Survival Foods with a Long Shelf Life
Emergency situations can arise at any time. Wars, disease, fires, and extreme weather all qualify as crisis situations. When it comes to your long-term survival in any such situation, food is always going to be a main concern.
However, you really don’t know if an emergency will arise next week, next month, next year, or ever for that matter. Also, if a crisis happens, you don’t know how long it will last.
This can be a problem when it comes to stocking enough food for survival, particularly because food has a shelf life. Therefore, today we want to go over some of the best survival foods with long shelf lives — foods that will stay edible for years.
Survival Foods With a Long Shelf Life
- Anything Canned
One of the most popular go-to options for long-term survival food is anything that comes sealed in a can. One of the good things about canned food is that it comes in lots of varieties. There are canned veggies, fruits, meats, bread, soups, pasta, and much more.
Technically speaking, you could probably stock up your survival pantry with nothing but canned foods and be perfectly fine for months or even longer. There is so much variety available that you could eat canned food for months and probably find something new to eat every day.
That said, canned foods still have expiration dates, although they may be years down the line. Generally speaking, you can expect canned food to last for up to 3 years.
However, with ideal storage, such as in a cool and dry place that is away from light and pests, canned foods can last for 6 to 7 years or longer. Just be sure to check for any signs of damage to the cans or corrosion. If air gets into the can, the food will go bad quickly. The super long shelf life of canned food makes it a go-to option for any survival pantry and for long-term storage.
- Meals Ready to Eat – MRE’s
Ready-to-eat meals are hands-down one of the best options to go with. These foods are specifically designed for survival and emergency situations. You’ve probably seen these before without even knowing it; if you’ve ever watched a war movie with soldiers eating meals right out of those plastic/foil-lined bags, you have seen MREs.
What’s really neat about MREs is that they have come a really long way over time. Many of them now include bags of food which are self-heating. They often contain special pouches that create chemical reactions, which in turn create heat. This means that many MRE foods, such as a hot beef stroganoff, doesn’t even require an additional heat source to heat up.
The great part about MREs is that they are full meals and they come with plenty of variety. Everything from beef stroganoff, pork and beans, and chicken and rice can come in these MRE pouches. Keep in mind that if you want to choose from the best MREs out there, check out those supplied by national armies. The Russian, Greek, American, and MREs from other countries’ militaries have some pretty great meals to offer.
Some MREs are designed to have shelf lives of 10 years, whereas some of the best can last for up to 30 years, especially when properly stored. In terms of shelf life, it really doesn’t get better than this. Some people have even reported being able to eat MREs which date all the way back to WWII without the food having gone bad.
That said, keep in mind that MREs are more expensive than regular food, but most people would say that they are well worth the investment. It’s one of the only ways that you can get a full meal in a single package, especially if you need it to last for years.
- Salt and Dried Spices
These are not exactly foods, but then again, unless you plan on eating bland and tasteless food for the duration of the crisis, storing salt and dried spices is recommended. When properly stored away from moisture and light, combined with oxygen and moisture absorbers, they can stay good for well over 10 years.
However, with that being said, if you are forced to endure a long-term survival situation, being able to add a bit of flavor to that otherwise bland food is going to be appreciated. Everybody needs a treat every now and again, especially when faced with a rough situation.
Always keep spices as cool and dry as possible, don’t expose them to light, and try to keep them sealed away from oxygen.
- Soft, Hard Grains + Flour
Grains are always a go-to option for long term storage. There is a difference between hard and soft grains. For instance, soft grains are foods like rye, barley, oats, grits, and quinoa. When these are well sealed with oxygen absorbers, and properly stored, they can last for up to 8 years. As you can probably tell, there is a lot that can be done with soft grains like these.
You can use them to make breads, you can make salads, add them to cereals, and more. Soft grains can be used for all of your meals, and it’s why they come in so handy. Let’s not forget that grains like these also contain plenty of carbs and minerals, substances that your body will need if you plan to survive for any prolonged amount of time.
On the other hand, there are the hard grains, things like millet, buckwheat, soft white wheat and hard red wheat. If these are in a sealed package with an oxygen absorber, these hard grains can last for up to 12 years.
Flour is also something that lasts for a long time, and it comes in handy for making bread and more. Flour that is still raw and unground can last for up to 25 years, although the shelf life decreases drastically once it is ground. If you have a little grinder (there are special little flour grinders just for this), you can keep flour preserved by leaving it unground until you actually need it. Remember, it’s all about the packaging and storage.
