When I was growing up in the eighties, my grandmother kept shelves of pork and beans, peaches canned in syrup and other non-perishables in her basement. Having come of age in the early Cold War era, when the threat of nuclear winter seemed very real, it was second nature to keep a few months’ supply of food around.

“At least I’ll be okay when there’s a blizzard,” she told me when I inquired about the habit, decades after nuclear annihilation had ceased to be a daily concern for most people.

Americans no longer design buildings with nuclear fallout shelters and schoolkids don’t have to climb under their desks for “duck and cover” drills anymore. But thanks to climate change, mass migrations, economic uncertainty — and a pair of chubby world leaders trading schoolyard taunts about blowing each other to smithereens — apocalyptic fears are brewing once again.

The “Doomsday Clock” — a rhetorical device incented by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 — advanced to two minutes until midnight in January this year — as close as we’ve ever been to the apocalypse, according to this esteemed body.

Such thoughts quell the appetite, but when disaster strikes — whether nuclear holocaust or just another epic flood (“hundred-year storms” seem to be yearly now) — you’re likely to be without refrigeration or a functioning kitchen stove for a while. Which means at some point you’re going to be hungry.

The time to stock your apocalypse pantry is now. Stock it with pork and beans and peaches canned in syrup from the discount grocer if you like. Or stock it with stuff that tastes good and is healthy for you. The key is to stick with foods that are easy to prepare.

Also, don’t forget these basics: bottled water, dish soap, lighters, flashlights, a camp stove and fuel.

Fruit and Veggies

Canned and dried fruits and vegetables from the supermarket are typically high in sugar and preservatives. One Saturday afternoon per year is all it takes to put up your own, however, using produce grown at home or gleaned from the farmer’s market. Each year that disaster doesn’t hit, move the fruits and veggies from your apocalypse pantry to your regular pantry and enjoy — they won’t last five years without preservatives, but home-canned and dried goods usually last at least 12 to 18 months.

See the Modern Farmer guide to canning here.


You probably won’t do much baking during the apocalypse, so forget the flour. You’ll be lucky if you’re even able to cook. Thus we recommend rice noodles, which reconstitute in cold water (it takes about an hour), and are the perfect base for a weekly Asian dish. Virtually all grains can be “sprouted” and made edible raw — soak in water for 24 hours and then rinse them twice daily, keeping them moist but not submerged for several more days — though some are more delicious than others. We recommend wild rice and quinoa.


Canning meat at home is complicated, but it’s not hard to make your own shelf-stable jerky using a dehydrator. Or you can stock up on cured meats at your favorite butcher — just make sure to ask for products that can be safely stored at room temperature.

Dairy products aren’t very amenable to long-term storage and good quality cured meat is costly, so during the apocalypse plan on getting most of your protein from beans. The good news is they’re cheap and last for years without spoilage. Since you’ll be subsisting on them, may as well make it interesting and fill some mason jars with selection of colorful heirloom beans.

Beans generally require cooking, but they can also be eaten sprouted — lentils and mung beans are the best options if you’re forced to go this route.


Nothing lifts the spirits of disaster victims like a good meal, but no meal is very tasty without the proper flavor agents. So make sure to devote some pantry real estate to salt, pepper, herbs, spices, salsa, shoyu, olive oil, your favorite gourmet mustard and a selection of other sauces, seasonings and condiments.


Chips and candy will make you very popular among your fellow disaster victims, so load up on enough to share and make friends. But keep in mind that if you don’t like to eat junk food everyday under normal circumstances, it will get old after a while during the apocalypse, too. Think about what you like to nosh on now — chocolate? pistachios? olives? nori sheets? — and devote a shelf to these.

Just try to resist the urge to eat them before the SHTF — in the lingo of doomsday “preppers,” that’s shorthand for when a certain brown something hits the fan.