If you’re looking to build a survival stockpile, you obviously want to know the best survival foods that will last the longest AND you’d be OK eating for the long term.
Of course, it’s not just which ones you choose; you also need the right containers, keep them at the right temperature and you need to protect them from pests and looters.
The food storage enemies have been discussed in another article, but for now I want to focus on the top non-perishable foods you can stockpile.
There are no less than 37 of them to choose from (and I’ll probably add more over time). The selection criteria are:
- shelf life
- nutritional value
Not all of them meet all the criteria but I’m confident that this list is will give you plenty of options so you can have variety in your stockpile.
If you stick to it, you won’t need to look at any other lists (unless you or your loved ones have allergies or other medical conditions – definitely something to be concerned about).
So let’s get started with another one of my lists!
Water isn’t food but it is critical for your stockpile. If you have 3 months’ worth of food but only a week’s worth of water, you won’t survive for months on end unless you find alternate water sources.
#1. Canned Food
Well, did you expect anything else at the top of the list? Canned food is great for a number of reasons: it has a solid shelf life (when properly stored) and it doesn’t need to be cooked; you just open it and eat it.
Tip: don’t forget to stockpile a can opener as well!
What food should you get? Any kind, as long as it has a long shelf life and you and your family would eat it.
Rule #1 is to always stockpile the foods you actually eat, not the ones you read about on some prepping blog that are the webmaster’s favorites, not yours.
That being said, you can get a wide variety of canned food, including: tomatoes, cucumbers, cauliflower, relishes, fruits, chestnuts, anchovies, corned beef, soup, spam, beef, chicken, potatoes, onions, ham and even spaghetti and meatballs.
The shelf life of these foods varies but when they’ve been properly canned, you can expect them to still be delicious after 3 years (a lot more in some cases).
Spam, for instance, is said to have an INFINITE shelf life, so long as the can remains intact, the only thing difference you may notice when you open it would be a difference in taste.
#2. Dried Beans
Pretty much any kind of beans you can get your hands on will do: black beans, pinto, kidney beans, etc.
Beans will last at least a few years (pinto beans usually last the longest). There are a lot of estimations out there that range from a couple of years to 30+ years but the critical factor is to know how to maximize this.
To do that, you need to store them in a cool, dark, dry place and, if possible, in vacuum packing.
Even if they won’t last you 30 years, you’re still going to eat them long before that when you rotate your stockpile (something every prepper should do).
The other important issue with beans is that if you don’t store them properly, they might be tough to cook when you finally decide to eat them.
You’ll probably need a pressure cooker to do this. But if you simply follow the two storage rules above, you shouldn’t have this problem.
#3. White Rice
A lot of folks recommend brown rice because it has more vitamins, minerals and a longer absorption rate, meaning it will give you a steady flow of energy for a longer period of time. But white rice is better for survival for one reason: it has a longer shelf-life.
White rice lasts for at least 4 years while brown rice won’t last for more than one (because the oils in brown simply oxidize faster).
So stockpile white rice unless, of course, your family enjoys brown and you eat it often enough to constantly rotate your supply.
Store pasta the old fashioned way (in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers) and you can expect it to last for 15 years.
That’s more than enough, considering you’ll eat it far more often. The trick is to always consume from the bag that’s closest to the expiration date.
Again, keep it dry, cool and away from pests. One other thing you should with is keep it in the freezer for 4-5 days before you actually store it to make sure you kill any larvae eggs inside.
If you don’t do this, after a few weeks, you might wake up with little black bugs inside…
#5. Dried Hazelnuts
Nuts are a very good source of protein and healthy fats. The reason I recommend hazelnuts is because they have the longest shelf life, of around 2 years (source). Of course, you would have to store them at freezing temperature (32F or 0C).
#6. Whole Grains
You should stockpile on whole grains instead of flour for a very good reason: flour doesn’t last more than a year. In fact, its shelf life is closer to 6 months, so go ahead and store whole wheat, rye, barley, etc.
As a general rule, you want to store the ingredients of something instead of the processed/final produce for maximum shelf life.
For example, it’s much better to store cocoa than chocolate because one last for 2 years while the latter lasts less than one.
Caveat: if you’re gonna store whole grains, you’re also gonna need a grinder. Something you might not find post-collapse with all the stores being closed and everything.
#7. Powdered (Dry) Milk
This is another good protein source but it has a BIG advantage over other foods such as grains and mushrooms: it has a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino-acids that your body cannot produce on its own but it needs in order to properly regenerate muscle (among other things).
I’m not saying incomplete protein is bad but complete protein is better, and powdered milk has it.
