How to Stockpile Food for a Year Step by Step

When preparing for a truly long-term survival situation you’ll have to accumulate all sorts of supplies and gear for the purpose. But as always one of the most fundamental provisions you’ll need, and an awful lot of it, is food.

DIY pantry shelves with various items stockpiled
DIY pantry shelves with various items stockpiled

When it comes to survival necessities, food is often predominant in conversations on the matter.

Though it is true you can live a lot longer without food than you can without water, failing to meet your daily calorie requirements means that your mental and physical energy will both start to fizzle out.

It is easy enough to stock up food enough to last you for 3 days or even a week, but keeping enough food on hand for months is quite a bit harder, and attaining a year-long stockpile of food is a serious challenge for even the most dedicated prepper.

So challenging that most don’t even try. But it doesn’t have to be that way if you approach the problem with a logical plan.

Today, we will be providing you with just such a plan and plenty of other information that will help you choose the right foods for the long haul and keep them from spoiling.

When Stockpiling, Start Small then Grow

If you are brand new to prepping or have only recently come around to the idea of stockpiling your own food for troubling times, the idea that you might store up an entire year’s worth of food probably sounds completely overwhelming.

Even if you are a seasoned prepper but have only kept a couple of weeks’ worth of food on hand, you probably aren’t far behind them.

And there’s a reason you feel that way: it is indeed a huge logistical challenge.

Where do you even begin? How do you even approach such a goal in a logical, rational way? What does a year’s worth of food even look like? What kind of food should you get? Are you even trying to put together a menu?

But for now, the most important thing you need to know is that if you want a year’s supply of stored food, you need to start small first.

Like all things, you’ll want to crawl before you walk and walk before you run if you want to increase your chances of success.

You want to start with a 3-day supply of food, and once you have that taken care of expand to a one-week supply, then a one-month supply, and so on and so forth.

We will cover all of that in due time throughout this article, but for now, we begin at the beginning: Exactly how do you determine how much food you need for a given length of time?

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Figuring Out How Much Food You Need Per Day

If you spend any amount of time in the prepper-sphere, you will soon come across a variety of methods for determining how much food you need for a given period of time.

Some people base the basic unit of stockpiled food on “servings”, others base it on complete meals, tallying a certain amount of meals per day.

Others base it on calories, and it is this final option that you’ll want to go with for your own stockpile.

Why Calories Instead of Some Other Unit of Measure?

Simply stated, it is the calorie that is the most easily and widely quantified unit of fuel for the human body.

We know that an adult human needs anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day to function at peak capacity and maintain weight.

We know that an adult human can get by on a little less and still function at a high level while losing weight slowly over time.

This isn’t conjecture: everyone from the World Health Organization to leading nutritional scientists and scholars in America generally land on this same figure.

Knowing that, it’s easy to calculate how many calories a person or a group of people will need per day, and then extrapolate that easily to see how much they’ll need over a given period of time.

Using that final figure we can base all of our purchases or acquisitions on it.

Determining Your Calorie Target

All you need to do is multiply the number of people in your group or family by the number of days that you are planning for your stockpile.

Note that there is some variation in the actual number of calories that an individual person needs day to day, but we’ll get to that in a minute. For now, let’s just use 2,200 calories as our benchmark per person.

Check out these example equations below:

  • 2,200cal. X 1 person X 3 Days = 6,600 calories in storage.
  • 2,200cal. X 2 people X 3 Days = 13,200 calories in storage.
  • 2,200cal. X 4 people X 3 Days = 26,400 calories in storage.
  • 2,200cal X 4 people X 30 Days = 264,000 calories in storage.
  • 2,200cal. X 4 people X 365 Days = 3,212,000 calories in storage.

All you are doing is multiplying the required amount of calories per day times the number of people you’re preparing for, and then multiplying that product by the number of days you are preparing for. It’s just that simple!

But you can also see that the last figure, the one showing how many calories you’ll need for a group of four people for a whole year, is staggering! Don’t let that scare you.

