I’ve been at this prepping stuff for a long time. Through the four decades I’ve been a survivalist, ideas have changed plenty.
Much of that has been market driven, as new products have been developed and made available to the prepping and survival community. But some has been driven by new threats and new ideas. After all, the Cold War that I grew up with is no longer an issue for us to be concerned about.
Sadly, not all the new ideas are worth putting into practice. While some of the information that has come out on survival is absolutely excellent, there are always those who will put their own untested ideas out there, hoping they will be bought by the community at large. This leads to confusion, which when we’re talking about people’s survival, can end up being deadly.
Such has been the case with some lists of ideas about what we should stockpile. In what seems to be an attempt to “one-up the next guy” many platforms out there have put out their own lists of what people should stockpile. In this process, there have been some items which have been suggested, which are of rather questionable wisdom.
If we’re depending on something for survival, than what we have and what we don’t have are both important. Leaving some things out of our stockpile might just be what we need, especially if those things aren’t going to help. Here are my top items to make sure you leave out of your stockpile.
The Food Your Family Eats Every Day
One of the common things I’ve heard is to stockpile the foods that your family likes to eat. If you think about that for just a moment, you can see how foolish that idea really is. First of all, most of us eat a lot of fresh and frozen food. Without electrical power, that food isn’t going to last. But even if it did, so what? Most of us don’t eat a very nutritious diet, so that’s not going to provide what our families need.
Rather, we’re going to have to find foods that will become the foods that our family eats every day. In other words, we’re going to have to find foods that we can prepare, out of ingredients which will store for a prolonged period of time, which we will be able to make tasty for our families.
This is going to require a lot of time experimenting. You’re going to have to find recipes which you can make from the food you are stockpiling or can modify to work with the food you are stockpiling. Then you’re going to have to try them out with your family, just to make sure they will eat them.
Frozen food is probably the single biggest waste for survival. Not that I don’t like frozen food, I do; but with the power likely to go out in just about any disaster, chances are that the frozen food will go bad, before we can even eat it.
Of course, if you have a massive solar food dehydrator, then you can do something with all that meat you’re stockpiling in the freezer. But the reality is that few of us have that. So the idea of stockpiling meat, frozen vegetables and prepared meals, just to have them, isn’t going to get you very far. After you gorge yourself the first few days, you’re probably going to have to throw most of that away.
If you ever wondered how much junk food has infiltrated our society, just stop in at your local convenience store. Pretty much everything they have on the shelves and in the coolers qualifies as junk food. They don’t bother selling real food, because people don’t stop in to buy it.
The funny thing about this is that most of us believe that what we eat isn’t junk food, while what someone else eats is. We’re so busy looking at the splinter in their eye, that we don’t see the beam in our own. Yet we all have our own favorites, even if they are marketed as being somewhat healthy.
Basically, any sweet or salty food that can be used as a snack food qualifies as junk food. Other than carbohydrates, these foods don’t provide much in the way of nutrition. So stockpiling them is just a waste of money.
Breakfast cereals have become a standard in the American home. One might think that they would be great to have in a post-disaster world, as a touchstone with better times and as a comfort food.
But breakfast cereals don’t store well for a prolonged period of time; even when we use the same methods to store them, which are used to store other dry foods for a prolonged period of time. You could open those buckets 10 years from now and find that they aren’t even edible.
Breakfast cereals are also bulky, like most junk food. So if storage space for your stockpile is an issue, storing breakfast cereal is not the way to go. You’ll be much better off making pancakes for breakfast in a post-disaster world, than you will trying to feed your kids breakfast cereal. Besides, most kids won’t even touch powdered milk, let alone enjoying it on their bowl of cereal.
Most people don’t realize it, but coffee has a limited shelf-life. I’m not saying that it necessarily goes bad, but it doesn’t stay good either. Coffee that has sat around too long loses some of the potency of its flavor. Freeze dried coffee doesn’t seem to have this problem, but who prefers freeze dried to fresh?
For survival, you’re much better off stockpiling whole beans and buying yourself a coffee grinder. Not only will you have better coffee to drink, you’ll have more of it and it will be fresh. You’ll enjoy that coffee a whole lot more than you will something that you bought canned 10 years earlier.
Ground Flour and Grains
Like coffee, wheat flour and some other grains are best bought in a whole grain form and ground when you need it. We don’t notice this in any day-to-day baking we might do, because the time that the flour sits in our homes usually isn’t long enough to be an issue. But when it comes to storing it for 10 or 20 years, that old wheat flour is going to taste just like old wheat flour.
A good grain mill is an investment, especially if you take into count that you’ll need a manually operated one, rather than an electric one. Nevertheless, it’s a good investment. If you can, buy one of the higher priced ones, as they will grind your grain finer than the low-cost ones will.
Only “Survival Food”
If all you’re buying is packaged survival food, you may find that you’re disappointed when you have to live off of it. I’m not referring to the flavor here, as that’s usually not so bad. But have you looked at those “meals.” Most of the time they aren’t really meals, but just servings. Be careful about that, as what we’re used to as a typical meal consists of several servings of different types of food.
