Build Your Own Great Depression Pantry

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Can you use some help to build your Great Depression pantry? Just imagine living off a limited supply of food for a long period of time like our grandparents had to experience through the “Great Depression?” At times, simply having buttered bread and beans was what they considered a whole meal.

How to Build Your Own Great Depression Pantry

Heaven forbid that would ever happen again in our lifetime, but it’s never a bad idea to be prepared. There are a number of cheap foods and solutions that can stretch out your meal options while costing little. Take a look at some of these cheap foods that you should stuff into your pantry.

#1. Ramen Noodles

Pantry food doesn’t come any cheaper than stocking up on ramen noodles. Each pack costs on average around 13 cents. Ramen noodles may not be the healthiest or most filling item in your pantry, but you can buy it in several flavors and mix in beans or vegetables to add nutrients to it. 

I don’t really think you can go wrong when it comes to stocking up on Ramen. Sure, it’s not the best thing to make nutrition-wise, but remember when depression hits, it’s all about survival.

#2. Rice 

Rice is another cheap food that you can buy in bulk to help make your limited meal options stretch further. While white rice doesn’t contain as many nutrients, we suggest using brown rice whenever possible. 

Keep in mind brown rice has a very short shelf-life (six months in the pantry and 12 months in the refrigerator or freezer).

#3. Boxed Pasta 

It doesn’t get much cheaper than the boxed kinds of pasta for an easy meal solution. In most cases, you can find a box of pasta for under $1. There are also so many styles of noodles that you can change it up with, to keep your children from getting bored with eating spaghetti noodles so often. 

Every time I go to the store, I stock on some sort of boxed pasta. You really can’t go wrong with having any and every kind of boxed pasta on hand.

#4. Dried Beans in Bulk

Do you have a family of carnivores that eat meat for every meal? During a depression, meat might be too expensive or hard to come by. Dried beans in bulk are a great substitute. Beans are not only full of protein, but they can also be added to all kinds of dishes and recipes, making meals more filling.  

#5. Canned Meat/Fish

Like I just mentioned, meat may be harder to come by for your family to afford after an economic crash. Having a stockpile of canned meats and canned fish beforehand will help solve this.

Not only is it far cheaper, but it has a somewhat longer shelf life. Having a decent supply of canned meats such as chicken, beef, tuna, and salmon will satisfy your family’s craving.   

#6. Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is another cheap food that is filled with protein. Plus if you have kids, there’s no way you’ll survive without it! I’ve tried a can of peanut butter powder, it’s okay, but I only bought one can. Enough said.

#7. Oats

What about a cheap breakfast solution? Oats are an option that’s cheap and have a long shelf life. Oats aren’t only good for making oatmeal, but also for stretching out your ground beef and making delicious granola snacks.    

If I find oats on sale or marked down, I always buy them. Plus, most people forget all of the yummy things you can make with oats.

#8. Barley

Barley is another great source of fiber, calcium, and vitamins, while beneficial to your digestive system. It also contains fewer calories than oatmeal. Add fruits, cinnamon, and nuts to it and you have a healthy and delicious breakfast. Barley can be made into other meal options such as soup and stews.

Let’s not forget about how filling barley can be too! I always enjoyed eating barley as a kid and it’s a great food to have on hand in your pantry!

#9. Bagged Popcorn

As far as cheap snack items go, bagged popcorn is at the top of the list, and for as little as a few pennies per serving. 

You can also eat popcorn as a snack or for a meal. It’s sustainable and so delicious! It’s one of my favorites for stocking up my pantry.

#10. Raisins

Raisins are another snack that’s reasonably priced that you should have in your pantry. This dried fruit contains fiber, vitamins, and other minerals and helps with your digestive system. 

Raisins are pretty cheap if you buy them in bulk. Plus, if your kids are in the mood for something sweet, you can point them towards raisins.

#11. Dried Fruit

Raisins are not the only dried fruit that stores well in a pantry. Dried banana chips, pineapple chunks, apricots, or figs are a few fruits that contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients. When a depression comes through, you won’t believe how valuable dried fruit will be.

#12. Nuts

Your probably thinking, “nuts aren’t a cheap snack item.” While nuts are one of the pricier protein snacks on this list, they’re very filling and can be stored for a long period of time.

