The Things That Will Disappear First After SHTF

I’ve posted this type of list several times before, and it’s good food-for-thought. It’s been awhile so lets do it again… If the SHTF in a very big way, what might be the first things/items that will disappear, given the general public at large? I know it depends on what the SHTF event is, etc., but lets just go with it and imagine it’s real bad.

While ultimately you might say that ‘everything’ might disappear eventually, lets instead think about the ‘first’ things, the items that others might consider to be needed the most – and therefore the first things to disappear.

In no particular order, here’s a list of items that will disappear first, after SHTF – off the top of my head:

  • Calm and Reason
  • Drugs, Pharmaceuticals, and over-the-counter meds
  • Toilet Paper, Sanitary items
  • Bread, Eggs, and Milk (then eventually everything)
  • Pet Food
  • Fuel
  • Cash, ATM
  • Batteries
  • Alcohol
  • Cigarettes
  • Lighters, Matches
  • Coffee
  • Bottled Water cases

It’s interesting to consider what most of the general public would probably grab first. Although I have not defined the SHTF event or extent, one thing for sure is this… The public will (at first) assume that things will get back to normal – because that’s the way it has always been. Others will ‘fix’ it.

It’s also interesting to consider what it is that ‘preppers’ might run out and ‘top off’ for their existing supplies. Though already well supplied, some may be tempted (if it’s safe at first in your region) to pick up some last minute ‘xyz’…

What are some of the items that the general public might disappear first? How might they prioritize things, given their normalcy bias? Also, would you go out and top off anything right after SHTF if you could?

[ Read: Another Survival Preparedness List ]


  1. Going down your list it seems to me that many of these are already in short supply or not available.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Shortages seem to come in waves. We will be short on something then all of a sudden the shelves will be full. At least that’s how it seems to be going around here. Since I am well stocked I just use my pantry the replace when it comes back

  2. Common Sence
    Being Polite
    Bottled water
    Pizza and other JUNK food that requires zero thinking to cook
    Fruits and Vegetables
    Canned food
    Did I say Common Sense?
    Do yourself a favor, stay the hell away from stores AND people when TSHTF

  3. On the calm and reason part, if one goes early enough to a store they will find it even on a Saturday. I know, usually I avoid the store on that day but there are times I have no choice.
    Over the counter medications have been on short supply apparently for sometime, but one must look at where it is produced.
    As for the other shortages, I have found one store I normally shop at is in short supplies all the time. Yet, the store is stocked pretty much with all the goods we use, we referring to the local population. Yes, there are times you may see where they have filled the spaces with the same product, but pretty rare.
    Am sure that there are shortages for the other items you listed. It will depend on what section of the country one resides in at this time.
    This is what happens when those of us who reside here were given little choice in products. Buy these products or do without was the way they controlled the shoppers. mho

  4. Though items will be out or short stock,
    human kindness will be even more priceless than it already is….
    If you need hope today and something to warm your heart
    go to YT and watch:
    Surprising Random Strangers with a Year’s worth of groceries
    This precious family actually won a year’s worth of groceries from Safeway.
    So they went back with all of the money in Safeway gift cards and blessed a lot of people.
    This is so good!
    Good Shepherd bless you!

    1. That is a wonderful story and they will be in the minority. Still we have to take note of those that will hurt someone for a popular Christmas toy for their child or a TV or a PlayStation. Imagine what they would do for food.

  5. Milk. You know, good old cow’s milk. Even now, I enjoy a cold glass of milk. Haven’t really figured a way to handle that. Of course I have powdered milk, it’s just not the same. I have considered getting a milking goat, but it doesn’t seem feasible. I’m in ranching country. Lots of cattle roaming around. I’m not a cowboy or a rancher, but I’ve helped some of them. My job was always “do what I say and stay out of the way.”

    I guess we’ll play it by ear. I suppose if the demand was there……..maybe? There will not be fresh milk in any stores. No dairy products at all. Could we live without it? I’m sure we probably could, but fresh dairy products would be missed. Got cheese?

