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Best Non Perishable Foods (For Home Use or Donations)

When you're stocking your own pantry or helping others in need, non perishable foods should be on your shopping list. These foods are great for emergencies when the power goes out, for camping, or simply for planning ahead. (Food prices almost always go up, not down.)

Best Non Perishable Foods (For Home Use or Donations)

We'll help you choose the best non perishable foods that last for months (or years). Plus, we have storage and organization tips, and a printable list of non perishable foods with estimated shelf life.

What is Considered a Non Perishable Food Item?

Non Perishable Foods are safe to eat for long periods of time without refrigeration. They are also known as “shelf stable foods”.

Some foods can last a few weeks to months on the shelf.  Others can last for months. The longest last 10 to 20 years or more, such as freeze dried food or military MREs. 

Note: In spite of some silly prepper shows might say, it is not recommended to live off of nothing but MREs for an extended period of time. They are nutrient dense, but can be hard on your guts.

A young reporter took the 21 day “nothing but MREs challenge” in 2016.

He wrote, “I would alternate between vicious cycles of spending hours in the bathroom and then not being able to go at all.”

Storage

Non-perishable foods don’t require refrigeration, but are best kept cool and dry. If it sits on a shelf in the grocery store, it's safe on the shelf in your home.

Temperature: Store products at less than 75°F (24°C) or lower, if possible. If storage temperatures are higher, rotate your food to maintain quality.

Moisture: Keep food storage areas dry. Keep containers off the floor to allow for air circulation.

Light: Keep food in opaque containers out of direct sunlight.

Insects and rodents: Protect food stored in foil pouches, cans, jars and bottles from rodent and insect damage.

Keep air out.  Store your food in meal sized portions, or a package size you can use up in less than a week once opened. If you buy in bulk, reseal in smaller packages.

Air is the enemy of long term food storage. Use vacuum sealed containers or Mylar for longer shelf life. Oxygen absorbers and/or vacuum sealing provide the longest shelf life.

See “Preparedness Storage – Finding Room and Keeping it Safe and Sound” for more storage tips.

Shelf Life of Non Perishable Foods

The following tables give shelf life estimates for an assortment of foods. These estimates vary widely, depending on which reference you use, so we opted for more conservative estimates.

Start with the “best by” date, but use some common sense. If salt has been hanging around in the earth for thousands of years, it's not going to go bad sitting in your pantry.

Do not use food with obvious signs of spoilage, like bad odors or bulging containers.

General Pantry Items

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
WaterFOREVERLowStored water might need filtering if container rusts or leaches flavor. For emergencies, store one gal of water per day per person.
Sugar, Salt, HoneyFOREVERLow to HighUse in cooking and as spices and sweetener. Sugar/Honey can also be used for wound treatment.
Real Maple Syrup (without corn syrup)1yr to IndefiniteHighUnopened and stored in a glass jar in a cool dry place it will store indefinitely. (no corn syrup or artificial flavoring)
Maple Flavored Syrup (with corn syrup)4 months  to 1yrLow to MediumArtificial flavoring will break down, as will the plastic bottle.  It will still be edible past the best by date.
Ground Pepper6mo-2yrsLowAlready ground pepper. Storing in a freezer helps keep the flavor.
Peppercorns 1-4+yrsLowGrind your own pepper. Store in #10 or Mylar with oxygen absorber
Onion and Garlic Powder2-4 yrsMediumStore in Mylar bags and keep airtight – flavors decrease over time
Pure Vanilla ExtractIndefiniteMedium to High
Imitation Vanilla Extract2-4yrsLow- Medium
Vanilla Beans6mo-1yrHigh
Chocolate, Milk Choc Chips, Dark Choc Chips
6mo-2yrs, 1-3yrs

Medium
Best to store between 54°F and 61°F
Cocoa Powder1-4 yrsMedium3mo-1yr once opened (varies based on fat content)
Pancake Mix (Store)1 yrLowRepackage in Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber to last 5 – 10yrs
Pancake Mix
(no oxygen)
5-20+ yrsMed- High#10 can or Mylar bag with oxygen absorber

