Shelf Stable Food: 193 Emergency Edibles


When I think of shelf-stable foods for emergencies like natural or man-made disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, or forest fires, the first thing that comes to mind is hearty canned food like soups, stews, fruits, vegetables, and meats.

Shelf-stable food also includes any other edible that can sit in the pantry without refrigeration, ready to eat, no cooking or water necessary.

Most of us have shelf-stable foods already in our pantry. If not, it’s a good idea to have at least the three-day supply suggested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the 72 Hour Emergency Kit.

There may not be the time or resources to cook fresh foods or perishable foods like white rice and dry beans in an emergency or natural catastrophe scenario.

Shelf-stable foods are the best emergency food for short-term SHTF situations.

Imagine a hurricane just hit, ocean surge has contaminated municipal water, you can’t drive anywhere because the roads are blocked. The power is out and will be for several days. In the cupboard are cans of Dinty Moore stew, Progresso Soup, peaches and whole wheat crackers. All you need to eat this emergency meal is a can-opener. Open the package and eat. Perfect.

Scott Ready Squirrel

What are shelf-stable foods for emergencies?

Shelf-stable foods for an emergency don’t need to be cooked, refrigerated, or require water to be “ready to eat.” Foods have a pantry shelf life of 6 months to 5 years. Once opened, consume or refrigerate canned food and store boxed or bagged food in an airtight container.  

Shelf-stable Food Vs and Non-perishable food: Short Term Emergencies

When you look up a list of shelf-stable or nonperishable food, both are in the list and considered the same. They are not, especially in an emergency scenario where precious resources like water, fuel, and electricity are unavailable.

Shelf-stable and nonperishable food can sit in the pantry without refrigeration and stay good. The difference is nonperishable food takes more resources to make ready to eat.

Shelf-stable foods don’t need to be cooked. Nonperishables need to be cooked, usually boiled for an extended period with water, which takes up time and a tremendous amount of precious fuel.

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

Chart #1 Shelf Stable Vs Nonperishable (Differences as emergency food)

CharacteristicsShelf-Stable Food Nonperishable Food
Additional Water NeededNoYes
(10 cups of water to cook 1 pound of dry beans)
Cooking RequiredOptional Yes
(45 minutes to 2 hours to cook dry beans)
Fuel RequiredOptionalYes
Processing RequiredNoWheat needs to be milled for flour

Shelf Stable Food List (134 Emergency Edibles)

Following are lists of shelf-stable foods that store in the pantry and don’t require anything but opening the package to make it edible.

When planning your emergency food storage, consider how much food is in each food container and how many people you need to feed when planning what to store.

Storage Tip: once opened, canned foods require refrigeration. The food not eaten in one sitting is going in the trash if you don’t have power.

List of Shelf Stable Protein

I suggest storing some full meals such as hardy Progresso soups, stews, and pasta meals in addition to individual ingredients like canned tuna and beans. You won’t feel like making mealtime a big production in an emergency, so keep it simple.

Following is a list of 52 shelf-stable proteins, many of them you probably already have in the pantry.

  1. Canned Tuna
  2. Tuna in a retort pouch
  3. Canned Salmon
  4. Salmon in a retort pouch
  5. Hormel Compleats
  6. Canned Chicken
  7. Canned Ham
  8. Canned Beef
  9. Canned Pasta With Meat
  10. Beefaroni
  11. Spaghettios with meatballs
  12. Beef Ravioli
  13. Canned or Jarred Pasta Sauce with meat
  14. Vienna Sausages
  15. Canned Spam
  16. Spam in a retort pouch
  17. Pickled Eggs
  18. Pickled Hamhocks
  19. Fermented Bean Curd
  20. Sardines
  21. Shrimp
  22. Smoked Oysters
  23. Anchovies
  24. Canned Crab Meat
  25. Kippered Herring
  26. Canned Bacon
  27. Pate
  28. Potted Meat
  29. Corned Beef
  30. Shelf-stable summer sausage and pepperoni
  31. Canned Lentils
  32. Canned Pinto Beans
  33. Canned Garbanzo Beans
  34. Canned Kidney Beans
  35. Pork and Beans
  36. Baked Beans
  37. Dozen Cousins Retort Pouch Beans
  38. Sealed Peanuts
  39. Sealed Walnuts
  40. Sealed Almonds
  41. Sealed Cashews
  42. Sealed Pecans
  43. Sealed Pistachios
  44. Sealed Macadamia Nuts
  45. Mixed Nuts
  46. Sunflower Seeds
  47. Canned refried beans
  48. Packaged Meat Jerky
  49. Peanut Butter
  50. Almond Butter
  51. Nut Butters
  52. Coconut oil
  53. Olives

Once you get your short term-emergency food together, start working on stockpiling for the long term. Check out the comprehensive Read Squirrel article, “How Much Food To Stockpile Per Person.”

