30 essentials for an emergency food stockpile

Picture of cans of food, tea, coffee, pasta rice and other essentials for an emergency food stockpile on my kitchen shelves

Essentials for an emergency food stockpile

 

How long could you feed your family, if you couldn’t go shopping?

With cornavirus looming, who knows which food supplies might run short, if the supply chain and deliveries get disrupted.

More on 11 tips to protect your personal finances against coronavirus

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Pinterest size image of some of my emergency food stockpile

I first wrote about stocking up on emergency food supplies after seeing photos of empty supermarket shelves during ‘Beast from the East’ snow storms. 

A few days of severe weather seemed to make half the country grind to a halt. With many shops reliant on central warehouses, food deliveries got disrupted by the snow. 

Luckily back in 2018, more by luck than judgement, I’d just done a big food shop. This meant we could hole up at home for several days, without braving freezing temperatures and icy roads to buy anything extra. But up in Edinburgh, loads of shops near my sister ran out of basics like bread and milk.

Even in good weather, an emergency food stockpile could come in handy. If money is tight, benefits are delayed or illness keeps you stuck inside, extra supplies will help tide you over. Certainly when we tried to cut costs by using up the contents of our fridge, freezer and kitchen cupboards, it made a big difference.

Post with the results of our storecupboard challenge

Researching this post, I fell down a rabbit hole of ‘preppers‘, bracing themselves for the collapse of civilisation or the zombie apolocalypse. I’m not suggesting you stockpile rifles in the spare room, but having a few extra tins can’t hurt.

 

Picture of a pack of 4 tinned tomatoes, a couple of tins of fruit and a four pack of tuna to illustrate by post about essentials for an emergency food stockpile

Using multi-buy offers to build up a stockpile

Top tips for starting an emergency food stockpile

  • Think long life, non-perishable food
  • Add one or two items a week, if you don’t want to bust your budget (or give yourself a hernia carrying stuff home)
  • Take advantage of multi buy offers like ‘buy one, get one free’
  • Switch to own-brands and value range items to keep costs down
  • If kitchen space is tight, keep a few cans under the bed or at the bottom of your wardrobe
  • Rotate stocks to stop food going off, pulling items with the shortest dates to the front
  • When you use something from the stockpile, replace it next time you go shopping
  • Think about storage, for example keeping flour in a tightly sealed container
  • Set aside space in your freezer. I try to keep some essentials handy, like a sliced loaf, frozen peas, frozen meat and fish, butter and ever-faithful fishfingers
  • Choose items your family will actually eat. No point stashing lentils or quinoa if your nearest and dearest won’t touch them
  • Even without an emergency, these supplies could all come in handy for a self-catering holiday or last minute camping trip

Post with what to pack to cut the cost of a self-catering holiday

Essential items for an emergency food stockpile

Here’s my list of suggestions:

  • Porridge oats
  • Cereal
  • Powdered milk or long life milk
  • Long life fruit juice
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Flour
  • Sugar
  • Yeast
  • Baking powder
  • Honey
  • Peanut butter
  • Tinned beans, like baked beans or kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Tinned fish like tuna, salmon and sardines
  • Tinned meat or a jar of frankfurters
  • Tinned potatoes, if you can face them, or Smash
  • Tinned fruit, like peaches, grapefruit, pears or pineapple
  • Dried fruit like raisins or apricots
  • Curry paste
  • Pesto
  • Tomato puree
  • Stock cubes
  • Spices and flavours like chilli powder and soy sauce
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper

Non food items

  • Spare tin opener
  • Candles and matches
  • Torch and batteries
  • Pet supplies like pet food and cat litter
  • Spare medicine
  • Loo roll
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap
  • Toiletries like shampoo, conditioner, deodorant (Maybe those hotel miniatures would come in handy!)

 

Picture of a freezer drawer with fishfingers, frozen peas, chicken, stork, frozen fish and a loaf as part of my emergency food stockpile

Stashing essentials in the freezer

Possible meals from an emergency food stockpile

Breakfast

With the supplies above, we could have breakfast with cereal or porridge, tea or coffee, some fruit juice and tinned fruit.

Lunch

If we didn’t have a spare loaf in the freezer, I could still use the flour and yeast to make bread to eat with peanut butter or honey, with soup, sardines or baked beans, or as sandwiches. If I made rolls, we could use the frankfurters to make hotdogs.

