Editors Note: This is an updated and revised edition for 2018.
There is a lot to think about during any major situation. One thing that it is easy to predict is that if the supply chain gets shaken, it can mean that some things might quickly disappear.
One of the main things to remember about prepping is that you need to have the items you absolutely need already on hand as much as possible. Luxury items and nonnecessities can make a situation better but it is important to prioritize your prepping so that you can make the most of what resources you have.
A list of items likely to disappear during a SHTF scenario is also a good list to get ideas about what extras you can put back for trading or selling. A $10 investment now might go a lot further later on. Considering having some extras besides what your family needs to be an investment in the future.
People may get mad when there is price gouging after a disaster, but have you ever stopped to consider what would happen with increased prices during a major and extended SHTF situation? There is no one to step in and say that someone cannot charge whatever they want and that cost may be extreme compared to what you are used to.
- 0.1 The supply chain is extremely vulnerable
- 0.2 Pay attention to the news
- 0.3 The concept of “the last run to the store”
- 1 Think outside the box: learn how to creatively substitute
- 1.1 Milk & Dairy Products
- 1.2 Fire Making
- 1.3 Avoid filling your cart with bottled water
- 1.4 Fruit
- 1.5 The Bread Aisle
- 1.6 Thinking ahead is well worth it
- 1.7 Who will be joining you?
- 1.8 Food & Pantry
- 1.9 Food Prep & Preservation
- 1.10 Heat, Fuel, and Lights
- 1.11 Hygiene, Laundry, and Sanitation
- 1.12 Bedding
- 1.13 Home and Personal Defense
- 1.14 Medications and Medical Supplies
- 1.15 Water Filtration, Treatment, and Storage
- 1.16 Baby Supplies
- 1.17 Tools, Repairs, Farm & Garden
- 1.18 Reference & Writing Supplies
- 1.19 Pet & Livestock Supplies
- 1.20 Camping & Survival Gear
- 1.21 Transportation & Vehicles
- 1.22 Luxuries and Vices
The supply chain is extremely vulnerable
In most areas, there is a maximum of about 3 days worth of food in a grocery store before shelves are bare. This means that even a single supply disruption of a few days can make some items harder to get. If the situation is widespread than others may come into a said area and buy up all the supplies.
There is also the situation where those in an area panic and buy more than is needed. These are the people that should have been more prepared to start with. One of the major benefits of prepping is that it means that you will not feel as obligated to be one of those people rushing around. The fact is that there is always a good chance that by the time you realize that you are in short supply of something, that it will be hard to get or totally unavailable.
Pay attention to the news
There are plenty of situations that come about with some warning and far more that have little or no warming. Being able to read the signs of hard times to come through can be done to some degree.
In my household, if we hear about a hurricane in the gulf then we make sure to keep the gas tank topped off and have a few gallons at home. Some people claim that these shortages are man made by people going out and buying up all the gas because they panic. In our area, the local TV station got accused of creating a gas shortage. Plenty of people were saying “there is no shortage”.
When I see bags over the pumps then that means there is no gas and there is a shortage. To deny facts is delusional at best. Sure I don’t think that people should go fill up 5 huge cans of gas the minute they hear of a break in a line but at the same time, I cannot blame people that work outside the home for wanting to make sure they can make it to work the following week.
The gas issue is something we have learned to be aware of in our area because we are at the end of the supply line in the mountains. This means that basically everyone else gets gasoline deliveries before us.
Being at the end of the food supply line is no fun. If you live in some areas of the US then you might be at the end of the line and that means your needs are met last.
One experience that reflects how thin the supply line is for food is that of those living in Southeast Alaska. There were times when living there that the barges were late and that meant bare spots on the shelves at the Safeway in town. It was kind of scary to see how much we relied on those barges. If they were a week late then things would have not been so pretty in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The concept of “the last run to the store”
Sure ideally you would be able to make one last run to the store but life is not always ideal. You should think about what you would buy in the last run and make sure that you have as much of it on hand as needed before any disaster strikes. During a crisis, it may be dangerous to make a final run.
If people will fight over basic electronics during the holidays just to get a good deal how do you think they are going to react when the shelves start looking bare.
Think outside the box: learn how to creatively substitute
During emergencies, there are a lot of hot ticket items that get snatched up first. Instead of going with the crowd consider the following substitutions if you are making that last run to the store
Milk & Dairy Products
Everyone rushes to the dairy case but most of them don’t stop and think about how there is dried dairy that is being overlooked. If a store is out of fresh milk then get some powdered milk or powdered goats milk instead. Canned Ghee is butter and you can also find powdered buttermilk in the baking section. While others may be scuffling or at a loss because the fresh case is empty or depleted you can be getting a good alternative and getting out the door before the situation gets worse.
