When people think about foods that don’t expire they usually imagine traditional home pantries lined with canned, dried, or salted foods. However, not all of these long-lasting food items have an unlimited shelf life.
For example, some canned foods last 5-10 years while others might last for 30 years or more.
While there are a lot of great companies who specialize in creating MREs that can last upwards of 30 years or longer, many of us – either by necessity or by choice – work with what we have and make our own emergency food stockpiles instead.
Keeping this in mind, a lot of the foods in your pantry or bugout bag will need to be eaten and replaced every 2-5 years or longer to maintain peak freshness, nutrition, and safe consumption – depending on your supply.
For this reason, it’s wise to learn which foods you need to rotate and eat and which foods have a more or less infinite shelf life.
Knowing which nutritious foods can be kept indefinitely under the right conditions will help you keep your emergency food stockpile better organized and therefore help you to be better prepared when SHTF.
These 8 nutritious foods that don’t expire should:
- Maintain freshness and peak nutrition for an indefinite amount of time under the right conditions.
- Be very long-lasting or “forever” lasting ( 20+ years)
- Be “low maintenance” or “no maintenance” (ex. will keep at room temperature or when stored in a cool, dry area for several years uninterrupted)
- Have a good enough balance of vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats, and proteins.
- Require minimal use of other resources to consume (water, flame, butter, milk, etc.)
Ghee has become a bit of a health-food buzzword in the last few years, but it’s been around for centuries. “Ghee” is the Hindi word for “fat” and it’s basically just another word for clarified butter.
Clarified butter is the remaining butterfat that’s leftover after the milk solids are removed – this keeps it from going rancid. Some say ghee has a regional claim that only clarified butter from a specific region can be called proper “ghee” – but ghee made with any “real” butter from healthy cow’s milk is still ghee.
You can buy this healthy long-lasting fat from health food stores or you can simply make your own.
How To Make Your Own Ghee
To make your own ghee, start by clarifying –or melting– a stick or two of butter in a saucepan on low heat until it starts to foam and darkens slightly in color.
Allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes until the fat separates and sinks to the bottom. During this stage, it’s important that you do your best to not let your butter burn or get too dark, which can happen quickly!
You can prevent this by lifting up your pan away from the heat or flame if necessary.
Making ghee is certainly a rewarding chore but a lot of first-time ghee makers find that the saying “it’s more of an art than a science” applies here – so don’t give up if your butter burns the first time around.
The next step is to strain the butterfat from the liquid and allow it to cool in a small glass jar; you can do this twice if you want extra clarified ghee. Your ghee should be a transparent golden color giving reason to the nickname “liquid gold”.
Ghee is an excellent cooking fat and a potent daily source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. As long as your ghee does not come into contact with too much heat or moisture, you can store it in a cool, dark, and dry place indefinitely without refrigeration.
It can be left on the counter for some time and treated similarly to other cooking oils without going rancid. However, it is important to keep it covered, uncontaminated, and away from heat and moisture since it can still oxidize if not correctly stored.
Additionally, you can safely pressure can butter or ghee for long-term storage if you want to make it in bulk for your prepper pantry.
2. Ramen Noodle Packages
While ramen noodles aren’t necessarily the most nutritious food on this list, there are plenty of things you can add to make it a meal – just ask any former college student to confirm this.
With a base of briny bouillon and thin wheat noodles, there are endless ingredients you can add to dress this stuff up.
For example, add a pack of freeze-dried veggies and a half-cup of canned chicken and you’ve got something a lot more nutrient-dense than just noodles.
Now, if you’ve got some canned tomatoes and parmesan on hand – another low-maintenance and relatively shelf-stable food – then you’re really cooking!
Ramen noodles are very versatile. You can even save the flavor packets in a bag with an oxygen absorber for an improvised soup base in a pinch. You can also crush the noodle block to bulk up meat, soups, or other recipes.
Ramen noodles are a bit cliché when it comes to survival food lists. Still, they have their rightful spot in many emergency food stockpiles due to their versatility and their fat and carb content.
3. Bouillon Cubes
Broth cubes, stock cubes, bouillon cubes, soup base packets, goldy blocks – whatever you like to call them – no list would be complete without them.
They’re made from dried meat, spices, and salt – and they have a good amount of calories, fat, protein, carbs, and sodium.
Drop a couple of these in a pot of boiling water and you’ve got a perfectly good soup base or sipping broth. You can either stock up on the stock cubes they carry at your grocery store or you can make your own soup broth packets at home.
Although they’re considered non-perishable, environmental factors like air, sun exposure, and moisture can lessen the shelf life. Store-bought bouillon cubes typically have a “best by” date of around 2 years.
