How To Prepare, Save Money & Guarantee You Have Food When the SHTF

With rising costs and inflation, food has become a significant part of every family’s budget. In fact, it’s estimated that the average American family spends 12.74% of their budget on food. With that in mind, the thought of spending even more money to stock an emergency food pantry might seem a little overwhelming for some.

While the extra cost might seem like a burden, the fact is, we all need to have a stockpile of emergency food on hand at all times. Just one look at what happens during predictable disasters is enough to show you how easily our modern food delivery systems can be thrown out of whack. From natural disasters and localized crisis situations to large-scale events like further economic problems and social unrest, the need to have a stockpile of emergency food and supplies is something you can’t ignore.

With the country over 19 trillion dollars in debt and unfunded obligations that make the actual debt number about $120 trillion, it doesn’t take an economist to see that we are in for some major trouble in the months and years ahead.

The cost of food isn’t going down!

Anyone who buys supplies for their family knows the cost of everything has been going up pretty quickly. Even foods that were once relatively cheap, like rice, beans, and flours are all starting to go up in price. But if you followed the advice on this site, or did any form of prepping over the last couple of years, you probably have more money on hand now than if you had gone about your normal everyday life.

While that may seem like an odd concept to those who haven’t started, the fact is, prepping doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, if done in the right way, it may actually save you and your family a significant amount of money.

Six Tips that will help you Save Money & Guarantee You Have Food When the SHTF

Emergency Food in a Pantry

Buy a Food Dehydrator

food dehydratorA great way to start storing long-term healthy foods is to buy a quality food dehydrator like the Excalibur Dehydrator. I own one, and I can tell you that it will not only allow you to stock up on really healthy foods, it also can help you save a significant amount of money over time.

The trick is to buy large amounts of fruits, herbs, and vegetables when they are in season, and on sale. You can then use your Dehydrator to stock your pantry for the coming year. It’s also great for those who have a garden, or those who hunt. Trust me, homemade jerky in one of these machines is awesome, and it’s a great way to store your meat without refrigeration.

Learn How To Can Your Own Food

canningThe art of canning is another skill that can help you save money, and increase your emergency food supplies. The money-saving principles are similar to the food dehydration tips that I mentioned above. By buying produce when it’s on sale, to canning your freshly picked garden goods, canning is an age-old practice that can help you on your food preparation journey.

Check out our article on Canning with the Boiling Water Bath Method.

Establish a Preparedness Budget

calculatorBefore doing anything, you must establish a good written budget. Establishing a budget will help you understand how much money you can safely spend on prepping. It will show you what areas you might be overspending on, and it will allow you to cut those wasteful items from your budget.

For more tips on prepping on the cheap, check out our top tips for prepping on a budget. You might also want to check out our reader’s top tips for being prepared without breaking the bank.

Buy Your Food in Bulk

Bulk Food BinsI’m not talking about shopping at Sam’s Club or Costco; I’m talking about those bulk bins at your local grocery store. From bulk spices and dry ingredients, to snacks and other bulk goods, these bins can help you save a large amount of money. Again, the trick here is to watch for sales and stock up the minute those items go on sale.

Another thing that most people aren’t aware of is not to buy directly from the bins. Most of these bins are filled with 5 – 10-pound bags that you might be able to purchase for an even larger discount. Many stores offer case discounts, and if your store offers one, it might be a good idea to buy the larger bulk bags or cases.

Rotation is the Key to Saving Money

Food Shelf for Rotating canned GoodsOnce you start stockpiling these foods, you need to use them. Far too many preppers develop a get-it and forget-it attitude when it comes to their emergency stockpiles. In my opinion, that’s the worst thing you can do.

When stockpiling emergency food supplies, or any emergency supplies, you need to rotate your stocks. For instance, if you’re storing emergency food and water, they should be rotated into your normal eating patterns. By stocking up on foods that you already eat, and then rotating them into your normal diet, you will ensure that you not only have fresh food when a disaster hits, but you’ll also be saving a huge amount of money by not throwing away expired food. For more information, read our article on inspecting and rotating your emergency supplies.