Fats and Oils

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
Olive Oil8-20moMedFlavor fades as it ages
Peanut Oil1-2yrsMed
Refined Coconut Oil12-18moMedDoes not have coconut taste
Virgin Coconut Oil2yr-5yrMedStill has coconut taste, but stores much longer
Canola or Vegetable Oil2yrsLow
Tallow (animal fat)1-3yrsMed- HighStore better with refrigeration
coconut oil

Sources of Protein, Including Plant Based, Meals and Soups

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
Canned Beans: Pinto Adzuki  Blackeye Garbanzo Kidney Lentils Lima Red and Soy2-5+yrsLow
Dried Beans: Pinto Adzuki  Blackeye Garbanzo Kidney Lentils Lima Red and Soy30+ yrsLowRequires rehydrating and cooking to eat 
Butter3mo fridge
1yr freezer
Low-Medbuy on sale and store in freezer
Ghee (clarified butter)3-5yrsMedoptionally canned at home
Peanut Butter3-9 months(less if warm)MediumCan be eaten directly; longer if lower fat count 
Nut butters9 months from jarringMediumvaries with fat content
Raw nuts and seeds1month to 2yrsMedium 1-9mo in pantry, fridge 1yr and up to 2yrs in the freezer.  68F or cooler is best. Store in airtight container. Some nuts like pistachios have a shorter shelf life. 
Canned fish and poultryUp to 5 years less if warmMedium to high Varies with packaging and fat content and in a cool dry place
Canned Tuna 18mo to 5yrs Medium to highVaries with packaging and fat content
Freeze Dried Chicken, beef and hamburger10-30 yrsHigh#10 cans or Mylar bags
Freeze dried meals, in most cases just add hot water10-30 yrsHighFrom: MountainHouse, AugusonFarms, and Nutristore others
Canned Soup (tomato based)18monthsLow
Canned Soup (non tomato based)5yrsLow to medium
Freeze dried soup10-30yrsHigh

Fruits and Vegetables

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
Canned vegetables2-5 yrsLow
Canned fruits1-2 yrsLow- Mediumpeaches, berries, apples, grapefruit or pineapple
Dried Fruit / VegetablesUp to 1yrMediumCan be eaten directly but generally rehydrated and used in a meal
Freeze Dried Fruit / Vegetables10+ yrshighCan be eaten directly but generally rehydrated and used in a meal
Freeze Dried Bananas, Apples, or raspberries 10+ yearsMedium to highCan be eaten directly or used in a recipe
Raisins 1yr, 6 months openedMed
Supermarket Potatoes2-4 weeksLowWill store longer in a mesh bag in a dark, 95% humid and cool 45-50F place.  
Garden Potatoes6-10moLowStored in a root cellar. Specific varieties store better our favorites are Kennebec & Yukon Gold.
Sweet potatoes3-5 weeksLow to medium
Minced Garlic3wk to 3moLowNormally stored in oil
Supermarket Garlic6moLow
Garden Garlic4mo-12mo
root cellar
LowThere are Hardneck and Softneck varieties. Both store at 58F in 45% humidity (softneck dont make scapes but store a bit better)
Supermarket Onions6 weeksLow
Garden Onions3mo – 9mo root cellarLowYellow onions Stuttgarter Reisen and Yellow of Parma our our favorite storing onions
Winter Squash1 month to 1 yearLowStorage depends on variety, growing conditions, and curing
assortment of winter squash, one of the easiest vegetables to store

