Survival Food List: The Must-Have Food You Need to Stockpile

Survival Food List the must have food you need to stockpile

It is said time and tide wait for no man. Technological advancements have ensured there are possible alternatives for everything but nature waits for no man. Disasters, natural or otherwise can happen anytime.

In a world riddled with uncertainty, how do you ensure you keep your wits about you to survive. Food is the basic human need and it is important to have a survival food list so you’re prepared when emergencies hit.

History has shown us that whether it is a hurricane, an earthquake, floods, or any other natural calamity, or even a war, the first thing people lose access to is food and water. People who live in areas and cities prone to heavy floods, famines, droughts, or heavy snowfall are used to this and tend to keep a stock of chosen survival food that would last a long time.

But what would you do in case you’re thrown head straight into an emergency? Our survival food list will walk you through everything you need to know about the right kind of food to store and how to store food during a disaster.

Criteria to Choose Survival Foods

When it comes to choosing survival foods whether, for the short or long-term, there are certain things you need to keep in mind.

Shelf Life

The whole idea of survival food is to store food that can last for a long time. If the food you choose does not have a long shelf life, then it stumps the whole purpose of it. Most items have best before dates written on the packaging itself so they can give you a rough idea. Avoid stocking products that don’t last a year, at the least.

Easy to Prepare

Seeing that we don’t know what kind of emergency we’ll be in, it’s best to choose food products that can be consumed as is or require very little preparation time. Food items like protein bars, canned beans, and white rice are the way to go.

Nutritional Value

Just because you’re in a situation that requires you to eat stored food for survival does not mean it has to be bland, or a straight-up fast-food meal. Ensure you stock up on nutritious foods. Most staple survival foods have great nutritional value and are meant to keep you energetic and fit at the time you need them the most.


As much as possible store food in air-tight containers. The plastic packaging that they usually come in can decrease their shelf life. Your main concern should be storing food that does not require electricity or fuel to be cooked.

Survival Foods That Have the Longest Shelf Life

When survival is all about staying put and making the best of what you have, it also means stockpiling on food that has the longest shelf life since there’s no saying till when an emergency might extend. You need food that will not expire. At all.

How crazy is that?

But, in a scenario where you’re restricted from making regular trips to the grocery store or ordering online, the items on this list can be your best bet.

Survival Foods That Have the Longest Shelf Life

#1. Rice

Rice can last you more than 25 years if stored in ideal conditions. If I were you, I’d lay off brown rice. While popularly known as being more nutritious than the standard white rice, it has a high oil content comparatively. Simply put, it won’t last more than 12-18 months in the pantry. Defeats the purpose of survival food, doesn’t it?

#2. Honey

I know, I know. The “best before” date on the bottles can confuse anyone. While honey may get grainy, hard, or change color post the best before date, the truth is that it won’t go bad. Honey doesn’t expire even if it’s been previously opened, provided it is stored in good conditions, away from the stove.

#3. Potato Flakes

Potato Flakes have a shelf life that ranges from 25-30 years when stored in ideal conditions. If you’ve opened a can, best remember to use it within a year.

#4. Dried Meat

Dried meat is not just a tasty snack you nibble on, it is a great survival food too. Meat is packed in proteins and is essential for building new cells and maintaining tissues. Dried meat can be stored for 25 years and more and can be a great addition to your survival food list.

#5. Canned Beans

Canned Beans have a crazy good shelf-life and they go well with rice. Now that’s an unbeatable combo. Like rice, beans don’t cost an arm and a leg. They’re easy to store. What I mean to say is, they’re the survival superfood. You will find a great variety of beans that are high in calories and proteins, some also contain a fair share of vitamins and minerals.

Short-Term Disaster Survival Foods

Short-term disaster is probably the most common type of disaster we experience. It could be a blizzard or a short-term power outage. How do you prepare for it beforehand?

It’s not necessary to go in survival mode and hoard everything you can get your hands on as it’s a temporary thing and you’ll mostly be out of it in a matter of days.

I tend to stock the following products for situations like this.

Short-Term Disaster Survival Foods

#1. Water

I know water isn’t technically food, but surviving without it is not possible. Your number one priority should be storing water, the distilled form of it. The first thing that cuts-off during emergencies like this is water so it’s necessary to store enough water to drink, cook and take care of your hygiene.

