By Jill Levy
Our team here at Ancient Nutrition believes it’s always important to prepare, so we'd like to help you prepare a healthy emergency food supply in the event that you're stuck at home with limited access to fresh food or electricity. Snow storms, hurricanes and other unpredictable events (!) can all directly affect fresh food and/or electricity availability.
Learning about non-perishable foods that are good additions to your diet can also come in handy when you're traveling, camping, donating food, or simply looking to reduce food waste and food costs in your home (since these foods last a long time and are often inexpensive, too).
For example, use this list to purchase foods in bulk at a wholesale price (but please, from this New Yorker to fellow New Yorkers, do not hoard food!), or online from your favorite retailer that delivers.
What Is Non-Perishable Food?
Non-perishable food is defined as "foods that are not subject to rapid deterioration or decay."
While some non-perishable foods are probably already included in your diet throughout the year, even when there's no food shortage or quarantine occurring, these foods are considered essential during emergencies. According to the U.S Department of Homeland Security, it's ideal to have enough non-perishable food at home that could last you for several days if needed.
Compared to perishable foods — like fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and dairy products — those that are non-perishable do not require immediate refrigeration and can be stored for a long time (generally a year or more).
The best way to prolong how long these foods will stay good is to store them in dry, cool, dark and well-ventilated spaces (such as a basement or cellar), rather than somewhere hot, bright and humid.
How long does non perishable food last? It depends on the specific type, but many will remain edible for months or even years, especially those that are canned.
21 Best Non-Perishable Foods
What are some good non perishable foods? Whether you're concerned about establishing an emergency food supply, or just looking for foods and snacks that you can bring out-and-about with you, here is a list of some of the best non-perishable foods to stock up on:
1. Canned Tuna, Salmon and Sardines
While fresh meat and seafood can spoil rather quickly, within a matter of several days, canned fish such as sardines and salmon (or even canned chicken) make a convenient protein source.
Look for types packed in water, their own juices, or olive oil, rather than processed vegetable oils.
2. Almonds and Almond Butter
Whether adding some to sprouted toast, oatmeal or even a smoothie, almonds and almond butter not only taste great but provide you with filling, healthy fats.
3. Cashews/Cashew Butter and Other Dried Nuts
If almonds aren't your thing, consider trying cashew butter or another type. And don't forget to pick up a variety of your favorite nuts, such as walnuts and pistachios, which are full of healthy fatty acids, some protein and trace minerals.
4. Seeds (Flax, Chia, Hemp, Sunflower, etc.)
All types of seeds can be considered healthy non-perishable foods because they're great sources of minerals, fats and even some protein.
Try making chia pudding with coconut milk, adding hemp seeds to oats, or making your own homemade granola bars with dried fruits and sunflower butter (or another nut-free butter if need be).
5. Dried Coconut
High in fiber and quality fats, use coconut flakes or coconut flour to make grain-free granola, gluten-free baked goods, tasty raw desserts, etc.
6. Canned/Boxed Coconut and Almond Milk
Since milk and dairy products may not be available during a food shortage, canned or boxed coconut milk, almond milk, and other milk alternatives are smart substitutes.
7. Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Other Oils
If you store quality oils in a dark, cool place, they should last at least several months. Use coconut oil when cooking/baking or drizzle virgin olive oil over cooked foods to enhance the taste, make them more filling and provide important fats.
8. Beef/Turkey Jerky
When fresh meat isn't available, jerky can be a good substitute, as long as you purchase a type free of chemical additives and made with quality (ideally grass-fed) meat.
9. Protein Powder (which is technically a dietary supplement, not a food)
There aren't many non-perishables that are more convenient than quality protein powders — such as organic whey, pea, hemp or collagen protein powder (such as we have on our Store).
Have them with coconut milk and honey, mixed into whole grains, or add them to smoothies and baked goods.
10. Dried Bone Broth Powder (also technically a dietary supplement, not a food)
Bone broth is brimming with collagen, amino acids and minerals, yet you probably won't be able to make fresh both if you're short on meat and veggies.
Use the powdered bone broth (which is available here on our Store) type instead, which offers many of the same benefits.
11. Protein Bars
Protein bars, such as these you’ll find on our Store, are also a good idea for storage, as long as temperatures don’t go too high in your location (if so, place in the refrigerator). Like protein powder, they offer nutrition in each serving and are a convenient, tasty snack.
Unlike most protein powders, however, they also represent a great macronutrient option, with carbohydrates, protein and fat.
