Survival Food List – How To Build An Affordable Survival Food Pantry

(Attention: Please Sing this Survival Food List Post Intro to the Tune of Mambo #5)

One, two, three four five,

So ya stumbled on this post while stocking up to survive,

Sometimes there, aint no, grocery store around the corner,

So you’ll need to build a decent stash coz disasters wont warn ya

It may be that you’re a prepping freak,

Or just trying to stay on top when things seem bleak

You’ll need staple foods, oils, seasonings and flavours,

If you’re stocking up in bulk there’ll be plenty for your neighbours

So here’s what to do, just check this list, it aint that hard,

Pick some foods that suits your needs and add them to your hoard,

Rest assured, your stress be cured, now go and make yourself….. a crumpet

It might be a fire that could get ya in strife

Or even a tsunami with a rising tide

Think about a hurricane and how you’d proceed

You could be stuck for days under piles of debris

Preparing for the worst, of course, never feels fun

But do a little homework and you can’t go wrong,

It’s not like you need to do a high school exam,

It’s more that to survive, it’s best to have a plan!

Plan to stay alive! (Ha!)

Well there you go folks, it’s possibly the first and last time you’ll hear an intro sung to a a song like that. (Unless of course you liked it and want more). But… that’s not what we’re here for so let’s get our survival pants back on and begin to build out our survival food list.

Survival Food List - Dry Foods

Things to Consider When Building an Emergency Survival Food List

In a world where natural disasters and other crisis type situations seem to happen quite often, it’s human nature to dash out to the local store in a mad panic to stock up on the essentials. The most important supplies to keep you healthy and somewhat sane are going to be food and water. There are many important aspects to consider when building out an emergency stash or stockpile. Here are a few concrete tips to help you build out your stash. The tips have been carefully considered and compiled based on consumer feedback.

Set Some Goals

Ok so the first thing you want to know is how much food you actually want to store. This decision will depend on your own circumstances and your budget. Think about the types of disasters or emergencies that could occur in your area. Will you be cut off from food supplies for days? Weeks? Months? A standard bug out bag or emergency preparedness kit should have a minimum of a 72 hour supply of food and water. The next step up would be a 2 week supply then 1 month. Once you can comfortably build a 1 month kit, simply multiply your supply by the amount of months that you wish to stockpile for.

Don’t Forget About Water – You’ll Need It

Of course, food is one of your main priorities but humans can’t go longer than a few days without water and not expect fatal consequences. So you’ll want to make sure you stash some H2O away also! 2 gallons per person per day is the amount that you will need to store. 1 gallon will cover drinking water. The other gallon will supply you for hygiene, cleaning and cooking. You can either purchase commercially bottled water or you can store your own treated tap water.

Always check the commercially bottled waters’ expiration dates and replace them if needed. If you plan to store your own treated tap water then remember to rotate your supply and replace accordingly. Always keep a bottle of unscented liquid chlorine bleach in your emergency supplies. This will enable you to sanitise and disinfect your water. Check out our ultimate guide on How To Store Water for more details.

Buying in Bulk Is Best

When planning on stockpiling food for longer periods of time, and especially for larger households, it can really start to hurt your budget. The best value option for food is definitely going to be buying in bulk. Try to join discount and points schemes at your local supermarket. Alternatively, become a member of some bigger chain type warehouse suppliers that can give you a better price on larger amounts of produce purchased. Even online suppliers such as amazon have great deals on larger quantity purchases.

Nutrition First but Don’t Forget Flavour

It’s one thing to eat specific foods with enough nutritional value to survive but don’t forget to actually enjoy what you’re eating. Of course, weights and amounts of space will play a huge factor in how you can spruce up your white rice and pasta. In saying this there are foods that you can use that don’t take up so much space and can make surviving taste that little bit better.

Obviously seasonings like salt and pepper as well as dried herbs will be your first choice here. They are lightweight and fit quite snugly between layers of clothing and other packed items. Dried fruits are another great option that take minimal space. They can help make boring oats taste exceptionally great, that’s for sure! Nuts, trail mixes and survival food bars (protein, granola, etc) are also really good space saving and tasty choices.

Grow Your Own Produce

The Svalbard seed vault doesn’t have to be the only place on earth that can hold the key to the resurgence of plant-based food. Another great option for the super keen green thumbs out there is to stash some of your own seeds. You can use them to grow your own fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains and herbs when all else fails. It’s actually super easy these days to grow your own indoor supplies with the right equipment. This will help keep you and your family fed through even the worst of times.