    1. Plainsmedic
      I have canned milk so I can be sure to have some for the grandkids if there’s a shortage.

      1. … that is, I have pressure canned some milk. I know you can buy canned milk, too, but I’m way to cheap to pay all that extra when I can do it myself (grin).

        1. Chipmunk,
          Good idea. Don’t know why I never considered that? Fairly easy to do? We do can veggies, but never tried milk. Does it taste the same? I’ll ask the wife what she thinks. She does use powdered milk in some recipes. Actually, she does most of the canning. I’m her very lippy helper. Someone has to be the “head criticizer in chief” that’s me. We have fun with it.

        2. Plainsmedic, i have tried full fat lactose free milk canned. the longer it is processed the more it comes out closer to “pet” milk..look at u tube directions and then choose … choices are everything from get up the steam, for 5 minutes, then turn off – to processing for 20 min.. turn off. i use so little milk i did some pints and half pints. will do next in all half pints.

        3. Plainsmedic
          I pour cold milk into clean quart jars, put in cold canner (i.e. water not heated yet). Bring up to pressure the normal way — you know, with the 10 minutes of venting before putting on the rocker weight. Turn off the heat as soon as it is up to pressure, then let it mostly cool before taking it out of the canner. Easy peasy. I think the heating makes the sugars in the milk carmelize some, so to me it tastes a little sweeter, but still good.

      2. You can slightly prolong your milk consumption by buying FairLife milk. I don’t know what they do to it, but the date is about 2 1/2 months out. I don’t shop that often, and it’s often in short supply, so last time I bought a case.
        I helped Grama lick green stamps, that she traded in for a new sofa!

    2. Plainsmedic, you can freeze milk if you have the freezer space. The only problem with freezing it is that it will separate in coffee. Nothing wrong with it, just doesn’t appear very appetizing. Otherwise it’s fine.

      1. Haven’t tried it yet, but it’s on my list of things to try Freeze drying….

      2. I grew up on frozen milk back in the late 50s and through the 60s. Once a month some store had milk on sale plus double or triple trading stamps (how many of you know what those were?) so mom would load a whole cart full of 1/2 gal cartons and freeze it. Thaw it in the refrigerator for a day or two then shake it real hard for a couple minutes and everything was then unseparated and literally no different that when first purchased.

        1. I remember helping mom fill her gold bond stamp books so she could use the stamps to help with the groceries,
          Ah the good old days!

    3. I have been a whole milk maniac for decades….still do three gallons or more a week, my doctor is amazed at my age and physical condition. I take no meds, only aspirin which is seldom. Doc’s advice is that keep doing what you are doing, he has rethought his whole stance on whole milk consumption. I prefer fresh whole milk which by the way is 3 1/2 % fat and will drink powdered if needed, my secret for enjoying powdered milk taste is to add one teaspoon of vanilla extract per gallon which brings it close to the taste of fresh whole milk.

  6. Glad to have an interesting topic as i am home with a bug. The obvious one is civility. If the event includes the grid, fuel will be hard to come by almost immediately as most if not the vast majority of stations don’t have backup generators. Without fuel, no supplies move so then everything is out except desperation.

  7. Spot on Dennis,
    Worse yet, those who mislead and lie the most are some who we should be able to trust

  8. Just got off the phone with a good friend who is a prepper, They live way up Northeast Washington state next to the Canadian border. Once in a while they drive to Spokane to do major shopping. It’s a 180 mile round trip.

    They came up to checkout with 3 carts full of supplies. As always there was a “Karen” who just had to run her mouth. She said “I suppose your one of those Doomsday Preppers. Did you leave anything for others?” She got NO reply, just ignored. Which pissed her off even more. She made a scene, The store manager tried to tell her that their purchase was just fine. Then, the manager had enough and had her removed form the store.

    WTF, why do these people hate us preppers so much?