Grains

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
White Rice 4-5yrsLow
White Rice sealed (oxygen free)25-30yrsLow to mediumPacked in #10 can flushed with nitrogen, or in Mylar w/ O2 absorber
Hard red or hard white wheat w/o nitrogen1yrLow In a bucket in cool dry place
Hard red or hard white wheat nitrogen packed vacuum sealed10-30 yrsLowSealed in #10 can or Mylar, requires grinding for flour for use
Millet, Buckwheat 10-20 yrsLowSealed in #10 can or Mylar, requires processing for use
Brown Rice packaged3-12 monthsLow to MediumLasts longer at 50-70f and sealed oxygen free#10 cans or Mylar bags
Rolled Oats20+ yrsLowSeal in Mylar with oxygen absorber for long term storage
Dried Corn (grain)20 yearsLowLonger if kept cooler
Commercial Pasta 2yrsLowIn store packaging
Pasta stored oxygen free10-30 yrsLowSeal in Mylar with oxygen absorber
Ramen Noodles Soup6mo-2yrsLowJust add hot water

Note that whole wheat flour and brown rice have significantly shorter shelf lives than white flour and white rice. This is because they retain more fat, which goes rancid in storage. Don't use whole grains or whole grain products with a rancid or bitter flavor.

Some of my favorite flours for bread baking are Gold and White by Natural Mills and King Arthur. These companies dry down their products more than most processors, increasing their shelf life.

bread flour

Snacks and Desserts

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
Cheese (stored in fridge) 2-4moMed
Freeze Dried Cheddar Cheese or Cheese powder5-10yrsMed to High
Freeze Dried Cheese5-30yrsHighVaries widely because of variable fat content. Canned freeze dried cheeses will last up to 30yrs.
Aged Cheddar Cheese Wheel 1-20yrs* (normally 1-5yrs)HighRequires 45F to 58F + controlled area for aging cheese wheels. Some require high humidity. 
Commercial jerky1yrMed- High
Home made jerky2monthsMed
Freeze Dried Pudding mix5 to 15 yearsMedium to highVaries by type of pudding
Saltine Crackers6-9moLow
Granola bars, protein bars, trail mix1yrLow

Survival and Emergency Foods

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
Military MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) 10-20+yrs HighEasy to eat, lightweight.  Can be stored almost anywhere (longer life if cool and dry)
Hardtack (survival biscuits)FOREVERLowEasy to make, lasts FOREVER not great tasting
Pemmican 1-5yrsMedMake it yourself
Military Chocolate Ration Bar  3-5+ yearsHighMilitary D Ration, D Bar and others.  Longer life if sealed and kept cool.
USCG Ration Bar3-5+ yearsHighRation bars, high calorie, ready to eat

If you want to freeze dry your own emergency foods, home freeze dryers are now available through Harvest Right. Learn more here.

Beverages and Liquids

Non Perishable FoodEst Shelf LifeCostNotes
Shelf Stable Milk (liquid)Up to 9monthsLow- Med
Freeze dried Whole milk1-5yrsMed- highVaries widely because of variable fat content. Canned freeze dried cheeses will last up to 30yrs.
Freeze dried Nonfat Milk5-20yrsMed- highVaries widely because of variable fat content. Canned freeze dried cheeses will last up to 30yrs.
Canned coconut milk5yrsMed
Black Tea, Oolong Tea18 months 24 monthsLow to Medium
Peach Tea, Rasp Tea mix18-24 monthsMedium
Kool-Aid, Tang drink mix2yrsLowProbably drinkable after the recommended shelf life (people have drank 10yr old but vitamins will be low or gone)
Ground Coffee3-5monthsMed- HighNo change in freezer
Coffee Beans6moMed- High2yrs in freezer
Green coffee Beans in no-oxygen 4 to 20yrsMed- HighVaries with type of bean and water content
Instant coffee (canned or freeze dried)1-2yrsMed- Highstore packaging
Freeze dried (instant) coffee (#10/Mylar) 20-25yrsMed- HighLong term packaging makes a big difference
Hard liquor & wineIndefiniteMed- Highwines generally improve with age, clear liquors last longer (Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Rum)
Flavored Liquor and “flavored wine”1 to 2yrsMed- High Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream and other mixed drinks
Hard Apple Cider2 to 20yrsMed- High Varies widely. 2yrs for “store bottle cider”, longer for specific real hard cider. It will switch over to Apple Cider Vinegar if stored too long
Beer – Various types last longer9mo to 2yrsLow to HighBeer over a year old will probably not taste good. Store in a cool completely dark place to extend life

Get the Printable PDF Version of the Shelf Life Chart Here

What are the best non perishable foods to donate?

