Non-perishable foods may not sound like the most appealing food to eat, but they can be a healthy, sustainable and important food category to stock in your pantry.
While many non-perishable food items are packed with sodium and preservatives, there are many options that are healthy choices to feed to you and your family.
Whether you are preparing a pantry for worst-case scenario situations, packing for a camping trip, or looking to donate items to a food pantry, non-perishable foods are a perfect choice.
In this article, all aspects of non-perishable foods will be discussed.
Definition of Non-Perishable Foods
Non-perishable (or shelf-stable) foods are ones that can be stored safely at room temperature. In order to be considered shelf-stable, these foods must be treated with heat and/or dried to get rid of foodborne microorganisms, according to the USDA.
The Advantages of Healthy Non-Perishable Foods
Foods that are non-perishable do not need to be stored in a refrigerator. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that. For campers, hikers, and students on a budget, non-perishable food is a great meal solution.
Most of the non-perishable food items require little to no cooking, so it saves time. This is particularly helpful for those on a very tight schedule due to college, work or other reasons.
Insurance in Times of Emergencies
In times of emergencies such as power outages, hurricanes, tornados or other weather disasters, such food items are extremely useful. You don’t want to be trapped inside your house for an extended period of time due to a natural disaster with nothing to eat.
Healthy and Nutritious
Not all non-perishable food is healthy. But there are many non-perishable options that provide adequate nutrition, protein, vitamins, and minerals to your diet.
What to Avoid When It Comes to Non-perishable Food?
Many of the non-perishable food items on the market are ‘ready to eat’. These tend to have very high levels of sugar. preservatives and sodium.
A common example is Instant (or Ramen) Noodles. While these can be a tasty and inexpensive meal solution, they should only be eaten every now and then, especially those watching their sodium intake.
The Healthiest Non-Perishable Food Items
What are the best healthy non-perishable foods?
Here is a list of 20 of the best non-perishable foods to stock in your pantry.
Soup is the go-to for many people who cannot eat fresh food for whatever reason – unavailability, sickness and so forth.
If you get bored of having eggs and milk for breakfast on a regular basis, you must certainly experiment with oats.
3. Peanut Butter
If you are on the lookout for a healthy snack that also pleases your taste buds, then you cannot go wrong with peanut butter.
Unlike its cousin, instant noodles, dried pasta makes for a delicious and healthy snack.
Look for brands that use alternative flours like chickpea, quinoa or black beans for added nutrients.
5. Canned Vegetables And Fruits
Always ensure that you have a stock of canned vegetables and fruits. In times of need and emergency, nothing works quite as well as canned vegetables and fruits. Grocery stores stock many varieties of canned fruits and vegetables like corn, peas, asparagus, beets, tomatoes, peaches, pineapple, cherries, and pears.
Do your best to avoid those foods which have high sodium and/or sugar content.
6. Dry Fruits And Nuts
7. Canned Tuna With Chicken, Salmon, Or Turkey
9. Protein Bars And Granola
10. Sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a great source of vitamin E, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, magnesium and copper.
The best part?
They double up as an incredible snack. They help with digestion and have been said to have beneficial effects on cardiovascular health as well.
They do rank high in calories. So, if you are concerned with calorie counts, be sure to measure out a proper serving size.
Honey has numerous proven health benefits:
12. Plain Popcorn Kernels
This entry is sure to have a number of readers scratching their heads in bewilderment.
Popcorn and healthy?! Is that even possible?
The answer is yes.
Firstly, remember that popcorn here means plain popcorn kernels. They are sold in bulk at most grocery stores, so you should have no trouble finding them. Also, it is imperative that you do not add butter, salt and all those other toppings which make popcorn unhealthy.
If you cannot avoid it altogether, keep the toppings to an absolute bare minimum. Moreover, treat plain popcorn kernels as a healthy snack and have it in moderation.
13. Whole Wheat Pretzels
Whole wheat pretzels contain myriad vitamins and minerals and happen to be loaded with fiber. They also happen to be low in saturated and total fat.
If you are looking for a good mix of taste and health, then you cannot go wrong with whole wheat pretzels.
14. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses, loaded with magnesium, protein, zinc and manganese. Their benefits range from improving prostate health and postmenopausal symptoms, to bolstering your heart and liver health.
