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Prepping For Beginners – How To Start A Prepper Pantry

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  • Post last modified:April 4, 2021
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In this post, Prepping For Beginners, I’m going to walk you through how to start prepping for emergencies and how to start a prepper pantry. My goal is to remove any confusion and show you how easy it is to start prepping and enjoy a more prepared lifestyle without the stress and worry of more shortages in the future.

Prepping For Beginners – The Short Definition of Prepping

Prepping can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. For this article’s purposes, Prepping is simply building a reserve of food and supplies to use as a safety net for the next emergency or difficult situation you find yourself in.

In the prepper community, we call these situations an “SHTF” event. That stands for, “$hit Hit The Fan (Or Stuff Hit The Fan if you prefer)”

The SHTF event could be;

  1. A localized event such as a severe storm, blizzard, chemical release, forest fire, flooding, volcano, earthquake, active shooter, riots, etc.
  2. Or it could mean a personal SHTF event such as a house fire, job loss, death in the family, severe injury or illness, mother-in-law visit, etc.
  3. Of course, there are the rare but devastating national or international SHTF events such as an epidemic, pandemic, war, terrorist attacks, widespread hacks, large grid-down situations, etc.

You must understand the “why” behind your prepper pantry. Consider potential SHTF events that could affect you and your location. Now decide which are more likely and what the dangers are.

For example, in the more likely events, could you lose power? Water? Transportation? Will the stores close or have shortages? Could there be a run on the banks? Is violence or riots possible? Will you be able to stay in your home? Will you HAVE to stay home? Can you work? Can your kids go to school? Will your home heat or air be interrupted? Will news and information continue to flow, as bad as it already is? Do you need to worry about attacks on your home?

Was that scary – thinking like that? Those fears dissipate once you’re prepared.

Related: Building A Blackout Kit

Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers right now. This is prepping for beginners. You’re not supposed to have all the answers. That’s why you’re here. Just give it some thought. We can always pivot when necessary.

See Previous Step, Why You Should Become A Prepper, if you missed it.

Keep in mind, this post is about Prepping For Beginners, and you’re on Next Step Survival, so we will take things one step at a time.

With that said, I need to mention that “Prepping” goes beyond storing food for emergencies for most people. Today we’re focusing on starting your prepper pantry, so I won’t go into other prepping levels such as first aid, bug-out bags, growing food, acquiring skills, health, personal finance, defense, etc.

In fact, we’re not even going to get into long-term food storage, dehydrating, canning, gardening, or alternative power. We’re just going to start a prepper pantry today. The rest will come in the following steps. You can take as many steps as you like.

It is better to focus on starting your prepper pantry in this very early step without getting overwhelmed by the big picture. In fact, if you’re here only to learn Prepping For Beginners and aren’t concerned with the rest of the “Prepper” world and lifestyle, that’s absolutely fine.

By the way, I often mention our “Prepper Community,” but that’s because we tend to help one another, not because we’re a specific group or club.

Prepping is a verb – a term. It is not a cult, religion, political ideology, or network marketing. Prepping simply means getting prepared for whatever it is you’re concerned with.

Soon to be famous quote by Brian D. Hawkins

Prepping is not a one size fits all solution, and that is why it seems so confusing at first. We’re going to “fix” that right now.

Your Prepper Pantry Location

When you see one of our (seasoned prepper’s) prepper pantries, it looks like you need a separate room or basement to store everything. That’s not true. If you’ve watched my Prepper Pantry Tour, it appears that everything’s stuffed into a single room full of racks. It’s not.

Our bathrooms are full of supplies that make sense to store in there. We have kitchen cabinets just like everyone else. We keep most of our spices in the kitchen. We have hall and bathroom closets where we store things like detergents, soaps, paper towels, canning supplies, etc.

👀 You can start your prepper pantry in a closet, a dedicated cabinet, or in boxes and totes under a table. Seriously, as long as you have easy access, it’s safe from rodents, bugs, and extreme temperatures or humidity (Don’t overthink any of that), the “where” is not important. The important thing is you start – right now.

Keep things where it makes sense for you and your situation. I would only recommend you consider spaces where the foods are safe, clean, and within easy sight and access. For example, under the beds may be a nice solution for very long-term foods if they’re protected from bugs and rodents, but your living pantry should have easy access so you can rotate your foods as you use them.

Set it and forget it is a very bad idea when it comes to prepping – especially food.