- Dehydrated Fruits and Veggies
Dehydrating various foods is another great way to ensure that they last for years. Fruits such as apples, apricots, bananas, berries, and more, when properly dehydrated, sealed, and stored with an oxygen absorber, can have a shelf life of up to 30 years.
In terms of shelf life, fruits tend to last a bit longer than vegetables, especially depending on the specific vegetable. For example, dehydrated carrots may last for up to 20 years when properly stored. Keep in mind that it is always better to dehydrate fruits and veggies at home, rather than buying them already dehydrated.
Something that needs to be said is that dried fruits and veggies are not nearly as healthy and nutritious as their fresh counterparts. The drying process removes many of the vitamins, which is not great, but that said, some do still remain, just not that many. If the choice is between dried fruits and veggies or none at all, something is better than nothing.
What can be said is that these dried fruits and veggies contain carbs, sugars, and calories, all of which are very important for long-term survival. If you plan to survive, you will need to keep your body fueled with energy, which is exactly what dried fruits and veggies can do.
- White Rice
White rice is another great option for long-term storage. When stored properly, which means being stored with an oxygen absorber, it can last for up to 20 years. Keep in mind that this applies to normal long-grain white rice, jasmine rice, basmati rice, and other types of white rice.
While brown rice is much healthier, its shelf life is about half that of white rice.
Yes, it is a bit of a tradeoff of course. We would recommend stocking up on some brown rice for the relative short term, while white rice makes for a good last resort when all else fails.
There is also the fact that rice is very versatile, and it can be used for a whole lot of things. Add some into a soup, a casserole, use it as a side dish, or even eat it plain too. Moreover, you will be hard pressed to find many people that don’t like rice.
- Dried or Canned Beans
Beans are very healthy, full of protein, and nutrients, plus they can be used in a variety of dishes. When stored in the right conditions, canned beans can last for up to 6 years. On the other hand, if you want to go for dried beans, these can last for up to 5 years before going bad.
Also, remember that canned foods are a bit easier to store because they have metal layer of protection around them. Canned foods are much more secure and safe from pests like rats and insects than dried foods.
Moreover, that solid layer is great for keeping harmful UV light out as well. Also, canned beans can just be heated up as is, making them very easy to deal with, whereas dried beans need to be rehydrated first before you can actually eat them; don’t try eating dried beans without rehydrating them. You will lose some teeth.
The cool thing here is that there are so many varieties of beans that you will be hard pressed to find at least one type that you don’t like. Moreover, beans are great for casseroles, as side dishes, and of course, they are needed to make a killer pot of chili too.
- Dried Meats
When compared to dried fruits and veggies, as well as a variety of canned foods, dried meat, such as beef jerky, does not have a great shelf life. However, you will want some protein, and yes, beef jerky does taste great. If properly dried and stored, something like beef jerky can last for up to 2 years.
Of course, jerky is not the only type of dried meat out there. There are plenty of salamis and pepperonis that have great shelf lives too. Any smoked and dried meat will last for a long time, even smoked and dried fish can have quite a decent shelf life when stored in the right conditions.
If it is hermetically sealed, sugar can last nearly indefinitely. However, sugar is susceptible to moisture and pests, but if stored right, sugar might just outlive you.
Sugar doesn’t have much nutritional value per se, but you will probably need it if you are baking anything, plus nobody wants to drink a morning cup of coffee without first sweetening it up a bit.
That said, sugar is a major source of energy in the human body, and if you are faced with a survival situation, you will need lots of energy to figure out how to keep going day after day. The most important thing you need to know about storing sugar is that it absolutely needs to be kept dry. As soon as sugar gets wet, its shelf life is going to plummet.
- Potato Flakes
Of course, potato flakes are not as tasty as fresh potatoes, but they last longer, plus they can be used in a variety of dishes. When properly stored, potato flakes can be stored for up to 30 years before going bad, which is nothing short of impressive.
You can add them to soups, make instant mashed potatoes, potato cakes, form them into fries, or whatever else.
Potato flakes may sound very simple and unassuming, but a great culinary mind can turn these bland flakes into something quite wonderful.
