Survival foods have a terrible reputation for being tasteless and expensive. So if the idea of survival food brings up images of waxy, high calorie emegeny bars, costly containers of freeze-dried foods, or strange and unusual concoctions, you aren’t alone. But you can breathe a sigh of relief because there are lots of great survival foods that will last – that you will eat, too.
With the right planning and storage, you can find many survival foods that taste great and last a long time. These include every day, inexpensive foods such as rice, beans, oats, pasta, and even honey. With a little bit of knowledge and effort, you can store foods that will last that you will also eat.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best survival foods to store long-term that are part of your everyday diet. We’ll take a look at what they are, why you might want to store them, and how to store them. We’ll also talk about how much food to store and where to store it. But first, we’re going to take a look at how to choose what survival foods are best for your family’s needs.
How to Choose Survival Foods
Consider Nutritional Needs when Choosing the Best Survival Foods
If you are storing foods for survival, you need to consider your nutritional needs. First, you need calorie-dense foods. In a survival situation, you will need extra calories because you’ll probably be doing more physical exertion than you usually do.
You also need to consider how to incorporate a mix of protein, carbs, and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals. For example, if you eat only lean protein, your body won’t have enough fat or vitamins to maintain health, and you’ll likely become fatigued and get sick. On the other hand, if you only have a salad to eat, you probably won’t get enough calories to have the energy to carry out your daily tasks.
Avoiding Appetite Fatigue
You also need to have a little bit of variety in your daily meals. Appetite fatigue happens when you eat the same thing over and over again. Your body may be hungry, but you just can’t manage to put that same food in your mouth one more time. Overtime, this leads to weight loss and malnutrition, especially in children. So including some variety will help you eat better and stay healthier for the long term.
Consider What Your Family Eats when Choosing the Best Survival Foods
There is no point in storing black beans if no one in your family likes to eat them. Instead, make a list of your family’s favorite meals and try to figure out how to incorporate them into your long-term food storage. For example, if your family just loves spaghetti night, you can store pasta and tomato sauce long-term and know you’ll have some food that your family will just love.
But if you store all food that you don’t regularly eat, you’re going to have a hard time eating and cooking those foods in an emergency. So it’s best to incorporate family favorites as much as possible for comfort, nutrition, and ease of use.
Consider Your Available Storage when Choosing the Best Survival Foods
Another critical aspect of food storage is knowing how to store those foods. Frozen foods are acceptable for shorter-term emergencies, but if you are storing food for long-term or extended emergencies, you’re going to have trouble keeping the freezer cold.
Think about how much storage space you have and how you will store those foods. For example, most dry goods need to be stored in a cool, dark place away from light and moisture. But keeping food can take up a lot of space, too, so make sure you have room for everything you need.
How Much Food to Store
How much food you want to store is a very personal decision. The Center for Disease Control suggests keeping a three-day supply of food and water on hand at all times, but many families should consider much more food storage than that. For example, you might want to consider a two-week, three-month, or one-year supply of food.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints helps many people understand and store food for emergencies. You can check out their food storage calculate here to get a rough idea of how much food you should have on hand for your family’s needs.
If you don’t have any food stored yet, you may want to create a line item in your family budget to start putting away a little bit of food each week. Something is better than nothing, of course, and you can shop sales and value items to get your food storage system up and running. Also, most United States households probably already have several weeks’ worth of food in their pantries, so there is no need to panic buy. Just get started.
How to Store Survival Foods
The best thing to do with survival foods is to rotate your stock regularly to always have the newest, freshest food on hand. And while every food may have unique storage needs, most foods need to be kept in a cool, dry place.
Light, heat, moisture, insects, and rodents are the most detrimental to your food storage stash. One way to combat this is to purchase food already packaged for long-term storage, but this can get expensive. Instead, you may prefer to package your own foods in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. Store the bags in sealed 5-gallon buckets with gamma lids. This type of storage will offer a lot of protection for your food.
Where to Store Survival Foods
Where to store survival foods is just as important as how to store them. A basement that is cool, dry, and dark is an ideal place. But most basements are damp, so you may prefer to keep your survival food in a first-floor closet, pantry, or spare bedroom.
If you are going to be rotating your stock, you’ll want to make it easily accessible. But if you are worried about people stealing your inventory, you’ll want to find a good hiding place, such as under the bed or in a hidden closet.
Garages, attics, and laundry rooms usually get too hot, too cold, or too damp to be a good place.
The Best Survival Foods that Will Last – that You Will Eat
If your family doesn’t ever eat rice, you probably won’t want to put it in your food storage. However, if your family loves pancakes, that’s something worth stocking up on. If you can’t find the exact food your family loves, you might be able to make a similar dish with basic ingredients from the following list.
Dry Pantry Foods
- Rice. White rice stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers can last up to 30 years. It doesn’t have to be any particular brand of rice. It just has to be stored correctly. However, the shelf life of brown rice is much shorter due to the presence of natural oils, so brown rice may not be the best choice for food storage. Nevertheless, rice is a great staple food because it is inexpensive, easy to store, and nutritious.
- Dried Beans and Lentils. Technically, beans stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers can last indefinitely. However, they may lose their nutritional content and flavor slowly over time, so if you can, rotate them as often as possible. You might like black beans, navy beans, pinto beans, or even split peas. Beans and lentils are a great source of protein when meat is scarce.