Yes, it is a ton of food, quite literally in some cases, but just like we followed a logical progression in scaling up our equations we will do the same thing when actually acquiring the food.

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to calories is that there is some variation in that daily requirement: Women generally need a little less than men.

Older folks need less than younger folks. Children don’t need as many calories as adults, generally, but they suffer worse from a calorie deficit.

People who are working hard and burning more calories need more calories to sustain that energy level and to recuperate.

Pregnant women need way more calories than they would usually- eating for two! You can refine your calorie figures based on exactly who is in your group or family, and what your anticipated activity levels will be.

The Progression of Food Preparedness

Now that we know exactly what our daily calorie requirements are for ourselves, our group, or our family, we can start building up our food supply, starting small and then scaling over time just like I mentioned before.

Below is my recommended progression along with some useful notes that will help guide your purchases and your storage plan as you go.

3-Day Supply

The 3-day supply is the gold standard for basic preparation. Simply, the vast majority of events that might befall you in life are concluded, one way or another, within about 3 days.

That means things will get back to normal or rescue and relief will arrive by then. Hopefully, food supplies in the area will be replenished and available!

If you don’t have a 3-day supply of food already, don’t do anything else until you get it.

Your food choices here are generally up to you, so long as they have a long shelf life, are easy to prepare, and are things that you and your family will eat.

Calories are the name of the game if you want to go super simple: you don’t need to worry about long-term nutritional requirements at this point.

  • Bottled Water
  • Granola Bars
  • Canned/Pouched Meals (Hormel Compl’Eats, Chili, etc.)
  • Spam, Canned Ham, Tuna
  • Crackers/Bread
  • Fruit Cocktail
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Snacks: Cookies, Pop-Tarts, etc.

1-Week Supply

Once you have a 3-day food supply, next, aim for a one-week supply. For most typical threats that you could encounter in life, a one-week supply is considered pretty abundant. This can carry you through the aftermath of a serious localized disaster.

For our purposes, most people just duplicate their 3-day supply and then include a little extra or toss in a little more variety in foods to make up the difference.

Once more, calories trump everything else, and only a near-total lack of specific nutrients will show any serious decline in health. Here you probably want to develop a meal plan, if only a simple one.

Having dedicated breakfast and lunch/dinner meals based on your food stores will help instill a sense of normalcy.

  • The same kinds of things for your 3-day supply, just more of them!
  • Bottled Water
  • Granola Bars
  • Canned/Pouched Meals (Hormel Compl’Eats, Chili, etc.)
  • Spam, Canned Ham, Tuna
  • Crackers/Bread
  • Fruit Cocktail
  • Breakfast Cereal
  • Snacks: Cookies, Pop-Tarts etc.
1-Month Emergency Stockpile Pantry Challenge +Tours!

1-Month Supply

A one-month supply of food on-hand and in storage is seen as the first benchmark on your way to a one-year supply and is generally adequate for getting you and yours through a significant regional disaster or other events that completely disrupt supply lines and the usual way of life.

Things get more challenging here: Foods must be capable of staying entirely fresh and safe in long-term storage, and variety also becomes more important for nutritional requirements as well as morale.

Depending on your personality, menu burnout might be a very real problem. Storing this much food in nearly any form will take up a ton of room in your home.

Most preppers that are preparing for a truly long-term scenario like to create four different weekly menus for their 1-month supply, though you might be fine with a repeating one-week menu.

  • Bottled/Jugged Water
  • Canned Veggies
  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Meats: Tuna, Chicken, Beef, Ham, etc.
  • Dry Pasta
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut Butter

3-Month Supply

A 3-month supply of food is a truly massive amount of food, and capable of sustaining a family or group of people through truly calamitous times like famine, civil conflict, and other similarly disruptive events at the national scale.

This usually requires dedicated storage space or a scattered but organized storage plan throughout your home.

Inventorying, rotating, and inspecting your food is now virtually a part-time job and one that must be attended to with strict care.

