Non-Perishable & Shelf-stable Food: The Backbone of Food Storage

I started building my long-term emergency food supply with non-perishable foods like white rice, dry black beans, and hard white wheat—ideal for building an emergency food supply for long-term emergencies like an economic downturn or job loss. And yes, natural disasters, catastrophes, and starving college students.

These foods are dry staples with a maximum shelf-life well beyond any other food, with few exceptions. Think white rice or wheat stored in a Mylar bag with an Oxygen absorber; you are looking at a 30-year shelf life.

Shelf-stable foods stored for emergencies consist mainly of canned foods. These foods don’t have decades of reliable shelf-life like the non-perishables, so they have to be rotated in food storage. You need them because they round out nutrition and reduce pallet fatigue.

This video shows me storing wheat, but this method is the same for all dry staples like dried beans and grains. To maximize shelf-life, dry goods have to be packaged this way. Beans, white rice, and wheat all have a 30+ shelf-life packaged this way. Store it in a cool, dry location and forget about it.

List: Non-Perishable and Shelf Stable Foods

Non-Perishables: Everlasting Food Storage

Non-perishable foods can be stored indefinitely and do not require refrigeration or freezing, even when opened. Store at moderate room temperature(s) below 75° F. Ideal storage temperatures for maximum shelf life is below 75° F but above freezing.

Storage Tip: If stored oxygen-free, dry staples do not need to be frozen to kill bugs, eggs, and pupae in preparation for long-term packaging. The oxygen-free environment created by Mylar and Oxygen absorbers kills bugs within 2 weeks.

For a more detailed discussion of freezing dry ingredients, check out the Ready Squirrel article,
Don’t Freeze Wheat Before Long Term Storage.”

Storage Tip: Avoid storing non-perishables in a hot garage or outbuildings that are not climate controlled, or the food will lose decades of shelf-life.

If you are interested in getting started with storing dry staples, below 10% moisture, click the Amazon affiliate link to the Packfresh USA kit of Mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. Purchasing on this link supports Ready Squirrel.

If you need food-grade buckets I suggest you purchase the cheap buckets and lids in the paint section at Walmart. If not you can purchase these buckets via Amazon Affiliate link to support Ready Squirrel.

Check out this Ready Squirrel video to learn how to store dry foods with Mylar, food-grade buckets, and Oxygen Absorbers

A video of Scott at Ready Squirrel storing wheat in Mylar bags with a food-grade bucket and Oxygen absorbers. This process is the same for all dry staples, with less than 10% in moisture such as dry beans, white rice, and hard wheat. Avoid storing food higher than 10% moisture in Oxygen-free storage as there is a risk of botulism food poisoning, rare but deadly.

Examples of non-perishable foods

Flour, white rice, rolled oats, dried beans, dried legumes, pasta, and hard grains are non-perishable. These foods don’t need refrigeration until they are cooked.

It amazes me how inexpensive these foods are. You can store hundreds of pounds of food for very little. When you start repackaging white rice, dry beans, and wheat in Mylar and buckets, you’ll find it addicting.

I didn’t think I had the hoarding personality until I started repackaging dry goods for survival. It is addictive, take that first step, and you’ll be on autopilot.

Non Perishable staples are not the best choice for short-term emergencies or situations where time and resources are limited.

Take beans or white rice as an example, you need fuel, water, and time to prepare them, and it is harder to stay hidden if you are sitting in front of a fire or camp stove for an extended period.

The takeaway is that non-perishable foods are hands down the best food to build the framework for your survival or emergency food supply. Support staple foods with shorter-lived shelf-stable foods like canned meat, fruits, vegetables, packaged foods, condiments, and oils to round out nutrition and reduce pallet fatigue.

Check out the comprehensive Ready Squirrel article “How Much Food To Stockpile Per Person” for a comprehensive list of foods stored for a year. This article goes in-depth and will help you start your long-term storage today.

25 Non-perishable snacks: shelf-stable

Most of these snacks will last months, not years. Try not to confuse foods you are storing for short-term emergencies with non-perishable staples. I’m at that stage in my food storage, where I focus mainly on non-perishables. Storing shelf-stable foods is something I need to do more of. For me, it isn’t as rewarding, but it is necessary.

These foods are outstanding for creating a food catch for short-term emergencies but should be rotated.