The key here is to look at how many calories they are claiming there are in a serving. If the servings are 300 calories and you buy as if you’re only going to eat three servings per day, you’re going to be trying to survive on a 900 calorie a day diet. That’s great for weight loss, but not much more.
Civilian MREs are better for this, in that they give you a high calorie diet. But have you looked at the price of those lately? If all you do is stockpile MREs for survival, I sure hope you’ve got deep pockets. You’re going to be spending a lot on your food.
Go ahead and buy some packaged survival food, even some MREs; but don’t just buy that. Mix it in with the other foods you buy, so that you can make the job easier for yourself. There are some things those companies do much better than you or I can expect to.
I don’t care if you’re talking about soft drinks, instant iced tea or orange drink powder, buying them is a waste of time and especially money. All any of them are is sugar and flavoring. They don’t provide any real nutrition.
Now, I know your kids probably love that stuff. It’s sweet and flavorful. But it’s not nutritious. Rather than buying that, I’d recommend making your own fruit drinks, when the time comes. They do this in Mexico, and they are much better, as well as being much more nutritious.
What I’m talking about is called “aguas frescas” (fresh waters) in Mexico. There are many kinds of these, but they are more or less follow the same pattern. That is, they are like a watered down juice, with some sugar added. As such, they do provide the nutrients of the fruit you started with, plus providing the sugar and flavor your children crave. I’ve seen these made from lime, pineapple, coconut, cucumber, tamarind, hibiscus flowers guava, and a host of other fruits.
This one is hard for me to add to the list, because I’m a chocoholic. But the truth of the matter is, chocolate doesn’t keep well, unless you can keep it cool. That’s going to be out of the question, when we’re talking a post-disaster world, without electricity. So, no matter how good your chocolate is or how you store it, it will probably turn to garbage.
About the only thing you can do is store chocolate baking powder. If you have that, sugar and powdered milk, you can make some respectable hot chocolate. That’s about the best you’re going to do. You, like I, are going to have to learn to live without chocolate.
Pam Magnuson | September 10, 2019
Dear Bill, Sorry, but I have to take issue with some of your ideas here. First, meat. Store as much as possible. If you have a freezer full of meat, cook it. People have been storing large quantities of meat for eons, and in a crisis, we need protein more than pasta. Make jerky over a camp fire. Native Americans did and so did the pioneers. Meat is hard to come by, expecially when the grocery stores are closed, and they will be. It probably won’t be safe to go hunting for a while. Every idiot with a gun will be out there shooting at anything that moves (including you.)
I reviewed your shopping list two or three times and found it lop-sided. Lots of pasta, but didn’t see much rice or beans. Both keep very well for a long time. Also, there was a lot of canned soup, but no canned vegetables, fruit or cooking oils. In fact, I didn’t see canned chicken, salmon, Vienna sausage, Spam, or chili. These will keep very well and provide the all important protein. And you’re going to need vinegar, lots of it until you learn to make your own. Are you a bachelor? If not, ask your wife to do the shopping list.
Now about the chocolate. It’s very good for you, so store some any way. Yes, you’ll have to use it up first, but with all that powdered milk, sugar and powdered cocoa mix, you can make fudge in about 30 minutes. All is not lost.
The important message is to STORE SOMETHING. My dad used to say when you go to the store by two and put one under the bed. Sounds simple, but it works.
Be well. I enjoy your articles.
Linda Fox | September 17, 2019
Would those packaged tuna pouches be a good long-term storage idea? I’m thinking that they’re a lot lighter and take up less space than the canned stuff.
Sylvia | September 10, 2019
Re: all that freezer food: We always have enough gasoline for the generator to hold the freezer at least a week. In that time I could can what’s important on my wood stove (with Lehman’s 15-qt stainless canner that’s narrow enough to fit on my Vermont Castings Defiant). Also can keep the freezer food frozen longer when it’s a chest-type and every bit of non-food space is full of water containers (milk half gallons, lg juice bottles—anything that can expand and not break.) They hold the cold then become drinkable water.
When stocking, remember the Indians’ 3 sisters: corn, beans, pumpkin/winter squash. Any grain (wheat, corn, rice, etc) along with any mature “dry” bean will provide all the essential amino acids—be a complete protein just like meat. The winter squashes are loaded with vitamins and minerals. And these 3 types of food will keep well in cool, dark places.
Really appreciate your articles!
