Having a stockpile of food is a must for any prepper, but just because you have a lot of food doesn’t mean you have a lot of the right food. In fact, the kinds of food that you choose to store in your stockpile can make a huge difference in a true emergency.
For the most part, peppers try to stockpile healthy foods that have a long shelf life to ensure that they and their family get the nutrients they need to make it through a long-term disaster.
But, since so many people are focused on stockpiling healthy food items, many preppers forget about one very important thing that they should also stockpile: junk food.
If you’re on the fence about including junk food in your long-term stockpile, you’re not alone. Junk food is often overlooked for its survival uses and is frequently left by the wayside.
However, stockpiling junk food is a fantastic idea for any prepper and we’re here to show you why and how you should keep some sweet treats in your emergency rations.
Why You Should Stockpile Junk Food
Okay, we get it: Junk food isn’t exactly the most nutritious thing around and eating it is certainly not going to win you any brownie points with your dentist.
While we wouldn’t recommend eating only junk food for a few weeks or months while you’re hunkered down, from a prepper point of view, junk food has a whole lot of valuable uses that warrant its inclusion in your emergency stores.
Why should you stockpile junk food? We’re glad you asked. Here are some of the top reasons to keep candy, chocolate, and other guilty pleasures in your stockpile:
Comfort (Psychological Boost)
First and foremost, junk food is comfort food. Anyone that’s ever watched a sappy rom-com film knows that people apparently love to sit in bed and gorge themselves on a carton of ice cream when they’re sad.
While doing this probably isn’t good for your waistline, we can probably all agree that salty and sugary treats are often a go-to when we’re feeling down.
Why is that? Well, quite a few studies show that eating junk food does a number of things within the body.
The sugar found in junk food stimulates the pleasure centers of our brain and makes us feel happy, which is why a lot of people turn to these snacks when they need a bit of a “pick-me-up.”
Plus, studies show that eating certain foods with strong scents (like candy, cakes, chips, and the like) can bring back strong memories and nostalgia of childhood and family.
Since these memories are quite often positive, junk food is known to help bring about a happy mood.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we should only eat junk food, but the fact that junk food can make people feel happier (even if only for a moment) is a great reason to have in your stockpile.
A positive outlook and mental strength are everything in an emergency, so having a quick and easy way to pull people out of a negative rut can make a huge difference in a long-term survival situation.
Extra Calories/Energy Dense
Oh, calories, oh calories. Calories are the pitfall of dieters and fitness gurus everywhere, but they are quite important, especially if you’re in survival mode. Basically, a calorie is a unit of measure that tells us how much energy you could gain if you consumed it.
The non-scientist almost exclusively uses calories to talk about food and drink, but pretty much anything that can produce energy can be measured in calories, like coal and oil.
We humans measure calories in our food to tell us how much energy we can get from a particular meal. While we all need calories, the reason people count them and limit them is because eating more calories than your body needs results in weight gain.
The average human needs between 1,600 to 3,000 calories per day, depending on a variety of factors including gender, height, weight, and physical fitness.
While calories are something many of us try to limit in our daily lives, when we’re in survival mode, it’s important that we get at least the bare minimum we need every day to keep our bodies functioning normally. That’s where junk food comes in.
Although having healthy food in your stores is important for ensuring that everyone gets the nutrients they need, we do need to keep in mind that junk food is much more “calorie-dense” than healthy food.
This means that for any given serving size, you’ll get more calories from a plate of junk food than from a healthy meal.
Why is this important? Well, if you’re limited in space for your emergency stores, you want to pack as many calories as you can into your stockpile. Some of the most calorie-dense foods out there are junk foods, like:
- Baking chocolate (642 calories/100g)
- Chocolate-covered candy (590 calories/100g)
- Potato chips (560 calories/100g)
- Twix (553 calories/100g)
- 3 Musketeers (530 calories/100g)
- Trail mix (484 calories/100g)
Now compare these junk foods to something like the following healthy food and you’ll see that you get much more bang for your buck when you add junk food to your stockpile:
- Brown rice (112 calories/100g)
- Baked Beans (94 calories/100g)
- Oatmeal (71 calories/100g)
- Strawberries (32 calories/100g)
- Tomatoes (18 calories/100g)
- Lettuce (13 calories/100g)
Use As A Reward
Since so many people crave junk food, you can also use it as a reward in an emergency situation.