Canned vegetables make a good substitute for fresh. Even a few frozen veggies may not be a bad idea because you can keep them in an insulated cooler for a few days. If you have a freezer you can keep going then this might not be as big of an issue.
A good resource for further reading is our guide to Prepping with Powdered Milk here.
If you are feeling particularly ambitious, learning how to make your own cheese and yogurt could also be useful.
Everyone wants to grab that pack of Bics and get out of the store. If you check the BBQ section you can find matches and larger lighters that can get overlooked by those panicking or in a hurry. For emergency fire starting you might want to consider one of the fire starters on our list!
Avoid filling your cart with bottled water
So many people are not water prepared. If things seem like they are getting a little crazy then fill up some water containers. If something has happened so that you are on a boil water advisory you can use a water filter so long as you actually have something to filter. Don’t waste space in your car with a ton of bottled water. If you don’t have a water filter then get one right now. For advice on water filter options, be sure to check out our “Guide To The Best Water Filters” as well as our collection of reviews in the water archive!
There are canned and dried fruits. A lot of people are familiar with the prepackaged varieties that are in the middle aisles of the grocery store. If a store has a bulk foods section then there may be bulk dried fruits that get overlooked by those that are used to that prepackaged convenience. Part of this depends on how soon you are getting to that store. At some point, someone is going to start noticing what is left and that is not going to be there either.
If you have the land, growing hardy fruits could be a great insurance policy.
The Bread Aisle
Like a lot of places, where I live the minute there is any indication that there is going to be a storm come through, the bread aisle is one that takes a hit! During an emergency situation or SHTF while everyone is going to the bread aisle you might want to consider going to the baking section. You can bake your own bread with the flour, salt, and yeast that might be getting overlooked at the beginning of a crisis or even during a major panic there still may be a bag or two of flour left. Remember that we are living in times when record numbers of people do not cook or even know how to. Plenty of people would not think to look in the baking section if they went to the store for a loaf of bread or two.
Thinking ahead is well worth it
Putting back shelf-stable versions of items can make it so that if something happens you will be less tempted to go out and possibly risk your safety. There are so many shelf stable substitutes out there.
Who will be joining you?
Your policy about friends and family joining up with you or reaching out for help during a disaster is a very personal one. Some people say that they have gone as far as giving their adult age children or close family a list of items they need to bring with them in the event of an emergency. The lists of items shared in this article can help you make a list too. If you want to be able to help more no matter what then you need to have some extra on hand. This means that if you have young grandkids that you might be caring for then having some baby and toddler supplies on hand might be a good idea.
Loved ones need to know that sometimes they are better off staying put then trying to make it to you and need to prepare as well. If they are resistant to the idea of taking any steps at all to better prepare themselves then this is a warning sign that they might be relying on you to do it for them or they simply don’t believe things will ever get that bad.
This list has the basics on it but also some items you might not have thought of. I have categorized these items for you so it might be a little easier to prioritize what you are putting back and take inventory of what you already have. Some of these items, of course, may not apply at all to your household or the climate you live in but this list is meant to be as inclusive as possible.
For a further resource, check out this article which discusses what to do when people say “I’m coming to your house”.
Food & Pantry
Those on restricted diets should be even more concerned about having appropriate items on hand to meet their needs. During an emergency, it can be especially hard to stick to a diet if you are having to just eat and drink whatever you can. Remember that just drinking water all the time is going to get boring so make sure to have some flavored mixes to add to your water for your own comfort. There are all kinds of sugar-free drink mixes out there that everyone can enjoy.
For more information on how to cook rice safely if you are going to have to eat a lot of it in the future during SHTF, check out “A Preppers Guide To Removing Arsenic From Rice”.
- Brown Sugar
- White Sugar
- Vegetable Oil (for cooking)
- Canned Meats
- Milk – Powdered & Condensed
- Spices. For more info on stocking up on spices, many have enjoyed reading “Best Herbs and Spices For Preppers”.
- Baking Powder
- Peanut Butter
- Canned Fruits, Veggies, Soups, stews, etc.
- Soy sauce, vinegar, bullions/gravy/soup base
- Coffee. Buying coffee beans that are unroasted and roasting your own can save you money and the coffee keeps better when stored green. To find out more about roasting and where to get coffee check out “Roasting Coffee and Storing For Long Term Use”
- Chocolate/Cocoa/Tang/Punch to use as water enhancers
Food Prep & Preservation
This list could go on and on and it is definitely something that you need to think about in terms of your own unique situation. If you have a bunch of freeze-dried foods put back that just require water or do not have the ability to cook meals for yourself then this list may be a lot shorter. If you have a lot of food in freezers then having a bunch of canning supplies on hand can help you preserve your food if you cannot keep your freezer going. While paper plates may seem wasteful to some, for those that have limited mobility or for short-term emergencies where washing dishes is cumbersome, they can be a blessing.
