At the grocery store this weekend, signs were everywhere in the produce section, alerting consumers that severe weather in the South and Southeast means--for the next several weeks--prices on winter produce will be higher and supplies will be limited. In Japan, food shortages are already being experienced, grocery stores are closed, and people are waiting in lines for rationed amounts of food and water. The earthquake and nuclear catastrophes there are likely to affect food prices worldwide as well.
All of this has me thinking that I'm glad I have prepared a pantry. It's not terribly extensive, but there is enough to last us at least for a little bit through a natural disaster or emergency. Even if there isn't an emergency, I am thankful to be able to dip into reserves I have purchased on sale when their prices climb at the grocery store. I don't have to pay an exorbitantly high price for items our family needs.
If you haven't done it already, I encourage you to stock up on some pantry essentials--especially when you see them on sale. You can do it a little at a time to work it into your budget. That way, you'll have things on hand if prices rise higher than you can comfortably afford for a season; plus, you'll be prepared with some food in the cupboard in the event of an emergency.
There is some helpful information here about building up a pantry. Brandy tells the story of how she slowly stocked her pantry to be able to feed her family for a year. You can also use a food calculator on her site to find out how much your family would need if you were trying to build up a year's worth of storage. Even if you don't do a year, it's helpful to see what kind of items you may want to keep on hand.
(Disclaimer: she links to an Latter Day Saints site about food storage. I am not LDS. So while we disagree theologically, I appreciate the practical tips on building a pantry frugally. There is some really helpful advice there.)