Home » Stockpiling Basics: How to Stockpile on a Budget

Stockpiling Basics: How to Stockpile on a Budget


Some people might think stockpiling is unnecessary, but let me tell you: As a Minnesotan, we’ve had more than our fair share of days when we’ve been stuck in the house due to a 36-inch snowstorm or a stretch of 30-below zero winter days.

Have you ever thought about having a stockpile of food set aside for a disaster or time of need, but were scared of taking action due to potential costs?  If so, you’re in luck, because there are ways to stockpile on even the tightest of budgets.  Go to almost any commercial site on survival food and you’ll find it easy (and highly recommended) to spend thousands and thousands of dollars on a 1-to-2 year supply of food for your family.  But creating your own stockpile survival is often easier and most always cheaper.

Before you write off stockpiling as only for “preppers”, consider the victims of recent hurricanes and other natural disasters.  These poor folks were often stuck in their homes with no electricity and/or no access to transportation, as they waiting for hard-working city officials to restore power and clear streets, of which tasks far outnumbered the number of personnel assigned to the jobs.  Residents often had to wait 2 weeks or even longer before they could get to a store or cook food, and with the financial picture of most Americans being what it is these days, leaving town for a sunny destination or even a far away family member’s home that allowed for food and power sources was simply not an option.

Therefore it’s in your own best interest to have at least a small stockpile of foods and medicines on hand in case of a natural or other disaster that might keep you locked in your home.  Here are some things you can stock up on and still have money left over to pay the bills if you’re on a tight budget.

Core Foods

Core foods should consist of main meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Here is some of what we try and stock up on.  Some needs to be prepared, and some doesn’t.  You may be in a situation where you still have power, but can’t leave your home due to blocked roads or extreme hot or cold temperatures.  Here are some basics that will get you through if the normal food supply is running low:

Rice (check the big box stores – we get ours for $10 for a 25 lb box)

Pasta – big bags(5 lbs.) go for roughly $6 at the shopping clubs

Beans: pinto, black, navy – whatever your family likes best.  You can get a huge bag of beans for about $7

Oatmeal: 2 – 5lb. containers for $7.98

Fully cooked meats, soups, stews, veggies and meals of your liking.  (Price, your choice.  It depends on how much rice, beans and pasta your family can handle, but these are definitely optional and not necessities, unless you’re stuck without power, so we always like to have at least some on hand.)  Let’s estimate $50 for this category.

**Note: This is a crucial part of stockpiling – only get the things your family likes to eat.  Don’t waste your money on stuff you hate just to have something in the house.


This is easy.  Keep on hand these three basics:

Water (we buy the gallon jugs.  One gallon for each family member per day.  I would have at least a two-week supply on hand, so if you have a 4-person family, that’s 28 gallons of purified drinking water).  $28 at the most for a two-week supply, $56 for a month-supply.

A large box of powdered milk, for drinking and/or baking.  Yeah, it’s gross, but desperate times call for desperate measures.  Walmart sells generic powdered milk, 64oz. for under $14

Optional: you may want to have on hand some type of powdered flavoring, such as Koolaid, for your water, as a special treat.  I wouldn’t spend any more than $5 on this though


We keep a stockpile of 5 basic spices:

Salt $1.50 for 2- 26oz containers

Pepper $7.64 for 18 oz.

Garlic Powder $5.94 for 21 oz.

Chili Powder $5.28 for 20 oz.

Cinnamon   $4.58 18 .oz

This may not cover all of your spice preferences, but it will cover the basics.  You may want to exchange the garlic and/or chili powder for your own favorites too, but we’ve found that these five basics can get us by for most recipes.

Baking Supplies

It’s always good to have some basic baking supplies on hand too, for if an emergency arises and grocery stores are unavailable.

Flour $4.76 for a 10-lb. bag

White Sugar $4.79 for a 10-lb. bag

Brown Sugar $3.98 for 4-lbs.

Baking soda –$1.24 for 2 lbs.

Baking powder  $5.78 for 60 oz.

Vanilla flavoring $6.88 for 16 oz.

Cocoa $6.78 for 23 oz.  (What?  Chocolate is not a necessity?  I vehemently disagree!)

Butter (can be frozen) 4- 1 lb. boxes for $7.98

Eggs – not especially storable – this is where backyard chickens come in VERY handy.  That being said, I have skipped the eggs in things like pancakes and biscuits, and added a bit more water as needed to moisten, and they were perfectly acceptable to eat.

First Aid

You’ll also want to have at least a basic first aid kit available.  What should be in the basic kit?


1 Ace Bandage (for sprains and to use as a tourniquet if necessary)



Benadryl Allergy liquid for kids (faster acting in a liquid form for allergic reactions)

Neosporin or some other antibacterial ointment

Caladryl (for poison ivy, etc.)

Basic first aid instruction kit

Total cost for these items should run you about $30

Total spent on your basic stockpiling supply?  Roughly $250.  And this food list should easily last your family a month.

