When Grocery Stores Go Empty, These Four Foods Will Help You Survive

The only thing preppers fear more than masses of unprepared people during an emergency, is being one of those people. That’s why our ultimate nightmare scenario would be not having any non-perishable food on hand during a serious disaster. However, there’s plenty of reasons why an otherwise prepared person might not be prepared when the SHTF.

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You could be out-of-town or out of the country, visiting family members who aren’t preppers. Or perhaps you’re having financial problems. So maybe you’ve had to dip into your food supply, or if you prefer buying canned food over freeze-dried food, you haven’t been able to restock items that have spoiled. Or perhaps you’re new to prepping, and you haven’t gotten around to building up a food supply.

Whatever the case may be, you should ask yourself, what would you do if you were one of those people who race to the grocery store at the last-minute during a disaster? Before you answer that, you have to consider the very real possibility that by the time you reach the grocery store, the shelves will be at least partially stripped.

The first food items that will sell out mostly consist of things that are already cooked or prepared in some way, including canned foods, frozen dishes, and bread. Fresh meat and eggs would also disappear pretty fast, despite the fact that they need to be cooked.

Ideally, you want to avoid this scenario altogether by prepping beforehand. In The Prepper’s Cookbook, Tess Pennington highlights key strategies for building an emergency pantry. This takes planning, so if you haven’t already done so, start today. Ideally, you want to store shelf stable foods that your family normally consumes, as well as find foods that are multi-dynamic and serve many purposes. These are the 25 foods she suggests that preppers should have in their pantries.

Have a Back-Up Plan For the Grocery Store

If you end up having to rush to the grocery store during an emergency, you should be prepared to employ a different strategy for finding food. If, when you arrive at the store, there are already a lot of people grabbing the low hanging fruit like canned foods, bread, etc., don’t join them. You’re probably only going to find the scraps that they haven’t gotten to yet. Instead, move immediately towards the food items that won’t disappear as quickly, and can substitute the foods that everyone is going to fight over first.

To employ this strategy properly, you only need one thing. Something to cook with that doesn’t require the grid, such as a camp stove with a few fuel canisters. You’ll need something like that, because many of the food items that disappear later in the game, tend to need some preparation.

These Four Emergency Food Alternatives Can Keep You Alive

So with that said, what kinds of foods should you go after when you arrive at a grocery store later than everyone else?

  • Instead of bread, go straight for the flour. Don’t worry if you can’t find any yeast. You can always make hardtack, tortillas or naan. You might also find that the sacks of dried rice and beans won’t disappear until after the canned foods go. When combined, these two make a complete protein and are perfect for emergency food meals. Keep cooking times in mind with the beans and go for small beans like navy or lentils.
  • If you find that the produce section is stripped bare, go to the supplement aisle instead. There you’ll find all of the vitamins and minerals that are normally found in fresh produce. Look for food based or whole food vitamins. You’ll also find protein powders that can at least partially substitute fresh meat. As well, look for seeds to sprout. Sprouts provide the highest amount of vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes of any of food per unit of calorie. Enzymes are essential because they heal the body, cleanse the body, prevent diseases, enhance the overall functioning of bodily organs, aids in digestion, and removes gas from the stomach.
  • If fresh meat or canned meat is gone from the shelves, a substitute for is dog food. Though this may disgust most people, desperate times call for desperate measures. It’s really cheap and packed with protein. The only downside, of course, is that pet food usually doesn’t face the same health standards as human food. If it can be helped, go for the wet food instead of the kibble. Though you’ll probably be fine eating any dog food for a couple of weeks, dry dog food isn’t as safe as wet food. Plus, the cans of wet food will be much more hydrating.
  • And finally, instead of trying to find butter, which will be one of the first food items to disappear, try looking for alternatives. Remember, you need fats in your diet. Healthy oils like coconut oil or avocado oil provide healthy nutrition and canI be used for cooking, added to coffee, oats, beverages, and other foods. In addition, one of the most nutrient dense foods that are often forgotten during emergency food planning is in the health aisle. Look for granola and nuts. Nuts are calorie dense and full of fiber to help you stay full longer. Due to the high protein count of this natural food, it can be an efficient meat replacement too. Look for non-salted nut varieties to keep you hydrated longer. It’s packed with calories and can go weeks without spoiling when it’s not refrigerated.  Read more about the ideal bug out meal plan here. Alternatively, if all the healthy oils and nuts have been taken, look for some lard. It’s sometimes labeled “manteca.” It will probably be overlooked, but has just as many calories as butter, and lasts a really long time.

