Creating a Mini-Supermarket at Home is not about building a model from in-edible plastic bricks (although we think this is a cute idea too). It’s about have a well-stocked pantry just like our well-organised grandparents. Many of them grew up in the Depression and World War Two era last century. So they were used to many of the challenges we are now facing in the 2020s. While we have better technology on hand, we can learn a lot by leveraging off their wisdom and organisational skills.
Emergency Preparation Basics 101
(Food Storage / Time Management)
This beginner’s guide will help you build up your supplies at home without getting overwhelmed or getting stressed that you need to prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse. The guide was originally created to assist people concerned about emergency planning and preparation. We realised that hardcore disaster preparation takes a lot more time, work and resources than some people, in particular home business owners, have available. to them.
Primarily, to build up enough important supplies to ensure we can get through a busy work week, or unexpected events such as man-made emergencies or natural disasters that cause temporary food shortages / supply chain issues. This helps to prevent fear and panic around the basics needs, so you can rationally survive immediate problems and come up with more long-term solutions.
As modern city dwellers, we have relied too much on the convenience of having food suppliers just down the road. It is too easy to pop in to pick up a few items whenever we need them.
Rural people, on the other hand, have stockpiles of food. Big chest freezers filled to the brim, cupboards filled with preserved goods, and more. They can go weeks or months without having to go to town to restock. Therefore, the aim of this guide is to start thinking more about self-sufficiency, but in a way that does not break the bank or overwhelm you.
Important: Be Realistic
If you are on a budget, then you need to make this as affordable and stress free as possible. However, it is also important to start preparing; since 2020 we have experienced broken or compromised supply chains. Food shortages have become an every day occurrence, often with empty shelves of staple food items, or items being rationed per shopper.
Note: the supply chains also include locally grown food, so being prepared to survive for a week or two without fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy, etc. is paramount.
Start “Slow” and Focus on the Basics
Build up at least 1 week of extra food, focusing on the basics. Then work up to 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, and up to a year if you can manage it. There is no need to hoard, panic buy or store a lifetime’s supply of food. Otherwise, you will become overwhelmed, add to your stress and/or anxiety levels, which results in making poor buying decisions.
Stockpile for Your Unique Household
Stockpile per person in your household (adults, children and pets). Purchase quantities based on what you normally use in a week or month. Start taking note of how quickly – or slowly – you consume items. This helps you gauge how much to buy and how often.
Buy ONLY Foods Your Household Will Eat
Be practical. If you dislike some foods then do not include them in your home supermarket. Otherwise, they will sit there until long after their shelf life has expired.
DO NOT Buy “Supersize” Items!
Buying perishable food in Supersize/bulk packets is a bad idea. Because they will start deteriorating as soon as you open the packaging. If it takes you a long time to consume them, you will waste money and have food that becomes inedible. It is better to buy smaller packages and have them on hand as needed.
(On the other hand, buying bulk can save you money – but if the items are perishable, then make sure you turn them into pre-cooked meals and freeze them. This will save you from buying unhealthy and expensive takeaway food when you are busy).
Storage Places & Containers
If you have the room in your house, create a dedicated storage space for your mini home supermarket. Such as a wardrobe in a spare bedroom, under beds, under stairs, etc. If you start with a wardrobe you may need to expand out as your stockpile grows.
Important Tip: Make sure your storage area is cool and rodent free! Do NOT store in the garage or shed. If rodents are a risk in your house or an issue, get a cat! Alternatively, use rodent proof containers. Choose high quality, heavy duty, water and airtight plastic containers that are stackable and portable for bulk storage (these can also double as furniture).
Run your mini-home supermarket as if you were operating a business. This means you need to keep stock of your inventory. You can use an excel spreadsheet for this. However, again, to save time, print out a copy and keep it in the kitchen and update it every time you take or replace an item. You will probably need to train others in your home to also do this.
Restock/Buy on Sale
Be a smart and frugal shopper when you go “hunting and gathering” expeditions. Look for the weekly specials at the supermarket to save money. Take advantage of using the cheaper big supermarkets to stretch your money further and build up your stock.
“Shop” from Your Home Supermarket
When you run out of an item in your kitchen pantry, restock it from your mini-home supermarket. Use the oldest first, so that you keep your home supermarket stock fresh. Then add that item to your shopping list so that you know to replace it next time you are out hunting and gathering.
Be Aware of Expiry Dates
Most foods have visible expiry dates. You’ve probably had healthy discussions with others about what they mean, so here’s a quick guide:
Usually on meat, poultry and deli products. Store correctly and eat before the use-by date to ensure the food does not go bad and make you sick.
Provides information about food quality. After the best before date it may lose some nutritional quality and taste. It also needs to be stored properly.