Don’t Discount Fresh Longer-Lasting Items

Have you ever had certain fruits and vegetables laying around in your fridge or pantry and thought ‘how the heck are these things just not going bad’? Believe it or not, if you store certain items in the right way, they can easily last weeks and sometimes months! Fruits such as apples, lemons and oranges (the latter 2 are great sources of vitamin C) have a pretty impressive longevity status. Vegetables like beets, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, garlic, onions and potatoes can hold their own for an exceptional amount of time also!

Rotate Your Rations to Keep Them Safe

Another tip that often gets forgotten is to make sure that you rotate your items regularly. Choose a given time (Eg: 1 month, 3 months, etc) and use the items before they are due to go bad. Use them in your cooking so you don’t waste them. You could even make a big batch of something for the homeless, whatever you do, rotate your supply! As soon as you use them, restock with fresh supplies so you have the same amounts at all times. As annoying as it seems, rotating will ensure that you don’t have to stress if an unfortunate event or emergency does happen to occur.

Survival Food List - Canned Food
Conceptual background of multiple canned foods in sealed aluminum tins or cans of varying sizes arranged on a wooden table with copy space, overhead view

How to Optimize Your Food Items Shelf Life

We talked about long lasting food before but what is it that actually makes them long lasting? The longevity of specific foods items comes down to one factor, shelf life. Certain types of foods have the ability or inability to lose their nutritional value over time, other foods can become dangerous if contaminated. It’s hard to believe but some foods can keep all of their properties for as long as centuries! Crazy!

The most important factors that help food to keep a longer shelf life are the way they are processed, the way they are packaged, how they are stored and how often that they are rotated. Let’s have a look at these methods a little closer.


Dehydrating, freeze-drying, pasteurisation, heat processing, curing and pickling are the most common forms of processing foods to ensure longevity.


The most common packaging forms are either metal cans or mylar bags. Their superiority comes from the fact that they can be sealed from oxygen and usually include moisture absorbers. They are the number one choice for smaller items.

Bulk items are usually packaged in 5 gallon plastic buckets. They are great for stack-ability and storage. You would usually find food sources such as white rice, flour, sugar, salt and other base staple foods stored within the buckets. They can be sealed airtight, making it tough for moisture to seep in.


To make sure that your food lasts as long as they should, you should store your stored food in their containers in a cool, dark and dry area. (50-60 degree F is optimal). It’s very important that there is no possible way that moisture can invade your supplies. Moisture can deteriorate some food containers seals. It can also oxidise metallic cans which is definitely a headache you don’t want or need.


Rotation is the method used to make sure that you are always using the oldest items first and making sure that you are restocking at the same time. This keeps the same supply amount and prevents any longevity issues.

Survival Food List - Underground Food Storage
Old Cellar and a many preserves

Knowing Your Survival Food List Items Shelf Life Time Lines

Let’s look at a few different categories of food items and their time frames (shelf life) that they can not only be stored but also safely consumed:

Decades, Centuries and Beyond…..

Yeah, you heard right, they can withstand a heck of a lot. If, and that is a big if, if the below foods are stored correctly, they can remain good to eat for upto a century, i kid you not! We will go through proper storage techniques in a little more detail in the next section.

  • Honey

Apparently, Egyptian tombs have been dug up centuries after their use and pots of honey have been found. The strange but fascinating part is that the honey was completely preserved and edible. Although this is a story for the history buffs, we can still take away the simple fact that honey is the nectar of the gods. On a more scientific angle, it would be mostly due to its acidity, its lack of water and the presence of hydrogen peroxide that helps it to keep it’s eternal form.

This means that it’s definitely a great item to have on your survival food list.

  • Salt

Salt is another item from the ages, it has been used for generations in preservation methods like curing and pickling to name a few. The only downside with salt is that if it is hindered by moisture, it becomes useless. So if you can keep it dry then you have yourself an awesome staple ingredient for your survival food list. The use of salt isn’t just for the kitchen either. It can help to heal and disinfect wounds. It can relieve bee stings and believe it or not, it can help deodorise your shoes. This is great news for the true survivalist!

