Build Your Emergency Food Supply in Six Months

Canned tuna and salmon should be a part of your emergency food stock

Survivalists and grandparents tend to measure wealth differently than the Gameboy generation. If you’re the kind of person who’s concerned about emergency preparation, a large emergency food supply is true wealth. Just imagine a hurricane, flood, or earthquake that disrupts the infrastructure for several weeks. While the sheeple panic because the grocery store shelves are bare, you’re sitting pretty on a year’s supply of food. How does it feel? Why, it feels like opulence and abundance — wealth.

It’s Never Too Late To Build Up Food Stocks

We’re addressing a situation in which you’re basically hunkered down at your home, or else you’ve reached your bugout location. A foundational element of any emergency preparedness plan is the food stock. OK, your neighbor has a four-year stock, but it’s never too late for you to start. In fact, you probably have a three-day supply in your pantry, but we’ll get to that.

Food Stock Selection Principles

Before you build up your food stock, a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your selections are shelf stable. Canned and dry goods are best. In case of power outage, the freezer will keep your food for only two or three days. Don’t turn your nose up at processed foods; they tend to store longer, and while processed food is not as good for you as whole foods, it’s better than starving.
  • Stock food you will want to eat.
  • Stock dry and canned goods in a cool, dry, dark environment. Darkness is especially important if any of your canning is done in glass jars, because the light breaks down vitamins and protein in the food.
  • Variety is important. It prevents monotony and balances your diet.
  • Don’t shun convenience. Particularly for the short-term stocks (three days to two weeks), it’ll lift a great burden off your shoulders if you can just open a can and heat your meal, or eat something that’s good cold.
  • Small containers have a higher unit cost, but prevent waste (which is in itself costly).
  • Don’t make it too complicated. You certainly can go deep and calculate precise calorie and nutritional requirements, but if uncertainty is stopping you from getting something in the cupboard, then just simplify. Use an ancient, tried-and-true method — trial and error. We’ll come back to this.

Build Your Emergency Food Stock in Six Months

Building up a year-long food supply is a big endeavor, but you can do it by tackling this in three steps:

  • Week 1, build up a three-day supply
  • Week 2, build up a one-month supply
  • During the next five months, build up your one-year supply

Week 1 (right now!) — Get your three day supply. Most power outages are short, and a three day supply of dry and canned goods will get you through most thunderstorm-induced blackouts. First, check your pantry. You might well have a supply that will get your through three days without power or transportation. If not, a single trip to the grocery store can get you up and running. Here’s a suggested 3-day list (per person):

  • Can opener!
  • Trail mix – 8-ounce serving
  • Crackers – 1 box (8-ounces or larger)
  • Peanut butter – 1 (12-ounce) jar
  • Canned juice – 1 6-pack of 6-ounce containers
  • Peaches – 1 (8-ounce) can
  • Fruit cocktail – 2 (8-ounce) cans
  • Beans – 1 (8-ounce) can
  • Corn – 1 (8-ounce) can
  • Tuna – 1 (3 1/4-ounce) can
  • Beef stew or Chili – 2 small cans
  • Tomato or other soup – 1 can
  • Raisins or dried prunes – 2 12-ounce package
  • Mixed nuts – 1 package or jar
  • Tea and coffee – 1 box with 16 bags or 1 (2-ounce) jar instant coffee
  • Water – 1 gallon

Of course, if you have more than one person to stock for, combine quantities in larger containers to save on the unit cost. That is, buy a big jar of peanut butter instead of several small ones. Caveat: small quantities can still be useful, like small drink servings. You don’t waste as much. Also, there is a convenience factor here — you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get an emergency stock. Save the heavy calculations for your long-term survival stock.

A variety of canned fish is a great food stock.

Dry goods such as whole wheat, steel cut oats, beans, and rice. I freeze them for two weeks to kill parasites before sealing in plastic buckets.


Week 2 — Build up your one-month supply. There are too many differences from one household to the next to make a precise grocery list. But don’t worry, figuring what you need is fairly straightforward. Just see how much food you need to prepare a meal for your entire family, and multiply that by three to cover three meals a day. (If your family eats out at all during the month, this is more accurate than multiplying your weekly grocery-shopping by four). Then add 20% to cover errors.

Remember, it’s possible to get extremely precise about how many calories and what kind of foods you need, and by all means do so if you like. But if you don’t go to all this trouble, you still need something to eat, right? Here are some suggestions — add your own, of course:

  • Pasta. Spaghetti, macaroni, whatever. Great source of carbs, and everybody loves it. It’s not huge on vitamins, but that’s what canned fruit is for.
  • Canned fish. Salmon, jack mackerel, sardines, tuna, kippered herring. All these make great survival foods. Rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and flavor.
  • Dried beans and rice. Yes, there are lots of Y2K jokes about this, and I bet some of you still have some, eleven years later. But if you store them properly they will keep literally for decades. One interesting thing about beans and rice — together they make a “complete protein.” Rice has some of the amino acids that make up protein, and beans have the rest of them. Together, it’s great food.
  • Basic canned produce. Get a variety of beans (black, pinto, navy, kidney, and lima), vegetables (tomato, corn, and your favorite greens), and fruit (peaches, pears, apple sauce, or just a cocktail). These few items will cover nearly the entire gamut of vitamins, minerals, and fiber you’ll need long term, all while providing all the variety you’ll need to maintain morale.
  • Special canned produce. For an occasional treat, keep a few cans of blueberries, pumpkin pie filling, hearts of palm, capers, olives, or whatever your favorite canned goods might be.
  • Staples. Olive oil, flour, sugar, and salt. Buy them in bulk at Sam’s Club or Costco. Keep flour safe from mice and moths.

