33 Foods That Will Last Without Refrigeration

One of my favorite duty stations in the Coast Guard was Key West Florida. A typical patrol would be humanitarian aid off Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. Oftentimes, we’d find overcrowded boats with people fleeing those countries for political or economic reasons. In most cases, we’d have 80-100 refugees on our ship for a few days. Having that many people on our boat presented a number of challenges including meals.

Before each patrol, we’d stock up on two essential items that lasted a long time in storage and was full of carbs and protein. Basically, we’d take close to 1000 pounds of both rice and beans. It was easy to transport, easy to cook, and extremely easy to store in dry form.

For that reason, those two items made it to the top of my list and are part of my own personal storage when it comes to having extra food on hand.

List of 33 Foods That Will Last Without Refrigeration:

  1. Rice
  2. Beans
  3. Lentils
  4. Oats
  5. Pasta
  6. Powdered Milk
  7. Cocoa Powder
  8. Dehydrated food
  9. Coffee & Tea
  10. Honey
  11. Freeze Dried Corn
  12. Peanut Butter
  13. Salt & Pepper
  14. Sugar
  15. Flour
  16. Potato Flakes
  17. Dehydrated Fruit
  18. Dehydrated Vegetables
  19. Oatmeal
  20. Dried soup and/or bullion
  21. Canned Soup
  22. Canned Fruit
  23. Canned Vegetables
  24. Canned tuna, salmon, or other meats
  25. Freeze dried chicken
  26. Nuts
  27. Crackers
  28. Pancake Mix
  29. Cereal
  30. Spices
  31. Garlic
  32. Onions
  33. Bread

Let’s take a closer look:

  1. Rice. You’ll get a nice amount of energy from rice. While it has more carbohydrates than protein this food packs easily, cooks fairly quickly and will satisfy most. Try mixing in some of the items below to give the rice some flare. Maybe some spices or a bouillon cube.
  2. Beans. Good offset from the rice by adding this protein. Canned beans will save energy from cooking, but dried beans can easily be cooked to make a nice meal.
  3. Lentils. You’ll get a nice amount of protein here but don’t brag about the calories because you won’t get much. Another item that cooks fairly quickly and adds some dimension to a limited menu.
  4. Oats. This is a great breakfast option. It will give you some fiber and if you happen to have a little powdered milk and some brown sugar you’ll get a few smiles out of the little ones.
  5. Pasta. This is another crowd favorite. You’ll get the carbohydrates in with this one. Without sauce, you can and add a little olive oil, which most will have on hand with salt and pepper. Dig deep in the pantry though. Everyone has a can of sauce buried deep, right?
  6. Powdered Milk. You won’t have the kids rushing for seconds here, but this option offers great minerals and vitamins. You can mix with water or mix directly in a recipe as a milk substitute.
  7. Cocoa Powder. Another item low on the nutritional value, but you benefit from antioxidants and powdered milk will taste better for the kids with a little cocoa.
  8. Dehydrated food. So many options here, but you don’t need to dehydrate your own food. There are a few manufacturers out there who’ve made great strides with these food options. They’re nutritionally dense, store for an amazing amount of time, and are very portable.
  9. Coffee & Tea. I couldn’t make it through a morning without coffee and my wife and kids would miss tea. A little boost of caffeine can give you a pep-in-your-step.
  10. Honey. We’re big fans of buying honey locally. Aside from the antioxidants, the bees transfer pollen into the honey, which comes from local sources and our bodies begin to learn the pollen is okay. So, give this a try if you’re seasonal allergies get out of hand. A spoon full of local honey might do the trick.
  11. Freeze Dried Corn. Not much to brag about here on the nutritional front, but you’ll get a few carbs, some fiber, and other nutrients. This is just a good additive to supplement the menu with some familiar items.
  12. Peanut Butter (regular or powdered like this can from Augason Farms is a great alternative). Good protein option with peanut butter, but be careful of the fat. If you’re dealing with an emergency then we can dispense with the fat discussion. You can toss it on some crackers or just grab a spoon and enjoy. I say one jar of peanut butter for everyone in the house. Actually, my dog would want in on this too.
  13. Jelly. You can’t have peanut butter without jelly, right? Not a nutritionally sound option, but no refrigeration required and a good supplement to the other items on the list. I grew up on making peanut butter and jelly cracker sandwiches and without bread, you might just enjoy this as much as the kids will.
  14. Salt & Pepper. These are likely in the cabinet anyway, but a necessary evil when cooking with limited supplies.
  15. Sugar. This is a pretty versatile item. You probably don’t want the kids on a sugar buzz during a power outage, but a great additive to have on hand.
  16. Flour. You’ll get the benefit of fiber and nutrients with most flour choices. There are many options. A little butter, sugar and flour and you just might be able to pull off some sugar cookies on the grill. You’d be a hero!
  17. Potato Flakes. Great source of carbohydrates, easy to store and cook. You’ll get a little fiber, potassium, and some vitamins too.
  18. Dehydrated Fruit. Pick your favorite options here. These can be great snacks and the sweet treat you were hoping for. Like coffee, a little sweet treat can go a long way!
  19. Dehydrated Vegetables. The nutritional value will depend on the type of vegetable; however, this option is great for storage and without fresh vegetables as an option — you can’t go wrong.
  20. Oatmeal. While you can make this with standard oats, you can keep ready-made oatmeal or quick oats to make the task easier. Some favored options will make a nice treat for the morning. Similar to the oats above you’ll get your fiber with oatmeal and it can digest slowly making you feel full longer.
  21. Dried soup and/or bullion. Adding water can make these soup options great and quick to prepare.
  22. Canned soup. Similar option and longer storage options because of the can. Plenty of choices so everyone can be happy. Tomato is a favorite in our home. Chicken and noodle is a close second.
  23. Canned fruits & vegetables. Great options for some variation in the menu. Most pantries have a can or two that fall in this category, but having a few more on hand doesn’t hurt. Nutrition varies based on the type of fruit or vegetable.
  24. Canned tuna, salmon, or other meats. Get your Omega-3 and vitamins with these options, but buying them in bulk is a great option and they’re likely to be a great meat source during a power outage. Great portability as well.
  25. Freeze dried meat. You won’t lose nutritional value and/or taste by eating freeze dried meat. You’ll gain a great amount of storage time, portability, and more cooking options by having meat on hand.
  26. Nuts. There’s a varying amount of nutrients depending on which nut you have on hand, but these can be a great snack option. They can also be crushed and used as an additive to some recipes.
  27. Crackers. I know this one isn’t too exciting, but we typically have a few packages at the back of the pantry. In fact, I know there is a full box of Premium crackers back there. A little peanut butter, a little jelly, and everyone can be happy.
  28. Pancake Mix. I’m a huge Hungry Jack fan because you only have to add water, but they make great pancakes too.
  29. Cereal. This option will really depend on what’s in the cabinet when you lose power. This could be a good ‘first meal’ if you lose power. You’ll need options to use the milk before it turns. You can also use powdered milk and water after the regular milk is gone.
  30. Spices. You’re not going to survive on spices, but some of the options above might be more tolerable and interesting with some common spices. Spices will typically remain fresh for 1-3 years.
  31. Garlic. If you lose power and you’re clearing the refrigerator, don’t toss the garlic. It’s okay to hold on to garlic and it will be a welcome additive to any food you have on hand.
  32. Onions. A little fiber, protein, and vitamins with onions. Use the butter before it goes bad by making some great grilled onions. Toss in any other vegetables that need to get used up.
  33. Bread. Another carbohydrate on the list and many people prefer to refrigerate bread. The good news — it isn’t necessary. Just keep the bread in a dry dark spot and it will do just fine.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on items you use. Send us a note at [email protected].

