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27 Foods with a Long Shelf-life to Store for Emergencies

Cheap emergency food with the longest shelf-life is ideal for long-term storage. When picking backbone foods, I look for two characteristics, the longest shelf-life without refrigeration and tried and tested famine food. The following 27 foods tick both boxes.

27 foods with a long shelf-life

These are the foods of pioneers, ancient civilizations, and soldiers on the march, proven to fight famine.

Staple foods like white rice and dried beans don’t require refrigeration and are readily available.

Some of these foods are a little more challenging to find locally, so order them online or choose an alternate staple.

Read the Ready Squirrel article “Cheap Emergency Food Stockpile.”

#1 White Rice

The most popular carbohydrate in the world. When eaten with dry beans, white rice provides a whole protein.

What can you make with white rice?

Use rice as a bed for meat and vegetables or mixed with butter, cheese, beans, or nuts. Also, eat rice as a breakfast porridge and mix it with peanut butter, fruit preserves, Honey, butter, and spices like cinnamon.

I eat white rice three times weekly and sprinkle on soy sauce or Tabasco.


Rice will store for 30 years in Oxygen-free storage

Rice pantry Shelf-life is five years

#2 Dried Macaroni

Dried macaroni is an excellent way to store wheat in long-term storage. Cook rice as a base for sauces, meats, and garden produce. Also, Eat macaroni cold or hot.

Macaroni Shelf-life

Oxygen-free Storage: 20 to 30 years*

Shelf-life Pantry: 2 years

#3 Dried Spaghetti

Dried spaghetti is harder to store than macaroni because it’s so long and awkward. Break it up to make it denser for oxygen-free storage, or use macaroni instead.

Spaghetti Shelf-life

In Oxygen-free Storage: 20 to 30 years*

Shelf-life Pantry: 2 years

#4 Dry Beans

This is another food that goes back thousands of years for a good reason. Dry beans are dense in nutrition and protein. Because beans come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, they are a good way to build a little variety into your long-term food storage.

Beans are a complementary protein with grains like rice and wheat for a whole protein. What can you make with dry beans? Stew beans, add them to soups or salads, mash them into sauces and dips, or mill them for flour.

In Japan, red beans make sweet bean paste called “Anko,” used in pastries. Anko is a mixture of table sugar and mashed red beans. It sounds a little weird, but I learned to love sweet beans when stationed in Japan.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 20 to 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 1 to 2 years

Learn how to store emergency beans like a Pro. Check out the Ready Squirrel article, Store Bulk Beans Like A Rockstar

#5 Lentils

Lentils are legumes (beans), but they cook much quicker. An excellent base for produce from the survival garden. My family eats many lentils because they have a delicious nutty flavor and are easy to cook. Use lentils in soups, stews, and dips. Also, add lentils to cooked pasta for protein and iron in your emergency diet.

Legumes like lentils go back to ancient Greece, almost 13,000 years ago. Greeks cooked and ate lentils as porridge, soup, or stew with bread. In modern times many Canadians survived the Great Depression of the 1930s by eating lentils.

Shelf-life in Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Shelf-life Pantry: 2 to 3 years

#6 Split Peas

Don’t confuse split peas with lentils. they are different. Split peas are peas grown for drying and storage. And you are missing out if you’ve never had split pea soup made with a ham hock and heavy cream.

What can you make with split peas? Bean dip, “split pea soup,” meat and bean stews, soups, and cold salads. Stew split peas with spices and pour over pasta or white rice. Stew and eat with leavened or unleavened bread.

In India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, split peas are comfort food used to make a dish called Dal. Dal is a blank slate dish for spices like cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, hot peppers, and clarified butter. Dal is eaten on a bed of white rice, often with meat.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 25 to 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 2 to 3 years

#7 Corn Meal

Cornmeal is ground dent corn.

What can I do with Cornmeal? Make cornbread, muffins, cookies, and thickener for soups, stews, and chilis. Use as a breading for deep-fried foods like fish, hushpuppies, stuffings, unleavened bread, or cornmeal mush for breakfast.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 10+ years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 1 year

Ready to learn more about Non-perishable foods? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Non-perishable Emergency Food: Grub With The Longest Shelf-life.”

#8 Dried Dent Corn

Dent corn is field corn you eat like grain so mill it into Cornmeal or masa flour for tortillas. Don’t confuse it with Iowa sweet corn boiled and slathered with butter. It is different.

If you’ve ever eaten a Dorito, Cheeto, or a hard taco shell, you’ve eaten dent corn.

If you have a heavy-duty mill that will handle it, storing whole dried dent corn is better for emergency food than Cornmeal because you get a longer shelf-life—10 years vs. 30 years.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 1 year

Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Cheap Long Term Emergency Food Supply: Epic Dry Staples.”

#9 Hard Wheat

Hard red and white wheat have the most protein, also called gluten. They are the preferred wheat type for leavened bread. Use hard wheat in unleavened bread, but know that the crust will not be as tender as soft wheat.

White wheat has the mildest flavor though it has less gluten than red wheat.