- Vacuum Sealers and Bags: “Best Vacuum Sealers“
- Hand-can openers
- Hand egg beaters
- Grinder for Grains
- Aluminum Foil Reg. & Heavy Duty
- Paraffin Wax
- Insulated ice chests
- Canning supplies
- Cast iron cookware: “Cooking with Cast Iron“
- Paper plates/cups/utensils
Heat, Fuel, and Lights
When it comes to this category you have to think carefully about safety. Some heaters are ventless so you want to make sure that oxygen levels stay good in your home. Kerosene heaters are kind of smelly and candles and oil lamps can be major fire hazards. Propane heat is cleaner burning and heaters are readily available. Sure you are limited by your fuel supply but tanks are relatively inexpensive.
- Heating Oil
- Seasoned Firewood
- Lamp Oil
- Coleman Fuel
- Lighter Fluid
- Propane Heaters
- Solar ovens. Backdoor Survival has a guide to solar ovens that is worth reading if you have been trying to decide which one is right for you.
- Mantles: Aladdin, Coleman, etc
- Gasoline Containers
- Flashlights, light sticks & torches, “No. 76 Dietz” Lanterns: Read more about the top EDC Flashlights here.
- Fire Extinguishers
Hygiene, Laundry, and Sanitation
Hygiene and sanitation standards are something a lot of people are going to defer on. You can also make some of these items do double duty. Paper towels can be used in place of toilet paper or Kleenex if needed for example. An all-purpose soap can be used for all your personal cleansing needs. A mild soap like Dr. Bronnors is a good choice. The baby version of Dr. Bronnors is something that even those with the most sensitive skin types can use. Shaving supplies are on this list but some may feel that they should be on the luxury list. Actually having some razors can be helpful in a medical emergency too because sometimes you really need to get the hair out of the way to properly treat a wound.
Laundry supplies are something that a lot of people overlook. What would you do if your washer was not available? Cleanliness is important in the prevention of illness during an emergency. Check out our article on “Best Off Grid Laundry Options” for additional suggestions about setups that help out with the workload.
- Feminine Hygiene
- Hair care
- Skin products
- Portable Toilets
- Mop Bucket w/wringer
- Garbage Bags
- Toilet Paper: “Are You Toilet Paper Prepared?“
- Paper Towels
- Nail Clippers
- Garbage Cans
- Laundry Detergent
- Bleach – plain
- Shaving supplies (razors & creams, talc, after shave)
A good night’s rest is important in any situation. Bedding may not get changed as often during an emergency but it still needs to happen. Sheets and pillows that you put back don’t have to be the fanciest thing in the store. Sometimes Amazon will have sheet sets that are $10 or less and no they are not thick but they are serviceable and they are really great for summer or spring. Bulk packs of pillows can be a real bargain too. Bed bugs and other vermin can be more of an issue during SHTF so encasing your mattresses now will help things stay cleaner and you will be far less likely to have to try to get bed bugs out of the inner parts of a mattress. This can be very hard if not impossible.
- Inflatable Mattresses and Repair Kits
- Sleeping Bags: Read more about the, “Best Emergency Sleeping Bags“
- Mattress encasement and covers
Home and Personal Defense
In a perfect world this would not be needed but let’s not be naive. I don’t care where you live and how safe you think you are, during an emergency or SHTF situation people can do things that you would never have thought they would in the past. Guns are the major weapons in the USA but that doesn’t mean that is all you should have. Also if you are not comfortable around firearms then you need to get some experience before thinking you can rely on one during a major incident. For women that want a certain level of comfort, there are ladies shooting courses at a lot of ranges around the country.
- Pepper Spray
- Tactical Pens
Medications and Medical Supplies
A whole book could be made with an extensive list of these items but this basic list is enough to get you started. Backdoor Survival has many articles that deal with some of these items specifically that can help you plan out your own needs more easily.
- Vitamins. “The Best Vitamins and Supplements For Hard Times” offers some suggestions.
- First Aid Kits
- Trauma bandages
- Blood stop powder
- Reading glasses
- Antibiotics. Dr. Joe Alton’s article is a good start to why you should “Store Fish Antibiotics For Survival”
- Antibacterial Ointments
- Saline Solution
- Contact lens solutions
- Eyeglass Repair Kit
- Extra pair of prescription glasses
Water Filtration, Treatment, and Storage
I have said it before and I will repeat this many times “Water is your first line of survival.” We have a lot of water filter reviews and the “Ultimate Guide To The Best Survival Water Filters.”
- Water Containers: Learn more about rain cachement systems here.
