Keeping an inventory of your preparedness supplies and equipment is generally on the bottom of the list of things to do but it really is important in many ways. Although I feel good when my inventory is up to date, I tend to want to put it off like many of you. In this post I am going to give you some good reasons to get it done and some preparedness inventory guidelines.

Why You Need to Inventory Your Supplies and Equipment

  • You need to know what you have and how much is there. As in a PANDEMIC IS ENCROACHING ON YOUR COUNTRY. I am sure you have been at the store and have seen something on sale or a potential prep you might need and then you stand there and wonder “Do I have enough of that” or “Do I have one of those already?”. If you had a copy of your inventory with you or could access it on your phone, you could make an informed decision and possibly save money.

  • It is comforting to know how many calories that you have stored up. If your inventory stores servings and calories per servings it can also calculate the total calories that you have. Divide that by the number of calories per day you need and then by the number of people in your family and you can quickly see how many days of food that you have.

  • A big issue with food and medical storage is waste due to expiration. If you have recorded expiration dates you can easily see what needs to be rotated out to use and what needs to go on the shopping list without having to rummage through your supplies several times a year.

  • With defined the rooms, areas and containers where your supplies and equipment are stored, it makes it easy to locate items in a hurry. If you have defined items that are needed for bugging out, you have a convenient list that speeds up your packing time considerably.

  • How many times have you wandered what supplies and equipment you have in your car, your bug out bag or your get home bag? An inventory solves that.

  • And last but not least, it is more productive than watching TV!

Planning and Organizing

Before you start the inventory process, it pays to do some planning on how to attack it and how to organize things and get prepared. My suggestions are:

  • You can inventory a closet or cabinet that has different types of items or you can organize your efforts into main categories like food, medical supplies and equipment and inventory them separately. That would depend on how things are organized in your home and your personal preference.

  • Define the areas in and outside of your home where you store your preps and the different cabinets and shelves within them. Use these locations to record where your supplies are as you perform the inventory.

  • Purchase some large, medium and small plastic storage containers so you can organize as you go. Get more than you think you will need. You can always return them.

  • Have plenty of gallon, quart and sandwich size storage bags that you can organize small pieces or like things together. This makes it easier to pack things in a container and pull things out when you need it.

  • Use 3×5 Index cards, markers and packing tape to label your containers. I think it is better to use this method as opposed to writing on the container itself because sometimes the ink can wear off and other times you may need to change the contents in the container. If you have taped on a card as a label it is easy to take off and add a new one. Put at least 3 labels on the medium and large containers. One on the top, one on a long side and one on a short side. That way you do not have to move containers around to see the label.

  • It can also be helpful to add a numbering scheme to your labels when you have more than one container of the same type of things like medical supplies. You can simply give it a number like Med 1, Med 2 and Med 3. Whatever makes sense for you and the way that you organize.

  • Don’t try to inventory everything in one day or even one weekend. You can get burned out, start making mistakes and not do a good job of organizing as you go. If you plan the work in several chunks and then set weekly goals as to what you will tackle, you will see results in your plan coming to fruition.

  • Some things may need easier access than others, like medical supplies and batteries. Keep things like that stacked on top or on a shelf that is easily accessible.

What Tool to Use and What to Record

  • You certainly can use paper to record your inventory, but I suggest you do not. It is hard to update; you can’t change the order or reorganize what is where; and you can’t sort. You also cannot access it online when you are at the store.

  • Use a spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel (store on a cloud service like Dropbox so you can access it anywhere).

  • Use one sheet for each category: Food, Water, Medical, Equipment, Miscellaneous.

  • Columns for Food
    • Name of the item
    • Food Type – Canned Green Beans, Spaghetti Noodles, Chick Soup, Rice etc.
    • Building-Land – Main House, Outbuilding, Cabin, Cache
    • Room-Area – Bedroom, Closet 1, Under spare bed, Vehicle 1, BOB, GHB
    • Location Notes – 2nd shelf, White container with red top
    • Bug Out (Yes/No)
    • Number – Number of boxes or cans or individual packages
    • Amount – How much of the item based on Unit of Measure per box/can
    • Unit of Measure – Ounces, Item Count, Pound
    • # of Servings
    • Calories per Serving
    • Fat per Serving
    • Protein per Serving
    • Carbohydrates per Serving
    • Date Purchased
    • Expiration/Best By/Sell By Date
  • Medical Supply Columns
    • Name of the item
    • Type – Band Aides, Wound Dressing, Ointments, Pain Reliever, Cold and Flu Remedy
    • Building-Land – Main House, Outbuilding, Cabin, Cache
    • Room-Area – Bedroom, Closet 1, Under spare bed, Vehicle 1, BOB, GHB
    • Location Notes – 2nd shelf, White container with red top
    • Bug Out (Yes/No)
    • Number – Number of boxes or packages
    • Amount – How much of the item based on Unit of Measure per box/container
    • Unit of Measure – Ounces, Item Count
    • Notes – Size of bandages or other specifics
    • Date Purchased
    • Expiration Date

