SURVIVAL KITCHEN

Foods That Will Last Forever – Indefinite Shelf Life

Which foods will last forever? Okay, maybe some of them won’t actually last ‘forever’, but maybe ‘almost’ forever!

When we’re talking about decades, that’s almost forever, right?

Here’s a starter list to get you thinking about naturally long lasting foods for preparedness and storage:

TWINKIES (They’ve proven this, right?)
KRISPY CREME DONUTS (?)
SPAM (!!!)

WHITE RICE

White rice is a food that will last forever (almost indefinitely) with proper storage (sealed, airtight container in a cool dry place). Cooked white rice has about 200 calories per cup (nearly 700 raw).

Related: How To Seal a Mylar Bag in a 5 Gallon Bucket

Related: How To Cook Rice with 80% Less Fuel

DRY BEANS

Dried beans can last almost indefinitely if stored properly. That said, gradual moisture loss will eventually affect the taste and texture. Old beans will need longer soaking and cooking times (try adding salt toward the end of the recipe to avoid toughening up the skin). Use a pressure cooker to quickly cook those old beans (it works!). Pinto beans are packed with about 250 calories per cup boiled (almost 700 raw).

Related: The Best Way to Store Beans

Related: All American Pressure Canner That Will Last Forever…

WHEAT

‘Wheat Berries’ if stored properly will last forever – many decades (or longer!). A flour mill will be needed to grind the wheat into flour (the best way for delicious fresh bread!). There are more than 600 calories in one cup of raw wheat berries.

Flour Mill – Hand operated & Electric

Related: How Much Wheat in a 5 Gallon Bucket?

SUGAR

White sugar will store indefinitely. It will last forever. Sugar has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth. There are almost 800 calories in a cup of sugar! Not exactly a food, but health issues aside, it’s a common ingredient in so many foods or food preparation…

Related: Raw Honey For Nutrition and Medicine

SALT

Again, not something that you would consume directly, but it’s probably the most common additive to spice up foods. Salt will last indefinitely. It is a mineral and will not spoil. Salt is a powerful flavor enhancer and anti-microbial meat preservative.

This is a salt we commonly use: Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt

Related: 30+ Uses for Salt

HONEY

Raw honey keeps well because it contains practically no water content and it’s loaded with sugar. The consistency and color of honey can change over time. An easy fix for crystallized honey is to gently reheat it. Honey also serves as a topical wound healing treatment. Honey in contact with any bacteria will ‘dry’ it out.

Related: The Many Benefits of Honey

VINEGAR

White Vinegar is made out of corn. Apple Cider Vinegar is (you guessed it) is made from apples. Vinegar contains a low pH and is technically a preserved food. Vinegar can be used as a condiment, a cleaning agent and for many other uses.

Related: Practical Uses for Vinegar

POWDERED MILK

Powdered milk has pretty much an indefinite shelf life when sealed up. Perhaps a good alternative for long term food storage preps.

Augason Farms Morning Moo’s Low Fat Milk Alternative

COCONUT OIL

Unrefined coconut oil is also called virgin coconut oil. This type of coconut oil has the most nutritional benefits and shelf life has been documented as anywhere from 2-5 years to ‘indefinite’. It can be used in place of butter, shortening, and cooking oil. We use it all the time here at the MSB homestead. Delicious too.

Virgin Coconut Oil

ALCOHOL

Hard liquor. Distilled spirits will last indefinitely. It will never go bad (even if it has been opened). Be aware that ‘Liqueurs‘ though contain sugar and other ingredients that can spoil over time. Cream liqueurs have dairy, cream or egg and only last about 18 months.

Bonus Tips:
Other Foods that will last Forever?

SPAM (What’s it made of?)

Corn starch (thickening agent for gravy and other things) and corn syrup (it’s sweet) keep indefinitely.

Soy Sauce, useful for flavoring dishes.

Pure Vanilla extract lasts ‘forever’.

100% Maple Syrup.

Ghee (a clarified butter).

Bouillon Cubes. Great for enhancing the flavor of your food storage ‘staples’.

Freeze Dried & Dehydrated foods properly sealed (up to 25 years, depending on food type).

Oats. Like rice, oats will keep for a LONG time if stored properly.

Any additional suggestions for naturally long-lasting foods?

