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My Top 10 Foods to Stock Up on Now to Prepare for Food Shortage

I mentioned in the last two posts on grocery budget during inflation that I have been appalled at how much my bulk foods have increased in cost. They’re seriously up to 50% and even 100% more! It feels like a terrible time to buy food because of that, especially in bulk. (Check out the previous posts in the series on 8 strategies to save on groceries and 3 habit shifts to reduce your grocery budget during inflation.

However, because there is a projected food shortage and I always want to be prepared, I still felt that it was time to make sure I had more than just one or two months of food on hand.

I was speaking with some other healthy food online influencers, and one of them said something that is so wise. She said that the foods to stock up on are:

  • the most nutrient-dense
  • the highest in energy
  • the longest energy

What does this mean? This means we want complex carbohydrates, nutrient-dense meats, and things that are really high in caloric long energy, like whole fats, nuts, etc.

In other words, what you don’t want to buy are processed foods. You don’t want to buy white flour, even though it would last a long time. It’s just not the kind of food you want your family eating if they end up having to eat less.

Top 10 Food to Stock Up On: Preparing for Food Shortage

So in this list of my top 10 items or categories that I’m personally stocking up on (which I hope you will totally swipe), you’ll notice that I put the highest priority on foods with the most calories, especially from fat and protein, but also complex carbohydrates like whole grains and legumes.

Let’s take a peek into my last food order and what I have in abundance in my basement pantry.

1. Legumes: Beans and Lentils

dry beans

This is a huge category because right now I probably have seven or eight different kinds of dry beans and lentils.

We know that legumes are a superfood in that they contain protein, fiber, and nutrients. The fact that they’re shelf-stable and a lot of other protein sources are not means that this is the category that makes me sigh with relief the most, knowing that I have a few hundred pounds in my basement.

At this point, it probably should be said that you should never buy anything that you can’t actually use. That’s a waste of money and resources.

I know that legumes last a really long time, and we will use them as much as possible, especially in the winter months for bean soups, chilis, and refried beans. Every Wednesday we have taco night and use half ground beef and half sprouted lentils. So that won’t be a problem either.

RELATED: Get tips for storing your extra food in this post!

2. Rice (and Other Whole Grains?)

wooden spoon on a bed of brown rice

Rice and beans are the quintessential preparedness and budget meal. So it makes sense that rice is next.

Although brown rice and black rice won’t last as long as white rice, they still have a very decent shelf life [6 months at room temperature and a year or more in the freezer] and their nutrient density is so much higher than white rice that it’s worth buying a few bags at Costco, at least.

I also tend to have some white rice on hand because of its longevity and the fact that at least if I’m pairing it with beans, we can handle some simple carbohydrates. PLUS many experts are saying now that white might be better than brown because of lower arsenic and lower anti-nutrients like phytic acid. (Dave Asprey is one.)

I’ve been aware of phytic acid for over a decade and used to soak my rice to reduce it but have gotten out of that habit! 🙁

Oatmeal is a definite addition to the whole grains category for our family. My kids eat soaked oatmeal at least twice a week, so I’ve always purchased it in 50-pound bags. For the sake of preparedness, I’m going to make sure I have plenty on hand.

When it comes to other grains, I stock up on those a bit less. Quinoa is a great one if your family will eat it regularly because it’s very high in protein and lower in carbohydrates. But it’s a bit more sensitive and won’t last as long.

RELATED: Here’s my quinoa chili recipe which contains several items on this list!

quinoa chili

If you have a grain mill like I do (see my full review here) stocking up on whole grains that you can bake bread with is fantastic. If you don’t, I still don’t recommend white flour, and whole wheat flour should be frozen, so you may only be able to buy a few bags. That’s not a bad idea, you just need to be smart about your freezer space.

I’ve also noticed already that it’s really hard to find bulk whole wheat right now! I’m glad that I have some in the basement already because we don’t use it very often.

RELATED: Did you know you can do plenty of baking without FLOUR at all? You may need some of these ideas if shortages of bread and wheat occur!