If possible, ask your local food pantry what non perishable foods they need the most. Normally they are grateful to be asked.

Our food bank prefers canned meats and shelf stable proteins and meals, because those are not donated as frequently. They are, of course, thankful for any donation in good condition. (Don't donate items that are many years out of date. They can't use them, either.)

More Information on Food Storage and Emergency Preps

We have over 100 emergency preparedness post on the site, all sorted by category on the Common Sense Preparedness page.

They include:

Foods to Stock Up On (for Daily Use or Emergencies)

Home Freeze Drying

5 Best Freeze Dried Foods – Quality Long Term Food Storage

Home Food Preservation – 10 Ways to Preserve Food at Home

Emergency Cooking – 10 Ways to Have a Hot Meal When the Power Goes Out

Storage and Shelf Life of Over-the-Counter Medication

If you have preparedness or food storage questions, leave a comment below. We also appreciate it when you share tips that have worked well for you, since we have readers from all over the world, and everyone's situation is a little bit different.

It makes a HUGE difference when you share our articles. Thank you so much!

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10 Comments

  1. Hi, have enjoyed your website. Lots of good info! What do you recommend for food storage for folks that don’t have a lot of land to grow in bulk or underground food storage? I live in a neighborhood with a decent sized raised garden bed, but a regular sized pantry. Also, are there options for above ground root cellars?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Allison.

      Check out this post for ideas for extra spots to store food and supplies outside of a pantry – https://commonsensehome.com/preparedness-storage/

      And this one for above ground “root cellar” type options – https://commonsensehome.com/above-ground-root-cellars/

      Even if you don’t have a lot of land to grow huge amounts of food yourself, you may be able to buy in bulk from local growers or farmers markets or even the grocery stores when they run a good sale on fresh produce. Many of our local grocery stores partner with local farmers for certain fresh foods in season, like corn, bean and apples. Buying direct from growers will usually get you the best pricing and freshest produce, but sometimes you need to work with what’s available.

  2. Morning Laurie.
    Thank you for the List for the Shelf Life of Non Perishable Foods. This was extremely helpful. Much appreciated!
    Have a good day!

  3. Most of the foods you have listed require water to be added. I have been wondering and wondering about home canned (already has water). I know it has less nutrition than dried and freeze dried. What do you think? A mix is what I am doing.

    1. I absolutely support including home canned food as part of your food storage. You can see one of our jars of green beans in the top photo. This post focuses mostly on purchased items, since food banks don’t accept home canned goods (and not too many people can anymore).

      We can a number of different foods, including fruits, fruit spreads (jams, jellies, preserves), flower jellies, many different tomato products (spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup, soup, stewed tomatoes), broth, green beans, relish, pickles, and more.

      The best food to store is food that you will eat, and we like to store a mix of foods to provide different tastes and textures.

  4. Tyson Foods is recalling all its chicken because of Listeria. Therefore, every product that is made with Tyson chickens is also being recalled. Prepared sandwiches and salads with chicken from Tysons and pet foods containing Tyson chickens.

    But I have noticed that it gets harder each year to find beef. Especially beef with a bone in it. The more they push artificial meat, like Burger King’s impossible burger, the less real food is available.

    1. I think the meat processors are having a difficult time finding people who want to work in the processing plants, so they’re part of the movement pushing fake food. I know JBS has invested heavily in “plant based meat”/

  5. New to to your website and love this info! But, FYI, rolled oats go rancid after a few months unless stored in nitrogen-flushed #10 cans.

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