How To Start A Prepper Pantry – Breaking It Down

Since we’re beginner preppers right now, I want to break down our prepper pantry into the simplest of categories. Those three prepper pantry categories are Water, Our living (or working) pantry, and necessary supplies. Longer-term food storage comes in later steps.

1) Water

Water Closet
Our Water Closet

We know how important water is. Clean and safe drinking water literally means life and death. We want that important resource (second only to breathable air and possibly shelter) as part of our preps or prepper pantry.

Water storage is a subject we can talk about all day, but I want to keep things simple. We won’t get into things like water catchment systems, drums and large IBC totes, and all that.

In the spirit of Prepping For Beginners, I want to stick with simple, easy, and possibly free water storage and a couple of basic water filter solutions. This is the easiest and most cost-effective part of prepping. And if your water stops flowing or becomes contaminated, it’ll certainly be the most important of your preps as well.

How much water to store – The CDC says, “Store 1 gallon of water per person per day for 3 days for drinking and sanitation.” Personally, I believe that’s dangerously inadequate. I recommend three gallons of water per person per day, NOT including water to flush toilets, wash dishes, or wash your clothes and rags. That’s under normal circumstances. If you’re in a hot climate, store more. Going to be very active? Even more.

Keep in mind; you’ll more than likely need water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing. I don’t think I’d want to hang out with the CDC during the apocalypse.

Wash and fill plastic containers – This is super easy. If you buy two-liter bottles of pop/soda (No judging zone here), or heavier plastic bottles of juice or tea, or any heavy food-grade plastic container, wash ( I like to triple wash) them out thoroughly and fill them with clean drinking water. Seal them up and store them in a safe space.

*Be sure to follow the CDC guidelines I’ve added below. You’ll need a little bleach so be sure to add that to your preps.

The best place to store your water is out of the way, in a relatively temperature stable room where it won’t freeze or become very hot. If possible, consider floors or surrounding area possible damage just if one of the containers starts leaking. You don’t want water damage. I’m speaking from personal experience here.

Buy large water bottles – An alternative solution is to purchase larger containers (such as 5-gallon bottles) of water from commercial water companies or your local box store. I know you can buy these from Walmart, and I’ve bought a few from BJ’s, shown below.

Commercial Water Jugs
Commercial 5-gallon water jugs we bought from BJ’s

This is probably the easiest water storage solution, but it is also an expensive option, and those heavy water containers are cumbersome. I hate to move them around. If we were in the middle of a hot summer, no electricity, no air, or running water, those heavy containers would be vital but a pain in the rear to use.

Wells, lakes, ponds, and rivers – If you have a well, I envy you. That can be a beautiful resource. Be sure you can pump the water up manually in the event of a power failure. This will depend on the type of well and the depth of it.

If you have a lake, natural pond, river, or stream on your property, rejoice. The Prepper Angels have smiled upon you. It would be best if you have a way to filter the water in a grid-down emergency. This is a little beyond the scope of this “Prepping For Beginners” article, but I want to mention it for now. Resources such as these can drastically reduce your need for safe water storage.

The CDC on Water Purification and Sanitizing a Water Storage Container

Making water safe to use with bleach
Making water safe to use with bleach – Via CDC

The CDC has a few guidelines that may make you feel more comfortable understanding water purification and how to make your water containers safe. Here are a few links:

Next Steps to Emergency Water Storage

As we branch off into your next steps of emergency water storage, we’ll look into things like water purification, bleach, more on water filtration, and even more on water storage. For now, we’re prepping for beginners, so let’s work on food storage for our prepper pantry.

2) Living Pantry – Prepping For Beginners

Beginner Pantry
Beginner Pantry on the left shelves.

A living (working) pantry is storage you’re eating and “shopping” from. Need a bag of sugar or flour? No problem, grab it from the pantry. Note/record that you have taken it from your pantry and replace it the next time you go grocery shopping at the store. Do this with anything you take from your living/prepper pantry.

To keep things simple, we’re prepping as beginners, I want to focus on food for now. We’ll move into other necessities like toilet paper and soaps in a few minutes.

Store what you eat, and eat what you store – One of the most important considerations when starting your prepper pantry is what you and your family eat. That is important so you can rotate your food storage. Newest items in the back as you consume the older items. Replace what you take, rotate new behind the old, and grow as you go. Simple, right?

