Emergency Food Supply

How Long Will Your Emergency Food Supply Last? Understanding the Shelf Life of Your Emergency Food Supply to Ensure You’re Prepared for Any Situation

Emergency food supply shelf life is an important consideration for anyone who has stocked up on food in case of future need. Knowing how long various foods will stay safe and still maintain their original quality can be difficult to determine. Fortunately, with the right knowledge and resources, you can confidently choose the best foods that will last a long time without expiring.

In this guide, we will cover:

Understanding these concepts of emergency food supply shelf life will help you make smart choices when it comes to building your emergency pantry so that it can effectively meet your family’s needs in times of crisis.

Types of Emergency Food Supply

Having an emergency food supply is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your family has access to food even in difficult times. But with a wide range of emergency food supplies available, it's important to know what types there are and what their shelf life is.

In this article, we'll cover the different types of emergency food supplies and their shelf life so you can make an informed decision when choosing the right one for your needs:

Canned Foods

Canned food is one of the most popular items for stocking an emergency food supply. Canned foods have long shelf lives and are typically non-perishable; however, it is important to keep in mind that all canned foods will lose their nutritional value over time.

Common canned foods for an emergency supply include:

  • Canned meats like fish, chicken, beef, and pork.
  • Canned fruits and vegetables.
  • Condiments.
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters.
  • Pasta sauce.
  • Tupperware dishes with lids.
  • Soups and chili.

Cans should be stored in cool, dry places to ensure they last as long as possible. Discard any cans that are open or damaged as these can cause illness. Pay attention to expiration dates on items you purchase so you'll always have the freshest product available for emergency use. Common expiration dates for canned goods range from 2-5 years depending on the type of food stored inside the can. Take stock of your food inventory annually (even bi-yearly) so you know what needs replacing as expiration dates nears.

Dehydrated Foods

Dehydrated foods are especially ideal for emergency food supplies because they have a long shelf life and don't require refrigeration. Many of these products are also lightweight, making them easy to store and transport.

There are a variety of dehydrated food options available, including vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products and even meat (in the form of jerky). Dehydrated fruits and vegetables can often last for up to 20 years if stored correctly, while some grains can last for up to 10 years.

Making your own dehydrated foods at home is also an option – simply use your oven or dehydrator to remove moisture in food items and they will be ready to store in airtight containers. No matter what option you choose, it's important to make sure that all of your dehydrated items are thoroughly cooked before eating them.

Freeze-Dried Foods

Freeze-dried foods are foods that have been dehydrated by a process of deep freezing and vacuum-pressure application. Because nowhere near as much water is present in freeze-dried food as in fresh or canned food, it can dramatically extend its shelf life. For this reason, it is one of the best options for ensuring an ample supply of nourishment while in an emergency situation.

Freeze-dried foods typically have a shelf life of 25 years or more, depending on the storage conditions.

Popular items commonly found freeze-dried include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Meat products such as beef, chicken, turkey and pork

They can usually be rehydrated by adding boiling water (which can save time and energy if you don’t have access to a stove) and then eaten as if they were freshly prepared meals. While they often lack the texture that comes with food cooked using traditional methods, their taste will remain surprisingly close to that of their original form, making them an excellent choice for any long-term emergency supplies.


Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE): MREs are pre-packaged meals used by the military in combat situations. They are designed to provide nutritional, easily cooked food that has a shelf life of 3 to 5 years. While they were originally used by the military, civilian versions have become available for purchase and can be a great addition to an emergency food supply.

Common MREs may include items such as chicken fajitas, stroganoff with noodles or vegetable lasagna. Many MRE brands also offer sodium-reduced options or those suitable for special diets.

Shelf Life of Emergency Food Supply

Understanding the shelf life of your emergency food supply is essential for planning and preparing for a survival situation. Knowing how long the food items will last and how to store them properly can be the difference between having enough supplies and running out too soon. This article discusses the shelf life of multiple food items and how to store them properly to maximize their freshness.

Canned Foods

Canned foods are a great way to increase your emergency food supply. Most canned foods will have a shelf life of at least two years before they begin to lose their nutritional value. However, you should always check the expiration date on cans before purchasing and make sure they have not expired and been sitting in the store too long. Furthermore, dented or bulging cans should be discarded right away, as these can be signs of possible spoilage.

When it comes to storage for canned goods, you will want to try to maintain a temperature of around 70°F or lower for optimal shelf life. You should also rotate through your canned goods on a regular basis so that you can use them by their expiration date and replace them with recent purchases. Store your cans in dark places, away from sunlight and heat sources, where temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the year in order to maintain maximum shelf life while helping you avoid any food-borne illnesses.

Dehydrated Foods

Dehydrated foods are a type of emergency food supply that can be stored for a longer period of time than canned foods. With a shelf life of up to 20 years or more, dehydrated products offer an excellent option for emergency preparation. Dehydrated foods are made by removing the water content from the original food product, either naturally through air drying or with dehydration machines. Common dehydrated items include fruits and vegetables, nuts and grains, meats, beans and legumes, dairy products as well as prepared meals.

When selecting dehydrated food products for your emergency supply you should look for:

  • sealed packaging with no punctures or tears;
  • signs that insects have been present;
  • if the package looks damp or moldy; and
  • the expiration date which is typically found on the side of the package.

Once opened they can last on average one to two years in a cool dry place in their original packaging. It’s important to store these in airtight containers in temperatures lower than 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius). For long-term storage, repackaging items into sealed Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers may increase shelf life up to 15 years if stored properly.