List of Shelf Stable Vegetables

In my household, we use a lot of canned tomatoes. But these are usually used to make homemade pasta sauce and Sauce. For short-term emergencies, store shelf-stable canned vegetables or focus on getting soups and stews with vegetables as an ingredient.

Following is a list of 12 canned vegetables you can store for short-term emergencies.

  1. Canned Green Beans
  2. Canned Corn
  3. Canned Carrots
  4. Canned Peas
  5. Canned Asparagus
  6. Canned Vegetable Mix
  7. Canned Tomatoes
  8. Canned Beets
  9. Canned Sauerkraut
  10. Kimchi
  11. Retort Pouch Vegetable Curries
  12. Kitchen’s of India Vegan Retort Pouch Meals

List of Shelf-stable Drinks

Your primary shelf-stable liquid will be good old water, but you might want to shake it up with some sweet juices for a hit of vitamin C.

I like the idea of storing extra emergency water and using dry fruit drink powders for flavoring.

  1. Water (Lots of water)
  2. Baby Formula
  3. Tomato Juice
  4. Soda
  5. Shelf stable protein drinks
  6. Flavored Water
  7. Sports Drinks
  8. Nutrional Supplement Drinks (Boost & Ensure)
  9. Carbonated and uncarbonated water
  10. Apple Juice
  11. Grape Juice
  12. Grapefruit Juice
  13. Mango Juice
  14. pineapple juice
  15. orange juice
  16. lemon juice
  17. papaya juice
  18. juice boxes
  19. juice in plastic bottle
  20. cranberry and mixed cranberry juice
  21. canned beef, vegetable and chicken stock
  22. Vegetable and meat boiullion cubes (require boiled water)

List of Shelf-stable Pickled Foods

Pickled foods are excellent shelf-stable food for short-term emergencies.

You either love pickled foods, or you hate them. I eat pickled jalapenos and Spanish olives just about every day of the week, and I consider pickled foods to be comfort food. You may not.

  1. Pickles
  2. Olives
  3. Jalapenos
  4. Salsa
  5. Salad Dressing
  6. Pickled Artichokes
  7. Pickled Garlic
  8. Giardiniera (Italian relish in olive oil)

List of Shelf Stable Condiments

Condiments are an excellent way to make emergency food a little more interesting. I’m a fan of soy sauce because it lasts indefinitely, and I also like and use Tabasco regularly.

  1. Soy Sauce
  2. Ketchup
  3. Mustard
  4. Tabasco (Vinegar Based Hot Sauces)
  5. Vinegar
  6. Oyster Sauce
  7. Fish Sauce
  8. Olive oil
  9. Vegetable oil
  10. Refined Cononut oil

List of Shelf Stable Sweets

At the very least, I would have table sugar stored for emergencies because it lasts forever. I’m also a fan of honey, and I use a lot of it in my coffee and tea.

  1. Real Maple Syrup
  2. Molasses
  3. Sugar (White Table)
  4. Corn Syrup
  5. Real Pure Honey
  6. Hard Candy: Worthers, Jolly Ranchers
  7. Licorice

List of Shelf-stable Grains

This section could also be called snack foods. Super handy quick foods like granola and power bars should be at the top of your emergency food list.

  1. cereal
  2. Power bars
  3. Cliff bars
  4. whole grain crackers
  5. wheat thins
  6. Ritz crackers
  7. potato chips
  8. corn chips
  9. Wheat thins
  10. Saltines
  11. toasted cheese and crackers (the type you use in lunch boxes)
  12. toasted peanut butter and crackers
  13. granola
  14. granola bars
  15. rolled oats (cold soak and requires water)
  16. Gummy fruit snacks
  17. Poptarts
  18. Cookies
  19. Trail Mix

List of Shelf-stable Fruits

For the short term, consider dried fruit like raisins, dried cranberries, or mango for ease of use in an emergency. However, a can of sweet peaches hits the spot.

Following is a list of shelf-stable fruits.

  1. Dried mango
  2. Dried apple slices
  3. Dried banana chips
  4. Dried plums
  5. Dried cranberries
  6. Dried apricots
  7. Raisins
  8. Dried blueberries
  9. Canned pears
  10. Canned peaches
  11. Canned pineapple
  12. Canned fruit medley
  13. Canned cherries
  14. Canned cranberry Sauce
  15. Applesauce
  16. Fruit Snacks (gummies)
  17. Fruit Roll-ups
  18. Fruit Preserves and Jellies
  19. Freeze-dried fruit (can be eaten without reconstituting with water, freeze dried strawberries are awesome)

List of Shelf-stable Dairy

Shelf-stable dairy is dairy you store in a cool dark cupboard or pantry. There aren’t many options for shelf-stable dairy, and the most helpful dairy product is powdered milk or Nestle Nido. If you have an infant, don’t forget to store baby formula and enough water to make it.