However, If kept at room temperature in a cool, dry, and dark place – preferably with oxygen absorbers – they have the potential to last indefinitely.
The biggest complaint folks have when eating properly stored but “expired” bouillon cubes is a drop in flavor quality and a possible loss of nutrients.
Making your own bouillon cubes can take some time and patience, but doing so will yield plenty of stock base to keep you cooking for years to come.
4. Canned Meat and Other Non-acidic Canned Foods
Canned foods may seem like a no-brainer when it comes to choosing long-lasting or non-perishable food for your stockpile, but some canned foods last a lot longer than others.
Canned meat with salt, like Spam, is the longest-lasting canned food item.
However, according to the CDC, canned foods made with low-acidic ingredients can carry a higher risk of botulism if damaged or stored carelessly.
Related: What Is the Best Canned Meat?
Likewise, high-acid foods can eat away at the inside of the can over time, so acidic canned foods like tomatoes should always be eaten before the recommended or best by date.
With this in mind, you’ll want to be sure all of your cans are stored in a cool, dry location away from sunlight with plenty of oxygen and humidity absorbers. This is especially important if you plan to eat the contents of your cans many years later.
Still, properly canning foods has been a trusted method of preserving food for generations and is perfectly safe when done properly.
When in doubt, use common sense: if it smells “off”, has visible mold, or looks like a science project gone wrong – don’t eat it.
Additionally, pressure canning your own food at home is a popular and rewarding skill for preppers to learn. When you can your own food, you can be sure about not only the quality and cleanliness of contents, but also the handling, preservation, and storage of your emergency food supply.
5. Dried Split Peas
Pulse crops like beans may be an obvious choice for a forever survival food, but what about dried peas?
Dried pulse vegetables like beans, peas, and lentils all have an “indefinite” shelf life if stored in air-tight packaging.
Dried peas will last 30 years or more under the right conditions.
To prevent a decline of quality or taste, you can vacuum seal your split peas with moisture absorbers and keep them stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
Dried split peas have an advantage over dried beans because they do not get as hardened when stored for a very long time. Split peas cook more quickly and can even save you water since you don’t need to soak them in the same way as you do with dried beans or whole dried peas.
Split peas are a great source of vitamins and minerals like folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium – to name a few.
Plus, you’ve got to admit: a split pea soup cooked up in a DIY-bouillon soup-base with chunks of Spam fried in homemade ghee is a hearty and wholesome meal that will feel like a real treat, especially during hard times.
6. Steel-cut Oats/White Rice
When you’re in an SHTF scenario, having a good supply of grains is critical.
After all, grains have played an important role in the everyday lives of many of our most ancient ancestors. Even to this day, cereal grains like wheat, corn, barley, rye, millet, oats, and rice are the biggest source of food in the world.
There are so many things you can make with grains!
When stored properly, most whole grains will have a shelf life of 10 or so years. However, some grains last much longer than others.
Raw white rice can last 25-30 years or more when stored properly in a cool, dry place with oxygen absorbers. Whole or steel-cut oats are another great choice.
It’s important to note that whole, uncut grains will last much longer than flour or otherwise pulverized grains. Oats will last 25-30 years with proper storage in food-grade buckets or mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.
Honey is a wonderful gift from nature and it can be kept indefinitely thanks to its low moisture content. It is high in glucose, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals and has many medical and culinary uses. It may change in color and texture over time but many people joke about how good, raw honey has the potential to last longer than humans!
This means the honey will still be around long after all the sugar has been used up or bartered off in a post SHTF world.
Plus, with honey bee populations and hive size averages declining annually, it’s not too far off to think that one day this stuff may be worth its weight in gold.
Whether its for a drizzle of honey in tea to sooth a sore throat or added to breads and cakes to satisfy a sweet tooth, honey will be a special treat and a practical tool to have on hand when SHTF.
8. Powdered Milk and/or Peanut Butter
Powdered foods like milk and peanut butter powder have a very long shelf life. You can even get egg and cheese powder these days, although they don’t last quite as long.
Peanut butter powder provides high levels of fiber and protein and milk powder has a high carbohydrate, protein, and fat content.
Milk and peanut butter powder are great to keep in your emergency food supply since they have multiple uses for cooking and respectable nutrition content.
Non-fat or skim dried or powdered milk has the potential to last over 30 years if stored away from direct sunlight and moisture. Either of these powdered foods stores well and will be a welcomed addition to your emergency food stockpile in an emergency situation.
Although many other food items have the potential to last indefinitely, these are eight of the more practical and versatile long-lasting food items I keep in my own emergency food stockpile.
What other nutritious foods that don’t expire do you think belong on this list?