3. Basic Meats That Matter

butcher box meat

We got our ButcherBox order just a few weeks ago, and, without exaggeration, I had to put away 180 pounds of meat and fish at once. I literally felt like I deserved a trophy when I had reorganized all our freezers to make it fit.

I feel very confident and comfortable with the amount of meat we have on hand. If I play my cards right, it could last six or even 12 months (see: rice and beans above).

When purchasing meat here are some things to consider:

  1. How much freezer space do you have? Be smart.
  2. Buy meat with bones so that you can make broth if food does get scarce. Broth is a protein sparer which means it enhances the value of whatever meat you have in that soup.
  3. Buy meat that is the most budget-friendly, as we talked about in this post over here. Consider cuts that allow you to save the fat, such as bacon, or even buying some suet to make tallow or pork fat to make lard. Tallow and lard are both very energy-rich and last a long time. Consider what canned meats your family might eat. I have been grabbing some canned chicken from Costco each time I go. It bums me out that it’s not organic, but for preparedness’ sake, I’m okay with that.

And finally, if it is in your budget, it’s never a bad idea to stock up on PaleoValley meat sticks, which are completely shelf-stable and easy to travel with, as well as being nutrient-dense and grass-fed. (Get 15% off automatically with that link!)

4. Salt

10 pound Sea Salt Bucket

Although I have 15 pounds of salt in my basement, I just ordered another 25-pound bag. I’m not trying to be a conspiracy theorist or incite fear, but as a realist, I thought, what would happen if the supply chain truly breaks down and I can only eat locally? I don’t live near an ocean, so I’m pretty sure salt would become an incredibly hot commodity.

Although the price has increased by 50%, I ordered a 25-pound bag from Redmond Real Salt. You can do the same right here (use the code kitchenstewardship for 15% off).

Bonus: salt will never ever go bad, so even if you only use a pound a year, you’ll never have to throw it away.

Extra bonus: salt is a preservative. So if times get tough or if the electricity goes out, you’ll be able to preserve meat in some ways with that salt.

5. Healthy Fats and Oils

Bottle pouring olive oil into a bowl with olives

When we think about nutrient density, including enough fat in our diet is going to be paramount to keeping that long energy and satiating our family’s bellies so that they’re not hungry again right away.

I have a few gallons of olive oil (use the coupon code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that link), which we will go through to make homemade salad dressings, a five-gallon bucket of virgin coconut oil, and a few one-gallon buckets of refined coconut oil.

In the past, I’ve easily gone through that five-gallon bucket of coconut oil in two years, which is its shelf life. However, now that I’m not baking as often, I don’t go through a cup of coconut oil here and there. So I’m going to have to work hard to make sure I use it all or share it with neighbors before it goes bad.

6. Don’t Forget the Flavor

bowl of minced dried onion

If we really do get stuck in a food shortage, I don’t want to be eating flavorless beans and rice and meat and whatever vegetables I can find.

For me, I love having a huge jug of dried minced onion on hand as well as minced and powdered garlic, and it’s worth a quick check to make sure I have backups for all of my favorite spices.

If you’re not sure how to use dried onion, it’s not always a perfect one-to-one substitute with fresh onion. If you need to sauté the onion, dried is not a good option. It will burn quickly. But anything that has some liquid and cooks at least 15 to 30 minutes is a great candidate for using dried onion.

In fact, I rely on it all the time when I’m totally behind on dinner and want to save the three to five minutes I might spend dicing onion. I use dried onion in soups, stews, any Instant pot or slow cooker meat recipes, and even many beans, rice, and lentil recipes as long as I can add the onion into the cooking water with the rice, for example.

Plus onion and garlic will add another plant point and some new nutrients into your diet along with the flavor.

7. Shelf-Stable Protein Beyond the Meat

salmon patties

Canned fish has always been a really budget-friendly way to get omega 3s. For the last decade or so, I’ve thought of my stock of canned wild Alaskan salmon and tuna as well-sourced as I can get it as a major mainstay in my preparedness regimen.