  1. Peanuts
  2. Cashews
  3. Mixed Nuts
  4. Ritz and Saltine Crackers
  5. Canned Cheese & Cheese Dip
  6. Canned Bean Dip
  7. Canned Salsas
  8. Salted/shelled sunflower seeds
  9. Corn Nuts
  10. Nut Butters
  11. Bags of Pre-Cooked Popcorn (Plain, caramel, or whatever dry spice you choose)-probably only last a week.
  12. Protein Bars
  13. Granola Bars
  14. Freeze-dried fruits: strawberries, apples, apricots, banana slices, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries
  15. Dehydrated fruits-strawberries, apples, apricots, banana slices, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries
  16. Energy Bars
  17. Sweet Tooth Bars: Little Debbie Snack Cakes, Moon pies, Oatmeal creme pies, Hostess Ding-dongs
  18. Cookies (There are healthy cookies like Lenny and Larry’s, I like the double chocolate)
  19. Survival Bars
  20. Vacuum-packed tuna and salmon
  21. Chips, pretzels, and other snack-like junk food
  22. Unopened dried/sugared fruits like raisins, dates, and mango
  23. Beef Jerky
  24. Trail Mixes
  25. Meals Ready to Eat (Not really a snack but has snacks that don’t need to be heated)

For more Information on stockpiling food for emergencies, check out the excellent Ready Squirrel article, “Food For a Natural Disaster.”

24 Non-Perishable Proteins

Non Perishable proteins include dry beans, freeze-dried meats, and hard and soft grains high in protein. Included in this list are shelf-stable meats, soups, and stews. There are also shelf-stable foods with a shorter shelf-life that you will want to rotate to keep a healthy supply on hand.

Keep in mind that some of these foods hit two birds with one stone. For instance, oats are high in carbohydrates but also offer protein.

Ok, let’s get to the list of proteins.

  1. Dried Beans
  2. Dry Grains
    1. Hard-High-Gluten Wheat Berries (husked dried wheat-30 year shelf life in oxygen-free storage)
    2. Quinoa
    3. Rolled Oats (30-year shelf life in oxygen-free storage)
  3. Pulses (dried lentils, 30-year shelf life in oxygen-free storage)
  4. Canned Beans
  5. Canned stews and soups with meat and or beans
  6. Nuts (limited shelf-life due to high-fat content)
  7. Peanut Butter (limited shelf-life)
  8. Peanut Butter Powder
  9. Canned Meat
  10. Meat in retort pouches (tuna & salmon)
  11. Freeze-dried Ground Beef (if you can swing the cost get an Harvest Right home freeze-dryer and do bulk meats at home. Meat protein and fat are the hardest to store and obtain in a long-term emergency.
  12. Freeze-dried steak
  13. Freeze-dried chicken
  14. Protein Powders: Whey, Egg White, Replacement Shakes (just add water for a shot of healthy protein)
  15. Dried Eggs
  16. Whole Egg Powder
  17. Sprouting Seed Mixes (wheat, dry beans, lentils, broccoli, alfalfa, quinoa, soybean, pea sprouts)
  18. Non-fat Dried Milk (non-fat will last 15 to 20 years O2-free, fat milk has a short shelf life due to fats)
  19. Canned Milk
  20. High-protein Bars
  21. Whole Wheat Pasta
  22. Rolled Oats (often over looked, outstanding carb and protein load, Scotch Highlanders had a diet of oats, fatty milks, butter and meat when they couuld get it. (Highlande warriors were feared for their strength and stamina.)
  23. Hard Red Wheat Berries (Of the common wheats, red tends to be the highest in protein. Tastes a gamey compared to hard white wheat
  24. Couscous

Shelf-Stable Foods

Shelf-stable foods are ready-to-eat foods stored at room temperature in a pantry and do not require refrigeration or freezing unless opened.

The ideal storage area is cool and dry, with temps at 75° F or below but above freezing. Rotate with FIFO or first in, first out where oldest foods are eaten first.

Examples Of Shelf Stable Foods

Canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned meat, canned beans, canned stews, canned chili, canned spaghetti, MREs, and Vacuum Pouches (retort pouch)

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), shelf-stable food can be free of food-borne illness indefinitely, but the taste, texture, and nutritional value will decline over time.

Shelf-stable foods also allow for the storage of various foods and nutrition that non-perishable foods don’t, such as meat, fat, fruits, and vegetables for the off-season.

Storing emergency food balances maximizing shelf life, nutrition, calories, and foods that fit the situation.