Of course, many of these items aren’t the best tasting or the most healthy. They’re certainly not ideal. But then again, neither is being caught in a disaster without your food preps. If you arrive at the grocery store before everyone else, by all means, go after the good stuff. However, if you aren’t lucky enough to beat the crowds, now you know what kinds of foods you should grab first.

Joshua Krause was born and raised in the Bay Area. He is a writer and researcher focused on principles of self-sufficiency and liberty at Ready Nutrition. You can follow Joshua’s work at our Facebook page or on his personal Twitter.

Joshua’s website is Strange Danger

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published May 4th, 2017
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  • Mark Belk

    You can get some lower quality protein from vegetables but where do you get your B12 and other nutrients you can only get from meat and dairy? also healthy fats are essential and don’t “clog your arteries”.

    • genann59

      Without some cholesterol, which comes at least partly from healthy fats, your arteries cannot build the layer of plaque that keeps them from leaking blood. So if your cholesterol is too low, you can have the same effects as if you had a stroke, from the arteries leaking blood onto your brain. Mark is correct. A vegan diet can keep you alive but it really does not make one healthy in the long run. Missing many really essential nutrients.

      • Peter Clifford

        It’s NOT plaque it Removes plaque and tones up the arterial walls making the walls muscular, Not building plaque.

    • L. A. McDonough

      I get a good quality B 12 suppl. and B complex.since wt. watchers says 3-4 oz meat (once daily for me). Lots non starch veggies, no limit with herb toppings, I shun dairy except powdered cheese, am lactose intolerant and hate milk.

    • A Arizonian

      Very true that’s I won’t be given them up ~ but that website some pretty good stuff.

  • genann59

    I would skip the dog food. It has been known for a long time that many pet food manufacturers use euthanized dogs and cats in their products. Recently they have found traces of the medication used to put pets down in some canned pet food items. Plus they also use road kill. If you think about it, most pets who are euthanized are euthanized because they are sick. So you would be eating meat from sick animals and possibly also the medicine used to put them down. Also, most pet foods have, in tiny print, under beef or chicken listed, the word “flavor.” They very seldom say what the actual meat is that is in their products. For a reason. AND, final point, most of the meat and meat by-products in pet food are in pet food because they are considered unacceptable for human use. That is why pet food is cheap. It usually includes bird beaks, bird legs, stomach and stomach contents, and intestines and intestine contents, aka doo-doo (trying to keep it clean). I think I would rather starve. That is about the least healthy suggestion I have ever seen made on a prepper site.

    • Beatrice

      Excellent points. Never knew that euthanized pets were themselves used to make pet food. Read Forstchen’s book, “One Second After.” It will open your eyes to the fragile nature of our world.

      • Peter Clifford

        Yes, Yes they are SO IS ROADKILL!

    • A Arizonian

      You’ve obvious never been hungry ~ ask some people in Venezuela if they will want a case or two!

    • Peter Clifford

      Yep Gizzards, Heart, Lungs, Testicles(Chicken Tikka), Ovaries, anuses, You name it IT’S IN THERE.

  • L. A. McDonough

    Agree with this, except dog food (canned esp.) made with road kill and dead dogs and cats are processed in canned food. Cat food likewise. Best to hunt squirrels, rabbits, birds with air rifle and fish out of lakes or rivers. Nuts and certain grains don’t need refrigeration.

    • Poorman

      WOW what a great idea. I bet no one else has thought of it.

  • L. A. McDonough

    Kinda agree and if I lived alone would be easier to cut back on meats, eating other protein , but cooking for others makes it hard. I eat ocean fish (N. Atlantic) cod, haddock, salmon. I know people who ate meats/proc meats, and what I call junk foods pastries, chips, ice cream, etc. and lived around 100, but why take a chance. I use virgin olive oil and avocado oil in salads and cooking, which are a must in any diet, am taking fish oil capsules daily.

