the store. I store what we eat and eat what we store. I have enough on the shelves now for 9-12 months. I keep all of my stored food on rotation because we eat from it daily. I do also have some of the long-term items on the shelves but those are for MAJOR crisis.

    1. I love this suggestion….I have a pantry ‘par’…how much of each thing I’d need for 3 months…and so just keep that updated so that all of our regular foods stay in stock.

  27. Debra Gilbert

    Of all the prepping lists I have looked at I never see couscous listed. It uses less water and cooks faster than either rice or pasta. The Near East company sells so many different varieties that you never get tired of it. You can also buy in bulk at AmazoneSmile for 11.5 cents an ounce. It is less bulky than either rice or pasta. Why do you think this food is not on anyone’s list?

  28. Hello,
    I really enjoyed your article but you don’t go into much detail about how to store the food. Light and air can effect how these foods preserve even dry goods have a shelf life what if you needed these things after 6-12 months? I would suggest putting them in mylar bags and storing them in food grade storage containers where light is reflected out and for a few more pennies you can have oxygen absorbers so it will extend the life of the food. On the other hand you can also stock up on other foods that you didn’t know you needed, like dried eggs and shortening. Look at Augason farms for those items to store.

  29. Does anyone have experience with powdered butter? I’m considering buying some. I’ve never tried it but, given the long shelf life, it might be an option to oil. Thanks for sharing your insight!

    1. I have used powdered butter in baked goods and for flavoring stove-top dishes, but it won’t take the place of oil. It just doesn’t have the fat content that you’re looking for. Think of it as a spice rather than a major ingredient. If it’s a financial choice, go for Crisco or coconut oil instead.

  30. Recently I bought the powdered butter and powdered cheese on Amazon. With my food saver I packaged up packets of 1/4 cup dried butter and 1/4 cup dried cheese and a scoop of powdered nonfat milk so I can make a couple servings Mac n cheese, just cook the pasta, drain, and add water to make the sauce.

  31. What about Crisco. If you look for the cans that are sealed and need a can opener to get into. Wouldn’t those be okay for long periods of time?

    1. The Survival Mom

      If you keep the Crisco unopened and in the coolest part of the house with a stable temperature, that will certainly prolong its shelf life. By how long, it’s hard to say.

  32. One of the things I’ve learned while on my quest to become prepared for whatever, is that the saltier and sweeter something is the longer it will last. As my husband reminds me, they found honey in the tombs in they pyramids in Egypt. Now that’s a long time! Also Honey has some very therapeutic attributes. It’s so good for us that I have even thought of starting bee keeping….and I’m allergic to bee stings. LOL I’ll have to give that some more thought. 🙂

  33. you can put 1/2 t of baking soda in 1/2 gallon of milk and shake up…will last 3 weeks after date or more depending on how much u open it and dont drink from the carton!

  34. First off, I enjoy your article. Question; What foods that you vacuum seal, need o2 absorbers. I have done a bit of research, but am more confused due to the number of opinions that vary. Some say yes others say no. For example, I want to put up dry pasta for long term storage. Some say if you vacuum seal then all the oxygen is removed and you do not need absorbers, while others say don’t vacuum seal without absorbers. Then we come to another issue. What foods will go bad if you use o2 absorbers. I read somewhere that some bacteria thrive in no oxygen enviroments. Is there a list of foods to know the difference?

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