- Water Filters/Purifiers
- Water bottles
- Hydration packs
If you have a growing baby or are pregnant you may want to buy some larger clothes in advance so you are better prepared. An infant that is wearing clothes for a 6-month-old baby is going to need something for a year old and may need them quicker than you might think. Sometimes baby clothes are something that gets handed down among friends and that can save a lot of money over the years. Babies generally outgrow clothes before they wear them out.
- Teething Toys
- Baby wipes
Tools, Repairs, Farm & Garden
The items on this list are just the tip of the ice burg. A well-stocked toolbox can be a major help in general but also be invaluable during a disaster. Even if you are living on a small lot in town there are always small repairs and things that can pop up. Protection against mice, ants, and other destructive pests is important not just for health but for the sake of your stored food and supplies. A loose lid on a tote can result in a big loss of supplies. Hand tools and power tools that run on batteries can be handy but can become hard to find during a major event.
- Bow saws
- Duct Tape
- Knives & Sharpening tools: files, stones, steel
- Garden Seeds (Non-Hybrid): Learn more about Survival seeds here.
- Nuts and bolts
- Wagons & carts
- Hand pumps & siphons
- Garden tools & supplies
- Scissors, fabrics & sewing supplies
- Mousetraps, Ant traps & cockroach magnets
- Cordless Power Tools
A complete set can often be found for a bargain. The batteries can be charged off a 12 volt system if you have an inverter. This the easiest way to have some power tools even with limited electricity or with a solar set up. With kits the tools usually all take the same battery type so you may want to go ahead and buy a spare battery or two that works with your tools so you can always keep one charged up and you don’t have to do without on a larger project.
Reference & Writing Supplies
I write a lot so one of the things I have thought about is how I could keep writing during SHTF. I have a few old-fashioned AlphaSmart Neo Word Processors that will run for 700 hours on a few AA batteries. At the same time, good old fashioned paper and pen are good to have. It may seem like the digital age has made these things obsolete but plenty of people are going back to using more old-fashioned means for the sake of privacy.
Reference books are most of the paper books we keep around. During an emergency or SHTF having a hard copy is important because while digital is great, it requires some way of accessing it. One reader wrote and said that they save all of the Backdoor Survival articles they get into a pdf that they can access with their back up power system and laptop during a crisis while others print out articles and save them in organized binders.
- Survival Guide Books. Check out “Best Books For Living Off The Grid” for some suggestions.
- Writing paper/pads/pencils, solar calculators
- Journals, Diaries & Scrapbooks
- Thermal underwear
- Work boots
- Durable shirts
- Woolen clothing, scarves/ear-muffs/mittens
- Socks, Underwear, T-shirts, etc.
- Gloves: Work/warming/gardening, etc.
- Rain gear
- Rubber boots
- Hats & cotton neckerchiefs
Pet & Livestock Supplies
Most people are going to be most concerned about dogs and cats in an emergency but there are plenty of preppers out there with other animals to be concerned about. Check out “Best Pet Survival Kit Ideas & Products” to get thinking about what you need to have on hand.
- Dog Food
- Cat Food
- Flea & Tick Medications
- Medical Supplies such as wormers and antibiotics
- Hide Tanning Supplies
Camping & Survival Gear
Another category that could have a hundred items on it. Basically, any survival or camping gear that is useful could be in short supply during a crisis. Obviously, some of the items in the medical supplies section and clothing sections could also be considered survival gear so take another look back there too.
- Fishing supplies/tools
- Mosquito coils/repellent, sprays/creams
- Duffel Bags
- Flare gun
A BDS resource for further research would be “Finding Your Way Back Home Without a Map and Compass“.
Transportation & Vehicles
While staying put is sometimes best, sometimes unexpected things happen when out and about or going to and from your day job. Transportation of things around your place may involve carts, wagons, or wheelbarrows that can all have tire issues over time or if you run over something by accident. Some people plan on bugging out with or without a car but still with something that has wheels.
- Tire Fix Kit For SHTF
For information on options for bugging out without a car, take a peek at “Alternative Bug Out Transportation: How To Bug Out Without A Car”.
Luxuries and Vices
While some might joke that hey some of those are necessities, these items are really something that you can do without but they do make good trade items and can make life a little more bearable during tough times. Sure not all are great for you but people love their luxuries and vices. Sorry if I forgot yours but this list should get you thinking about what you like to do to unwind. It may be crocheting, knitting, or any other thing that is not critical to survival but helps you get through!
- Cigarettes and tobacco products
- Chewing Gum
- Board Games, Cards, Dice
- Books (Non Reference)
What would you add to this list? Do you have items you are putting back extras of for trade during SHTF or so you can help others?
We hope this list helps you think about your long-term needs and get started with a better plan for the future!