What Foods Have The Longest Shelf Life? (Long Lasting Food Guide)

Having enough food to eat is something that most people take for granted especially in the United States. 

However, disasters and emergencies can occur quickly and unexpectedly. The events of the past few years have shown how situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic can affect an entire country by suddenly creating severe shortages in the food supply chain.

Preppers and survivalists want to be prepared and fully stocked for all situations. Stocking up on food in advance of an emergency situation could help to keep you and your loved ones healthy and well fed. It’s essential that any food you stockpile is stored correctly in order to avoid wastage or finding that your food supplies have gone bad. 

With a little knowledge and preparation, you can confidently buy the best foods to rely on in an emergency and store them in a way that preserves them well. You’ll avoid wasting your money and you’ll gain the peace of mind that you can feed your family regardless of external circumstances. 

We’ve researched the best foods for you to buy, with shelf lives that last years in order for you to stay safe and healthy with a sufficient emergency food store. 

Foods That Have Long Shelf Lives

Before we dive into foods that have a long shelf life, it’s important to understand exactly what is being referred to by a shelf life. 

Shelf life is the length of time that a product can be stored without becoming unsuitable for human consumption.

The shelf life of a product will depend on the type of food, how it is used and how it is stored. 

Generally, your emergency food supply will be designed for the 72 hours after an emergency when it is often hardest to gain access to food or power. However some food supplies may need to last longer and you’ll want to ensure that you have adequate vitamins and nutrients in the food you’re eating. 

Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are generally classed as perishable goods so their shelf life is often just a matter of days or weeks. Some root vegetables such as potatoes and onions can be stored for 1-3 months but they will eventually rot. 

In order to make sure you get all the vitamins and nutrients you may need during an emergency situation you should consider canned fruits and vegetables wherever possible. You might also want to consider dehydrated fruit and vegetables or freeze dried options

Let’s take a look at the different lengths of shelf life you can expect from the food you include in your emergency food supply. 

Foods With A 1 To 2 Year Shelf Life

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Food: Powdered milk 

This can be an excellent item to have in your emergency food supply – not only to add to hot drinks such as coffee or tea but also for use in cooking and to maintain your calcium levels. 

Shelf Life: It is easy to buy in bulk and is usable for at least 18 months. 

How to Store Powdered Milk: It will come in a container which should be fully sealed. If you open the seal at any point to use small amounts, place the remaining powdered milk in an air tight container. Don’t be alarmed if the color or texture changes as it won’t be dangerous to drink. 

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Food:Canned Fruit 

This an ideal substitute for fresh fruit and it can be added to your breakfast meal or eaten as a dessert. It’s a great way to ensure you keep up your vitamin intake and stay healthy following an emergency or disaster. 

Shelf Life: at least 18 months – 2 years. 

How to Store Canned Fruit: Keep in a cool, dry place such as a cupboard or a basement. It’s useful to write the contents of the can in a marker pen on the top of the can in case the label becomes detached or gets wet and peels off. 

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Food: Frozen meals 

Frozen meals often last much longer than you’d think so they can be a good option for your emergency food supply if you can maintain access to power in your home. 

Shelf Life: Although the quality of the flavor may reduce slightly, these can be a good option to feed your family and will still be safe to consume after 1-2 years fully frozen. 

How to Store Frozen Meals: Keep it in its original packaging in a freezer unit

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Food: Beef Jerky 

This is a high protein food source which many survivalists and preppers enjoy as a snack or added to a whole meal. 

Shelf Life: Many people will be happy to eat it after 1-2 years however meat and fish are generally best consumed within this time. 

How to Store Beef Jerky: it will last longest when kept in an airtight container or vacuum packed bag. 

Foods With A 5 To 10 Year Shelf Life

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Food:  Peanut Butter

This is a favorite with many American families and with both adults and children. It’s a great staple to have for making sandwiches or spreading on a bagel. It can also be used in cooking and for creating satay sauces. 

Shelf Life: Can easily last for 5 years when stored at room temperature. There may be some separation of oil from the peanut butter but you can stir it up before you eat. 

How To Store Peanut Butter: Ideally keep it in its original jar or container in a cool dry setting. 

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Food: Dark Chocolate 

As well as being a good morale booster in tough situations, dark chocolate has some excellent nutritional value too. It is packed with antioxidants and can provide valuable calories if you’re having to exert a lot of physical energy. 

Shelf Life: Up to 5 years without compromise to the flavor

How To Store Dark Chocolate: It should be stored in low temperatures to avoid melting or developing white spots. Aim to store dark chocolate in sealed airtight containers at around 60º- 65º F.

