This section doesn’t currently include any content. Add content to this section using the sidebar.

Image caption appears here

Add your deal, information or promotional text

Surviving on Shelf Stable Meals: Shelf Stable Meal Ideas and Tips for Emergency Preparedness

As you know, the ability to adapt during an emergency is critical. But being adaptable doesn’t only pertain to evacuating an unsafe area or employing survival skills. You can also be flexible with the foods you prep and the meals you cook. 

One of the best ways to remain self-reliant in emergencies is by prepping a diverse stockpile of shelf-stable and emergency food items. By prepping shelf-stable meals and emergency food, you can rely on several ingredients to prepare nutritious meals, even during stressful SHTF scenarios.

Keep reading to learn about the importance of shelf-stable meals and get some inspiration from our favorite ideas.   


The Basics of Shelf-Stable Meals

shelf stable meal ideas

Shelf-stable items are foods that can be stored at room temperature, on the shelf in your pantry, for at least one year or longer. In other words, shelf-stable foods do not have to be refrigerated (or cooked) to be eaten safely.

Examples of Common Shelf-Stable Foods

Meat, Fish, and Protein

Freeze dried meat, canned fish, chicken, ham, beef jerky, non-refrigerated pepperoni, canned beans, nuts, peanut and almond butter


Cereal, cereal bars, crackers, tortilla chips, pretzels, granola, granola bars, protein bars, couscous, grits, instant oatmeal 


Freeze dried fruits, canned pears, peaches, pineapple, fruit cocktail, applesauce, dried apples, apricots, raisins, cranberries, blueberries, banana chips 


Freeze dried vegetables, canned green beans, corn, carrots, peas, tomatoes 


Canned, bottled, or boxed juices and stocks (chicken, beef or vegetable) 


Powdered milk, freeze dried cheese, ultra-processed milks (such as soy, almond, or oat), cheese in a can, Velveeta

Condiments (only shelf-stable until opened)

Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressings, oils, vinegars, sauces, salsa, relish, olives, pickles 

Dry Herbs and Seasonings

Salt, pepper, cumin, cayenne, coriander, curry, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, oregano, thyme


As a side note, it's worth quickly mentioning that not all canned goods are considered shelf-stable. Some canned foods, like some seafoods, should not be stored at room temperature. Whenever this is the case, these items will be labeled “keep refrigerated,” so just keep an eye out for that.

[product_render product-handle="powdered-eggs-whole-freeze-dried"]

Ensuring that some of your groceries are shelf-stable is the ideal way to stay prepared. For example, a selection of canned soups can help you prepare meals when you’re snowed in during a bad blizzard or feeling ill and don’t want to go to the store.  

Rotating Your Supply of Shelf-Stable Foods

One of the major advantages of shelf-stable foods is that they can sit on your shelf and not spoil for a long time. However, this means that occasionally you will need to rotate the items. 

By paying attention to expiration dates and rotating your foods, you can avoid unnecessary waste. The best way to do this is by applying the “first in, first out” strategy, whereby you put the freshest items on the back of the shelf and the older items in the front. 

In addition, it can also be helpful to write the expiration date directly on the packaging so it’s a more legible reminder.

Building Up Your Shelf-Stable Stockpile

Contrary to popular belief, when prepping supplies, you don’t have to establish a stockpile of shelf-stable foods with one massive shopping spree. It’s actually better to build up your supply of shelf-stable meals and ingredients incrementally over time.

In doing so, you can spread out the costs of stockpiling food. In addition, to help save money while prepping shelf-stable goods, we always recommend paying attention to sale items and coupons.  

This strategy also ensures that your food items have various expiration dates and don’t all expire around the same time.


5 Shelf-Stable Meal Ideas

Your emergency supply of shelf-stable food items doesn’t only have to consist of hundreds of cans of Campbell’s soup. Although canned soup is great to have, you don’t have to be stuck with it. 

With some creativity and preparedness, you can create a stockpile of ingredients that will allow you to craft a diverse selection of shelf-stable meals that can keep you and your family fed and boost morale, even during unsavory and stressful emergencies. 

Below are five of our favorite shelf-stable meal ideas covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Remember, these shelf-stable meal ideas can be customized to feed more or fewer people and match your preferences.

Lastly, these recipes use shelf-stable ingredients you probably already have prepped in the pantry. However, many of them can also be made with freeze-dried and dehydrated ingredients from Valley Food Storage. 


pancakes as shelf stable recipe


Homemade pancakes are a household favorite. That's because they are delicious and fun to make. Even better, many of the ingredients are shelf-stable and probably already in your pantry or somewhere around the kitchen. 

Recommended Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • ¼ cup sugar

  • 1 cup milk (substitute powdered milk + water)

  • 1 egg (substitute 2 tablespoons powdered egg + 2 tablespoons water)

  • 2 tablespoons oil or melted butter

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • Fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips

  • Powdered sugar, ham, or maple syrup 


First, mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Then, add the milk, egg, and oil. Stir until everything is combined and mostly smooth. It’s okay if the batter is slightly lumpy. At this point, you can add fruit, nuts, or chocolate chips.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and prepare it with cooking spray, butter, or oil. Scoop ¼ cup of the batter onto the skillet. When the pancake begins to bubble, flip it and finish cooking. 

