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When it comes to prepping, there isn’t anything much more important than having a good supply of the basics that keep us alive. Those prepper basics are of course food, water, security, and shelter. But the biggest struggle for many is actually finding the foods that last a long time. In this post, we take a look at the 20 best prepping foods for long-term storage and how to extend the shelf life of your foods.
Since I started writing The Prepping Guide, one of the most popular questions I have received is what foods last the longest? It was also one of the primary challenges I had when I started prepping. And it’s not only preppers that ask about the foods with the longest shelf life, it’s homesteaders, emergency workers, military, and many other communities. So I decided to make a list of the longest lasting foods.
For water storage, whether you are storing your own water or buying bottled water, it’s pretty straightforward. And for security and shelter, there are many different ways to set up your home security and use your own shelter or a bug out location. But for food, it’s important to know the range of choices we have and the foods that have the longest shelf life so that we don’t have to rotate our stock so much. This lets us have those foods sitting in the cupboard and know that should we need them, they will still be good to eat in 5 or 10 years.
Choices in food matter. For myself, I wouldn’t want to be living off beans for a whole year if I knew there were other options I could easily purchase at my local supermarket that would last for more than five or 10 years, and I know you are the same. While these foods might seem plain and simple, they are great to add with your canned foods that you might have canned yourself, or your emergency food.
So let’s take a look at what can we eat that has the longest shelf life and the foods that last a long time.
Just like with rice, if you properly package dried beans they can last for up to 30 years. To get the longest shelf life out of dried beans they have to be stored in air-tight containers with moisture prevention to prevent the spoilage that happens in kept foods.
One of the best bulk options we tried were Augason Farms Pinto Beans, which are contained in a 6-gallon watertight pail that included 432 servings.
Sure, I mentioned above that dried beans every day might get a bit boring, but if you add these in with rice and a few different spices you can make a lot of interesting mixtures to have some contrast to your food stockpiles and the types of recipes you could create out of your doomsday stockpile.
For storing dried beans, it is recommended you stick with airtight sealable food storage containers and mylar bags which stop oxygen absorption for long-term foods. The bags help considerably to extend the shelf-life of almost all foods that you are looking to store. There are also a number of other ways that you might want to look at to extend the shelf-life of your foods as well.
Oats are amazing and a very filling food source that can be easily used in all sorts of meals and snacks. Sure, they are not as easy to cook as most other food types but can last upwards of 30 years if kept in the same manner as beans. And, did we mention how cheap they are.
There are endless possibilities to how you prepare them including boiling oats, toasting oats, grinding them into flour, baking them into your favorite muffin, even sprouting them or making them into oat milk.
The health benefits of rolled oats, like the one’s we tested from Honeyville, are rich in antioxidants, contain a powerful soluble fiber called Beta-Glucan, and can lower cholesterol levels and protect LDL cholesterol from damage.
Pasta is a great shelf food as it is another carbohydrate item to mix with anything else to make a cold or hot pasta depending on what you are after. For most commercially-packaged freeze dried pasta they sit around the 8-30 year shelf lifespan.
Take a look at the packs in the supermarket as some Italian pasta varies quite widely in their expiry dates.
Dried fruits, or dehydrated fruits, are fruits that have been dried out such as raisins, apricots, apple and of course dates, but the possibilities don’t stop there. You can really dehydrate any fruit and many vegetables.
Most dehydrated fruits in bulk are costly and I have found the ones I have done myself with the Gourmeia Food Dehydrator are more delicious and affordable. But slicing and drying fruits and veggies can be time intensive so do what’s best for you.
Most dehydrated fruits will keep well up to five years, but dates and raisins may keep a bit longer if stored in the same preserved way as beans but in a cooler temperature.
There are various ways to store cheese, such as cheese in wax, canned cheese from Bega, Kraft, and freeze-dried cheese, and can last for an incredibly long time for a dairy product.
Dehydrated carrots last for up to 25 years.
Canned corn and dried corn is cheap, tasty and has an easy 10-year shelf life.
If you are stocking lentils, which most preppers already do, consider getting whole lentils and not split ones, as the whole lentils last much longer. These are also a great source of fiber and are very easy to cook on their own or to add to other dishes.
The shelf life for these is generally 4-5 years but if you add them into mylar oxygen absorber bags they can last up to 20 years.
