Top 5 Food Categories For Long-Term Storage

Survivalists and preppers build their emergency pantry on various types of food. They each have strengths and weaknesses in different survival scenarios. To cover every situation, most preppers store a combination of 5 food types. I did a lot of research for my family’s food pantry. I share the research here to help you build yours.

The 5 food categories good for long-term storage are 1. Dry staples like grains 2. Freeze-dried foods stored as single ingredients or whole meals 3. Canned goods like soups and stews 4. Foods with an indefinite shelf-life like honey and 5. Dehydrated Foods like meat and vegetables.

The definition of long-term varies when it comes to food storage. Typically, a long-term store of food is built for an emergency lasting a year or more. But long-term can also mean being without power, water, or refrigeration for 2 weeks.

Deciding which foods to store and for how long is part of your emergency plan. You’ll have to decide what fits your scenario.

If you want to learn more about how to get started with your food safety net, read on.

Categorie 1: Dry Staple Foods

Dry staples are the backbone of long-term emergency food storage and include dry grains like wheat berries, white rice, and dried beans. These food are Typically repackaged into sealed Oxygen-free containers such as Mylar bags or purchased in number ten cans to get a 30-year shelf-life.

Dry Staples are a favorite of preppers because of their excellent nutrition, long shelf life, and low cost.

Chart #1: 30 Year Shelf-Life Foods For Survival

Dried StapleShelf-Life
White Rice30
Rolled Oats30
Corn (Grain type, not sweet)30
Hard Red Wheat30
Hard White Wheat30
Dried Beans30
Dried Pasta and Macaroni30
For a 30 year shelf-life foods must be less than 10% moisture and repackaged into sealed Oxygen-free containers

The Downside Of Dried Staples as Emergency Food

To make staples ready to eat you need water and, some need an additional step, like milling wheat into flour.

You also need the skills to cook from scratch.

During a short-term natural disaster or catastrophe, resources may be in limited supply. Canned food is a better option for this scenario.

Top 7 Dry Foods With A 30 Year Shelf-life: Emergency Preparedness

The following seven foods are the easiest to find, the cheapest and work well as staple foods for your survival food storage.

1. White Rice

White rice doesn’t have a lot of flavor, but it’s excellent comfort food. A great addition to freshly stewed beans or topped with stir-fried garden vegetables, rice also makes a great meal extender. Rice is typically boiled to make edible.

5 Reasons Rice Is Good For Long-term Storage

  1. 30+ year shelf life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  2. Combined With Dried Beans Makes a full amino acid or protein.
  3. Can Be Ground to Flour
  4. Proven staple food that sustains millions around the globe
  5. High in Carbohydrates

*Storage Tip: Brown rice has a high oil content and is not ideal for long-term storage.

2. Hard White and Red Wheat

When you begin prepping, wheat might be a little intimidating. Most of us have used white rice or cooked beans, but few have milled flour and made homemade bread or pasta. It is, hands down, the best bulk food for long-term storage and worth the effort.

10 Reasons Wheat Is Good For Long-term Storage

  1. 30+ year shelf-life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  2. Hard wheat is a good “all-purpose flour” for leavened and unleavened bread.
  3. It can be cooked whole as Ferro.
  4. Planted in the garden: Soak and plant wheat berries in your survival garden for a sustainable food source.
  5. Ground to Flour
  6. Sprouted: sprout and eat fresh produce under any condition.
  7. Wheat contains carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats
  8. Provides Vitamins: Niacin, Pantothenic acid, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, Vitamin K
  9. Provides Minerals: Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium and zinc
  10. Wheat is filling

Storage Tip: Wheat is stored instead of flour because the berries have a much longer shelf-life than pre-milled flour.

3. Dried Beans

Talk about comfort food. Is there anything better than a steaming bowl of beans stewed with fresh onion, chili powder, and a dash of hot sauce? If you like beans they are a no-brainer for long-term storage.

7 Reasons Dried Beans Are Good For Long-term Storage.

  1. 30+ Year Shelf-life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  2. Full protein when combined with white rice
  3. Provide protein, folate, iron potassium, magnesium, fiber, zinc, and B vitamins
  4. Boil and eat
  5. Sprout and eat like fresh produce
  6. Sprout and plant in your survival garden
  7. Grind into flour

Storage Tip: Old Tough Beans can be cooked with baking soda to make them tender or milled into flour to be used as a thickener for soups and stews or as a protein supplement added to bread flour.