That being said, $250 is a lot of money to most people.  So how can you get the best bang for your buck and fit your stockpiling supply into an already tight budget?

1. Stockpile a little at a time.  Mr. CBB over at Canadian Budget Binder is a pro at this.   He always budgets a bit into his weekly grocery budget for stockpiling.  Check out his money-saving grocery tips here.

2.  Hit the sales.  It’s crucial to take advantage of great sales, both for your regular grocery shopping and for your stockpile.  When our favorite spaghetti sauce went on sale for 99 cents a jar, we bought 15 jars for the stockpile.  Add in the pasta, and we’re talking $1.75 for each meal for our family of six.

3.  Stick to the basics.  Your stockpiling supply is not meant to be full of gourmet meals.  Of course, if you can afford it, go all out.  But for those on a tight budget who are simply concerned about being able to feed their families in a time of crisis, stick to the basics.  The important thing here is that you have food to eat, water to drink, and basic medical supplies for emergencies that can be handled at home.

Remember that for homes with babies or toddlers, those on regular medications, those with pets, and others with specific needs, you’ll need to stock up on those necessary supplies as well.

What do you think of our basic stockpiling list?  Are we missing anything?





  1. I can’t say that I stockpile. I have never had a need to, probably because the state I live in rarely goes through an event. Even if it does, I have the ability to get around with my custom Jeep. We also don’t have that much room to stockpile. That is probably the leading cause.

    • Laurie says:

      You’d be amazed, Grayson, how you can find room to put stuff. Under beds, closet floors, there are all kinds of options. Our new house has little to no storage area, except for a small space under the stairs. But we are “creating” storage, little by little. As far as never having a need, never say never. 🙂

  2. Wow, that’s an extensive list Laurie. 🙂 Though, like you said, you have ample reason to. We have one, but no where near as extensive. Thankfully we don’t get many 3 foot snow days. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Glad you’re stockpiling a little bit, at least. Yeah, the snow is a bummer most days, at least to us. A winter home down south is definitely one of our financial goals. 🙂

  3. I don’t really stockpile but that’s probably because we live in a small one bedroom apartment and have no room. I do have a 25 lb bag of rice though because I eat that often and it’s cheaper. Same with pasta and oatmeal. Like Grayson, where I live rarely goes through an event…though that doesn’t mean it won’t. I live in NYC and there was Hurricane Sandy, but I do not live near the water and luckily did not suffer a blackout.

  4. Laurie, huge list. We don’t stock pile as we don’t have a reason and space shortage. I see you have a reason too. But I hope there is control on consumption or it may lead to extra belly inches

  5. I remember living in MN and how everyone would run to the store to stock-up so they wouldn’t have to leave home during the storm. Good times. 🙂 I also remember my excitement when I first moved to LA and they were going on and on about a big winter storm heading our way. How would compare to MN’s day-long (or more) white outs? It rained for maybe 30 minutes. Such a huge bummer! Space is partially an issue but I think it’s smart to at least be prepared for the unknown.

    • Laurie says:

      LOL, yeah, a 30-minute rain would be a walk in the park here. :-). Especially with us being out in the boonies now, it’s not a 4 mile drive to the grocery store, you know? We’ve increased our stockpiling plan even more.

  6. Rather than stockpiling 14 gallons of water per person in jugs, how about buying a couple waterBOB? They are giant bladders that you fill in your bathtub, and your bathtub is a 100 gallon sanitary freshwater reserve. Seems much more economical than keeping all those gallon jugs with That possible have BPA or other chemicals leeching into the water for years.

    This is great in hurricane country where we are since we usually have days worth of notice for storms.

  7. Keren says:

    We are beginner preppers. I’m working on some minor stockpiling and next is water storage. Great list!

  8. Great list! I use to stockpile some items before, but now the only items we really stockpile on are items that the stores regularly gouge you on when they’re not on sale. Items like pasta, toilet paper, paper towels and laundry detergent. Basically anything that won’t go to waste (or can be frozen). We just don’t have a lot of storage room in our house, and now that my daughter’s toys are taking up the basement, I have even less. Ha!

  9. I don’t think I’ve ever thought about stockpiling in case of a natural disaster of sorts but I guess depending on where you live it might be a smart decision. We only stockpile food we will use but we hardly stockpile much these days in terms of food.Stockpiling dry beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, tuna is what you might find. You might also find loads of turkey sausages or other proteins in the freezer if we can get them on offer. We make our own sauces and some condiments now including jam and mayonnaise once in a while. In terms of pantry items we always make sure our pantry is filled with all the essentials to make delicious meals from scratch. When it comes to health and beauty, water softener salts, laundry etc, if we can get it cheaper using a coupon or though a store special, we will stock it. Take caution with aerosols though as the shelf life is normally only 2 years and then the cans start to bleed until there is nothing left. Thanks for sharing my post!! A stocked pantry is a pantry you want to cook from!!