  • Equipment Columns
    • Name of the item
    • Type – Lantern, Tarps, Tools, Weapons, Lighting, Cooking
    • Building-Land – Main House, Outbuilding, Cabin, Cache
    • Room-Area – Bedroom Closet 1, Basement Closet, Under spare bed Vehicle 1, BOB, GHB
    • Location Notes – Wall cabinet, second shelf on the right
    • Bug Out (Yes/No)
    • Number – How many of the item
    • Notes – Detailed description, condition, manufacturer

Inventory Process

Things to Think About

  • Before you start organizing and recording your inventory, go through your closets, drawers, containers etc. briefly and make high level notes on what is there. This will help you get an idea of storage containers you will need and where you have some of the same things in multiple places that may need to be relocated together. It can also help you rethink where things should be located based on amounts and numbers of items. You may want to organize some of your supplies before your start the process.

  • Decide whether you are going to enter your inventory right into the spreadsheet or do it on paper and enter it later. I like to put it on paper first and sit down later at the computer to do all the data entry at once.

  • Organize as you go. This slows down the recording process, but it is better to have things in the container and labeled when you are done recording.

  • When recording items, name things the same so that sorting and searching will be better. For example, Cold and Flu – Children’s or Ibuprofen – Adult.

  • For medical supplies and food, record expiration dates on the packaging as you go. This makes older things that you need to rotate out for use easier to find.

  • It is better if you do not inventory the food in your kitchen/pantry or medical supplies that you are likely to use soon. Keep your preparedness supplies separate. This way you will have to update your inventory less often as you use your day to day supplies.

  • After you complete your inventory, print copies and store with a pen and a couple of blank pieces of paper in each area where your supplies are stored. Using a clipboard is helpful for this. When you need to pull something from your inventory, mark if off on the list and make a note if you need to resupply. On a regular basis, take the paper copies and notes and sit down at the computer and update your inventory and create a shopping list.

  • After updating your inventory print new copies for each storage area as needed and copy it to your backup devices and the cloud.

Process Steps

  • Pick the storage area that you are going to tackle and size it up.

  • Decide what containers you will need to organize things in if need be and make the label cards described above.

  • If any organizing needs to be done, pull things out onto a table or the floor and separate based on how you want to organize.

  • Record the items on paper with the appropriate data, mark the expiration date on the package and then put back into bags and/or a container.

  • When you have finished with the area, shelf or cabinet add the items to your spreadsheet and celebrate the win!


The actual steps to record an inventory are not that hard but you see that there is also important work to do in planning and organizing for the inventory exercise. Please remember these are guidelines. Once you work on your inventory some you will figure out what makes sense for you and can adjust to fit your situation. Regardless of how you do it, you will be glad you did.

Have anything to add? Have questions about creating an inventory? Let me know in the comments!

Need a tool for storing your inventory?

We have a couple of tools that enable you to record and manage your preparedness inventory.

  • Inventory Spreadsheet – In our Estate Preparedness Forms packet there is a Supply Inventory Excel Spreadsheet that contains many columns to store your preparedness inventory. It also has several reference lists for you to define buildings, rooms and areas, categories etc. that simplify data entry and ensure data quality. The forms packet also contains over 20 editable PDFs to help you complete your Estate Preparedness tasks and only costs $34.95. Order the packet today!

  • With a subscription to our personal, secure Estate Preparedness Website, there is a comprehensive inventory list to record and manage your preparedness supplies and equipment that can be accessed on your phone with a browser or 3rd party app. There are views (reports) that:
    • Group by type and location
    • Show you what is expiring in the next month
    • Show food items and total calories
    • It also has a function for resupply that creates a shopping list for you. The website comes with many other features that let you securely manage your preparedness efforts. See our website for more information and contact us with any questions you may have.

Have a blessed day!

Note: The FTC wants you to know that some of the links in my posts may be affiliate links where I make a small, again small, commission if you purchase an item. This doesn’t affect the price you would pay. The earned commission helps support the hosting costs of this site and is greatly appreciated.


  • Illini Warrior

    in regard to labeling your prep containers – OPSEC – if there’s any chance of your visitors getting even a glance of your totes >> use a code – “XMAS” never draws any attention

    • Chip Feck

      Good point! Most of my preps are out of site but even at that, it would be smart to have a misleading label. Thanks for contributing.

Comments are closed.