Our ancestors kept a well stocked survival pantry so that they could handle all of the little surprises that life gave them. Our modern society has told us that it is not necessary. After all, we can run to the local supermarket and pick up what we need at any time of day or night.
We’ve all seen the TV reports of people standing in line for food and water after a major storm hits. Almost all of us thought that it could never happen to us.
Then along came a pandemic and suddenly we couldn’t go to the store whenever we wanted to. We had to learn to survive with what we had on hand while we waited for stores to get set up for contactless pickup or for delivery services to get put into place.
But, quite a few people were prepared for all of this. They, like their ancestors, had a well stocked pantry. They were able to go to their pantry for shelf stable food, water, toilet paper, paper towels, etc. while everyone else stood in line before the shutdowns or ordered goods and waited for delivery.
As a result of the pandemic, there has been a renewed focus on the importance of maintaining a survival pantry.
In this article, we’ll examine 11 main survival pantry staples, explore some of the meals you can make from your pantry and take a look at spicing things up just a bit.
Let’s start with fruits & veggies, then look at canned meat products and some miscellaneous items that are good for long term storage.
Make sure that you rotate items in your pantry so that you are always using the oldest items first. This will help extend the length of time that you can store these foods and still have fresh food on the table.
Fruit and Vegetable Pantry Staples
Canned and Dry Beans
Beans are a great source of protein, fiber, and carbohydrates. Canned beans are pretty much heat and eat. Dry beans need to be soaked for up to 24 hours before they are cooked and eaten. But dry beans tend to be less expensive than canned beans so they do allow you to stretch your budget a little farther.
Beans can be mixed with rice, added to soups and stews, or eaten as a standalone dish. At our house we keep black beans, red beans, navy beans, chickpeas and refried beans in the pantry. We mix and match the beans with other pantry staples to make a wide variety of meals.
Pantry meal prep: Prepare red beans, rice and some canned chicken. Add some Cajun seasoning and you have a tasty, filling meal that your family will love. We like to add some Franks Red Hot sauce to the red beans to give them a little more flavor.
Or check out this easy red beans and rice video – you won’t have to deal with any leftovers!
Canned and Dried Fruits
You can get just about any fruit that you like in a canned variety. Most of them will be covered in a sugary, sweet syrup that can change the flavor profile. We try to avoid that but sometimes you have no choice when looking for canned fruit.
We prefer freeze dried or dehydrated fruits. Yes they are more expensive but it gives us the pure fruit without the syrupy concoction added in the can.
Canned and Dried Vegetables
Stock up on cans of the veggies your family enjoys. Tomatoes, corn, peas, carrots, and potatoes can be added to soups, stews, and salads for taste and nutrition. We keep diced and whole tomatoes in cans. But, remember that tomatoes and tomato based products will have a shorted shelf life due to the acidic nature of tomatoes. So make sure to use them before they go rancid on you.
Pantry meal prep: Mix together canned chicken or canned beans, canned corn, and rice to make easy burritos.
Meat Pantry Staples
Canned and Dried Meats
There are many varieties of canned meat available today. Canned ham, bacon, sausage, beef, and chicken readily available so you can get what you family prefers and stock up.
You can used things like canned roast beef to make sandwiches, tacos or add it to stews and rice for a complete meal.
Dehydrated and freeze dried meats are also an excellent addition to your survival pantry.
Most grocery stores stock canned tuna, salmon, and other varieties of fish that can be used to make sandwiches, salads and dips. These can be used for snacks or complete meals.
Pantry meal prep: Pour a can of tuna or salmon over a bed of rice for a quick, easy meal.
Miscellaneous Pantry Staples
Pasta is cheap and can be stored for long term use. It can be combined with almost all of the other pantry staples to make a complete, filling, tasty meal that even the pickiest eaters will enjoy.
Pantry meal prep: Combine pasta, canned tomatoes and canned beef to make a quick and easy spaghetti dinner.
Rice is cheap, easy to store and lasts a long time. It can be used as a side dish, as part of a side like beans and rice, in soups and many other ways. You can get white rice, brown rice, long grain rice or any other type that you like to change the texture and taste of a meal.
Peanut butter can be eaten plain, used to make a sandwich or used as a flavoring like many Chinese or Thai food inspired meals.
It can also be used to make desserts like peanut butter cookies.
There are also many other nut butters that you can store in addition to peanut butter.
Canned soups are available with and without meat. You can go heavy on vegetables and light on meat or heavy on meat and light on veggies. Low sodium and gluten free options are also available. Some canned soups will require adding water while others are purely heat and eat.
Pantry meal prep: Combine canned tomatoes with black beans, canned corn, canned chicken, water, and spices to make a quick and easy chicken soup.
Oats are perfect for breakfast, but they also can serve as the main ingredient of cookies, bread, pancakes, and protein/energy bars. Learn about the differences between instant, steel-cut, and rolled oats here.
Pantry meal prep: Mix oats with raisins or cranberries or strawberries or any other dried fruit and some honey for a delicious breakfast bar.
Some people call them instant potatoes, others refer to them as potato flakes. Either way, they are basically freeze dried potatoes. They can be purchased in small serving pouches, family sized pouches and full size containers that hold multiple servings.
Some are made to just add water while other types want you to add milk and water.
Potato flakes are very flexible and filling. We like the Idahoan Instant Potato brand because they taste good, have a great texture and you can get them in many different varieties like plain, garlic, buttery, etc.
Pantry meal prep: Add some potato flakes to a can of soup to give it a creamy texture.
Spice Things up in Your Pantry
That’s 11 basic items that everyone should keep in their pantry to help them survive whatever surprise life decides to throw at us next. But, I have to also say that adding some spices to your pantry will give you the ability to change the flavor profile of your meals. This can help keep you and your family from meal fatigue. So as a bonus, here are some spices and flavorings that you should add as you have the time and money to do so.
- Soy Sauce
- Baking chocolate
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Cajun Spice
- Chili powder
- Cocoa powder
- Curry powder
- Garlic powder
- Onion Powder
- Lemon juice
Make a list of the spices that you like and add them to this list. Additional spices can make meals much more appetizing.
You may even want to add some drink flavorings to your pantry like powdered lemonade or powdered sports drink flavors.
If you keep a well stocked pantry and remember to rotate items as you use them, then you will be prepared to feed your family no matter what happens. Storms, pandemic lockdowns, job loss…none of those things will stop you from maintaining some normalcy in your life ever again.
One last thought, if you have a lot of canned goods in your pantry make sure that you have more than one way to open the cans. We all know the prepper mantra – “Two is One, One is None” – so make sure you have more than one manual can opener in case the electricity is out.