- Powdered Milk
Powdered milk may not exactly qualify as a food, but then again, it makes for a great ingredient. Ok, so sure, you can just mix up the powdered milk and drink it as is, but there is more than that. Of course, just like some people like their coffee sweet, some like a bit of milk.
If you want to enjoy some cereal, you’ll need milk for it, plus many baked goods are made with milk.
Most manufacturer’s recommend using powdered milk within 18 months of packaging. However, according to the USDA, powdered milk can easily stay good for 10 years, and can last almost indefinitely when stored under the right conditions.
- Dried Corn
Dried corn is another good option. It might not be super fancy or special, and it doesn’t have all that much nutrition either, but in a pinch, it will fill your stomach and stretch out any meal. You can use dried corn for soups, for pastas, casseroles, and more.
If properly sealed, which in this case means hermetically sealed without oxygen, dried corn can last for up to 12 years. Another option to go with is corn meal, something that can also be used in many dishes. Whatever the case, just make sure it does not get exposed to oxygen or moisture, or the shelf life will decrease drastically.
Pemmican might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it does come with its advantages, such as the fact that it has a very long shelf life. Depending on the specific ingredients in the pemmican you get, it can last for up to 5 years, which is not bad.
Generally speaking, pemmican is a meat paste that can be made with various meats, fats, and spices. It’s good to fry up, you can fill pastries with it, or add it to soups as well. Just remember to keep it dry, away from oxygen and sunlight, and make sure that it is well protected against pests.
- Dry Pasta
Pasta is always a go-to survival food option. For one, there are many kinds of pasta, and sure, while they may all taste relatively similar, the different shapes can at least add a bit of variety and excitement to a meal.
Moreover, pasta can be used as a side dish, in casseroles, soups and stews, and more. Of course, pasta is also a good option for survival food because it contains a lot of carbs and other nutrients to keep your body going. However, keep in mind that white pasta is going to last longer than whole grain or whole wheat pasta.
In terms of the actual shelf life, most pasta has a shelf life of 2 years, but you can push this by another year. If stored properly, pasta can last well past its advertised “best by” date. It might lose a bit of its taste and texture, but it won’t go bad per se for quite some time.
- Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is another good option. Peanut butter doesn’t have the longest shelf life out of all foods, but it will still last for quite some time. On average, if the peanut butter is made with preservatives, if it is unopened, kept cool, and kept away from sunlight, it can last for a couple of years.
As with the dried pasta, although the expiry date of peanut butter may be only about a year after packaging, if stored properly, you can effectively double the shelf life. Peanut butter is high in fats, carbs, and proteins, making it a great source of energy for anybody needing to deal with a hardcore survival situation.
- Hard Candy
Hard candy is not the best survival food, as you will need more than just sugar to stay alive. That said, sugar does make for a decent source of energy, which can come in handy.
Also, if you have been eating canned and dried foods for any amount of time, having a sweet treat might really lift your spirits. If stored properly, particularly away from moisture and light, hard candy can last for up to 1 year. It’s not the best shelf life, but decent nonetheless.
- Honey and Maple Syrup
We don’t want to explain the science behind it, but raw honey will last indefinitely. If you keep honey hermetically sealed without oxygen, you don’t expose it to moisture or light, and you keep it away from pests, raw honey can last for thousands of years. Honey is a great energy source as well, seeing as it contains a good deal of sugar.
Another good option, if you are looking for something sweet and filled with energy, is maple syrup. Now, maple syrup will only stay good for a couple of years in the fridge if unopened, but if you freeze it, it will stay good indefinitely. Honey and maple syrup alike are both sweet and they make for some great treats when added to things like oatmeal.
- Freeze Dried Coffee
Most sane adults enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning to get the engine rumbling. Now, keep in mind that normal ground coffee is only going to last for up to 6 or 8 months, so this needs to be avoided. However, freeze-dried coffee, can last for up to 20 years, even once opened. Even better, if you have access to a freezer, it can stay good indefinitely.
Alcohol should not be your first choice in terms of survival foods, but that said, we all need a break from reality every now and again. If you wanted to store a bottle of whiskey somewhere for an occasional drink, if stored properly, it will last for decades or even centuries.
These are all foods with excellent shelf lives which you should consider adding to your survival pantry. Just remember that the most important part, besides choosing the right survival foods to begin with, is to store them properly. Keep your food away from pests, seal it well, make sure it’s in a dry place, and always ensure that no sunlight gets to it.