Prices are going up, and every dollar spent on goods and services doesn’t go as far as it used to. With our wallets slowly running dry, managing the effects of inflation on our daily lives can seem like a daunting, Herculean task when we’re barely managing to make ends meet.
That’s where stockpiling comes in.
Done right, stockpiling household goods and food ahead of time before the full effects of inflation kick in can help us save money in the long run. It’s also wise to prepare yourself for any shortages caused by supply chain disruption and rising costs – what you may see on shelves right now might not be as readily available in the next few months.
We put together a guide on how to stockpile food during inflation, including grocery items that will hold up to long-term storage. Before we begin, though, here’s a short primer on inflation:
What Is Inflation?
According to the IMF, inflation measures how much more a set of goods and services cost over time. For example, if you could buy a pound of beef for $5 last year, and that same pound of beef costs $5.50 this year, that’s inflation at work.
It’s a normal phenomenon most of the time, and you can expect an annual inflation rate of about 2% in the US. However, we’re currently facing higher than usual levels of inflation, and that becomes a problem when wages don’t rise to accommodate that increase in prices.
Some say that the inflation we’re experiencing right now is transitory, but we don’t really know for sure whether living costs will come back down, and we don’t know when that will happen, either. While you can’t control the price of food outright, you can still prepare for any further price increases by spending wisely.
Benefits of Stockpiling Food
Let’s make this clear: stockpiling is not the same as hoarding.
The ADAA defines hoarding as a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value, often to the detriment of the physical environment and social relationships of the person suffering from hoarding.
Meanwhile, stockpiling is more about preparing for an event where the item being stockpiled might not be as readily available. It doesn’t just help with managing costs, it also ensures a steady supply of a said item, so you don’t have to worry about having to go without a basic necessity when you most need it.
Stockpiling food is like creating an emergency fund, except it’s not made of money – it’ll help keep you and your family fed in unprecedented times like these.
Even if the event you’re preparing for doesn’t happen, like the prices don’t continue going up or you don’t face any loss of income, you won’t be wasteful since all that changes is that you won’t have to buy the stockpiled goods for a longer period of time. The food will still be used up and consumed eventually.
A Guide to Stockpiling Food
Step One: Find a Storage Space
Before you start building a stockpile of food, the very first thing you have to do is decide on a storage location. You’ll mostly be buying “shelf-stable“, nonperishable food, which should be stored at room temperature, away from water and pests. If you have a root cellar, that would be the perfect location.
The best places to store your food stockpile are usually cupboards in your kitchen, a closet, or even your living room – anywhere is fine as long as you have a temperature-regulated space where the food can be kept in storage bins off the ground and out of the way.
Once you’ve found your ideal food stockpile storage space, measure it so you know exactly how much space you have. It wouldn’t make sense to blindly buy food, only to get stuck with too much food to be safely stored because it doesn’t fit into the space allocated.
Step Two: Plan Your Purchases
The best food is food that you’ll eat – if you’re not a family that eats rice, for example, there’s not much point stockpiling it since it will just go to waste. Make a list of the things you and your family normally eat, including meals, desserts, snacks, and drinks. Take note of the amount of food consumed on a regular basis, as well as any dietary restrictions.
You’ll need to estimate how many servings of each kind of food are required per meal, and then multiply that by the number of meals and the number of family members you’re planning for. From there, you’ll be able to calculate the number of jars, cans, bags, and the like that you’ll need since most food items have some kind of serving and measurement information available.
Perishable foods don’t last very long – generally, they remain edible for about a week at most unless you have hardy produce like carrots, cabbage, and onions. Since your fridge and freezer have limited space, consider replacing things like fresh milk with boxed milk that does fine at room temperature, or preserve produce and meat in such a way that you still have a supply that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen.
Once completed, your master list of food to purchase should net you balanced meals for your entire family for as long as you’re planning to stockpile. Any perishable foods on the list should have an acceptable nonperishable substitute since purchasing produce or meat that will spoil within a week defeats the purpose of stockpiling in the first place.
If you don’t mind the increased power bill, this is when having an extra fridge or chest freezer will be handy, since they help expand the amount of space you have to keep items.
Step Three: Paring Down Your Food Stockpile Master List
Here is where we get to the meat of the matter. With limited space available for storage, certain foods may have to be cut from the list, especially if they don’t have as much nutritional value, or if they aren’t really necessary.
Bagged chips are a good example of this: they’re difficult to store because of how fragile they are, and if you stuff too many bags of mostly air into a small space, the packaging has a chance of being damaged and affecting the integrity of the food being stored.
That’s not even taking into account their nutritional value – all in all, bagged chips aren’t very efficient per square inch of storage space, so if you can do without, the space is probably better used to keep canned potatoes or something similar.