I love tuna salad mixed up with mayo and mustard, and I do the same with canned salmon. I also try to make these salmon patties on a fairly regular basis.

It’s sad, however, that two members of my family really don’t like canned fish. But if we were in a food crisis, they may have to suck it up and try some. It’s just such a power-packed source of protein, healthy fats, and an extremely long shelf life. You can even stretch canned fish just like meat in things like casseroles and soups.

8. The Trifecta of Nuts

crispy nuts

Whenever I teach people how to create a satiating snack, I tell them they need to consume fat, protein, and fiber.

Generally, this requires at least two different foods on the snack plate. However, whenever I get to nuts, I’m always thrilled to announce: nuts are the perfect trifecta. They include fat, protein, and fiber.

I always prepare my nuts by soaking and dehydrating to release as many nutrients as possible. Learn how to make “crispy nuts” right here. It takes a little bit of time, but it’s super easy.

And honestly? This is one of those nutrient-releasing techniques that makes the nuts tastes so very much better. In fact, I can barely even eat an unsoaked walnut these days, because they’re so bitter. Soaked walnuts (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!) are almost buttery and a delightful experience.

The only catch with soaking and dehydrating nuts is that they do lose some shelf life and should be kept as cold as possible. The omega 3s in walnuts are the most sensitive, so I always keep those in the freezer. If I’m running out of freezer space, my almonds (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off) and pecans might get popped out to a basement shelf.

I order bulk almonds that aren’t treated with chemicals straight from a small farm in California. It is important to do your research on where your nuts are from and how they’re processed. Almost all almonds sold in a store are fairly highly sprayed after harvesting.

9. The Versatile Flax and Chia Seeds

flax seed in a bowl

Close relatives to nuts, seeds are also nutrient-dense and power-packed, including healthy fats, some protein, and fiber.

Although we always have sunflower seeds on hand, flax and chia seeds are the real winners in this contest. Even if you’ve never bought flax or chia seeds before, I would recommend adding them to your repertoire. And quickly!

They’re super budget-friendly because in many recipes, you can use them as a replacement for eggs. This means A) you’ll never run out of eggs and have to make a run to the store just to bake; B) each “flax egg” or “chia egg” is less expensive than a well-sourced, pastured, organic, real egg; and C) flax and chia seed eggs allow you to bake for people with allergies.

And of course, flax and chia seeds have tons of nutrient benefits in their own right. We try to include them in smoothies whenever possible. A high-powered blender will pulverize them so that only your most sensitive eaters will notice.

Although if you have a normal blender, I would recommend looking for a coffee grinder at a garage sale and dedicating one just to grinding flax and chia.

That brings me to my biggest note: please try to buy flax and chia seeds in their whole form. As soon as they are ground, they begin to oxidize and are quite sensitive so the risk of rancidity is high, even if you put yours in the freezer the moment you get home from the store.

I bought a coffee grinder for one dollar 15 years ago, and it’s still going strong. I can’t promise the same results for you, but it won’t be a big investment – even if you have to buy one at Kohl’s with all their coupons. 😉

You can check out this post at Kids Cook Real Food for other ways to incorporate flax and chia into your diet regularly. Remember, we try not to buy things just for preparedness’ sake that we wouldn’t use on a regular basis.

 

Your kids can learn to cook, even if you don’t know where to start

My 4 kids and I created the online Kids Cook Real Food lessons to help bring real food and independence to families all over. Over 10,000 kids have joined us and we’d love to invite you along for the adventure!

Kids watching a cooking lesson at a kitchen island

I’m so pleased to offer a little gift from our family to yours, a knife skills lesson as a free preview of the full cooking eCourse!

10. Vegetables??

frozen peas

Last but not least, how are we going to get vegetables into our diet if the grocery store doesn’t have any for us?

First, I highly recommend getting to know local farmers and familiarizing yourself with the farmers’ market.

Second, and this is coming from a brown thumb, learning to garden is always a great idea. I don’t follow my own advice well, but that’s partly because we keep traveling in the summer, just when I would need to be babysitting and harvesting my precious garden. That’s too much work to go to waste for me to risk it.