Serve the pancakes with maple syrup, powdered sugar, a side of fruit, or maybe a side of scrambled powdered eggs for a savory kick.  


Oatmeal is one of the most reliable and classic breakfasts on earth. Below, we’ve shared the ingredients for a super simple base recipe. However, don’t just stop there—customize your oatmeal however you like. 

For example, chocolate chips, peanut butter, strawberries, honey and cream, bananas and walnuts, maple syrup, and brown sugar. 

Recommended Ingredients

½ cup oats

½ cup milk of choice

½ cup water

Pinch of salt


First, bring the water and milk to a boil. Then, reduce to low heat and pour in the oats. Cook the oats, stirring occasionally, until the oats are soft and have absorbed the liquid. This normally takes about five minutes. 

Once cooked, remove from heat, cover, and let stand for two to three minutes. Then, assemble your oats with any and all of your favorite ingredients. 

Mac and Cheese

mac and cheese as shelf stable recipe

Recommended Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta 

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (substitute oil if necessary)

  • ¼ cup flour

  • 3 cups cheese (substitute freeze dried cheese or powdered cheese)

  • 1 cup cream (substitute powdered milk)

  • 2 cups milk (substitute powdered milk)

  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard or dijon mustard

  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

  • ¾ teaspoon salt 


In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add salt and cook your pasta.


In a separate pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Then, whisk in the flour and stir constantly. Once combined, reduce heat. Next, whisk in the cream, milk, mustard, pepper, and salt. Continue mixing until it starts to bubble. 

Reduce the heat a little more, and add the cheese. Continue stirring until all the cheese is melted and smooth. Remove from heat. 

Lastly, add in cooked pasta and stir until evenly coated. Before serving, let the mac and cheese cool and thicken. 

Red Beans and Rice

Beans and rice are shelf-stable necessities for your pantry. They are ideal because they last a long time, are nutritious, and can feed many people. Depending on your preference, beans and rice can be prepared in various ways. But in this example, we went for the Cajun specialty of red beans and rice.   

Recommended Ingredients

  • 3 cups white rice, cooked

  • 1 lb. kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped (substitute freeze dried or dehydrated)

  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped (substitute freeze dried or dehydrated)

  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped (substitute freeze dried or dehydrated)

  • 2 cloves of garlic (or garlic powder)

  • 1 can diced tomatoes

  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon of oregano, thyme, and black pepper

  • 2 bay leaves


In a pot with ¼ cup of water, cook the onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic over medium heat. When the veggies are soft, add the tomatoes and beans. Then, stir in the herbs and other seasonings. When combined, stir in the stock and cover the pot, letting it simmer.

Check the veggies and beans periodically and stir occasionally. Aftward, mash the beans in the pot. Add salt to taste. Then finally, serve it over white rice. 

Chickpea Salad

This shelf stable salad is quite versatile. Feel free to add other canned vegetables or beans you have on hand, or adjust the herbs and dressing to suit your taste. You could also add canned tuna or chicken for extra protein.

Recommended Ingredients

  • 2 cans of chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans)

  • 1 can of sweet corn

  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

  • 1 can of black olives, sliced

  • 1 small jar of roasted red peppers, chopped

  • ¼ cup of olive oil

  • ¼ cup of vinegar (white, red wine, or apple cider vinegar would work)

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

  • Salt and pepper to taste


Drain and rinse the chickpeas, corn, diced tomatoes, black olives, and roasted red peppers. In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, corn, tomatoes, olives, and roasted red peppers.

In a separate smaller bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and stir well to combine. Allow the salad to sit for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors meld together. You can also refrigerate it for later use—it will keep for several days.

Serve as a main dish or side. Enjoy this dish full of fiber, protein and flavor!


download out preparedness checklist
The Role of Freeze-Dried Food

Thus far, we’ve only discussed shelf-stable food items you can purchase from the grocery store. However, items like canned fruits and vegetables, bulk-dried grains, and other foods with long shelf lives should not be the only items you are preparing for emergency and disaster scenarios.

For example, it’s also a good idea to prep freeze-dried and dehydrated foods

At Valley Food Storage, we are experts at curating delicious, nutritious, and non-GMO freeze-dried and dehydrated foods. Our food items are ideal for disaster prepping and emergency preparedness because they have a shelf-life of 25+ years. 

Even better, as our food sits on your pantry shelves, giving you peace of mind that you can feed your family at any moment's notice, it preserves its nutritional value and delicious flavor year after year, thanks to our state-of-the-art freeze-drying, dehydrating, and packaging processes.

And when it’s time to make a meal, many of the Valley Food Storage dishes are already prepared foods—they just need to be heated and rehydrated to create delicious meals filled with simple and nutritious ingredients.   

Final Thoughts on Shelf Stable Meal Ideas

Regarding food prepping for disasters and emergencies, you don’t have to rely solely on old MREs you found at the Army surplus store. 

On the contrary, you can prepare a diverse selection of shelf-stable ingredients and freeze-dried and dehydrated foods to feed yourself and your family.


To begin prepping food as part of your emergency preparedness plan, visit our website. And for more reading, check out our Practical Prepper Blog, where you can learn important new skills like how to freeze dry food and what foods you can survive off of in an emergency.