Food security is a concern that has seen a resurgence in recent times, and more people are interested in learning how to improve their food reserves for longer than a week. Building a 3-month food supply is a good place to start. In this article I provide actionable steps to help you build 3-months’ worth of food storage in just a few basic steps.

But first, let’s summarize what I mean by 3 months food supply and how to build this important aspect of any food storage plan.

A three-month food supply is short-term food storage. It should consist of non-perishable food items that are currently part of your normal diet. Evaluate how quickly you go through a food item to see how much you need for a 3-month supply. Buy in bulk on sale, rotate your supply and watch expiration dates.

Why Build a 3 Month Food Supply?

Woman in the kitchen with can of dry mint, food storage, pantry.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to build up 3 months’ worth of food storage, I want to touch briefly on why you should even bother with this step toward long term food storage.

Building a long-term food supply gives some peace of mind so that when the supply chain stutters or breaks down, you will have a supply of food to see you through the challenging time. Many people talk about having an entire year’s worth of food storage, and that’s a worthy goal.

But it’s also a bit overwhelming to build up this level of emergency food supply when you’re just starting out, so it’s better to start with a more manageable amount of food storage.

Also, you may or may not have room to store up long term food storage and 3 months’ worth of food in your prepper pantry is enough to get you through the initial stages of a crisis and buy you some time to figure out your next steps.

If you don’t know how to start building 3 months’ worth of food storage, I have some expert advice to get you started on your plan before it’s too late.

Getting Started Building a 3 Month Food Supply

As I mentioned above, while 3 months is not considered long-term food storage, it will give you some breathing space to produce a longer-term plan. In fact, I’m going to break it down even further for you, so that you can take baby steps toward building a full-fledged emergency food supply.

Starting with a 1 Months’ Worth of Food Storage

Starting somewhere is better than failing to start at all and building a 1-month food supply is a good entry-level point to give you some peace of mind for you and your family.

Also, having enough food on hand for 1 month is something you can do without a lot of friction if your family members aren’t on board when it comes to long term food storage.

So, while this article is focused on building a 3-month prepper pantry, make your first goal to store up 1 month’s worth of food. You can use the same principles in the rest of this article for building the first month of short-term food storage.

Foundational Aspects of Long-Term Food Storage

Before we get stuck into the business of starting your food storage, some foundational aspects should be considered. These basic tips apply to all levels of food storage, from short to long.

Storage Space

The first thing you need to settle on is where to store the food in your extended pantry. Do you have sufficient space to store your food supply, and is the location protected enough so your food supply will not spoil?

You don’t want to store supplies only to discover they have spoiled from poor storage when you need them most.

If you have a large basement, you likely have plenty of space. But if like me, you live in a small space, you may need to be creative when it comes to storing canned foods and other supplies.

The good news is, once you start thinking creatively about where to store your emergency food supply, you’ll be surprised how many food storage places you’ll discover.

I recommend going through your home with a pen and paper in hand. Look at each room and make note of any place you may be able to store some food. Start with the most convenient options, but make note of the less convenient locations that you can use as your food supply grows.

As an example, I’ve found that flats of canned foods slide under the couch and loveseat in our living room. I have to get down on my hands and knees to access the food, so it’s not ideal for everyday use, but works great for food I don’t need to get into regularly.

Store What You Eat

I’m not a big fan of food storage lists that tell you exactly what to buy. The reason is that we all enjoy different types of food, and many people have special dietary needs.

If you buy food just because it’s on a list someone gave you, you may end up with a well-stocked pantry that is of little use to you.

We all have food that matters to us and that we enjoy. For instance, my husband and I live with my elderly mom, and she loves green beans. So canned green beans are a must in our food storage. But if you don’t like green beans, it makes no sense to include them in your emergency food supply.

Make Lists

Lists are your friend when building food supplies. You need to keep track of what you have, what you have used, and when items need replacing.

I recommend considering what each person in your family enjoys. I mentioned that my mom loves green beans, so they went on the list, since I know she’ll be disappointed if we run out of them. For someone else, it may be something unnecessary but nice, such as ketchup. If you have a baby that is on formula, you’ll want to make sure to include baby formula on the list.

We’ll talk about how to make your list in a minute.

Store Nutritious Food

Even in an emergency, or perhaps I should say especially in an emergency, it’s important to have the ingredients on hand to make healthy nutritious meals.

If your storage space is limited, you want to store nutritious food rather than food that provides empty calories, such as high-sugar foods. You can still store treats, but ensure they are both nutritious and tasty!

Add Tasty Ingredients to Your Emergency Food List

In the previous point I mentioned including nutritious food in your 3-month food supply. But it’s also important to include spices and similar items that will help you make the food tasty.

Every person defines tasty food differently. For some, it’s condiments such as ketchup and mustard. My husband insists on having a stockpile of salsa in our pantry. I love pickled peppers and olives. My mom has a sweet tooth. While none of these foods are considered emergency food, they sure make emergency food taste better!

The key is to consider how your family eats and incorporate those preferences into your food storage plan.

With these foundational principles in mind, let’s get to the plan!

Plan Your 3 Month Food Supply By Meals

It is not a good strategy to just make a list of foods with a long shelf life and simply build up a supply of these foods. You don’t want to eat canned soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

Use lists for each meal type, for example, a spreadsheet for breakfast foods, another for lunch, a third for dinner, and lastly, a list for tasty snacks and desserts.

The best way to start is to list the foods you currently like to eat for those meals and evaluate which of those foods have short-term storage potential.

In contrast to a long-term food supply, a short-term 3-month supply of food is typically food you will eat every day, and it is not necessarily packaged for long-term storage. The food packaging from the grocery store is usually sufficient protection.

