Storing food is one of the bedrock tasks of any serious Prepper. When the SHTF, you can buy food at much higher prices — if any is still available. You can grow your own food, if you have the resources — and no one steals it from your garden. Or you can store food in advance, and keep it secure in your home. Which foods should you store? This post offers my pick of the top ten items. You might want to make your own list of your top 10 priority foods. My picks are based on the three macronutrients: protein, fat, and carbohydrates. You will need plenty of each in order to survive.
1. Vegetable Oil
Dietary fat is an essential nutrient. And it is difficult to grow and press your own vegetable oil. Fortunately, vegetable oil is (currently) plentiful and cheap. And it stores relatively well. Check the expiration date before you buy. But I’ve found that expiry dates give me about a 1.5 to 2 year window for storage. Rotate your stores of veg oil and you should be fine. If the oil is past expiration date, it might still be edible, though not as palatable.
How much oil do you need? I would store at least 4 tablespoons of oil per day per person (60 grams). That’s about 6.5 gallons per year per person.
Which vegetable oil is best? I suggest a variety of oil types. Canola and Soybean oils have both essential fatty acids: omega-6 and omega-3. Olive oil keeps well and is healthy. In general, though, the more refined oils keep better. So healthy cold-pressed oils are do not have a good shelf life.
Grains provide lots of carbs and some protein. They are a near-universal staple food, throughout the world, and have been for innumerable generations. Humans have been growing and eating grains for over 10 thousand years. So it is a well-proven survival food.
Rice in particular is inexpensive and easy to store. White rice or parboiled rice store best. Brown rice has oils in the bran layer that will go rancid after many months in storage. White or parboiled rice will keep indefinitely.
Similarly, white pasta keeps indefinitely and is inexpensive. It provides plenty of carbs and more protein than does rice. Like rice, it is also easy to cook. White rice and white pasta also have the advantage of being able to be used in a wide array of dishes, without altering the flavor of the dish. Whole grain pasta and brown rice have a stronger flavor and coarser texture, that is not always preferable.
4. Wheat flour
I consider cooking to be one of the top survival skills that all preppers should learn. And baking bread from scratch is very useful as well. My pizza for preppers recipe can also be used to make a simple loaf of bread. It is a no-kneading needed recipe. See also my post: How To Make Bread Starter from Wild Yeast
To store flour long-term, choose a high-protein bread flour, white not wheat. Take a 5-gallon bucket and add a container of table salt to the bottom. This keeps the flour dry, preventing mold. Then add 4 or 5 of the 5-pound flour packages and seal the container well. Store some place cool and dry.
5. Soybeans (as soynuts)
These are not my favorite nuts to snack on. But they are very high in protein, and also contain both essential fatty acids. They store well and are relatively inexpensive, compared to other nuts.
6. Mixed Nuts
So it’s all good. I would store a wide variety of different nuts. They provide protein and dietary fat. They also make meals more palatable. You can survive on grains and dried legumes. But you will not have enough protein and fat unless you supplement those staple foods with some sources of protein and fat.
7. Sunflower Seeds
Most nuts are rather pricey. And if you are buying a large quantity for long-term storage, it might strain your budget. I suggest buying an extra bag of walnuts, pecans, or almonds each week, and adding it to your stored foods.
But if you want an inexpensive source of healthy fat and protein, look no further than the humble sunflower seed. Buy in bulk, and the cost per pound is lower than nuts or soynuts. They keep well and are very tasty.
8. Dried Legumes
I’m not a big fan of dried beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. They are high in protein and fiber. No one can deny that they are healthy, store well, and are inexpensive. But they are difficult to cook, and I don’t personally find them very palatable. Even so, the aforementioned advantages outweigh those culinary downsides. Dried beans should be a part of every prepper’s stored foods, as a survival ration, if nothing else.
Store-bought legumes are also viable as a seed source for the survival garden. And fresh legumes are much better tasting than dried ones. You can grow them in your garden, or trade them as a barter item to other gardeners.
9. Cheese (2 types)
From the point of view of a prepper storing food, there are two types of cheese, the kind that needs refrigeration, and the kind that does not. Grated parmesan or romano cheese keeps without refrigeration, until it is opened. But the expiry date is limited, so keep an eye on that, and rotate your stocks.
The cheese found in boxes of Mac and Cheese also keeps on the shelf. The powdered kind keeps very well, because it is dry. The “deluxe” type is a paste in an aluminum pouch. That cheese is also shelf-stable, and perhaps preferable; it doesn’t need milk or butter to make it into a cheese sauce. But shelf life is limited. I’ve used the cheese from Mac and Cheese boxes over pasta and over rice. It’s not bad, really. In a pinch, you can raid your stores of Mac and Cheese, and make all kinds of cheesy dishes from stored food. Very useful.
The other type of cheese, essentially any cheese that needs refrigeration, does not keep for very long in the fridge. So throw it in the freezer, for indefinite “shelf” life. The main concern here is that some cheeses are less palatable when thawed. I’ve found that sharp cheddar cheese tends to fall apart when thawed. Swiss cheese fares somewhat better. Blocks of cheese sized and shaped for use on crackers work well.
In terms of both pricing and palatability when thawed, the good ole American processed cheese food slices, individually wrapped — you know which ones I mean — are best. The cheese is inexpensive, high in protein and calcium, and thaws well. The individual wrapping holds the integrity of the slice better than deli cheese that you throw in the freezer.
10. Egg Whites (frozen)
Every supermarket sells egg whites in a carton, refrigerated. You can toss these in the freezer, and they will keep indefinitely. Thaw and use for any egg dish or for baking. Add a little cheese and you’ll never notice the lack of yolks.
Frozen egg whites are an excellent source of protein. In fact, there is very little of anything else. It is basically pure protein. And it keeps forever as long as it stays frozen. Thaw by leaving it in the fridge for a few days. That is always the safest way to thaw anything.
11. Salmon packets
Tuna now comes in foil packets, rather than cans. The packets have very little water, so they don’t need to be drained. It is the most compact way to buy and store tuna. But it doesn’t keep as well as the cans.
So, why am I recommending salmon, instead of tuna? Well, tuna is high in mercury. You shouldn’t eat tuna more than once a week, if that. But salmon is low in mercury. And now salmon comes in the same foil packets as tuna. These keep for about a year on the shelf, longer in the fridge, and indefinitely in the freezer. Because they are so compact, they take up very little freezer space. And salmon is very healthy, and high in protein and healthy fat.
There you have it. My top 11 picks for the best foods to store for prepping and survival purposes. Add you picks in the comments below.