#2. Canned Food

This can include a range of products, both veg, and non-veg. Some of these canned items also come ready to eat.

#3. Powdered Milk

While powdered milk has a shelf life of 2 years, I know a lot of people who have used it for up to 5 years. But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it. Milk is a staple food. By just adding water to the powdered milk, you have a great dairy substitute.

#4. Peanut Butter

It is a good source of concentrated energy. It does require refrigeration but that’s not a hard and fast rule. Peanut butter is also available in a powdered form that is known to last longer.

#5. Energy Bars

Energy bars are usually created keeping nutritional value in mind. These can be an incredible substitute and since they don’t require any cooking, they work well for times when you don’t have electricity to back you up.

Long-Term Disaster Survival Foods

Although it’s a far stretch, it’s not impossible. Just like the pandemic pushed us into quarantining with what little we had to sustain, there may be a time where you have to isolate yourself from the outside world. Your main priority will be survival.

Just in case, if you do need to prepare for such an event that lasts maybe from six months to a year, remember, your food requirement is not the same as it was before. When it comes to your reserve of survival foods for the long-term, you have to consider various factors.

Food for the Soul – Those That Add Comfort and Flavor

We all have days when we could use our comfort food and these can be a huge plus especially in cases of long-term survival. These also include ingredients that enhance the taste of food. Thankfully they also have shelf lives of over 10 years and include:

#1. Sugar
#2. Salt
#3. Raw Honey
#4. Cooking Oil
#5. Condiments & Spices (Preferably dry roasted)
#6. Alcohol
#7. Vinegar
#8. Instant Coffee or Coffee Beans
#9. Tea Leaves

Ingredients That Form the Base of Your Cooking

When you are looking at long-term survival, there will also be cooking involved. Therefore, your stockpile would also need to contain food categories that form the base of most meals. You’ll also need to factor in their shelf life as well.

Ingredients That Form the Base of Your Cooking

Hard Grains

When it comes to hard grain most have long shelf lives and are known to last more than 10 years if stored well. These can also be stored in powdered form and come in handy when making bread.

#1. White Rice
#2. Red Wheat
#3. White Wheat
#4. Durum Wheat
#5. Buckwheat
#6. Dried Corn
#7. Black or Pearl Millet
#8. Sorghum

Soft Grains

Most soft grains are also known to have a shelf life of eight years if stored in airtight containers. They include:

#1. Quinoa
#2. Oats
#3. Rye
#4. Barley


Almost everyone loves beans in one form or the other and they form the staple ingredient in most meals. Not only do they have a shelf life of 8 – 10 years if stored in airtight containers but they are also well known for their high nutritional value.

#1. Kidney Beans
#2. Lima Beans
#3. Pinto Beans
#4. Mung Beans
#5. Black-eyed Beans
#6. Adzuki Beans
#7. All Kinds of Lentils

Miscellaneous Foods Including Flours and Instant Foods

Most instant foods and flours may not be essential but are staples in most pantries. With the right storage, these products have a reasonably long shelf life of anywhere between 5 – 8 years.

#1. All-Purpose Flour
#2. Refined Wheat Flour
#3. White Flour
#4. Corn flour
#5. Noodles & Pasta

What Is Not on the Survival Foods List

Any food item requiring a lot of pre-soak time, water, and fuel is a big no-no. In the event of an emergency, there’s not much energy, fuel or water to spare so stick to food items that don’t require heavy cooking. While pasta, rice, and beans have an incredible shelf life they require plenty of water and fuel.

This list will also not include perishable items like fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, frozen foods, and boxed meals. Canned food is a great alternative.

What is the Difference Between Shelf-Stable and Non-Perishable?

Shelf-stable refers to food items that can survive for long periods in pantries and on kitchen shelves especially if they are unopened. If opened they need to be sealed well but do not require refrigeration. These foods typically contain low moisture and low ph.

Shelf table food items are usually found in the canned food sections of grocery stores. However canned fruits, vegetables, and meats will need to be refrigerated once opened.

Granola, cookies, crackers, cereals, and dry fruits and jerkies are also considered shelf-stable.

Non-perishable items on the other hand are those items with medium to longer shelf life. They include canned, dry, and dehydrated foods.

What Food to Avoid or Store Sparingly?

Some food items are less shelf-able than they appear. Try to avoid or minimize these products when you are stocking up on food for emergencies.

