When you first start prepping, choosing the best food for a particular emergency or survival situation can be a little challenging. Following is a basic rundown of the best emergency food supply to fit specific conditions. The bulk of my survival food stash is dry staples that I’ve packaged myself, but there are good reasons to store other types of food.
The Best Emergency Food
The best emergency foods to stockpile are dry staples such as beans, rice, and wheat, canned food like soups, stews, fruit, vegetables, and freeze-dried food because these foods are shelf-stable, with up to 30 years of shelf life.
Dry, canned, and freeze-dried foods are not the only foods you can store for emergencies, but they are the backbone of any good survival pantry.
Let’s dig a little deeper and examine each food type’s pros and cons.
#1 Dry Staples: Cheap (best emergency food supply)
Dry staples are the bulk of my emergency food supply, and they are the best non-perishable food for emergencies because they are so cheap and easy to repackage for long-term storage. I have prepared hundreds of pounds of dry staples like black beans, long-grain white rice, and hard white wheat with buckets, Mylar bags, and oxygen absorbers. So what are the pros and cons of dry foods?
Dry staples are the best non-perishable food for long-term emergencies because they are inexpensive in bulk, and most have a twenty to thirty-year shelf life if properly stored.
On top of this, foods like beans, rice, wheat, and rolled oats are proven across generations and cultures to provide enough calories and nutrition to survive major catastrophes and food shortages.
Learn more about dry staples. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “How much food for a year: Proven Dry Staples.”
Dry staple foods are not ideal for short-term emergencies such as a catastrophic hurricane where power and water are unavailable, and you’re walking through muck or expending a lot of energy to survive or clean up.
In a short-term survival situation, the last thing you want to do is stand over a stewing pot of beans all day.
Staple foods take a lot of preparation and resources to make ready.
For example, wheat or wheat berries are usually milled into flour, mixed with other ingredients, including water, and baked into bread. Beans and rice take a lot of time, water, and fuel to make ready.
For short-term emergencies, look to stockpile canned food.
#2 Canned Food
My family has a limited supply of canned foods because we don’t eat out of cans much. They are essential survival food that should be a part of any emergency pantry. Some preppers swear by canned foods and consider them the best food for emergency supplies because they can provide nutrients that are hard to come by in a survival situation, such as fat, meat, protein, and fruits and vegetables out of season. Look at the pros and cons of canned food as survival food.
Canned food is outstanding for short-term emergencies with a loss of power, running water, and other services because it is ready to eat right out of the can. Canned foodstuff is the preferred food of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for their suggested 72-hour emergency kit. Learn More at Ready.gov
Canned foods don’t need to be refrigerated before eating them. You can eat out of the can, so you don’t need dishes, and they don’t need to be heated up to eat. In addition, you don’t need fuel, water, or much time to prepare them.
Canned food has a limited shelf-life of two to five years, so it needs to be rotated into your regular diet to ensure a fresh supply when required in a survival situation.
Don’t plan to carry canned food in a backpack when bugging out on foot. Canned goods are heavy because of the packaging and water weight included in the can. They can be used if you stay put in an emergency or carry a limited supply if bugging out in a vehicle.
Learn more about one of the essential canned foods for survival, canned meat. Read the Ready Squirrel article “Canned Meat: A Must-Have Survival Food.”
Following is a list of the best types of canned food(s) to store for an emergency.
List of 38 canned emergency foods
For short-term emergencies, I would focus on whole meals like soups and stews in conjunction with fruits and vegetables.
- Evaporated Milk
- Corned Beef Hash
- Vienna Sausages
- Pasta Sauce
- Mandarin Oranges
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Pinto Beans
- Black Beans
- Navy Beans
- Vegetable Oil
Up next, freeze-dried food.
#3 Freeze-dried Food
I love freeze-dried foods, especially backpacker-style meals like Mountain House. I used these when hiking the Vermont leg of the Appalachian Trail, and it made the trip a lot easier because they were filling and so easy to prepare.
Freeze-dried food, especially backpacker-style meals, is ideal for emergencies where reduced weight and ease of preparation are necessary, such as bugging out on foot.
Freeze-dried food is super lightweight and reconstitutes with boiled water within 10 minutes. So all you have to do is boil water to prepare a meal.
Freeze-dried food maintains up to 97% of its nutritional value when processed, and it has an excellent shelf-life of 30+ years if packaged and stored correctly.
People often confuse dehydrated food with freeze-dried foods, but they are different. Freeze-dried food is more nutritious, is of higher quality, and has a longer shelf life.