The template for building a 3-month food supply is typically just duplicating your one-month food plan twice more. Beware of the temptation to add too many novel items for variety’s sake.

Most preppers will struggle to get beyond this point without having their food stockpile completely take over their home.

  • Mostly the same foods as your 1-month supply, just more of.
  • Self-Stored Water (Caution: Many commercial bottles/jugs break down within a few months! Store your own in special containers for a reliable 3-month supply.)
  • Canned Veggies
  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Meats: Tuna, Chicken, Beef, Ham, etc.
  • Dry Pasta
  • Rice
  • Nuts
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut Butter
  • Powdered Drink Mixes, Coffee, Tea, etc.

6-Month Supply

A 6-month supply of food represents a tremendous investment in your family’s future no matter what occurs. It is also a tremendous investment of money, time, and space.

Your average home cannot hold a 6-month supply of food without dedicating most of the living and storage space to the task.

Supplementary storage is usually a requirement, and keeping this food inventoried and rotated becomes truly challenging.

With diligence and true adherence to a good system of administration, it is nonetheless possible for your average prepper.

As you might expect, the easiest way to expand your stores into a 6-month supply is just to duplicate your 3-month purchase plan.

  • Self-Stored and treated Water
  • Canned Veggies
  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Meats: Tuna, Chicken, Beef, Ham, etc.
  • Dry Pasta
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut Butter
  • Freeze-dried foods: meat, veggies, fruit, eggs, etc.
  • Canned/Powdered milk
  • Bread mixes
  • MREs/Camper meals on a supplementary basis.
  • Powdered Drink Mixes, Coffee, Tea, etc.
How to Build 1 Year of Food Storage - Ultimate Guide

1-Year Supply

This is it: your ultimate goal. A one-year supply of food on hand will prepare you and your family for any conceivable, survivable event.

From the complete and total collapse of an economy to outright civil war, having this much food on hand means you are completely self-sufficient in that regard for the foreseeable future.

But the logistical challenge is massive even using the most calorie-dense foods, storing them in a way that is accessible for maintenance and inspection while leaving room for you to actually, you know, live is challenging and will likely require a substantial investment in and of itself.

But, assuming you have the room, this is entirely achievable so long as you are dedicated to constantly expanding your supply over time.

  • Duplicate your 6-month supply, and add a little variety. Storage conditions and preservation are key! Consider freeze-dried or vacuum-packed substitutes where possible.
  • Self-Stored and treated Water
  • Canned Veggies
  • Canned Fruit
  • Canned Meats: Tuna, Chicken, Beef, Ham, etc.
  • Dry Pasta
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Pasta Sauces
  • Crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • Peanut Butter
  • Powdered Drink Mixes, Coffee, Tea, etc.
  • Freeze-dried foods: meat, veggies, fruit, eggs, etc.
  • Canned/Powdered milk
  • Bread mixes
  • MREs/Camper meals on supplementary basis.

What Kind of Food Should You Stockpile?

The first and most obvious question, after determining how many calories you need, is what kind of foods you should get.

The short answer is that you want varied nutritious, calorie-dense foods that are easy to prepare and have a very long shelf life without any requirement of refrigeration. That is ideal, though this is easier said than done.

The simple fact is that most foods require some preparation if they are nutritious, and most don’t last very long in storage unless they are refrigerated or frozen.

Foods that do last a long time at room temperature tend to be junk food or else not very nutritious. So what are we to do?

It turns out that there are quite a few foods that are sort of prepper staples for our purposes.

Things like dried pastas, whole grains, rice, dried beans, cereals, canned veggies, canned fruit, bread mixes, peanut butter, nuts, canned meats, and powdered, preserved, or freeze-dried foods can meet pretty much all of our nutritional requirements and give us shelf lives that are measured in months and sometimes years at room temperature.

Some of them are ready to eat as soon as we open the package.

These are the foods we should lean on for our supply, and they have the added advantage of being entirely normal and tasty so we can add them to our everyday meals when it is time to rotate our stocks.