Main meals

I can’t pretend these are gourmet options, but they’d be warm and filling:

  • Fishcakes using tuna or salmon with smash, plus baked beans
  • Tuna pasta bake, adding tinned tomatoes and pasta
  • Rice salad with tuna, salmon or frankfurters plus sweetcorn
  • Chickpea or lentil curry with rice
  • Veggie chilli with rice, using tomatoes, kidney beans and chilli powder
  • Pasta pesto with frozen peas

On the sweet side, the dried milk and flour would come in handy making pancakes to eat with honey and tinned or dried fruit. I might throw caution to the wind and add a packet of jelly and evaporated milk to the list, to make puddings for the kids. I didn’t attempt adding biscuits to a stockpile – they’d get eaten well before any emergency!

If you’re not keen on much cooking, then cans of chilli, soup, stew, curry and ravioli might appeal.

In practice, I’d rarely have only these essentials on hand. I usually have cheese and eggs knocking around, which could expand our meals to home-made pizza using flour and yeast, egg fried rice, cheese on toast and omelettes, for example. Even bendy carrots, potatoes and sprouting onions can make a base for soups and tomato sauces.

Now over to you – what would you add to an emergency stockpile? What essentials do you always have to hand? Do let me know in the comments, as I’d love to hear!

 

 

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21 Comments

  1. 14th March 2018 / 5:47 pm

    We were glad of what we had in store when the SNOW came -couldn’t get out for 3 days and didn’t need anything really for a few more
    I’d add a secret supply of chocolate to the list!

    • Faith
      Author
      14th March 2018 / 6:52 pm

      Glad you sufficient supplies when you were trapped by snow! Chocolate sounds a great plan. I might have to make sure my husband keeps the stash secret, otherwise I’d be tempted to raid it for non-emergency purposes…

  2. Jacqui Fenner
    14th March 2018 / 7:45 pm

    Even though in my part of the country, the snow didn’t last, our local village shop didn’t have much on the shelves, no bread or bread flour for quite some time. Fortunately, I was stocked up and had dried milk powder in the freezer. I keep a good supply of dried goods and tins as you never know what’s around the corner.

    • Faith
      Author
      15th March 2018 / 8:14 am

      Sounds like you were well supplied! I was really surprised at how quickly milk and bread ran low in the shops. I always have stocks of flour and yeast to hand, so can cope with making bread, but hadn’t thought of stocking up on UHT milk or milk powder before.

  3. 15th March 2018 / 7:40 am

    Our larder has much of these things all the time, the one item I haven’t stored away is dried milk. However, here in Torbay, with its mild microclimate, we’re seldom snowed-in. It’s not like living in Cumbria or the Highlands of Scotland, but we appreciate that if there is snow, and as happened recently, some cows didn’t receive water for more than 24 hours because pipes had frozen, there was disruption to the milk supply. Fortunately, I heeded the warning of the weather forecasters, and we had 3 x 4pt cartons in the fridge, 1 x 2pt carton in the freezer. We thought we could get by (for just two of us) on 14 pts of milk for a few days!
    I also replenish dried and tinned stocks when we use them, even if I don’t plan to use them right away, so there are always packets of pasta, tins of sardines, corned beef, tuna, salmon, and jars of pesto (and fresh pesto in the freezer) and so forth. Our larder is quite small (just a larder cupboard in the kitchen) but it’s surprising how much you can store when you pack it tightly!

    • Faith
      Author
      15th March 2018 / 8:16 am

      Great planning ahead on the milk front. Agree it’s possible to cram quite a lot of essentials into a small space. Since doing the storecupboard challenges, and using up our more weird and wonderful ingredients, I’m now in a better place to store food we’ll actually eat!

  4. Margie from Toronto
    15th March 2018 / 5:24 pm

    I live in Canada so I always try to restock before the weather gets bad. Even in large cities – like Edinburgh – most stores only keep a 3 day supply of food on hand. If trucks can’t get through then they can’t restock. We are advised to keep 2 to 3 weeks worth of food on hand rather than the old 72 hours worth.
    I keep many of the basics you’ve listed along with, dried cereals, long-life milk – peanut butter – packaged crisp breads and things like oatcakes and pancake and/or biscuit mix. Jams, canned fish, canned stews, chillies, soups and beans, along with fruit & treats like canned custard or rice.
    My small freezer is well stocked with frozen fruit & veg along with fish & meat. I stock up on most things as they go on sale and I always have cheeses and yogurt in the fridge, and try to keep a good supply of nuts & seeds and dried fruit. I could probably last for 2 months if I had to. It has also helped now that I am retired and money is a lot tighter. Always good advice!

    • 17th March 2018 / 4:08 am

      Woah my mind is boggling at the idea of stocking enough food to feed for of us for 2 or 3 weeks! Sounds like you are very well prepared though, thanks so much for commenting.

  5. Hazel
    16th March 2018 / 7:24 am

    There are lots of reasons why there may be an interruption to the food supply, not just weather, so I think everybody should have a stock of food and actually so does the government- they issued advice about it a few years ago and I know I got a booklet through the door at the time…

    Our food supply is actually pretty precarious and what Margie describes in Canada is true everywhere now. All big supermarkets operate a ‘just in time’ stocking policy meaning if there is an issue with delivery- roads, fuel, terrorism, pandemic, weather, electronic failures- the public is famously 9 meals from having no food in the shops. There are also personal reasons why you may need a store of foods- illness, redundancy etc
    I’m not a prepper by any means but it just makes sense to me to make sure I can provide for my family in the event of any extended disruption.

    I’d agree with everything you said and add that it is worth getting the rest of the family used to eating storecupboard meals and put them in rotation in your menu, replacing the ingredients afterwards. If a family is used to eating only fresh foods/takeaways/frozen fish fingers and potato waffles/whatever and then they’re faced with a rotation of tinned fishcakes and lentil curry you may be faced with rebellion. Find a form that the children will eat lentils in, maybe with tinned tomatoes and bottled lemon juice in a soup or as a veggie spaghetti bolognese and make it.
    Porridge oats are brilliant, nutrtionally and because they don’t actually require cooking to eat. They can also be sensible- porridge- or a treat- flapjack- as long as you’ve stockpiled some sugar and syrup.

    And also water. Not just to drink but you may have no water to the house- lots of people experienced burst pipes after the last freeze/thaw- and you need water for basic hygiene as well as drinking and cooking. And for pets too.

    I don’t know if you’ve read Down to Earth blog? She has a very sensible attitude to keeping a stockpile and has written about it quite a few times https://down—to—earth.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/keeping-stockpile.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+Down—to—earth+(down—to—earth)

    An excellent book if you can get it from your library is Independence Days by Sharon Astyk. It’s largely about not being totally reliant on the industrial food system but you don’t have to grow your own veg and raise your own goats for it to be relevant.

    • 17th March 2018 / 4:16 am

      Hi Hazel – Great idea about getting the children used to storecupboard meals. My husband and I eat them a lot, but my kids tend to be more picky. Thanks also for the recommendations for further reading – I love finding new blogs!

    • 24th March 2018 / 8:53 pm

      Woah. My mind is boggling at how tedious meals would be, after eating that limited range of CostCo food for an entire year. I obviously don’t have the right prepper mindset!

  6. 24th March 2018 / 6:35 pm

    It has never really occurred to me to have a food stockpile, mostly because our cupboards are overflowing anyway so I’m trying to GET RID of extra food. Lol. We will have much more space in our new house though so this is something to consider. We do get a lot of snow here where I live and I hate going out in it, even if the store is fully stocked.

    • 24th March 2018 / 8:52 pm

      Sounds like you already have fully stocked cupboards! When I’ve tried to eat up the contents of our kitchen in the past, it amazed me how slowly we worked through the storecupboard items, while still needing to buy fresh food like fruit, veg, bread, milk and so on. Good luck getting your cupboard contents to manageable levels.

  7. Graham W
    10th February 2020 / 4:25 pm

    Here we are two years on and the world is facing a pandemic with whole Chinese cities of millions of people in lock down. Families only able to send one person out to get provisions and many of the supermarkets with empty shelves. How much of this empty shelve issue is due to panic buying and stock piling is unclear but I expect that the provisions that are available in the stores are more highly priced than now than before the outbreak. So this is exactly the reason to maintain a stockpile of many of the things in your blog. This situation is only 6 weeks old so such emergencies can come upon us at anytime with very little warning. Already there are medical protection items in short supply like masks, gloves, eye protection and coveralls. A simple paper mask (of little actual effectiveness) might cost you £1 or as much as £2 each on Amazon, these are meant to be single use disposable and changed every two hours ! N95 type masks are better but these cost around £5 each. You might like to add these items to your stockpiling list along with Hand Sanitiser gel, soaps and disinfectants. So far only 8 confirmed cases of 2019 nCoV corona virus in UK but if China is anything to go by, now with 40,500 cases and 900 deaths, we can expect something similar here in the UK in the coming months. We should plan for at least 1 month of being in a lock down situation.

