The term “survival food” is actually really generic. What are we talking about surviving through?
Is the survival food supposed to get us through a 3 day blizzard?
Or how about a month-long power outage?
Or what if there is a disaster which causes us to flee from our homes and Bug Out in the wilderness?
Each of these situations is going to require different types of survival foods.
In this survival foods list, I want to address the types of survival foods you should be stockpiling based on the type of disaster. They are:
- Survival foods for short-term disasters
- Survival foods for long-term disasters
- Survival foods for evacuation/bugging out
Short-Term Disaster Survival Foods
These are the most common types of disasters that we come up against. They include situations like blizzards where you are trapped in your home and unable to go grocery shopping. They also include short-term power outages.
You won’t need a lot of survival food for these situations, especially because you will be able to eat through your regular food supply (and will especially have to hurry to consume those frozen foods if the grid goes down!).
But there are some items which are absolutely necessary:
- WATER: During blizzards, hurricanes, and other disaster situations, it is common for the water to go off. Have at least 1-2 gallons per person, per day. This includes water for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.
- Canned food: Including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables
- Powdered milk
- Peanut butter
- Jams and jellies
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Granola bars
- Cous cous
- Dried fruits/fruit leather
What Isn’t On This Survival Foods List:
You’ll notice that I didn’t include some of the “obvious” survival foods on this list, like dry beans, pasta, and rice. The reason for this is that they take a really long time to cook. Even with presoaking, you will still need to cook dry beans for about an hour. In an emergency situation, you probably won’t have power.
Even if you are using one of these off-grid cooking methods, you will still need a lot of fuel to cook these foods. Also, they require a lot of water to cook – which is your most important thing for survival.
Don’t waste your precious fuel and water!
Stick to canned food instead! For your carbs, choose instant mashed potatoes (which can be made with cold water in a pinch) and crackers. I did include cous cous on the list because it cooks in just 2 minutes. Also, lentils are on the list because they too cook really quickly with presoaking. There are a bunch of different types of lentils. Red lentils cook the fastest.
Long-Term Disaster Survival Food
These are the situations which hopefully will never occur, but will want to be prepared for in case they do. For example, if there is an EMP attack or nuclear disaster, we might be forced to hunker down in our homes (bug in) for over a month.
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In these situations, our survival food requirements will drastically change. You need foods which provide you with optimal nutrition. They must be able to be cooked/prepared with very little fuel and water. They also must be compact so you can store them all. They must have minimal packaging so your location doesn’t get littered with trash.
And, hopefully, they don’t all taste the same so you come down with food fatigue.
- WATER: Again, water is your most important survival item! Check out our extremely in-depth guide to finding, storing and treating water here.
- Freeze Dried Fruit: Freeze drying is one of the best ways to preserve fruit for the long term, and without taking up much space. Invest in freeze dried fruits as you will really need the antioxidants in fruit to keep you healthy… Not to mention the fiber you will need to keep your bowels moving!
- Freeze Dried Veggies: Freeze dried veggies taste a lot better than canned veggies, and they take up a lot less space. Just add water to rehydrate them, or snack of them. You will need them for the minerals and vitamins that they provide.
- Seaweed: Seaweed isn’t exactly the tastiest food, but it is one of the most nutritious foods you will find and is very compact when dried. It is also naturally salty so you can use it to flavor foods. Here is a decent guide to edible seaweed.
- Olive Oil, Vegetable Oil and Lard: Oils and fat are the most caloric-dense foods you will find. They will provide you with energy, flavor food, and also prevent food from sticking to your cooking pots and pans.
- Honey: Honey can last virtually forever, is a great natural immunity booster, and has anti-bacterial properties. For long-term survival, it beats sugar for flavoring food.
- Powdered Milk: Look for powdered milk in cans as it will last longer without having to vacuum seal.
- Instant Meals: Don’t bother with the instant meals you find in supermarkets. They usually take up too much space with empty packaging, and are nutritionally incomplete. This is your survival we are talking about, so spend a bit more for survival or camping MREs. Or you can make your own MREs.
- Freeze Dried Meat: This takes up much less space than canned meat.
- Dried Meat: When stored properly, dried meat can last for over a year.
- Canned tuna in oil: This is a great source of protein and Omega 3. Plus, you can turn a tuna can into a survival candle or stove!
- Ramen Noodles: You will want some carbs, and these are great because they cook quickly.
- Instant Mashed Potatoes: Also because you will want some carbs and no cooking is required.
- Protein bars and granola bars
- Pickles/Preserves: Learn how to make your own lacto-fermented pickles here.
Remember that long-term survival foods need to be packaged and stored properly if you want them to last! This generally means repackaging items (except cans, obviously) in vacuum-sealed mylar bags which are then put into buckets.
Specialty survival foods can be a bit pricy. I really like the company Augason Farms for survival food.
They make buckets of freeze-dried meat, veggies, fruit, milk powder, and also cook-in-the-pouch meals, and everything is really reasonably priced. They often have special offers on so it is worth checking their website from time to time.
Please note that even canned and dried foods don't last forever!
Read this article about the most common food stockpiling mistakes to make sure your stockpile lasts.
Bug Out Survival Food
There are some disaster scenarios which would cause us to flee our homes and bug out in the wilderness. You definitely don’t want to be lugging around heavy cans of food in your Bug Out bag!
Caloric density is incredibly important here. You won’t have a lot of room, so limit the food you bring. More important is water – – you can go a month without food but only 3 days without water.
- Survival water + water collection device + water filter
- Survival food bars or other nutrient-dense foods
Yep, that's all you need for food in your Bug Out Bag!
See 50+ Bug Out Bag food ideas here.
What sort of food are you stockpiling for survival?