Non-Perishable Emergency Food: Grub With The Longest Shelf-life


Non-perishable foods(NPF) are the cornerstone of long-term emergency food storage. Most of the store a decade to infinity and beyond.

Among them are foods that have been tried and tested for thousands of years; they are the best foods you can stockpile because they last for decades and don’t require rotation. I have 100s of pounds of white rice, dry pinto beans, black beans, and hard-white wheat stored in my survival pantry. I hope this information helps you figure out how to set up your long-term food stockpile.

What are perishable foods?

Non-perishable foods for long-term emergency stockpiling are dry staple foods like dry beans stored for decades in oxygen-free containers and foods with an indefinite shelf-life such as honey and salt. These foods require fuel, water, and time to make edible and are the base ingredients for recipes.

What are the differences between non-perishable and shelf-stable foods?

Shelf-stable foods like canned soups and stews reliably store up to 5 years in a cool, dry pantry and are ready to eat off the shelf.  Non-perishables must be cooked and require water and fuel to prepare, which takes emergency planning and preparation.

Because shelf-stable foods are ready to eat, they are excellent for short-term emergencies.

The distinction between non-perishable and shelf-stable foods is probably only important when planning emergency and survival food storage because each is optimized for specific emergency scenarios.

Imagine an emergency scenario like a hurricane or tornado where water and electricity aren’t available. With (SSF) open a can or a granola bar and eat. It doesn’t matter if your stove or refrigerator work or if you have potable running water. You can still eat. The materials necessary to cook non-perishables like beans and rice for hours may not be available.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

With SSF, you have to rotate stock using First in, first-out (eating the oldest food first.) This is something to keep track of, and it is an inconvenience. Another issue my family has with SSF is that we don’t eat many canned foods, the bedrock, of short-term emergency food. So it’s hard to rotate before the “best buy” date comes up.

Ready to learn more about shelf-stable foods? Check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Shelf-stable Food: 193 Emergency Edibles”

Non-perishable dry staples are primarily for long-term stockpiling of emergency food and act as a safety net and cornerstone of emergency food preparedness. These are foods that will help you survive when you have nothing else to eat.

Another distinction between the two, some non-perishable foods require additional preparation. For example, whole grains need to be milled into flour to make baked goods.

Why Non-Perishable Foods Are the Best For Long-term Storage

Most NPF are relatively inexpensive, have a ten-year to indefinite shelf-life, and are easily repackaged into Mylar bags and food-grade buckets for long-term storage. Repackaging this way stops the oxidation of food, kills bugs, protects food from moisture, light oxidation, and extends storage life.

It is a straightforward process to store hundreds if not thousands of pounds of Non-perishable food inexpensively and in short order. Stock rotation isn’t as much of an issue with nonperishables because the shelf-life is so long. I have buckets of rice and beans that will probably outlive me.

Scott Ready Squirrel

To learn more about Shelf-stable food for short-term emergencies, check out the comprehensive Ready Squirrel article, “Shelf Stable Food: 193 Emergency Edibles.”

List of Non-Perishable Foods For Long-Term Storage

As I write this article, I’m taking the angle of a person interested in hoarding emergency food for long-term emergency food. This person might be concerned about job loss, family emergencies, economic or social collapse.

The trifecta staple foods: dry white rice, dry beans, and wheat are non-perishable for maximum shelf-life and survival. By just stockpiling these three foods along with an emergency garden and water storage, you won’t starve or die from dehydration.

Let’s take a look at NPF by type.

Dry Beans

Beans are a superstar food. When combined with white rice, they give a complete amino acid and act as an excellent source of nutrients and protein. Most legumes have a 30-year shelf life if stored properly. Store Bulk Beans Like a Rockstar

  1. Lentils
  2. Split Peas
  3. Lima
  4. Mung
  5. Pink
  6. Pinto
  7. Navy Beans
  8. Soy Beans

Ready to get started storing Survival Beans, learn how to store them for a thirty-year shelf-life read Ready Squirrel’s article, Store Bulk Beans Like a Rockstar

Dry Pasta

Dry pasta has a 30-year shelf-life when stored oxygen-free. You can do DIY packaging with Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers, or purchase #10 cans that are professionally packaged.

  1. Spaghetti
  2. Macaroni
  3. Egg noodles

Grains

Three grains that stick out as true staples are Hard White wheat berries (the mildest flavor), Oats, and White Rice. All three grains are proven staples with a 30-year shelf-life when stored properly, and they all provide foundational nutrition and calories.

You may consider storing all-purpose flour but be aware that it is limited to a 10-year shelf life when held Oxygen-free.

Whole Wheat flour can’t be stored long-term because lipids or fats go rancid quickly, usually within months.

Brown rice can not be stored long-term because of the lipids that will go rancid.

  1. Wheat Berries (hard white and hard red wheat)
  2. Ancient Grains: Spelt, Emmer,
  3. Par boiled rice
  4. Long grain white rice
  5. Buckwheat
  6. Flax
  7. Dent Corn
  8. Barley
  9. Millet
  10. Rye
  11. Oat Groats
  12. Rolled Oats
  13. Popcorn
  14. Quinoa

Fruit

Fruit will give you anti-oxidant and vitamins and add a little sweetness to an otherwise bland diet.

Instead of non-perishable fruit, consider planting fruit trees and do some home canning. If you don’t have much yard, use dwarf trees or plant multiple fruit trees in the same hole.

  1. Dehydrated Fruit
  2. Freeze-dried Pineapple
  3. Freeze-dried Blueberries
  4. Freeze-dried Strawberries
  5. Freeze-dried Peaches
  6. Apple slices
  7. Banana Chips
  8. Freeze-dried Fruit
  9. Tomato Powder

Vegetables

Non-perishable vegetables are essential to round out nutrition.

If you have the resources, consider starting an emergency garden and start canning your vegetables. For long-term survival, a garden is a must. If you don’t have a lot of room, consider container gardening and growing vegetables vertically.

  1. Dehydrated Vegetables
  2. Celery
  3. Carrots
  4. Chopped Onions
  5. Potato Flakes
  6. Freeze-dried vegetables

Flour

All-purpose, white bleached flour is the only wheat flour you can store oxygen-free in long-term storage, and you can get a 10-year shelf-life this way.

I see survival companies advertise all-purpose flour that will store for 30 years in a #10 can, but I wonder how viable it would be for making bread.

Consider storing whole wheat berries instead of flour because they are more valuable. Wheat berries can be milled as you need them for whole wheat flour, boiled like porridge, sprouted, or planted in the garden.

  1. All Purpose Flour
  2. Cornmeal

Dairy

The most popular non-perishable dairy item is powdered low-fat milk. It is primarily used as an ingredient but can also be reconstituted and consumed straight.

Many in the prepper community say that Nestle Nido powdered whole milk has a better flavor than the low-fat powdered stuff, but I haven’t tried it.

  1. Non-fat powdered milk
  2. Cheese Powder
  3. Butter Powder
  4. Nestle Nido Dry Whole Milk
  5. Evaporated Milk
  6. Pasteurized Nut Milks (non-dairy)
  7. Pasteurized Oat Milk

Eggs

Powdered eggs can be used for baking, and you can reconstitute them and eat them like scrambled eggs.

The ideal situation for every prepper is to raise hens that provide fresh eggs every day. Fresh eggs are an excellent source of protein and fat Fat is one of the hardest things to store in long-term food storage.

  1. Powdered eggs
  2. Powdered whole Eggs

Sweets

These sweets last indefinitely and have many uses. Sugar and honey are good in coffee and tea or mixed with hot herb tinctures from the garden.

Table sugar is probably the best sweetener to store for long-term storage because it’s super cheap and lasts forever. Sugar doesn’t require an oxygen-free container, but it needs to be protected from moisture or turns to stone. Use sugar as a preservative or to kick-start fermentation.

I like honey, but it is expensive. For pure honey to last indefinitely is must be free of impurities.

  1. Pure Honey
  2. White Table Sugar
  3. Pure Maple Syrup
  4. Corn Syrup

Freeze-dried Food

You can purchase or make freeze-dried ingredients for recipes or purchase whole meals. The foods are reconstituted with hot water, but they can also be added to soups and stews.

I love freeze-dried food, but I have very little of it because it’s expensive. I use the Mountain House meals in my bug-out kits because they are super lightweight and taste good.

Most freeze-dried food in their emergency stores purchases it from a professional survival food company in #10 cans or meal bags. What kind of freeze-dried foods can you get?

  1. Meat
  2. Vegetables
  3. Fruit
  4. Eggs and Dairy
  5. Drink Mixes
  6. Meals

What is freeze-dried food?

Freeze-died food is excellent as long-term survival food. You can purchase it as an ingredient or as a whole meal.

When I hiked the Appalachian trail, I survived on Mountain House meals. They are super lightweight and only require boiling water to make ready. One of the best uses for dehydrated food in an emergency scenario is as a bug-out bag food.

What is freeze-dried food?

Freeze-dried food is processed to remove 97% of its moisture, increasing shelf-life by 25 to 30 years while retaining 97% of its nutritional value. Freeze-dried food is used primarily for outdoor activities like hiking and emergency preparedness, and it is made ready to eat by adding hot water.

  1. Freeze dried meals
  2. Freeze dried ingredients

To learn more about freeze-dried foods, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “What is freeze-dried survival food?”

Meat: Protein

Non-perishable and shelf-stable meat is expensive compared to protein supplements like dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

Freeze-dried Meat

Professionally packaged freeze-dried meat has a 30-year shelf-life, and it’s pretty good in soups and stews, but I could store hundreds of pounds of beans for a fraction of what it would cost to buy freeze-dried meat.

Shelf-Stable Canned Meat (Keystone, Kirkland Brand)

Shelf-stable canned meat generally has the best buy date of five years, and it’s expensive too.

Best buy dates are not “safe to eat dates,” but most preppers use the best buy date for food rotation.

A can of meat will probably last well beyond the best buy date, but the quality, texture, and nutritional value will decline over time, as with all canned foods.

The problem with canned anything for “long-term storage” is not knowing when it will go wrong. According to the USDA, canned foods last indefinitely but will decline over time.

If cans are in good condition (no dents, swelling, or rust)  and have been stored in a cool, clean, dry place they are safe indefinitely.  High acid foods such as tomatoes and other fruit will keep their best quality up to 18 months; low acid foods such as meat and vegetables, 2 to 5 years.

How long can you keep canned goods?, USDA

If you want to learn more about canned meats as emergency food, check out the Ready Squirrel article, “Canned Meat: A Must-Have Survival Food.”

Condiments

Condiments may not seem important, but they spice things up and cut down on palet fatigue. Herbs and spices are also essential to keep emergency food from getting monotonous.

  1. Salt
  2. Soy Sauce
  3. Vinegar
  4. Vinegar Based Hot Sauces Like Tabasco

Foods That Last The Longest: Shelf-life

The longest-storing staple foods are hard grains like wheat berries and white rice, along with dried beans. Unless otherwise noted, these foods must be repackaged or purchased in oxygen-free containers for maximum shelf-life.

Chart #2 Hard Grain Shelf-life

Non-Perishable GrainsShelf Life
Long-grain White Rice30 years
Hard White Wheat Berries30 years
Hard Red Wheat Berries30 years
All-purpose Bleached Flour10 years
Triticale (Hybrid cross between wheat and rye)30 years
Durum Wheat30 years
Soft White Wheat30 years
Soft Red Wheat30 years
Buckwheat30 years
Dent Corn 30 years
Flax30 years
Millet30 years
Kamut30 years
Ancient Wheat: Spelt, Einkorn, Spelt, Khorasan30 years

Chart #3 Soft Grain Shelf-life

Soft Grain TypeShelf Life
Barley8 years
Pearled Oats8 years
Groats8 years
Quinoa8 years
Rolled Oats30 years
Quick Oats30 years

Chart #4 Dry Pasta Shelf-life

Pasta typeShelf-life
Dry Spaghetti30 years
Dry Macaroni 30 years
Egg Noodles 30 years

Chart #4 Dry Beans Shelf-life

Bean TypeShelf-life
Adzuki30 years
Black Beans30 years
Black Eyed Peas30 years
Turtle Beans30 years
Garbanzo Beans30 years
Great Northern Beans30 years
Kidney Beans30 years
Lentils30 years
Lima Beans30 years
Mung Beans30 years
Pink Beans30 years
Pinto Beans30 years
Small Red Beans30 years

Chart #5 Sweeteners Shelf-life

Sweetener TypeShelf-life
White Table Sugarindefinite (forever)
Pure Honeyindefinite
Real Maple Syrupindefinite

Chart #6 Dairy & Eggs Shelf-life

Dairy And Eggs Shelf-life
Milk (non-fat powdered)15 years
Butter Powder10 years
Whole Egg Powder10 years
Scrambled Egg Powder10 years

Chart #7 Freeze-dried Meat and Vegetables Shelf-life

Freeze-dried FoodShelf-life
Mountain House Backpacker Meals30 years
Black Bean Burger25 years
Cooked white chicken25 years
Cooked beef chunks25 years
Cook Hamburger30 years
Green Beans30 years
Broccoli30 years
Green Peas25 years
Cauliflower30 years
Sweet Corn30 years
Potato Dices30 years
Mushrooms30 years
Freeze-dried food shelf-life provided by EmergencyEssentials.com

#8 Freeze-dried Fruit Shelf-life

Freeze-dried FruitShelf-life
Blue Berries30 years
Berry Blend25 years
Raspberries25 years
Apple Slices25 years
Strawberries30 years
Peaches25 years
Freeze-dried food shelf-life provided by EmergencyEssentials.com

#9 Dehydrated Food Shelf-life

The shelf-life in this chart is for professionally dehydrated foods, not home freeze-dried.

Type of Dehydrated FoodShelf-life
Carrot chunks25 years
Tomato Powder25 years
Chopped Onions25 years
Banana Slices10 years
Freeze-dried food shelf-life provided by EmergencyEssentials.com

How to store non-perishable foods

  • Store non-perishable foods in a clean, cool, dry location 75° farenheit or less but above freezing
  • Package foods so they are protected from light, oxygen, moisture, bugs and rodents
  • Inspect food for signs of spoilage before use
  • If using shelf-stable canned foods in place of non-perishable foods rotate your stock
  • The best DIY Oxygen-free storage for staples less than 10% in moisture and low fat is a combination of Mylar Bags, Food-grade buckets and Oxygen-absorbers.

Learn about storing staple foods in Mylar bags and 5-gallon buckets. Check out the ready squirrel article, “Mylar Bags For Food Storage: Beginners Guide.”

Non-perishable Equipment List: Non Food Items

This is an essential list and doesn’t incorporate all of the planning and tools you need for long-term SHTF, but it’s enough to get you cooking and keep things clean.

  1. Covered Outdoor Kitchen Area
  2. Camping Stove
  3. Fire Grate
  4. Fuel: Propane, Natural Gas, Wood, Electricity
  5. Pots and Pans
  6. Hot pad or hot glove
  7. Lighter, Matches, Fire Starting Kit
  8. Cooking Utensils: ladle, spatula, Spoon, Fork, Knife
  9. Paper Towels
  10. Paper Plates
  11. Plastic Forks and Knives
  12. Contractor-grade trashbags
  13. Dish Soap
  14. Bucket or Basin for cleaning up
  15. Anti-bacterial soap (alcohol based-no water needed)
  16. Recipes for stored ingredients
  17. Grain mill
  18. Manual Can Opener

Non-perishable Food Storage for One Year: One Adult Portion

This list of non-perishable foods is meant to keep you alive when there is other food available. It’s a good starting point, but it will not provide all of the nutrients needed.

Food TypePounds To StoreFood Mix
Grains400 lbswheat, all-purpose flour, white rice, dent corn, oatmeal, dry pasta
Legumes60 lbsdry beans, split peas, lentils
Powdered Milk16 lbsNon-fat powdered milk, Nido
Cooking Oil10 quartsVegetable oil, olive oil,
Salt8 poundsTable Salt
Water365 Gallons (bare minimum)Potable Water
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Food Storage For One Year

For an in-depth look at storing food for long-term storage, check out the comprehensive Ready Squirrel article, “How Much Food To Stockpile Per Person.”

Oxygen free-storage

Dry staple foods containing less than 10% moisture and low in fat are stored Oxygen-free with Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers for a maximum shelf-life and to kill bugs.

There are a few exceptions to this, salt and sugar turn rock hard in oxygen-free storage but they need to be protected from moisture so Mylar bags are still a good idea. Mylar provides true oxygen, moisture, and light barrier as long as it is 5 mils or greater in thickness.

Foods above 10% in moisture or high in fats should not be stored in oxygen-free containers because there is a risk of Botulism food poisoning.

I’m a big fan of the Trifecta or combination of Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers for storing hundreds of pounds of staple foods like dry beans, white rice, pasta, rolled oats, and dried beans.

This method is hands down the best, “do it yourself method,” available.

To learn more about Oxygen-free storage, check out Ready Squirrel’s article, “Mylar Bags For Food Storage: Beginner’s Guide.”

Check out this video of Scott at Ready Squirrel storing wheat in Mylar and Food-grade bucket. The storage method is the same for all dry staples that are less than 10% in moisture and low in fat.

Sources

Storing Food For Safety and Quality, Sandra McCurdy, Oregon State University

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