Especially if you have children, giving them treats in exchange for their help doing important tasks, like cutting firewood or fetching water can be a great way to keep them busy and happy all at the same time.
When SHTF, you may not, despite all of your best efforts, have every single thing you need to be comfortable or to survive in your emergency stores.
However, if you have neighbors, you can try to barter with them to get the supplies you need.
Since junk food isn’t a thing that a lot of people think to keep in their emergency stores, nor is it something that people can really produce on their homesteads, chances are pretty high that you’ll be able to get a good deal by trading away that chocolate bar or bag of potato chips.
It turns out that really greasy chips, like Fritos, make superb firestarters in an emergency situation.
While we hope that you have enough fire-starting materials on hand to keep yourself warm during an emergency, if it’s not working, for some reason, you can always try using a few potato chips as kindling.
Especially if you have a lot of wet kindling, using a handful of chips can be a good way to get the fire going for the first minute or so before the kindling catches.
We recommend using just a few chips at a time, though, as you don’t want to burn through all of your food for no reason.
Long Shelf Life
Finally, one of the best reasons to keep junk food in your emergency stores is that it tends to have a very long shelf life.
Since you hopefully never have to use your food stockpile, you will probably have to restock it every once in a while to ensure you don’t have any expired items in your stores.
While you can certainly still eat your nearly-expired emergency rations before they go bad, having long-shelf-life food in your stores will save you time, money, and hassle in the long run.
How Much Junk Food Should You Store? Tips For Space Efficiency
Once you decide that you should store junk food, then it’s time to figure out how much you actually want to keep in your stockpile. Although this is a decision that each individual prepper needs to make based on their own unique needs, there are some general guidelines we can all follow. Here are some tips:
- 15%: When you look at your total food stockpile, junk food should make up no more than 15% of your stores. Since junk food doesn’t provide any real nutritional value, it should be used mostly as a treat during an emergency. Thus, it shouldn’t take up too much of your inventory.
- Opt for calorie-dense: As we’ve mentioned, some foods are more calorie-dense than others. Even within the realm of junk food, there are some items that pack in more calories than others. When possible, make the majority of your junk food stores be calorie-dense items. While we’re not saying that you shouldn’t have a bag or two of potato chips, don’t take up too much space with bulky items.
- Buy in bulk. While a huge bag of individually-wrapped snack-size M&Ms might look like a lot of food, you’re actually just wasting your own space by having all that extra packaging. Buying a few larger bulk-sized bags of junk food will make your stores more space-efficient.
- Diversify. It’s easy to crush through one giant bag of M&Ms, especially if you only have one kind of snack in your stores. So, get a bulk-sized bag of a few different items to make it easier to pace yourself during a SHTF situation.
- Buy only what your family likes. There’s no point in stockpiling junk food that no one in your family likes. If people won’t eat Mr. Goodbars, don’t buy them. Stick with what people like and your junk food stores will be more meaningful and important in a crisis.
Long Shelf-Life Junk Food To Store
If you’re looking to stockpile food, you’ll probably want to opt for items that have an exceptionally long shelf life to avoid wasting food or accidentally getting yourself sick during a crisis.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that the date you see listed on an item’s packaging is not necessarily the date you need to throw it out.
In fact, with the exception of infant formal, there is no government requirement or regulation for the use of “expiration” or “best by dates” on food in the United States.
For the most part, manufacturers put these dates on their products to tell you when you should eat them by for maximum quality, NOT to tell you when they might make you sick.
