10 Tips for Stockpiling Food during Shortages

Last Updated: March 22, 2023

If you waited until now to stockpile emergency food, you are probably struggling.  The recent pandemic means Emergency food kits orders are backlogged for months.

Popular retailers like REI are out of virtually all freeze-dried meals.  And supermarkets are having an impossible time of keeping shelves stocked with non-perishables like pasta, flour, canned goods, and instant meals.

This doesn’t mean you can’t stockpile food during the pandemic.  You’ve just got to be strategic about it.  Here are some tips to help you build up a stockpile of food even in the midst of disaster shortages.

1. Understand Why You Are Stockpiling Food

As the experts keep telling us, there is no food shortage right now. Rather, all the panic buying is causing the shelves to empty quickly. People are simply buying more than usual.

Nor is there likely to be a food shortage anytime soon.  Even in countries which have almost complete shutdowns, food manufacturing employees are allowed to go to work.  In fact, governments are organizing safe transportation to make sure these people can get to work!

Sure, there could be food shortages in the not-too-distant future. It’s understandable (and even smart) if you want to stockpile just in case.  However, now is not the time to build up a long-term food stockpile.  Wait until the craziness has died down to start!

If we aren’t going to run out of food, then why stockpile?

The answer is this: So you don’t have to leave your home. And especially so you don’t have to leave home to go to the grocery store.

Because of all the crowds and people who pass through them, grocery stores are one of the most dangerous places during the coronavirus pandemic.  The longer you can go between grocery store visits, the safer you will be (and thus the safer your community will be too).

Once you realize you are stockpiling food so you don’t have to leave home, you will be able to go about shopping in a smarter way.

2. Do Not Go Grocery Shopping during the Panic

If you have enough food in your home to last a while (even if it’s just a few days), DO NOT GO GROCERY SHOPPING NOW.

At the time of writing this, people in the United States are still panic buying.  If you head to the stores now, you will likely find bare shelves and crowds of people.  You won’t succeed in getting the food you need and you’ll expose yourself to a lot of potentially-sick people.

Instead, hold off on going to the store as long as you can.  In countries like Italy, it only took a couple weeks before the panic-buying stopped.  In Serbia, the panic-buying stopped after just a few days and the shelves were back to normal.

crowds at supermarket during COVID-19
Look at all these people shopping for supplies. It’s safer to wait for the crowds to thin out! (Image credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

3. Make a Food Spreadsheet

A friend of mine works at a supermarket.  She tells me about all the people literally buying 30 packages of spaghetti and nothing else.  Others are buying massive amounts of flour and oil but nothing else.

What the hell are you going to do with 30 bags of pasta???

Sure, you won’t starve but do you really want to eat plain pasta for the next few weeks?  And how will you use flour without yeast or baking soda and baking powder?  Oil is also pretty useless if you don’t have something to fry or cook with it!

Instead of panic-buying whatever non-perishables you see, make a food plan.  This involves making a spreadsheet with what foods you want to eat.  You will also tally up the calories of each food to make sure it adds up to the right amount (around 2,100 calories per day for adults).

I talk more about how to make a food plan in my book Disaster Preparedness for Women. It contains sample spreadsheets for short-term and long-term food stockpiling.  Get the book here.

book cover

4. Go to Smaller Markets

Most of the panic-shoppers head to large supermarkets to do their shopping.  So, surprisingly, many of the smaller stores are better stocked.  For example, one friend said she was able to find almost everything at her local Dollar Store even though Walmart was out of essentials.

5. Don’t Go Early to Beat the Crowds

Normally you would head to a supermarket in the wee hours of the morning to beat the crowds.  Well, during the pandemic, everyone has this same idea.  You’ll find long lines of people outside some supermarkets before they open now.

Standing in the line of people puts you at risk of getting sick.  And, as pointed out here, shopping early doesn’t even mean you’ll have a better selection because deliveries occur throughout the day.

If you want to beat the crowds:

  • Use Google Live Visit Data: When you search Google for a supermarket, it usually lists the “Popular times graph”. This is based on the past few weeks of visits.  Instead, click the option for “Live Visit Data” to see how crowded a supermarket is.
  • Befriend a supermarket worker: Ask them about what time they get deliveries of items you need and when the least-crowded times are.
  • Go at night before closing: Yes, lots of non-perishables will be gone then but you will still find a lot of produce and other essentials which people are overlooking.

6. Master the Art of Online Grocery Shopping

Because of coronavirus, it seems like everyone is starting to order groceries online.  It’s created a huge backlog of orders.