  • Tess

    JJ – This article is about if you are away from your preps. I am a big believer in getting everything you need ahead of time, but there may come a time when a disaster happens and you can’t get to your preps and you’re left running to get food. That’s what this article is about.

  • A Arizonian

    Checked it out looks pretty good and I’m not vegan

  • A Arizonian

    They like dog food???

    • Peter Clifford

      It’s Not the best by a LONG SHOT I recommend NOT EATING IT I have gone 2 Weeks without food so YES you can go 2 maybe 4 weeks without food but Boy Oh Boy do you feel Weak!

  • Milkshakesuds

    Dogfood? Dogs for food, there will be alot of the critters running around after a shtf episode, easy to catch. Just need spice. Maybe a future post, suburban trapping?

    Im with the rice and beans people. A good supply of oatmeal works for me too, it cuts down on that pesky cholesterol. Not just flour makes bread, dried peas, polenta, these kind of things. They are much more nutritious than flour. The Israelites survived on unleavened bread for years. Many think it was bread made from Lentils.

    You can just about drink olive oil to survive and it comes in big containers. If you run out there is always JP5. I wouldnt worry much about cholesterol, it can help you. I avoid the stuff myself but when I dive for lobster or spearfish Ill eat cubes of butter to stay warm.

    Consider for a moment to store food for other people too. Over store, say for 20 people for 3 months. Its not hard if you do the math. You will need those people as much as you would need the food. Its a good way to recruit useful individuals for the group. In my prepping plans, I keep a soup kitchen/triage center in mind. If I can possibly help others I will. I will make it my primary goal, however as they say, cover they own axx first.

    • boyo

      I doubt many dogs or cats will make it out of the home and to the streets. Their proper place, next to the last of the potatoes, will be found rather quickly.
      Those that have food for their animals will have to defend those animals from the masses.

    • Peter Clifford

      I recommend Buying Plant seeds and GROWING your food!

  • 093841

    I take my food storage prepping from my mexican mother-in-law. Beans, rice, and masa mix. Masa mix is great. You only have to add water to make tortillas. Refried beans in a tortilla and rice on the side….can’t beat it. I keep all of mine in a mylar bag in a 5 gallon bucket. Also have cans of powdered eggs. Scrambled eggs go well with refried beans in a tortilla. Also have pkg. of real bacon bits.

    • Caitlin

      I’ll have to look into masa mix! That sounds great!

    • J_in_TX

      Man, you’re making me hambre. Muy hambre.

  • always

    Rice and beans is a complete protein only if the rice is brown, not white. Squash, dried beans and corn are the 3 things that, when eaten together, are complete. So, it would be better to have these 3 items, rather than white rice and beans.

  • John Weaver

    I hear they use diseased and long dead animals for making dog food.

  • Caitlin

    Great article. Timely for me as we are in the process of moving, so I’ve been trying to use a good amount of our stored stuff rather than move it into a storage unit (my significant other is not prepper minded and thinks I’m a little crazy for having what we have, which is not a lot by prepper standards). There is still a good amount in the storage unit, but no where near what I want. I do worry about being in the situation you are describing though as I will have to build my storage back up slowly. I was on the coast in Florida this last fall when a major hurricane was projected to make landfall and hit where we were the hardest…we had to evacuate while on vacation and I felt a little helpless as I saw locals buying up supplies. I do travel with a few basic things for piece of mind (like polar pure, a sewing kit, a lighter, and a handful of other things) and did my best to work with what we had…I didn’t toss any bottles we had and refilled them all with water. I was glad I had some basic necessities with but, in the end, our flight got out before the storm and the storm didn’t make landfall where we had been anyway. It was an interesting challenge (and a scary one) to be faced with as a prepper.

  • Caitlin

    I have personally been in a situation that was escalating toward emergency while on vacation on the other side of the country. Buying 25 pounds of anything was not an option. There are plenty of situations this article applies too. Think outside the box friend.

  • Peter Clifford

    Yes That’s why I shun Margarines they taste bloody FILTHY!

  • Peter Clifford

    Bloated Cows Exactly Dog food is BAD!

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