    1. StandMyGround,
      Wanna know why? Because “preppers” and their way of thinking don’t fit a “Karen’s view” of how the world is supposed to work. The “truth” actually hurts these people to the point where they act out. Imho, these ” Karens” are going to be the dangerous ones when times get tough. Keep your head on a swivel, stay away from crowds, you never know how many “Karens” will be around.

      1. Hmmm… After reading so many Zombie & Post apocalyptic stories maybe I’ll write one featuring the “Karen Apocalypse”. So many real life stories and videos showing how insane they really are. If Mark Tufo or G. Michael Hopf can make a fortune in their genres, maybe I can start a new one :-)

    2. SMG, thanks for the report. I have been thinking of the Spokane area as my ‘out’ when I can finally leave the Seattle Metro area. Seems ‘Seattle’ is seeping into eastern Washington, sigh. Seems to be a common thing that the mentally/emotionally immature disapprove of the mentally/emotionally mature folks that recognize the reality of life and prepare. I may likely be one of the least prepared folks that follow this blog, but I do pay attention, learn, and continue prepping.

    3. Part of the reason they hate us is because they don’t want to believe that we are right in what we are doing. Down deep they know we are and that scares them

  9. The first thing I would get is lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I only go to the store roughly every other month to refresh my supplies. The first thing that runs out for me is the fresh produce, then I go through the frozen with canned coming in last. I have more than enough canned to probably last me my lifetime. Growing up, we lived on canned foods. For some reason fresh was too expensive for my parents to be able to purchase anything except local in season. So I would truly miss the fresh foods.
    Next would be milk as I can’t drink my coffee without it. I tried powdered and canned, but I can’t get past the taste.

    1. If you have a pressure canner you can can milk and cream. I opened a can of cream i did 1.5 years ago and it whipped up great and tasted just like fresh.

  10. Ken,
    Add to your list of first things going away :A good night’s sleep. Even if you are all stocked up and good, no one will be getting good sleep once the Ballon goes up.

  11. If I were to run out of the house for the “last” purchase for a long while, I can hear my husband calling out,”get some Dinty Moore Beef Stew and lots of chocolate! How’s the coffee?”

  12. When the first COVID lockdowns were announced in March 2020, those items you listed along with pasta, spaghetti sauce, canned soups, frozen pizza and other frozen foods disappeared from my grocery store.

  13. Cereals, canned foods of any & all kind, any food item that requires no preparation (just open & eat) or just add water. Mentioned is alcohol, presumably you refer to liquor. Any and all meat items including canned sea food, all fresh bakery foods, soft drinks condiments, any stores carrying charcoal/lighter fluid will disappear. And the stores will look like tornado came through, likely find some dead bodies as well. Another thing to think about are dogs turned loose to fend for themselves, a pack of domestic hungry dogs is a nightmare. Most people think the dogs will be eaten last but not if their owners are dead, a alpha dog will rule the pack, call of the wild begins, they do not fear humans food is food. How about zoo animals turned loose?

  14. Back in time I worked retail during y2k as an outside vendor for many stores, my thing was plumbing, electrical and lighting.
    The generator shortage was bad, plus generator accessories.
    I made good money buying returned items cheap and reselling them a year or two later.
    Specifically the 20 and 30amp outdoor wall mounted electrical boxes to plug a generator into your electrical system and 30 amp 20 foot heavy duty power cords.

    I think general decency will be in short supply, in my area it will last for a while but in cities, nope.
    I will still pick up any hitchhiker for now as I have always done but in hard times I’ll be far more wary.

  15. Forgot as always.
    My purchase of otc and general nice to have items from the dollar store before it went to $1.25 plus tax store.
    several quality tooth brushes and toothpaste
    carmex/chapstick- many
    cotton swabs
    generic pepto pills
    generic pepto bismol liquid
    cough syrup
    allergy pills
    caffeine pills
    generic tums
    hydrocortisone cream
    pain relief patches
    dental floss
    triple antibiotic ointment
    6 digital thermometers
    temp filling replacement
    eye glasses repair kits- basically just tiny screws
    several sunglasses
    Multiple of everything above.
    + other things I can’t remember, around $200 spent, have 3 small boxes full of these things.