- Oats. Oatmeal is nutritious, works in all kinds of dishes, and provides good fiber and calories. Instant oatmeal can stay good for up to 1 or 2 years, but whole oats stored in mylar bags or #10 cans can stay fresh up to 25 or 30 years.
- Flour. Flour is an excellent foundation for many types of foods but has a short shelf life of only 6 to 8 months. Instead, you might want to store wheat berries in oxygen-free containers, which can last up to 30 years. If you store whole wheat berries, though, you’ll need a grain mill to grind them when you are ready to use them.
- Pancake Mix. Pancake mixes can be used for everything from pancakes to biscuits, giving you flexible source of delicious food. The shelf life of a typical pancake mix is about one year.
- Sugar. Sugar is often used as a type of preservative, and it just tastes good. In addition, sugar can be stored indefinitely as long as it isn’t exposed to bugs or moisture.
- Pasta. Dry pasta can be stored easily for one to two years, but as long as it isn’t tainted by mold or bugs, it can technically last longer. It doesn’t really ‘go bad but instead loses its taste and texture over time.
- Powdered Milk. If dairy is hard to get, you might want powdered milk on hand. It’s great for adding creaminess to your cooking, pouring over cereal, and making a good source of protein and Vitamin D. The USDA says that powdered milk can be stored indefinitely. Still, the packaging typically states a best-used-by date of around 18 months.
- Drink Mix, such as Tang or Crystal Light. Tang is mainly made up of sugar and citric acid. It will give you a dose of Vitamin C. And while its shelf life is around three years, some people have been known to keep it longer.
- Salt. Salt is both a preservative and a flavoring agent. Typical table salt is good for about five years due to the presence of iodine and anti-caking agents. However, salt such as Himalayan salt, which does not have iodine, retains its freshness as long as it is stored in a dry location. You may want to store both types of salt.
- Instant Coffee or Tea. Instant coffee can last about ten years unopened and about 18 months once you open it. Coffee is an excellent item for comfort as well as barter or trade.
- Nuts. Nuts are a great source of protein, fat, and energy. However, their shelf-life is much shorter than other storage foods, so you’ll need to keep rotating them often. Stored in airtight, sealed containers, some nuts can last up to a year.
Canned Or Jar Foods
- Canned Meat. According to the USDA, canned meats should last 2 to 5 years. These will give you a great source of protein. You might like canned chicken, tuna, or even SPAM.
- Canned Fruit and Vegetables. According to eatbydate.com, canned fruits and vegetables that have been stored correctly can be safely used 1 to 2 years past the date stamped on the can. In addition, canned fruit and vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals.
- Spaghetti Sauce. Spaghetti sauce is another excellent source of vitamins. Unopened and properly stored, it can last a year past the use-by date. However, you should thoroughly cook your spaghetti sauce since it doesn’t’ usually have preservatives.
- Jam or Jelly. Jam and jellies go a long way towards adding flavor to a repetitive diet. They also have some vitamins. In addition, you can safely store unopened jam or jelly for a year.
- Peanut Butter. Peanut butter is a staple food offering high calories, healthy fats, and protein. It can last unopened for up to 2 years.
- Butter. Regular butter has a short shelf life, but freeze-dried butter can last unopened, up to 10 years. So freeze-dried butter is a great staple to stash for flavor, texture, and fats in your food storage.
- Fruit. Freeze-dried fruit can be eaten as-is for a snack, or you can reconstitute it for baking with a bit of water. Unopened, it can last up to 3o years.
- Vegetables. Freeze-dried vegetables are a great source of nutrients and can be reconstituted with water for cooking. Unopened, it lasts up to 30 years.
- Meats. Freeze-dried meat is worth adding to your food storage because it will keep for 25 to 30 years. You might not want to use it in everyday cooking due to its expense, but it is great to have on hand for emergencies.
You can dehydrate foods such as fruits, vegetables, and even meat. Adequately stored in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, dehydrated foods can last up to 2 years. You can purchase dehydrated foods or use a dehydrator, or even your oven, to make your own.
- Honey. Honey is excellent for flavor and to soothe sore throats. Honey is known to last indefinitely, but you can heat it up to return it to its normal state if it begins to crystallize.
- Spices. Spices will add a lot of variety to your food, helping to stave off appetite fatigue. They will last about 2 to 3 years. However, they may lose their potency over time.
- Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a healthy fat and is great for cooking (especially if you don’t have butter on hand). It will last about two years.
- Olive oil. Another excellent cooking oil and source of healthy fat, olive oil, will last about five years before it turns rancid.
- Condiments. Condiments should have frequent turn-over, but they are a great addition to your prepper pantry.
As you can see from the list above, many every-day foods that are a part of your family’s diet can be kept in food storage for a long time. The key is to find foods that your family will eat, store them safely, and rotate them often.
Should I purchase prepackaged long-term storage food or store my own?
You can easily order 5-gallon buckets of prepacked, long-term storage food from websites such as amazon.com. However, these can get costly. With a little practice, you can save money by packaging food yourself.
Do I need to spend a lot of money on food storage?
No, you can spend as little or as much as you want on your food storage. If your budget is small, then start with smaller amounts of lesser expensive foods, such as rice and beans. Consistently adding to your storage over time will get you where you need to be.
What about my pets? Does dog and cat food expire?
Yes, dog and cat food will expire. Treat their food the same as you treat yours. A dry bag of cat or dog food, unopened, should last for about two years. So as long as you practice good rotation, you should be ok to store some pet food, keeping in mind that pets do not live as long as humans.