  • Sugar

Sugar is similar to salt in the way that it must stay dry. In saying that, any airtight containers purchased in this day and age will ensure that to be no problem at all! Sugar also has multiple uses that don’t only involve cooking. You can use it as a lighter fluid substitute, it can cool down a burning tongue (tried and tested!) and it can also trap wasps.

  • White Rice

Let’s face it, white rice is the base or staple food for most cultures. Nobody said “every culture” but it would cover most of them. This wonder grain can last up to 20 years if the correct storage methods are used. You can have it sweet or savoury, in any meal of the day. The only real downside with white rice is that it takes a fair chunk of time to cook. In saying that, this section is more about the types of food that are long lasting. The fact that it can hold its own for such a long time makes it well worth stockpiling!

  • Whole Wheat Grains

This is an umbrella item as it covers an array of grains such as barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgar (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal and even popcorn to name a few. With a mixture of these types of grains, you are ticking off many meals on your survival food list. You can usually purchase these food items in large foil sealed packs. For the real prepper, you can break the amounts into smaller sizes and re-seal. Packaging like this will help with storage and transportability. 

Survival Food List - Barrel Food Storage
A Restored Civil War Store Room at Fort Macon, NC
  • Dried Corn

Dried corn is a simple, non-energy-consuming method of preservation. It has been long practiced by the Indians. It can be ground down into cornmeal and used to make foods like bread, pancakes and polenta. The simplicity of it makes it a top choice on your survival food list. Not to mention that it packs a decent amount of nutritional value punch!

  • Baking Soda

The stock cubes are created using dehydrated vegetables, meat stock, a small portion of fat, MSG, salt, and seasonings. They are then  shaped into a small cube. The amount of flavours out there these days is crazy so you will be spoilt for choice! Vegetable, beef, pork, lamb, fish, shellfish, mushroom, that’s just the beginning! The beauty of the cubes are that they are dehydrated and sealed really well. So as long as they are kept away from moisture, you won’t have to rely on just salt and pepper for flavour anymore!

Baking Soda is used to leaven many “quick breads” like pancakes, muffins, cakes, and fried foods. It’s a staple ingredient in almost every kitchen around the globe. Although, it’s not exactly a food, it does a great job in creating foods that can keep the morale up of anyone in a bugged out state. Baking soda can also be used as deodorant, mouthwash and teeth whitener. Not only that but it can also help to treat heartburn. It can relieve itchy skin and sunburns and substitute certain cleaners as well. Amazing!

  • Instant Coffee, Cocoa Powder and Tea

These items can stay fresh and flavoursome for decades and longer if you can keep the moisture out! They are self explanatory and can put a smile on the dreariest of faces.

  • Powdered Milk

To compliment the above category (instant coffee, cocoa powder and tea), powdered milk will help bring some of that creamy texture we all crave. Again, keeping moisture out is key to the longevity of powdered milk. They can last a good 20 years if stored correctly! It also has multiple uses but mostly involves cooking which isn’t such a bad thing.

  • Bouillon Products

Bouillon products come in a few different forms including cubes, granules and liquids. The word bouillon is French for “broth”. The most common form known for having a long shelf life are the stock cubes or broth cubes. They are the same thing really and they’re basically just dehydrated stock.

Decades (Due to Packaging Types and the Way They Are Processed)

Now we step into the sort of mid-tier types of foods when it comes to length of time that they can stay edible for. Come on though, any length of time over a year is still pretty good if you ask the masses! There are companies out there right now that solely focus on carefully selecting, processing and packing products that can stay good to eat for 20-30 years. That is of course, if you follow their storage guidelines. The foods mentioned below are pretty self explanatory.

  • Dried Beans

It has been well documented that dried beans are inexpensive, nutritious and versatile. This should deem them a heavy weight on your survival food list. Great Northern beans, Fava beans, Kidney beans, Navy beans, Pinto beans, Black beans, Chickpeas, Lentils, the list just goes on! There are so many different types that can be mixed and matched in an array of different dishes. Even 1 or 2 packages could get you through the worst of times.

  • Rolled Oats

There is a good reason why rolled oats are bodybuilders go to source of fuel when training. They are super cheap, incredibly nutritious and they are rich in antioxidants which aid the repair of cell damage. This is music to any survivalist’s ears! You can’t really go wrong with rolled oats. Eat them as an energy kick breakfast, use them in cakes and cookies and even make long lasting health bars out of them.