    Several days ago found an ebay deal on energizer max AAA, after tax I paid $32.53 for 100 exp 2032

  16. The jealousy factor showcased to the max……..Will Rogers had an adage that there are three types of people in the world and during any event you have those that makes things happen, those that watch things happen and then the clueless majority (Karen’s) who wonder what in the hell just happened. My radar will be focused on those in group three they will be the rogue cannon fodder that will more into the rabid roving maniacs requiring a lead treatment.

  17. Any semblance of safety. Was with a member of the group the other day. He commented that when things collapse we’ll all just be staying home. Chaos will reign anywhere people believe they can acquire what they need or want. We agreed we needed to be ready to hunker down through the initial lawlessness.

    1. I agree but safety will be more of a problem the larger population you have to deal with.
      I also know many that have a clue what may happen in various
      circumstance will still venture out when opportunity arises.
      If I see it happening, I will attempt a last supply run, likely junk food and the local feed stores for the animals and local info.
      People watching will be a grand event at that time also.

      Junk food, the first “food” item to vanish.
      I know civility will last up here for quite a while after an event, central WI.
      Mainly rural and most know or know of the people down the road from them- no so in town.
      Some bit of inner city trash has moved into the local town south of me but that’s minimal.

  18. Good list. If I am already out and about (which is rare) when it hits, I will gas up vehicle, go by the feed store which is out in the boonies and gather extra animal minerals, supplements, meds, and feed. We will NOT get near people food stores or banks as we will leave that for the unprepared masses. People will lose all reason so it will be too easy to get injured and be put out of commission. If we work diligently now to have most things on hand, we should be able to avoid the crush of panic buyers (the sleepwalkers).

  19. Just observations of here and other sites. No worries, my sarcasmometer did not even blink. ;)

    I’m probably in the “middle of the pack” here. I have my food stocks, fuel, repair parts and materials just like the rest. I’m not sure what I can bring to the table except critical thinking and problem/solution thought process. My career is IT, so I kind of get paid to think and come up with solutions. But that’s not the only thing. I did 20 years in the army, most of it in Alaska. So, I have a real good of extreme cold other bush skills.

    Thank you for the reply!

  20. The first products that will disappear in my estimation will be any and all food stuffs that don’t require refrigeration, can be consumed right out of the container/package, or only require heating up. Along with those items will be canned and bottled drinks of all sorts including beer and wine. Many people only consume processed foods and drinks and its doubtful they even know how to prepare meals from scratch. We are already in SHTF. More like flood waters rising gradually, unlike a flash flood, its inundating the most at risk first as it creeps up through society. Costs increase as more and more people discover they no longer have the means to afford products or there simply are no products regardless of whether you have the money or not. Result is the same. Most of you likely didn’t experience the crash of ’29 and the ensuing Great Depression, but you have heard the stories and read the accounts of those who did. Imagine the Great Depression X 2 or 3 and that is likely what we will face…. if we don’t get nuked first. Good luck.

  21. Concerning milk. Walmart sells a shelf stable (no refrigeration) milk called PARMALOT. It comes in one quart cardboard cartons and stocked here in the baking supplies. Expiration dates are typically 6 to 9 months out. It tastes just like regular milk. Must keep in the reefer after opening. I believe it is processed at ultra high heat to keep it stable for months. I keep 8 to 10 quarts on the shelf and rotate stock, first in first out. I use about one quart a week. After opening, it keeps in the fridge much much longer than regular milk.

    Also. We are supposed to get a bad ice storm tonite. I spent the day checking all my preps but I didn’t have to run out for any last minute items. Stocked and ready here!

    1. I hate to give up my secret, but Dollar Tree sells it, too, for a lot cheaper. UHT – Ultra High Temperature – processed milk. Shelf life is a year if you get it fresh. There’s a slight gamey taste but we adjust to it easily and never notice it now. UHT has been standard since the 70’s or before in Europe. I remember buying it in Scotland while I was there in the US Navy. Reminds me of buying a steak in Scotland on the same trip – doesn’t taste like US steak because the default steak was Lamb. But the milk is real milk and we use it anywhere milk can be used.

