Stock up on these non-perishable food items and pantry staples so you are always well-prepared! These are the best foods to stock up on, our pantry essentials, so you have what you need to make all your favorite dinners. Plus get a few pantry meal recipes, ideas, and tips for easy meals without fresh foods.
Pantry Staples and Non-Perishable Foods
A well-stocked pantry means you can prepare a quick and easy meal on demand, even if you don’t have time to go to the grocery store! This is my list of pantry staples and essentials, the items I always have on hand.
It’s also good to have some non-perishable foods around in case of emergencies. Whether it’s due to the weather, or due to something even more unexpected, it’s always nice to stock up on basic foods for your pantry.
So when you find yourself unable to go to the grocery store for one reason or another, unable to get those fresh foods and left only with what’s in your pantry, you’ll be ready to go!
I’m sharing my non-perishable foods grocery list so you know what to buy, plus some quick pantry meal ideas so you can whip up dinner with just a few ingredients.
What is a non-perishable food item?
If a food item is “non-perishable” (also referred to as shelf stable foods), it means it doesn’t require refrigeration and can last for a long period of time in your pantry (or at room temperature). Think foods that are canned, dried, jarred, or dehydrated. These items don’t expire or go bad in the same way many other foods do.
What are the best non-perishable foods to keep in your pantry?
The best shelf-stable foods are pasta, rice, dried or canned beans, and canned vegetables. These are easy to stock up on in bulk, they’re affordable, and they can be combined to make simple meals.
Check below to see what common items are considered non-perishable and long-lasting.
Yes. Fresh-baked breads only last a few days. Bagged sandwich bread can last a little longer if stored in a dry, cool place (up to 2 weeks). If you want to stock up on bread, you can store it in the freezer and thaw it as you need it.
Yes they are, but they last a relatively long time if stored in a dry, cool spot. They can last up to 1 month, making them a good thing to keep on hand.
Onions are similar to potatoes in this case. They are perishable, and will not last indefinitely. But if they are stored properly in a cool, dark place (your pantry), they can last up to 1 month (as long as they remain whole/uncut).
Yes! Like other beans, chickpeas can be bought dry or canned, and they will last for a very long time. It’s recommended to eat them within 2-3 years, but they will be safe to eat almost indefinitely.
See below for foods that never expire. Dry grains and beans are generally considered safe to eat indefinitely, and don’t truly expire the way most other foods do.
Canned fish (like canned tuna, for example), is a shelf stable item. These will keep in your pantry for a very long time, so they’re great to stock up on.
There are many boxed foods and snack items that are made to be shelf stable. Things like mac and cheese, rice and pastas with seasoning packets, snack crackers, and cereals can be bought and kept in the pantry for long periods of time.
What foods never expire?
There aren’t many foods that truly never go bad, so always take food safety into consideration before consuming something. However, there are a handful of things that last soooo long that it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself unable to eat it when needed.
- Honey is possibly the only food that truly never expires. Keep a jar of it in your pantry to add flavor to other things, like bread, oatmeal, or crackers.
- Rice can last for a very long time (almost indefinitely), so always keep a bag of dried rice in your pantry.
- Dried beans last longer than canned beans, although both last for years (dried last indefinitely, canned last up to 5 years).
- Unrefined coconut oil doesn’t really expire, and it can be used in all kinds of cooking. It works as a regular cooking oil as it can be warmed to a liquid consistency, and can also be used in semi-solid form.
Check the USDA’s website for more information about food safety and shelf-stable foods.
Non-Perishable Foods List
- Beans: Pick up canned or dried beans and lentils. You can get black beans, garbanzo beans/chickpeas, red beans, white beans, kidney beans, any beans. You could also grab cans of baked beans or refried beans.
- Canned Vegetables: The variety of canned veggies isn’t quite as wide what you find fresh, but you can get most of the usuals. Stock up on cans of peas, green beans, corn, carrots, beets, etc. You can even get cans of vegetable medleys.
- Dried Grains: Grains are a great base for meals, and you can get large quantities of them for really cheap. Get bags of rice, quinoa, and cous cous.
- Cereals: Breakfast cereals and granola in unopened packages can last up to 8 months, so it’s a good thing to keep on hand.
- Nut Butters: Peanut butter is considered safe by the USDA up to 3 months past sell by dates, however it typically is safe to eat a little bit longer.
- Honey: It never goes bad, so honey is possibly the best emergency food to have.
- Canned Protein: Stock up on cans of tuna, chicken, or ham for protein.
- Pasta: Pasta is one of my top pantry staples because it lasts for such a long time, and there are so many different types of pasta. Spaghetti, rotini, macaroni, penne…plus it always tastes good even with just a little bit of seasoning, oil, or sauce and veggies if you have it.
- Shelf-stable Milk: Buy shelf-stable milk that doesn’t need to be refrigerated right away. You can get dairy milk, almond milk, or other plant-based milks in this form. They typically last 6-8 months in the pantry, but need to be refrigerated once opened.
- Soup: Canned soup is a lifesaver in emergencies. It’s a full meal with veggies, protein, and lots of flavor packed into one can. They can last up to 2-5 years.
- Canned Fruit: When fresh fruit isn’t an option, canned fruit makes a great replacement. Canned peaches, pears, and fruit medleys are often high in sugar since they’re preserved in syrups, but they last for a couple of years in the pantry.
- Dried Fruits: Another option is dried fruits, like raisins, dates, dried apricots, mango, bananas, etc.
- Granola Bars: Individually-wrapped granola bars are great to keep in your pantry for emergencies because they last for 6-8 months.
- Jarred Sauces: Grab shelf-stable jars of sauce to eat with pastas, grains, or veggies.
