Food With Indefinite Shelf Life

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Food With Indefinite Shelf Life Salt // ForeverSince it’s a mineral, salt essentially has an infinite shelf life, and because our body needs it, that makes it a critical commodity. So if you keep your salt in an air-tight container, you could probably pass it down to your grandchildren.

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Food With Indefinite Shelf Life

There are certain foods you would expect to have a long shelf life, like dried beans and grains, but there are also those things that really shouldn’t be able to last as long as they do. Looking at you, Twinkies.

Well, whether you’re in fear of the zombie apocalypse or just too lazy to grocery shop on a regular basis, here are some foods with ridiculously long shelf lives that will be your new best friends.

1. Salt // Forever

Those souls who braved the Mayflower and salt-cured all their food knew what was up. Not only does salt have the ability to preserve or cure foods, but it is also heavily used in cooking, cleaning, and first aid.

Since it’s a mineral, salt essentially has an infinite shelf life, and because our body needs it, that makes it a critical commodity. So if you keep your salt in an air-tight container, you could probably pass it down to your grandchildren. Honestly.

2. Honey // Thousands of Years (Possibly Longer)

Archeologists digging through tombs in Egypt were surprised when they discovered preserved honey that was still technically edible. How does it keep for so long? Chalk it up to a mix of low moisture combined with the presence of hydrogen peroxide that helps keeps bacteria away.

It’ll probably crystallize over time, leaving a strange-looking ball of gunk at the bottom of the container, but it can easily be scooped out and reheated back to its normal consistency.

3. Worcestershire Sauce // Indefinitely

Worcestershire Sauce dates back to the 1800s when two chemists, Lea and Perrins, created the sauce accidentally. And while nobody can agree exactly on how it should be pronounced we should all be thankful.

Left unopened, Worcestershire Sauce can last forever. It’s terrifying to think something you would use to cook or marinate meat can still be okay in ten years, but the sauce is known to gain more flavor as it ages. Just make sure your bottle is authentic and kept somewhere cool and dark.

4. Hard Liquor // Nearly Forever – Unopened*

If you’re stuck inside your home with limited options for sustenance, you should know that it’s perfectly safe to grab that bottle of vodka you bought back in 2008 and started chugging to cope with your current situation. Since hard liquor will last nearly forever if unopened, there’s just one more reason to stock your bar.

*If you do plan on keeping alcohol for an extended period, just remember to keep it away from light, heat and definitely oxygen, because once air gets in, you may as well get boozing.

5. Canned Beans // 30+ years

Dried beans stored properly will last indefinitely, but canning is another food preservation method that dates back to the 1800s. While some canned goods last longer than others, beans should stay good for up to 30 years.

The best part is it doesn’t matter whether it’s kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, or Lima beans, they’ll still keep the same. Just throw some rice — which can last up to 25 years — in there and you have yourself a balanced meal.

6. Ramen Noodles // 10+ years

It’s no mystery why Ramen noodles are so popular. They’re super cheap, taste great, and last forever. Well, more like ten years, so not forever, but long enough. The only thing from college that will last longer is your student loans.

The dried out noodles help the situation, but even the flavor packs, made from dehydrated vegetables, can withstand the same amount of time.

Survival Foods With Long Shelf Life

1. Canned Meat

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These are the ultimate survival food for any survival situation. They usually have a shelf life that ranges from 2 to 5 years, depending on the type of meat and storage conditions.

Canned meat will supply you with the much-needed nutrients and energy. We recommend you buy different types of canned meat, such as spaghetti with jumbo meatballs, canned fish, spam, smoked ham, Vienna sausages, chicken breast, cured ham, potted meat, roast beef hash, luncheon meat, and any other good option you will come across.

Note, however, that once opened, canned meat can last just three to four days. So, it is wise to pick just the right can size to avoid wastage. Small cans are more convenient because you can consume one at a time without any leftovers. 

2. Beans

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Beans are among the best all-around survival foods. Did you know that these dried bipolar seeds are more nutritious than rice?

