This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I'll earn a small fee at no extra cost to you.*
If you’re stockpiling emergency foods, hopefully you have a system for rotating that food. My husband and I have a room with metal shelving units sticking out from the wall, so it’s easy to pull old cans and boxes of food from one side while putting foods we just bought on the other side.
There are some foods, however, for which our system is a little more chaotic. We use boxes, totes, and five-gallon buckets for these foods, and although we try to rotate through them, we’re not as concerned because we know these foods would last for decades.
In this article, I’m going to list 27 examples foods that can last for decades, but first I want to make a little disclaimer. Technically, many of these foods are ingredients (baking soda, bouillon cubes, etc). And while many of these foods will last forever without any special storage methods (such as honey, salt, and sugar), most of these foods need to be stored properly if they’re going to last more than a few years.
As long as you store these foods properly, they will last 20, 30, 40 years, or more. To learn more about storing food the right way, check this Beginner’s Guide to Emergency Food Storage. Now on to the list.
1. Alcohol – Liquor will last pretty much forever, and of course, wine gets better with time. Note that this does not include beer. Although it might still be safe to drink after a few decades, it would taste awful.
2. Apple Cider Vinegar – Not only is this an important ingredient in many recipes, it has many health benefits.
4. Bouillon Cubes – It’s so easy to make a delicious meal when you have some bouillon cubes on hand. All you have to do is heat up some water, some meat and/or veggies, and a cube. The reason they last so long is because of the high salt content, but you’ll need to store them in Mylar bags to preserve the taste.
5. Cocoa – Who doesn’t love a cup of hot cocoa on a cold day? Just to be clear, I’m not talking about instant cocoa–which usually has some kind of dairy product in it–but pure unsweetened cocoa powder.
6. Corn Starch – In addition to being crucial for many recipes, it’s also a great thickener. Just be sure it’s kept unopened in a cool, dry place in airtight containers.
7. Corn Syrup – This can be used instead of sugar in almost any recipe. But unlike sugar, it’s important that you keep it in an airtight container.
8. Dried Beans – To make these last for decades, you’ll need to pull out all the stops: they need to be completely dry in airtight bags inside airtight containers. They also need to stay in a cool, dark location. Otherwise, you could significantly shorten the shelf life.
9. Dried Corn – The same goes for dried corn. It can last a very long time, but only if you store it properly.
10. Ghee – Butter wouldn’t normally last very long, but this type is processed so that all the milk solids are removed, meaning it can last indefinitely. It’s also a good option for people with a slight sensitivity to dairy. Here’s how to make it.
11. Hardtack – Soldiers used to carry this food with them in the days before canned food and MRE’s. Since it’s so hard, it can be difficult to eat, but it’s great when dipped in coffee, cocoa, or crumbled into soup. Here’s our hardtack recipe.
12. Honey – Supposedly, archaeologists found 3000-year-old honey in the Egyptian pyramids and it was still good to eat. The only thing is, it will harden over time, so you’ll have to heat it up before eating it.
13 Instant Coffee – As long as you don’t open it, instant coffee should last a very long time, and indefinitely if you keep it in the freezer. It’s not as good as regular coffee, but hey, it still has caffeine in it.
14. Maple Syrup – The high sugar content is what makes this last so long. We have a lot of it because it’s not just good on pancakes, but also on toast, waffles, oatmeal, bacon, potatoes, vegetables, and even ice cream (yes, I have a major sweet tooth).
15. Pasta – Spaghetti, macaroni, fettuccine, lasagna… all this stuff will last for decades if stored properly. I recommend everyone store lots of pasta. It is very filling and can be used for all kinds of delicious meals.
16. Pemmican – This tasty food was made by Native Americans long before they had refrigerators. There are reports of it lasting up to 50 years when kept in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark location. Check out this recipe for pemmican.
17. Potato Flakes – I love having instant potatoes on hand. Sometimes we’ll cook some meat and veggies for dinner, and mashed potatoes just pull the meal together.
18. Ramen Noodles – These aren’t very healthy, but if you like them, then it’s worth buying a few variety packs and shoving them in the back of the closet because they’ll still be safe to eat after a few decades, although they won’t taste as good.
19. Rolled Oats – Oatmeal is a healthy, filling, and delicious breakfast (especially with some maple syrup on it). But like many of the items on this list, you’ll want to store it in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark location (sick of hearing that, yet?).
20. Salt – This isn’t so much a food as it is a mineral, so you can rest assured it will last forever.
21. Soy Sauce – This stuff is so delicious on rice and/or vegetables. The reason it lasts so long is because of the high sodium content. The sodium is so high, in fact, that a teen went into a coma after chugging a bottle on a dare.
22. Sugar – This is the most important, or least important, ingredient you can store, depending on your priorities.
23. Tea – If coffee isn’t your thing, maybe you prefer a hot cup of tea. As long as you keep it dry, it won’t lose its flavor or potency at all.
24. Vanilla Extract – The reason this lasts so long is because it’s mostly alcohol. Vanilla extract is a great thing to have on hand for making cookies, pancakes, ice cream, and other treats.
25. White Rice – Rice is a staple of diets all over the world. It’s cheap and very filling. Just make sure you store it properly, and also make sure it’s white rice and not brown rice, which only lasts about 6 months.
26. White Vinegar – I don’t use vinegar in cooking very often, but I keep several jugs on hand anyway because I use it for dozens of other things, many of which involving keeping my kitchen nice and clean.
27. Whole Wheat Grains – Typically, you’ll have to get whole wheat grains through a company that specializes in emergency food. Make sure you have a grain mill so you can turn it into flour.
Bonus Food: Powdered Milk – I had already made an image for this article that says “27 foods” when I thought of a 28th, so this one is a bonus. Powdered milk that comes in regular packages will only last a couple years, but if you put it in a Mylar bag with oxygen absorbers it will last 10 years. I know, that’s only one decade, and I said decades. But if you can find some powdered milk in nitrogen-packed cans, it should last a couple decades.
Well, there you have it, over two dozen foods that will last for decades (when stored the right way). If you’re new to emergency preparedness, these foods are a great place to start.