21 Survival Foods That Can Outlive You

21 Survival Foods That Can Outlive You

It sounds too good to be true, but believe it or not, there’s a subset of survival foods that you don’t have to worry about going bad. These foods are the true-blue endurance champs of long-term food storage – and as long as they’re stored properly – they can even outlive you. In this blog post, we’ll discuss 21 “set it and forget it” survival foods to stockpile that’ll last you the long haul.

Get your pantry preparedness in gear with these 21 "forever foods." The investment now will give you peace of mind for years to come.

1. White Rice: This staple food can outlast you by decades, as long as it’s kept in a cool, dry place and sealed in an oxygen-free container. This also includes fancy varieties of white rice like jasmine and basmati. Brown rice is a different beast – it retains the bran layer which contains oils. Oils and fats turn rancid over time, so brown rice does not have the same longevity as white rice.

2. Beans: Cheap, filling and packed with protein, beans are a must-have in any survival pantry. They can be stored for 30+ years if they’re kept cool and dry. While they stand the test of time, old beans do get hard (and harder to cook) – but there's an old-fashioned fix for this.

Simply add 1 tsp. of baking soda per cup of beans to your soaking and/ or cooking water to soften them up and speed up cooking time. In fact, Dr. Guy Crosby from America's Test Kitchen told The Bean Institute, "Beans cooked with a tiny amount of baking soda (about one teaspoon per cup of dry beans) added to the cooking water cook in about half the time as beans cooked without."

3. Dried Lentils: Like beans above, lentils are packed with protein and fiber, and when stored properly, are a forever food for your stockpile. Plus, lentils cook faster than most beans since they're smaller.

4. Oats: This breakfast staple is a storehouse of nutrition and can last nearly forever – as long as they're kept in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers and stored in a cool, dry place. Beyond oatmeal, you can use oats in cookies, granolas, as a thickening agent in recipes, or even to grind into flour.

5. Dried Pasta: Take it out of the cardboard boxes or flimsy store packaging and keep it in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers to make sure survival spaghetti can still be on the menu decades from now. When stored this way, dried pasta can last you 25+ years and still be perfectly good to eat. Remember, thinner and smaller varieties of pasta, like angel hair and alphabet pasta, will cook more quickly and use less fuel.

6. Potato Flakes: A great comfort food, mashed potatoes are easy to make in a pinch if you have potato flakes on hand. Potato flakes are highly shelf-stable, but they need to be plain Jane. While cheesy bacon flavored potato flakes sound delicious, flavor enhancers that add fat will cut down significantly on your shelf-life.

7. Honey: We're not talking about the kind sold at supermarket chains that comes in a container shaped like a bear. It’s pure, raw honey that’s a true forever food. In fact, archaeologists have found unspoiled pots of honey in Egyptian tombs! Old honey can crystallize or harden over time but placing it in a bath of hot (not boiling) water will allow it to become liquid again. Placing a jar of crystallized honey in sunlight can also help liquify it.

8. Sugar: Another sweet, shelf-stable item for your pantry. White sugar should be stored in airtight containers like other "forever foods" on our list, but you don't want to use oxygen absorbers, or your sugar will turn into a brick.

9. Salt: No need to worry about spoilage here – salt is as shelf stable as they come. Makes sense, since salt itself has been used as a preservative since ancient times. In fact, some historians suggest salt was so valuable that Roman soldiers were partially paid in salt, and that this practice is where the word "salary" comes from. When storing salt for the long-term, skip iodized table salt and opt for kosher salt or sea salt.

10. Soy Sauce: This salt-based condiment is a flavor enhancer, and when stored properly can last you forever. SHTF stir-fry anyone?

11. White Distilled Vinegar: Vinegar is a fermented product and so acidic that it's actually self-preserving. Great for salad dressings, marinades, pickling, and even cleaning, white distilled vinegar is a must-have for every prepping pantry. As it will remain unchanged in taste, color, and appearance even after it sits for years and years (and years), white vinegar is the best vinegar to prep for the apocalypse.

12. Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar is also fermented and acidic and doesn't technically expire. That said, unlike white vinegar above, it can become cloudy or have other changes in appearance or taste over time.

13. Pure Maple Syrup: Pure maple syrup contains no artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives, making it 100% natural and long-lasting. Store the real stuff (not pancake syrup) in a cool, dark place. Here's a tip from the Saratoga Maple, a family run maple syrup maker:

"While real maple syrup won't "go bad" it certainly can become something you do not want to eat.  The best way to check on your maple syrup is to smell it or take a small taste.  If it smells good and tastes good, it is good! If there is mold on the surface or in the container, you can scrape it off or strain the syrup through a cheese cloth to remove all of the mold pieces.  Since mold cannot grow inside syrup, there should only be surface mold. "

14. Wheat Berries: Wheat berries are the entire edible part of the whole wheat kernel. When stored correctly, wheat berries will last for decades. They can be ground into flour or cooked as a whole grain for hot cereal, pilafs, and salads. Store them in sealed buckets or bags with oxygen absorbers in a cool, dry place. Wheat is a staple of many diets around the world and will provide essential carbohydrates and other nutrients in an extended emergency. Plus, whole grain products are healthier and more nutrient-dense than refined grains.

15. Baking Soda: The Swiss army knife of your survival pantry. Not only is baking soda useful for cooking and baking, but it also has many other practical uses that give it an honored place among your emergency preps. It can be used as a cleaning agent, toothpaste, deodorant, and even to soothe insect bites. Plus, when stored properly in an airtight container, baking soda can last indefinitely – no oxygen absorbers needed.

16. Corn Starch: Another pantry staple, corn starch is a great thickening agent for soups, stews, and sauces. When stored in an airtight container, it can last a lifetime. You do not need to add oxygen absorbers to corn starch.

17. Hard Liquor: Hard liquors like whiskey, rum, and vodka (we're not talking Baileys here) are a valuable addition to any survival pantry and will last virtually forever. Aside from alcohol’s obvious use as a stiff drink to calm nerves and take the edge off stressful times, hard liquor has many practical survival uses. It can be used as an antiseptic and disinfectant, to make tinctures, and even to start fires (at your own risk).

18. Pure Vanilla Extract: Pure vanilla extract is alcohol based and highly concentrated. This makes it a great emergency pantry item because it can last for decades without going bad, though it'll gradually lose the intensity of its vanilla flavor and aroma over time. You can also make your own vanilla extract by soaking vanilla beans in vodka or rum.

19. Instant Coffee: For all the coffee lovers out there, instant coffee can be a lifesaver during emergencies. It lasts for years when stored in an airtight container and can even be used as an energy-boosting ingredient in baked goods. While not as tasty as fresh ground beans, instant coffee still provides a kick of caffeine for those loyal to their daily cup of joe. Plus, it's much easier to make than traditional coffee during a power outage or other emergency situation.

20. Unsweetened Cocoa: Another pantry item that lasts indefinitely when stored properly, unsweetened cocoa is a versatile ingredient for baking and cooking. It's also a good source of antioxidants and may even have some health benefits. Plus, who doesn't love a comforting cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter day?

21. Jello Powder: This childhood favorite may not seem like an essential survival pantry item, but the dry powder precursor to the jiggly treat can last indefinitely when stored in a cool, dry place. Plus, it's a fun and satisfying food to boost spirits and easy to prepare.

A Final Word on Storing Your "Forever Foods"

Remember, the moral of the story for long-term storage is to keep everything in a cool, dark, and dry location with a consistent temperature, ideally between 50 and 70°F. Store your emergency foods in airtight containers or mylar bags and pair them with oxygen absorbers when applicable. When stored correctly, the above foods can stand the test of time.

What other “forever foods” do you rely on that you know can go the distance? Let us know in the comments.

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