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by Mountain House December 05, 2023

20 Best Survival Food Supplies for Emergencies

Preparing for the unexpected is essential. It's amazing how quickly our worlds can be turned upside down, even if for just a little while: It doesn't take long, for example, for an extended power outage to morph from mild inconvenience into major disruption.

We can hope that such disruptions don't last all that long, but it's best to be ready in case they do. Having an adequate stockpile of food (and, of course, water) for contingencies is a critical step to take for resiliency.

In this article, we'll run through 20 of the best foods to have on hand for long-term survival situations. They're also lifesavers when it comes to short-term survival scenarios. It's worth emphasizing, though, that while a bare-minimum 72-hour kit might include enough food to see you through a few days, a long-term survival stockpile (all the better from a prepper standpoint) needs to take proper nutrition more carefully into account. (Having enough shelf-stable food items for two weeks or more is a really good idea, not least if you've got the heads-up and lead time of a forecast approaching storm or other impending disturbance.)

Without further ado, let's work our way through 20 of the best emergency food supplies to have on hand at all times!

Canned Goods

Canned foods are a great idea for your survival stockpile, given they're shelf-stable and can be eaten straight out of the can if need be. Good emergency supplies in this department include:

  1. Canned Vegetables
  2. Canned Fruits
  3. Canned Meats
  4. Canned Soups

Freeze-Dried & Dehydrated Foods

It's ideal to have highly packable and lightweight non-perishable foodstuffs for your emergency kit, and certainly, freeze-dried and dehydrated foods and meals hit the mark. Both freeze-drying and dehydration remove moisture from foods to make them more shelf-stable as well as lighter, though freeze-drying - the process we use in the form of a proprietary method here at Mountain House - extracts more moisture than dehydration. Some of these foods, such as dehydrated fruits or veggies, can be eaten as-is, while others require water and heat to reconstitute.

  1. Mountain House Meals
  2. Freeze-dried Fruits
  3. Freeze-dried Vegetables
  4. Dehydrated Pasta & Rice
  5. Dehydrated Meat

Grains & Legumes

Dried grains and legumes not only offer good sources of carbohydrates (which your body converts into energy more readily than other foods), proteins, and fiber, but also provide the foundation of many a comfort-food dish-not to be underestimated in times of stress-and just an all-around highly versatile base.

  1. Rice
  2. Pasta
  3. Lentils
  4. Beans

Protein Sources

Protein's another daily essential, of course, not least for keeping your energy up-and that's important when you're weathering your way through an extended emergency or survival situation. Fortunately, you've got good shelf-stable options on this front as well. (And, mind you, the beans included in the above category are good protein sources, too.)

  1. Canned Mountain House Meats
  2. Canned Tuna
  3. Beef Jerky
  4. Peanut Butter
  5. Nuts & Seeds

Specialty Survival Foods

You can also include some specially formulated, ready-to-eat survival fare in your emergency kit. Meals, Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are one staple of the U.S. military. Bear in mind, though, that they're not designed as a long-term diet (they're often high in sodium and low in fiber) and don't have an especially long shelf life.

It's worth noting that Mountain House has a long tradition (we're talking better than a half-century!) of supplying our freeze-dried products-Meal, Cold Weather (MCW) rations, not to be confused with MREs, and Pro-Pak® meals-to the U.S. Armed Forces: a long-standing relationship and responsibility we're certainly honored to hold.

  1. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
  2. Emergency Food Bars

Long-Term Storage Tips

Stocking the right kind of non-perishable provisions is only part of the challenge of emergency preparedness: You also need to store and manage them properly, otherwise, they won't do you much good-and could even make you sick!

Proper Storage Conditions & Containers

Dry, cool, and dark are some of the bywords when it comes to ideal long-term storage of emergency provisions. Choose a place that's not exposed to direct sunlight, and store foods on high shelves, to safeguard your supply from household flooding.

Food containers should be airtight and waterproof. Transfer dry foods purchased in boxes or cartons or those in opened bags into screw-top jars or other airtight containers. If you're moving foods that require cooking or special preparation into new containers, make sure to retain or write down the original packaging instructions.

Take care opening and closing the resealable containers you're using for long-term food storage, so you don't compromise their air- and watertight performance. Always make sure you're achieving a true seal when closing them.

Regularly inspect your food containers for signs of damage, pest infiltration, and the like. Discard any dented, bulging, corroded, or leaking cans, as well as food of any kind that looks, smells, or tastes-well, funky. And on the heels of a disaster, thoroughly check all of your provisions to make sure they didn't incur damage. Get rid of any containers or packages, regardless of whether they'd been opened, which came in contact with floodwaters.

