Learn To Stockpile Like The Pioneers

Learn To Stockpile Like The PioneersWhen it comes to the cold season or any SHTF event, stockpiling comes in mighty handy, and for apparent reasons. Back in the days of America’s pioneers, the only thing they had to keep them alive through a grueling winter was what little food and fuel they had stored in preparation. Had they not prepared, chances are that they would not survive the winter.

Back in those days, there were no power tools, and folks got by just fine with a handful of hand-tools and a small bit of know-how. Today, though our modern world offers us the convenience of electric tools and grocery stores, as preppers, we must be ready at all times to face hard situations with enough knowledge and preparedness to survive.

The pioneers didn’t have the benefit of modern supermarkets, but they were experts at preserving a wide variety of foods. A family on the frontier would have hundreds of pounds of food in store at the beginning of winter, and they used it carefully – waste was a serious matter. Nature took enough of a toll; ten percent or more could be lost to pests or spoilage.

Households would preserve and store as much as they needed for the winter – then keep on canning smoking and salting, packing away everything they could. Any surplus was a safeguard against unexpected losses – animals breaking into a clamp or a serious pest infestation in the root cellar. Families would also donate the surplus to neighbors who’d lost their reserves – after all, next winter they could be the ones who needed the help.

We’re spoiled by refrigeration and modern shopping, but if the SHTF all that will be gone within days. At that point, those who can fall back on the skills of our pioneer ancestors will be the ones who will surely survive winter from the first snowfall to the first glimpse of spring. Because if you don’t know how to put up a few hundred pounds of preserved food, it’s going to be a long, hard winter.

While we don’t necessarily have to stock our cache exactly as the pioneers did, we surely can learn a lot about how to go about it from them. For them, stockpiling had to be a way of life, it was an absolute requirement for survival. Stockpiling meant growing everything needed in the spring and summer and early fall, and then spend even more time building up their food supplies for the approaching cold months.

In case of an emergency situation, especially in the winter months, it is dire to remember that a. it could be that stores are shut down due to bad winter conditions (or other SHTF situations) and b. You will not be growing any goods during those chilly months.

Now, here is where we have it off fairly easy, compared to the struggles of the pioneer: We have grocery stores that stock many, many non-perishable food items, making it extremely easy to begin stockpiling before any SHTF events. Rather than living off the land and only using the general-store staples (flour, sugar, and other things that can’t be grown), we have the opportunity (before it really matters) to grab up supplies for our stockpiles by utilizing today’s grocery market.

Food supplies are not the only thing it is wise to stock up on. There are other goods, non-food goods that are as equally as important to survival than just food. And yes, there are more things needed for stocking beside just beans and bullets. Things such as pain relievers, cleaning/hygiene products, and firewood are equally as important as dried meat and pressure canned veggies.

Now, all that being said, the absolute, numero uno thing to stockpile (for any given situation) is water. Having plenty on deck as well as having/knowing ways to filter water that you may collect should be a key focus when beginning your stockpiling.

We can basically break down the stockpile into two main categories: Food and Non-food Supplies:

Food Supplies

The bulk of a winter food stockpile was usually carbohydrates, especially flour. Vegetables and fruit were also a major part of it. Meat usually had a lower priority, because game could still be hunted in winter, but as much as possible would be preserved anyway.

Hunting isn’t always reliable and can be risky in extreme weather or SHTF scenarios. Let’s look in more detail at exactly what we should store in our modern times (comparatively, it is not far from what the pioneers themselves were stocking).

1. Wheat flour and other grains

While many farmers raised grain, they usually didn’t eat their own. Their grain would be sold and then they’d turn around and buy flour and other ground grains from the general store. A few people would have their own hand-operated mills for grinding grains, but those were for grinding cornmeal, rather than flour.

Bread was an important staple in the diet. It was a great source of carbohydrates, giving them the energy they needed to burn during the day. Of course, the bread they ate back then were very different than today’s, being much harder and heartier than our modern bread.

2. Baking soda

You couldn’t bake bread without baking soda unless you happened to have yeast. Of course, many people made sourdough bread, always saving a bit of the dough to act as a starter for the next batch. But sourdough starter doesn’t work for biscuits, pies or bear sign (what they called donuts). So a stock of baking soda gave them much more variety in their diet.