      Now the Gossner’s brand from Dollar Tree is the only milk we’ve bought for probably 10 years with a short exception during the early days of the Covid scare when everything was being bought by the unprepared and we had to go to Walmart milk. Once again, the Gossner’s hasn’t been available now as well. Might be because they’re changing brands – their non-fat and one-percent is a different brand and in stock. Hopefully the whole milk shows up soon in some reasonable quality brand or another.

      1. Bruce/TAOA, both places stock and sell lactose free versions. One is marked as Vitamin milk. It is easier to convert most recipes to no milk, than find lactose free rural areas.. One hack for sweet recipes like pies- one cup of milk + one tsp of sugar+2 tablespoons corn/potato starch or rice flour.If using in a pie can add up to 2 tbsp of milk and reduce the water a little bit til volume is correct for recipe.

  22. – Bruce,
    +1 on the shelf-stable (UHT) milk. That got my family through the Chernobyl Incident a few years back when we lived in Germany. DW was pregnant with youngest DD and I wanted to make sure she and kids weren’t having to get out for heavy stuff while I was in the field, so I bought a flat (12 cartons) to put on the shelf (actually floor) in our apartment. Hearing oldest DD talking about her friends having to eat breakfast cereal with orange juice over it for those two weeks…
    all fresh milk was being poured out, no fresh anything, including German bread/baked goods. All due to fear of radiation contamination.

    – Papa S.

  23. My mom left us 5 kids and my dad on the farm when I was 12. I did all the cooking and cleaning, 2 gardens with 1 an acre, 100 fryers each summer, canning what we raised and anything I was given, froze sweet corn planted in 1/4 mile rows, chores, push mowed 7 acres, graduated top in my class lettering in 4 sports not including playing on 2 softball teams and keeping official scorebook for baseball team. Don’t fall for the excuse. Tell your daughter this winter the grandkids and her should research and plan a garden and you’ll help them help themselves to a better future.

  24. Lots of comments about milk. Humans are the only species that continue to drink milk after adolescence. A nice cold glass of milk occasionally hits the spot for me. But I think milk is a luxury item. Maybe all diary will become luxury items as the distribution network breaks down due to the inability of the retailer to pay the distributor who is unable to pay the processor who is unable to pay the producer. Dairy herds will soon become table fare as the dairy industry crashes. Currently asset values are dropping while commodity prices are increasing. Its a growing deflation/inflation cycle. Its been reported that the Dollar is losing 2% value a month. Could a collapse occur overnight? Sure. Will it? Not likely. Its a slow decent into a lower standard of living for us all… except the ones engineering this debacle, the super rich who think they will one day own everything. Maybe they will.

    1. Whydah, they will own all, if idgits sell to them.Some people will be so desperate to eat they will sell their farm and not have a place to plant a garden or a house to live in.
      .. then what do they eat/and where do they live.. ? the nearest shelter???it is surely a nice safe location, huh..(.snark off)

  25. TAOA, You need to ask daughter if she prefers her children live or die… ie.She has a choice which way it goes now. .in a few months with no action on her part ,she will be watching them die- if no interventions are made now. Let her know she has to begin taking money from trips to town for sporting events and extra activity to put into the food pantry- that is essentially empty. When a pantry is totally empty it takes a heavy resource load to replenish. done a little at a time, is more affordable.

  26. I would add guns – lots of guns and ammo – lots of ammo. Yes I know that there are many who would turn the other cheek or try to “reason” their way out of reality by making the sign of peace. I also realize that not all preppers are “white supremacists” as deemed by Joe and the FBI. SHTF has a unique way of making the independent survivor seem like the bad guy. Being peaceful means being capable of great violence. If you are not capable of that then you are not peaceful you are in fact harmless.

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