There are about 15 types of beans that are loaded with calories and can last a long time in storage. 

Adzuki, mung, pinto, kidney, cannellini, pigeon, cranberry, garbanzo, pink, lima, navy, black, black-eyed, black turtle, and freeze-dried split pea can last up to 30 years in storage. Dehydrated soybean, on the other hand, can last 10 to 15 years.

One cup of boiled adzuki beans provides roughly 294 calories and more than 15g of protein. Dehydrated soybean provides about 298 calories and more than 20g of protein. So, beans are also a great source of protein.

You should buy 4 to 5 pounds of dried beans on every visit to the store and stockpile them in a dark, cool place.

3. Lentils 

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Lentils are a pretty functional food, thanks to their exceptional dietary composition. They have an amazing nutritional value and they taste pretty delicious.

These are great food because they’re packed with protein and available in one-pound bags. When you prepare lentils, they increase in size. They are also easy to cook because you don’t have to soak them. Just add them to boiling water and they will cook in approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

Lentils have an incredible shelf life. If stored properly, they can last up to 30 years. Traditionally, they were stored in clay pots for use in famine as well as harsh winter conditions.

You can buy them already packed in bags or you can get them in bulk and store them in airtight containers and jars.

4. Rice

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This might come as a surprise to you, but rice is indeed one of the best foods you can stockpile for survival situations.

This grain, a staple of any good emergency food storage, can be cooked in different ways. One of the most popular ones is steaming, which can be done on any given type of stove. 

Uncooked rice has a very long shelf life when properly stored. When sealed and stored properly, white rice can last up to 2 years. Brown rice, however, has a shorter shelf life of around 6 months.

Rice is also a very convenient choice for serving with different types of beans.

5. Canned Fruits & Vegetables

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Surviving on carbohydrates or proteins alone isn’t going to supply you with a balanced diet in those trying times. This brings us to the next important food item in our listing: canned fruits and vegetables.

It’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables are an essential part of any diet. But fresh fruits or veggies will hardly last a week when stockpiled. That’s why we recommend canned fruits and veggies to get the nutrients you need in any survival situation.

When shopping for canned fruits, get the ones that are packed in water or their own juice. Avoid canned fruits that are stored in artificial sweeteners, salt, syrup, or sugar.

Canned vegetables include corn, peas, green beans, mixed vegetables, potatoes, spinach, carrots, and many more. Any canned vegetable you buy shouldn’t have oils, sugars, or fats in the ingredients list.

Canned fruits and veggies that are properly stored can last around 1 to 2 years. But the shelf life may deteriorate pretty fast after opening, approximately 2 to 7 days. 

6. Dried Fruits

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Dried fruits come in almost as many varieties as fresh fruits.

But apricots, prunes, dates, figs, and raisins are the most common dried fruits on the marketplace. Local markets and health food stores provide many more choices, including papayas, mangoes, berries, pineapples, and dried apples.

Dried fruits are rich sources of nutrients, bioactive compounds, and carbohydrates. The most calorie-rich of these fruits are raisins and dates. Dried fruits are also good sources of sugars, including glucose and fructose.

Dried fruits can last roughly 6 to 12 months. So, it is advisable to rotate them to make sure you don’t end up with spoiled fruits in a survival situation.

7. Flour

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Having flour in storage for survival is a good thing. You can use flour to prepare just about anything. You just need a few ingredients to make quick foods like banana bread, vegan naan, pancakes, and scalloped potatoes among others.

All-purpose flour (regular), white cake flour, white bread flour, and self-rising flour can last up to 12 months at room temperature. But the shelf life of whole-wheat, whole-grain, and oat flour is slightly shorter at 1 to 3 months.

What about coconut and almond flour? These alternative options to starchy flours also have a short shelf life of about 3 months. 

You can also store wheat, which you can then process with a handy wheat grinder when you need flour.

