You don't need to be a “prepper” in order to have a well-stocked pantry filled with food that will feed you and your family long-term. There are some basics that I recommend always having on hand, and I'm sharing the items to stock up on that will store well on the shelf for 10+ years.
After talking to you about what I planned to do to increase my food production self-sufficiency I thought it would only be fair to talk to you about the stuff that I can't produce myself but make sure I have on hand at all times.
What I'm sharing are items that we eat regularly and that we like to have a surplus of for long-term food storage.
I realize the way that we live as modern homesteaders and those that live very rurally are different from that of a lot of other people. I grew up in a home where my dad lived through the aftermath of The Great Depression, so these were skills passed down to me from that generation.
The Pioneering Today Podcast attached to this post (episode #253 13 Pantry Items to Always Have on Hand) is an older episode that I've since added to. And you can see a previous video on the 15 pantry items to stock up on from a couple of years ago further down in this blog post.
Between the two videos and the blog post, I'm certain you'll find some helpful information on building up your own food storage supply.
Must-Have Pantry Items
Flour, Wheat Berries & Grains
One of the most versatile pantry items is flour. Flour can be used as the base for so many homemade foods. By adding just a few ingredients into a bowl you can have incredible easy no-knead artisan bread.
The type of flour you'll want to stock may vary from what I stock. For some, it might be a gluten-free blend. Others, it's going to be just regular all-purpose. You can check out this post on how and where to buy grains in bulk as I discuss the various grains and their purposes in further detail.
The form of the flour might be actual grains or wheat berries for grinding your own. I like to have a combination of both.
- Flour: I typically keep at least 50 pounds of flour on hand in my back pantry, which doesn't include the canister that I keep in my kitchen.
- Wheat Berries: I am trying to keep my supply between 50-100 lbs. That varies because I use different wheat berries. You can read more about which grains are best for baking and cooking, and how to grind flour here.
- Spelt: I keep a minimum of 25 pounds of spelt grains on hand. Spelt is what I use more as my fresh ground pastry flour.
- Einkorn: I also have about 15 pounds of einkorn, an ancient grain, on hand. I kind of use it as a pastry flour but it's its own thing. The way you alter recipes and the way you cook with einkorn is different even from using spelt. I have a dedicated Baking Guide specifically for Einkorn in case you'd like to learn more.
- Hard White Wheat: I'm now keeping 75 pounds of hard white wheat.
I don't buy all of these from the same source. I've shared my favorite places where to buy grains in bulk. When you're first starting out it can be hard to know the best places to find these types of things.
For a while, many people were finding that yeast was difficult to find in the stores. This is why many people turned to making sourdough during the pandemic.
I already had yeast because I buy it in a large bulk bag from Costco. I store it in the refrigerator (or freezer) so it extends the shelf life.
Yeast will eventually expire and then it just doesn't do its job. So knowing how to make your own yeast by culturing a sourdough starter (with just flour and water) is really the best-case scenario.
If you would like to learn how to make sourdough, check out my free series, Homemade Sourdough. I'll walk you through every step of creating a sourdough starter, including gluten-free, ancient grains, fresh ground flour, or just regular flour from the store.
You'll want to have some things that are shelf-stable and don't require refrigeration, but I just can't give up my butter. So I stock up on it and store it in the freezer.
Now that we have our own dairy cow, butter has become less of a store-bought need, but I realize not everyone has their own milk cow!
Butter stores wonderfully in the freezer for a pretty long period of time. I'm sure I've had some butter in there at least six months, if not longer. That's one item that I do use my freezer because you cannot can butter at home. It's not safe to do so. Don't do it.
Oils like coconut, avocado, and olive are all oils I like to keep on hand.
Aside from tallow and lard from when we butcher once a year, fat sources aren't something that is easy to get or grow at home. So I highly recommend having back-ups of everything.
I purchase Redmond Sea Salt (use code “Pioneering” for 15% off at checkout) in a ten-pound bucket. Salt isn't something that I can produce on my homestead and there isn't a source to get it locally.
I use salt daily for seasoning. I also use salt for preserving such as in my ferments, canned or refrigerator pickles, pickled asparagus, as well as preserving fresh basil (and Redmond's is perfectly fine for both canning, fermenting, and as our table salt!).
Dried Beans, Peas, Rice
Having dried beans, peas, and rice on hand is a great way to fill in a meal. These may not be the best for long-term storage, as anyone who has tried to cook beans after about the three-year mark knows that it's hard to get them soft, no matter how you cook them.
Canned beans are a different story as they'll last on the shelf much longer. So if you're buying dry beans in bulk, be sure to pressure can them up before they get too old. Learn how to pressure can here in my free video series.
For long-term food storage, it's best to buy white rice. It will store many more years over brown rice. When stored correctly, rice can sit for up to 20 years on the pantry shelf.