3. Salt, the gold of the pioneers

Salt has always been highly valued. In fact, in the Roman Empire part of a soldier’s pay was given in salt. That became the root of the word “salary.” We need salt in our diets to survive, as well as to preserve meats. While some pioneers would harvest it themselves from salt licks, that only worked for those who had a natural salt lick on their property.

4. Sugar

While not an absolute necessity, sugar was an important item to stockpile. Not only is it used as part of the process of canning fruit, but even the toughest of cowboys and miners wanted a sweet treat every now and then.

5. Rice

Like grains, rice was an important staple for many people. But it wasn’t grown in many parts of the country, making it an item pioneers picked up at the general store. Stockpile on rice and you won’t be sorry!

6. Bacon

Bacon managed to become the default travel meat of choice in pioneering days. Cowboys would carry a chunk of bacon in their saddlebags, wagon trains carried it, and most families had a few slabs on hand. If you had bacon, you had meat to eat.

7. Coffee and tea

Who doesn’t like a good cup of coffee? Actually, coffee drinking in this country started with the Revolutionary War, in response to the Stamp Tax. Rather than pay the tax for British imported teas, many people switched over to coffee. Whereas before the revolution most people drank tea, after it the nation switched to coffee. By the time of the revolution, tea was mostly drunk only by the wealthy.

8. Dried beans

Just as it is for the average homesteader today, dried beans were a favorite staple for the pioneers. Chili con carne became a popular dish, starting in Texas and then moving north along the cow trails. Eventually, it was eaten all across the west.

Beans also could be eaten alone, or with tortillas. The Southwest culture had a strong Mexican influence, including the eating of refried beans as a staple. Many a meal was beans and biscuits or beans and bread. Even when they had meat, beans were often served on the side.

9. Dried and canned fruit

Drying is one of the oldest techniques used by man to preserve food. Native Americans would dry strips of elk, buffalo and rabbit in the sun. Later, the American pioneers dried their meat by draping it on the side of their wagons on their days-long trips.

Since it kept well, dried fruit was another popular trail food, both for wagon trains and for drifting cowboys. It helped give variety to an otherwise dull diet, as well as providing them something sweet to eat.

By storing canned foods in cool dark spots, they had a much better chance for success.

10. Smoked meats

One of the signs that you’d “made it” was to have a smokehouse on your property. While the ability to smoke your own meats was incredibly useful, not everyone could afford the time or expense to build one. Those who were usually well-established families who already had their homes and barns built. By then, they were producing enough that it was worthwhile to be able to smoke meats when it was time to slaughter a cow or pig.

Related article: Smoking Meat For Long-term Storage – Smoking Secrets

11. Jerky

The pioneers learned how to make jerky from the Native Americans. While smoking was great, not everyone had a smokehouse. Plus, jerky lasts longer than smoked meats and is much more portable. Drifting Cowboys and other travelers would often take jerky along just to ensure they had some meat to eat. A few strips of jerky and a couple of campfire biscuits made a pretty good lunch in the saddle.

12. Corn

Many pioneers grew their own corn, even if it was just enough for their family. They might grow wheat or some other grain for sale, but they’d put in a small patch of corn, as well. That corn was usually dried and kept for making cornmeal.

13. Vegetables

A vegetable garden alongside or behind the house was almost a requirement for pioneer families. Without it, their food would be bland and repetitive. Not only did they grow their own veggies, but their own herbs, as well.

Most vegetables were harvested and kept in a root cellar, not canned. Canning required owning a goodly supply of canning jars, something that most people didn’t have. It wasn’t until later, when towns were well-established and trade was more regular, that canning jars became common in the west.

14. Feed for the animals

Anyone who had animals had to consider their needs. Whether horses, cows or chickens, they were a valuable part of the homestead and needed to eat. Just like the family would stockpile food to get themselves through the winter, they’d stack hay and other feed for their farm animals.

Most hay was cut from wild grass growing near the farm. It would be cut by hand with a scythe and stacked in towering haystacks for the winter months. Some farmers who had larger barns with lofts would stack the hay in the loft. But that required hay bales, which meant having the equipment for baling hay. So that only happened in well-established areas on well-established farms.