Rotation is a critical concept that we will talk about in a minute. But for now, let’s break down each of these long-term storage staples and see what they have to offer us.

Dried Pasta

Dried pasta is a great staple for long-term storage. Pasta has lots of calories protein and minerals, stores almost indefinitely if kept protected from light and pests, and is very cheap. The only downside is that it requires boiling water for preparation.

Whole Grains

Whole grains are another staple food well suited to long, bulk storage. Containing an excellent assortment of vitamins and minerals and suitable for being processed and to various foods, they are also typically quite affordable per calorie.

Out of all the whole grains you might choose, rolled oats offer perhaps the best cross-section of nutrition and excellent storage life. Be warned that whole grains are highly vulnerable to insect infestation.


Rice is a mainstay in diets around the world, and for good reason. It is highly nutritious, filling, and cheap.

This is perfect for our purposes, and rice can be put to use in all kinds of dishes at every meal of the day. Like pasta, it does require boiling water for preparation. Like whole grains, it is highly vulnerable to insects and other pests.

For the best shelf life get white rice kept in vacuum-sealed mylar bags, as it can last for years and years.

Dried Beans

Another staple food enjoyed around the world in every kind of cuisine, dry beans of one kind or another will prove to be your very best source of vegetarian protein, and also the longest lasting.

Kept safe from pests and moisture, dried beans last basically forever (at least 5 years) although once they are very old they will require longer soaking and boiling to make them edible.


Don’t discount the value of common boxed breakfast cereals for simple, bulk calories fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Simpler is usually better here, think of things like oats, Cheerios, grape nuts, cornflakes, and so forth.

You can easily get a year of shelf life out of them if you place their sealed bag in a better airtight container.

Canned Veggies

Canned vegetables are a convenient and reasonably affordable way to keep nutrient-packed produce on hand easily at room temperature.

This is a great way to add variety to meals and get a good cross-section of nutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals.

Canned vegetables, like all canned goods, have the disadvantage of being very heavy and generally space inefficient, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Most will keep for at least a year and usually longer if kept cool.

Canned Fruit

Much like canned vegetables above, canned fruit is a great way to get extra nutrition in your diet and in great variety.

As mentioned, canned goods are generally space-inefficient and quite heavy, but fresh fruits spoil extremely quickly so canned fruit will be your go-to.

Typically does not last quite as long as canned vegetables, but a storage life of a year should be expected.

Bread Mixes

Fresh bread is a bear to keep unspoiled if you aren’t going to freeze it, but bread mixes can keep bread in your diet so long as you have a way to bake it. Most dry mixes will last a couple of years if they are kept out of direct sunlight and cool.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter is every prepper’s best friend when it comes to storing cheap, tasty, and nutritious food for the long-term.

Packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, peanut butter is an excellent source of short-term and long-term energy that is adaptable to many different dishes and preparations, or can be eaten easily straight out of the jar.

An unopened jar of peanut butter that is made with preservatives will easily last a year or two in storage without spoiling.


Nuts in general are good survival food, containing tons of protein, minerals, and some vitamins.

You’ll usually get anywhere from 6 months to a year in storage if kept very cool and dark, but nuts can go rancid so keep an eye on them.

Canned meats

There is no need to live on vegetarian proteins alone if you are forced to resort to your survival stockpile.

All of your usual favorites have a place here, from the ubiquitous canned tuna and chicken to favorites like Spam, canned meats can last a surprisingly long time and provide filling meals that are highly nutritious.

Shelf life varies, but is anywhere from 6 months to a year and a half if kept cool.

Freeze-Dried Foods

For the ultimate in long shelf life, nothing beats freeze drying. From freeze-dried fruit pieces and veggie snacks to meats and even complete meals in the form of MREs or pouches of camping foods, freeze-dried food will last anywhere from a decade to perhaps 30 years or longer.

This stuff is tops for long life and minimizing the stresses of rotating your stockpile, but some of them require water to prepare and they tend to be quite a bit more expensive than the same food preserved in another way.