But from the outset, I didn't have very much. I've since stocked up on my dried beans as well as lentils and split peas. All of them can be turned into soups, for the main dish, a side dish, or use to stretch out some different cuts of meat and vegetables. Because of this versatility, I felt it was important to get restocked on them.
This is another great way to stretch a meal. A bowl of pasta tossed with some butter alongside a protein can make a complete meal.
Dried pasta will last for a couple of years on the pantry shelf, so keep rotating and continually re-stocking and you'll be good to go.
Pasta is fantastic tossed with sauce, chilled and used in a cold salad, added to soups or casseroles. They're just very versatile.
It's really handy to have some pre-packaged convenience meals on hand that are easy to “heat and eat”. But just be sure it's something your family actually enjoys!
Ideally, if you can find freeze-dried pre-packaged meals these will last the longest on your shelf. But if you're buying items your family enjoys, just be sure you're practicing proper rotation of the food where you're eating the oldest food first.
For my most used condiments, I like to be sure I have at least two or three of each item on hand. This includes things like soy sauce (I like organic from Azure Standard), curry paste, mustard, etc.
Though we raise all our own meat for a year, it's still a good idea to have some ready-to-eat protein on the pantry shelf. This is especially important if you're not currently raising your own meat.
Consider canned chicken, canned tuna, and even canned salmon to stock your pantry.
We love chocolate so I need to make sure that we have it in a couple forms.
- Cocoa Powder: I usually buy it in a 10-pound bag from Azure.
- Chocolate Chips: I only buy organic chocolate chips because of the soy that's found in a lot of other chocolate chips. If we're going to consume soy, I want to make sure it's organic and non-GMO certified. I used to get my chocolate chips from Fred Meyers, until I found Azure Standard.
I know, we don't love that we eat sugar. But it is something that I use in my regular baking when I'm not doing Keto. I'll list the supplies I keep on hand for a Keto diet below.
- Sugar: Sugar is easy to have on hand and is really good to have when you're doing comfort baking. I usually keep about 30 pounds on hand so that if I get into canning season I'll have enough to do all my fruit preserving.
- Honey: Honey will store indefinitely on the pantry shelf. It will crystalize and become solid, but all you have to do is gently heat it back up and it will become liquid again. If you have raw honey, be sure not to heat it up too high or you'll destroy the beneficial enzymes.
- Keto sugar alternatives: For keto-friendly sweeteners, I like to keep a good supply of Monk Fruit, Stevia, and Erythritol.
Baking Powder & Baking Soda
In baking, you need a leavening agent. Not all recipes need it, such as sourdough bread or regular sandwich bread or artisan loaves, but other items like Chocolate Sourdough Quick Bread, pancakes, and waffles do. In those I'm either going to be using baking soda or baking powder, sometimes both depending upon the recipe so I want to make sure I'm well stocked on them.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The reason is that when canning the vinegar has to be 5% acidity in order to make sure that your canning recipes are safe, especially your pickling recipes. So I keep extra on hand to ensure I can get through the canning season. I buy it by the 5-gallon bucket from Azure.
A lot of herbs I can and do grow myself. If you don't grow them yourself, you can order in bulk from Azure Standard. Herbs I grow and always have on hand are:
Garlic and onions are aromatics I like to grow a year's worth of in my garden. I'm also working on seed saving to have a closed-loop system for food security.
I probably use garlic and onion on a daily basis in my home, so I consider them essential. If you're worried about the shelf stability of fresh onion and garlic, dehydrated onion and garlic are a great option.
If you're interested in growing both you'll want to choose a variety that is good storage variety. Check out this post on growing onions and this post on growing garlic for more information and good storage varieties.
While you can grow some different varieties of chili peppers to make your own spices, I don't because our weather is not always conducive to growing hot peppers. I may experiment with this in the future. In the meantime, I make sure to have the following on hand:
- Chili Powder
- Curry Powder
For the majority of those spices, I like to keep a pound on hand. What I do is take a pint-size jar, which holds 2 cups worth and keep it in my spice cabinet. Then I like to have a backup bag.
You're noticing a trend here, right? I like to have what I'm using. I like that amount to be full and then I like to have a backup in the back pantry in order to refill my kitchen stock without having to go to the store right away.
We have just recently bought a dairy cow, so when it comes to dairy products, we don't have the need to store much in terms of long-term food storage.
We will likely get some freeze-dried milk on our shelf because we like to use this in our homemade cocoa mix. Butter and shredded cheese also freeze really well.
Canned fruit, whether it's home-canned or store-bought, will last on the shelf for a very long time. Learn how to can pears with an easy old farmer's wife trick to peel them here.
Freeze-dried fruit will last even longer than those canned items. If you don't have a freeze dryer, you can check out the home freeze-dryer options from Harvest Right here.
Alcohol, Tinctures & Extracts
I like to keep alcohol on hand so I can make my homemade tinctures and extracts. These will last for a very long time on the pantry shelf, and they are something that will tend to get better with time!
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