Illini Warrior | September 11, 2019
Sylvia – 100000% correct >>> in fact, take your plan and expand it to include barter meat from your neighbor’s freezers and check with your foodliner’s meat department that lost power –
smoking is another preserving option to canning – a temp DIY smoker post SHTF is totally doable with some prepped building supplies and forethought ….
rod Clark | September 10, 2019
Pam, what’s the vinegar for? Rod
Pam Magnuson | September 11, 2019
OMG Rod You need vinegar for so many things. One, to make pickled foods which are very important for your digestion.You can make sauerkraut (yum and good for probiotics to sweeten your belly) It’s a supurb cleaning agent. Who needs Windex at how much per bottle? Make your own window cleaner with 1/2 bottle of water and 1/2 botle of vinegar. Spray and wipe dry with newspaper. That another story. I’ve also used vinegar to clear up my dog’s “hot spots”. Those itchy angry areas that caused my dog to bite and chew herself to bleeding. The vets pilts and potions just didn’t help, but the vinegar did it in about three weeks. Vinegar is just a super cleaning agent, and if the worst comes to pass, then we need to know these little things. There’s more, but not now..
Grammyprepper | September 11, 2019
I would add, Pam, that one should store white vvinegar as well as ACV (apple cider vinegar) with the ‘mother’. They both have their place in our preps.
Adleheid | October 21, 2019
Kraut is just salt and shredded cabbage. No vinegar. If you can it to be shelf-stable, it will lose its gut healing properties.
Glenda | February 21, 2020
I agree that vinegar is a preppers must store, however, sauerkraut is not made with vinegar. It is instead made with cabbage, salt, and filtered water allowed to ferment
Tom Jackson | September 11, 2019
M&M’s store very well.
merlin grayman | September 11, 2019
hmm … wrong on the chocolate.
a military man should know better.
in the 80″ i was eating c-rations that had been packaged in the 60’s.
they all contained chocolate bars.
the chocolate was just fine.
JJ | September 11, 2019
Oh, people, just buy what you eat and cook every day–easy, simple, do it!!
Canned goods–fruit and vegetables, canned chicken dumplings/beef stew…things like that.
I’ve got shelves full and stored since 2009 and still good.
Sure, store cooking essentials also.
JJ | September 11, 2019
Vinegar goes in my sink drains about every week. Keeps them flowing, but odors aren’t a problem either–with baking soda of course.
Nurseprepper | September 11, 2019
If you truly want to store meats and nutritious food for LTS you should look into getting a home freeze dryer. Yes they are a couple thousand $$ but will pay for itself in short order. Food freeze dried and packaged in Mylar with oxygen absorber will keep a long time.
101st | September 12, 2019
Can you own meat. And veggies. Dried fruits.
Agree with vinegar – both types – rice, beans, check. Instant coffee is fine after 5 years,!i test my preps. Pemmican is a must.
Farmer | September 15, 2019
I’ll take the freeze dried instant coffee. Fresh ground coffee goes off after a few days, whole roasted beans… A few weeks. You might get two or three years out of green coffee beans, but they’ll need to be roasted first.
Dewd | October 4, 2019
I’m not a coffer or tea drinker myself, but am considering stocking some for barter/trade etc… is vacuum packing the beans or already ground beans and tea not an effective method of storage. I already vac pack my rice, beans and grains using my oldest first I have failed to notice anything gone bad yet. I agree with having canning meats as well as tinned meats and veggies as part of ones supplies.
Curley Bull | October 10, 2019
Pam, I have one question for you, does Spam EVER go bad if unopened? Also, I agree with you on the meat. When I was a kid, we killed two hogs every winter and I’ve eaten home canned pork I know was over three years old (chicken too).
Granny Prepper: Hello sweet Lady, it’s been a while. As usual, you’re right on about the vinegar. And yes, I’m still around. Not stepping as high, but still stepping. My Granddaughter has been trying to keep me updated on what’s going on for the last couple of years.
Merlin, you’re right on about the C-Rats. The two most prized items were the chocolate bars and the peaches. I’ve seen fights break out over those. The difference between us is I was eating the C-Rats in the ’60s that was packaged in the ‘40s and early ‘50s.
Nurseprepper, I agree with you 100% on the home freeze dryer. Ozarkanna sold me on it a few years ago.
101st and Farmer, about coffee: My favorite is Community Whole Bean Espresso ground fresh for each pot. I opened a bag that was about 5 months old and was not pleased with the taste (plus it’s gotten expensive). However, I’ve opened a bag of Community Dark Roast in the vacuum sealed (brick) that was 5 years old and it was fine (don’t know how long it would stay good if the seal isn’t broken). The freeze-dried instant must be like Spam and would last almost forever unopened. If you are interested in Community coffee, go to their website and signup for their emails, then when they have a 20% or sometimes a 30% off sale order 10# of the dark roast brick and shipping is free for orders over $50.
With a brother’s love,
Matthew 24, 1st Timothy 5:8
Grammyprepper | October 10, 2019
Curly Bull, what a pleasant surprise to hear from you! Still this side of the sod is always a plus, even if we are slowed down! Hope you and yours are well!
ADifferentDale | December 14, 2020
I have Nestles Chocolate Chips that are 10 years old that taste as good as the day they were bought. They came in a Nestles tin and I’ve kept them there until finally opening just to test a few months ago. These were just stored in a pantry cabinet in the kichen.
Almost all candy that can be stored in the fridge will last a long time as well. I’m still eating candy we bought for halloween 2016 that is perfect.