RELATED: Plant your pantry to start gardening with low investment!

Beyond having dried onion and maybe a few other dried vegetables around, I highly recommend making sure you stay stocked with at least 10 to 20 pounds of frozen vegetables, perhaps more.

Frozen veggies are very high in vitamins and nutrients because they are generally flash frozen within hours of being picked. That means that they avoid what happens to fresh produce that you buy even at the grocery store.

That broccoli or spinach may look perfectly fresh, but it’s probably five days from the field, and every day nutrients are literally disappearing minute by minute. So frozen veggies are a great piece of both your day-to-day and preparedness regimen.

I also have to give a quick nod to dry greens powder. When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, one of my goals was to maximize the food and nutrients we had in our house.

I immediately patted myself on the back for already having some homemade greens powder and set out to make a bunch more. You got to check out this post to see just how many greens will fit in a tiny jar. It’s amazing.

dehydrating greens

That also means that even an eighth- or a fourth-teaspoon in eggs will give my kids a punch of nutrients without too much flavor. I have to keep reminding myself this when I try to add a half-teaspoon and everyone turned up their noses at the eggs.

Here’s what I discovered though. Mixing a half or full teaspoon of greens powder into beans and rice went completely unnoticed. Ha. Score for Mom!

I will say from experience that remembering to use this greens powder is definitely a challenge. So do your best to make some plans and create some habits right away so that you don’t forget that precious jar is in your cupboard.

If you’re not much of a dehydrating type of cook, you can always buy dehydrated greens from somewhere like Perfect Supplements. Be sure to use my coupon KS10 for 10% off and watch for the quantity discounts, which can be stacked with my coupon.

Bonus: A High-Energy Food We Should Discuss

honey

When we think about high-energy foods, let’s imagine when our kids suddenly get the greatest boost of energy. It’s when they consume sugar, right?

I feel squeamish about recommending that we all stock up on sugar. But I’m considering recommending that we stock up at least a bit on honey and maple syrup or other natural sugars.

If we’re in an energy crisis, which is what a food shortage really should be called, we need to make sure we’re getting the most energy out of every bite.

Sometimes that may include homemade baked goods with honey or maple syrup, especially for our growing children. Now I’m not a nutritionist. I’m not sure this is a completely correct philosophy.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments what you think about including honey and maple syrup or other sweeteners on your preparedness stock-up list.

Bottom Line: Preparing for a Food Shortage

Whether you love the idea of being prepared for any natural or manmade disaster or you love the idea of shopping from your own pantry when the grocery store shelves look like this, it’s worth putting some time into intentionally purchasing food that will last.

food shortages causing empty store shelves

Whether you follow my list or not, here is a loose philosophy that you can keep in mind:

  • purchase food that lasts a long time
  • only stock up on that which you will use regularly as well, so you don’t waste your money
  • seek out high nutrient-dense foods
  • seek out foods with a variety of vitamins and minerals to keep your family balanced
  • choose things that have long energy such as healthy fats so that your family isn’t tempted to graze as much and eat down your stores

If you’re anything like me, you’ll also be looking for the best deal to protect your budget as you stock up.

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Here’s my hope that the naysayers are wrong about serious food shortages. I would love to see just enough to startle people into shopping more intentionally and stocking up more wisely.

It will break my heart if children and families are actually starving. So let’s move forward optimistically, expecting our first-world country to remain a place where everyone can be fed.

But let’s also take measures to make sure our family is extremely well-fed and able to be generous with others.

Do you have any more tips or anything to add to my list?