Food to Avoid or Store Sparingly

#1. Brown Sugar

Does not go bad but it does harden over time. While it’s an important ingredient in a lot of recipes, remember to not overstock it.

#2. Nuts

Might seem like an incredible survival food because of their protein content but I wouldn’t fill my storage with them. Their high-fat content can result in reduced shelf life.

#3. Brown Rice

Takes longer to cook and because it contains oil. Its shelf life is also very low as compared to white rice.

#4. Beef Jerky

It may seem like great food to stock up, but seriously, don’t be impulsive. Consider your choices wisely, including whether is beef jerky good for you. It’s not worth spending a lot of money on food that won’t last more than a year or two.

Why Frozen Food Is Not the Solution

In case of a power outage, refrigerated food is the first to go bad. Don’t rely on smell to determine whether or not refrigerated food is salvageable after a long power cut.

Freezing inactivates microbes but it does not destroy them. There’s a strong chance of these microbes multiplying when the food is thawed. Like water expands when frozen, the water content in fruits and vegetables does the same, giving them a mushy/soggy texture.

Tips for Choosing an Emergency Food Supply

When choosing food items to stock up in an emergency, look for non-perishable items. They require minimal refrigeration, do not take long prep time, and do not require much water to cook.

Store food that everybody in your family eats and take care of any dietary preferences. As a thumb rule, store what you eat. Now is not the time to enforce eating habits.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Do About Water Storage in Relation to the Survival Foods List?

Water is essential for survival. We can survive several days without food but without water, we can only survive for a short while, at best.

At the least, store a gallon of water per person. You’ll need water to drink, cook, wash utensils and bathe. Store water in tight containers, if possible, in shatterproof plastic containers. Water in metal containers can taste weird. Also, make provisions to collect natural rainwater whenever possible.

What Quantity of Rice Should My List Contain?

Rice expands when cooked so you most probably don’t need half as much rice as you think you do. One cup of rice is approximately 600 calories. You’ll need 3 cups to survive the day. One pound of rice can fill 5.5 cups. Going by that, you’ll need 30-120 lbs. of rice per person per year. It also depends on how frequently you include rice in your diet.

How Do I Store Survival Food for an Emergency?

I feel it’s best to store survival food in a cool and dry place, preferably the basement or a cellar. It should be in a temperature-controlled place to maximize its storage life. Make sure to keep your food away from direct sunlight.

How Do I Manage My Expenses While Storing Survival Foods for a Disaster?

Here’s what you can do to build an emergency food storage on a budget:

• Start with a 3-day supply
• Gradually work your way to short term, medium, and then long-term storage
• Shop pantry and fridge first
• Plan out storage
• Stock up when things are on sale
• Buy off-brand versions of the food you eat
• Learn new skills and items to accommodate your emergency stash

Which Canned Foods are the Best for Survival?

Canned food is the easiest to store and has a great shelf life. They’re mostly affordable and can be eaten as is, with no preparation time. Which canned food is best for times like these? Here are my recommendations:

• Baked Beans
• Bacon
• Chicken
• Chili
• Diced Tomatoes
• Soup
• Tuna

Signs You Should Get Going with Your Survival Foods List

Despite all the precautions you take, food may go bad. To make sure your food reserves are wholesome and safe to eat, these are some of the signs you need to look out for:

• Foul smell or odor from the food
• Dented cans
• Bulgy lids
• Rusted cans
• Foam on top of the food
• Past expiration date
• Food/Juice is leaking from the cans

It is important to have a survival food guide handy, so make a checklist of what you eat, what you can compromise on, and how much you’re ready to spend. Buy in bulk especially during discounts and sales This will not only be more affordable for you but will also provide you longer-term stability in terms of a food ration.

Knowing how to safely store food and water can reduce stress and inconvenience brought on by the sudden threat of emergency. It is always recommended that you stock things you normally cook. This way you can keep rotating things in your daily normal life.

When it comes to a survival food list, always follow the FIFO rule which is “first in first out”. Label your foods with the dates you purchased them on and always place older food items in front or on top so they are used first.

Nicole Middleton
Nicole calls herself a typical millennial girl and thrives on her share of social media, celebrity gossip, and all things viral content. She’s a big fan of pop music and plays the guitar as a hobby.