In emergency planning…each family [should] keep on hand a supply
of non-perishable and shelf-stable food items that can be consumed regardless
of the power or water supplies.

Alabama Public Health
Check out the video of Steve at MRE1989 eating a British Army ration from 1899.

Perishable Foods

Unless you live in the arctic, the downside of perishable foods is that they require electricity to keep them from spoiling. On top of that, they have a shelf-life of days or weeks. The best example of perishable foods used for emergencies is the seasonal produce picked from a survival garden.

Perishable foods are those likely to spoil, decay, or become unsafe to consume if not kept refrigerated at 40 °F or below or frozen at 0 °F or below. Examples of perishable foods that must be kept refrigerated for safety include meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and cooked leftovers. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth

United States Department of Agriculture

You have two choices when using perishable foods for long-term storage, emergency or survival food.

One: Make Perishable Foods Shelf-stable

Preserve perishables and make them shelf-stable, for a longer shelf-life, with packaging and treatment (canning, freeze-drying, or dehydrating)

Two: Harvest and Eat Perishables From The Garden

Produce and use perishables as available and keep them in short-term storage, i.e., gardening and/or raising chickens that produce eggs and meat.

This type of emergency food requires survival planning beyond food storage. Yeah, a little obvious, but you won’t be gardening or raising animals in SHTF unless you have the tools and skills.

When planning your short or long-term food storage, replace, if possible, perishable foods with non-perishables and shelf-stable foods.

26 Shelf-stable Canned Meats

I’ve got to admit it, I’m not a huge fan of canned meats, but most of us don’t have much of a choice when storing food for survival. Your other options are to go meatless or raise livestock and learn how to can, smoke, freeze-dry, or cure your own meats.

It’s arguable, but I can’t imagine eating just veg and grains. I’m an omnivore, loving fresh salads and a juicy steak equally. Here is the list of shelf-stable canned meats. Yum.

  1. Spam
  2. Canned Chicken
  3. Canned Beef
  4. Canned Tuna
  5. Canned Salmon
  6. Vienna Sausages
  7. Canned Ham
  8. Corned Beef Hash
  9. Dinty Moore Stew
  10. Sardines
  11. Shrimp
  12. Oysters
  13. Anchovies
  14. Kippered Herring
  15. Crab Meat
  16. Canned Mackerel
  17. Deviled Ham
  18. Pate
  19. Potted Meat
  20. Summer Sausage
  21. Canned Meat Tamales
  22. Meat Chili
  23. Keystone Meats
  24. Costco Meats
  25. Freeze-dried meats
  26. Freeze-dried meals (Mountain House)

Shelf Stable Fruit

Shelf-stable fruit can be canned at home or bought Shelf-stable. It can also be freeze-dried, dehydrated, or preserved with sugar and/or alcohol.

An alternative is to start a survival garden that includes fruiting trees and bushes. Early colonists planted an orchard before building the house because they depended on ciders as a clean water source and nutrition.

Shelf Stable Fruit List

  1. Apricots
  2. Peaches
  3. Mandarin Oranges
  4. Mangos
  5. Pears
  6. Pineapple
  7. Cherries
  8. Mixed or Medley
  9. Grapefruit
  10. Apple and other fruit sauces
  11. Blueberries
  12. Pie Filling
  13. Strawberries

Storage Tip: Freeze-dried fruit has the longest shelf life of nonperishable fruit, 10 to 15 years, but it’s also the most expensive way to store it.

If you are lucky enough to have a fruit orchard in your yard, canning is probably the best DIY method unless you have a home freeze-dry unit like a Harvest Right. Another great way to preserve fruit is with alcohol.

The one prepper tool I want that I don’t have is a freeze-dryer. I imagine purchasing big lots of pork chops and hamburgers on sale and freeze-drying them for 30-year shelf life. Someday.

Preserving fruit with alcohol and sugar is how ancient mariners preserved fruit for long ocean voyages. If this sounds interesting, check out the Ready Squirrel Article, “Can you preserve fruit with alcohol?

Shelf-stable Survival and Granola Bars

Protein, fruit bars, and trail mix are excellent sources of instant energy, especially in situations where you are on the move (bugging-out) and don’t have the time or resources to stop and make camp. This type of food isn’t very satisfying. When planning a bug-out bag, plan for one hardy meal per day, so you have something to look forward to.