Food: Canned Fish (eg: tuna)

Add it to meals or eat it on its own for a protein and omega 3 boost. Canned fish is an excellent option to add to rice or noodles and can also be used as a sandwich filler or with potatoes. 

Shelf Life: At least 5 years after Best Before date

How To Store Canned Fish: Although some fish keep better than others, choosing a fish such as tuna means that you can get maximum shelf life with minimal storage requirements. Simply keep it in its can or vacuum sealed pouch and store in a cool, dry place. 

Foods With A Shelf Life Of Over 10 Years

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Food: Maple Syrup 

Maple syrup is a staple sweetener in American homes. It can be used for breakfast pancakes, as part of your protein marinade, and even as a basic sweetener. You’d be surprised to know that Maple Syrup has an exceptionally long shelf life and only ever goes bad a year after opening.

Shelf Life Forever if unopened; up to a year once you open the bottle. 

How to Store Maple Syrup: You can either keep it in a cupboard or in the fridge if it’s opened. Keeping it in the fridge can help to prevent insects such as ants from being attracted to it in your kitchen. 

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Food: Dried Beans

These are a favorite with many survivalists and preppers who follow a plant based diet. They’re extremely cheap and packed with micronutrients such as potassium, iron and zinc. They are also very filling so dried beans are an ideal option when food is scarce.

Shelf Life: Indefinite

How To Store Dried Beans: Dried beans simply need to be kept dry so place them in a plastic container or an airtight plastic bag. You’ll need to soak them before use in order to replace the moisture. 

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Food: Honey

As well as being a great way to add a touch of sweetness to simple dishes such as oatmeal or yoghurt, honey can even be used on wounds thanks to its antiseptic qualities. 

Shelf Life: Indefinite. Most jars of store bought honey have a Best By date on them but this is simply because after a set time the honey may form sugar crystals and harden. 

How To Store Honey: In a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. 

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Food: Dried Pasta

If you’ve got access to power in the aftermath of an emergency, dried pasta is a simple and easy meal to cook with just boiling water. You can add sauces or vegetables and you can make either vegetarian or meat dishes with dried pasta. It’s a brilliant option for its versatility and it’s super easy to store. 

Shelf Life: Indefinite

How To Store Dried Pasta: Keep in a sealed bag or airtight container. 

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Food: Oats

One of the most popular breakfast options for survivalists and preppers is simple oatmeal. This is because oats are cheap, easy to store and easy to transport. They are also filling which is ideal if you’re expending energy all day and need food to sustain you. 

You can use oats to bake with and you can also ground them into flour or make oat milk with them. 

Shelf Life: Steel cut oats last well infinitely. Some quick oats may have a shorter life span. 

How To Store Oats: Store oats in an airtight container out of direct sunlight

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Food: Sugar 

In America today there’s a lot of bad press about how much sugar is consumed. However in a disaster situation you may need sugar to sweeten drinks, make baked goods or sprinkle on dishes to give you an extra boost. 

There are different types of sugar including brown sugar, white sugar and powdered sugar. 

Shelf Life: Forever if kept away from moisture and heat

How To Store Sugar: Try to always store it in an airtight container or vacuum packed bag. 

Are There Foods That Last Forever? 

We’ve seen that lots of foods can last indefinitely – especially if unopened and kept in their original sealed packaging. 

With foods such as uncooked rice, dried pasta and dried beans, their flavor and texture may be affected with time but they will still be safe to consume decades down the line. 

One of the only foods that is thought to be able to truly last forever is honey. The main reason for this is that it is primarily made up of sugar which makes it very hard for bacteria to grow or affect the food in any way. 

What Food Has The Longest Shelf Life?

Honey has one of the longest shelf lives of any product – it simply doesn’t go off and although the texture and color can change it will still be safe to consume. 

Many freeze dried food products can be stored indefinitely along with military style ration packs which are specifically designed to be kept for decades. 

Augason Farms Freeze Dried Whole Blueberries

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Ultimate Survival Technologies

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You can also be confident storing foods such as dried pasta, instant coffee and sugar for long periods of time without any maintenance or rotation required. 


We hope you’ve gained a clear idea of the type of long lasting foods that you can store and stockpile in your emergency food supply. 

Getting organized and planning ahead can make the difference between you and your family going hungry and having enough to comfortably survive. You never know when a food shortage is going to occur and disasters and emergencies often hit food supply chains hard. 

Be fully prepared for whenever SHTF by buying adequate supplies of long lasting foods to keep you and your loved ones fit and healthy. 

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