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54 Comments

  1. Sizzle
    Pork
    And
    Mmmmm
    😎🤙🏻
    Ive read lots of people berating white rice, about half the world lives on one cup of white rice a day so……..
    IMHO
    You cant go wrong with this list of stuff Ken, packed in mylar liners in sealed 5gallon buckets you have a chance of eating if stuff goes sideways. I try to seal away a few buckets of each of these things every year, JIC,
    One thing ive seen is folks puting away those seed vaults,
    THEY DONT LAST FOREVER
    I think theres a lot of folks who also dont store their products properly, a bag of rice most likely wont last forever, but sealed up properly definitely will, same with wheat, oats, beans etc,,,,
    Merry Christmas

    1. @Tommyboy I planted my heirloom seed vault, after 6 yrs in the freezer, last year. I learned a lot of lessons. The short version of the story is 1/4 production, not all of it climate worthy and the corn was a feed type.

  2. Add McDonald’s “hamburgers” to the list. They will not lose the flavor at all. Of course, they have no flavor to begin with.

  3. Well that worked well Ken,
    Had a spoonful of Grape-nuts in the pie-hole when I read the
    “TWINKIES (They’ve proven this, right?)
    KRISPY CREME DONUTS (?)
    SPAM (!!!)”
    Took me 10 minutes to get the mess out of the Keyboard HAHAHAHA
    Thanks ‘Buddy’ was a GREAT belly roll laugh for sure.

    1. Fruitcake is an excellent survival food. The smaller 6″ size loaf is perfect for an outing. I buy 2-3 ‘bricks’ at CHRISTmas time at the local Mega-Lo-Mart for less than $3 ea. I then put them in a freezer weight zip-lock and put them in the freezer, from there they go into the rucksack when going out on an outing or to the deer blind, snowshoe trip, etc. Lots of sweet and calories if stuck out overnight or just plain hungry. I’ve eaten fruitcakes that are every bit of 5 years old when taken out of the freezer and I’m still alive to talk about it. Fruitcakes are NOT my daily or even weekly snack food, BUT… if stranded in the woods, they are delicious and filling.

    2. – Last year we cleaned out MIL’s freezer. Found some fruitcake she made several years before she passed, and ate it. Tasted delicious. BTW, we attended her funeral in 2006.
      – Papa S.

  4. Another thing to keep in mind is the container that the food comes packed in. I buy maple syrup, honey, and vinegar in glass bottles or jars. The longer something sits in plastic there is more leaching of chemicals into your food, rendering it inedible and possibly dangerous. If your buying it to have forever, make sure that your container will also last forever.

    1. I take my old emptied out bourbon bottles and reuse them for vinegar storage, homemade spirits, bulk liquid soap etc. I use Ball Jars for Honey, bulk coconut oil. Sugar, rice beans and salt go into Mylar bags. everything is placed into metal garage cans. I agree with the list above also other things : Baking soda, cream of tartar, Spices last along time… used the mother in laws 30 year old garlic powder and paprika sitting above the stove. Tasted just fine. a little caked up though.

  5. Ken,
    Very good list! It is almost same like my list of strategic supplies of food. I will add corn berries, dry vegetables, cans or spam and sardines!

  6. Some observations-

    -stored rice and beans make for a bleak and boring diet. Not nearly as bleak and boring as starvation.

    -an extra $5 a week spent on dried rice and beans will quickly add up to that 6 months of food storage our government seems to be warning us that we need.

    -that won’t be money wasted, as it is not likely to go bad.

    -an EMP or CME would set us back a hundred years. These listed foods/condiments (with a few exceptions) are what you would have found in my grand parents larder just 70 years ago, before they got their first refrigerator.

    -dried peppers from your garden have a similar shelf life, and go a long way on “spicing up” boring foods.

    -sugar is cheap. Sugar is “empty calories”, but it is calories…….and energy.

    -salt is cheap. Salt is absolutely essential. Iodine is essential – make sure salt for consumption is iodized.

    -preppers have been called paranoid, crazy, and weird. Your government now says everyone should get prepped. What will you call those who ignore the warning? After a couple of weeks without anything, how would a bowl of red beans and rice, sprinkled with pepper flakes, taste?

    I’ve suddenly got the urge to add to my larder………………………

    1. Dennis – great observations

      Even those being led out of captivity found the steady diet of manna boring. They longed for the garlics and onions of Egypt (Numbers 11). :-)

      For me it will also include molasses, sugar, and spices for my boring oatmeal and wheat berries. And raisins and other dried high-fructose fruit, which after years in my mother’s cupboard, were still just fine.

      I think that we who participate in this blog can define ourselves for ourselves. I would say that our prepping is not based on panic or paranoia, but is by nature prudent. Nice that parts of the government have moved from a 3-day prep recommendation to being able to be on our own for 14-days.