When I hiked the Vermont leg of the Appalachian trail it took 10 days hiking 10 to 18 miles per day. This trip was similiar to bugging out on foot. During the day I would eat granola, nuts, trail mix and pound a lot of water. At night I would walk into camp completely drained. It was a major undertaking to just set up my tent. One shining star was the nightly Mountain House freeze-dried meal. It was easy to prepare, filling, tasty and very satisfying. Excellent for morale.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

Shelf Stable Food List: Granola, Protein and Survival Bars

  1. SOS Survival Bars
  2. Granola
  3. Trail Mix
  4. Datrex Emergency Ration Bars
  5. Battles Bars (Mother of all bars)
  6. Nature’s Valley Granola Bars
  7. Kashi Bars
  8. Kind Granola
  9. Pure protein bars
  10. Cliff Bars
  11. Quest Protein Bars
  12. Jacked Factory
  13. Kind Bars
  14. Power Bars
  15. Level-1
  16. TB12
  17. HealthWise
  18. Nutri Grain Fruit Bars

Shelf Stable Juices & Drinks

Most powdered and bottled drinks aren’t especially good for you, but they help ensure you stay hydrated. They are a nice break from drinking water without any flavor and are good for morale.

For long-term storage, you’ll want to store powdered mixes. For short-term emergencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agencies 72 Emergency kit, you can store canned or bottled juices because they are ready to drink.

If you go with canned or bottled juice, you’ll want to rotate them to make sure they stay as fresh as possible.

When choosing a drink mix, include the amount of sugar and water you’ll need for preparation.

20 Shelf-stable & Non Perishable Drinks

  1. Canned Orange
  2. Canned Cranberry
  3. Hawaiian Sun Tropical
  4. Tang Powdered Juice Mix
  5. Country Time Lemonade (Powdered)
  6. Bottled and Powdered Gatorade
  7. Crystal Light Powder
  8. Kool-Aid Powder
  9. Ovaltine
  10. Hershey’s Chocolate Powder
  11. Cocoa Powder
  12. Malted Milk
  13. Low-fat Milk
  14. Milo Malted Beverage
  15. Freeze-dried Coffee
  16. Tea Bags
  17. Yerba Mate
  18. Green Tea
  19. Soda
  20. Protein powders and power drinks

High Energy Food: Shelf Stable & No Cook

The foods listed below are shelf-stable and ready to eat. They require little time and no preparation or resources like cooking fuel.

High Energy food(s) good for short-term emergencies

  1. Peanut Butter
  2. Nuts and nut mixes
  3. Nutrition fortified protein, granola, and fruit bars
  4. Honey
  5. Survival Food Bars (SOS)
  6. Coffee
  7. High Sugar Foods like candy bars, chocolate candies, and suckers
  8. Dark Chocolate

Shelf-Stable Pre-packaged Dry Meals and Side Dishes

When hiking, I like using high-carb pre-packaged dry foods like Knorr pasta sides, instant macaroni and cheese, and Ramen soup packets because they are simple to make by boiling water with a backpacker’s style camp stove or over a campfire. They also make a great addition to short-term emergency food storage.

  • Ramen Soup Packets
  • Cup-a-noodle
  • Knorr Pasta Side Dishes
  • Instant Macaroni and cheese
  • Freeze-dried backpacker meals
    • Mountain house
    • Backpacker’s Pantry
  • Couscous
  • Instant rice meals and dishes (Uncle Ben’s Red Beans and Rice)
  • Instant Rice-A-Roni and Pasta Roni
  • Homemade dehydrated meals
  • Instant rice of all types
  • Tuna and Salmon in Retort Pouches

Non-Perishable Meals

Like me, you like to cook with ingredients, but there are situations where having something you can eat out of a can or boil water for will fit the bill. Imagine using a chain saw all day to cut up trees in your yard and then having to cook a meal from scratch on your gas grill. NO thanks, Instead boil water on a backpacker stove or heat a can.

  • Meals Ready To Eat (MRE), military ration in retort pouches, there are civilian versions (My Patriot Supply, 4 Patriots, BePrepared)
  • Freeze-dried Backpacker Meals (Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry)
  • Chef Boyardee Beefaroni-Ready to Eat
  • Hormel type chili-Ready to eat
  • Dinty Moore type stews-Ready to eat
  • Canned Soups-Ready to eat
  • Professionally packaged survival kits (My Patriot Supply, 4 Patriots, Valley Food Storage, Mountain House, Readywise, Augoson Farms)

Sources, How to build an emergency kit