Two Types of Pantry: Working Pantry or Long-Term Emergency Pantry

There are two main types of pantry in the spectrum of prepper pantries you can create. The first one is called a “working” pantry, and the second is a “long term” pantry. Both of these two types of pantries have their own pros and cons, so it is important to know which one works best for you as you begin to gather supplies and consider what you are preparing for.

rows of canned food from two types of pantry

Two types of pantry

A working pantry

A working pantry is something you can use even if there is not an emergency going on. You would have a lot more in it than a regular pantry, though. Instead of just one jar of peanut butter like a normal pantry, you would have enough for maybe a month. (Or however long you have the space for) For this kind of pantry it is important to follow FIFO— “first in, first out” as you use it. Keep your oldest items in the front and restock from the back to avoid spoilage.

This is the kind of pantry that my family has. We do not have the space to store food to feed six people for more than about 1-2 months. Because I sometimes grow, harvest, can, freeze, dry, and ferment food, a working pantry works best for us. But, I do not see too many disasters where I live. The biggest threat for us is a tornado or, as we’ve seen lately, limits on availability of some foods. Even if I don’t eat it all, it’s nice to be able to share with those who can’t get out.

What are the pros of a working pantry?

A working pantry is the easiest to start of the two types of pantry. All you need is a little patience to build up whatever you have room to store. It is a very customizable style of pantry and is really perfect for the beginner prepper to get their feet wet by learning to keep track of how much their household uses up set amount of time. You can try it out with some basics first and expand or experiment with other things as time goes by. As you get more comfortable with it, you can even try making batches of your own shelf-stable foods like we do!

What are the cons of a working pantry?

A working pantry is not usually conducive to a long-term plan, since it would generally have things you use regularly. These things can last a while on a shelf, but they are not necessarily non-perishable. A working pantry also tends to be very small, and at most, would only be able to provide basics for maybe a month. Think of the working pantry as the bare minimum of the two types of prepper pantries. But, maybe that’s all you need.

A long-term pantry

The long-term pantry is what you build up with non-perishable supplies like MREs, dry rice/pasta/beans, canned goods, etc. You would buy these types of things in bulk, and they would stay stored in the prepping pantry until needed. This pantry is very important to keep organized, temperature controlled, and pest proofed. The supplies will need to be able to last for months, or even years before and after a disastrous event, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or tornado.

What are the pros of a long-term pantry?

A long-term pantry is stable for many years once you get it fully stocked. It is the pantry you would think of when you imagine a place like an emergency bunker. Giant cans, pallets stacked with supplies, and it all can last for years unopened. A long-term pantry is perfect for you if you live in a high risk geographic area where you think you might need a lot of necessities for an extended period of time. This is your ultimate prepper pantry.

What are the cons of a long-term pantry?

Building up a long-term pantry can be very expensive, and you do not get very much say on the quality of the food you get. Food that lasts years is very, very processed and not exactly dietary restriction friendly. Those with food allergies, diabetes, or other conditions will likely find this extremely challenging. If you have a large family, it might be both cost and space prohibitive.

In addition, highly preserved foods often taste bad, so this can be especially difficult for families with children that will need to eat in a crisis. So, think carefully about this option. Also, you may end up hoarding unused food or “special” foods your children never eat because they grow up.

Of course, these are simply two sides of the prepper pantry spectrum. Use this pro/con list as a guideline to finding a happy medium that works best for you and your loved ones in the event of a life-altering situation.


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