      I wonder what they will recommend once they take the reports of potentially months to years of lights out seriously. The DOD is now recommending that the FEMA camp model be turned on its head. It proposes that centers be established so that folks who are sheltering in place can find the resources they need. That does tend to leave the more rural areas on their own, but it’s a nice change.

      Back on topic – dried dates and figs last forever.

    2. Dennis- paranoid? I am not paranoid. I am not worried at all about that person staring at me behind the bushes down the way. Or maybe there is nothing there since that person hasnt moved for a few days. WAIT, I can see now, that person is wearing a red and white coat and hat.

  7. What I notice about Ken’s list is that only two items are prepared, Spam and bouillon cubes. (I don’t consider Crispy Cremes and Twinkie’s as food). Bouillon cubes are easy to make; but the ones we make are kept in the freezer as they are gelatinous. But I also make dried versions for camping trips.

  8. Was going through Costco yesterday stocking up on a few items. One of their little sample stations the were giving samples of the Kings Hawaiian Rolls with Spam in it. Didn’t buy the rolls but did add a couple more cases of spam. I’m one of those who actually likes it, especially the lower sodium stuff.

      1. Fried up, diced up with scrambled eggs, diced up in vegetables, diced and mixed in grits, grilled for spam burgers, pan fried with melted cheese. The list could go on forever, just like the shelf life of spam itself.

          1. – Ditto to all the above. Don’t care for the turkey, though! LOL
            – Papa S.

  9. Non iodized salt for meat preservation. Not the regular table salt. Both last forever though.

  10. Seriously, the cans of SPAM I have actually do have a best-by date. If memory serves, about 2 years??

      1. Old Chevy
        Are you Sayin’
        Even the past good by dates on Spam can not alter the taste of the stuff?
        Just wanted to clarify….
        Lol

    1. Up until recently they always had 7 yrs stamped on them. They will last that long.

    2. About 3 weeks ago I cracked open a can of the ‘smoked’ flavor that was 6 years old, stored in my basement (Temp average 65 degrees). It was diced and fried up w/ diced onions and potatoes with some fried eggs. Yum. The leftover chunk of meat was later sliced and grilled for a sandwich. Again…Yum.
      All is well

    3. People need to research food dating. The dates on food items are not expiration dates. They were never about public health nor were they intended to be used as expiration dates. They are placed there voluntary by manufactures for their use and retailers use. Federal and the USDA reports state that 90% of Americans throw away good food yearly because the misconception what these dates mean and why they are there, It goes on the state that 40% of America’s food supply is thrown away yearly because of the dates on food products. The USDA states NO food should be thrown away because of these dates.

      1. I forgot to mention I have a list of 75 food items that have indefinite to extremely long term shelf life. Yes, Twinkies are on the list. A scientist had a 30 year old Twinkie that he tested for long term. His findings were that it was still edible. Only the cake tasted a little stale but was still good. He explain why, since they are made of sponge cake and contained no dairy is why it remained edible.

  11. I’m surprised nobody mentioned ‘Jerky’. And smoked fish.
    Sustained people for eons.
    I’ve made both myself. Not difficult.
    Tasty & nutritious.

    1. The bags of jerky I see on Costco have a pretty short shelf life, use by date on them.. which surprises me, I thought jerky lasted a long time

      1. TheGhostofBelleStarr:
        Most jerky if processed correctly can last up to 1 year if you vacuum seal it in glass containers. If it is stored in plastic it starts to break down, oxygen can permeate through that material. I have tried several different processing containers and glass is the best next to Mylar bags.

        1. Jerky can’t be part of my long term food storage. Short term..maybe. I eat it almost faster than I can make it. 😉

    1. I always appreciate it when people share success stories of eating old canned goods. Thanks for sharing yours.

    2. The Hormel company seals the can before they heat it. This is the reason it lasts so long. I wish I could find the article about it.

      1. Lo and behold. I just found it. It is called High Pressure Pasteurization.

        Stay frosty.

  12. I’d be interested to know if Whey protein powder will last as long as powdered milk. Specifically the types that have no salt added. The best before dates tend to be around 1 year unopened, but there is a difference between best before and expired.

    1. @YOLO I’m up to a 2 yr test on the Walmart brand of protein powder. I’m going to Mylar seal some now and go for 3.

    2. There are NO expiration dates on any food product. That is a misconception by consumers. The BEST BEFORE DATES: are on products like protein powder and infant formula. This dating means that these products contain not less than the quantity of each nutrients as described on the label if consumed by those date. After that date the manufacture can’t insure that the product hasn’t lost it potency. But they are still safe to be used or consumed.

