What to stock in your pantry: The essentials and why you need them

Knowing what to stock in your pantry is very important. You want to make sure you have things that will last a long time until you need them, and that will last while you need them. Many folks intuitively know about rice and beans, but other foods should be included as well. Below are the basics.

What to stock in your pantry: Rice and other grains

Dry rice will last indefinitely as long as it stays sealed and dry. It is also great for a prepper pantry because you can control how much of it you use at a time. Basmati, jasmine, and white rice have the longest shelf lives of all rices. However, brown rice only lasts up to six months in a regular pantry, so try to avoid using it as part of a long-term prepper pantry if possible. If you’re building a working pantry, then it’s fine.

Also, investigate where your rice is grown so you know it isn’t contaminated with arsenic or pesticides. Don’t buy rice from open bins. I used to do that to save on packaging and after a few weeks, I found little bugs in my rice! Also, consider stocking other grains (and pseudo-grains) such as quinoa, millet, and oats in order to provide variety and extra nutrition in your diet.

what to stock in your pantry: jars of dry goods

Dried Beans

Dry beans will last for at least two to three years in airtight containers away from moisture, heat, and sunlight. Keeping them dry is super important! Moisture will promote mold. However, keep in mind that the longer they are stored, the longer they will need soaking. They must be soaked in a slightly acidic solution before they are cooked. Dry beans are a great source of nutrition if soaked properly and make great creamy sauces base, soups, stews, or dips. They add versatility to meals. You can also control the amount of beans you use up each day without compromising the rest of what you have stored.


Uncooked, dry pasta also lasts for years as long as it is kept sealed in a cool, dry place. Pasta is a good option for a prepper pantry because there are many varieties and ways to prepare it. You can also easily control the rate of use. The best way to store dry pasta is to transfer it from the plastic or cardboard it comes in, to an airtight container with an oxygen absorber. For most people, pasta provides a cheap source of carbohydrates, almost as cheap as rice. However, if your family has special dietary needs, taking advantage of sales and coupons helps you stock your pantry with pasta without overspending. I have found that Trader Joe’s and Aldi have the best prices on gluten-free pasta.


Different flours can actually last for different amounts of time past their expiration date. Whole wheat and self-rising flour have the shortest shelf life at six months past use date; rice flour, potato flour, and white flour can be used up to eight months past; corn flour is good for a year after; and corn meal has the longest shelf life after use date at two years. In this case, stocking up on the alternative flours may be what to stock in your pantry if you know how to bake with them. Just like other dry goods, flour needs to be stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Sugar and Spices

Flavoring your survival foods will be a great boon to you and your family in an emergency. Sealed, dried spices can last up to four years in your prepper pantry. Sugar actually never spoils in the right conditions. Alternative sugars may be more vulnerable to moisture. So, keep that in mind if part of what to store in your pantry includes lower-glycemic options such as erythritol, maple sugar, monk sugar, or coconut sugar. Due to the strong smells that sugar and spices have, keep them in well sealed containers in a pest-proofed area. Keeping them dry and cool will be important for their longevity as well.

Canned Goods

Cans that remain in good condition can last up to six years on a shelf. Good condition would mean no dents or deep scratches, and no big temperature fluctuations while they are being stored. Make sure to get a variety to keep up nutrient density and also possible ingredients for survival recipes. Keeping cans in a temperature controlled environment is very important. You need to keep them from spoiling or developing growth of botulism, especially if they are home-canned. Personally, I don’t buy too many canned goods from the store and prefer to grow my own food. I can the tomatoes I grow, and freeze the rest.

Peanut Butter

Unopened peanut butter can stay good for about two years. It can also be used for up to four months after being opened. Peanut butter is very shelf stable, and high in protein and good calories. It also tastes good as a sweeter treat or snack if you have kiddos you are prepping for as well. Other nut butters don’t store as well once opened. They need to be refrigerated, so keep that in mind if you choose to substitute with almond, sunflower seed, or cashew butter.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are not known for having very long shelf lives. They will only last about six months unopened, and a year if frozen. And, those in open bins are almost always rancid. The oils in nuts are very sensitive and deteriorate soon after harvest if they are not at least refrigerated. If you really want to include them, you should invest in a small deep freezer to keep them fresher longer. However, it may be better to simply keep them in a rotated stock. Then,you use what you need and replenish as needed like you would with a “working pantry.”

Dried Fruits and Veggies

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables have incredibly long shelf lives when stored properly. Fruits can last at least five years, while vegetables can last over ten. Making your own dried fruits and veggies that will last this long can be quite the process. So, be sure you know what you are doing, and practice a lot if you want to do this yourself. If they aren’t dried properly, they get moldy pretty fast! If you don’t want to do it yourself, store bought, vacuum-sealed packs of dried fruits and vegetables are perfectly fine. Dried produce has the same amount of nutrients as fresh, and more than three times the amount of fiber. This makes these products especially useful for a prepper pantry.

Pickled Products

When you think of what to stock in your pantry, do you think of these foods?Pickling can preserve food for months depending on the way it was pickled. Like drying, pickling can be a tedious task that you need experience with in order to make food safe long-term. As long as they remain sealed, pickled products do not need to be refrigerated; but you will need to refrigerate them after you open them. Therefore, you will need to make sure you have a way to do this in the event of an emergency. And, know that lacto-fermented foods always need refrigeration. However, they are more nutritious and last a very long time in the refrigerator.

These are all just the basics of what to stock in your pantry. If you simply use this as a guideline, you will be able to figure out the perfect foods to fill your prepper pantry with. You can also refer to this list to help you decide how you want to store, and how much you want to store of each thing.


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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Hope Ware

    Fantastic, well-written, information! I have a grain mill. So, I keep grains on hand in buckets and grind them into fresh flour. Any tips on being certain that I have dehydrated items long enough before storing them? I have an Excalibur dehydrator and wonder if I sometimes “over-dry” (if there is such a thing), because I’m so paranoid of under-drying.

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