Store wheat with the husk removed; removing wheat husks removes oils that cause rancidity and reduce shelf-life.

Wheat is a top 4 staple because it is so flexible. Mill it into flour for bread, pastries, and pasta, cook it whole as a porridge-like mush or sprout it for greens.

Roman legions relied on emmer and spelt wheat as a major portion of their diet on the march. Roman soldiers called Spelt “the marching grain.” Soldiers ate the grain boiled or milled into flour for leavened and unleavened bread.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life 2 to 3 years

Interested in Stockpiling on the cheap? Check out the Ready Squirrel article “Cheap Emergency Food: Stockpiling on a Budget.”

#10 Soft Wheat

Soft red and white wheat have the least protein and are the preferred wheat types for pastries and unleavened bread.

All-purpose flour combines hard and soft wheat, giving the best of both worlds a good rise on bread and a tender, chewy crust.

Shelf-life in Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Shelf-life store packaging: 2 to 3 years

#11 Amaranth

Amaranth is an ancient seed still used in Mexico and Central America.

Similar to quinoa, it has saponins that cause a somewhat bitter flavor.

Cook and eat as a porridge. Pop it like popcorn or mill it into flour.

Start storing a year’s food supply. Read the Ready Squirrel article, How Much Food For A Year: Proven Dry Staples.

Amaranth is a good food to grow in the survival garden. I grew Amaranth in my garden, and it grew like a weed.

Amaranth is a seed (pseudo-grain) that provides a complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids.


In Oxygen-free Storage: Unknown*

Pantry Shelf-life: 4 months

#12 Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a seed used as a grain containing carbohydrates and protein.

As with other pseudo-grains, use buckwheat cooked whole and eaten as a staple. Also, use buckwheat in soups, stews, and hot or cold salads, or sweeten it with Honey or fruit preserves and eaten for breakfast.

Use Buckwheat like an Eastern European to make buckwheat pancakes and unleavened bread.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 25 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 2 Months

#13 Sugar

Sugar doesn’t have the best reputation, but as a survival food, it is an important energy source.

Table sugar has an indefinite shelf-life, meaning it lasts forever. Sugar is a food that doesn’t oxidize, so you don’t need oxygen absorbers. Keep bugs and moisture out of sugar by storing it in sealed Mylar bags and storing the bags in a food-grade bucket or a lidded plastic container for protection against physical damage.

Use table sugar to sweeten everything from black coffee to baked goods. Also, use it as a preservative and kickstart fermentation.

The human brain requires 130 grams of sugar per day, which can come from glucose from table sugar or fruits, vegetables, or Honey.


Indefinite shelf-life in an airtight container*

Pantry Shelf-life: Keep bugs and moisture out, and sugar doesn’t go rancid.

#14 Honey

Honey isn’t cheap if you purchase it at the store, but it is much less expensive if sourced locally. When saving on the emergency food bill, sugar is the better option.

What can you do with Honey? Use it as a sweetener in baked goods, coffee, and tea. Also, add Honey to sauces, and salad dressings, spread it on baked bread, or drop some in boiled grains like oats or wheat.

Use Honey to make Mead, an alcohol-based wine.

Honey [has] an indefinite shelf life due to [it’s] resistance to microbial growth, including molds.

Brian Nummer, Food Safety Specialist, Utah State University Extension


Pure Honey has an indefinite shelf life as long as there are no additives or impurities. It may crystalize over time, but it is still edible.

#15 Table Salt

Talk about foods with a long shelf life. Salt doesn’t ever go bad. Salt was once used in place of money because it was so valuable in food preservation. During a long-term event like societal collapse, salt will be valuable again.

What can you do with salt? Salt is a spice to flavor food, a preservative, and a cleaning agent; you need it to survive.

The Egyptians were the first to realize the preservation characteristics of salt. Sodium draws moisture out of food, making it difficult for bacteria to survive—salt treatment allows for the preservation of meat without refrigeration.


Store salt in an airtight container for an Indefinite shelf-life

#16 Baking Soda

Baking Soda acts as a leavening agent when added to a baked good with an acid such as lemon juice or vinegar, producing carbon dioxide bubbles and causing pastries to rise.

What can you make with Baking Soda? cookies, Irish soda bread,

Baking soda’s long-term shelf-life is indefinite (forever) if sealed in a five-mil or thicker Mylar bag. Oxygen absorbers are not necessary.


Pantry Shelf-life: 18 months

(If not stored in a container that provides a moisture/oxygen barrier, baking soda will soak up the flavors and odors around it.)

#17 Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are an underestimated food among foods with long shelf life. This is probably because soft grains, such as hard grains like wheat berries and rice, don’t typically have a long shelf-life. Oat is an exception among soft grains because they will store for up to thirty years if adequately packaged. Also, they are highly nutritious, containing fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

What can I make with oats?

Cook Oats whole, eat them as porridge and mix them in fresh fruit, fruit preserves, peanut butter, meat, or dairy products. In addition, add oats to baked goods like bread, scones, and cookies.