15. Brown rice
Brown rice is sadly an often-neglected part of our diets. If I were to tell you that brown rice may help in preventing a variety of cancers and help the nervous system to function optimally, would you still neglect it?
Do make it a regular part of your diet and see the magic for yourself!
16. Shelf Stable Milk
Shelf-stable milk is in vogue these days. It is convenient to use and tastes quite similar to regular milk. The only caveat is that shelf stable milk spoils just like regular milk once opened.
In other words, while you can keep such milk away from the fridge for several months as long as it is unopened, you will need to refrigerate it once opened where it will usually last about a week.
17. Olive Oil
Olive Oil is full of powerful antioxidants which fight inflammation and heart disease. Adding a couple of teaspoons to your diet will go a long way in ensuring that you enjoy its benefits. Just remember to buy extra virgin olive oil.
There are quite a few varieties of olive oil, but extra virgin is considered to be the best from a health perspective.
If you are looking for protein rich foods, then quinoa is a very good option.
In addition to being one of the most protein-rich foods that you can eat, quinoa contains plenty of other nutrients such as fiber, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B2, etc.
Quinoa has a long shelf-life, but it is imperative that you store it in an airtight container in a cool and dark place where the temperature does not fluctuate too much.
19. Jams and Jellies
If bread and butter has always been your favorite combination, then it may be time for a rethink. Jams and jellies tend to be loaded with fiber and unlike say, butter, they do not have high amounts of cholesterol.
As long as you do not exceed the recommended portion sizes, you should be able to enjoy the health benefits and taste of jams and jellies without any ramifications.
20. Beef Jerky
For some odd reason, beef jerky gets a bad rep from a lot of people. Such people usually dismiss it as unhealthy red meat that has way too many preservatives. However, it turns out the beef jerky may not be so bad after all.
Its high protein content makes it a reasonably healthy between-meals snack and may even help you lose weight.
You must exercise caution when you buy beef jerky, as soon brands are packed to the brim with too much MSG.
Go for the chemical-free, free-range and organic brand of jerky. Companies are also making jerky with meat other than beef. There is bison, pork, turkey, chicken and salmon jerky, which have less fat than traditional beef jerky.
Best Non-Perishable Foods for Every Occasion
While many people like to keep non-perishable foods in their pantry for a quick and easy meal, non-perishable foods are an important food type for donations, trips, college students, and many more. Here are suggestions for the best non-perishable foods for different situations.
Best Non-Perishable Foods for Emergencies
If you live in an area that is suspectable to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes or other natural disasters, you might consider creating an “emergency pantry” to use in these worst-case scenario situations. According to Ready.gov, you should keep at least a three-day supply of these healthy non-perishable foods. They also suggest avoiding foods that make you thirsty, so you can conserve your water supply. Don’t forget to stock this pantry with a can opener or two.
Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits, and vegetables
Protein or fruit bars
Dry cereal or granola
Non-perishable pasteurized milk
High energy foods
Food for infants
Best Non-Perishable Foods for Donations
While building a pantry of non-perishable food for emergencies can be important, there are families that are struggling to feed themselves all year round. Consider donating these types of non-perishable foods to your local food bank or shelter.
Stew and chili with low sugar and salt
Canned chicken or turkey
Canned tuna, salmon or sardines
Canned fruits with no artificial sweeteners
Canned green beans or corn
Pureed fruit like applesauce, pumpkin or sweet potatoes
Canned tomato sauce
Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, dry cereal
Granola bars and breakfast bars
Baby food and formula
Best Non-Perishable Foods for Camping
Packing non-perishable foods can be much more fun than preparing a pantry for a worst-case scenario situation. It is important to keep in mind the size and shape of the food when packing non-perishable foods for camping. Carrying large and heavy cans in a backpack doesn’t sound very ideal. Pack items that are lightweight and come in bags or cardboard boxes.
Beef jerky and other dried meats
Dried noodles and soups
Peanut butter powder
Dried fruits, nuts and fruit leather
Canned tuna, salmon or sardines
Best Non-Perishable Foods for College Students
For those living in a college dorm with limited space and a limited budget, non-perishable foods are a great option for quick and easy meals. When a late-night craving happens, having these foods and snacks on-hand can be a healthier option than late-night pizza delivery.
Peanut butter crackers
Popcorn with 5 grams of sugar and less than 200 milligrams of sodium per serving, and without any partially hydrogenated oils
Best Non-Perishable Snack Foods
Keeping a few non-perishable snack foods around is a great way to satisfy a quick craving.