  10. Moni says:

    I had been putting together a survival kit for our household but got called out of town so I asked my husband to get the bags of rice to complete the kit, I asked him to get 5 bags of rice meaning the 200g ones (7.0548oz), as they would fit nicely into this storage bin. When I returned, he’d bought five 10 kilo bags (roughly 20 pounds each) LOL we are eating a lot of rice this year.

    Fortunately rice doesn’t expire, but keep in mind that other dry goods do. I was given advice rather than storing dry goods seperately for survival kits, to incorporate them thru your pantry so that they get used and a fresh back up bag is then stored along side.

    Also keep in mind that if the power is off, you will have to consume what is in the fridge and freezer first.

  11. Mackenzie says:

    Great post Laurie 🙂 Here in California, we’re in earthquake territory, so having extra water, food, and first aid supplies is definitely a good idea!

  12. Jim says:

    Great list Laurie, totally agree with it, I might add flashlights, batteries, matches, and a battery operated radio. Other than that I think you are all ready!!

  13. Alexandra @ Real Simple Finances says:

    Laurie, this is an *awesome* list. I can’t thank you enough for sharing it! We had a horrible time between losing power and getting snowed in last year, and it was worse because we weren’t prepared. I’m going to be slowing stockpiling using this list!

    • Laurie says:

      Oh goodness, Alexandra!! That must’ve been scary! Glad you’ve got some tips to prepare yourselves for next time. Those snowstorms really can be a pain!

  14. We had some friends years ago who purchased a thousand dollars worth of prepackaged food supplies from a commercial supplier for Y2K. Of course, nothing happened and they were stuck with their items. Your list would have been much more cost effective.

    • Laurie says:

      Exactly, Brian! In a way, I’m glad we can’t afford to go blow a grand right now on that stuff. It’s forced us to find a way to stockpile frugally, and with foods that, even if nothing happens, we will still eat, or at the least be able to give to a food shelf.

  15. Great tips, Laurie! We certainly got pummelled by those snowstorms last winter, didn’t we? We stockpile but not to the degree we should. We more so do it because we buy a few of something when they are on sale and there are coupons for it. I really need to make sure we have extra water and other essentials you have listed. Hmmm might have to reorganize the basement this winter and figure out the best way to store it all.

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, we’re in the process of doing that too, DC. We’ve got little to no storage here, so we’re having to get creative about stockpiling, and also working on minimizing our possessions too. Interesting stuff. 🙂

  16. Sicorra says:

    That is quite a list Laurie! While we do have some extra things I really do not view it as stockpiling for emergencies. We do get a ton of snow here too in the winters, and as much as I would love to just stay in, our city keeps moving like nothing is different, and I’ve had to adapt to that. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Yeah, it’s funny how some people/cities just keep rolling along, while others drop to a standstill, isn’t it? Now that we’re in the country, we’ll be hunkering down during storms, I’m guessing. 🙂

  17. Great advice, Laurie. My wife and I need to get better at this. We normally shop every 2-3 weeks, so we have about that much stockpiled, but I’m not sure how much of it we’d be able to eat without electricity (a lot of it needs to be cooked somehow and we have an electric range). I think this will become even more important when we have kids.

    • Laurie says:

      So true, Jake. Even a little Coleman stove would be great for dealing with short-term outages, at least as far as cooking goes. Or get some fully cooked canned soups and stews, and eat them cold if you have to. Like Mr. CBB, we just try and stockpile a little bit each week so it doesn’t strain the budget too badly.

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  19. When we went through hurricane sandy we were pretty glad we had such a big stockpile of food and supplies. One item we wished we’d had more of? Wind-up flashlights (that don’t use batteries) and a windup radio (we had no idea what was going on or how bad the damage was). We have both now 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      Great suggestions, KK. Yeah, I remember you talking about how you were much more prepared than many in your community. It’s those types of disasters that always come to mind for me when I think about stockpiling.

  20. Monica @MonicaOnMoney says:

    Great point, I’ve been meaning to stockup when I see Buy One Get one deals at my local Publix.

  21. Shirley says:

    I have been stockpiling for a much different reason. Two years ago I knew that my husband would be retiring. My plan was to stockpile all the daily care necessities that we would need for about the next 5 years, yes 5 years. I have enough toilet paper, kleenex, bar soap, shampoo, laundry detergent etc etc. When he gets his last pay cheque the only thing we will have to really worry about is food. I will be still working, but living on one income will be a change. Now that I have stockpiled I feel so much better, seeing that we can manage on one pay cheque helps me sleep better at night. I think I will start the food stockpile of sorts, there is only the two of us so some of those quantities are a bit big…but its a great idea I must say.

    • Laurie says:

      Shirley, now that is smart thinking! What a great way to help your family prepare for a change in income. Not sure if you consider yourself a writer, but you’re welcome to guest post about that experience any time here. I would’ve never thought about stockpiling for that reason before. Thanks for sharing!

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