- Canned Coconut Milk: This can be used in cooking and baking, or it can be warmed and consumed as a liquid milk.
- Oats: A large container of quick oats can make a whole lot of oatmeal, and they’ll last for a couple of years in a sealed container.
- Tortillas: Tortillas are great because you can freeze them if needed, and they take up less space than bread. (Frozen they can last 6-8 months.)
More Pantry Staples
- Olive oil and other cooking oils
- Spices and seasonings
- Snack crackers and snack cakes
- Boxed meals and sides
- Shelf stable juices, milks, and other drinks
- Bottles or jugs of water
- Instant coffee or hot chocolate
- Dried meat like beef jerky
Essentials for Your Freezer
- Frozen veggies: these are so versatile, and can replace fresh veggies when needed.
- Frozen meat or seafood: if stored properly, meats essentially last indefinitely.
- Bread: you can freeze loaves of bread, and thaw when you need them.
- Frozen pizzas or prepared meals: sometimes you just need something that can be heated and served.
- Frozen fruits and berries: use these to make easy smoothies, or to replace fresh fruit in your favorite recipes.
- Make ahead freezer meals: use up your fresh foods with these recipes, then freeze for later!
Grab a free printable grocery list to help you stock your kitchen with all the pantry staples and essential ingredients!
What meals can I make with non-perishable foods and pantry items?
I know a lot of us feel like our cooking options become limited when we don’t have fresh foods to use and can’t go to the grocery store to grab our ingredients, but pantry staples and non-perishable foods can go a long way to making fun and tasty meals (plus they’re super easy to make).
You can combine things like rice, pasta or any kind of grain with canned veggies, beans, and sauces in so many ways to create quick pantry meals. And so many of them are surprisingly healthy too!
Recipe Ideas: Pasta
Stock up on boxes of pasta, canned veggies and jarred sauces, and you’ll have quick pantry meals ready for months.
- Pasta shells + jar of alfredo sauce + can of sweet peas + add some black pepper.
- Spaghetti + can of tomato paste + raid your spice rack for oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, or any Italian seasonings you have.
- Penne pasta + can of chickpeas + canned mushrooms and drizzle it with olive oil and sea salt.
Freezer Additions: Stock up on frozen shrimp, veggies, and meats to add into your pasta dishes.
Recipe Ideas: Oatmeal
Grab a large container of rolled or quick oats, combine with water or milk to heat, then add a variety of toppings to make delicious oatmeal. It’s a great breakfast but can also be a good snack or even dessert with the right ingredients.
- Oatmeal + peanut butter + honey + add bananas if you have them
- Oatmeal + chocolate chips + dried cherries
- Oatmeal (made with canned coconut milk instead of water) + coconut flakes + dried pineapple & mango
Freezer additions: add in frozen berries for more topping options!
Recipe Ideas: Soup
Soup is a go-to for pantry meals. Grab cans of soup at the grocery store and they’ll last for years. You can also make your own concoctions with soup broths, beans, and veggies.
- chicken broth + canned chicken + veggies
- Veggie broth + chickpeas + garlic + cous cous + veggies
- Can of tomato soup + beans + veggies
Freezer additions: frozen veggies can add a lot of variety to your pantry soups. Plus with a freezer, you can make a big batch to store for later.
Recipe Ideas: Grain Bowls
Grain bowls are a favorite because you can just throw whatever ingredients you have together to make a tasty meal.
- Brown rice + black beans + corn + can of diced tomatoes or jar of salsa
- Cous cous + chickpeas + turmeric + veggies
- Coconut rice (jasmine rice cooked in coconut milk) + sweet potatoes + veggies
Freezer additions: Frozen vegetables and meats are a good way to add in ingredients that aren’t available for the pantry. Frozen chicken and seafood, or frozen broccoli and brussels sprouts make great additions for grain bowls.
Tip: Cook with what you have
The point of these quick pantry recipe ideas is to show you that sometimes cooking is just about using what you have.
A dish doesn’t have to be intimidating, it doesn’t have to have a long list of ingredients, and sometimes all you need to do is combine what you have and add some seasonings!
Even during those times when you can’t go to the grocery store, a few non-perishable ingredients in your kitchen is enough to make a meal.
If you want to make a certain recipe but lack a couple ingredients, see if you can make it without. Usually you can get creative and skip a few ingredients that you might not have access to. This is especially true with garnishes. They’re nice when you have them, but totally optional.
Using Non-Perishable Foods instead of Fresh Foods
If you’re following a recipe but don’t have fresh food options, don’t worry! A few modifications on the fly means you can still make that dish. With non-perishables and frozen foods, anything is possible!
- For the most part, if a recipe calls for fresh produce, you can easily substitute canned or frozen options. Just be sure to thaw frozen veggies before adding them in to cook, or cook veggies separately before combining them with the rest of the dish.
- If you don’t have meat to use in the recipe, try replacing it with another type of protein. Beans work great in soups, tacos, rice dishes, and all kinds of meals. You could also stock up on canned or vacuum-sealed tuna or chicken to use in different recipes.
- Fresh fruits won’t last very long, but dried fruits and jams can add the same fruity flavors to dishes. You can also stock up on frozen fruits and berries to substitute in recipes.
Try These Pantry Staple Recipes
- Easy Taco Soup
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Easy Tomato Soup
- Pasta Pomodoro
- Spiced Rice Pilaf
- Parmesan Polenta
Now that your pantry is stocked up with lots of non-perishable foods, making quick and easy pantry meals will be a breeze! I hope this post can help you to continue preparing delicious meals for you and your family, even during busier or rougher times.
Prep for Meal Time
These information and recipe filled guides will help you stock your kitchen and prep meals ahead of time. Get the basics sorted so you’re always ready for meal time!