12. Dried Beans, Lentils and Peas
Beans and lentils are some of the cheapest non-perishable foods there are, plus they are versatile and last a very long time in your cabinet.
Not only can you purchase canned beans or cook dried beans, legumes and pulses from scratch (such as in a slow cooker or Instant Pot), but now many stores have freeze dried/cooked options available that can be eaten as snacks.
You can also look for ready-made packaged beans that are ready in about one minute; however, opt for types that are lower in sodium.
13. Whole Grains (Oats, Quinoa, Buckwheat, etc.)
Whole/ancient grains have been a staple food for thousands of years, considering they are filling, high in fiber and last a long time.
To make the most of whole grains, it's recommended that you sprout them to improve absorption of their nutrients, and to reduce “anti-nutrients” that may cause digestive discomfort in some people.
Is popcorn a non-perishable food that you should consider buying? It's not a bad option if you purchase unpopped kernels and add your own toppings, such as melted grass-fed butter, cheese, sea salt, etc.
14. Dried Berries
While there are plenty of dried fruits available in most grocery stores, berries tend to be some of the most versatile and nutrient-dense.
Look for unsweetened blueberries, strawberries, cranberries, mulberries, goji berries and others in health food stores, bulk sections of large grocery stores, or online. Dried acai berry or camu camu power is another great option.
15. Other Dried Fruit
Unsweetened dried figs, prunes, apricots, mango, etc. all make convenient and health-focused snacks, plus they can satisfy a sweet tooth. Add them to trail mixes, homemade granola bars, etc.
16. Jarred/Pickled Vegetables
When fresh veggies aren't an option, one of the best things to use instead is jarred and pickled veggies, such as pickled sauerkraut, green beans, beets, etc.
These can be an important source of probiotics, which ideally should be included in your daily diet. Add these to non-perishable meals such as rice and beans.
17. Canned Vegetables
Look for low-sodium canned vegetables, including peas, peppers, carrots, beets or artichoke hearts. These can be added to non-perishable meals like soups, rice, beans, etc.
18. Canned Fruits
If you can find unsweetened and canned apples, peaches, pears, pineapple, etc. these are great to have on hand for things like making oats or smoothies. Just be sure to purchase the types that are in water or natural juices, but not high fructose corn syrup.
19. Canned Soups
While many canned soups are high in sodium and contain a number of additives, there are some good options if you look carefully.
Look for organic soups that are made with recognizable ingredients such as beans, vegetables and herbs, and that are not too high in sodium.
20. CondimentsTo boost the flavor of non-perishable meals (and, in some cases, the nutrition, too), condiments to keep on hand include:
- Raw honey
- Dried herbs and spices (all types)
- Maple syrup
- Hot sauce
- Vinegars (apple cider, balsamic and white)
- Low sugar BBQ sauce
- Red pasta sauce
- Chili paste
- Tamari/Soy sauce
- Stevia extract or monk fruit
21. Whole Grain Crackers
Crackers may not be the healthiest non-perishable foods available; however, there are some good options if you know what to look for. Read ingredient labels and keep an eye out for those made with whole grains, nuts, seeds and herbs.
Other Foods That Can Last Several Weeks:
While they technically may not be non-perishable, there are lots of other healthy foods (what some would consider "semi perishables") that you can keep at home that should last about two weeks:
- Root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots
- Under-ripe avocados
- Garlic and ginger
- Lemons and limes
- Organic sprouted tofu
- And of course, frozen vegetables, meat and fruit if freezing is an option
Some Things to Consider
Stocking up on a variety of non-perishable food is the best option when you aren't able to purchase fresh foods regularly, such as fruits and vegetables. However it's best to include perishable foods, especially fresh produce, in your everyday diet otherwise.
In order to get the most nutritional bang-for-your-buck when eating shelf stable foods, be sure to read ingredient labels. Try to avoid products too high in sodium, added sugar, additives and preservatives.
- What is a non perishable food item? These are foods that are not subject to rapid deterioration or decay. In other words, they don't go bad quickly and will last a long time even without refrigeration.
- Some of the best non perishable foods for emergencies include: canned fish, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, jarred and canned vegetables, coconut flakes and milk, bone broth powder and jerky.
- The best way to prolong how long these foods will stay good is to store them in dry, cool, dark, and well-ventilated spaces (such as a basement or cellar).
Jill has been with the Dr. Axe team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.