Whole wheat pretzels
Assorted nuts and seeds
Whole wheat crackers
Best Non-Perishable Foods for Travel
Packing your own food for airport travel is a great way to ensure a healthy snack isn’t more than a few moments away. It also helps you resist the urge to purchase an overpriced and unhealthy snack at the airport. Be sure to follow all TSA regulations when taking food through security.
Individual peanut or other nut butter pouches
Whole wheat pretzels
Powdered protein shakes to mix with water after going through security
Whole wheat crackers
Best Non-Perishable Foods for Breakfast
Breakfast can be a meal that gets sacrificed if there is not enough time during a hectic morning. Having grab-and-go non-perishable breakfast items is a great way to start the day, no matter how much time you have.
Breakfast or granola bars
Dry whole-grain cereal
Individual peanut or other nut butter pouches
Applesauce or other fruit pouches
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
In this section, I will briefly address a few questions that are most commonly asked for the benefit of the readers.
1.I read that product X, Y, Z is non perishable, but it got spoilt. How is this possible?
Quite a few of the people seem to be surprised that non-perishable foods also have a shelf-life.
Here, it is imperative to remember that non-perishable does not mean it will last forever. Everything has a limit. All canned food and other non-perishable food items will have an expiration date on them. When stocking a pantry for emergencies or worse-case situations, it is important to check expiration dates at least once a year. That way you can replenish food that has gone bad, and not be left with expired food at a time when you need food the most.
It is also important to use a FIFO (first in, first out) system when stocking an emergency pantry. Food that will expire first should be arranged upfront and food that will expire last should be kept in the back.
Moreover, you need to ensure that you store the item properly and as advised. If not, the item may get spoilt and end up having a very short shelf-life.
2. How long do non-perishable foods last?
Different non-perishable food items will last a variety of times, ranging from one year to ten years. There are four different types of dates that could be labeled on food items:
- “Sell-by” or “Pull date”
- How long the store can display the product for sale. Purchase the product before this date expires
- “Best if used by (or before) date”
- The food will be of its highest quality or flavor if consumed before the date on the package. It is not a purchase-by or safety date
- “Use-By” or “Expiration date”
- The last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product
- “Pack date,” "Closed” or coded dates”
- The date the food was packaged or processed
It is important to read and understand the dates on non-perishable food. Different foods and different brand will have different expiration dates and last different lengths of time. Read the label and never eat food that has expired, or its storage has been compromised.
3.Is it alright to use an item after its expiry date?
It is strongly recommended that you adhere to the expiration dates mentioned on the product. Regardless of what others may tell you, do not use a product beyond the expiration date.
A few dollars are not worth the potentially detrimental effects on your body after eating expired foods.
4. How do I know if a non-perishable food item is unhealthy?
Make sure that you read all the labels and nutritional information when buying the product.
Avoid anything that has excessive amounts of sodium or sugar. Also, remember that even a healthy item can become unhealthy if you have it in excess. Moderation is always key.
Follow this simple mantra: exercise caution while buying and restraint while eating.
5. There is not enough space in my pantry. What are some other places where I can safely store non-perishable food items?
If the paucity of space is a concern, then you will need to get a little creative. Closets, under the bed, under the stairs are a few options that you can explore.
Store items in a location that remains a consistent temperature and has minimal exposure to direct sunlight.
6. Some canned food items say BPA free. What does that mean?
BPA (bisphenol A) is an industrial chemical that has been used to make plastics and resins since the 1960s. It is also often used to coat the inside of metal products, like canned goods.
Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food from containers that are made with BPA. But the FDA has said that BPA is safe at the low levels that might occur in food.
But if you are concerned with BPA and its negative side-effects, look for products that are labeled BPA free. Some brands of canned beans and other vegetables come in cardboard containers instead of metal cans.
Non-perishable foods can be a healthy choice in everyday eating, worse-case scenarios, and while traveling.
Having a well-stocked pantry and healthy options that will not spoil can make it easier to avoid unhealthy snacks filled with sugar and fat.
When shopping for non-perishable food items, look for brands with minimal preservatives, fats, sugar, and sodium.
What are you waiting for?! Go ahead and stock your kitchen with all the healthy non-perishable goodies that you can find.