15. Cheese

Dairy products are highly perishable and difficult to store without refrigeration, but the pioneers managed to store some. Butter could be canned, but the easiest to stockpile is cheese. Almost any variety of hard cheese can be preserved with paraffin wax.

The most common way was to melt the wax then brush the cheese with it. Two coats were applied to make sure there were no holes where air could get in. Once sealed in wax, the cheese could be stored for long periods in a cool place. Not only was it preserved, but it would also mature and improve its flavor.

16. Eggs

Hens lay more when they get more sunlight, so in winter eggs were few and far between. Paraffin wax came in useful here, too. Surplus late summer and fall eggs, collected as soon as they were laid, could be brushed or dipped with molten wax; like cheese, they got two coats. That gave them an airtight seal that stopped bacteria growing inside and spoiling them.

A waxed egg would last in a cool place for six months, or perhaps even longer. Before using, the pioneers would strip the wax from the egg and put it in a bowl of cold water. If it sank to the bottom, it was still good, if it floated it had spoiled. The more time between laying and waxing, the more likely the egg is to spoil.

Related article: Four Simple Methods To Preserve Eggs For The Long Term

Because of the air sac at the bigger end of the egg, if stored pointy end up, the air sac will separate by gravity and move up to the pointy end, causing the egg to go bad much sooner. Experiment with a few eggs in the fridge, and notice how fresh the big end up eggs stay when you break them into a pan: nice and firm whites, they don’t break and run all over. The pointy end up eggs run all over and the yolks often break.

Non-Food Supplies

1. Pain Medications.

Pain is something you can’t avoid, but you can avoid the feeling the pain. Make sure you have enough pain medications to get you through an emergency when the pharmacies are closed. While the pioneers didn’t had the following medications, they knew how to use local flora to heal their illnesses. Before you figure out what plants you could use when times get rough, make sure you stockpile the following:


Aspirin is a pain reliever with many useful applications for preppers beyond relieving headache pains. Read Weird (and Not so Weird Uses) of Aspirin. And you’ll find that when directly applied to the skin, aspirin will relieve a bee sting or a bug bite.

Some say aspirin can help plants fight infection! Aspirin applied orally can protect your heart by keeping your blood flowing freely, so for heart attack mitigation it’s highly effective! Aspirin is not appropriate for everyone, so be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin an aspirin regimen.

Aspercreme Lidocaine

Fast acting, odor free Aspercreme pain relief cream numbs away pain with 4% Lidocaine. It penetrates to desensitize aggravated nerves. Lidocaine is a topical anesthetic cream that targets nerve receptors without burning or irritation.

Hurricaine with Benzocaine

You’ll need a topical, oral anesthetic as well. Clove essential oil is a good start for a homeopathic remedy, but have on hand Hurricaine or similar topical anesthetic gel. Hurricaine is made of 20% benzocaine in a bottle that tastes of wild cherry to anesthetize mucosal tissue to relieve discomfort.

2. Baking Soda.

Baking soda has been important to man since antiquity and one of the most basic prepping supplies. Stockpile baking soda! Egyptians used natron (a second cousin to baking soda – hydrated sodium carbonate), settlers traveled hundreds of miles for saleratus (potassium carbonate), and today we have many names for this white crystalline substance. Technically, baking soda is a food (and doesn’t belong on this list). However, preppers have many uses for baking just like the pioneers did.

3. Firewood

The only heat that most homes had was from the fireplace or wood-burning stove. That created the need for a woodpile, which was started in the spring so the wood could dry through the hot summer.

In some places, the pioneers would stack their wood to act as a defensive breastwork for the home, giving themselves a good firing position for any attacks from Native Americans. Your wood and tinder pile needs to be made up of seasoned wood.

4. Borax and laundry detergent.

Sure Borax deodorizes and freshens as an all natural laundry booster, but it’s also quite a handy thing to have in post-apocalyptic times. Learn the many prepper uses of Borax.

5. Buckets and lids

You’ll need plenty of food grade buckets for stockpiling freeze dried emergency foods and grains Not all plastics are created the same. Be sure to get a supply of gamma seal lids, too.

They will keep your food fresh and make it easy to quickly get your wares.

