The Pantry Primer: 12 Strategies to Build the Ultimate Pantry
By Daisy Luther
In every relationship there comes a time when you have to sit down and take a serious look at the future. Where do you want to go? Are your goals compatible? Are things working as they stand right now or do some changes need to be made?
Your pantry is no different. People create food storage stockpiles for many different reasons, and because of this, there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula for doing so. You must figure out what your goals are and develop a road map towards achieving them.
Having a food supply just makes sense. Every time there is a disaster, the masses become hysterical and chaos ensues because there is no food available because of our “just-in-time” food delivery system. Your stockpile can mean the difference between continued freedom and bowing down to your “masters” for a cold MRE and a bottle of water.
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There are three basic types of food supplies. Learn about these food storage ideologies and then take the most applicable strategies and combine them to create your own version of the Ultimate Pantry.
The Bunker Pantry
This is the most “hardcore” of the food storage types. A Bunker Pantry is the type of food supply that could keep you going for the next ten years without a single trip to the store. Sure, it might be a little bit boring and lacking in variety, but it is a supply that will see you through any disaster that allows you to remain in your shelter. This type of pantry focuses on huge quantities of long-term foods, repackaged carefully to resist spoilage due to pests or the elements.
If this is the type of pantry you’d like to build, focus on staples such as wheat, rice, dried beans, salt, and sugar. Check out this article on 11 Emergency Food Items That Can Last a Lifetime for more suggestions. These foods can be purchased in bulk and repackaged by the user, or you can purchase them already packaged up through vendors like the LDS warehouse or online food storage websites.
Variety can be added to this type of pantry through commercially canned fruits, vegetables, and meats. When looking for sales on these items, be sure to check the expiration dates. If you are storing for the long-term you want to be certain to grab cans with the longest shelflife.
Another great way to add fruits, veggies, meats, and dairy to your Bunker Pantry is through the addition of freeze-dried foods. If properly packaged, these foods can last up to 25 years. As long as you have water to rehydrate these foods, your diet can remain fairly normal throughout a long-term scenario. Imagine rehydrating the ingredients to make a fluffy cheese omelet with ham and peppers!
It takes a lot of space to store this much food, so generally a dedicated area must be used as a storeroom. Items should be clearly marked with expiration dates, and when that date draws near, the items should be rotated in to the family’s kitchen.
The Agrarian Pantry
This type of pantry is the kind our ancestors had. Most of the purchases are made during the growing season and only small shopping trips are needed to supplement this throughout the year. It combines enough basic staples for the year ahead with enough of your preserved harvest to get you through the next growing season. (This is the type of pantry that we keep in our family, with a few of the other strategies added to increase the usefulness of our stockpile.)
To build an Agrarian Pantry, stock up on a year’s supply of basics like grains, baking items, tea, coffee, and dried beans. Then focus your efforts on acquiring items in season and preserving them when they are at their peak. Try your hand at canning, dehydrating, and root cellaring. Items can be grown on your own property or purchased by the bushel from local farms and orchards.
Look into purchasing a side of beef and a side of pork to add to your pantry. One purchase per year is sufficient for most families, and your price per pound drops dramatically when you buy meat in this type of quantity. Don’t put all your faith in the deep freezer, however, because a grid-down scenario could leave you with a smelly mess and a large lost investment. Try canning, smoking, salting and dehydrating for the bulk of your meat purchases.
This type of pantry must be replenished every year. Basically, the items in your pantry are purchased and put back with the intention of consuming them within the next 12 months.
The Bargain-Hunter’s Pantry
This is the type of pantry made famous by the extreme couponing shows. Using a variety of strategies, people can amass an enormous quantity of food for very little money. Couponing, sale shopping, bartering, and buying from outlet stores and warehouses can help to create a pantry full of packaged items.
While this is a great way to get started or to supplement your other strategies, this is my least favorite way to create a stockpile. This is simply for two reasons: much of what you are acquiring is highly processed, and without a lot of personal discipline, you aren’t building a balanced pantry, but just stockpiling whatever is the cheapest. If you use this method, you must be extremely careful not to end up with a pantry full of carbs, but no protein or fruits and veggies. (25 cent ketchup is NOT a vegetable)
When building a Bargain Hunter’s Pantry, consider the following suggestions to create more balance:
- Look for the items with the least number of ingredients – don’t stock your shelves with chemistry projects, no matter how cheap they are.
- Strive for balance by creating an inventory list to keep in your purse so that you know which types off foods are needed to keep your family healthy. (Are you short of protein sources? Veggies? Healthy fats?)
- Don’t add it to your stockpile merely because it’s cheap, particularly if your storage space is limited.
- Be sure to rotate the items into you kitchen by expiry date. Often the items that have the deepest discounts are the closest to expiration. You aren’t saving money if you end up throwing out spoiled food.
Combine the Best of Each Strategy to Build the Ultimate Pantry
The Ultimate Pantry combines the three strategies listed above to create the optimal supply for the needs of your particular family.
The key is organization. Keep the following tips in mind to create the best possible pantry.
- Keep an up-to-date inventory so that you know what you have.
- Catalog your coupons by type and expiration date.
- Track the sales cycles.
- Keep your products rotated into your kitchen so that you don’t lose foods to missed expiration dates.
- Store longer term foods in optimum conditions to prolong their viability.
- Maintain a list of what is needed to balance your pantry nutritionally so that you can focus on those items when an unexpected bargain pops up.
- Buy pantry staples (like beans in grains) in the largest quantities you can manage in order to maximize your savings.
- Remember the adage “Store what you eat and eat what you store” – it isn’t a bargain if you purchase something no one in your family will eat.
- Supplement your pantry by growing as much as possible in your particular circumstances, even if you are just adding a windowsill herb and salad garden.
- Tap into your inner hunter-gatherer with strategies like foraging, fishing, snaring, and hunting.
- Purchase seasonally and in large quantities from local growers (or harvest from your own gardens).
- Become a food preservation expert and stock up on the necessary tools and supplies.
What strategies do you use to build your own pantries? Please share your best tips in the comments below!
In case you missed them, here are the other articles in this series:
Daisy Luther is a freelance writer and editor. Her website, The Organic Prepper, where this article first appeared, offers information on healthy prepping, including premium nutritional choices, general wellness and non-tech solutions. You can follow Daisy on Facebook and Twitter, and you can email her at [email protected]