Before SHTF, stock up on many varieties of roasted nuts. Please store them in the freezer to keep them fresh or they may go rancid very quickly.

#13. Applesauce

Applesauce is another snack/dessert pantry item that has a somewhat longer shelf life. It’s another snack that works great on your digestive system. Apple butter is also a good one to stock up on.

#14. Spices/Sauces

Don’t go stingy on the spices in your pantry. Always have a healthy supply of your favorite rubs and seasonings. Kosher Salt, ground peppercorn, and cinnamon are few that you simply can’t go without.

They’re cheap and will make your simple meals taste that much better. Cocoa is another one I have to have stocked. Just think of cookies, cakes, and hot chocolate.

#15. BBQ Sauce

BBQ sauce is another food item that lasts for a very long time, depending on the brand, while being a cheap flavor enhancer for your meals. In the summertime, you will have a hard time swallowing grilled foods without it. 

#16. Honey

You can do so many things with honey. It’s a sweetener that’s a great substitute to sugar that you can add to your oatmeal, tea, and a number of other foods. It lasts indefinitely, but please store it in mason jars, if possible. If it crystallizes, you can set the jars outside to soften and melt in the heat.

#17. Instant Mashed Potatoes

While you might enjoy homemade mashed potatoes, you might have to stick to a cheaper solution for a while. Instant mashed potatoes last for a short period of time, but you can rotate them and fill the belly when needed.

#18. Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Have an endless supply of canned fruits and vegetables stashed in your pantry, just in case! They’ll provide the essential nutrients your family needs at a great value. 

#19. Flour

You’re going to want to have a good supply of flour during hard times. You can make all kinds of meals and baked goods from scratch, while at a fraction of the price than buying the foods already processed. You will be able to make delicious homemade flour tortillas. Let’s not forget you can also make your own bread!

#20. Vegetable Oil/Coconut Oil

Don’t forget to have vegetable oil or some coconut oil tucked away if depression were to ever hit again. It will return you to normalcy by giving you more meal options during this time. 

Our ancestors didn’t really have time to prepare and we do! Make sure you stock up your great depression pantry with vegetable oil and or coconut oil.

#21. Cream of Soups/Soup

Stocking up on canned soups that contain meat and beans will be a filling meal, often for as little as a dollar. Another good idea is to have extra cans of cream of soups that will work great for a number of recipes. Save money later by stocking up now. These are excellent to have in your great depression pantry stockpile.

#22. Chicken/Beef Broth

Another cheap way to add flavor to your meals is with broth, stock, or bouillon cubes. It won’t hurt to have a supply of beef, chicken, and vegetable broth. This food is perfect for a depression era. I buy these all the time: Organic Broth

Final Word

It’s never a bad idea to stock up and create a “Great Depression” food pantry. These are a number of cheap food ideas that can get your family through hard times? If you’ve ever had to live off a limited budget for a long period of time, what foods did your family turn to? What’s in your Great Depression Pantry? May God bless this world, Linda

28 thoughts on “Build Your Own Great Depression Pantry

  • October 10, 2019 at 7:52 am

    Great list! Than, you for this. I am a prepper. I hope for the best, but prep for the worse.

    • October 10, 2019 at 8:04 am

      Hi Deborah, thank you so much for stopping by. We preppers have to stick together and hope for the best and prep for the worst! Love it! Linda

    • April 14, 2020 at 12:06 pm

      Wonderful list, but you need to store what you will eat. Cans of Mandarin orange slices look good, but we just don’t eat them often.
      Make weekly menus using the things on your own list and use the oldest but still in-date can on your food storage shelves, then restock next market day. Have recipes that use the bulk grains and beans. Hey! It’s Your PANTRY that stores tasty, nutritious ingredients that you are used to eating.
      Is feeling safe ok when you see empty market shelves? Because I listened and prepared in times of plenty, I had no need to buy toilet paper that is in short supply.
      I feel blessed for what I have, and have learned from websites like Food Storage Moms.