I need to mention, when I say, “Store what you eat,” that may look different than the world you’re living in today. For example, today, you probably buy your meat from the butcher. The same goes for your vegetables. When you pull it from your prepper pantry, it will likely be from a can or jar. The caveat is once you start adding the canned foods to your preps, you should be open to that change now and then in your diet so you can rotate your food stocks.

Keep a log? Seriously, that’s so lame. I know, but keep it super simple. Keep your grocery receipts and write down the things you buy. Write down (physically or digitally) your shopping lists. Now you’ll begin to see what you need to store in your living pantry.

Prepping For Beginners - Whiteboard Shopping List
This whiteboard is taped to the side of one of our refrigerators and used as a shopping list. Whenever we take something from the pantry, we add that item to the list to replace it on our next shopping trip.

Store the basics – Using the list you’re putting together from your shopping lists, receipts, and recipes, begin adding the more common ingredients and staples to your food storage. We’re talking salt, sugar, flour, condiments, sauces, spices, etc.

Side Note – I was fortunate enough to be included in a small panel of preppers in a round-table discussion of food storage. You can see the video here if you like.

Meats – Store protein. If you or a member of your family doesn’t eat meat, store the alternatives you already consume. I like the variety of meats we store in the freezer (Count only if you can keep it fresh in the event of a power outage), what we’ve canned ourselves, and store-bought canned meats. Since we’re prepping for beginners, I’ll stick with store-bought today.

Related: An Emergency Generator – Building A Blackout Kit

For some ideas, I like canned beef, chicken, and pork by Keystone. I like spam, tuna, canned chicken breast, and corned beef hash. You might prefer canned roast beef, beef stew, canned meat spreads, canned ham, or corned beef. Find what works for you and your family.

Vegetables – We keep a nice garden, and you may as well, but since this is what? Yes, prepping for beginners, I’ll talk about canned vegetables. Again, if you have a way to keep frozen foods with the electricity out, go for it.

Home canning is in a later step, so it looks like we’re down to canned vegetables. “But I’m not too fond of canned vegetables, Brian.” None of it? Is that even possible? What about starving, do you like that? Oh wait, I thought I was talking to one of my kids for a second. 😉

My advice when just starting a prepper pantry is to worry about variety later. For now, buy what your family likes. My wife and I are weirdos. We like canned carrots, spinach, and green beans. Sometimes a little corn. Since we’re seasoned preppers, we have a large variety. That comes later, along with the amounts of each – if that is your goal. Remember, you’re driving this machine.

Later, in more advanced steps, we’ll look at growing, canning, sprouting, dehydrating, and even pickling/fermentation.

Side dishes (carbs) – Now that we have our meat and veggies, we should look at some side dishes – if that’s how you normally eat right now.

Again, take what you’re eating now, buy a little extra and begin rotating those items in you’re prepper pantry.

With the idea of longer-term shelf lives (Fresh salads don’t last long unless you’re picking it from your garden), side dishes can be anything from a little minute rice to a box of stuffing or instant potatoes. Every meal may not even need a side dish, depending on how you eat now.

Lunches and breakfast foods – I know many preppers that skim right over lunch and breakfast, if not completely forget about those meals. If you’re eating those meals now, the time to begin eating less is not during a SHTF event. What happens is your stored food doesn’t last as long as you planned because you’re getting into the dinner meals for lunch and possibly breakfast.

I know many people are at work or school during lunch and grab some fast food or something like a sub or salad. For that reason, I thought I’d list a few items we have and use in our living prepper pantry to offer a few ideas.

Lunch ideas:

  • Suddenly Salad
  • Idahoan Mash Potatoes
  • Mac -N-Cheese
  • Canned soups
  • Uncle Ben’s Rice
  • Knorr Pasta Sides
  • Riced Cauliflower
  • Idahoan Scalloped Potatoes
  • Canned ravioli
  • Spaghetti and meatballs
  • Good ol’ rice and beans

A few breakfast ideas:

  • Coffee and/tea (If your a coffee drinker, store extra, or life is going to suck)
  • Canned fruits
  • Pancake mix (Don’t forget the egg substitute if needed and syrup)
  • Cereal with powdered milk
  • Oatmeal and instant oatmeal
  • Dehydrated eggs? (Trick question – you’re not eating that now so worry about that kind of thing in later prepping steps).

Spices/condiments/sauces – I’ll be the first to admit that some of the long-term food storage we use in our prepper pantries may not taste as good as eating fresh when times are good. Spices, condiments, and sauces can make some less than perfect foods taste pretty decent.