4. Rolled Oats

The Scotch Highlanders were known for being robust warriors for a reason. They ate a lot of oats. Oats are a powerful food and one of the few soft-grains that can last three decades. Quick and easy to cook, you can top oatmeal with whatever you have in the pantry to make a hardy meal.

5 Reasons Rolled Oats are good for long-term storage

  1. 30+ year shelf life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  2. Provide carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber, thiamin, folate, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, niacin, and riboflavin
  3. Provide Minerals: manganese, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, and zinc
  4. Rolled oats are higher in healthy fats (5 to 9%) than most grains. Fats are difficult to come by in long-term emergency scenarios.
  5. Oats are filling

5. Dried Refined Pasta

The strength of pasta lies in its ability to make a satisfying meal with just about anything you forage. It’s not one of the more nutritional foods but’s it’s flexible and easy to cook.

5 Reasons Dried Pasta Is Good For Long-term Storage

  • 30+ year shelf life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  • Provides fat, protein, and carbohydrates
  • Provides Minerals: manganese, iron, selenium, copper, phosphorus, thiamin, folate, niacin, and riboflavin
  • Quick and easy to cook
  • Comfort Food
  • Filling

6. Dried Whole Grain Corn

From the Southwest of the U.S. down into the heart of South America, grain corn has been a staple food for thousands of years. Commonly planted and eaten with beans and squash for well-rounded nutrition.

5 Reasons Grain Corn Is Good For Long-term Storage

  1. 30+ year shelf life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  2. Provides fat, carbohydrates, and protein
  3. Provide Vitamins A, E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, folate, and Pantothenic acid
  4. Minerals Provided: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium.
  5. Grind into cornmeal for bread and tortillas

7. Potato Flakes

Potato flakes aren’t next level for flavor or texture, but they are simple to make, flexible, and filling. Consider them another feather in your prepper cap.

Why Dried Potato Are Good For Long-term Storage

  • 25-year shelf life when stored in a sealed oxygen-free container like a #10 can or Mylar Bag.
  • Used as a side dish for meat and vegetables
  • Incorporate into leavened bread to soften
  • Tempura like batter for fried meat and vegetables
  • Thickener for soups and stews

Categorie 2: Freeze-dried Foods

Freeze-dried foods are excellent for long-term storage. Foods processed this way maintain almost all of their nutritional value and flavor even after decades of storage.

Another plus with freeze-dried goods is you can get individual ingredients or full-meals in one lightweight package.

Many companies sell small pre-packaged portions that are excellent for bug-out bags and short-term emergencies. Bulk freeze-dried foods professionally packaged are also available.

The Downside of Freeze-dried Food

The cost. It is more expensive than bulk dried goods, but it’s also easier to prepare. When purchasing freeze-dried foods, you have two options: buy a home-freeze dryer and process your own food or purchase it professionally packaged. Either way, it’s going to hurt the pocketbook.

Storage Tip:

Don’t confuse freeze-dried food with dehydrated food. They are different and have a different shelf-life and nutritional value.

Categorie 3: Canned Food

Canned food is excellent for long-term emergencies. During a natural catastrophe or disaster, you may be without electricity and running water. If you have canned soups and stews, you won’t need to worry about any preparation or resource requirements. Everything you need is right there in the can.

Canned Food Super Powers For Long-term Storage:

  • Canned food requires no preparation unless you want to heat it.
  • Ready-made meal
  • Non-perishable: Doesn’t require refrigeration
  • Doesn’t Require Water To Prepare

Let’s says you are storing a case of Dinty Moore stew; imagine the resources you’d need to make a stew-like this from scratch.

The Downside of Canned Food For Long-Term Storage

Canned food doesn’t have a definite expiration date. Expiration dates are a “best by” or best eaten by date. Technically these dates are when the food is the freshest and at peak nutrition.

These dates are not a date where the food in the can is bad.

If stored properly, you are pretty much assured that a can of food will be good for about 5 years, but beyond that date, you won’t know until you open the can.

Categorie 4: Foods With An Indefinite Shelf-Life

Properly stored, these foods last forever. They are primarily used in recipes for dry foods or as condiments.