      • April 14, 2020 at 12:55 pm

        Hi Lynn, great comment, thank you for your kind words. All it takes is an extra can, TP package, spices or whatever each week to be prepared. Good job, Linda

  • October 10, 2019 at 7:53 am

    Just wanted to give a shout out to lentils – they come in a number of varieties and bulk purchases are pretty cheap with most varieties costing less than $1/pound and you get 7 cups of cooked lentils out of a pound of dry lentils. Best thing about them? They will last indefinitely if stored properly.
    While I have some lentils in the kitchen cupboard to add variety to meals from time to time, I keep a decent stock of lentils and white rice at the back of my LTS for any serious event. Lentils and rice cook in roughly the same time and create a complete protein, so the two together can be a survival food.
    In the sauces category, consider powdered cheese for use with pasta or veggies to make them more interesting (cheesy broccoli or cheesy potatoes…) I also have a supply of pasta (red) sauce and alfredo sauce so I can have pasta often and not let it get too monotonous.
    Growing up in a family of 4 on a teacher’s salary we ate a lot of pasta and casseroles (mainly Mac and cheese or tuna noodle casserole), so having the ingredients for those is comforting. And the canned cheese or cream of mushroom soup at the base of those casseroles can last for years, so I buy in bulk when they go on deep sale at the market. Same thing with pasta, I wait for the deep sales and make the store regret putting out a loss leader. 🙂
    Thanks again for the wonderful reminders of things we need to be prepared for!

    • October 10, 2019 at 8:03 am

      Hi DMWalsh, oh my gosh, I love your comment. I got the giggles over the lead loss! I do that when they have cold cereal on sale. Boy, do I get the stares! LOL! I just starting stocking up on lentils because you told me about them. It sounds like you and I raised our families with the same meals. Life is so good when you know how to stretch a meal by stocking up on rock-bottom items. Great comment, Linda

      • October 10, 2019 at 8:20 am

        I used to get stares and comments all the time, but my wife and I let it be known that we donate a lot to the food pantry so now the workers at the market don’t think anything is strange. And while we do donate quite a bit to the local food pantry, I also store quite a bit in my personal family pantry. 😉

        • October 10, 2019 at 8:29 am

          HI DmWalsh, great idea! The clerk always asks me who is going to eat all this? I just smile. Life is so good when you stockpile food you know you will eat. It’s a blessing to be able to donate to foodbanks as well. Linda

        • October 10, 2019 at 10:08 am

          You are so right about Oatmeal making ground beef go farther. I use to be a cook at the University of Missouri and i made chili in bulk. To make it go farther PLUS soak up grease left in the burger we use to add Oatmeal to it.
          Great list

          • October 10, 2019 at 10:45 am

            Hi June, this is a great reminder to all of us!! Thank you! Linda

    • April 14, 2020 at 3:13 pm

      There is a recipe for cream of whatever soup out there. I’m not sure which site has it, but you can search for it. It’s good and easy to make.

  • October 10, 2019 at 10:03 am

    One food that I grew up on, and mind that we raised our own meat, was the dried beef that comes in a little jar. To this day, I remember it as a treat!! Creamed chipped beef on toast, biscuits, mashed potatoes! I don’t do this much myself but I have a few jars on the shelf!

    Also, everyone, keep in mind that a cream sauce/gravy with veggies and meat is a great way to extend a very small portion of those veggies and meat. I grew up with a family of 8 for a few years until the older 3 left home. We had to make a little bit go a long, long way! I know I have told the story before but will tell it again: mom planted asparagus and in the 2nd year of growth, she was able to pick a few spears. It was not enough to feed our family so she cut it into small pieces (about an inch long), steamed it and made a creamed asparagus. We had that with our meat. I think we probably had mashed or boiled potatoes as well. So, we all had a small taste of homegrown asparagus and no one was left out.

    The key thing to surviving an emergency is to learn how to stretch what we have into many more servings. Since we have all most likely become used to having a bounty, it will certainly be a shock to our systems to not have as much as we are used to. I know that I need to realize this and stop eating so much and at such a whim! I live 6 blocks from a big grocery store and if I “plan” something then decide I am not in the mood for that, I can just run to the store and get what I want. I really need to STOP doing that!!!

    With that in mind, I am going to start incorporating a survival meal in my meal plan once a week. I will cook nothing fresh – the complete meal will come from my storage. Well, I do this all the time as I rotate my canned/boxed foods on a regular basis but I will be more mindful of what I am making!

