The most common question we hear when people are trying to put together their emergency food storage is “what are the best things to store?” The problem with canned foods, which you should definitely store some, is that the shelf life is only a couple of years long. So when you store canned foods you want to make sure you used them before they go bad, and replace them on a regular basis.
Freeze Dried Foods:
The very best emergency preparation foods are those that you eat as part of your regular diet, and that have a really long shelf life! Freeze dried foods are great for this because they are typically foods you eat on a regular basis, and if packaged correctly they typically last up to twenty five years. And they are extremely light weight which makes them easy to store and handle. The only down side to freeze dried food is they are dry, which means you need to have access to water to re-constitute it.
MREs & Pre-made Foods:
MREs and other pre-made foods are great as long as they are meals that you like, because they taste great and don’t need water added. The shelf life is typically closer to that of canned foods, depending on the temperature where you store them, usually only 3 to 5 years. And they are considerably heavier and harder to lift and handle. Also some brands of these pre-made meals put way too much salt, similar to many canned foods, and that can cause health issues for people with cardiovascular problems.
Putting Your Plan Together:
So in planning out your emergency food storage you want to take all of these pro’s and con’s into consideration. The best solutions are typically a mixture of all of these types of food storage items, including even some dried foods, put together in a way that everything can be used, rotated and replaced before anything goes bad.
As we get into our top 20 list keep in mind that these items are not in a particular order. Everyone most likely should have all of these items. The quantity and exact mix of each will depend on your various taste as well, storage ability and your commitment to using and rotating things before they go bad. With that introduction lets get to our list!
Our Top 20 Foods With Long Shelf Lives For Long Term Storage Are:
1. Dried Rolled Oats
What is nice about storing rolled oats is oatmeal is a very normal and tasty breakfast that many people really enjoy. For example I have a bowl almost every morning. If stored in #10 cans, or in a container as shown on the left, rolled oats can have a very long shelf life; up to 30 years. And then once the container is open they still typically last 9 or 10 months.
The other very important reason for including rolled oats in your food storage is they are very inexpensive. You can store a lot for very little money. And they are very healthy. Many claim that they lower your bad cholesterol and are a “natural antibiotic”, meaning that they help strengthen our immune systems.
You can get rolled oats just about anywhere you purchase food storage items. A great brand is made by Augason Farms, which you can buy directly from them or you can order them off of Amazon. Check out the price here on Amazon: Augason Farms Rolled Oats.
2. Freeze Dried Fruit
Again, this is something that I think everyone should store. Freeze dried fruit is not like the old dried banana chips of bygone years. These look and taste very close to what they looked like before they were freeze dried. And they retain almost all of their nutritional value.
You can add water to them to re-constitute them. Or you can simply throw them in other foods like the oatmeal we talked about above. For example I throw enough fruit in with my oatmeal that it makes it so sweet I never have to add honey or brown sugar. I love eating it that way!
Freeze dried is so much better than dehydrated. It is like night and day. There are many food storage companies that carry freeze dried fruit. Check out the price of the Brother’s All Natural brand that you can get on Amazon! If you would like to be able to freeze dry fruit in your home check out the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer.
3. MREs (Meals Ready To Eat!)
MREs are basically canned pre-made meals. They are pre-cooked and ready to eat right out of the bag. And since they have all of the water in them they can be heavy to handle in large quantities. But they are typically really tasty; better tasting than most canned foods.
Just like with any canned type food they often have a higher sodium content, so take that into consideration when planning your diet. And the shelf life for most of these are usually around 3 to 5 years.
These are wonderful to have in bug out bags and other 72 hour emergency kits. You can even eat them cold in a pinch if you have to. I feel it is a must to have some of these in your emergency food storage, but I would not recommend having them being a majority. They can be more pricey than other types of food storage items. Still we consider having a mix of these in any emergency food storage is a must.
Check out the price of these “Meals Ready To Eat” by “Western Frontier” here on Amazon.
4. Dried Beans
Okay another staple item I think every emergency food storage should contain is dried beans. Beans are fairly inexpensive as well and so you can store quite a bit for a relatively small amount of money. Since they are dried you will need to have access to water to soak them over night. And although dried beans will essentially last indefinitely, they are best within the first 7 or 8 years. After that when you soak them they stay crunchy.
Beans are a great source of protein, and they are delicious and most people love eating them. You can make them quite tasty with just basic types of stored spices and seasonings. And there are many different types of beans you can store if you wish to for variety.
Check out the price of this Augason Farms brand of dried pinto beans here on Amazon.
5. Dried Pasta
Mama mia! Who doesn’t like pasta! And you can store freeze dried or different dried types of Alfredo or spaghetti sauces! And for those that are gluten intolerant they make zucchini and rice noodles as well. They are a bit more expensive. But overall pasta is also relatively inexpensive for the amount you can store.
