Shortly after moving in to my van I wondered what kind of non-perishable foods I could stock up on and store in my van. I wanted to go a minimum of 2 weeks (if needed) without having to go to the store, fill water tanks, dump my porta-potty, etc and adding non perishable foods was an important part towards achieving my goal.
Keeping a small stockpile of non perishable food on hand in your van involves:
- Finding non-perishable foods that fit your dietary needs.
- Storing non perishable food items properly.
- Having water on hand (some non-perishable foods require hydrating).
Let’s take a closer look at these bullet points…
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What Is A Non Perishable Food?
Non-perishable foods are foods that aren’t subject to rapid deterioration or decay. Refrigeration is usually not needed until the food is cooked.
Many processed foods have long shelf lives because they contain chemicals or unnatural ingredients that prolong their shelf life. But, there are also many non-processed foods that, in their natural state, have long or indefinite shelf lives.
Non-Perishable Foods For Van Life
The good news is, there are non-perishable food options for most any dietary need.
On A Personal Note: With all of my food allergies and a sensitivity to many processed foods I can testify that it’s possible to find non-perishable foods to store when living in a van – even with stricter dietary needs!
Most non perishable food items need to be stored in a cool, dry place and/or an air tight container.
Let’s take a look at some of the foods that will last a few months or more in your van – as long as they are stored properly :
Canned foods include canned veggies, fruits, meats and even meals in a can (such as Dinty Moore beef stew).
Most types of canned foods have a long shelf life and are easy to cook. Some canned goods can be eaten directly from the can.
As for canned fruit, the single sized fruit cups may be a better option than a can of fruit. The fruit cup is the perfect size and the container can be saved to use elsewhere (those little empty fruit cup containers come in handy!).
The shelf life of white rice is indefinite as long as it’s stored properly. Research has found that white rice will keep its flavor and nutrient content for 30 years when stored in air tight containers in temperatures below 40 degrees.
Temperatures of below 40 degrees isn’t possible in a house let alone in a van but, the bottom line is, rice keeps a very long time. They key is to keep the white rice sealed in an air tight container and stored in a cool place.
Most types of rice have a long or indefinite shelf life but brown rice is NOT included in the mix. At room temperature, the shelf life of brown rice is 3 to 6 months.
Here’s a handy chart and more info about storing different varieties of cooked and uncooked rice.
Prepackaged, uncooked pasta generally lasts a few years if kept in an air-tight container.
Prepackaged pasta has a “best by” date (meaning its best to eat it by that date) but, if stored properly, uncooked pasta will last well beyond the “best by” date.
Honey is considered the only food that truly lasts forever. This deliciously sweet food (produced by bees) is a low moisture food that inhibits bacterial growth.
In it’s raw form, honey has many health benefits and is also a healthy alternative to processed sugars.
Ideally, honey should be stored in it’s original container. If you need to transfer the honey to another container just make sure it’s NOT metal (the metal will oxidize).
Do not store honey in the refrigerator. Refrigerated honey will crystallize and solidify.
Foods that are freeze-dried are lightweight and have a long shelf life. Preparing freeze dried foods for eating is simple. All you need is boiling water to heat and rehydrate the food.
Mountain House is a popular brand name for freeze dried foods and has a big selection of foods.
The Mountain House company focuses on freeze dried meals in a bag – including desserts. These meals in a bag are easy to make because you can pour boiling water directly into the single-serving package and eat your meal right from the package.
Mountain House also provides freeze dried meals in bulk in large containers.
Harmony House is another brand of freeze dried foods but Harmony House focuses on individual freeze dried foods rather than meals in a bag.
Foods from Harmony House include freeze dried fruits, veggies and beans.
Non Perishable Protein
Tuna, sardines, chicken and salmon are commonly available in cans or foil pouches. The nice thing about pouches is they take up less space than the canned version and the pouch can be opened without a can opener.
Beef jerky, turkey jerky, pork jerky (or anything jerky) is a good non-perishable item packed with protein.
Other Non-Perishable Foods
Here’s a list of several more options to consider for your non-perishable foods pantry. Some are not as healthy as others but we all have different needs so choose what works for you and ignore the rest:
- Dehydrated fruits, veggies or meat
- Pudding cups
- Power bars
- Cereal bars
- Sesame sticks
- Yogurt candies
- Dried beans
- Protein shake mixes or meal replacements
- Ramen noodles
- Trail mix
- Dried or freeze-dried fruits and veggies
- Dried eggs
- Powdered or canned milk
- Granola or granola bars
- Ready made tuna salad pouches
- Dry soup mixes
- Peanut butter
- Powdered peanut butter
Storing Non Perishable’s
Most pre-packaged food containes a “best by” date along with directions on how to store it.
For the most part, the basic rule of thumb for storing non-perishable foods is to keep them in an air tight container, away from direct sunlight and in a cool, dry place.
Plastic storage contains with tight lids work well for storing non-perishables.
Van Life Non Perishable Foods Storage Tip: The inside of a vehicle can get hot – especially if it’s not insulated (like my van). I’ve found that the items I store under my bed, off the floor tend to stay cooler than the rest. Under my bed, I keep items in totes and I store other items on top of the totes. Under the bed they are more protected from the heat.
Some non-perishable foods (such as dehydrated meals or protein shakes) require water in order to re-hydrate the food for eating or to mix with it for drinking.
For tips on where to find water, check out Where To Find Free Water While Living The Van Life.
Non-perishable foods are essential for van life. These foods don’t require refrigeration (unless cooked), they have a long shelf life and food that doesn’t readily spoil enables the van-dweller to stock up (even if it means shoving food in nooks and crannies).
For more information about the shelf life of food visit EatByDate.com. You’ll find a wealth of information regarding the true shelf life of foods.
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