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Foods with a Long Shelf Life (and will actually get you through a disaster)

The Red Cross and FEMA now recommend having at least a 2-week supply of food and water at home.  They recommend non-perishable foods with long shelf lives.

This list of foods with long shelf lives — most of which can be found at your local supermarket — is an excellent place to get started.

List of Long Shelf Life Foods

1. Commercially Canned Foods

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For people just getting started with emergency preparedness, canned foods are the best way to go.   You can get them in the supermarket, they won’t break like glass jars, and there are tons of options.

As for shelf life, canned goods do have a “use by” date on them.  However, studies have shown that canned foods are good for decades and potentially forever.  They might have some nutrient breakdown or get mushy, but they will still be safe to eat.  

Canned foods aren’t perfect for emergency preparedness, though.  They are usually loaded with sodium or sugars.  And a lot of canned foods taste gross.  So, try to include other foods in your stockpile as well.

*Don’t forget to stockpile a manual can opener with the canned goods! In a pinch, you can use one of these methods for opening a can without a can opener.

2. Sugar, Honey, and Other Sugars

Archaeologists have found honey in Egyptian pyramids that are 3,000 years old and still edible. Likewise, refined sugar can last forever.  It might become rock-hard or lumpy but will still be edible.

3. Freeze Dried Foods

Freeze Dried Strawberries
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Freeze drying is a process where the moisture is removed from food while leaving the nutrient contents intact.  The resulting foods are delicious and crisp.  You can eat them as-is or soak them in water to rehydrate.

All sorts of foods can be freeze dried.  These include meat, cheese, dairy, fruits, veggies, and even entire meals.

Almost all the “emergency food” you see sold is freeze dried.  When packaged properly (meaning in an airtight package with oxygen absorbers), freeze dried foods can last for 25+ years.

4. Dehydrated Fruits and Veggies

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Dehydrating uses heat to remove approximately 75-95% of moisture from foods.  Without moisture, the rate of spoilage decreases drastically.  Dehydrated fruits can last an incredibly long time because their sugars act as a natural preservative.

Without any special packaging (such as storing dried fruits or veggies in Tupperware), they will likely last 6 months to 1 year.  If you take the extra step of packaging them in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, dried foods can last 5-15 years.  This is how emergency food brands package their dehydrated foods.

5. Jerky

Jerky is also made with a dehydrator.  However, it’s a bit trickier to dehydrate at home because you need to get the temperature up high enough to kill any bacteria.

The jerky you buy in the supermarket can last 1-2 years unopened in your pantry.

With homemade jerky, the shelf life is much shorter: anywhere from 1 week to 4 months. The variation in shelf life has to do with how much fat is in the meat, storage conditions, and the amount of moisture remaining in the jerky.

6. Dried Beans

USAID says that dry beans have a shelf life of at least 1 year when stored in a cool, dry place but can last indefinitely.  Beans will start to lose vitamins at around 2-3 years.  But, so long as they stayed dry and didn’t begin to grow mold, they will still be fine to eat.

Just remember that dry beans take a long time to cook.  If you plan on eating them during an emergency, make sure you have a way to cook them.

7. Jarred Food (Commercially-Made)

The food that you buy in jars in the supermarket is preserved by canning.  It’s the same method that preserves food in cans.

In general, food in cans will last longer than in jars.  The jars are more likely to have issues with their seals, breakage, or deterioration from light.  However, you can still expect jarred food to last at least 5 years.

Remember that  “Best By” or “Best Before” date is not a safety date.  It’s the manufacturer’s estimate of how long the food will remain at peak quality.

Here are just some jarred foods to consider for your emergency stockpile:

  • Jams
  • Applesauce
  • Pickles
  • Peppers
  • Pasta sauce
  • Baby food

8. Home Canned Food

Canning is a way to preserve food at home, and it is pretty simple with a good pressure canner. Home canned foods won’t last as long as commercially-canned ones, but you can still expect them to last 2-5 years.

