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Fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, snowstorm, power grid failure, civil unrest, and pandemic. You can take your pick of these and other reasons why you should have an emergency stockpile of food for your family.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends storing a minimum of one gallon of water per person for at least three days and a three-day supply of non-perishable food. And ready.gov has a list of suggested foods to store in your emergency pantry.
But over the past year and a half, most of us have realized that a three-day supply is not nearly enough to get us through some emergencies. Building a stockpile of food for the future while feeding a family in the present can be expensive. How can you get the most bang for your buck on the stuff you need?
We’ve spent some time scouring the web for deals and checking brick-and-mortar store prices to come up with eight ways to find great deals on emergency food.
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1. Order Long-Lasting Staples in Bulk
You probably already know that dried staples like hard grains, beans, white rice, rolled oats, and pasta are inexpensive and have a long shelf life. You also can serve them in many ways and many recipes.
You can save by buying these items in bulk, and we found some of the best online deals at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints website store. And they are already packaged for long-term storage. Here are a few deals we found:
- A case of white rice that includes six #10 cans for $47.90.
- A case of rolled oats that includes six #10 cans for $34.90.
- A case of black beans that includes six #10 cans for $48.85.
Tip: Find out if there is an LDS cannery near you, and you can get the same food even cheaper and save on shipping. (You don’t need to be an LDS member to shop the website or cannery.)
2. Shop Clearance/Sale Sections
You know to look for clearance sales at brick-and-mortar stores, but did you know some websites have them too?
The Emergency Essentials/BePrepared website has a clearance/sale page that updates frequently. On our recent visit, we saw prices that were $5 off or more on such shelf-stable food items as dehydrated chopped onions, freeze-dried tomato chunks, and whole egg powder.
3. Get Familiar With Bulk Options At Big-Box Stores
Membership stores like Costco and Sam’s Club and supermarkets like WinCo and Walmart sell emergency foods at pretty reasonable prices, and if you buy in person, you can save on shipping.
For example, on a recent in-person visit to Walmart, we found a #10 can of Augason Farms Dehydrated Diced Red & Green Bell Peppers for $12.58 and a #10 can of Augason Farms Dehydrated Potato Shreds for $22.35. Not bad!
4. Get Savvy With Coupons
Most stores and websites have some sort of couponing system, and once you learn to navigate it, you can save on staples like baking soda, sugar, popcorn, salt, and canned goods.
We like grocerysmarts.com, which helps do much of the legwork for you. Also, Coupons.com has a massive database of coupons and is available in a convenient app that you can use while you shop.
5. Learn About Case Lot Sales
I admit to not knowing about this great way to save on canned goods, cleaning supplies, pet food, and other necessities until about a year ago. A case lot sale is when a store sells certain items in bulk, often at a discount.
You have to be aware that not every case lot sale is a great deal, but if you wade through the lists (with a calculator in hand), you can find some real bargains. The Krazy Koupon Lady gives some tips here.
6. Store Your Own Home-Grown, Home-Raised Food
Probably the best way to save on boosting your emergency pantry is by stocking it with your own food. You can keep the bounty of a seasonal garden going by freeze-drying, dehydrating, and canning your foods. You can smoke, cure, or freeze-dry your meats as well.
The hidden expense of storing your own food is having to buy the proper storage containers. These include Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers. You also need these containers if you want to prepare store-bought foods (such as plastic bags of rice) for a long shelf life.
You can often obtain free five-gallon food-grade buckets from bakeries and small restaurants. Be sure to avoid any bucket that is not labeled as food-grade with a knife and fork symbol.
If you prefer to purchase new buckets, one of the best deals we found was this set of six five-gallon food-grade buckets for $67.99, including shipping.
7. Stock Up On Seasonal And End-Of-Season Bargains
When produce is in season and plentiful, you can often find it at rock-bottom prices. For example, in mid-to-late-summer, I can usually find ears of corn at about 10 cents each. This is the time to stock up and preserve these items for later use.
Here’s another example. Many retailers fill their shelves with flour, sugar, and other baking supplies in the weeks and even months leading up to the holidays. Sometimes you can find incredible bargains on these shelf-stable basics.
Also, check out local co-ops for incredible prices on fresh fruits and vegetables. Visit BountifulBaskets.org to find locations near you, set up a free account, and download the helpful app.
8. Focus On Easy-To-Store Nutrient-Dense Foods
Rice and beans are the mainstays of many survival food panties – and with good reason. They are cheap, filling, and long-lasting. Be sure to date your containers and follow the first-in, first-out rule for best results.
Here is a list of other foods to add to your pantry list:
- Peanut butter
- Whole wheat crackers (consider vacuum sealing)
- Nuts and trail mix
- Cereal (individually packaged)
- Granola bars and power bars
- Dried fruits
- Grains, pasta, and rice
- Canned meat such as chicken, tuna, and salmon
- Canned vegetables such as carrots, peas, and beans
- Canned soups
- Powdered milk
- Sugar, salt and pepper, herbs, and spices
- Drinking water
Finally, one of the main questions that comes up when you’re building up an emergency food pantry is how much do you need. Here’s a calculator to help you estimate quantities for your family. (And don’t forget your animals!)
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