Top 15 Best Cheap Survival Foods With A Long Shelf Life

By Colleen •  Updated: 12/14/21 •  10 min read

Making long-term preparations to have adequate cheap survival foods with a long shelf life for a possible worldwide catastrophe or disaster is no longer as far-fetched as it was ten years ago. With all the recent events in the world today, being a prepper is already considered mainstream and necessary. You then realize that anything can happen at any moment and that you could lose everything in one disastrous event.

Money could become useless; even if you had plenty of it, there is nothing left to buy since store shelves are already empty. In this article, we have ranked the following survival foods with long shelf lives by following these four critical criteria that are essential to prepare you for the worst.

4 Key Factors When Choosing Your Survival Foods

  1. Shelf life and storage – We consider the ease of storage and shelf-life. The longer, the better.
  2. Nutritional quality – We seek to balance quick and available energy to the food’s capacity to sustain the consumer for extended periods when there’s nothing else to eat.
  3. Preparation and availability of ingredients – Answering questions like: “Can we buy it prepared straight from the grocery? Or is it available online? Can we easily buy the ingredients and make them ourselves?”
  4. Taste – “Is it delicious? Will it still taste good after a few years?

couple examining their long-shelf life food stores.

Top 15 Long-Lasting Survival Foods You Should Have On Hand

Honey is a sweet and thick liquid food substance that is naturally made by bees. It is primarily composed of sugar from the nectar of flowers and other natural enzymes that are known to have health benefits. It is an excellent energy source, and to some extent, certain varieties are deemed medicinal.

Honey has no expiration date, and it contains small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols, an organic compound that fights cancer. Additionally, you can easily store honey in a clean container at room temperature without any problem of spoiling. In a way, it’s a complete food source that requires very little to maintain and could potentially last forever. This is why it is number 1 on this list and mentioned numerous times in the Bible.

Emergency Ration Bars
Ration bars are also known as survival bars. They are commercially produced emergency food rations that are made for active emergencies. Emergency ration bars are pliable and come packed in high-strength, airtight, water-proof plastic containers. It is the perfect food kit for emergencies at sea. People keep these bars for emergencies in their cars, boats, or simply when going backpacking.

These ration bars are made out of wheat flour, vegetable shortening, sugar, salt, and water with some added flavors. It gives you energy and the feeling of a full stomach. It packs more than 2,000 calories and is designed to last for five years or more. They are lightweight and easy to carry. They are conveniently ready and ideal for eating when on the move or a quick meal when resting.

White Rice
Carbohydrates are an essential part of a person’s diet, even more so in a survival situation, where you must have ready energy if you are going to be constantly moving, working, or protecting yourself. And one of the best sources of that is grains and cereals. White rice contains more carbohydrates than corn and produces more energy for more extended periods.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, when stored in a vacuum pack away from heat and moisture, white rice can last anywhere between 25 to 30 years. Although, we must be aware of the difference between brown and white rice.

Incidentally, brown rice is unpolished and still contains a portion of its husk, and it is only suitable for storage for 6-12 months. Therefore, when stocking up, choose white rice.

Peanut Butter
A great source of plant protein and with little to no moisture, peanut butter can last up to 5 years when sealed and stored correctly. However, if not stored well, it may only last up to 12 months and become rancid. According to Maribeth Cousin, a Food Science Professor at Purdue University, the good thing is that expired peanut butter is not necessarily rancid for you. It will only acquire a not-so-good taste but would still be edible.

It could be handy and potentially life-saving in a survival situation. Just a word of caution, though: if you are allergic to peanuts, do not include this in your list.

Dried Beans
High in fiber and calories, dried beans are not only essential in a survival situation, but they can also last indefinitely when properly stored. Beans also contain protein to help sustain your body in prolonged emergencies, and according to scientists, dried beans can stay for as long as 30 years.

Canned Beans
Canned beans stored in a tightly sealed food-grade container come pre-cooked and ready to eat. Pre-soaked in water and already soft, they should be suitable for a quick meal once opened. When properly stored, they can last 1 to 2 years.

Dehydrated Meats
Also known as beef jerky, you can make it at home with simple methods and ingredients ordinarily available in your pantry. They are lean cuts of meat that are cured with salt and pepper. Compared to store-bought beef jerky, DIY beef jerky will only be edible for up to two months, and store-bought will last longer for about 1 to 2 years due to added preservatives such as sodium nitrate.

Moreover, commercial beef jerky may last longer than two years if vacuum sealed, unopened, and stored in a cool, dry place. Ensure to always check for mold or funky smells if it has been sitting for years in your cellar.

Pemmican Bar
Pemmican is a traditional native survival food that helped natives survive a terrible hunting season in early America. Pemmican bars are made from a mixture of tallow (pig or cow fat), dried meat (traditionally made out of bison), dried fruit, or berries. , This energy-packed nutritious staple can be a part of a prepared meal. Or, you can save it to eat in the wintertime and all other times when food is scarce.