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

12 thoughts on “My Top 10 Foods to Stock Up on Now to Prepare for Food Shortage”

  1. Fantastic article…thank you.
    If we were to stock up on food and many people do not, then they may try desperately to steal what we have. In a worse case scenario if people are starving they may kill people to get food off of them. The food will have to be hid and we will not be able to share if there is a food shortage.
    I do not want to think of the serious consequences… not only to those who do stock up on food but for those who do not.
    Oh boy this could end up a complete nightmare 🙁

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      It can be scary to think about and very stressful to try to plan for every worst-case scenario. I try to focus on what I can do to increase in preparedness over time instead of becoming obsessive or thinking about everything I have no control over. :/

  2. Another thing i would add is Seeds for sptouts. You can buy large bags if kale, broccoli and alfalfa seeds to sprout. They last a decent length of time, you may just have fewer sprouting as time goes by. I’ve also sprouted sunflower seeds. All fantastic to add to stir fries and sandwiches, etc. I’ve also sprouted wheat, but didn’t enjoy eating that.

  3. My husband & I are both researching what things to stock up on… just in case. I don’t want to do it haphazardly and waste $$ on food items that won’t get eaten or that aren’t nutrition dense. I have learned a lot from this post. Since there are just the 2 of us, we won’t need as much. However, I have some questions:
    1. Nothing was mentioned about fruit. Is it because in most cases, fruit is turned to sugar by our bodies? Are there ANY canned fruits that would be good to have as a once in a while thing?
    2. I use tons of canned tomatoes in cooking. I know to look for tomatoes in BPA-free cans, but is there anything else? Why were they not mentioned? What of other canned veggies? (We don’t eat any others, but if times are such that that is all we have…
    3. I know the dried beans/lentils are best, but are canned beans/lentils acceptable? If so, what should I look for when purchasing?
    4. I know each family’s needs are different, but is there some kind of a chart available to give me an idea of how much is enough or how much is too much?
    I LOVE the foundation of your blog of being a good steward of all that God has given us. We are trying to do that with each aspect of our lives and am thankful I found your blog. It will be one I will want to refer to again and again. God Bless!

  4. Great post! I will be more intentional with my grocery shopping in order to have a reserve of nutritionally dense foods as the forthcoming food shortage gets closer.
    I would also like to add a few other foods:
    Canned sardines (packed in water) – high in Omega-3’s, plus collagen from the skin and the bones packed with the sardines.

    Kefir grains- make your own fermented water, coconut water, to ensure you are getting critical gut protecting probiotics. Also, starter cultures to make your own fermented vegetables.

    Organ meats – animals in the wild will devour the organs before muscle meats for a reason. Chicken liver, for instance, is very inexpensive, can be frozen , will lasts a long time. For those that are squeamish there are delicious ways to cook it, or you can cut it with other meats.

    As the article mentioned sprouting seeds and microgreen growing kits to produce the most nutritionally dense vegetable that exists.

    Let’s hope we won’t need these in a food shortage but rather enjoy as part of our everyday diet!

    1. I would also like to add protein powder, as protein will be be a critical nutrient to ensure maintenance of muscle mass plus supporting the body’s production of enzymes and neurotransmitters . Lots of good options beyond the standard whey and casein protein; whole food protein powder from MRE, or the number of plant based protein powders on the market.

  5. A concern of mine with stocking up on all that meat in the freezer: what if the power goes out for hours or days? Maybe this comes to mind because I don’t currently live in a first-world country – is it a concern of yours? Like, do you have a generator in case of a prolonged power outage?

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Many people I know who stock up and fill extra freezers have generators that can at least power their freezers. If your freezer is full and you don’t open the door then you’d actually be fine for 48 hours which would cover most power outages. It definitely is something to consider though cause that would be a big loss!

  6. This is SUPER helpful!! I’m curious as to how you store the dried beans so they don’t spoil, and what their shelf life would be. I’m always fearful of bugs or mice getting into things somehow and ruining it. Just want to be wise about storage for non-freezer items.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      In this post under the section about storing whole grains there are some links to different buckets to store grains or beans in. https://www.kitchenstewardship.com/emergency-food-storage/ Dry beans will last for a few years, but ideally, you don’t want to store more than 3 years because they start losing nutrition over time. Katie’s recommendation is to have a bucket you’re eating out of and one in reserve. Then when you finish the first bucket, get a new one and start eating from your previous reserve bucket. So you aren’t just storing emergency beans indefinitely and always eating from your newest bucket.

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