Why Did You Mention Nutritional Value?

You’ll find mixed reviews on nutritional value and I’m not here to suggest anything other than balance. Consider you’re eating these items in an emergency where other options are limited. In many instances, you can’t control the balance unless you’re buying pre-packaged options. Work with what you have. If you intend to put some food in reserves, just consider how you balance your options.

What Fruits and Vegetables Don’t Need Refrigeration?

  • Avacado
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Kiwi

Some Food for Thought

I guess the pun was intended there 🙂 Please keep in mind you cannot take these items from the grocery store, throw them in a container, and expect they’ll be okay when you need them. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you manage your food storage:

Where Is the Best Place to Store These Foods?

Storing your food in an optimal environment is going to have a direct impact on the shelf life you can expect — regardless of what the packaging says. If you store food with a long shelf life in a hot and humid environment you’ll drastically impact the life expectancy of that food. That’s money down the drain! So, give some thought on a location in your home where the food won’t be in the way but will be easily accessible for inspection, rotation, and use.

Place your food stores in a cool, dry, and dark location. For me, this ends up being in my basement. I pick a corner away from any windows to avoid any direct sunlight. If you store any food or water in clear/glass containers — direct sunlight will impact temperatures in your containers so keep that in mind.

Related Questions:

Do I Really Need to Rotate My Food?

Yes. With any food storage, I would recommend a regular schedule of inspection and rotation.

The good news? You’re likely already doing this.

Your pantry is rotated based on regular consumption. If you’re adding a few extra items on the list then you’ll want to be mindful of expiration dates. You wouldn’t want to be surprised during a power outage or other emergency when you need these resources and find they’re spoiled/expired.

Based on the type of food you can inspect them on one of these three rotations:

  • Monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

The inspection doesn’t need to be anything more than visually inspecting your food for problems with the packaging, mildew forming on/in containers or other signs of problems. When it comes to rotation, eat the items that are old and replace them with items that were recently purchased. This keeps any item from getting dated. Consider marking your containers and food so you can keep track of when rotation is needed.

Does Processed Food Last Longer?

Not always. There are many ways food can be processed and the varying methods will impact what you can expect for shelf life. These methods do extend the shelf life, which makes it convenient for our day-to-day; however, the intention isn’t for long term storage. This can ultimately affect when the food spoils and can affect the nutritional value, which makes the rotational aspect important.

Does Packaging Impact Food Storage?

Yes, it does. A 5lb bag of sugar from the store can’t be expected to last too long ‘as-is’. That same bag of sugar place in a sealed can with oxygen absorbers has a better chance of lasting much longer. So, a strategy on packing is definitely necessary and you should become familiar with the various types. This is why emergency food storage companies are popular because they’ve prepared the food and placed them in storage containers that maximize their shelf life.

Planning on doing this on your own? Become familiar with dry packaging, dehydration methods, canning, pickling, and the use of oxygen absorbers.

This further illustrates why inspection and rotation are important because when you crack the lid of your rice in 3 years you don’t want to find a rotten mess. When you rotate, this will allow you to inspect your packaging work and know it’s effective.


I’ve been through many outages and became too concerned about the food in the refrigerator. While you don’t want food spoilage, you can rest easy knowing you have food storage beyond your refrigerator and freezer. Take some time to build this supply, but educate yourself first. Make a plan, but more importantly, know how to prepare these items or cook with them.

Your next outage won’t be the best time for trial and error.

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