Oils, dried butter, candy, chocolate, cocoa powder, flour, cornmeal, powdered drink mixes, and the like all have a place in your survival pantry as ingredients and as comfort foods to help boost morale and stave off boredom.

Shelf life obviously varies, but most of these things can last 6 months to a year easily.

Sell-by dates are Just Recommendations

Something you’ll need to wrap your head around when you are creating a truly long-term food stockpile is that the sell-by or best-by dates on the packages of food we buy at the grocery store are actually just recommendations.

It turns out that there are many foods that are entirely safe and fresh way beyond those printed dates on the can or bag.

Sure, you can use those dates if you want to as the hard line for when you must eat your food or withdraw it from your stockpile, but if you do you’ll be giving up a lot of useful storage life, and that means you’ll be wasting money.

So how do you know what the actual storage life is of your food? Aside from the examples I gave above it’s a combination of experience, experimentation, and a lot of anecdotal evidence provided by other people and government agencies.

You’ll need to do your own research on this one and reach a conclusion that is right for you, but luckily for you, we have plenty of articles that can take you on a deep dive into the subject on this website.

Proper Nutrition is Paramount Long-Term

One of the easiest mistakes to make when putting together a very long-term stash of stored food is overlooking nutritional requirements.

Preparing for a short-term event of 3 days, a week, or even a month is easier because unless you are really trying to omit certain nutrients you probably won’t be suffering too badly from the effects of malnutrition, minerals, or vitamins, so long as you have enough calories to keep you alive and working.

But when we start to get into 3 months, 6 months, or one-year supplies the situation is quite different.

A deficiency of any mineral or vitamin can cause significant health problems, including compromising energy production.

One well-known malady that results from insufficient or absent vitamin intake is scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C.

Scurvy has long been the plague of sailors at sea and other survivors who lacked fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets.

However, it is easy to beat scurvy by storing canned fruits and vegetables, or dehydrated, powdered drink mixes that are fortified with the vitamin.

There are many other examples besides, but know that it is possible to beat malnutrition simply by eating a variety of foods as discussed above.

Yes, it is possible to build your entire food supply around dried pasta and peanut butter alone, but those two foods together, even if you could tolerate eating them that long, are nowhere near nutritionally complete.

The Logistics of Long-term Storage Can be Challenging

One of the major deterrents to accumulating any sizable stockpile of food, to say nothing of a year’s worth of food, is just the logistics of doing so.

Particularly, we must always contend with the fact that most foods just don’t last indefinitely in storage. They will degrade, go stale, and eventually spoil or rot over time.

Rotation is Mandatory

No matter what size stockpile you have, rotating your supplies is mandatory. No, I’m not talking about turning the cans on the shelves or flipping bags of pasta over.

I am talking about removing and eating (or donating) food before it goes bad, and preferably before it gets into the “questionable” zone.

This is why it is so important to purchase foods that you actually like and want to eat in addition.

Before the canned beets, fruit cocktails, Spam, or tuna go bad you’ll take them out, and either prepare a meal with them or donate them to a pantry or food bank that will give them to someone before it spoils.

In fact, when it’s time to make lunch, dinner, or whatever around the house you should be taking food from your stockpile first when you can, and the oldest of any given item at all times.

Sounds backward? It’s not: you aren’t depleting your stockpile out of your convenience, you are removing and using your food before it goes to waste, and then when you go to the grocery to purchase more of the item you need it goes into your stockpile at the back, so to speak.

This means you’ll always have newer, fresher food replenishing your stocks, and accordingly, your stockpile always stays fresh.

Following this methodology, you’ll never need to resort to cracking open ancient food that is half spoiled or disgusting just because times get tough.

This factor, more than almost anything else, will determine the success or failure of your stockpile.

Always Date Your Food

To facilitate this rotation objective, you must label each and every unit of every item with the date you added it to the stockpile and preferably also the expected, actual expiration date.

This will allow you to see at a glance how old the food is, how long it has been in stores, and how much time you have before you really need to take it out and either use it or get rid of it.