Honey is a FANTASTIC food to stockpile not just for doomsday but for every day. It has a virtually unlimited shelf life and can give you all the energy you’ll need during and post-collapse. Plus, it has numerous alternative uses, including medicinal ones.
#9. Smooth/Crunchy Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is yet another comfort food that can last 10+ years, but there are a few conditions that have to be met first. Besides storing it in a – you guessed it – cool, dark place, you also need to make sure you get a quality brand. Jif, Skippy and Aldi are all great choices.
To make sure the jar is safe to eat when you open it, check that it’s still creamy and soft and that the color hasn’t darkened.
#10. Iodized Salt
Salt is essential for the human body and, although a lot of foods have it, it’s a good idea to have a supply of iodized salt stashed away somewhere. It’ll make your food taste better, too.
You can store it in Mylar bags but do not use O2 absorbers.
Salt will last forever because most bacteria and fungi cannot survive in a salty environment. Let’s not forget we use it to preserve other foods such as meat.
Just like salt, store it in Mylar bags and skip oxygen absorbers. The shelf life is said to be indefinite.
#12. Freeze-Dried Food
Freeze dried foods are perfect for bug out bags because they’re lightweight. The idea behind this is to remove every trace of water.
In order to consume them, one would need adequate amounts of water to reconstitute the the actual foods. Keep that in mind as you’re bugging out, because drinkable water may be an issue.
#13. Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder has a shelf life of at least 2 years, and you can make a lot more than homemade chocolate from it. Think brownies, cookies, chocolate fudge, chocolate shakes and on and on.
You’re much better off stockpiling powder than actual chocolate from a shelf-life perspective.
#14. Pink Salmon
Why PINK salmon? Because it has one of the best shelf live of all canned fish foods, somewhere around 6 years. This is the reason I didn’t just list in along with the other canned foods.
Of course, this only applies if you don’t open the can and store it in proper conditions (in a cool, dark place). If you open it, it’s best to eat it in the following 2-3 days and always keep in in the freezer until you finish it.
#15. Cooking Oil
The oils with the longest shelf life are also the ones that are the most widely used for cooking: sunflower, coconut and extra-virgin olive oil. A secondary use for cooking oil is that you can use it as an emergency lighting.
Never heard of hardtack? It’s a type of cracker made of flour, salt, and water. These are also called sea biscuits or sea bread. You can just store the ingredients and make it anytime you want!
#17. Spices and Herbs
Just because it’s the end of the world, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a delicious meal.
Go ahead and store any of the following condiments in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers (and make sure you remove them from their original container first):
- whole pepper
- garlic powder
- chili powder
- and other herbs you think you’ll need
#18. Jams and Jellies
Blackberry, strawberry, raspberry… mmm.
While some sites suggest that the shelf life of these foods is somewhere around a year, when you seal and store them properly, you can realistically expect a 5+ years.
If you’re worried, you just have to make sure you eat them within the 1 year frame, of course.
#19. Protein Bars
Food bars have a really long shelf life and they’re very good to just throw in your bug-out bag. Some of them can last 5 years so they won’t pose any problems when it comes to rotating your stockpile.
Energy and protein bars may give you the required carbs in an emergency but they’re more expensive than peanut butter, for instance, and they contain a lot of preservatives that aren’t really good for you. Use them as emergency food only.
If you don’t know where to start with energy bars, try Millennium bars. They have a lot of flavors and a 5-year shelf life.
Popcorn is one of those comfort foods that everyone will love post-collapse. It has a long shelf life when properly stored (except of microwave popcorn and popped popcorn).
#21. Juice Powders
Lemon, lime, pineapple, orange, you name it. I for one can still remember Tang, the powder that I used to mix with water and drink like crazy when I was a kid.
Obviously, they’re not the same as the real deal but it’s better than nothing. Once you stockpiled the essentials above, including the two main comfort foods I recommend (peanut butter and honey), you’re gonna want to add variety to your pantry.
Juice powders will last a looong time when properly packaged and stored.
#22. Hard Candy
Store them in airtight containers to have give your family a taste of what it was like when things were “normal”.
You may want to skip O2 absorbers, though. Just keep them away form heat, light and moisture and they’ll be fine. Examples of candy with a long shelf life:
- candy canes, Skittles, Starbust – 2 to 3 years
- jelly beans – up to 2 years
- chewing gum (up to 18 months) – not much calories in it but it’s great to fight off stress
- candy corn, sour ropes, plain M&Ms- 1 year
- caramels – 8 to 12 months
- you can also make your own candy
#23. Baking Soda
Besides the obvious use in cooking things like pancakes, cakes, and so on, baking soda has a million and one uses. For example, did you know you can mix it with a little bit of water to make homemade toothpaste?