  • Pasta Products

Pasta products can really only get you so far with the food that you can create. But on the upside, it is inexpensive and has a really long shelf life due to its form. Like everything else on these lists, the common trend is to keep it dry and airtight and you won’t have any problems.

  • Potato Flakes

Flat chunks of dehydrated mashed potato. Cooked, mashed, crushed, dried and then packaged. The long process enables them to be easily reconstituted using cold water. This is the reason that they can be used to make so many food products. From onion rings to mashed potatoes to sauce thickeners. Potato flakes are super versatile and relatively easy to prepare with.

  • Dehydrated Fruit and Vegetable Slices

Most of the larger markets that you come across these days will have areas that sell dehydrated fruits and vegetables. There is a good reason for it too, they can hold their own for a very long time and can be used in a lot of different foods. Dehydration is also a simple method of preserving any excess produce you may have. You can dehydrate almost any fruit and most vegetables. Dried fruits can be used for mueslis, porridge, cookies and snack bars. Dried vegetables can be used for soups, casseroles, sauces and stews. Both fruits and vegetables are of course packed with massive amounts of nutrition also!

Survival Food List - Dehydrated Fruits And Vegetables

6-12 Months (Sometimes Longer Using Correct Storing Methods and Under the Right Conditions)

Some of the shorter shelf life foods are still good enough stock to last upto 12 months. You should always make sure to check out any packaged and expiration dates as well as storage requirements. Most food items that can be frozen or in a sealed can are great options for keeping food safe. These items include your local grocery store packed items such as:

  • Frozen Fruit
  • Frozen Herbs
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Nut Butters
  • Pickled Vegetables

What to Store and How to Store It Safely

What to Store

The types of food that you want to be storing away as part of your survival food list should serve a specific purpose. After all, the aim is to store foods to survive. Your criteria should be as follows:

  • Make sure each food item is carefully selected to contain the optimal amount of nutrition for you and your family or whoever you are storing for. Having a high calorie count is a good starting point, but the right calories are essential. Just because a packet of candy has 1000 calories, doesn’t mean it will keep you healthy and happy.
  • Make sure that the food items that you choose can be very simply prepared and then cooked using little fuel and water.
  • Try to choose food items with forms of packaging that aren’t easily damaged. Eg: Cardboard boxes, paper, glass jars, plastic bags.
  • Try to choose foods that have packaging that can be easily stacked and stored. Tetris pro’s will enjoy this part!
  • Try to think about the environment when choosing food items. This means, choose items with minimal packaging that can be biodegradable.
  • For the love of christ, have some variation. Make sure you mix up some base foods with some different flavours. Just so you don’t end up regretting your choice on the back of ‘food fatigue’
  • Think about the weights of your foods also. There’s every chance that you could need to hot foot out of a situation. You definitely don’t want to be stuck lugging around really heavy containers unnecessarily. It’s a great idea to store your foods in larger containers long term. Then when it comes time to run, you can fill up some smaller containers that fit easily into your bug out bag.

How to Store It Safely

If you really want to get the best bang for your buck and make your food last a decent amount of time, this section has you covered. The method is super simple and can be self taught. The method isn’t so much a secret as it’s used by the big suppliers but on a much larger scale. Funnily enough, you can use the same techniques yourself to help slash the costs dramatically. The good news is that this method can give you the added freedom of stocking up on an even larger food stash with all  the pennies that you were able to save.

What You Will Need:

There are a few bulk supply items that you will need to go and purchase in order to preserve your food:

  • Mylar vacuum seal pouches (Mylar is created using metallised polyester)
  • Oxygen absorbers/Oxygen scavengers (These remove any remaining air/oxygen)
  • Vacuum sealer
  • 5 Gallon airtight buckets (BPA-free/food grade)
  • A set of kitchen scales
  • Some label stickers
  • A felt pen or permanent marker

The Process:

Survival Food List - Mylar Bags
Three foil bag packages isolated on white background

As mentioned, the process itself is actually quite simple.

Step 1: Take your supply and begin to fill the mylar bags. If you have a set of scales, weigh your bags into even amounts (Eg: 500g, 1kg, 2.5 kg, etc). This step will make it a lot easier for you when it comes to transporting, preparing, cooking and ultimately eating.

Step 2: Add oxygen absorbers before sealing each bag.