Freeze-Dried Foods

Freeze-dried foods offer a broad shelf life of up to 25 years if stored correctly. However, some products can be as limited in shelf life and have a shorter storage duration of 2-5 years depending on the food type. The longevity of these items largely depends upon proper storage conditions, specifically temperature and moisture levels. Extreme temperatures and high moisture content can shorten the shelf life of freeze-dried foods dramatically, whereas temperatures around room temperature and low humidity can extend the shelf life significantly.

For ideal storage purposes, keep freeze-dried foods in a cool, dry place or inside an airtight container – this will help preserve them even longer.

In terms of expiration dates; freeze-dried food products contain a lot code that can easily tell you when the product was made or when it will expire – this is useful for rotating inventory efficiently. These codes usually follow the format:


Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) are considered one of the most versatile and popular food options for emergency preparedness. MREs provide a long shelf life, an easy-to-prepare meal and simple heating options that make them an ideal short-term food supply choice.

MREs range in shelf life from three to five years provided they are stored in a cool, dry location away from heat, sunlight or moisture. However, the timeline is affected by temperature fluctuations. It is recommended that MREs be kept at 70 F (21 C) or lower; every 18 degrees F increase above this can decrease the shelf life by half. For example, if you keep your MREs at 90 F for six months out of the year, you could significantly reduce their shelf life.

It is also important to check expiration dates prior to purchasing any MRE supply – paying attention to packing date numbers as well as expiration date numbers – after purchase and occasionally rotating your supply to manage optimal shelf life throughout its lifespan.

emergency food supply shelf life - bread, salt, sugar, rice, cereal, oatmeal, canned vegetables, stews, protein bars, granola bars, crackers, jellyTips for Extending Shelf Life

Emergency food supply is an important part of being prepared for any eventuality, and it’s important to know that your food supply will last as long as you need it to. Knowing how to extend shelf life of your emergency food is essential. Fortunately, there are lots of tips that can help you maximize the shelf life of your emergency food supply. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best tips for extending the shelf life of your emergency food:

Store in a cool, dry place

Store your food in a cool, dry place such as a basement or cellar. High temperatures, even if only intermittent, can cause your food to lose potency or spoil quickly. Ideal temperatures are between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Be sure to remove any food from the package and store in an air-tight glass, steel or plastic container that is impervious to mice, rats, insects and other pests which can contaminate your food supply. Additionally you can use oxygen absorbers! These are small packets filled with iron powder that rid the air of any oxygen that might damage the food inside.

Use airtight containers

Using airtight containers is one of the most effective ways to extend the shelf life of your emergency food supply. It helps protect your food from exposure to light, moisture, and pests, ensuring that it has a longer shelf life and higher nutritional content.

Air-tight containers are made with BPA-free silicone or plastic and can be used for freezing foods as well as long-term storage. By sealing off the container or bag tightly and limiting oxygen exposure, the food will have an extended shelf life and remain fresher longer. Investing in quality airtight containers is key to extending your emergency food supply’s shelf life. When shopping for containers, look for those that feature double zipper closures or even triple locks so you know it will stay sealed shut no matter what conditions you store it in.

In addition to keeping your food fresh for a longer period of time, using airtight containers is also a great way to save money as you won't need to replace your emergency food supply as often due to spoilage. Storing food in airtight containers also reduces possible messes due to:

  • Spillage
  • Pests getting into the food before it has a chance to reach its expiration date.

Rotate your supplies

Rotating your supplies is extremely important for extending the shelf life of your emergency food supply. This means storing older items at the front and newer items in back, allowing you to use perishables before they expire. Depending on what type of emergency food supply you have, this means making sure all canned goods are rotated properly and that any meat supplies or ready-made meals are used as soon as possible before the expiration date.

Keep in mind that most ready-made meals can be stored for up to three years without spoiling, so try to time it up so that you are always replacing your old meals with fresh ones within the expiration window. It is also a good idea to take inventory of what food items you already have every few months, so that you can restock items as needed and don’t end up with too much of one item going bad before it gets used.


In conclusion, when it comes to the shelf life of emergency food supplies, it is important to understand that the length of time an item can last depends largely on the type and quality of food, as well as the conditions in which it is stored.

To ensure you’re prepared with a reliable emergency food supply, be sure to familiarize yourself with safe storage practices and expiration dates. Additionally, rotating your emergency food supply every six months will enable you to enjoy optimal freshness and taste. With simple steps like these in place, you can maintain an adequate variety of products while protecting against loss or spoilage.

What are the emergency food supply shelf life guidelines?

The emergency food supply shelf life guidelines vary depending on the type of food and the storage conditions. Generally speaking, most non-perishable food items such as canned goods, dry goods, and boxed items can last for up to two years if stored in a cool, dry place. Canned goods such as vegetables, fruits, and meats can last up to two to five years if stored in a cool, dry place.

What are the consequences of consuming expired emergency food supplies?

The consequences of consuming expired emergency food supplies can be serious and even life-threatening. Consuming expired food can lead to food poisoning, which can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. In some cases, food poisoning can be severe enough to require hospitalization. In extreme cases, it can even be fatal. Expired food can also contain bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause foodborne illnesses.

What are some tips for extending the shelf life of emergency food supplies?

1. Store food in airtight containers: Storing food in airtight containers will help keep it fresh and extend its shelf life. This is especially important for dry goods like grains, beans, and nuts. Make sure to check the expiration dates on the containers and replace them as needed. 2. Keep food away from moisture and heat: Moisture and heat can cause food to spoil quickly, so it’s important to keep food away from these elements.

Emergency Food Supply