Pasta allows you to make meals people are used to eating and that they enjoy. In an emergency situation this is very important.
Check out the price for this #10 can of elbow macaroni from Augason Farms on Amazon!
6. Freeze Dried Pre-Made Meals
Freeze Dried Pre-Made Meals are also a great idea and something I think everyone should have some of in any long term emergency food storage. In an emergency sometimes you will just be hungry and not want to take the time to soak beans or cook a meal. You will just want to poor in hot water and eat.
Like MREs these meals come pre-prepared and cooked. But they are freeze dried which means they are light and easy to pack and carry. But you will need water to re-constitute the meal. Typically you just boil water and poor it in the meal pouch and as soon as the food soaks up the water it is hot and ready to eat.
As with any pre-made meal be conscious of the sodium quantity for those with cardiovascular issues. If you have access and the ability to boil water, these are a really awesome way to go.
7. Freeze Dried Vegetables
My mother always told me that it was important to eat my vegetables. The image on the left is of some fruits and vegetables that were freeze dried in a home freeze dryer like this Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer. The beautiful part about freeze drying food is that it retains almost all of its nutritional value. And it tastes just like it did before it was freeze dried.
Having freeze dried fruits and vegetables is important because they are so healthy for you. And nothing makes you feel like life is normal than you eating what looks and taste like fresh fruits and vegetables. They also sell pre-packaged freeze dried vegetables.
Check out the price here of some Augason Farms freeze dried vegetables available on Amazon.
8. Legumes: Peas And Lentils
Legumes make for very yummy soups. They store just about like beans. They have great nutritional value, and have about twice the protein as grains.
Legumes are also very inexpensive generally and so you can store a lot of them for food for the money. And they are easy to prepare. You just need to soak them in water over night and you are good to go in the morning. Like beans dried legumes will last indefinitely if stored properly and kept in cool temperatures. However after about 7 or 8 years they stay crunchy even when you soak them in water, so most people don’t keep them that long.
If you freeze dry legumes they will last up to 25 years without getting crunchy. So if you plan on keeping them longer than 8 years, the best kind to purchase is freeze dried.
Check out the price of Mother Earth brand of freeze dried peas here on Amazon.
9. Dried And Freeze Dried Dairy Products
Most of these pre-made products like I show in the image on the left are dried dairy products and have up to about a 10 year shelf life. If dairy is something that you normally eat now, it is something that you will definitely want to include in your storage. It is important that you don’t have too drastic of a diet change if possible during an emergency.
If you would like to be able to freeze dry your own foods in your home check out the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer. With a home freeze dryer you can freeze dry your own dairy products and they will then last up to 25 years. Freeze drying is the very best way to store everything, especially things like dairy.
10. Freeze Dried Egg Powder
Mountain House has freeze dried scrambled eggs with a 30 year taste guarantee. I am telling you freeze dried food is the way to go. The food tastes in 30 years like it did when before it was freeze dried. There is no other preservation method that does a better job preserving the food’s taste and nutritional value. It is amazing.
The only downside to pre-made freeze dried meals like this is you can’t control the sodium content as we have discussed before. Whereas if you freeze dry things yourself you can make it exactly as you want it. Again if you would like to be able to freeze dry your own foods in your home check out the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer.
11. Freeze Dried Meats
Another very important food item to be able to store is meat. If you eat meat now you will definitely want some during an extended emergency period where you are living off of your food storage. Again, sorry for the repetition, but by far the best way to store meat is to buy it freeze dried, or freeze dry it your self.
The meat will taste and look just like it does now 25 years from now, and still have almost all of its original nutritional value. Again if you would like to be able to freeze dry your own foods in your home check out the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer.
12. Dried Meats – Pemmican And Jerky
This is something that I debated whether or not to include on this list because the focus of this article is on long shelf life food storage items. But dried meats are really tasty in my opinion. So I decided to include them.
Just know that if they are packaged the best way possible, like store bought beef jerky, it has about a 2 year shelf life. Homemade is only a few weeks unless you can package it the way commercial jerky companies do.
Pemmican and Jerky are great things to have in an emergency because if you need to hike (such as to evacuate or look for help) they are a great food item to take with you. These are items that you will want to use and rotate however just like you would canned foods.
If you had your own freeze dryer, you could make your own pemmican or jerky and then freeze dry it. Then you could package it and it would last up to 25 years just like any other meat. Check out the price hear of your own home freeze dryer. Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer.
13. Wheat And Other Grains
They call wheat the staff of life. The challenge with whole grains is you typically need a wheat grinder as well to be able to grind it into cracked wheat or flour for it to be used. But those things are relatively cheap and easy to get and store. The nice thing about storing dried grains is they are very inexpensive and you can purchase a lot for not a lot of money.