The supermarket I order from has a calendar where you select your delivery time before starting to shop.  They allow you to select a time slot up to 1 week in advance.  Not surprisingly, all the time slots are always booked up.

My trick is to wait until exactly midnight to log on.  This is when the new  time slots become available, meaning I can make my order.

***TIP YOUR DELIVERY DRIVERS! They are putting themselves at risk to bring you food. Their salaries aren’t exactly making them rich either. The least you can do is tip them for their efforts.

Disinfecting Food Delivery Items

You aren’t likely to get COVID-19 by eating contaminated food. However, if you touch contaminated food and then touch your face or eyes, you could become sick.

The risk is low but, as a precaution, you should disinfect your food delivery.  Here’s how I do it:

  • Wear a mask and gloves while paying the delivery driver
  • Leave food bags outside the home, if possible
  • Cans, jars, boxes, and other packaged food get wiped down with a disinfecting bleach solution. They are then placed in a clean box and brought into the house.
  • Produce is put in a separate box, brought into the house, and immediately put in the sink and washed. Don’t disinfect produce with bleach as it could pose health risks.
  • All shopping bags are tied up and put in “quarantine” for at least three days. This is how long the coronavirus can live on surfaces.

7. Learn to Preserve Fresh Foods

The supermarkets are being stripped of non-perishables like canned foods.  However, fresh produce is still largely available.

If you learn how to preserve produce, you’ll be able to create your own healthy stockpile of foods.  Here are some easy options:

*Tip: you can even dehydrate things like fresh soups, salsa, and hummus.

dehydrated tomatoes


8. Embrace Egg Replacer

Coronavirus has made is particularly hard to find eggs right now. Many retailers are limited purchases to two cartons per person. While this doesn’t work for scrambled eggs, there are ingredients you can use to replace eggs in baked goods or pancakes.

They include:

  • Vegan egg replacer mixes
  • Chia seeds
  • Flax meal

Check out this post for more on egg substitutes.

Last I checked, none of these products were out of stock in supermarkets or health food stores, you can also keep an eye on Amazon Grocery.

I’d recommend checking out some vegan baking websites for recipes. Egg actually doesn’t even add any taste to baked goods: it just there to add moisture, help with rising, and hold the flours together.

*Other vegan products, like oat milk and almond milk, are often still available in stores.  It takes a while to get used to the different taste but these make a good substitute in recipes.

9. Think about What Else You’ll Need in the Upcoming Weeks

I know you’ve got a strong urge to buy as much food as you can right now.  However, as I’ve mentioned (though you still might not believe), food shortages aren’t likely to be a problem now.

Here’s what can be a problem to get during the pandemic:

Some governments have forced “non-essential” businesses to shut down. Pharmacies and food stores are essential.  But things like book stores, clothing stores, and tech stores are usually deemed non-essential.

What if you need any of these things during the next few weeks?

  • School supplies and books
  • Toys to keep your kids from driving you crazy under lock down
  • A new computer because yours broke at the worst possible time
  • Yoga mat so you can exercise at home
  • Trimmer for your hair because none of the barbers are open anymore

Buy these things NOW.  You might not be able to buy them later on!

(On a personal note, this actually happened to me and I’m supposed to be an “expert” prepper:  My toddler is about to start potty training and we realized we didn’t have any underwear for her nor could we get any delivered.  Since I didn’t want to go to a store, I had to alter my older daughter’s panties for her to wear!)

10. Focus on Non-Food Emergency Supplies

While everyone is panic-buying food, think about what other emergency supplies you need, other disasters don’t stop just because there’s a global pandemic going on.

What would you do if a tornado hit now? Or an earthquake, hurricane, flood…?  My parents actually got hit by an earthquake last week.  Luckily they are okay, but imagine if it had been more severe.

Emergency preparedness is about making sure ALL of your basic needs are taken care of.  In addition to food, that means water, power, heat, lighting, hygiene, and safety.  You might also need supplies like plywood for boarding up windows or gas shutoff wrenches. 

People still aren’t panic-buying batteries, water filters, or other disaster supplies.  So get them now before it’s too late.

*Note that Amazon is prioritizing “essential” items like food for delivery.  The wait time for some products is as long as a month.  You might be able to get items faster if you order from other retailers.

Here are some good places to buy emergency supplies:

Not sure how to get started with preparedness?  Read my book Disaster Preparedness for Women.  It breaks down preparedness into 52 steps that will have you prepared for any type of disaster.

Want to store food but confused about how?

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You’ll learn the 7 main food storage methods and get detailed instructions for 30+ different staples.

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