    • October 10, 2019 at 10:11 am

      Hi Leanne, oh my gosh the meat in the jars. I have several of those jars because my family loves it when they come to visit. Cream chipped beef is so awesome! I love your story about the asparagus because I planted some this year. I can hardly wait until next year when it’s ready to harvest! We really need to gear up for a famine of sorts. Life is going to get rough in the coming year. I’m glad you and I are prepared. Linda

      • October 10, 2019 at 10:13 pm

        Love this post! It is so very important to me too. Our power went off, with no warning, for 10 days in January with out temperatures hovering around 20 degrees. We were very comfortable with the wood fire place for warmth & for cooking.
        Did discover that our new soft fleece sheets were a wonderful purchase. No trouble keeping warm on those below 0 nights.
        Very comforting that we can eat, stay warm & have water when power goes out & we get snowed in. Thanks for all the ideas from everyone, & to you Linda, for giving us a place to come to & learn from each other. Love to watch your how-to do videos!! They are fun.

        • October 11, 2019 at 7:50 am

          Hi LaRene, you are such a good friend, thank you for your kind words. Wow, I hadn’t heard you were without power for 10 days!!!! So glad you knew how to survive without power!! Hugs, Linda

  • October 10, 2019 at 10:55 am

    I live in a rural area and several years ago we had a major flood blocking all access to stores followed by an ice storm a couple months later where we lost power and roads again were unpassable. Both events convinced me that having a modest stockpile of foods, water, fuel, hygiene supplies and medications for humans, pets and livestock are essential for survival. I estimate that we are good for 3 months, my goal is 6 months.

    • October 10, 2019 at 12:27 pm

      HI Carol Ann, I wish other people would see the wisdom in having 3 months worth of supplies. Six months would be awesome too! Those ice storms are scary. You cannot drive or walk on any surface. You rock, keep up the good work! Linda

  • October 11, 2019 at 12:46 am

    Over the years we have dehydrated many items. We now have a freeze dryer and have been using it for many things and can preserve things we couldn’t with a dehydrator. Wish I had taken a picture of some peach slices that we dehydrated and freeze dried. The dehydrated ones shriveled up and looked bad, but eatable. The freeze dried ones looked about the same when we put them in and took them out. The freeze dryer also lets us do many food items the dehydrator couldn’t, although fatty and greasy foods don’t do well in a freeze dryer.

    Glad rotating food was mentioned. When we buy something, I write the date and price on a piece of Scotch tape and put it on the item. Interesting how prices change. First in, first out. Also try to keep list of items in a notebook.

    I haven’t seen any dried beef in glasses with a lid on the for years. I loved the salty taste of the beef and besides eating it in sandwiches, ate it plain.

    • October 11, 2019 at 7:57 am

      HI Chester, I love hearing your comment! I looked at the freeze dryer but worried I wouldn’t know how to take care of all the rubes on the side. The price tag was a little too high for my budget, but I love hearing how you are using it. You have to look really hard for the meat in the jars. If I see it I buy all 4 jars. They don’t stock much of it anymore. It’s down the tuna aisle when they have it. Love love love your comment! Linda

      • October 11, 2019 at 10:24 am

        Thank you for your reply and kind comments.

  • October 12, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    How long will bagged popcorn keep if put in a mylar with an oxy pack?

    • October 12, 2019 at 5:15 pm

      Hi Jennifer, I do not use Mylar bags. I only buy commercially processed popcorn from Honeyville Grain in #10 cans. It has a shelf-life of 10-15 years. I am guessing the Mylar bags would be one year. Linda

  • January 17, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Just a note on Ramen Noodles. I use the flavoring package as a dry rub on meats. For each serving, I put an egg on to soft cook, about 6 minutes per egg. In a separate pan, I cook the noodles in real stock. I then add grated carrots, finely sliced bok choy, a few slices of radish and top with a soft boiled egg sliced in half. It isn’t real Japanese ramen but it is very good and much healthier than using the flavor packages in the noodles.

    • January 18, 2020 at 8:01 am

      Hi Linda, oh my gosh, I love your comment! I love ramen noodles! Great tip, Linda

      • January 18, 2020 at 9:21 am

        Shoot correction six minutes per egg! We lived in Asia for 20 years and every so often we both crave ramen.

  • March 16, 2020 at 4:44 pm

    I couldn’t have crossed this list at a more perfect time! Thanks for making my doomsday shopping more organized! Stay safe everyone and WASH THOSE HANDS!!:)

    • March 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Dana, I just had a printable made so you can check off what you need. Stay tuned, thank you, Linda


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