Remember to buy only food grade buckets and not those and blue ones you get at Lowes or Home Depot. Those are toxic. It would be a shame to only have toxic plastic buckets available when you need to transport water or food.

You’ll need food-grade buckets to collect water or crops, like apples from the orchard. Save the other buckets to collect grey water for your other uses, such as washing clothes or handling sewage.

6. Charcoal and Lighter Fluid

You’ll need a variety of ways to cook your food and charcoal is quite handy for cooking. Even if you don’t have a fire pit or charcoal grill, charcoal provides an easy storage answer. Store charcoal in lidded buckets to keep them dry.

7. Matches

Matches are the perfect match for a prepper. The relationship between a prepper and his or her firestarter is significant. The two are inseparable or at least hope to be. While the de facto standard is a BIC lighter or ferrocerium rod, the humble match has an important place in survival.

Stock up on the many kinds of matches.

8. Cotton Balls and Ear Swabs.

For the application of ointments and creams, cotton balls and ear swabs are essential first aids supply, but there are many more applications useful to preppers:

  • Gun cleaning: If you don’t have a gun cleaning swab, the next best thing in an SHTF scenario are ear swabs. Clean your equipment any way you can.
  • Pest deterrent: Cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil make a wonderful deterrent for pests, particularly spiders and mice.
  • Fuel / Tinder: Create fire starters with cotton balls coated in Petroleum jelly. This method is a scouting favorite. Create fuel for your bugout bag with cotton balls
    soaked in wax. This acts as a small candle and can keep a flame for around five minutes. It is a bushcraft favorite.

9. Dish Soap, gloves, scrubbers

You can scrub and boil away food particles without soap, but if you want to keep as healthy as possible, you’ll stockpile the liquid dish soap to help you clean them. The exception is cast iron. Never use soap on your cast iron pans. Liquid soap will provide an unsavory soapy seasoning to your food!

10. Duct Tape, cable ties, and super glue

While the rope was one of the basic “tool” for the pioneers, now you have other options for merging things together. A prepper will find infinite uses for duct tape in crisis from hemming clothing or patching up gear to medical uses and more.

Cable ties are essential for your bug out bag to fasten camping equipment. You’ll find cable/zip ties handy for automotive repair, too! Of the many creative uses for a cable tie, we’ve seen it used as a hair fastener, tourniquet, kindling tie, food sealer.

Super Glue will repair shoes and will help you fit together any piece of plastic.

11. Lamp oil, Candle Wax and Wicks

Candle making and lamp making will be essential when the lights go out permanently. You can “mind your own beeswax” by stocking up on supplies.

Did you know beeswax candles burn with almost no smoke or scent and clean air by releasing negative ions?

Lamp making: Stock up on the tools to craft your own lamps, and learn the lost art of candle making. There are many books out there teaching you how to do it. You will also learn the ways of the pioneers and discover their simple candle making techniques.

12. Hand sanitizers

Back in the day, the pioneers learned how to use soap plants to clean themselves. While the pionners learned this trick from the Native Americans, they all had one thing in common. The water usage was no problem for them and water pollution was an unknown issue in those times.

Minimize water use in times of drought by keeping hand sanitizers handy. Stocking up on hand sanitizers will help you through pandemics, and for cleaning hands after meat handling. Handy indeed. Fresh bath wipes are ideal also for cleansing.

13. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is essential in first aid. However, hydrogen peroxide also has many other applications, including water purification and cleaning kitchen tools.


There are many things that you can add to the “stockpile” list. The items mentioned above are but a few of the things that you may need in order to survive a harsh winter or a SHTF event/scenario. Do a bit of research, and gather things according to your families needs.

Also, in preparation for the following winter, it is wise to go ahead and have an ‘Emergency Seed Bank’ for a crisis garden in the spring, summer, and fall months. They pioneers had one and it helped them grow the crops that would later on sustain their survival.

This article has been written by Jonathan Blaylock for Prepper’s Will.

Useful resources to check out:

How To Build The Invisible Root Cellar

10 Things Cowboys Carried With Them In The Wild West To Survive

The Common Vegetable that Will Increase Your Heart Attack Risk at Least Two-Fold

Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation

The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us

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