shelf stable pantry storage, things to buy
Sometimes we need to buy pantry staple foods because it just isnt practical for most of us to grow the high calorie staple foods. It is a good idea also to have food stored in case of supply disruptions of one sort or another. There are varying recommendations on how much to have on hand, so it is a bit individual. In my mind you should start with one month, then quickly go to 3 months worth of staple foods. While it all needs to be foods you can eat, it doesnt have to be exactly in the proportions you usually eat, for example, maybe you do eat oatmeal, but normally might not eat it every day. Some foods actaully come packaged to last 30 years, others you need to rotate or repackage.
So, for me, I have "circles" of food storage. The first circle is foods I normally am eating in my pantry, so this would be grains and beans I have just put in buckets or glass jars, home or store bought canned and dried foods that I will mostly eat in this harvest year. It is important to remember that dried beans cook best fresh and should not be stored in the plastic bags you buy them in, that packaging lets them get stale too fast and then they will not keep as well. When you get the dried beans home immediatelly open the plastic bags and pour them into things like a glass jar with a lid, or a re-used plastic jar or bucket with lid. I do the same with flour, sugar, grains. Although some grain products are packed well enough to leave as they come ( like some hot and cold cereals) . In this circle I also have some convenience foods I dont use all the time, but are good for relatively short term supply disruptions and power outages. For example, I might like fresh or frozen fruit, but I will have canned and dried fruit also on hand. I normally drink fresh, raw milk, but I will have 2 cans of very good dried milk on hand, as I realy feel much better if I have milk for my tea. That is important, to make sure that you have your personal comfort foods like that !
This does not need to be expensive. For example, I was in a discount grocery store yesterday, Grocery Outlet, and there was a 10 pound bag of rice for $5, WinnCo or Costco also would have this. Rice keeps well, it is realy good for stretching other foods, you can combine it into many things, and it cooks in 15 minutes. 10 pounds of rice is 16,000 calories, that is alot of food value for an emergency. Rice is also easy on your stomach and is a recommended first food when you are recovering from being ill. Other grain staples would be pasta, flour, rolled oats or other hot cereals, cold boxed cereals. Having some canned fruit is good as it is more "refreshing" than just dried fruit. I make home canned applesauce, and applesauce is also very good if you have been sick as an early food you can eat. But, I will also buy a few cans of peaches, apricots or mandarin oranges as they are refreshing and have good vitamins if I have a supply disruption or cant get to the store, and just as a treat for variety. I have dried raisons, prunes and persimmons for day to day. Getting a flat of canned fruit, the applesauce, mandarins and peaches, for example can usually be done inexpensively at WinnCo, Amazon pantry if you had no stores by you, likely $1-$1.50 per can, so 12 cans would be under $18. Lentils cook the quickest of the dried beans, and are easy to get an inexpensive. A few cans of Garbanzo beans. SOme canned soups or broth in case you are not feeling well and cannot cook for yourself. You can have a few cans of canned fish or chicken, a jar of peanut butter, a box of crackers. So, all this is pretty normal, we buy all this stuff shelf stable.
What is hard for people is usually the vegetables. It is a good idea to have some vegetables that you can use if it is off season from your garden and there is power outages or supply disruptions. I have found that the best quality shelf stable vegetables are dehydrated, dried, and not canned. Canned corn and canned olives are fine, and can make a good additions for texture, taste and color, but do not have a lot of nutritional value. I have bought dehydrated carrots and onions and found that they are very good, and good and easy to cook with. A few years ago, I spent the winter experimenting with all my regular recipes using the dehydrated carrots and onions. I found that when rehydrated they had a good, firm texture and a great, fresh smell ( so totally unlike mushy canned carrots ! ) I liked them much more than frozen, it is too easy for frozen vegetables to get freezer burn, they do not last that long in the freezer, and also I cannot rely on the freezer always working due to power outages. I tested out the ones from the LDS home storage center, but other places sell these, and you can get smaller 1 pound bags too. The large cans that I tested are enough carrots and onions to last me all winter, this is the home storage center item and price list https://providentliving.churchofjesuschrist.org/bc/providentliving/conte... A #10 can of carrots costs $8.50 and lasts 10 years unopened, and about a year once opened. The #10 can of onions costs $8 and lasts 30 years unopened. I believe I figured out that 1/8 cup of dried diced carrots rehydrated to about 1 carrot, and 1/4 cup of dried onion was one large onion. I bought storage foods there as there is a home storage center not too far from me to drive to. Augasons is a good brand that also sells these, and you can order from Amazon or Walmart, but is more expensive https://www.amazon.com/Augason-Farms-Dehydrated-Diced-Carrots/dp/B0096F5... Smaller amounts of dried vegetables are sold in some health food stores and by companies like Frontier Herbs, who has this nice mixed vegetable blend in a one pound bag. https://www.amazon.com/Frontier-Deluxe-Vegetables-Blend-Ounce/dp/B001VNK... ( Remember this is just the vegetables, to make soup you would still need a broth or broth powder ! The one low review was from a confused person that thought it included a broth or flavoring to make soup ! ) Azure standard, where I do most of my grocery shopping as their delivery truck comes to my area once a month, also sells one pound bags of dried vegetables, carrots, minced onion, bell peppers, peas and tomato powder ( I like tomato powder, it is good for when you want less than a can and keeps well in a jar once opened) https://www.azurestandard.com/shop/category/food/dehydrated-foods/dehydr... I dry some things at home. The easiest and quickest to dry are green onion tops, parsley, and greens ( like Kale, chard, lambs quarters, cabbage) I dry these and then put in glass jars to use in the winter ( in my case, just on the counter in the summer, but you could use the solar oven if humid) . So, you can see that you can have vegetables available at your house to see you thru a supply disruption. Dried vegetables have the same nutrients as fresh as long as they are not over dried ( so they should still be of appropriate color) So the dried carrots, kale and dried parsley will add alot of needed vitamens. Of course, potatoes and winter squash, you can just keep in a closet or somewhere to last most of the winter.
Do not forget about your pets ! I like to keep even 1-3 months, sometimes more seasonally, for all animals here, goats, chickens, dog, cats..... It is often 3 months for housepets and less for goats as the hay takes up so much room !
(And, chocolate and Tea.... we are not savages ! )
So, for a budget minded person, just spend something like $50-100 to get started, ( rice from the store, dried carrots and onions from LDS is around $20 of that ) Check the stores for sales on other items.
For those in the USA, go to dollar store or other discount store and get a few things in case of illness, maybe a quart of hydrogen peroxide ( for germ killing cleaning) and a few generic symptom reducers and hand sanitizer, spend maybe $6 -- Hydrogen peroxide, a roll of paper towels, hand sanitizer one big one, one of the pocket sized 3 packs, ibuprofin, peptobismol, for example. This way if there is a supply disruption to your regular stores, you have at least the basics.