    • Faith
      Author
      13th February 2020 / 1:49 pm

      Good point about potential implications of the coronavirus. I’m really hoping we won’t see the same measures as in China, but worrying how quickly supermarket shelves can empty if there is large scale panic buying and problems with the supply chain. It’s made me think I should invest in a few more long lasting staples, just in case.

  8. Dee
    25th February 2020 / 1:44 pm

    I think a minimum of two weeks supply is sensible for any situation. We have a small pantry and tend to buy mostly non perishable items in bulk that we eat all the time, such as pasta/rice/tinned items and fresh food each week to make the staples into meals. As long as you buy items you know you will eat and stock rotate and replace you will always have a few weeks supply.

    The current outbreak of Coronavirus is one such eventuality and although I doubt the UK will see the same situation of quarantine as in China, it doesn’t take much for panic buying to be triggered and food shortages to become a reality. I have family in Northern Italy and they are seeing this very thing at the moment. Be sensible, slowly build up a stock that you know you will use as you go and always try to live with a few weeks of stock ahead. Also don’t forget water, sanitary items for women and cleaning products.

  9. Sarah
    29th February 2020 / 11:15 am

    Lots of interesting ideas. I’ve a small cupboard in the front room which Has a supply of canned and other non perishable staples (baked beans, chopped toms, tinned fish and meat, rice and pasta etc) which I started originally collecting ready for Brexit in 3/2019 – but I am keeping an eye on the expiry dates. Also have sparkling and still water with several bottles of squash. Was going to start putting back in kitchen cupboards but with the potential for disruption now due to corona virus I’ve added some extra dried milk and instant mash. Also plenty of paracetamol, ibuprofen and cough mixture – and not forgetting extra loo paper. (In bathroom not front room!). We always have a couple of boxes of candles and matches in case of disruption to electricity supply, plus extra battery for torch. Let’s hope none is needed.

    • Michael Donoghue
      29th February 2020 / 7:00 pm

      In view of possible virus spread, suggest getting in cartons/packs of paper hanks, kitchen towels (paper), cough linctus and throat sweets. Rather than ready made pasta, what about a pasta machine to use the flour and fat already stocked? Bit middleclass but productive and help pass the time if confined indoors.

      On a lighter note, everyone has forgotten bottles of wine and beer. Easy to store, lasts for years (if not used). Might not be nutritionally necessary but mentally good! Luckily we already have a good supply of these.

  10. Ursula Osborne
    4th March 2020 / 11:08 pm

    Tinned tomatoes; cous cous; home made jam; bottled apples and frozen apples and raspberries; frozen quorn; granose dried sausage and burger mix; nuts and chestnut puree; sugar; tins of sweetcorn; packet soup and most of the things you have listed above. I am lucky enough to have a walk in larder.

  11. Jo
    20th March 2020 / 12:45 am

    Thanks for this. Coronavirus is a great motivator.

    I have a few dietary requirements (very low fibre, no gluten) and very little dairy. Mainly keto low carb. So my list reflects that.

    I’ve gone for:

    A freezer full of cheap meat; belly pork, pork shoulder, breast of lamb, GF sausages, mince, fish, chicken liver, salmon, kippers, special offer steak and so on with frozen garlic and chillis

    A cupboard full of UHT milk, corned beef, tinned tuna, salmon, mackerel, nut bars, peanut and almond butters, tahini, tinned fruit, tinned veg, olive oil

    Lots of interesting spices, herbs and seasoning, big bags of dried onions, peppers, carrot, leek, tomatoes, mushrooms, stock cubes

    My husbands main concerns are a steady supply of coffee, baked beans, Idahoan potato sachets, cherry coke, and tinned fruit.

    Since I can’t do the pasta, rice, bread options those aren’t listed, though we have a few.

    I’m mainly using Kilmer jars for the dried stuff.

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