Food Items for Short-Term and Long-term Survival

Food storage is one of the most important considerations for a prepper, and it is something that can feel overwhelming until you understand it. Essentially, food storage can be placed into two distinct categories: short-term and long-term.

Understanding Short-Term Food Storage

Short-term food items typically have a shelf life between three and five years and comprise things you can pick up at your local grocery store. You will also want to choose foods your family eats every day.

To save money, you will want to create an inventory system like FIFO (First in, first-out). Having a strategy will help you cycle food, so you do not let anything go to waste.

For short-term storage, you will want to stock your pantry with a three-month supply of food. A three-month supply can help get you and your family through several disasters or financial setbacks, like job loss or illness.

Foods for short-term storage come in a few categories: canned goods, packaged goods, and beverages. Some potential food items could include:

Canned Goods:

  • Soups, beans, chili
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats
  • Peanut butter
  • Condiments
  • Salsa, pasta sauce
  • Jams and jellies
  • Cooking oil

Packaged Goods:

  • Dried fruit and nuts
  • Smoked or dried meats
  • Boxed dinners
  • Snacks
  • Baking mixes
  • Staples (Flour, spices, sugar, salt, pasta, rice)
  • Mixes (dressing, gravy, pasta)


  • Bottled water
  • Milk and milk substitutes
  • Fruit juice, soda, sports drinks
  • Powdered drink mixes
  • Hot drinks
  • Protein drink mixes

While not an extensive list, all of these items represent potential food items for short-term storage. While some of the items on this list might be capable of long-term storage, it is necessary to remember that the short-term option will typically not have a longer shelf life than five years.

Understanding Long-Term Storage

Unlike short-term options, long-term food options are primarily dry, packaged staples and can last between 20 and 30 years. Your long-term food supply is future disasters or unforeseen challenges. As the primary focus is on dry goods, the food is meant to help you maintain essential calorie and nutritional needs in a survival situation. These food items are not meant to represent your family’s favorite meals. The purpose is to keep you alive and healthy.

When establishing your long-term food storage, you want to focus on items with a shelf life of over 10 years. Some options you could include:

  • Pasta
  • Grains
  • Salt
  • White sugar
  • Baking soda
  • Legumes
  • Dried potatoes
  • Dried corn
  • Dried and freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
  • Powdered eggs
  • Powdered dairy

Focus On Storage Conditions and Get Help

While it is possible to build long-term food storage on your own, it is typically best to seek help from those who have done it before you. You can also look into specialty suppliers to find bulk items and containers.

If you want to maximize shelf life, you will need to store food in a cool, dry, and dark location. However, you will also want to avoid overly humid areas. The best sites are usually below ground (basement) or a specialized shed or outbuilding. You want to ensure it is temperature-controlled. If possible, use dehumidifiers or other ways to ensure moisture levels do not get too high.

There is a need for short-term and long-term food storage, with the former providing emergency supplies for a minimum of three months and the latter offers 20 to 30 years. Do you currently have a long-term or short-term storage solution? Leave a comment below and keep the conversation going.