Following is a list of shelf-stable dairy

  1. Low-fat powdered milk (requires water)
  2. Nestle Nido (Many preppers prefer the taste of Nido to low-fater powdered milk)
  3. Milk in a drink box (strawberry and chocolate)
  4. Shelf Stable Milks
  5. Oat milk
  6. Pastuerized nut milks
  7. Cheese in a can
  8. Evaporated Milk
  9. Sweetened Condensed Milk
  10. Velveeta cheese
  11. Cheese Wiz
  12. Ghee (Clarified shelf-stable butter)

List of Shelf-stable herbs, seasonings and spices

If I’m prepping for short-term emergencies, I will store salt and pepper, and that’s about it. If I planned to cook meat from my freezer, I’d stock up on seasoning to cook meat.

Herbs and seasonings are for long-term survival, used to season nonperishable foods like dried beans and rice.

Most of the shelf-stable foods you eat will already be loaded with salt, sugar, and flavorings.

Down below is a list of Herbs and seasoning you might consider storing.

  1. Bay Leaves
  2. Cajun Spice Mix
  3. Paprika
  4. Black Pepper
  5. Chili Powder
  6. Cinnamon
  7. Cayenne Red Pepper
  8. Powdered Garlic
  9. Cummin
  10. Ginger
  11. Dried Onion Powder
  12. Oregano or Italian Mix
  13. Mustard Powder
  14. Rosemary
  15. Thyme
  16. Tumeric
  17. Salt

Shelf Stable Foods That Make You Feel Good (Morale Boosters)

The most critical aspect of survival is a survivor’s mindset—plan to store some foods that fit your version of “guilty pleasure” to boost morale.

  1. Alchol
  2. Dark Chocolate
  3. Licorice
  4. Hard Candy
  5. Tea bags
  6. instant tea
  7. instant coffee
  8. loose leaf tea
  9. Hostess Cakes
  10. Twinkies
  11. Moon Pies
  12. Oreo Cookies
  13. M&Ms
  14. Trailmix
  15. Individual powdered drink mixes for bottled water
  16. Coke
  17. Pepsi
  18. Canned Cheese and Crackers
  19. Pepperoni stick or summer sausage
  20. Potato chips and canned sour cream and onion dip
  21. Corn Chips & canned bean or cheese dip

Shelf-stable MREs (Meals Ready To Eat)

MREs are one of the best shelf-stable emergency meals you can store for a short-term emergency. They are a self-contained meal that requires very little to prepare. MREs are actual survival-type food because they have everything you need to eat when emergency circumstances don’t allow for cooking or food preparation.

What is an MRE?

An MRE (Meal Ready To Eat) is the U.S. Military’s current combat ration, a shelf-stable, self-contained, pre-cooked meal with accessories that do not require refrigeration. MREs are used to feed forward-deployed troops if cooked food is unavailable. Each MRE contains approximately 1,250 calories.

Avoid using Military MRE’s for survival food because they are purchased second-hand, and you have no way of knowing how they’ve been stored. Instead, purchase Civilian Versions of MREs.

6 Companies that sell civilian MREs

  1. Sopakco
  2. MRE-Star
  3. Meal Kit Supply
  4. Eversafe
  5. Apack
  6. XMRE

What is in an MRE (Meal Ready to Eat)?

ItemsContent Of Military MREs
1 Entree
(24 Menus)
Asian Style Beef Strips, Beef Patty, Beef Ravioli, Beef and BBQ Sauce, Beef Stew, Beef Taco, Brisket, Cheese Tortellini, Chicken Egg Noodles, Chicken Burrito Bowl, Chicken Chunks, Chili Macaroni, Chili With Beans, Spinach Fettuccine, Chicken Pesto Pasta, Meatballs in Marinara Sauce, Mexican Style Chicken Stew, Pork Sausage Patty, Southwest Style Beef, Spaghetti with Beef Sauce, Hashbrown Potatoes With Bacon, Vegetables With Pasta, Macaroni in Tomato Sauce, or Tuna
Side DishCorn, Fruit, Mashed Potatoes, or Rice
Cracker or BreadBread, Cracker, Tortilla, Toasted Corn Kernels, Pretzels, or Nuts
SpreadCheese spread, Peanut Butter or Jelly
CandyM&Ms, Skittles, or Tootsie Rolls
Beverage MixSports Drink Powder, Cocoa, Dairy Shakes, Cappuccino, Coffee, or Tea
Accessory PacketMatches, Creamer, Sugar, Salt, Chewing Gum, and Toilet Paper
DessertCookie, Pound Cake, Brownie, Cobbler, Fruit, Granola With Milk And Blueberries, Muffin Top, Pudding, First Strike Energy Bar, or Toaster Pastries
Hot SauceHot Sauce in some meals
CondimentsMayonnaise, Ketchup, Mustard, and Chipotle
1 SpoonEating Utensil
FRH
(Flameless Ration Heater)
Chemical heater (heats entree when a small amount of water is added)
Paperboard SleeveHeat sleeve used to heat entree with the FRH and water
Paperboard Insert CardContains Food Product Information