A long-term supply should go beyond basic survival — a balanced diet and occasional treats are good for health and morale.


Month 2 through 6 — Build up your one-year supply. Now that you have a one-month supply, buy another two-month supply for each of the next four months, and a three-month supply the last month. When all is said and done, you’ll have everything you need to keep your family fed for a year.

But wait, it’s not over. You can keep having fun with this project almost indefinitely by undertaking a food stock management plan. We’ll take a look at this in the next article.


Further reading:

Emergency Water Supply

Long Term Power Outage

21 thoughts on “Build Your Emergency Food Supply in Six Months”

  1. I found some food grade plastic buckets used on ebay fairly cheap. Can you use the "used" food grade plastic buckets for long term food storage?

    1. go to local supermarket twice weekly and ask for 5 gal icing buckets from bakery section.

      Get some mylar food storage bags….they are cheap in bulk… and dont worry about what was in older “food safe” buckets once you give a good cleaning.. use a mieral spirits and such to clean with then sterilize and bleach clean etc…. proper preperation prevents perishing preserves.. your mylar bag will line and protect. I have been using old paint buckets aquired from constructions sites for years in monthly rotation stock when I line or put items in a mylar bac prior to clsing in bucket… buckets just to keep and protect from damage….its whats inside and how its prepared there that counts

    2. Hi Zcat — it depends what was stored in them. Plastics absorb some things, like oils, solvents, and other volatile compounds. These nasty things can then be released into whatever food you store in the bucket. You mentioned in your direct message that the used ones were "a little cheaper" than Home Depot, but if you’re not sure what was stored in them, you should buy new ones. I’ve bought used ones, but I was sure of the source.

  2. The best way I have found out to do food storage on a limited budget is check walmarts clearance everytime you go in the store. Walmart almost always has a clearance section for food items. My family has built up a 3 year supply of foood storage for less than $500 and it’s all things that we eat. And I am a very picky eatier so building a food storage is much harder. Good luck all

    1. Hi Olivia… I absolutely need to do this! I have two boys with autism and my soulmate (my husband is deceased). Would it be possible for you to send me pictures? How many people are in your family? If you can’t send me pictures…what foods did you buy for under $500.00 for three years. I’d appreciate this information Olivia. I absolutely wish I could build a bomb shelter. I love my children with all my heart. They are38 and 42 and still live with me. They are a blessing from God. Thanks and God Bless, Charlotte [email protected]

      1. Richard Finnegan

        Hi Charlotte, I have one autistic boy and i’m preparing for what might happen. I’ve been useing walmart online with free delivery perusing the clearance sections for canned goods,etc. that have long shelf life. Most canned goods are about 80cents/can delivered. Not sure you can do 3 years for $500 realistically as that would only be 45 cents/day.

        1. That is a pretty broad statement, and not really valid. There is more to HOW it is stored, rather than saying ‘canned’.

  3. I have been a prepper for 5 years and fell very confident in my ability to secure my family. I have been able to stock on enough prepper supplies to feed everyone in my family for at least six months if the shtf actually happens. Canning food out of the garden hasn’t hurt our efforts to stock up.

    1. Who knows? Anything could happen. But a one year supply keeps me fed until I can harvest the next crop from the garden. It’s a buffer, giving me time to adjust to new circumstances.

      1. I would use my long term storage as a supplement to whatever I could scavenge or find in the wild. I would not use it for total food consumption unless I was really, really hungry. That way it would last a longer time.

  4. How does one deal with the issue of long term storage? What if the disaster last longer than my food will keep (talking about a depression or extended calamity like war)?

  5. Nice to see this idea broken down into something that appears doable. I saw a post via on a 1yr supply for 4 people for under $300; it was from 2013, so relatively current It was grains, dry beans, bullion, and salt-very limited IMHO. Putting a dollar value is a bit tricky as well, as WHERE you are and WHERE you shop. Big Box stores of course give the best price per lb. Yet many ‘normal size’ grocery chains have something useful for survival storage every week!
    I know I have found really big bottles of extra virgin olive oil on sale at a better price at Safeway (it was there own ‘in house’ brand) than at Walmart. Same with pastas and sauces in cans. Don’t think that only Walmart has ‘the lowest prices’-not any more! You got to really look around week to week.
    I am realizing now that I need to start little by little, as many things have very long shelf life. Also the right kind of container to store stuff in is essential/must-have for long, LONG term.

  6. Are there any recipe book recommendations for someone who wants to build their own vacuum sealed dehydrated meals that would last up to 25-years? Also any suggestions on high rating for dehydrators? Perhaps focused warnings on “dos and don’t.”

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