We’ve been getting back to prepper basics recently, including our Prepping Primer: Five Basic Steps for New Preppers. This article builds on that and gets a little more detailed in providing ten specific foods any prepper should have in their pantry. Best of all, if you are a brand new prepper, you can go out and buy these foods at your local grocery or big box store.
1. White Rice
Yes, plain old basic rice. You can get converted rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, long grain rice, or whatever you like best. It doesn’t matter. I don’t recommend instant rice or brown rice.
Rice is great for preppers because it is easy to store, has a long shelf life, is inexpensive, and is easy to cook. Once you make it, rice goes with lots of things, and almost everyone eats it.
Get as much as you can afford.
There’s a reason people say “rice and beans.” That because the two combined provide all the amino acids you need to survive. So since rice is number one on our list, beans have to be number two.
Pinto beans are often the most common bean for long-term storage because they are inexpensive and can be purchased in large quantities. Black beans are a good second choice because they are also prevalent. However, any bean will work, as will lentils, so stock up on your favorite or buy several kinds.
My research has determined that you should have approximately twice as much grain as beans. (The ideal ration is probably 7:3.) When you work this calculation, note that rice, pasta, oatmeal and flour all count when calculating the grain side of the equation.)
3. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is high on my list because it is tasty, calorie-dense, and can give you a good burst of protein and carbs. You can improve a lot of other foods by scraping some peanut butter on it. It is also widely available.
If you have nut allergies, substitute something else, of course, but for the rest of us, a jar of peanut butter is considered comfort food.
Past also ranks high on the list for many of the same reasons as rice does: It is inexpensive, easy to prepare, stores well, and most people like it. You can get whatever kind you like, including boxes of macaroni and cheese or chili mac, spaghetti, and fancy shapes of pasta, but there’s nothing wrong with old fashioned egg noodles. Even a pack of ramen is better than nothing. Feel free to mix and match.
You will not pasta sauce in not on our list. I’m not saying don’t get it, I’m just saying it’s not on our list. I probably have more than 75 pounds of pasta between my prepper pantry and my long term storage food, but only nine jars of sauce. It’s important to note that past, or noodles, can be used in plenty of meals without a red sauce.
Oatmeal is in the same category as rice for many of the same reasons, but it’s for breakfast. It is quick to prepare and can give you a good stick-to-your ribs meal. Mix it with berries, nuts or apples you have gathered locally, and almost no one will turn it down.
While you are welcome to buy the envelopes that come pre-flavored, I prefer the larger containers for my pantry.
6. White Flour
Flour is important because of all the things you can do with it, but you have to be willing and able to bake for it to make sense. If you are not, then you probably need to learn at least a few basics, things like pancakes, biscuits, rolls, dumplings, flat breads, and pasta made from scratch.
If you get to the point where you have more four on hand than you can use in six months, you should probably consider buying wheat and a hand-crank grain mill instead.
7. Baking Powder
If you are going to bake with flour, you will need a leavening agent, something to make those pancakes and other items mentioned above rise. If you bake a lot of bread, then by all means substitute yeast or bake sour dough bread.
8. Canned Chili
I picked canned chili for several reasons: It’s relatively inexpensive when measured on a cost-per-calorie basis, it can be served over rice or pasta, it usually contains meat, and after eating a bunch of blandly flavored items (see one through seven, above), you will welcome something spicy. There’s plenty of variation out there, from white chicken chili, to beanless chili, to extra spicy. Most stores carry multiple brands and flavor options. Pick whatever you like best and don’t be afraid to mix it up.
If you don’t eat meat, then buy something like vegetarian baked beans instead. If you eat meat, but don’t like chili, buy canned beef stew instead.
9. Canned Meat or Fish
Spam is the traditional prepper canned meat, followed by canned tuna and canned ham. We have more canned chicken than anything else. Other options include corned beef, corned beef hash (another favorite in Pete’s pantry), sardines, salmon, and roast beef. Any or these are good and can provide you with much needed protein and calories.
If you don’t eat meat, I would recommend substituting a good vegetarian soup or a bean dish.
10. Cooking Oil
You are probably going to need some cooking oil, even if it is just to use as a substitute for butter. Besides its traditional us oiling your frying pan, it can be an important source of fat which your body needs.
If you prefer to store coconut oil, lard, or ghee, that’s fine.
If you end up needing to eat from your prepper pantry, either due to a regional emergency like getting snowed in and unable to reach the store, or a large-scale emergency or collapse, every calorie is going to be important. Avoid low-calorie or “lite” foods when prepping. If you can buy tuna in oil or water, go with oil. Likewise, I don’t mind if my prepper peanut butter has sugar in it. The day may come when those extra calories you consumed can make a difference.
This list is only the beginning, but it is a fine beginning. There is always more you can add, but start with the basic and tailor your food preps to your family’s eating habits and your situation. If you prefer canned soup to chili, go for it. If you want to stock up on crackers and cookies instead of flour, I won’t argue. The key is to get started before it is too late.