Step 3: Use a vacuum sealer to seal each bag. Always check the seal to make sure it is airtight.

Step 4: Start filling your 5 gallon buckets with the weighted bags then seal tight the bucket lids.

Step 5: Stick a label sticker on each bucket and write each of their contents and fill date. This will be a great indicator for when it comes to rotating your supply.

That’s pretty much it! Of course you need to make sure that your hands and equipment are clean. You also need to make sure that there is no moisture around your preparation area.

Survival Food List (Categorised)

Survival Food List - Food Storage

Ok so we have covered some of the items that will go onto this list already in greater detail. Now we have the pièce de résistance and the reason that you have most likely searched for ‘what items should i have on my survival food list’.

So without further ado, here it is….

The Ultimate Survival Food List

Before we dive in – Please remember that each items’ shelf life will be based on their optimum storage method. This generally includes being sealed and unopened. The figures below are based on the maximum shelf life for each individual item. Get some of these into your tactical survival backpack.

Oils/Cooking Fats

  • Coconut Oil – 2 years
  • Olive Oil – 2 years (Also used in dressings, candles and when preparing some herbal remedies)
  • Canned Butter – 10 years
  • Butter Powder – 10 years (unopened, sealed in #10 cans)
  • Vegetable Shortening – 5 years (It’s also possible to make candles and soap from this item)
  • Peanut Oil – 2 years

Staple Foods

Hard Grains (10-12 Years)

  • Whole Wheat Grains
  • Buckwheat
  • Kamut
  • Hard Red Wheat
  • Soft White Wheat
  • Millet
  • Durum Wheat
  • Spelt

Soft Grains (Upto 8 Years)

  • Barley
  • Oat Groats
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Rolled Oats

Dried Beans (8-10 Years)

  • Pinto Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Lentils
  • Lima Beans
  • Adzuki Beans
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Mung Beans
  • Black Turtle Beans
  • Blackeye Beans
  • Dried Split Peas
  • Dried Corn

Flours, Pastas and Rice (5-8 Years)

  • All Purpose Flour
  • White Flour
  • Whole Wheat Flour
  • White Rice
  • Pasta Products
Survival Food List - Rices And Pastas
dried pasta rice seeds grains varieties

Cooking Aids

  • Baking Soda
  • Corn Starch
  • Corn Syrup
  • Potato Flakes
  • Cornmeal

Seasonings (Indefinitely)

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried And/Or Frozen Herbs (Frozen not ideal for on the run)
Survival Food List - Dried Herbs
Drying thyme flowers and healthy berries on tray of herb dehydrator, medicinal herbs, mortar and sachet on table. Top view, flat lay.

Condiments (2-5 Years)

  • Vinegar (white, apple cider, balsamic, rice wine)
  • Worcestershire

Flavour Enhancers (15 Years and Upwards)

  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Molasses
  • Maple Syrup
  • Bouillon Products
  • Pure Flavour Extracts (Pure vanilla extract, Almond Extract, Cherry Extract, etc)
  • Alcohol (Whiskey, bourbon, anything that can add flavour – Also drinkable)

Fruit and Vegetable Products (1-2 Years)

  • Dehydrated Fruit and Vegetable Slices
  • Frozen Fruit
  • Frozen Vegetables
  • Pickled Vegetables

Drinks (2-5 Years)

  • Instant Coffee, Cocoa Powder and Tea
  • Powdered Milk

Other (1-2 Years)

  • Hardtack (Sea biscuits/bread)
  • Protein Bars
  • Popcorn
  • Hard Candy
  • Multivitamins
  • MRE’s (Meals Ready to Eat)
Survival Food List - Trail Mix Bars
Raw Organic Granola Bars with Seeds and Nuts

Final Thoughts

The key is always making sure that you have the best stash of food for your specific needs. You could have a family to feed, you could live in cold climates where you may not have access to certain foods. It will all depend on personal circumstances. Don’t forget what was said about food fatigue also. You don’t need to stock bland food that you will get sick of. Mix and match with some flavour enhancers to give yourself a much needed morale boost. Of course, the aim is to survive in an emergency and food is food but it doesn’t mean that you have to dread each taste!

If there are any other foods that you think should be added to this survival food list, please leave it in the comments and explain why. Tell us what you think so it can be added for the benefit of future consumers and readers.

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