Learn to Cook & Bake at Home

Cooking with a Dutch OvenThis is one of the most important, and best money-saving tips that we can give. From a preparedness perspective, knowing how to cook your own food from scratch probably doesn’t need much explaining. When the SHTF, finding that box of Twinkies may not be that easy; well now that they’ve gone bankrupt it might become impossible.

From a saving money point of view, learning how to cook healthy homemade goods can cut your food budget in half, possibly more.

One of the biggest mistakes preppers make is stockpiling pre-made and pre-packaged foods. While they do have some use in a fully stocked food supply, learning how to cook meals from low-cost, easily stored staples will not only help you save money, it will also help ensure you are able to feed yourself during a long-term emergency.


  1. Tricia
    February 12, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    Another money saving idea is to purchase spices, dried herbs, and seasonings in the spanish or asian aisle in your local grocery store. We were looking at the Knorr Chicken Bouillon powder in an 8oz jar.It was $5. This was at Cash n Carry, a restaurant supply store. On the next aisle was all the mexican food supplies. There was a 4.4lb container of Knorr Chicken Bouillon powder on that shelf for $4.85. The only difference was the label was ALSO printed in Spanish. Also, today, we bought a 15oz container of ground black pepper for $2.78 and just down the aisle was a small container for $2.98. Again, the only difference is that the label is bilingual. Just some ideas on saving money.

  2. Gena Flores
    February 12, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I just started selling the shelf reliance (food rotation shelving ans freeze dried food shown) and it has made a huge difference. Was super excited to see it featured on your site!

    • dorothy
      March 4, 2014 at 9:51 am

      would like more information on shelving.

  3. sick & tired
    February 13, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I have recently learned how to bake homemade bread. I have gotten away from pre-packaged meals and gone to scratch cooking. I grew up 45 min from agrocery store so I was already used to my parents purchasing long term & them having a garden to can things. I have recently started my own 1st garden and am using this first year as trial and error to try & refresh waht I learned as a child. (I am 42) Our own SHTF happened twice-2009 hubby was laid off for two and a half months, and this past Nov 2012, our 11 year old son passed away and the last thing I wanted to do was go to a store. With my meager amount of preps (just started last fall) I did not have to leave my home & face people to feed our other two children complete, home cooked meals. It’s the everyday shtf that people don’t realise can happen any time unexpectedly.

    • hb
      February 19, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      i am so sorry for your loss. i have an 11 year old son and reading your post, i just cannot begin to imagine your pain. i just had to say that i am so sorry that you had to experience this. my prayers are with you and your family.

      • sick & tired
        February 25, 2013 at 9:00 am

        Thank you for your kindness.

  4. Mr. Prepper
    February 13, 2013 at 9:05 am


  5. toby
    February 14, 2013 at 2:33 pm


    • ter ber
      February 16, 2013 at 11:15 am


  6. Practical Parsimony
    February 14, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I do all of that except have a budget. I buy a little each week. I can buy on sale and with coupons as cheaply as in bulk. Besides, there is not bulk place anywhere near here that I know of. Yet, with all of this, I am not a prepper, just someone who prepares for food prices to rise.

  7. prep mom
    February 16, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I agree with Tricia, we’ve saved alot just by buying spanish brands. it’s kind of sickening, they should be the same price but anyway….
    start small and sales. I’ve found incredible deals at dollar stores and the like.
    only buy what you like, same as gardening. don’t grow something you’ll never eat, best use your money more wisely.

  8. carolina rose
    February 17, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    Sick and Tired…My heart aches for you…the loss of a child compounded with other difficulties. I am praying for you and your family…God’s peace and grace

    • sick & tired
      February 25, 2013 at 9:01 am

      Thank you for your kindness.

  9. Preppers Canyon
    February 19, 2013 at 4:23 am

    Rob you hit the nail on the head about people forgetting to use their food. I have gone into houses where they have canned foods that are years outdated and they tell me this is their food supply if something happens. While it may still be good it is a much smarter idea to rotate and use the existing stockpile. You can increase it as you, but make sure to use the older food stores to make sure you get the most out of your money.

  10. Kate
    February 19, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Agree totally. I have bought and canned extras for quite some time. Recently had a TIA (mini stroke) while I was driving (could have seriously injured someone) so I have to depend on others to drive me. Haven’t been to a store in over two weeks, could go forever on what I have stored and what I can harvest.

