These Items Will Sell Out Quickly in a Disaster

In the past, we’ve talked about how store shelves could end up empty following a disaster.

And while that has been a real scenario for some people after a hurricane hit their area, most of us never had to deal with it.

But 2020 is a whole new ballgame. Mainly due to COVID-19, but also because of more frequent hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires. Just about all of us have experienced empty shelves.

As I write this, Hurricane Sally is pounding Alabama and parts of Florida and Mississippi. Wildfires in the West are killing and displacing people. And COVID-19 is showing no signs of slowing down its reign of terror.

Long lines and empty shelves

All of which could lead to food shortages. And long lines at grocery stores, assuming those stores will have the food and other items you need after your long wait. 

Hopefully you have a good supply of non-perishable food ready and waiting. Just in case a disaster strikes. Because you know that people will push and shove to get that last bottle of water or gallon of milk. Or whatever else they need badly.

So, what are the items that will disappear quickly? Which food and beverages do people throw in their carts as they scurry through the store, anxious to get home before the crisis strikes?

Of course, not everyone’s list is the same. And the type of emergency that is expected can be a factor. As can the season of the year and the area of the country.

But certain food items always go quickly in these situations. Here are the top few:

Fruits and vegetables  

Fruits and vegetables provide an incredible amount of vital nutrients you need to survive in an emergency. That’s why most people tend to gravitate towards the fresh produce in an emergency before they spoil.

However, while fresh produce is the first to go, canned fruits and veggies are the second.

Canned foods have gotten a bad name in some circles. And while they are not as good during a crisis as dehydrated and freeze-dried foods, they serve their purpose.

It’s easy to see why they go quickly. Their shelf life is decent and you can eat right out of the can. Heck, you could even use a full can as a weapon if someone entered your home and tried to steal from you.

Grains and grain-based foods

This can include rice, oats, wheat, barley, cornmeal, pasta, etc. As well as cereals, oatmeal, grits and others. Some of these items have a pretty long shelf life. And there are many different meals you can prepare with them. 

Ready-to-eat foods

These items are particularly popular if a power outage is expected because no cooking is required for them. They include peanut butter, granola bars and crackers. Plus trail mix, nuts and many more. 

Meat and fish

Fresh meat and fish is a risk if your power goes out. Freeze-dried, dehydrated or canned meat and fish, on the other hand, should last a while. And they’ll provide you with much of the protein and nutrients you need to deal with a crisis.


This may come as a shock to some people, but it’s an item that goes quickly. As a sweetener, it is much healthier for you and your family than sugar.

Honey has an incredibly long shelf life. And because some people don’t think to grab it when they’re in a hurry, it makes for a great bartering tool.

Canola oil 

Containing important omega-3 fatty acids, this oil is used for cooking a wide variety of foods. But there are healthier cooking oils out there. Including organic corn oil, coconut oil, butter or butter powder, olive oil and palm oil. 

Tobacco and alcohol

If you tell me you don’t drink or smoke, I’ll say it doesn’t matter. People who do are going to run out of tobacco and alcohol if the crisis goes on long enough. And you’ll have something they are desperate to barter for. 

Here are some of the top beverages that also sell out quickly in a disaster:

Bottled water 

The fear here is that tap water could become contaminated in a disaster. It’s a legitimate concern, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have some bottled water in your home.

But not knowing where that water came from originally, and with the possibility that plastic will be found in your bottled water, you should also have a reliable water purifier. 

Milk and bread 

Unless you’re one of the first 25 people in the door of a store, these two items will probably be gone by the time you get to where they’re kept.

But that’s not where you want to head anyway. The milk won’t last long in a blackout, and bread has a pretty short shelf life as well. Powdered milk is a good choice here.

Coffee and tea 

These beverages might not fly off the shelves quite as quickly as bottled water will, but they are both popular in a crisis.

Sleep patterns are bound to be disrupted during an emergency. And while caffeinated beverages may be somewhat dehydrating, staying awake at the right time may save your life. 

Some items will fly off shelves in an emergency. But that doesn’t mean they are the best items for your survival. Focus on the items that will sustain you in a crisis.

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