I grew up on canned beans as a kid and absolutely love them. I keep small tins of these in my bug out bag and take them outdoors as they are super tasty and easy to eat hot or cold.
I would never usually eat these, and perhaps if you had a good source of chickens these would not be necessary, but as an additive, canned powdered eggs are a perfect shelf item as they can last up to seven years.
Pemmican is a survival treat invented by the Native Americans which was made from lean meat of local wild animals. The meat is dried over a fire, mixed with fat and flavoring berries and pressed into biscuit-sized snacks.
Bear Valley makes a range of pemmican products for outdoors regulars who are looking for a source of protein with a good taste and long shelf life.
Initially made for soldiers to have high-energy sources of foods that last a long time, MREs are essentially the basics of long-lasting foods that are made to be compact but carry 24 or 72-hours worth of nutrients.
MREs are also great to use in short-term scenarios such as in disasters where you need to rely on an emergency food source for a short amount of time. This is why most 72-hour survival kits will have an MRE or freeze-dried meal to go.
Even though they are sugar and fat-packed, if you’re after a little bit of sweetness to add to the prepper’s pantry, Twinkies are the one dessert that have been proven to outlast a nuclear fallout.
In 2012, a science teacher finished an experiment to see how long they would last. He ate a pack of Twinkies that were 30 years old and aside from the bread tasting a little stale, they were completely fine.
While you can use honey as a type of sugar, which also lasts indefinitely, sugar and salts are great to add to foods and are basic ingredients in many recipes.
Baking soda and baking powder last indefinitely, but again you need to think about if you actually want to be cooking breads or doughy items when the world is at an end. Some people avoid stocking too many items that require a lot of cooking.
Honey, as mentioned above, is a great natural sugar and lasts forever.
This not only works for soups, but also potato or rice to add an extra flavoring to a dish.
Depending on your water reserves, you might not want to be drinking too much coffee if you need to be relying on your prepper’s stockpile of food.
Powdered milk and even powdered protein supplements are a must-have for the pantry as the powdered milk can be cooked with or used in drinks and the protein powder provides a lot of nutrients you might usually not get.
Every prepper’s pantry should also have emergency food supplies that can be grabbed in a bug out situation, such as if your place was to be overrun with people desperate for supplies, or you need to leave because of a disaster or other threat.
There are some great emergency food supply companies that provide sets of food supplies such as:
For a more in-depth coverage on the best freeze-dried foods and emergency foods to add to your stockpile, I wrote a post on the seven best freeze-dried and emergency foods that might help you find suitable options for your bug out bag, stockpile, or to keep around the house for when you are headed outdoors.
When storing any prepper foods, there are certain tips to extend the shelf life of your foods. Following some simple common-sense practices can mean the difference between your foods lasting months or even years longer than they usually would. For any prepper that stores their own food, this should be part of their repertoire.
Over at our post on how to extend the the shelf life of foods, we have 20 tips that you might want to follow.
One great way to ensure that your food is sealed and that it won’t develop mould over time is to use mylar storage bags and oxygen absorbers. The mylar bags are great as they are crucial to long-term food storage by limiting the factors that affect foods such as heat, light, moisture, oxygen, and of course those pesky mice and rats (if you have them around).
You will no doubt find that most preppers will use mylar bags in their food storage containers, which just reinforces the protection of your food. Using oxygen absorbers (the amount depends on the amount of food you have in the bag) will stop oxygen, dampness and any eventual bacteria and mould from growing in your food. This is the number one spoiler for long-term storage foods and the one thing we hate the most as preppers when it comes to food storage. I recommend picking up these discount mylar bags as they also come with oxygen absorbers.
Once you have loaded your food in the bag and you have thrown in your oxygen absorbers, you can either heat seal it closed, or if you have bought mylar bags with a ziplock seal, you can use that instead.
When you first come into the world of prepping, there is a lot run through and it is easy to get lost. Thankfully, it’s not all that hard to start prepping and it shouldn’t be either, it’s actually quite a fun activity once you really start getting into it. We have a guide on how you can start prepping which helps you build an adequate food supply for yourself and your loved ones.
If you know of any other foods that have a long shelf-life, please share it with me and the rest of the prepping community in the comments section below.