  11. Mike
    March 4, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Dollar stores like the “Dollar Tree” and others are a budget minded preppers best friend! You can get started prepping for $20 or less a week by shopping at this type of store!

    • Paul
      June 9, 2013 at 7:04 pm

      I do most of my shopping at Dollar Tree. They have greatly expanded their food items and I do about $40 a week there. That lets me stock up on a large amount of food on the cheap.

  12. WhoWuddaThunkIt
    April 4, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    What I found that works for me RE: Food storage. With a sharpie ink marker, write the expiration date in larger numbers on every can, bottle bag and container. Then lay all your food out in a room and get 5 larger plastic bins. Separate your food in 5 piles with the food that keeps the longest (exp dates) in bin #5, and newer dates in the lower number bins, in order so the food that expires first put in bin #1, this way you only need to look in #1 bin and you will never let any food spoil or go bad. Organization is key. The other great thing about large plastic bins with covers is, they stack and if I need to bug out, I can fit all 5 bins of food in my vehicle with in a few minutes… Storing them all loose on a shelves, is crazy, and if you have to leave you are screwed. I also have been doing a lot of canning..write the dates of canning on the lid. I also have a 5 gal bucket with a pottie loo seat lid and cover, and it’s filled with toilet paper in a large plastic bag, and I collect and save smaller plastic grocery bags that act as liners when I need to go..double bag if necessary.. I also spray painted the bucket, camo colors, in case I needed to place it in the woods without it being discovered. Think ahead, survive and thrive…Good Luck All!!

  13. HelpToSave
    July 30, 2013 at 6:55 am

    Another thing you might want to think about is medication. Most insurance companies will let you get your meds one week early. By the end of the year ….if you save this week of meds…you should have a small stockpile of meds in case of an emergency.

  14. Jeanne
    September 20, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Food Prepping is costly I have put up alot of rice & dried beans, vac packed and stored in food grade buckets with seals. I also grow a garden and can everything I can. I have vac packed pasta, spices, etc. Also have over the last year purchased alot of canned dehydrated foods in which case I found it the cheapest at Walmart. I raise my own meat chickens and pork, have laying hens and hope to add a few head of cattle next year. It’s sad that alot of people just don’t get it but when you try to explain it to them they just say they’ll come to your house since your prepping in which case I explain I’m prepping for my family not them. I try to explain when things get bad grocery stores will be the first to be looted and emptied.

  15. greyghost
    November 29, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    A few things that have been learned the hard way:

    Dried beans are a good staple to acquire. BUT, the packaging they come in doesn’t make it to the level of being poor. Vacuum and seal, i.e. Food Saver, to keep the humidity away from the beans.

    Save “PETE” bottles. Look at the recycle triangle on the bottom of bottles. If it has “PETE” near the triangle, keep the bottle. PETE stands for Polyethylene terephthalate. It does not let oxygen permeate the bottle. When you open a vacuumed bag of beans, pour the unused beans into a PETE bottle. They will last longer than just hanging around in a plastic bag.

    Sale items at Safeway, and most other grocery stores, will beat the prices at Costco, Sam’s, etc.

    Don’t store flour in the paper bags they come in. Ambient moisture WILL permeate the paper. Store in vacuum seal bags. A two pound bag of flour fits nicely into a one gallon vacuum seal bag. AND, double seal the bag! There will generally be enough flour sucked up when vacuuming to make the first sealing leak a little. Seal a second time towards the opening.

    Don’t waste time storing junk food, as in “snacks”. The shelf life of snacks is maybe six months. After that they are only fit for the compost pile.

    Like “WhoWuddaThunkIt” says, mark the sealed bags with month/year at least.

    The Food Saver bags are fairly expensive, but I make up “pre-made meal” bags. They have all the dry ingredients in them and are generally big enough to hold the liquids needed to make a meal. Saves having wash another item.

    Vacuum seal some cash. Won’t help against inflation but will keep paper money dry.

    Vacuum seal batteries. Not all your batteries in one bag but whatever quantity required. Flashlight needs three AAA’s, vacuum seal three AAA’s in one bag.

    Learn how to re-size the vacuum bags so you don’t use a gallon bag for a small item.

    Vacuum seal bags make a good way to pack a BOB. Keeps things organized. And dry.

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