Grains like this have a 30 plus year shelf life in most cases. So they last a very long time. Most people eat things like breads and pancakes made from wheat flour, but not really the whole grains themselves. It is important to have some grains (the types you are most likely to want to eat), but be sure that you have other freeze dried more normal foods as well. In an emergency you want to not have too sudden of a complete shift in diet.
In an emergency another very important long term item is salt. It lasts forever and is needed to make many foods taste better. It is used in almost all recipes, especially when making things from scratch. And if the poop really hits the fan and the emergency goes on longer than the amount of food you have on hand, having salt will help you preserve meats should you hunt and kill wild game.
Another reason why having plenty of salt is a great idea in your long term emergency food storage is for barter. In times of crisis salt is something that everyone will need and many will not have thought to store. You can trade salt for other items you might be getting low on.
Check out this price of Augason Farms Salt here on Amazon!
15. Bouillon / Stock
This is something that will be useful in many different recipes. In soups and stews as well as other vegetable or meat dishes. It can make the difference between a meal tasting normal, or it tasting very plain and bland.
It is also one of those items that if you have enough extra many people would be willing to trade you for other food items in a pinch. It is a great barter item. But it is something that is very inexpensive and a necessity in any emergency food storage plan.
16. Baking Soda and Baking Powder
Baking soda and baking powder are an item that will last forever. Again this is something that you will want to have on hand for when all your pre-made meals are gone and you are making meals from scratch. It is an important item to have in a long term emergency food storage.
Like some of these other cooking staples, this is something that might be a good barter item if you have enough on hand. It is something many people will not think to store up on.
17. Drinking Water
This is kind of a “duhhhh” item. But so many people do not store enough (if any) good drinking water. And water will last forever. Even if you don’t treat it to keep it fresh (which you really should) you can always boil it and make it drinkable later anyway. You can last months without food but only days without water.
If you water supply has chlorine in it you may not have to treat your water right at first when you store it. The chlorine is treatment enough. However with things link Chlorine you will have to add more every 12 months or so.
One time I stored about 12 blue 50 gallon barrels of water (like you see in the above picture) for eight years. I only treated it once when I first stored it with E.D.-Goodloes-Aerobic-Stabilized-Oxygen. I used about twice the amount recommended in each barrel and the water was drinkable eight years later. I know because I had a glass. I like using stabilized oxygen rather than chlorine because it is much better for you and really does a great job at killing all of the bacteria.
18. Freeze Dried Spaghetti Sauce Or Tomato Powder
If you are going to store pasta, you are going to need some way to make spaghetti or some other Italian sauce (such as Alfredo). If you get freeze dried then it will last up to 24 years or longer. I would suggest having some freeze dried spaghetti sauce that you like, as well as plain tomato powder that you can use for other things as well.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, if you have your own freeze dryer not only could you freeze dry your own spaghetti sauce, but with a freeze dryer you can freeze dry the entire spaghetti meal as well. Again if you would like to be able to freeze dry your own foods in your home check out the Harvest Right Home Freeze Dryer.
Spices last quite a long time, usually at least 4-5 years, so this is something you want to keep on hand, use and rotate. Your life will be much better in an emergency if you have to cook meals if you have (and know how to use) the spices that make your food taste the way you like them.
Again if you have enough on hand, spices are something that will be a hot commodity in extended emergencies and will make a great barter item. Don’t just depend on storing foods that require cooking, have some MREs and freeze dried pre-made meals too. But eventually those will run out so have some spices on hand as well.
Check out this organic spice assortment on Amazon!
20. Sugar And Honey
Sugar and honey in my book are an absolute necessity! And the great thing is they last forever. They found some black looking stuff in King Tut’s tomb and when they tested it they found out it was honey. And it was edible. All they would have needed to do was heat it up and it would have been back to normal.
White sugar if kept cool and dry will also last forever. The main thing is keep it in a container that keeps out pests and moisture. Brown sugar gets hard but will last forever. You may just need to break it up 30 years from now with a hammer lol, but it will taste the same!
As you plan out your emergency food storage plan really try to get a mix of foods your already eat so that your diet does not have to change dramatically. You will be in a stressful situation already, you don’t want to add to the stress by eating things you do not like or are not used to eating.
Also try to have a mix of pre-made foods along with the much cheaper basic items like beans, fruits, grains etc. You want to pre-made foods so in the middle of the crisis you can just eat and go. But since non pre-made foods are so much cheaper, you want to have them on hand as well for when the pre-made food runs out.
I hope this helps. If it does please email it to your friends and loved ones and share it on your social media. Thank you for reading this article!