In reality, the only guidance the government gives us about the shelf life of foods refers only to perishable items that need to be refrigerated. The USDA says:
“With an exception of infant formula (described below), if the date passes during home storage, a product should still be safe and wholesome if handled properly until the time spoilage is evident. Spoiled foods will develop an off odor, flavor or texture due to naturally occurring spoilage bacteria. If a food has developed such spoilage characteristics, it should not be eaten.”USDA
So, when determining how long your junk food will last, it’s really about taste-testing and smelling food before you commit to eating it.
n general, packaged food that is high in sugar and low in perishable ingredients like milk and eggs will last longer.
Sometimes, junk food also lasts longer when it’s repackaged (more on that later), but the key is to keep all of these items in cool, dry places out of direct sunlight to maximize their shelf-life.
With all of that in mind, here are some general guidelines for storing junk food:
|Maple Syrup||50+ years (kept in glass)|
|Honey Powder||25-30 years|
|Cocoa Powder:||24-36 months|
|Hard Candy||24 months|
|Dark Chocolate Bar||24-36 months|
|Cake Frosting||12-18 months|
|Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans||6-12 months|
|Chocolate Covered Raisins||6-12 months|
|Snickers Bar||6-12 months|
|Hershey’s Kisses||11 months|
|Honey Roasted Peanuts||6-9 months|
|Mars Bar||6-8 months|
|Chips Ahoy||6 months|
Chips & Savory Snacks
|Ramen Noodles||10+ years|
|Ritz Crackers||6-9 months|
|Potato Chips||2-3 months|
How to Store Junk Food for the Long Term
While choosing long-shelf-life junk food items is an important step in creating your stockpile, it’s not the end of the story.
In fact, you can often extend the shelf life of your junk food simply by storing it properly in your home. Here are some tips for storing different kinds of junk food for the long term:
In general, hard candy is really shelf-stable, so you often don’t have to do too much to get them ready for long-term storage.
If kept in its original packaging, most bulk bags of hard candy, like lifesavers, jolly ranchers, and lollipops, will last about a year.
But, if you choose to repackage them in sealed mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, you can often increase the shelf life to about 2 years.
If you’re looking to store chocolate bars, it’s often best to keep them in their original packaging and then place those bars into mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Then, since chocolate bars often attract insects and other bugs, it’s worth placing them inside some sort of hard-sided container, like a 5-gallon bucket for extra protection.
Try to keep chocolate in a cool, dry place with little temperature and humidity fluctuations. When chocolate is stored improperly, it can get white blemishes on it called sugar and fat blooms.
While sugar and fat blooms don’t mean you can’t eat chocolate, they can slightly change the flavor and make the chocolate look weird. So, keep the chocolate at a nice, stable temperature and humidity as much as possible.
If you have smaller candied chocolate items, like chocolate-covered espresso beans or M&Ms, you can also try repackaging them in vacuum-sealed glass jars to extend their shelf life.
This also works quite well with cocoa powder and extends shelf life up to about 3 years. Plus, glass jars protect your food from insects and other pests!
Crackers, Chips & Cookies
Unfortunately, crackers and chips generally don’t have very long shelf lives because of their high oil content, which tends to spoil. However, there are ways to increase the shelf life of these products.
Perhaps the best way to keep chips and crackers fresh is to repackage them into a vacuum-sealed container.
Since chips and crackers tend to crumble easily, a vacuum-sealed glass jar is a solid option. This is also a particularly good method for storing other savory snacks, like nuts and pretzels for the long-term.
Junk Food: A Must-Have For All Preppers
While your emergency food stores should certainly be healthy and nutritious, there are so many benefits to junk food in a crisis situation. Whether it’s to boost morale or to use for bartering, having a stockpile of junk food can really make a difference in an emergency situation.
The trick is to understand what junk food items have the longest shelf life and what you need to do to store them properly.
Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t want to have too much junk food in your stores that’s taking up the space of other, healthier options. Ultimately, having junk food in your stockpile is a must-do for all preppers.
Gaby is a wilderness survival expert, mountaineering guide, and professional outdoor educator, with specialties that include firearms handling and wilderness medicine. She is also a freelance writer for a variety of outdoor and survival publications.