If, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, you’ve recently wondered how long you might survive after the complete collapse of society, the answer was probably troubling. If you’re like most of us, your pantry and fridge are filled with perishable food that might be healthy and delicious, but which will be inedible days or ever hours after the lights go out.
One strategy is to start a survival garden, but another way to go is to assemble a bit of a “prepper” pantry of dry and canned goods — or to do both in parallel. Such a pantry can offer you and your family a supply of food you can’t get from a garden, like processed meats and grains, so if you have the space for a stockpile, why not assemble one? A survival pantry would come in handy in emergencies that don’t quite hit the “end of the world” standard, too, like the prolonged blackouts that often follow hurricanes. All the food in your fridge might go bad and the grocery stores may be closed, but at least you’ll have enough beans to get by on.
For an “apocalypse pantry” to be truly effective, though, you need to ensure two things: That the food will essentially never expire, and that the food you have is nutritionally complete. The idea that all canned and dried goods last indefinitely is a myth, so you need to be thoughtful about how you put together your emergency victuals. Here’s how to stock your apocalypse pantry.
Beans are amazing — just about any dried legume will last more or less forever as long as you store them properly. They’ll also provide plenty of protein and carbohydrates for your diet, and come in enough variety that you can at least vary the type of beans you’re eating while you’re hunkered down. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to soak dried beans before cooking them, and the older the beans get, the more soaking they will require.
White rice is a terrific staple ingredient and basically keeps about half the world alive. Dried and stored properly, white rice will almost never go bad. It offers up fibre, protein, and good stuff like manganese, thiamin (a form of vitamin B), and iron. Rice has to be cooked, of course, so it’s not as convenient as just popping open a can of Spaghetti-Os and going to town, but if you stock enough of it in your pantry, you’ll be well-fed.
Freeze-dried fruits and vegetables
A healthy diet requires some things that we can only get from fruits and vegetables — or, sometimes, dietary supplements like vitamins. But vitamins only have a shelf life of about 2 years, fresh fruits and veggies go bad in weeks, and while pickled or preserved fruits and veggies will last for years, they certainly won’t last forever.
The closest you can get to fruits and vegetables that don’t expire are the freeze-dried versions. These fruits and veggies have had all the moisture removed at sub-zero temperatures. Without all that moisture, properly sealed and stored freeze-dried stuff can last decades — up to about 30 years depending on where you source your freeze-dried produce. That’s not “forever,” but 30 years is practically forever under apocalyptic conditions.
Grains — even whole grains — can be difficult to store long-term. Breads and cakes obviously go bad very quickly, and even plain old flour will turn on you within a year or so. And while hard grains in general can last a decade or more, they all eventually go bad. The trick, then, is to store grains in a more primitive state: White or red wheat berries.
These hard little nuggets of grainy goodness practically last forever, and provide a ton of nutritional value, including a slew of vitamins and lots of fibre. You can cook them by boiling them (and season to taste using salt, sugar, honey, or anything else). You can also grind them into flour if you’re planning on baking a lot of Apocalypse Bread.
Powdered milk is gross, but it will feed you. On a shelf, powdered milk can last up to a decade or so without spoiling. But if you can somehow keep it cold — like, freezing cold — it will last until the Big Crunch. Running a freezer after society has collapsed may be a challenge, but if you live in a cold-weather area there might be a natural option for keeping your disgusting powdered milk fresh.
We have a tendency to focus on stuff like meats, veggies, and grains when we think of our diet, but there are a lot of other important things to consider. Spices and flavoring agents might not seem like a necessity, but some of them are. The human body needs salt, for example, in order to function properly. You might get enough salt from the food you eat, but having a supply of salt in your emergency pantry is a good idea — just make sure it’s non-iodized salt. Sea salt will last until the sun turns red and swallows the planet; iodized salt will actually go bad in a few years.
Other things to stock that will last forever and be useful both in terms of nutrition and sanity:
- Sugar. You don’t need sugar, but it will never go bad, and can make a lot of things more palatable.
- Dried spices. These will go stale and lose their potency, but won’t actually go bad.
- Raw honey. Honey may crystallize over time, but a little heat will set it right, so it never actually goes bad. And it can be a good sugar substitute.
- Vinegar. Vinegar (of whatever kind — apple cider, balsamic, distilled, red wine, rice, or white wine) will last forever and is useful in cooking, pickling, and even cleaning.
- Baking soda. Useful in cooking and cleaning, and will be sitting in your pantry long after you have gone to your reward. Baking soda does eventually lose its potency, but it never goes bad, per se.
Liquor & instant coffee
OK, you might not think a bottle of Jack Daniels is a necessity, but I’d argue that in the apocalypse, nothing could possibly be more important. And an unopened bottle of whiskey or other hard liquor will last for decades. (Once opened, however, you’re on the clock.) And instant coffee, properly stored, will be there for your kids to inherit.
Obviously, any emergency pantry should be stocked with canned, preserved, and dried goods that will feed you and yours well for years. But if the emergency lasts more than a few years, having a section of your bunker dedicated to food that will never expire and will keep you going is a good way to ensure your survival.