You can use a permanent marker or a stick-on label from a label maker: just make sure it will not come off or wear off.

Of course, the more food you have in your stockpile the more inspection you’ll need to do on many different foods and then come up with a plan for using them. This is all part and parcel of accumulating a large supply.

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Use a Spreadsheet for Tracking Your Purchases and More

I think we all know by now, instinctively, that grabbing extra stuff at random at the grocery store is just not going to cut it: not for meeting our nutritional requirements, not for meeting our calorie targets, and not for actually accumulating the food in a reasonable amount of time.

What you need is a planner, and this is easily made. Your planner should be a simple spreadsheet composed of rows for each item you want to include in your stockpile, along with information on its calorie and protein content (per item), the number you have on hand, the total calories from the amount on hand, and the number required (by package or weight) to meet your target.

This will allow you to easily plan supplementary inclusions for your stockpile based on how many calories you need, what you already have on hand, and what you lack, and do it all at a glance.

You should be consulting and updating this planner whenever you are going shopping for food, whenever you are inspecting or rotating your stockpile, when you are menu planning, and whenever you take food out as part of the rotation process.

Knowing what you have on hand, what you need to buy, and what is missing is the only way to keep making progress toward your goal.

Keep in mind that the simpler your menu from week to week the smaller and more streamlined your spreadsheet will be.

If you are not happy giving up any food or dish for the duration of the event, you’re going to have a lot more to keep track of. The simpler you can live and eat, and be reasonably happy, the better off you’ll be.

Some Foods are Inherently Better than Others

Lastly, keep in mind that some foods are just better for our purposes than others. Remember, we are thinking really long term as our objective.

Things like processed bread which can last a week or two in the pantry before molding might be fine for a 3-day or one-week supply if you are regularly eating these breads anyway – you are, in essence, constantly rotating them.

But accumulating them in quantity enough to serve even a one-month supply to say nothing of a six-month or 1 year supply is foolish.

How much of this bread are you going to eat?! The point is it is difficult to conceive of eating enough of this bread at any given point to keep it from spoiling in storage. That means you’re going to be throwing a lot of it away.

A better option would be purchasing bread mix which can keep for months on end or even a year, or purchasing specialized bread products like hardtack that, while not very appetizing in comparison, will last and last and last.

Similarly, preserving the same foods in a different way might yield dramatically better shelf life at the cost of taste or texture.

We’ll talk more about preservation as it relates to our goals in the very next section, but this is something you should keep in mind.

Keeping fresh milk unspoiled is entirely dependent on refrigeration, but canned or dehydrated milk can give you the same options for preparing a meal and make the logistics of keeping the milk a whole lot simpler.

Proper Storage Conditions Extend Shelf Life

If you want to create a one-year supply of food, you’re going to face a serious uphill battle unless you pay close attention to the storage conditions where you are keeping it.

Basically, you want to keep your storage location cool, preferably between 50° and 60° Fahrenheit(10-15° C) and definitely under 75° F (24° C) if at all possible.

Warmer temperatures accelerate spoilage, while cooler temperatures preserve food longer all things being equal.

You’ll also need to take care that your food is not exposed to light any more than necessary, be it artificial light or sunlight. Either can promote decay.

Lastly, consider that this massive amount of food is vulnerable to pests like rodents and insects.

Proper pest control begins from the outside and works its way in. It is best to keep pests from even getting into your home or storage building in the first place.

Consider that the containers you choose for storing your food will offer more or less protection for your food.

Metal containers can resist rodents whereas there are precious few plastic containers that will. All containers should be airtight or otherwise sealed tightly enough to keep out tiny insects.

Be Ready for Anything with a 1-Year Food Stockpile

Building and maintaining a 1-year food stockpile is a major undertaking for any prepper, but using the right plan and approach it just takes time.

This guide will help you build your stash easily and logically using a sensible progression.

If you don’t have any food put back for hard times, don’t wait: the best time to begin was yesterday, and the next best time is right now!

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