Rotation & Expiration Date Monitoring

Pay close attention to use-by or expiration dates and discard expired food containers or packages. Part of managing your long-term prepper-style emergency provisions is storing newer foods behind older ones so that you use the oldest (if not expired) first. Keep a list noting the purchase date, date opened, and expiration/use-by dates for each item (including those you've transferred into a different container from the original packaging).

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides some broad guidelines on when to use or replace certain foods. For example, FEMA recommends using boxed powdered milk and dried fruit within six months. Use canned foods within a year of purchase (or before the expiration date). Items such as rice, pasta, dried corn, and nitrogen-packed cans of powdered milk can usually be kept indefinitely in the right sealed container and storage conditions.

On this note, it seems appropriate to mention Mountain House's industry-leading 30-year shelf life and Taste Guarantee for our Adventure Meals™ and Just in Case...® products. When it comes to the timeframe you're looking at after opening one of our pouches and containers, we'll quote directly from the Mountain House FAQ: “After opening, we recommend using any dry contents within one week for best results and taste. After hydration, treat any leftover food as you would fresh food. It's real food!

How to Create a Well-Organized Emergency Food Pantry

As we've mentioned, keep older food containers in front of newer ones, to be used first. To that aforementioned list of purchase/opened/use-by dates, add a regularly updated tally of remaining amounts in containers that you've dipped into.

Prepare for extended power outages and other emergencies by making a day-by-day list of when specific food items in your survival stockpile should be used, and include (if applicable) how much water and other ingredients are needed for each meal.

Consider separating foods that require water and cooking from those of the ready-to-eat variety, and specially label genuine survival provisions so that they're left for the most dire or extreme circumstances.

Nutritional Considerations

As we mentioned in the intro, a long-term emergency food supply needs to take proper, sustaining nutrition into account more than a short-term supply does. After a few days in, your body is really going to need its essential daily allotments of carbs, proteins, fats, amino acids, and the like, so be sure your emergency kit includes plenty of well-balanced meals and foods with high nutritional value besides just barebones sustenance and those (legitimately essential) comfort eats and special treats. Add vitamin, protein, and mineral supplements to your survival food cache, too.

Bear in mind, too, that in certain survival situations-just as in backpacking, climbing, and other outdoor recreation-you may be expending more calories on a daily basis than you normally do. So plan your long-term survival pantry with those potential caloric demands along with balanced nutrition in mind.

Dietary Restrictions & Allergies

If your household includes folks with food allergies or dietary restrictions, you obviously need to be sure your stockpile of emergency meals and ingredients takes these special needs into account. Fortunately, there are many non-perishable foods available on the market (including certain Mountain House products) that don't contain common allergens, such as peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and milk, and certainly dairy-free, gluten-free, and low-sodium options.

Somebody with food allergies shouldn't rely on emergency food products they've never had before, in case they end up having a reaction to them.

It's not a bad idea to store extra amounts of food items for these individuals, in case of a major or significantly extended natural disaster situation where utilizing emergency shelters may be needed. Such facilities may or may not have foods appropriate for people with particular allergies or dietary needs, or at least not be able to procure them right away.

Budget-Friendly Options

You certainly don't need to break the bank to assemble an adequate survival food stockpile. There are many affordable options, not least when selecting bulk items or large-quantity emergency food kits.

Tips for Cost-Effective Planning

As with all the components of your emergency kit (learn how to assemble an emergency kit here), you don't necessarily need to buy all of your survival rations at once-unless that is, you're aware of an impending severe storm or other natural disaster and need to prep ASAP.

Writing up a list of what you need for your emergency provisions, then working through it on a weekly or monthly basis-buying a few food items for the survival larder each grocery trip, for example-can get you stocked up in pretty short order while still spreading out the cost.

Buy in Bulk With Mountain House Emergency Kits

Here at Mountain House, we sell a variety of multiday emergency food kits that offer high-value potential for your survival cache. From three-day to one-year kits, explore the collection right here.

Use Mountain House to Build Your Long-Term Emergency Food Supply

Hopefully, you've found the above roundup of some of the best survival foods for a long-term emergency kit helpful. We've got plenty of other resources on the topic as well, including our blog post "Emergency Food Supplies: What to Buy & How to Store It."

Check out our emergency freeze-dried meals and meal kits here!


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