Survival Foods With Long Shelf Life | Top 20 Options

Chris Thompson Chris Thompson  |  Updated: April 5, 2022
Survival Foods With Long Shelf Life | Top 20 Options

Whether there’s a severe storm, hurricane, tornado, drought, or pandemic-related curfew forecasted, being prepared for the unexpected is always important.

You never know when a disaster will strike. So, it is advisable to stockpile as many survival foods as possible for any situation that you encounter. Shopping for survival food isn’t exactly the same as shopping for everyday groceries.

Instead of picking what tastes and looks good from the shelves, what you need to look for is long shelf life, calories, nutrition, as well as convenience.

With that said, here are our top 20 recommendations for survival foods with long shelf life you can consider.

Top Survival Foods With Long Shelf Life

Here are our top 20 recommendations for survival foods with long shelf life. Make sure to have these in your pantry, so you’re always prepared for the worst.

1. Canned Meat

These are the ultimate survival food for any survival situation. They usually have a shelf life that ranges from 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of meat and storage conditions.

Canned meat will supply you with the much-needed nutrients and energy. We recommend you buy different types of canned meat, such as spaghetti with jumbo meatballs, canned fish, spam, smoked ham, Vienna sausages, chicken breast, cured ham, potted meat, roast beef hash, luncheon meat, and any other good option you will come across.

Note, however, that once opened, canned meat can last just three to four days. So, it is wise to pick just the right can size to avoid wastage. Small cans are more convenient because you can consume one at a time without any leftovers. 

2. Beans

Beans are among the best all-around survival foods. Did you know that these dried bipolar seeds are more nutritious than rice?

There are about 15 types of beans that are loaded with calories and can last a long time in storage. 

Adzuki, mung, pinto, kidney, cannellini, pigeon, cranberry, garbanzo, pink, lima, navy, black, black-eyed, black turtle, and freeze-dried split pea can last up to 30 years in storage. Dehydrated soybean, on the other hand, can last 10 to 15 years.

One cup of boiled adzuki beans provides roughly 294 calories and more than 15g of protein. Dehydrated soybean provides about 298 calories and more than 20g of protein. So, beans are also a great source of protein.

You should buy 4 to 5 pounds of dried beans on every visit to the store and stockpile them in a dark, cool place.

3. Lentils 

Lentils are a pretty functional food, thanks to their exceptional dietary composition. They have an amazing nutritional value and they taste pretty delicious.

These are great food because they’re packed with protein and available in one-pound bags. When you prepare lentils, they increase in size. They are also easy to cook because you don’t have to soak them. Just add them to boiling water and they will cook in approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

Lentils have an incredible shelf life. If stored properly, they can last up to 30 years. Traditionally, they were stored in clay pots for use in famine as well as harsh winter conditions.

You can buy them already packed in bags or you can get them in bulk and store them in airtight containers and jars.

4. Rice

This might come as a surprise to you, but rice is indeed one of the best foods you can stockpile for survival situations.

This grain, a staple of any good emergency food storage, can be cooked in different ways. One of the most popular ones is steaming, which can be done on any given type of stove. 

Uncooked rice has a very long shelf life when properly stored. When sealed and stored properly, white rice can last up to 2 years. Brown rice, however, has a shorter shelf life of around 6 months.

Rice is also a very convenient choice for serving with different types of beans.

5. Canned Fruits & Vegetables

Surviving on carbohydrates or proteins alone isn’t going to supply you with a balanced diet in those trying times. This brings us to the next important food item in our listing: canned fruits and vegetables.

It’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are an essential part of any diet. But fresh fruits or veggies will hardly last a week when stockpiled. That’s why we recommend canned fruits and veggies to get the nutrients you need in any survival situation.

When shopping for canned fruits, get the ones that are packed in water or their own juice. Avoid canned fruits that are stored in artificial sweeteners, salt, syrup, or sugar.

Canned vegetables include corn, peas, green beans, mixed vegetables, potatoes, spinach, carrots, and many more. Any canned vegetable you buy shouldn’t have oils, sugars, or fats in the ingredients list.

Canned fruits and veggies that are properly stored can last around 1 to 2 years. But the shelf life may deteriorate pretty fast after opening, approximately 2 to 7 days. 

6. Dried Fruits

Dried fruits come in almost as many varieties as fresh fruits.

But apricots, prunes, dates, figs, and raisins are the most common dried fruits on the marketplace. Local markets and health food stores provide many more choices, including papayas, mangoes, berries, pineapples, and dried apples.

Dried fruits are rich sources of nutrients, bioactive compounds, and carbohydrates. The most calorie-rich of these fruits are raisins and dates. Dried fruits are also good sources of sugars, including glucose and fructose.

Dried fruits can last roughly 6 to 12 months. So, it is advisable to rotate them to make sure you don’t end up with spoiled fruits in a survival situation.

7. Flour

Having flour in storage for survival is a good thing. You can use flour to prepare just about anything. You just need a few ingredients to make quick foods like banana bread, vegan naan, pancakes, and scalloped potatoes among others.

