Camping & Survival

Tips for Stockpiling Non-Perishable Food for Novice Preppers, Part 2

Picture shows a shelf stocked full of long-term food cans

In our first food storage article we introduced the novice prepper to stockpiling non-perishable food. In this article, we cover how to stay on budget, purchasing decisions, and food rotation.

Staying on Budget

Picture shows a shelf stocked full of long-term food cans
Freeze-dried foods will last up to 30 years.

Another general oversight many novice preppers make is spending too much money. Fear of not being prepared can easily cause someone to go a little overboard. Gathering additional food means you are spending a little more money each month to build up your supply. Do not wreck your monthly budget, develop a buying plan that works for you, and then stick to the plan. Use coupons, and learn how to “stack” coupons; also consider buying in bulk and items that are on sale.

One way to increase your stash without breaking the bank, is the month-by-month method. The month-by-month method breaks down the list of items you plan to buy and assigns each one to a certain month. You then buy only that item for the month. For example, for the month of January you may want to focus on buying canned goods only, or in February you try to buy only dried pasta and so forth.

When to Buy

After you have created a list of must-have items it is time to figure out when is the best time to purchase these products. If your goal is to stockpile enough canned green beans to feed your family for one year consider stocking up on fresh green beans during the summer harvest when they are the freshest and often the cheapest of the year. Buy when items are in season and when items are most likely to be on sale. Check out the list of common food items and when is the best time of year to buy them.

Where to Buy

When it comes to actually purchasing items for your stock, widening your focus will usually net you the better deals. If you can grow you own vegetables great, if not consider a local farmer’s market or community co-op garden, and then learn how to can your produce. Large grocery stores are typically a good choice for buying individual canned fruits and vegetables plus many accept coupons and run regular stock-up sales which are perfect for filling the cupboards. For larger quantities of some staple items such as sugar, flour and cooking oil inquire at local bakeries or restaurants as they may be willing to either sell you bulk goodies or allow you to add a few items into their order. Also, check out restaurant supply stores, and do not forget the Internet can yield a deal or two on non-perishable supplies. Finally, let your friends and family in on your stocking goals or better yet form a co-op in your area and bulk larger quantities of goods at wholesale prices.

Remember to Rotate

To label a food as non-perishable is kind of a misnomer as the truth is all foods; even ones considered non-perishable almost always have a shelf life or expiration date. A plan for food rotation should be a part of your food storage plan from the beginning. The easiest way I have found is by using a color code sticker method. With a marker, I write the date I put the food item on the shelf on inexpensive stickers in several colors. One color, such as a blue sticker, indicates a shelf life of six months or less. One quick glance at the date the item was placed on the shelf tells me when I need to rotate or consume. Another color sticker indicates the product is good for a year or more. Develop your own system and remember it is just as important to rotate your stockpile as it is to build it.

Although this article has focused on tips to help you begin stockpiling non-perishable food items, the same tips work in regards to perishable items as well as toiletries and other products such as cleaning supplies. The biggest difference between non-perishable and perishable items are the storage needs because most perishable items need refrigeration or freezing in order to properly store them.

Finally, remember to use common sense throughout the process. Figure out what foods you want to stockpile and how much you want to keep on hand. Then, buy your items at the most economical time of the year. Finally, rotate accordingly and relax knowing you will not have to worry about where your next meal will come from.

Do you have a food storage tip? Share it with us in the comment section.


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Comments (5)

  1. I put the purchase date on the product so that way I know how long the rotation is of that item. It helps me adjust for at least a one year supply of all my perishable items. Using a “Shelf Reliance” rack system helps keep canned goods rotated easily!

  2. I always council a two pronged approach.

    Begin by keeping track of what you already use and how much. Find those items that you use that already have long shelf lives. Those are great choices to go deep on, because you know you will use them.

    The amount you use per year X shelf life = the amount you can pile up to without having to go to longer term options (Mylar and buckets, etc).

    This also allows you to occasionally take durable goods out to your goal time. It is a psychological victory when you know you have something bought for life (30 years for most). Something like dental floss can easily get there and make impossible goals seem achievable.

    The second prong is to work at replacing perishable goods with renewables (home grown) or durable (powdered or canned milk, etc).

    That way you can amass a deep pile without the sin of waste (it is what you already use in amounts you will use in time).

    You are not tempted to skip rotation and eating just bought rice rather than break into Mylar rice because of the Mylar/O2 costs because you didn’t pack it that way until you have 5 years unpacked on the shelf (I’ve known people who were set to “rotate” long term storage after 6 months because they had eaten through what they didn’t put away).

    You are not stocking things you don’t eat.

    You learn to “make do and make meals” from whatever you have at hand from time to time.

    1. Excellent advice.

      We always just buy a few extra of the normal everyday things we use, and add them to the shelves for storage. Rotate and always buy a few extra and you will be surprised how quickly things add up.

      Too many people buy long term storage items they do not normally eat. I’ve seen people buy a wheat grinder and racks of #10 cans of wheat expecting to grind it when the time comes and live off it. but in everyday life, they never eat that kind of stuff. Be realistic.

      And don;t forget items like non-prescription meds and emergency medical supplies, personal sanitation items, a way to wash clothes without electricity, manual can openers, extra glasses, matches, lighters, candles, propane stoves and on and on. It’s more than just survival food.

  3. Another alternative to Stockpiling Foodstuffs is a 3-D Food Printer that used Textured Vegetable Protein. Which doesn’t take up that much space…

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