The 14 Best Foods for Long Term Food Storage |
Food & Water

The 14 Best Foods for Long Term Food Storage

When preparing for the end of the world, there are perhaps 4 important things we need to survive. A good supply of fresh and clean water; a way to keep us safe and secure from any threats; a place that will shelter us from the elements; a good supply of healthy and nutritious food thanks to long term food storage.

Water is water and the only decision to make is which method you’ll use for storing and acquiring enough of it to survive. To keep you and your family safe during an ongoing event might require weapons and training, again an easy task to accomplish.

photo of grains of rice followed by a text area that says "The 14 Best Foods for Long Term Food Storage,"

Staying out of the elements might include a sturdy structure, linked to something subterranean, designed to withstand any situation.

But the final requirement to guarantee our survival is going to take some considerable planning, evaluating, thinking and attaining. The food you choose to stockpile now will need to survive more than time itself. The decisions you make today could have dire consequences on the health of your family in the distant future.

The food that you choose to stockpile today will need careful planning to make sure it will survive long enough for you to use in the event of an apocalyptic event. While a lot of the pre-packaged emergency rations available from any number of sources are great, they have limited appeal for an extended period of time.

Fancy a tablet or a calorie-loaded food bar? I doubt you could get excited at the thought of eating these for the next 5 years or so. That’s why long term food storage is so important.

How long do I need to store food to survive?

The question that no-one has the answer to. Not unless you possess a crystal ball or Nostradamus-like powers that help you see the future.

Unfortunately, no one knows just how long the effects of an apocalyptic event might linger for.

Whenever I decide to plan for future events, I prefer to think worst-case scenario. And why wouldn’t you, when the alternative could do more harm than good.

With some very good planning and proper preparation, there’s no reason why you couldn’t build a food cache to last the next 20 to 30 years.

The pre-packaged foods available might suit your needs, but do you really know what’s in them? There are hundreds of stories of greedy corporations selling below-par products that fail to provide what they promise. Is it worth taking the risks?

I’m not saying that the available products are all sub-standard. What I am saying is that producing your own food cache with products you have sourced, prepped and sealed for long-time storage, will give you much better peace of mind in the long run.

Personally, I want to know what’s in the food that I’m storing away for when there is no more available to buy from the local supermarket.

I need that peace of mind that I know the food waiting for my family in 10 years or 20 years is going to be just as good as the day I sealed it. And that’s what this article is about. To give you the chance to get that same peace of mind, too.

Isn’t water more important?

Water is extremely important, and without it, you’ll be lucky to last 72 hours between drinks. There is very little leeway when deciding to store water rations. Put simply, without them, you will die quickly.

But the truth of it is, water is either stored in bottles or pouches. The actual product itself takes very little prep time as it’s ready to go. Your choice will be what containers to store it in and how much. Will you add things like life-straws to utilize other sources as they become available?

Once you’ve worked out the minor storage details, that’s pretty well it. It doesn’t take much to organize and won’t need very much supervision once organized. Food, on the other hand, takes a lot more planning. There’s a lot more to consider than just taste and availability.

What’s there to work out about food?

Photo of long term food-storage containers

Long term food storage is all about shelf life. Its pointless going through all the hassle of buying something, preparing it, purchasing some sort of storage container and seal it up only to find the product has a shelf life of a year.

What you’d rather, are products that will last 20 to 30 years with very little attention needed. It’s the stuff you can safely lock into Mylar bags, buckets, cans and drums and house them in whatever spot you choose. Pack and forget, that’s what you want.

But a simple list of foods with long shelf-lives won’t really cut the mustard either. Because my list of foods will no doubt differ from your list of foods. And that’s because my family will have different needs for yours.

Do any of your family have specific dietary requirements? Do they have any allergies? Do you plan on extending your family with new children? How about your pets? Do they have any specific needs?

There’s a lot more to consider than a simple shopping list. There are some long-term strategies you’ll need to think about, as well as short-term planning. Will you be purchasing all at once or slowly over time? How much can your budget handle?

The food you’ll be purchasing will be mostly in bulk and that will save you quite a bit of money. But consider the costs involved with purchasing for the storage containers as well. It may offset the initial savings.

The 14 Best Foods for Long Term Food Storage

Do you know why you want to put in as much thought into your food cache as possible? Because once the apocalypse hits and the supermarkets are no more, you’ll want as little to change from your current diet as possible.

When planning which foods to store, try and stay close to what you already know. Life is going to be tough enough already, especially if civilization completely collapses.

Prepping for your long term food storage might include studying what’s in your pantry right now. Take inventory and see what you already have that could pass for long-life food. It might surprise you.

See that box of Twinkies there? Actual experiments have found that specific delicious treat to last 30 years on a shelf. Although you might find the taste a little less appealing than a new one, it will still be edible.