Prepper Pantry Spices and Sauces
Our kitchen sauce rack and spice cabinet.

Spices last a long time, as do most sauces stored in glass bottles and jars. Again, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, store what you eat. We keep a variety of everything but keep it simple in the beginning.

Next Steps To Building Your Living Pantry

Start small – two weeks. That’s only two servings per person of seven breakfasts, seven lunches, seven types of meat, veggies, and side dishes. See how we did that? Seven varieties of food times two. Six months is only seven times twenty-six. It’s simple math and doesn’t need to be complicated.

For more on inventory see: Prepper Pantry Inventory – Plain Sight Inventory System

  • Start a list of items to create “menus” for your pantry—record items you regularly buy and ingredients to the recipes you make.
  • Gradually start buying extra of the items you decide to store. Like corn? If you buy two cans for the week, buy four cans and put two away. Next week, buy four cans and put it all away, and use the two older cans.
  • Buy seven proteins/meats – two servings for each person in the home for a two-week supply.
  • Repeat the above with veggies, side dishes, lunches, and breakfasts.
  • Don’t forget a method of off-grid cooking.
  • For the sake of sanity, don’t forget the coffee.
  • Add spices, condiments, and sauces to your pantry based on the seven meals you decided on.
  • Write the best-by dates on everything in your pantry for food rotation.
  • Take care of pets, babies, kids, and special diets.

Related: The Cook Kit I Prefer To Carry In My Bug Out Bag

4) Necessary Supplies

Up to this point, we’ve mostly looked at food. Obviously, life is more than food. We need other things to stay comfortable, safe, and happy. Everyone remembers the run on toilet paper during the covid. This category can get overwhelming and complicated real fast so let’s keep things simple for now—the whole Prepping For Beginners thing and all.

I’ll offer up some examples to help get things going, but only you can decide what is necessary to maintain a safe and decent lifestyle when the chips are down.

Hygiene and health:

  • Toilet paper
  • Cold and flu medicine
  • First aid kit
  • Toothpaste
  • Hair shampoo
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Razors for shaving
  • Bar soap for bathing
  • Your PPE – Masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer.
  • Any specialty items such as contact solution, denture glue, etc.
  • Don’t forget any medications and vitamins you take on a regular bases

Related: Early Prepping Lessons From The Coronavirus – PPE Shortage
How To Make Homemade Hand Sanitizer

Cleaning and detergents:

  • Laundry detergent (You might need to wash your clothes by hand)
  • Disinfectants
  • Liquid dish soap (Dishwasher may not work)
  • Paper plates

Food storage materials:

  • Plastic food wrap
  • Ziploc bags
  • Aluminum foil

Next Steps For Supplies To Store

Please keep it simple, don’t go overboard here. We want a nice backup supply but not at the expense of emergency food. With that said, think about how many of those items listed above (And those you create from your own list) disappeared from the store shelves during the peak covid months.

  • Add important supplies to your list.
  • Assign levels of importance and buy those items in that order as you can afford them. For example, bar soap may be more important than shaving razors.

Other Important Thoughts and Considerations

  • You need a way to cook food if the power goes out.
  • Don’t forget a manual can opener.
  • Best Buy dates are often for food rotation (Especially canned foods), not expiration dates.
  • Don’t forget your pets – they’re people too.
  • If you have babies, think about extra formula, food, diapers, and baby wipes.

Wrapping Up Prepping For Beginners

I hope this post helps you get started on your beginner prepper pantry. The idea was to keep things super simple with a two-week supply at first. That two weeks will get most people through 90% of local emergencies.

Ultimately, only you can decide which items to store in your beginner prepper pantry. You can attack your goals at your own pace based on your budget. Good luck, and stay tuned. More on the way as we dig deeper into building a prepper pantry and other prepper-based articles.

Next Step: Next Step: Expanding Our Prepper Pantry Beyond Two Weeks

This seems like a good time to ask for your trust and offer you a subscription to our newsletter/list. It is free, and you can unsubscribe anytime.

Stay safe. Stay prepared.
Hawkins Out.

Also See: Becoming A Prepper – Take On A Preparedness Mindset

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Brian Hawkins

Father, grandfather, Veteran, animal lover, law-abiding taxpayer, homeowner, trucker, and a United States Citizen. Oh, and I'm also a prepper, survivalist, responsible gun owner, and hiker.

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