Freeze-dried food is expensive.
Free-dried food is off the charts in price compared to dry staples, but it fills a need and should be considered for your emergency food pantry. Whether you make your freeze-dried food, package it at home, or purchase it professionally, you will pay for it. Below is a list of 14 freeze-dried food companies to help with emergency planning.
14 Freeze-dried Food Companies
- Mountain House
- Backpacker’s Pantry
- Patriot Supply
- Emergency Essentials
- Ready Hour
- Survival Frog
- Legacy Food Storage
- Ready Store
- Thrive Life
- Augason Farms
- Wise Food Storage
Learn more about freeze-dried foods. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “What is freeze-dried survival food?”
#4 Hard Grains
Hard grains are the foods used to support entire civilizations since the dawn of time. My favorite foods from this list are white-polished-long-grain rice and hard white wheat.
Hard grains like wheat and rice are proven survival food and proven over thousands of years by many civilizations to keep people alive.
Once repackaged, dry foods can be stored in a cool, dry location and do not need rotation for decades. Properly stored, hard grains havean extraordinaryg shelf life of 30 years.
Hard grains are not ideal for short-term emergencies where ready-made foods are preferred.
Dry grains often take more resources to prepare, such as fuel and water to cook, and special tools such as a grain mill.
Chart #1 Hard Grains for Emergency Food
|Long-grain White Rice||30+|
|Hard White Wheat||30+|
|Hard Red Wheat||30+|
Next, soft grains.
#5 Soft Grains
My favorite of grain for survival food is rolled oats because they are one of the few soft grains that will store for thirty years if repackaged, and they were the preferred food of the Scotch Highlander. Let’s look at the pros and cons of soft grains for survival food.
Soft grains such as rolled oats are proven survival food, and they are easy to make and ready to eat compared to some hard grains.
Soft grains have a shorter shelf-life than hard grains. Some exceptions, such as rolled oats, will store for 30 years, but most soft grains have a limited shelf life in long-term storage.
Soft grains aren’t as good as canned and dry packaged foods for short-term emergencies because they take cooking fuel and water. Other non-perishable ready-made foods are better for this purpose,
Chart #2 Soft Grains for Emergency Food
|Soft Grain Type||Shelf-life |
#6 Dried Beans (best emergency food supply)
Dried beans are a top-shelf survival food, when combined with white rice, you’ll get a complete protein, and they will store for 30 years. Most of my stored beans are white navy beans and black beans because I can get them at a low price locally.
Dry beans are a bedrock survival food, high in nutrition and protein. They provide a whole chain of amino acids when eaten with white rice.
Beans can be stewed with garden vegetables, meat, and other foraged foods and milled into flour that can be used as a thickener for soups and stews.
I can’t imagine an emergency stockpile of food that didn’t include beans.
Not ideal for short-term emergencies because of the preparation time and resources required to make ready-to-eat. Below is the list of the top 17 beans to store for emergencies and survival.
Chart #3 Best dried beans for emergency food
|Black Turtle Bean||30|
|Cranberry Beans (Roman Beans)||30|
Up next, sugar and salt.
#7 Sugar And Salt (best emergency food supply)
Salt and sugar act as food preservatives and flavor enhancers for other foods, and they are a must-have in any survival pantry. Let’s examine the pros and cons of sugar and salt.
The word salt stems from the Roman word for salary, salarium. Roman legions were paid in salt which was considered a priceless commodity known as white gold.NPR
Salt and sugar both act as food preservatives and flavor enhancers. Both are used to preserve fruits and vegetables when refrigeration is unavailable.
Both are pretty inexpensive to purchase in bulk, and they are outstanding barter items for post-SHTF.
Sugar is used for fermentation.
Salt is used for pickling and to preserve meat and vegetables.
Salt and sugar are easy to store in buckets with lids and have an indefinite shelf life.
The only cons I can think of is they take up room in storage, and some consider both to be unhealthy.
Looking for a comprehensive list of foods to stockpile for survival? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Shelf-stable food: 193 Edibles.
If you were a friend or family member, I would tell you to start stockpiling dry beans, long-grain white rice and rolled oats. Reading the Ready Squirrel article, “Mylar bags for food storage: beginners guide, ” and learn how to package these foods for long-term storage.”
Thanks for stopping by Ready Squirrel! Drop a comment below if you have any ideas or suggestions.
Keep on Prepping!
Best Regards, Scott