As well as all the staples you’ve heard so much about, there’s also condiments, fruits, vegetables and treats which you can enhance your food cache with. All it takes is a little planning and investigation.

Food #1: Rice is best

Rice is one of the world’s most versatile foods. In particular white rice. The grain is an important choice for you to consider when building your list. It’s suitable to be served in savory dishes as well as sweet dishes. Sticky rice, anyone?

Mylar bag filled with brown rice

Rice is highly nutritious and something you can prepare with very little effort. But the two best points for me are the shelf life of the product and the price.

White rice costs very little per pound, perfect to buy in large quantities. But why only white, I hear you ask? Why not brown rice; isn’t it considered the healthier option?

The two factors that give foods such long shelf lives are moisture content and oil content. Foods with less than 10% moisture will store far longer, white rice around 30 years. Brown rice contains high levels of oil. Oil doesn’t store for long, its shelf life less than a year.

Store rice in a Mylar bag, add sufficient oxygen absorbers and seal the bag inside a plastic bucket with a gamma seal lid. The rice will keep for up to 30 years, the grain ready to be cooked the moment you need it.

Food #2: Beans make things interesting

A packet of oxygen absorber

The next food you’ll definitely want to add are dried beans. Beans are incredibly versatile, full of healthy benefits and hardy enough to live right beside your rice stack.

They will last for 30 years as well and as long as you prepare them properly, won’t let you down when you really need them.

Beans might be boring meal after meal, but mix them with rice and some spices and you’ll have great tasting meals well into the future. Store them the same as you would rice.

A Mylar bag sealed with plenty of oxygen absorbers, in a plastic bucket with gamma seal lids. Try color-coded buckets so you can easily identify their contents.

Food #3: Cheer for rolled oats

Still on the bandwagon of foods with a 30-year shelf life, rolled oats are high on the list. They are so versatile, easy to use and delicious with the right condiments. Turn them into flour, use them in muffins and even make some oat milk.

Rolled oats are full of antioxidants, can lower blood cholesterol and contain beta-glucans. Bulk prices for rolled oats are pretty reasonable considering the benefits and will last up to 30 years on the shelf.

To maintain their quality, store them the same as the previous 2 and ensure you use enough oxygen absorbers to really dry out their bag.

Food #4: Be thankful for pasta

Close-up photo of mixed dried pasta

Pasta is another carbohydrate that sits high on our list. It has an amazing shelf life and is versatile enough to add to most meals. A long term food storage list wouldn’t be complete without the versatility of pasta.

Check out the expiry dates of pasta packets at your local supermarket and you’ll find some with pretty impressive shelf-lives.

For most freeze-dried pasta, it survives on shelves for anywhere between 10 and 30 years. It’s a great carbohydrate and is fantastic hot or cold once cooked.

Food #5: Dried carrots go the distance

Carrots are one of my favorite vegetables to work with and the thought of not having any in the future is something I don’t think I could live with. Thankfully, dehydrating carrots extends their shelf life by a couple of decades.

You read that right. A vegetable that will last for 25 years in storage when dehydrated. Storing them is just as easy as the previous products and you can keep them handy for snacking at any time.

Think super-food is just a buzzword with these? Carrots are full of protein, fiber, beta carotene, and Vitamin A. Definitely a worthwhile addition to the list.

Food #6: Peas and lentils are worthy of your attention

Think lentils and peas are only great in soups? Guess again with some fantastic recipes you can create with these two ingredients.

The trick is to buy the whole variety instead of the split. Split peas and lentils don’t have anywhere near as long a shelf-life as their whole versions.

To increase their shelf-life even further, store them in Mylar bags inside storage buckets and you’ll easily keep them for 20 years. The biggest challenge you’ll have, in the case of an apocalypse, is which actual meat to throw in with pea and ham soup.

Food #7: Speaking of meat

A can of freeze dried beef

While we are on the subject of pea and ham soup, there are options for meat as well when it comes to long term food storage.

Freeze-dried meat in cans is a great way to keep a good source of protein on hand. With a shelf-life of up to 30 years, these options will make a great addition to your pantry of the future.

Buy them by the case and store them in a cool dry space, off the ground. Cans have a tendency to rust, which can compromise their contents. Always keep them cool, dry and away from the elements.

Food #8: Did we mention beef? How about milk?

A bucket of powdered milk

I know we mentioned beef just above, but what about milk? If there’s a shortage of cows, milk is more than likely impossible to get. But powdered milk will come in handy if you remember to store some.

With proper sealing and storage, powdered milk has a shelf-life of up to 20 years. That’s a long time with milk if you pack enough.

And milk is more than just a drink. It’s excellent to mix with cereals for breakfast, create desserts, pancakes, custard and so much more.