  13. It was pure coincidence that this article came out after I finished processing some cabbage into kraut just before logging on tonight. I cannot argue the logic of having Spam around. I like frying it up with some new or red potatoes and onions. I also fry it up with leftover cooked rice adding onions, frozen peas and carrots, mung bean sprouts and garlic. Spam is very versatile when you have handfuls of leftovers in your fridge or larder.

    With the scare going on about romaine lettuce right now, my winter vegetable consumption is being supplemented by frozen veggies. Having some krauted cabbage on hand is nice to add to things and add some crunch to the foods you may be cooking. ( I add a small amount to my soft tacos or burritos when I cannot find a decent looking head of lettuce.)

    The pickling solution is as follows: 1 cup boiled clean water. 3/4 tablespoon white granulated sugar. 1 tablespoon of non iodized salt and 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar.

    I have several pickle presses from an asian food market and they are used constantly now that I live in a colder climate. Being the asian guy, I still eat a fair amount of rice though I also like pasta and Mexican food just to mix it up a bit. Being this close to Idaho, I know what to do with a potato as well.

    So, by reviewing the recipes I just outlined, one can tell I try to have on hand a fair amount of: non-iodized salt for pickling or krauting of vegetables. White cider vinegar and granulated white sugar. Like Dennis, I like to keep either pepper sauce, Tabasco sauce, dried peppers around the pantry. I also like to have some “wasabi” powder and some Chinese hot mustard powder around for that horse radish type of hot in your food. If these items are kept sealed, they last a long time.

    In cooking batches of “old” beans, I have found that the really old beans that have spent years in the pantry will have a higher number of “floaters” or beans that will not hydrate after soaking in water overnight. I toss the floaters and cook the rest.

    I still like to go to the market frequently in order to obtain fresh vegetables and for me there is still an adventure in learning to cook foods that I did not grow up with. Lastly, I like to keep on hand many condiments such as soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar like Mirin, mustards, black pepper, paprika and herbs for soups and stews.

    I like to blow the stereotype that nurses are lousy cooks. I was single and cooking for myself and others long before I got married.

  14. Hello all,
    This is my first post, but I’ve been reading this amazing blog for a long time. Unfortunately, not all the advice I can apply, because I live in Poland. I am struggling with some difficulties in preparation. Today I am wondering how to check the moisture of rice, pasta, before packing it in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber – because I am afraid of botulinum toxin. Humidity should be below 10% – however how to measure it?
    Greetings,

    1. Dunedain
      Good morning, let me be one of many to welcome you.
      On the rice or pasta after you have frozen it for about 3-5 days let it set on the counter top of your home. If you would like poke a hole into the bag or make a small slit so that any moisture can escape the package. Let it stay there for about a week so that you that know all the moisture has dried up inside before you package it away.

      If you do not wish to put a hole in the bag, pick it up move the food around inside to insure that the moisture has been shifted around to remove it from the food.

      If you have a vacuum seal machine, you can put these foods inside glass canning jars with lids leaving the lid & ring loose, place the jar inside the plastic bags then process. It will pull the air out of the jar seal the rubber canning lid down on the glass jar containing the contents inside without oxygen If you do not have this machine, then use Mylar bags 5mil thickness with oxygen absorbers for storing your food for future use. You will be squeezing the majority of the oxygen out of the bag when you add the 02 absorber before sealing the small opening with your iron.

      1. Thank you very much for your answer – your knowledge and time. Previously, I considered freezing just as a way to remove worms / insects from rice, but actually this process can help to regulate the humidity. Thank you again and I apologize for linguistic mistakes.

  15. Can anyone give more information or experience with the “indefinite” nature of maple syrup (stored in glass bottles)? Most of what I’ve read elsewhere implies that quality diminishes after 3-5 years. True? I’d love to stock up on a large supply and forget about it, but it isn’t cheap, and I’d hate to discover in 20 years that it was a dumb purchase.

    1. Pure Maple Syrup, unopened, stored in glass, in a col, dark environment, will keep for years. It will darken, and crystallize, just like raw honey. This process is normal, and is what you want to happen. If the syrup does not crystallize, then it’s not pure, and should be used up right away.

      Pay the price, but only pure organic maple syrup, not the imported or cheap stuff. Find a producer, and buy direct, you won’t be sorry.

      Pure raw honey is a better choice.

  16. I have a 5 gallon bucket of dried peas. When I tried to reconstitute some, they were very hard after soaking them overnight, and cooking them on low, and adding more water. I cooked them for 3 days this way, and they were still very hard. Any suggestions?

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