9. Pasta

Pasta generally has a “best by” date of 1-2 years.  It will easily last 2 years past this date in your pantry without any special storage. When in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, pasta will last 20 to 30 years!

10. White Rice

If stored in a cool, dry place, white rice can last forever.  This is not the case with brown rice, though.

Unlike white rice, brown rice hasn’t had its bran removed. The bran is quite high in oils, which go rancid fairly quickly.  That’s why brown rice will only last up to 1 year in your pantry.

11. Whole Grains

Whole grains still have their outer shell (hull) intact.  This acts as a natural preservative, keeping out air and light that would cause degradation. The grains with harder hulls (hard grains) will last longer than those with soft hulls (soft grains).

Like virtually every food on this long shelf life list, you should store whole grains in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers. They will still last a long time in a sealed container in your pantry, though.

Expected shelf life in a cool, dry pantry:

  • Wheat: 2 years
  • Barley: 2 years
  • Kamut: 2 years
  • Millet: 2 years
  • Rolled oats: 2 years
  • Rye: 2 years
  • Spelt: 2 years
  • Alfalfa: 4 years
  • Buckwheat: 2 years
  • Quinoa: 3 years

Shelf life when stored in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers:

  • Soft grains (such as barley, quinoa, and rye): 8 years
  • Hard grains (such as wheat and buckwheat): 10 to 12 years

Just like with dry beans, whole grains can take a very long time to cook.  Remember to plan a way to cook without electricity for using them.

12. Seeds

Seeds are an excellent source of nutrients.  They are loaded with protein, iron, magnesium, healthy fats, and lots of vitamins.  They also are one of the foods with the longest shelf lives without you having to do much of anything.

In a cool, dry pantry, you can expect most seeds to last 2-5 years.  Bear in mind that temperature matters for seed shelf life because they have natural oils that go rancid from heat.  The USDA states that “Each 5.6oC. (10.08oF) drop in temperature doubles the storage life of the seeds”.

13. Nuts

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Like seeds, nuts are loaded with nutrients and naturally have a long shelf life (especially if they are kept in their shells).

The difference is that nuts usually have a much higher fat content than seeds.  This fat will eventually go rancid, especially in hot, humid conditions.   Fattier nuts like pistachios will go bad very quickly.

Because nuts are so expensive, I wouldn’t try to store them for years as part of a long-term food storage plan.  However, if you keep them cool and remember to rotate them, they are a great emergency food.

Notes:

  1. Nuts in their shell will last 25-50% longer than shelled nuts.
  2. Whole nuts last approximately 50% longer than nut pieces.
  3. Some roasted nuts may only have ¼ of the shelf life of raw nuts.
  4. The shelf life of peanut butter depends on whether it is “natural” or has preservatives.

Shelf life of nuts in months

 In pantry at 50FIn pantry at 68F
Almond, shelled84
Almond, in shell166
Macadamia, shelled125
Peanut, shelled94
Peanut, in shell96
Pistachio, shelled31
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14. Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is made by freeze-drying milk.  It is then stored in sealed packaging, which doesn’t allow air or moisture to pass through.

If you keep the powdered milk in its packaging, it is a forever shelf life food.  Even after it has been opened, it will probably last 2-10 years, so long as you keep it away from humidity and heat.

Read how to store dried milk for the long term and how to make powdered milk.

15. Salt and Bouillon

Salt is used as a preservative for food, so it is no surprise that it lasts forever.  Instead of just stockpiling salt, you might want to stockpile bouillon in your emergency supplies too.  It also has a forever shelf life but has more flavor than salt alone – which can do wonders for spicing up bland emergency meals.

16. Instant Mashed Potatoes

Instant mashed potatoes are one of my favorite backpacking foods, and they are also great for emergency prep.  The flakes come sealed in packages, usually with 2-4 servings per package.  This makes them very easy to ration.

I also love that instant potatoes can be made with straight-up water – no heating required.  If you don’t have an emergency stove or cannot use it for whatever reason (or it’s raining while camping and you don’t feel like cooking), you can add water to the flakes and stir.