#24. Powdered Cheese
This is a great option for your pantry. Did you know that dehydrated powdered cheese has a shelf life of 10+ years?
#25. Powdered Eggs
Most preppers choose buying them instead of making them at home. Shelf life is great, by the way, 5 years plus.
Hint: if the omelet doesn’t taste great, add some extra salt, pepper, maybe even some onion.
The thing with vitamins & minerals is that, at some point after you store them, they start reacting with each-other. Still, using Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers is going to give them a shelf life of at least a couple of years.
If you can, store each important vitamin separately but rotating them is key. Taking vitamins every day as supplements is a good idea as long as you don’t rely on them for your daily micro-nutrient requirements.
Coffee is not only great for boosting your energy but it is going to make one heck of a bartering item. Not any coffee is going to last long enough.
What you want to stockpile is green unroasted coffee beans that you should pack in Mylar bags + O2 absorbers. Post-SHTF, you will have to roast and then grind the beans to make coffee.
Just store tea in Mylar bags, put some oxygen absorbers and you’re all set to drinking your favorite beverage when everyone else is going to be desperate loaf of bread.
Vinegar is an acetic acid as a result of fermentation and it has a lot more uses than making your soup taste better. Use it as a disinfectant, to remove grease from dishes, to treat a sore throat and so on.
Because of its acidic nature, vinegar has an indefinite shelf life.
#30. Instant Potato Flakes
Store instant potatoes as you would rice. Mylar bags, oxygen absorbers, put them in a cool dark place and you’re done.
You’re gonna need seeds for your post-apocalyptic survival garden and there are quite a few companies who sell them.
Choosing the right seeds is tricky, you can’t just pick anything (you need to know which ones will grow in your region) and you need to know how to store them and how to grow them.
#32. Bouillon Cubes
The problem with bouillon cubes is that they can go rancid past their 1 year shelf life.
Other than that, they’re going to be a blessing post-collapse as they can make beans and rice taste better, AND they can even be a very good replacement to coffee and tea as a hot beverage.
The salt content is also great as your body will need it in order to function properly.
Pemmican is a mixture of fat and protein from large game such as buffalo or deer. Traditionally, the fat and protein were dried, mixed, and pressed. Its shelf-life depends on storage conditions and quality of ingredients.
It doesn’t even have to be refrigerated or even cooked, although keeping it inside the fridge will cause it to last longer. Let’s not forget that pemmican has a high fat content and fats go rancid with time.
You can buy Pemmican, or you can make your own.
To maximize its shelf life, store it in a cool place such as your freezer. If you completely freeze it, it can even last you more than 3 years.
#35. Hard Liquor
A lot of people will do anything for a bottle of Jack when they’ll look outside their window and see how the world went down the drain.
You can stockpile as much distilled beverages (such as whisky and vodka) as you want because, even if you won’t drink them, you can still barter with them.
The bad news is that you can’t store any beer, though, it doesn’t have a long shelf life.
#36. Dehydrated Fruit
The shelf life of dehydrated fruit varies widely, but in proper conditions, you should expect at least one year of shelf life.
#37. Granola Bars
Though the shelf life of granola bars is 6 to 8 months, it’s included here for some VERY good reasons, namely:
- they’re safe to eat past the expiration date
- you can increase their shelf life if you store them at a low temperature in a cool, dry, dark place – you knew this, right?
- it’s an excellent food for bug out bags because it’s lightweight, making it easy to carry
Ok, I couldn’t help it – I wanted to give you just a couple more suggestions, I hope you don’t mind.
#38. Pet Food
Well, you can’t expect Lucky to starve post-SHTF, right? Pets will play a huge role: cats can catch mice (there will be plenty of, anyway), dogs will protect you from burglars and other bad guys.
Let’s not forget that pets are going to be a joy for you and your children when the Internet and electricity will be gone.
The only problem with dog food is that it’s high on fat, meaning you’ll have to rotate it at least every year. But since Lucky’s survival food happens to be the same he eats on a daily basis, food rotation is the least of your worries.
What? Am I recommending meals ready to eat?
Yes, MREs are expensive and they’re not quite as tasty and healthy as the other options listed above but they are decent if you’re not a hardcore prepper and you’re only looking to build your emergency stockpile.
After all, this is EMERGENCY food, right? Once you built your 72-hour stockpile, I recommend you focus solely on foods the other type of foods shown above.
Do you think there are other food items that should have made it to the list? Write them in a comment below.
P.S.: you can download a PDF with all the foods right here to print off or just save on your phone or Kindle.