1. Sugar

Who doesn’t like sugar? It’s not particularly healthy but it provides some carbohydrates and it’s an excellent food when combined with home-milled flour and fresh fruit.

6 Reasons Sugar Is Good For Long Term Storage

  1. Indefinite shelf-life
  2. Not particularly nutritious but high in calories and carbohydrate induced energy
  3. Good for morale and to reduce palette fatigue
  4. Used to make fresh jams and jellies
  5. Ingredient in fresh bread, pastries, and desserts
  6. Sugar is a preservative and inhibits microbial activity, preserves fresh fruit for lean months.

2. Vinegar

My favorite type of vinegar is red wine or apple cider, but you can use whatever kind you prefer. If you’re doing a lot of cleaning with vinegar, include white vinegar, it’s the best for this purpose.

6 Reasons Vinegar Is Good For Long Term Storage

  1. Natural Cleaner
  2. Meat tenderizer
  3. Pickling Agent: White, Apple Cider and Red Wine (Avoid Balsamic and Malt)
  4. Dressing for fresh produce
  5. Used in sauces and dips
  6. Deglaze and flavoring agent for pan-fried meat and vegetables

3. Baking Soda

Baking soda is utilitarian and not very sexy but it has a lot of uses in a survival situation.

4 Reasons Baking Soda Is Good For Long-term Storage

  1. Leavening agent for pastries and other baked goods that are flatbreads (not good for leavened bread)
  2. Natural Toothpaste
  3. Natural cleaning agent
  4. Natural deodorizer
  5. Softens Hard Beans

4. Pink Himalayan Salt

As a spice and preservative, salt is king. For the maximum shelf-life, pick a salt that doesn’t have iodine because it shortens the shelf-life.

5 Reasons Salt Is Good For Long Term Storage

  1. Indefinite shelf-life
  2. Excellent preservative
  3. Ingredient in leavened and unleavened bread
  4. Flavor Enhancer
  5. Contains trace minerals potassium, magnesium, calcium, copper, and iron

5. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is one of the best condiments. My family uses it more than any condiment we have.

7 Reasons Soy Sauce Is Good For Long-term Storage

  1. Indefinite Shelf Life
  2. Salt Replacement
  3. Marinade Meat and Vegetables
  4. Use it as a base sauce for pasta and stir fry
  5. Mix with chopped onion or scallions for a dipping sauce
  6. Sprinkle on white rice or potatoes
  7. Add to soups and stews

6. Real Maple Syrup

Real maple syrup on pancakes made from freshly milled flour. Yeah, sign me up. 100% real maple syrup is the bomb.

4 Reasons Maple Syrup Is Good For Long Term Storage

  1. Indefinite Shelf-life
  2. Sweeten cooked grains like rolled oats, or Ferro Wheat
  3. Drizzle over meat or vegetables before grilling
  4. Use as a sweetener for baked goods and pastries

7. Honey

My honey goes mostly to sweeten my Irish breakfast teas and as an added ingredient in homemade bread. It makes an excellent spread for homemade bread, dripped over cooked rolled oats, or a sweetener for tea and coffee.

5 Reasons Honey Is Good For Long Term Storage

  1. Indefinite Shelf-life
  2. Natural Sweetener
  3. Medicinal Properties: the Egyptians used it to treat wounds as it has a small amount of hydrogen peroxide
  4. Rejects any growth that might spoil it
  5. Excellent in baked goods, hot drinks, and cooked grains

Categorie 5: Dehydrated Food

Fruits, vegetables and meat are dehydrated for preservation by using heat and dry air to remove moisture. Dehydrated foods come in two basic categories.

  1. Professionally Dehydrated: these foods store well with a shelf-life of up to 20 years.

2. DIY Dehydration: foods processed at home only last 4 months to a year.

Downside of Dehydrated Food:

Foods are subjected to a lot of heat when dehydrated, which reduces nutritional value, and food texture suffers.


So Easy To Preserve, Bulleting 989, University of Georgia Extension, Elizabeth L Andress. Ph.D and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D, Extension Food Specialists

Virginia Cooperative Extension, Using Dehydration to Preserve Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats, Renee Boyer, Professor and Extension Specialist, Virginia Tech