Stocking Up for Shortages and Emergencies

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
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The past few years have taught us the importance of stocking up for shortages and emergencies. Easily build your stockpile with these tips.

The bare store shelves we experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and now supply chain shortages underscore the necessity of stocking up at home. Other life-changing events can make goods hard to obtain, such as severe weather, unemployment, and illness.

Scarcity costs us money, as we usually turn to higher-priced brands or sizes. Now is a good time to assess your home stock and how you can do better.

How Much To Stock

Treat your pantry stock like an emergency savings account and save at least three months of the following supplies and any other items that your family uses that would be difficult to go without:

  • Baking supplies
  • Spices
  • Dietary supplements
  • Condiments
  • Potable water
  • Paper goods
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Health items

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What To Stock

Discuss with your doctor the possibility of stockpiling extra prescription medication and store this securely. Stock pet supplies, first aid and special health needs like contact lens solution and over-the-counter medication.

Look for multi-task items, such as hydrogen peroxide, which can clean a wound and, when diluted, serve as an antiseptic mouth rinse. Buying ingredients – not just prepared foods – will help you do more with what you store.

Store tap water in your own water storage containers for cleaning and toilet flushing (in case of a water emergency). Get jugs of sealed drinking water for consumption that will store longer.

Avoid things you likely will not use up before it goes bad but choose things that you could use creatively. For example, powdered milk is not as palatable as fresh, but you can cook with it to use it before its expiration. You can freeze milk but pour off some first to prevent the jug from bursting.

Include ready-to-eat foods for when you experience a power outage, such as canned fruit. Only buy things like military-style MREs (meals ready to eat) if you would eat them before they expire. Some MREs are not very tasty.

How To Afford It

You do not have to use a few months’ shopping budgets to stock up all at once.

When you get a deal such as buy one, get one free, tuck away extras. Look for sales and comparison shop. Stores like Aldi offer quality store brands for less than national brands. Consider food outlets (though items may be close to expiration).

Some stores offer digital coupons for anyone who signs up for their app or email newsletter. For example, Dollar General has an ongoing deal of $5 off for spending $25 on the following Saturday – no clipping required.

Get a little more wiggle room in your budget by relying more on homemade soup, dried beans instead of meat in recipes, and rice instead of noodles. Freeze spending on convenience items for a bit. Go without a few luxury items for a while.

Then invest that saved money into building up your stored supplies. Cash in any credit card points towards gift cards to spend stocking up.

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How To Organize It

As you accumulate more items, keep a whiteboard log on the inside of a cupboard that shows what you have where, such as:

Item Tally Where Stored
Toilet paper rolls IIII IIII IIII IIII IIII II bathroom closet, under guest bed
Paper towel rolls IIII IIII II hall closet, under sofa
Tomato soup IIII III pantry

As you use items, remove them from the tally and add them to the shopping list to avoid depleting the supply.

Where To Store It

Creatively store your goods.

Add bins that suspend under shelves and inexpensive wire shelves in closets, cupboards, and freezers. Add shelves over the door of the bathroom, the guestroom or toilet. Hang a sweater holder to store tissue boxes or toilet paper rolls. Stow cans of soup in a shallow tote under the sofa.

Only store items on top of a large appliance if you use a raised shelf to allow air circulation.

How To Store It

Stock new items in the back and bring older items up front. Buy only what you can use before it expires; about six to twelve months’ worth is safe for canned and frozen foods. Pantry staples last around two years.

Repackage meat in meal-sized portions in freezer-safe containers, not the original foam tray and plastic wrap. Vacuum seal or try to press all the air out of the package. (See How to Prevent Freezer Burn.)

Keep clear containers in the dark. Store bags of flour and sugar in airtight totes – not cardboard boxes, as these can absorb moisture. Or repackage directly into food-safe airtight containers.

Avoid storing food in the attic or basement if these places are much hotter or colder or take on more humidity than the rest of your house. The attic may work to store paper goods like paper towels, toilet paper and facial tissues; however, unless yours is a bone-dry finished basement, you should keep them out of that part of your home, too.

It may take a while to stock up your home stores; however, it is worthwhile to prepare for emergencies and shortages.

Reviewed December 2022

From the Author

Free yourself from credit card debt without bankruptcy, borrowing, or buying into a complex program. Deborah Jeanne Sergeant’s new e-book, Kick Your Credit Card Debt to the Curb, shows how to scare up the cash for this month’s credit card payment, manage your money effectively, and pay off your credit card debt for good. Change your life for less than $1. Available on Amazon.

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