All-purpose flour (regular), white cake flour, white bread flour, and self-rising flour can last up to 12 months at room temperature. But the shelf life of whole-wheat, whole-grain, and oat flour is slightly shorter at 1 to 3 months.

What about coconut and almond flour? These alternative options to starchy flours also have a short shelf life of about 3 months. 

You can also store wheat, which you can then process with a handy wheat grinder when you need flour.

8. Pasta

One of the best lightweight foods for your survival diet is pasta. It is extremely tasty and a good source of carbohydrates.

Most pasta is made from just two main ingredients, durum wheat semolina, and water. Durum wheat is different from the one used to make bread. It is not only harder but also contains a lot of proteins. 

Some people may be worried about the size of the pasta. But there are hundreds of pasta shapes to choose from.

Spaghetti is one of the thinnest and the most convenient for storage. Other suitable shapes that may not take too much storage space are Calamarata, Fusilli, Macaroni, Paccheri, linguine, pappardelle, rotini, rigatoni, and Riccoli among others.

Dry pasta in a bag can last up to 2 years but a bag of pasta that has been opened can last up to 12 months. 

9. Nuts

When you are in a survival situation, you’re going to need a lot of energy. So, it is highly recommended to have a stash of nuts in your storage.

Nuts have been a basic part of culinary history for thousands of years. Nuts are highly versatile, healthy, and delicious. 

Some of the popular nuts that you can stockpile are walnut, pistachio, pine nut, peanut, macadamia, hazelnut, corn nut, coconut, chestnut, cashew, Brazil nut, and almond. Nuts are a great source of fiber, fat, and plant-based protein.

Regardless of being high in fats, nuts have plenty of health benefits. They are rich in selenium, fluoride, zinc, magnesium, iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium. This superfood is packed with antioxidants, which can help protect your body against cell damage.

If properly stored in airtight containers, nuts can effectively last up to 12 months. 

10. Canned Soup

This food has been for a long time a pantry staple. Canned soup has a good shelf life that can range from 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of soup in the can.

There are many varieties of canned soups, ranging from vegan, organic, plain chicken, noodle, or simply tomato. Find the kind of canned soups that you like. We recommend shopping for soups with multiple ingredients for the best nutritional value.

The nice thing about canned soups is that they are ready to eat out of the can. If you don’t have any source of heat and time is of the essence, you can pop a can open and enjoy the soup as it is.

Once opened, however, a canned soup should be consumed within 3 to 4 days before it goes bad.

11. Sugar & Salt

While sugar is not necessary for survival in tough situations, you will find that having it in your kit is a good thing. This is so because some survival foodstuffs tend to be bland. You can sprinkle some sugar on your bland survival food to give it a good taste. If properly stored, white sugar can effectively last up to 2 years.

Just like sugar, salt will also help boost the taste of your survival foods. In addition to improving the flavor of your food, you can use salt to preserve your food. You can rub some salt on your steak of meat to prevent it from spoiling too quickly. Salt has an impressive shelf life of around 5 years.

12. Protein Bars

The protein bar used to be sold to athletes, but now, it has become popular with everyone, including dieters and preppers.

What’s in it, of course, is lots of protein. One bar can have as much as a third or more of the protein you need in a survival situation. 

Protein bars offer hyper convenience when you don’t have the time to prepare real food. But some of these bars also have as much sugar as candy bars, while others may be packed with lots of low-calorie sweeteners.

When selecting protein bars, pay attention to the serving size. Consider bars with more protein and carbohydrates to keep you fuller longer during those hard times. Don’t select bars that are high in fiber to avoid gastrointestinal issues.

The shelf life of protein bars usually ranges from 6 months to 1 year, depending on the protein type. So, you may have to rotate them every year to ensure you have a fresh supply every single time.

13. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a candidate for long-term food storage and is a nutritional powerhouse.

It is a great source of dietary fiber, protein, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, folate, and thiamin. Oatmeal is also rich in antioxidants and minerals. This meal contains 5% to 9% of healthy fat, which is what you need in a survival diet.

Oats offer several health benefits for a survivalist, including enhanced immune response, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, better bowel function, and reduced risk of cancer.

An unopened bag of oatmeal can last up to 2 years in storage. But the shelf life may reduce to around 1 year after a bag has been opened. 

14. Honey

One of the best survival foods you can store is honey. It is a tasty and healthy gift from nature, and its diversity for both medicinal purposes and cooking makes it a good survival food.

It is a natural sweetener that contains antioxidants and antibacterial properties. It is expensive but it lasts nearly forever if stored properly. If it crystallizes, simply warm it up to reconstitute. Honey will provide a nutritious alternative to sugar and should definitely be a part of your survival food.

When stockpiling, buy little at a time as you find it, and make sure you shop for 100% pure honey. Try to find honey from a farmer or look for organic honey from a store.

In a survival situation, you can use honey in cooking, baking, and spreading. You can also apply it on wounds for its antifungal and antibacterial properties. It can also soothe things like quiet coughs and sore throat.