Shelf Stable Water

The Federal Emergency Management Agency suggests storing a bare minimum of 1 gallon of water per day per person for a three-day supply.

If you plan on cooking dry soups and food packets, include enough clean water in your stores to cook them. The 1-gallon per day per person is a bare necessity, and I’d consider storing 5-gallons of water per person per day. The water is used for hydration, sanitation, hygiene, and food preparation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the bottled water industry, does not require a shelf life for bottled water. Bottled water can be used indefinitely if stored properly, but we recommend no more than two years for non-carbonated water, and one year for sparkling water.

Nestle Watersna.com

What Are Some Shelf-Stable Foods You suggest Storing?

The following are my top-shelf-stable foods for emergencies. They provide the most nutritional bang for your buck, and they don’t require any preparation.

  1. Canned Soup
  2. Canned Chili
  3. Canned Stew
  4. Canned Tuna
  5. Instant Coffee
  6. Tea Bags
  7. Honey
  8. Table Sugar
  9. Spam (loaded with fat and calories)
  10. Dried Fruits (my favorites are dried mango and dried cranberries)
  11. Canned Fruits
  12. Hard Candy
  13. Granola and Power Bars
  14. Crackers (Act like bread bread in emergencies)
  15. Water (you can’t have too much water)
  16. Favorite Drinks: soda, powdered drink mixes, fruit juice
  17. Multi-vitamins

10 Signs Shelf-stable Cans and Jars are Bad

Take a look at the list below so you know the signs that cans and boxes of shelf-stable food have gone wrong.

If you are storing Shelf-stable foods as part of your emergency food storage rotate them into your regular diet using FIFO or first in first out to ensure you always have a healthy supply of emergency food. Many preppers use the “best buy date” to keep track of food stores. A best buy date isn’t a safe to eat date but it works to keep bad food out of your pantry.

Scott, Ready Squirrel

When shelf-stable foods show any of the following signs, throw them in the bin. It’s not worth taking the chance of getting food poisoning like botulism.

  1. Leaking or stained
  2. Swollen can
  3. Rusty
  4. Badly dented, crimped or pinched
  5. Container is cracked
  6. Foul odor
  7. Safety seals are broken or missing
  8. Lids are loose or missing
  9. Foods exhibit changed color or odor — never taste test questionable food
  10. When in doubt throw it out.

Don’t Eat These Shelf-stable Boxes of Food

  1. The inner bag is torn or leaking
  2. If food is moldy
  3. If seals are ripped and food is exposed to air
  4. If box has insects or droppings inside
  5. If packaging is stained, wet or moldy

How to Store Shelf-stable Foods

Store cans and boxes up off the floor, on a shelf, and 18 inches away from the wall for air circulation

Store in a clean, dry, and cool area (below 75⁰F).

Don’t store shelf-stable foods in scorching temperatures (over 100⁰F) or cold temperatures (below 30⁰F). Both environments can damage cans & shorten shelf life.

Rotate your foods by using older products before newer ones. (FIFO First In First Out)

Tools for shelf-stable food

Have more than one manual can-opener on hand. (I’ve had can openers break on me).

Suggested tools:

It may not be an option, but I want some of my shelf-stable food warm. I also want to eat foods that require boiled water like ramen noodles, knorr noodle pouches, and instant mac and cheese. You’ll need some extra tools for this contingency.

  • Camper’s stove and extra fuel for cooking outdoors
  • Dedicated pan, lid, and spoon for heating soups and stews and boiling water
  • Hot pad
  • Contractor grade trash bags for clean-up
  • Dish soap, bucket, and extra water for clean-up
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic silverware, paper plates, and paper bowls
  • Anti-bacterial hand soap

Sources

Federal Emergency Management Agency: Ready.gov, Build a Kit. “After an emergency, you may need to survive on your own for several days. Being prepared means having your foodwater, and other supplies to last for several days.”

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