At one point in history, oats were the staple food of Scotch-highland warriors, known for their strength and stamina. Highlanders mixed oats with water or made them into a bannock flatbread.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 2 to 3 years

#18 Steel Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats are whole oats cut into pieces and are thought to be superior to rolled oats in flavor but take longer to cook.

Steel-cut Oats Shelf-life in Oxygen-free Storage: 25 to 30 years*


Pantry Shelf-life:: 2 years

#19 Barley

Barley is a grain. Use it in everything from vegetable soup to beer brewing. Also, Barley is high in protein and carbohydrates and offers healthy fats.

What can I do with Barley? Make risotto-type dishes, add to soups and stews, use hot and cold salads, cook like oatmeal and add Honey, butter, fruit preserves, and spices like cinnamon and brown sugar.

Barley was a staple crop in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Archeological evidence also suggests the Vikings and the Chinese ate barley.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 8 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 18 to 24 months

#20 Quinoa

Beware, quinoa has saponins that give it a somewhat bitter taste but are highly nutritious. You either love Quinoa or hate it. I’m not a fan.

As a side note, I accidentally purchased a 50lb bag of Quinoa at Costco Wholesale, and nobody in the family will eat it.

What can I make with Quinoa?

Make quinoa salad, hot or cold, eat as a breakfast porridge, use as a meat substitute, add to stir-fried vegetables, or add to soups or stews.

Quinoa is a superfood because it contains protein and many amino acids. Mix Quinoa with wheat at a ratio of 25% to 75% wheat for bread that provides a complete protein. USA Emergency Supply


In Oxygen-free Storage: 8 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 2 years

#21 Couscous

Couscous is tiny beads of durum wheat. Think of it like pasta, and you are good to go. My favorite way to eat couscous is with chicken broth sprinkled with pine nuts.

What can I make with couscous? Couscous is simple but delicious. Add nuts, fruit, spices, and olives, eat it cooked by itself, and add meat stock or bouillon cube to the cooking.

Couscous comes from North Africa, specifically Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, and is traditionally eaten as a base for stewed meats and vegetables.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 6 months

#22 Sorghum

Sorghum is a high-protein grain popular in China and as an animal feed.

What can I make with Sorghum? Grind Sorghum into flour because it is “the most wheat-like” nongluten flour. Use it to make bread or eat it like porridge or oatmeal with butter, fruit preserves, Honey, and peanut butter.


In oxygen-free Storage: Unknown*

Pantry Shelf-life: 4 months

#23 Triticale

Triticale is a cross between wheat and Rye that gives a high crop yield.

What can I make with Triticale? Use as a rice replacement. Boil in water or broth and eat whole or add to hot and cold salads. Mill into flour and used to make bread and other baked goods or used for malting and brewing.


In oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 2 to 3 years

#24 White all-purpose flour

White flour is available almost anywhere in the United States and is fairly inexpensive. If you are shooting for maximum shelf-life, store wheat berries instead and mill wheat as needed.

What can I make with flour?

Bread, pastries, meat pot pies, thickening agent for soups and stews

Whole wheat flour goes rancid quickly and isn’t worth storing as survival food. In oxygen-free or pantry storage, whole wheat lasts days, not weeks, because of the oils present. If you want post-apocalyptic whole wheat flour, store grain, not flour.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 10 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 4 to 8 months

#25 Millet

You might know it as bird food, but millet is a popular eating grain in India and Africa.

What can you make with millet? Mill it into flour, make bread, brew beer, or cook it and eat it like porridge. Toast it add water or stock, and throw in herbs like parsley or coriander.

In India, millet is like rice or like wheat. Eat it cooked whole, in other dishes, or ground into flour to make bread.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 30 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 2 months

#26 Popcorn

Popcorn was a popular food in Canada and the United States during the great depression because it was relatively inexpensive and filling.

Grow popcorn because it is easy to grow—something to consider if you don’t have a lot of room and want to grow grain. I’m thinking of the three sisters-popcorn, squash, and beans.

What can I do with popcorn: Pop it or mill it into Cornmeal to make tortillas and cornbread.

Popcorn is similar to the flint corn of the colonists and Native Americans during the 18th century. Boil it or grind it into coarse Cornmeal.


In oxygen-free storage: 15 to 20 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 12 months

#27 Rye

Rye is a popular grain in Germany and Europe, like Poland, Germany, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

What can I make with Rye? Mill it into flour to bake bread, and use it in the brewing or distilling process.


In Oxygen-free Storage: 8 years*

Pantry Shelf-life: 6 months


A Guide To Food Storage For Emergencies, Brian Nummer, Food Specialist, Utah State University PDF

*Shelf life when unopened and stored in a cool, dry location. Keep away from heat sources and sunlight at temperatures between 55° and 70° Fahrenheit. Oxygen-free foods should contain less than 10% moisture content and be low in fat to avoid botulism and food poisoning.

Thank you for visiting Ready Squirrel. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below.

Keep on prepping!

Best Regards, Scott

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