Canned / Tinned Food:
Generally will last a long time, if stored and sealed properly. They are often undated, so write the month/year you purchase them on the can. Check for signs of deterioration (dents or bulges). Also, it pays to check with the food producer/manufacturer their recommended storage time (i.e. Watties Soup 2-3 years). Nutritional quality and taste may be lost after years of storage.
Packed / Baked / Harvested / Pressed On:
Indicates how fresh the product is. The fresher the better. Items that have these could be baked goods, oils, coffee beans, etc.
If you plan to add items to your stockpile, freeze on day of purchase and ensure you use it within the freezer lifetime period:
- Fruits: 12 months
- Vegetables: 8-12 months
- Beef: 8-12 months
- Poultry: 6-12 months
A good way to save money is to buy fresh meat, in-season vegetables, etc. and freeze them. Cut them up into meal size proportions for quick access. You could even pre-cook a few meals as well and freeze them. Rather than do that all at once, you could cook double quantities each night and freeze half, and have the other half for your main meal.
Note: A Full Freezer is Energy Efficient – and Stays Frozen Longer in a Power-Cut.
Reference and tips: https://www.healthyfood.com/advice/your-guide-to-freezing/
Canned / Tinned Food
As well as longevity for storage, you can eat canned food cold. May not be ideal, but if you don’t have power or an alternative cooking source, at least you’ll have food! Dents or bulges in cans are a sign that the food has spoiled or is toxic so do NOT use damaged cans.
Freeze Dried Meals
These are also a good option, but have a limited shelf life. Keep in mind they need water to rehydrate. And that you need to water to rehydrate and prepare them. The packaging is also a bit easier to damage, so make sure you store them properly. And don’t forget to use and replace them regularly to keep your stock fresh.
Please do not forget to stock your Mini-Home Supermarket with pet food and other supplies, such as flea and worm treatments, litter, etc.
Have adequate backup drinking water supplies in stock, as well as filtration equipment.
If you have empty space in your freezer, you could fill it with drinkable tap water. That way if there’s a power cut, the frozen water will help keep your food from thawing too quickly. Plus you have ice cold water on hand. Just make sure you leave enough room in the bottle or container for the water to expand when it freezes.
Common Foods to Stockpile (with Shelf-Life Estimates)
This list of common foods and shelf-life estimates were compiled from several sources.
- Beef Jerky – has expiration date
- Canned Meat – best before date but may last 3-5 years after this
- Canned Soups & Chili Freshest – taste 1-2 years, still edible up to 10 years
- Canned Vegetables – best before date but still be edible up to 10 years
- Canned Tomatoes – acidic, so won’t last as long as non-acidic vegetables
- White Rice – store cool dry place, in airtight container. Lasts indefinitely.
- Do not store brown rice as it goes rancid quickly.
- Dried Pasta – 1 -2 years beyond best before date
- Dry Beans – store cool dry place, in airtight container. Lasts indefinitely.
- White All Purpose Flour – 3 to 6 months sealed. 1 year in fridge. Up to 5 years in freezer.
- Wheat Flour – does not store well long term
- Sugar – lasts indefinitely.
- Bottled Water – lasts indefinitely.
- Home Bottled Tap Water – refresh every six months.
- Dry Powdered Milk – 1 to 1.5 years for freshest taste. 5 – 8 years still edible.
- Seasonings & Salt – Last indefinitely
- Stock Cubes – 2 -3 years
- Coffee – Up to 25 years
- Milk & White Chocolate – 1 – 3 years, depending on how it is stored
- Dark Chocolate – 2 – 5 years
- Honey – lasts indefinitely. Crystalised honey is still good
- Peanut Butter – 2 years
Creating a Mini-Supermarket at home saves time and money, ensures you are organised and prepared in case of unplanned visitors, loss of income, or unexpected manmade or natural disaster. Start off small, but aim to work up to being self-sufficient for a longer period of time. And make sure you manage your “stock” sensibly to avoid food expiration and wastage.
Recommended Guide Book
If you wish to do a deeper dive in food emergency preparation, we recommend visiting https://daretoprepare.com/ and purchasing the book by the same name (by Holly Drennan Deyo). This encylopedic guide to emergency preparedness is not for the faint hearted. But it is full of common sense, every day living tips, as well as more in-depth step-by-step emergency and disaster preparation and survival guidance.
For any article we write on “emergency preparedness” it is our first go-to guide. Also, having survived major disaster and mass trauma events since 2010 (earthquakes, floods, wildfires and pandemics) we know the information in Dare to Prepare is solid and are more than happy to recommend this book to you. We know you won’t regret the investment in your future.
Supermarket icon in feature image created by surang – Flaticon
Mini-Supermarket Model created by Deb Donnell