Honey provides around 64 calories per tablespoon. This means a spoonful can give you some immediate energy boost in a survival situation. 

15. Alcohol

You may easily overlook alcohol when prepping for survival. But it is one of the most essential things to have in your survival stash.

Alcohol can be used in several ways in a survival situation. You can use it as fuel with a compact alcohol stove. You can use your alcohol stove to boil some water for making tea or coffee. Alcohol is a good disinfectant, which you can use to disinfect tools and wounds.

You can use alcohol for cooking and food preservation in a survival situation. You can preserve fruits in alcohol to improve shelf life. Alcohols you can stockpile for survival situations include vodka, whiskey, and rum.

An unopened bottle of alcohol has an indefinite shelf life. But the shelf life will drop to 1 or 2 years after opening the bottle. It will simply lose its flavor and color.

16. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup is known for its color, flavor, and thick sugary consistency. It is packed with more calcium when compared to milk.

It has been adding natural sweetness to food for as long as people have been able to extract it from the maple tree. You can spread it on top of wild rice oatmeal and cranberry. 

One serving of maple syrup will supply you with manganese, zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium. Maple syrup is high in sugar but it has fewer calories than brown sugar or honey.

Maple syrup can last in the pantry for approximately 12 months before opening the bottle. But once opened, the shelf life will deteriorate if not stored in the refrigerator. 

17. Coffee & Tea

When disaster strikes, you will need something to boost your energy levels early in the morning.

Coffee and tea contain caffeine. This central nervous system stimulant is very effective for increasing energy levels and fighting fatigue. Coffee and tea also support heart and brain health and could increase longevity.

If stored properly, an opened bag of instant coffee can have a shelf life of around 12 to 18 months. Tea, on the other hand, has an average shelf life of around 2 years. 

18. Nonfat Dry Milk & Powdered Milk

Nonfat dry milk has one of the longest shelf life. The problem with the nonfat dry milk is that it has a horrible taste. This type of milk can last up to 20 years in the pantry, though. It can be a great source of fat, sugars, dietary fiber, carbohydrates, potassium, and sodium, but you will have to put up with the awful taste.

A great alternative to nonfat dry milk is powdered milk. It is very palatable, delicious, and easy to prepare. Powdered milk is rich in iron, vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, and calcium. Powdered milk, however, can last up to 2 years in an unopened package.

19. Hardtack

Hardtack is a type of bread that has a long history in North America. It was also known as biscuit, ship’s bread, cracker, and pilot’s bread.

This unique bread is made of high-quality grains. It is packed with calories that can help you increase your energy levels in survival situations. An average piece of hardtack can provide you with around 75 to 125 calories. This hard water cracker, however, tastes bland and you may have to top it up with a sweetener like maple syrup.

Hardtack is easy to prepare in a survival situation. But you can store lots of them in an airtight bag for long-term use. 

20. Potato Flakes

You can transform instant potato flakes into delicious comfort food during a survival situation.

With just boiling water, potato flakes can become potato soup or mashed potatoes. You can blend potato flakes into flour for making tasty and dense potato bread. This food contains about 100 calories per ounce.

When sealed in airtight bags, the shelf life of instant potato flakes can range from 10 to 15 years. But the shelf life usually drops to around 6 to 12 months once you open the bag. 

FAQs

What else do I need for survival?

In addition to the aforementioned survival foods, you will also need:

Water

Water is not food, but it is one of the most important additions to your survival kit. You can only go for three days without water. So, it is extremely important to have a good supply of water. Water is a basic element. So, it will never go bad in its pure form. Just make sure the bottles are properly sealed and stored in a dry, cool, dark place.

Vegetable Oil

You might not see vegetable oil as a key survival element, but it can come in handy during survival situations. Apart from cooking, you can use vegetable oil as a fire helper, rust proofing, preservation of food, medical purposes, and skincare.

Are MREs and freeze-dried foods the same?

These two are not the same. MREs (meal, ready-to-eat) are precooked and they usually retain all the moisture. Freeze-dried foods, on the other hand, are reconstituted with water. Freeze-dried foods have an extremely long shelf life and taste much better compared to MREs. 

What methods can I use to preserve food for survival?

There are a few methods you can use at home to preserve food for emergencies. The most common ones that are easy to do are:

Dehydrating

As the name suggests, this method simply involves the removal of moisture from the food. Without moisture microbes die out, increasing the food’s shelf life. Foods that you can easily dehydrate at home are fruits and vegetables. Another survival food made through the dehydration process is powdered egg.

This should not be confused with freeze-drying. If you want to know the difference, read our guide on freeze vs dehydrated.

Canning

Canning can be a safe and economical method of preserving food at home. Proper canning practices include: wisely selecting and washing fresh food, hot packing food, peeling some fresh foods before canning, and using jars with self-sealing lids. 

Final Thoughts

Don’t wait until there is a storm on the horizon or an emergency to start stockpiling survival food. Early prepping gives you all the time in the world to pick and store all the important things you will need to survive a disaster, an emergency, or a pandemic. Our detailed guide should help you get started.

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