This means you don’t need any specialized processes or equipment to store food for 3 months.

What Types of Food Should You Store?

The types of food you should plan to include in your food storage are non-perishable foods. These can be canned, dried, fermented, or foods with a naturally long shelf-life.

Many fresh ingredients that you normally use have canned or preserved equivalents. An example of this is tomatoes, which are available in cans and will last a long time.

The following table lists non-perishable foods you can include in your plan for a 3-month food supply that can cater to all 3 daily meals.

Powdered milkSaltVegetable oilCorned beefBaking powder
BarleyPeasPowdered cheesePepperShorteningCanned tunaBaking soda
OatsChickpeasCanned cheese
Garlic powderOlive oilBeef jerkyYeast
CornLentilsBasilGheeCanned chickenVital wheat gluten
FlourRosemaryCocoa powder
PastaRed pepper flakes

Most of the food items in the list above will have a shelf life longer than the 3-month goal for your food supply. Don’t be tempted to buy too much of one item simply because it lasts longer. It will take up valuable space in your storage, limiting the variety of foods you can store.

These are all necessities to keep you well-fed, but what about some treats and items for you to simply enjoy life during times of low supply?

Check out the table below for unnecessary, but nice items to add to your emergency food supplies list.

Dried fruitTeaKetchup
ChocolateBottled waterMayonnaise
CrackersPowdered milkPickles
ChipsDrink mixesPeppers

How Much Food Should You Keep for a 3 Month Supply?

The amount of each item you keep in your 3-month food supply depends on how quickly you go through the food or how frequently you use each food item.

The amount of food you need also depends on the number of people in your family. You may need to spend some time monitoring how long each food item normally lasts in your food pantry and how quickly you go through each item.

Keeping track of how much you eat on a regular basis will help you determine exactly how much food to store.

For example, if you go through a bag of oats in two weeks, then you know that you will need 6 bags of the product for a 3-month supply.

How To Build A 3 Month Food Supply On A Budget

Building a 3-month food supply does not have to be expensive and can help you to save money in the long run.

The best way to achieve a good food store on a budget is to look out for specials on the items you need for your supply and then buy in bulk. This method allows you to eat food three months from now at today’s prices.

Buying in bulk at the sale price is also a more cost-effective method of building a well-stocked pantry. Bulk prices are usually cheaper than smaller packaged items. Just watch the expiry dates of the items you buy on sale. Don’t buy too many items that will expire in a month.

A 3-month supply allows you to wait until you see items on sale before purchasing replacements for the used stock in your food supply. This method allows you to leverage special deals and sales, saving you money on your grocery bill!

Rotate Your 3 Month Food Supply

While most foods are generally good for some time after their expiry date, you don’t want to have too much old stock in your pantry that will lose nutritional value or risk spoiling.

The answer to this food storage issue is to regularly rotate your food supply by the expiry date. This strategy involves stacking your food supply by expiry date so the oldest food will be used first.

When you buy new supplies to replace used goods, place the new stock at the back of the shelf and move the older stuff forward to be used first.

Including Frozen Foods in Your Food Storage Plan

When it comes to planning out a long-term food storage plan, I tend to focus on shelf stable food that my family eats on a regular basis. However, when it comes to a 3-month food supply, I also like to work frozen foods into the plan.

There are, of course, some risks to depending on frozen foods because in case of a power outage, all of the food in your freezer can spoil.

Having said that, for short term food storage, a freezer is a worthwhile investment. Long-term power outages are rare, and as long as you keep the freezer closed as much as possible during the power outage, having a couple of months’ worth of meat and vegetables in the freezer makes sense.

Maintaining a 3 Month Food Supply

Once you’ve built up three months worth of food storage, it’s important to maintain it. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to add an item to my grocery list each time I open one up. As an example, if I open a can of coffee, I immediately add coffee to my grocery list.

I do this even though I have perhaps a couple of unopened cans of coffee in my pantry. Remember, the goal is to maintain at least 3 months’ worth of food storage at all times.

I even do this with smaller items such as canned food. If I open up a can of tomatoes, canned tomatoes go on my shopping list for the next week.

Adding Non-Food Items to Your Stockpile List

In addition to storing up food you regularly eat, it’s also important to work on building a 3-month supply of non-food items.

Again, focus on the things you use on a regular basis. Here are a few examples:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Mouthwash
  • Deodorant
  • Bodywash
  • Shampoo
  • Dish soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Bleach

Look around your home for non-edible items you’d feel stressed over if you ran out of them, and gradually work on adding those things to your emergency food supply. The good news is, it’s easy to buy one or two items each week when you visit your local grocery store.

Going Beyond a 3 Month Food Supply

Once you’ve built up a 3-month food supply and are successfully maintaining it by replenishing used items each time you go grocery shopping, you can start to gradually work on a long-term food storage plan.

I found the easiest way to do this is to purchase one or two extra items each week. For example, one week I may buy some canned fruit. The next week, I spend a few dollars on some canned soups. Or I may buy an extra bottle of olive oil or some canned meats.

For long term storage, in addition to buying canned goods and other packaged goods, I like to stock up on food that lasts a year or longer. Some of those items are dried beans, rice, freeze dried foods, and dehydrated foods.

Pro Tip: Be sure to check out these related articles that will help with your long term food storage:


Building a 3-month food supply does not only make sense from a food security point of view but can also help you to save money on your monthly food bill.

Planning your food storage supply correctly will allow you to provide your family with healthy, nutritious, and delicious food, even when the grocery store shelves run out of stock!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *