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The best non-perishable emergency food

Non-perishable foods (NPF) are the cornerstone of long-term emergency food storage. If properly packaged, these foods will still be good to eat after decades of storage and they don’t need refrigeration. So, what are NPFs?

What are non-perishable foods?

Non-perishable foods are dry staples like dry beans, white rice, wheat, and rolled oats that can be stored for decades and don’t require refrigeration. Conversely, non-perishables do require preparation in the form of fuel, water, and time and are typically used in recipes made from scratch.

Shelf-stable vs. Non-perishable Emergency Food

The distinction between shelf-stable foods and shelf-stable foods is probably only important when planning emergency and survival food storage because each is optimized for specific emergency scenarios. Let’s take a look at both types of food.

Shelf-stable foods

Shelf-stable foods include canned soups, stews, fruits, vegetables, and meats. They reliably store for 2 to 5 years in a cool, dry pantry and are ready to eat off the shelf. Unfortunately, shelf-stable foods have to be rotated into your regular meal plan to ensure a fresh supply. 

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

Non-perishable foods

Non-perishable foods like white rice, dried beans, and wheat will store for up to 30 years in oxygen-free storage but must be cooked. Also, NPFs require water and fuel, which takes emergency planning and preparation which is why they aren’t ideal for short-term emergencies.

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 famine foods.

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

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

Most NPF are 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 stops food oxidation, kills bugs, protects food from moisture and 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.”

Up next is the list of “best” non-perishable foods.

13 Best Non-Perishable Emergency Foods

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

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

Scott, Ready Squirrel

Let’s take a look at the list of the 13 best non-perishable emergency foods.

#1 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? To learn how to store them for a thirty-year shelf-life, read Ready Squirrel’s article, Store Bulk Beans Like a Rockstar

Up next, dry pasta.

#2 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 professionally packaged cans.

  1. Spaghetti
  2. Macaroni
  3. Egg noodles

Let’s examine one of the best non-perishable emergency foods.

#3 Grains

Three grains stick out as true staples: 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 packaged Oxygen-free. Ok, lets take a look at the list.

14 Non-perishable grains

  1. Wheat Berries (hard white and hard red wheat)
  2. Ancient Grains: Spelt, Emmer,
  3. Parboiled 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

Let’s take a look at the best non-perishable fruits.

#4 Fruit

Fruit provides anti-oxidants and vitamins and adds sweetness to an otherwise bland diet.

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

Scott, Ready Squirrel

9 non-perishable fruits

  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

Up next, vegetables.

#5 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.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

6 non-perishable vegetables

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

Next we examine flour.

#6 Flour

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

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.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

List of non-perishable flour

  1. All Purpose Flour
  2. Cornmeal

How Long Will Food Last in a Bucket?

Up next, is non-perishable dairy.

#7 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 Nestle Nido powdered whole milk has a better flavor than the low-fat powdered stuff, but I haven’t tried it.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

7 non-perishable dairy foods

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

Up next, eggs.

#8 Powdered 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 raising hens that provide fresh eggs daily. Fresh eggs are an excellent source of protein and fat Fat is one of the hardest things to store in long-term food storage.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

List of non-perishable egg products

  1. Powdered eggs
  2. Powdered whole Eggs

Next, we examine sweets.

#9 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.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

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

4 non-perishable sweeteners

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

Next up, freeze-dried food.

#10 Freeze-dried food

Purchase or make freeze-dried ingredients for recipes or purchase whole meals. Freeze-dried 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 lightweight and taste good.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

6 non-perishable freeze-dried foods

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

What is freeze-dried food?

Freeze-dried food is processed to remove 97% of 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.

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

Scott, Ready Squirrel

2 non-perishable freeze-dried foods

  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?”

Up next, meat.

#11 Meat: Protein

Non-perishable and shelf-stable meat is expensive compared to protein supplements like dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas but it’s worth having if you can afford it.

#1 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.

#2 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

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

Up next, often overlooked condiments.

#12 Condiments

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

7 non-perishable condiments

  1. Salt
  2. Sugar
  3. Honey
  4. Maple Syrup
  5. Soy Sauce
  6. Vinegar
  7. Vinegar Based Hot Sauces Like Tabasco

Next, let’s examine the non-perishable foods that last the longest.

#13 Non-Perishable food that lasts the longest

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

Chart #1 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 #2 Soft Grain Shelf-life

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

Chart #3 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

Chart #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

Chart #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

Up next, how to store non-perishable foods

How to store non-perishable foods

Below is a simplified version of how to store non-perishable food for maximum shelf life. Lets take a look.

  1. Store non-perishable foods in a clean, cool, dry location at 75° Fahrenheit or less but above freezing
  2. Package foods so they are protected from light, oxygen, moisture, bugs, and rodents
  3. Inspect food for signs of spoilage before use
  4. If using shelf-stable canned foods in place of non-perishable foods rotate your stock
  5. 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.”

Next, let’s examine how much nonperishable food you need for one person.

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

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

Best method of packaging non-perishable food

The best method for storing non-perishable food like dry staple foods containing less than 10% moisture and low in fat is Oxygen-free with Mylar bags, food-grade buckets, and oxygen absorbers for a maximum shelf-life and to kill bugs.

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


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

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