In sealed packaging, instant potatoes have a shelf life of 5-15 years (despite what the “Use by” date says).  Once opened, you can expect them to last 6-12 months in a cool, dry place.

Read more about storing potato flakes long-term.

17. Cocoa and Cacao Powder

Unsweetened cocoa powder can last 6 years past its expiration date, though it will lose some of its taste over time. Just don’t eat it if it has a moldy, unpleasant odor.

Cacao is a less-processed version of cocoa.  It won’t last as long, but you can expect a shelf life of 2-3 years if stored in a cool, dry place.

18. Flour

Flour is made from ground-up grains.  Because the hulls have been removed or destroyed, flours won’t last as long as whole grains.  However, you can still get a very long shelf life.

You can expect a shelf life of approximately 1 to 2 years for white flour in a cool, dry pantry.  Whole wheat flour has more oils in it, so it will only last a few months.

In a Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers, white and whole wheat flour will last around 10 years.

Read how to store flour for the long term.

non perishable foods
TIP: It’s a lot easier to rotate through your food if you keep it organized!
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19. Cooking Oils

Most cooking oils will last at least 2 years and probably a lot longer in a cool place.

Heat is the biggest enemy of oils.  In hot temperatures, some oils – like coconut and olive oil – will go bad very quickly.  You will notice a nasty smell.  For emergency preparedness, it’s better to stick with sunflower, soy, and canola oils.

20. Herbs and Spices

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Herbs and spices are generally dehydrated.  Without much moisture in them, most will last 2-5 years without any special storage.  These are great to include in your emergency food storage to add flavor to bland survival meals.

21. Crackers

Many supermarket crackers will easily last 6-9 months in the pantry with no special storage. Some types of crackers have even longer shelf lives.  For example, Hardtack biscuits have a forever shelf life and were a main food for sailors over the centuries. Read how to store crackers long term.

22. Jell-O Mix

In its unopened package, Jell-O mix can potentially last forever.  Once you open the package, though, you’ll need to use the powder within 3 months.

23. Vinegar

The acidity in vinegar acts as a natural preservative, giving it a forever shelf life.  You don’t even need to refrigerate vinegar to get this long shelf life.  Just make sure you avoid vinegars with herbs in them, as those herbs might go bad eventually. Also see does vinegar go bad?

24. Some Condiments

Soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce will last forever in your pantry.  Ketchup also has a long shelf life and will last for around 2 years past the expiration date.  So take a stroll down the condiments aisle and look at the shelf lives.  You’ll find lots of good options for your emergency food storage.

25. Baking Soda, Powder, and Yeast

There’s not much point in stockpiling flour if you don’t have a way to make things out of it.  So remember to including some baking soda, baking powder, and/or yeast in your emergency food stockpile.

These are all long shelf life foods, even without special storage methods.  You’ll also want to look up some recipes for solar ovens for making bread loaves or learn how to make flatbread in a skillet.

  • Baking soda, unopened: Indefinitely (but will lost potency after approximately 3 years). See how to store baking soda long term.
  • Baking powder, unopened: 6-12 months
  • Dry yeast, unopened: 2-4 years past its expiration date. See how to store dry yeast long term.

26. Instant Coffee

Coffee isn’t really a food, but it’s something that a lot of us wouldn’t want to live without.  The good news is that instant coffee (made with freeze drying) has a forever shelf life.

Before You Begin Stockpiling these Foods…

All of these foods can last a very long time. Some even have shelf lives of “forever.”  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will last through a disaster.  Nor does it mean you’ll be able to eat them during a disaster.

For example:

  • Honey lasts forever. But it will be useless if you stored it in a glass jar that smashed during a hurricane.
  • Pasta can last 5+ years but is useless if you don’t have water and an emergency stove for cooking it.
  • Dehydrated foods don’t require cooking but will be useless if rodents or pests get at them…

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