Food #9: Pass the salt

There are several taste enhancers on this list and salt is one of those that will last indefinitely. You’ll need to ensure it’s stored properly in an airtight container with plenty of oxygen absorbers.

Salt is one of those products that offer comfort, enhancing the food that is otherwise bland and unappealing. I always carry some in my glove compartment, handy for when I’m caught short.

Food #10: The sweetness of raw honey

Jars of raw honey stacked on top of each other

Scientists opened a pharaoh’s tomb a few years ago and inside, they found jars of honey. After testing it, they found that it was still edible after 3000 years. Is that long enough for you?

Honey has so many health benefits, some of which scientists still haven’t explained. But apart from all the nutritional goodness, it sure tastes amazing and is perfect with so many meals and drinks.

Food #11: Alcohol will keep

Alcohol is a distilled product and thus has a shelf-life of forever. Well. Almost forever. The two deciding factors that you need to keep in mind are storage and damage.

Alcohol such as Gin, Vodka, Whisky and Bacardi is stored in glass bottles, which makes them quite fragile. Damaging them is quite easy and you’ll need to keep them safely packed for long term food storage.

The other deciding factor is oxygen. Once opened, a bottle reacts with oxygen in certain ways. That old bottle we all have in our pantry will eventually taste substantially different. Keep them sealed and you’ll have a timeless supply.

Food #12: Cans are a good option

There are virtually thousands of options when it comes to canned goods. Fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, ready-made-meals and many more. While the shelf-life of each varies substantially, keep them stored in optimal conditions and you can use them for many years to come.

The best thing about cans is that they are virtually indestructible if stored in optimal conditions. They are fairly cheap to buy and provide good wholesome foods that you can eat straight from the can itself.

Think of baked beans and canned spaghetti. Teenagers virtually grow up on them for years. The taste is great, they don’t need heating and have loads of nutritious value.

Food #13: Pre-packaged is another option

Long term food storage is a multi-million-dollar industry right now and you can buy virtually anything that resembles a 20-year time capsule. There is an insane amount of companies that are creating pre-packaged goods for you to fill your shelves with.

A bucket of emergency lunch and dinner meals

There is breakfast, lunch, and dinner available for the next 20 to 25 years because that’s how long most of these last on the shelf. Pancakes, macaroni and cheese, potato soup, stroganoff. Where does it end?

There are so many options, that you could eat a different meal every day for the next 20 years if you bought one of each.

But pre-packaged foods have one problem that I consider a deal-breaker for me: price. The food they use and deliver is of decent quality.

So is the shelf life, which is impressive. But for me, the costs are quite significant when you compare them to creating your own.

Food will always be cheaper when you make it yourself. It might take a little more work, but that’s half the excitement of creating this in the first place. For me, it is, anyway.

And apart from satisfaction, I also get one other thing that seals it for me. Peace of mind is important to me. As I said before; I like to know what goes into the food I’m planning to store so I’m not caught short when the time finally arrives.

I personally use a bit of everything when it comes to my own food cache. Some that I prepared and some pre-packaged. A good mix is important so I enjoy the best of both worlds. Price is something important to me so I look for reasonably priced items that also add value to my supply.

Food #14: The final word on pancakes

Remember when I mentioned pancakes before? The bit I wanted to save till the end was that you can safely store some maple syrup away and surprise the family in 50 years. Yup, 50 years for the best pancake topper in the world.

The only requirement is that you buy the syrup in glass bottles instead of plastic or tin. Stored safely in glass and kept in optimal conditions, this heavenly condiment will keep for up to 5 decades.

The final round-up of long term food storage

Which food you choose is definitely the hardest part of any long term food storage solution you build. Remember the key points from above and you can rest easy, knowing that in 15 or 20 years, you are still eating the decisions you made today.

Build a proper plan before building your supply. Consider all of the members of your family, including much-loved pets.

Take note of the specific dietary needs they require, as well as any allergies or weaknesses. It’s no good packing a ton of chili if half the family is sensitive to it.

Try to create as much variety as your budget allows. When the apocalypse does finally arrive and end supermarkets forever, your menu will depend on the decisions you make today.

Keep a list of the different categories like staples, condiments, treats, healthy foods, meats, fruits, vegetables and whatever else you can think of.

Will you store it all in the same spot or will you spread it around? Will you have the space for everything? It’s not a wise idea to buy nothing but cans, only to realize that you only have the outside shed to store them in.

A shed isn’t going to protect the cans from high humidity during the colder months.

Whatever you decide, in the end, it will come down to the preparation you take today, which determines your survival tomorrow.

There are enough options to consider, and when you have your list ready to go, shop around for the best price you can get. Because another dollar saved is another product you can add.

Want to learn more about long-term food storage? Check out this article: The 10 Best Tips for DIY Long Term Food Storage.