Pemmican bar is an ancient recipe used in the past for survival purposes and is still very popular today. Many backpackers and survivalists eat pemmican due to its portability and nutritional value. Generally, pemmican can last anywhere between 1 to 5 years, and some claim that it may last up to 10 years when stored adequately in cool cellars.

Dry Pasta
Fresh pasta, in general, is food that is made out of a combination of unleavened dough of wheat flour, water, and eggs. They need to be consumed within two days of making it. What you will need in a survival situation is dry pasta. Dry pasta is made out of the same wheat flour except that it doesn’t contain eggs and is already dry and hard with no moisture.

The lack of moisture is what makes this Italian staple shelf stable, allowing it to last for 1-2 years under proper storage conditions. And if it is vacuum-sealed, it may last longer. Pasta is an excellent source of carbohydrates that can be easily converted to energy. Like white rice, cooked pasta can provide filling meals and lasting energy in survival scenarios.

Canned Meat (Spam)
Invented and mass-produced in 1937, Spam is probably the most consumed canned meat in the world today. It is pre-cooked ground pork and processed ham, making it one of the best-canned foods for survival. You can enjoy it straight from the can or fry it however you like. It has sodium nitrite as a preservative, sugar, salt, and spices for added flavor. It is also vacuum sealed for ready-to-eat freshness.

When unopened and stored in a cool, dry place, Spam can last up to five years, making it an ideal survival food that you can easily find in supermarkets today. Spam doesn’t contain MSG for the ultra-healthy conscious, and it’s good ready-to-eat protein during hard times.

Powdered Milk
Good news for people who like milk! You can still have milk even in the direst of times. Powdered milk is actually dehydrated milk reduced into powdered form. According to the USDA, powdered milk can last indefinitely. When left unopened, you can still use it anywhere between 2-10 years after the best-by date on the packet. Some claim it goes for as long as 25 years in storage.

Dairy makers claim that powdered milk is equivalent in nutritional value to fresh milk. It has vitamin D, A, protein, and calcium, making it almost a complete food in scarce times. You can also make butter out of powdered milk, which is a delight to know since hard times mean no extras like butter.

Hardtack is an essential, long-lasting cracker made out of basic ingredients that are put together, such as wheat flour, salt, and water. Hardtack was a staple for soldiers during the American Civil War. Also known as survival bread, hardtack can reportedly last for five years and maybe even longer, as sailors of old used this hard biscuit to sustain them in their voyages at sea.

It must be dipped in liquid or fried with butter to enhance the taste while replenishing your energy.

Freeze-dried Fruits and Veggies
Everyone needs their vitamins and minerals. That is, even in a survival situation. You can now find and buy prepper-grade freeze-dried fruits and vegetables online. Makers claim on their website that their product can last up to 25 years. And why not? Fruits are made up of sucrose, which is a natural preservative. Dried fruits provide nutrition and energy when fresh fruit and vegetables are no longer available.

You can store dried fruit in air-tight cans and bottles and add water or enjoy them straight out of the can. They are available in dried Strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, and many more.

Other Canned Goods
Canned fruits, vegetables, and canned meats may also be a good source for medium-length storage and a must on a prepper’s pantry list. They may not last as long as the items above, but on average, when properly stored, they last around 1-5 years. Canned fruits that are stored in heavy sugary syrup may last longer. For canned fish and meats that are not cured, it would be wise to follow the best-by-date on the can.

According to the USDA, tomato-based canned goods are highly acidic and should only be good anywhere between 12-18 months at best. Over time, acid can corrode the can. The longer it sits, the higher the risk of corrosion.

Meal-Ready to-Eat, or MRE, is a self-contained field ration packet specifically prepared for and packaged by the U.S. military. This type of survival food is last on this list only because it is not available in stores. It is only meant for active-duty and non-active-duty soldiers. It is a scientifically and nutritionally balanced meal designed to sustain a soldier in times of war and food shortage. They are, without argument, the best-dried foods for survival.

MREs can contain meat, dried veggies, and much-needed grains or cereals for energy. No refrigeration is needed, and it is packaged to last 5-10 years. Unfortunately, commercial reselling of MREs is against the law. However, some people say that the law is not stated clearly. And some individuals have been and are still selling MREs on eBay.

Wrapping Up
If you can get your hands on a crate of MREs, that means you already have a year or so of worry-free living in a food-shortage world. In the meantime, you have great choices from this list of survival foods with a long shelf life that you can slowly build to prepare you for the best and the not-so-good plausible events that may happen in the future. Good luck.


Living in a world where uncertainties can arise, Colleen has taken it upon herself to master the art of survival in the face of natural or civil disasters. With a background in outdoor activities and a keen interest in learning essential survival skills, Colleen has dedicated time to acquiring knowledge in areas such as wilderness survival, first aid, and emergency response.

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