As a rule of thumb, consider the following when you’re selecting foods to stockpile:
● Moderate salt content – too much salt can make you thirsty when water is scarce
● Less cooking required – fuel is better used for heating
● Long storage duration – ideally one to two years
● Easy to store – sealed boxes, cases, bottles, cans, and bins are better for stacking
Include at least one gallon of water per person per day, and remember to keep at least one nonessential item per family member to keep spirits up while you’re tightening your financial belts. Below, we list some of the goods you should stockpile while you can since we’re expecting prices to increase across the board in the near future:
● Bottled water
● Cooking oil
● Baking soda
● Spices like pepper etc
● Sweeteners like honey, agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, etc
● Canned, boxed, or powdered milk
● Frozen, dried, or canned meat, fish, and poultry
● Preserved, pickled, frozen, or powdered eggs
● Dried beans and lentils
● Canned fruit in juice or water
● Canned vegetables in water
● Dried or frozen fruits and vegetables
● Canned or boxed low sodium soup, stock, and broth
● Jarred pasta sauce
● Dry cereal
● Nut butters
● Coffee and tea
● Dry snacks like crackers and chips
You can also stock up on hardy produce like the following since they’re known to last weeks, even months when stored properly:
● Butternut squash
If you have a garden or homestead, stockpiling high-yield seeds that are quick and easy to grow or growing certain vegetables from scraps can help you reduce your food bill. The items we’ve listed above aren’t meant to be an exhaustive list of what foods to stockpile, as in the end, you’ll know best when it comes to the needs and preferences of your family since you’ll be the ones eating the food you’ve stored.
Step Four: Purchasing the Food
One of the key things about stockpiling is that it is not the same as panic buying. You’re not clearing shelves and depriving others of essential goods, you’re building your stock of items in your list in a strategic manner. This means buying produce and meat when they’re on sale or in season or going for store brands instead of name brands. The main purpose of stockpiling food during inflation is to reduce the toll it takes on your wallet, so you won’t be buying things at a higher cost when you have the option to plan your purchases and save a little extra. A good way to do this is to keep track of prices for the goods you’re planning to buy and to pay attention to the news so you know ahead of time when price increases are coming.
You don’t have to buy all of the things on your list all at once since that will be socially irresponsible – instead, consider purchasing a few extra items on your regular grocery trips.
Buying in smaller amounts over time makes it much easier to keep track of what you’ve bought and when the items you’ve bought will expire, and it also makes storage and transportation much more manageable.
Step Five: Storing Your Food Stockpile
Now that you’ve gotten the food you need to keep your family fed for a good amount of time, it’s time to store it. Food storage is not a passive activity, even when the items involved are nonperishable or have a long time to go before their best by date – regular management and maintenance help to prevent losses from pests, improper storage, and expiry.
As your stockpile grows, make sure to sort and organize them in your assigned storage spot. Group like with like, with the lighter items on top and heavier items on the bottom. This will give you a clear picture of what you have in your inventory, and keeping lighter items on top means that certain food items like boxes of cereal will not have their packaging damaged, affecting the integrity of the food inside.
Most commercial food inventory management systems use FIFO, short for First In, First Out – this ensures that older items with an earlier expiry date are used up first, reducing the chances of something expiring because it was forgotten at the back of a shelf. While you’re arranging your food stockpile, keep the foods with the soonest expiration dates on top or in front of their storage places.
You should thoroughly check your food stockpile every six months or so, even if you’re consuming the items regularly. Regular checks help you identify whether you’re running low on anything, and you’ll also find out if anything has to be used up first. Our dietary needs and wants change from time to time, so checking your food stockpile and adjusting your master list and inventory accordingly will help you adapt to the inevitable accommodations that are needed.
Bonus Step: Preserving Food Items
Certain dried goods like beans, grains, pasta, and more can be kept for years if stored correctly. They don’t always come in the best packaging if at all, and if you’re purchasing these items in bulk, it’s worth investing some time and energy to learn how to store them in a way that increases their shelf life.
Dried goods are best stored long term when they’re kept in mylar bags, which are then placed into containers that have airtight lids. You can also consider the use of an oxygen absorber, a vacuum sealer, and food desiccants like silica gel and calcium oxide to further extend storage time.
As for perishable foods like meat and produce, freeze-drying, dehydrating, smoking, curing, canning and freezing are all options for keeping them long-term. While some of these methods require some upfront costs in the form of equipment, the savings you get in terms of space and money are often worth it, as they usually pay for themselves within a reasonably short time.
Last of all, if you have the space and ability to do so, growing or raising your own food can cut food costs by reducing the reliance you have on grocery stores and markets. You’ll have more control over what goes into your food, and the food independence you gain helps keep your family fed in a pinch, especially if inflation gets out of control and commercial food stocks dwindle.
If you’ve never considered building a food stockpile before, now is the time to do so, as we don’t seem to be entirely out of the woods just yet. Even if inflation eventually subsides, knowing how to stockpile food is a valuable skill to have in the case of emergencies. It never hurts to plan ahead, as being prepared makes all the difference in protecting you and your family’s well-being.