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Oatmeal as a Survival Food: Should you store it?

It’s good to always be fully prepared for an emergency or survival situation. Food will be one of your first worries if you get stuck in your house or in the wilderness for an extended period of time. This is why you should store survival food that is cheap, nutritious, and has a long shelf life. Let’s take a look at oatmeal to see if it’s a viable solution.

Oatmeal makes a really good survival food. It’s easy to store, nutrient-rich, and has a long shelf life. It’s also relatively cheap compared to many other survival foods.

The best choice for long-term storage is steel-cut oats like this excellent organic brand. You can find them in some groceries, farmer’s markets, or online at Amazon and other stores.

Now that we’ve established that oatmeal is an excellent choice when deciding how to stock up on your emergency supplies, let’s go into greater detail on why this is so.

Close up of a person with medical gloves scooping oatmeal into a bowl

What Is the Best Oatmeal for Long-Term Storage?

Regular, as well as quick-cooking rolled oats like these found on Amazon, are the best choice if you want to store them for a long time. These are steamed, flattened, and finally dried into flakes of oat groats that, if kept in an ideal environment, can be stored for up to 30 years.

Add instant oatmeal into your survival kit only if the package specifies that it can be stored long-term. In every other case, it will only be good for about 3 months.

The same goes for oat bran: it will quickly go rancid if it isn’t stored in a refrigerator, and it’s almost certain that you won’t have such a privilege when you’ll need your survival food. So, even though you might find these delicious, in case of a disaster, you will have to go for a few days or weeks without them.

Oatmeal Shelf Life?

Oatmeal does not contain any liquid and isn’t stored in cans, so it is very light, so it’s a perfect option if you have to carry your food supply somewhere.

If it is kept in the original packaging and stored in a cool and dry place, the shelf life of oatmeal is 2-3 years. It means that the original packaging will do only if you’re buying oatmeal for everyday meals or for short-term storage. Cooked oatmeal would only last for about a week in the refrigerator.

What Is the Shelf Life of Instant Oatmeal?

Instant oatmeal tends not to last as long as regular oatmeal in normal packaging. Here is the typical shelf life of a few options:

TypePantry Shelf Life
Instant Oatmeal1-2 Years
1 or 5 Minute Oatmeal2-3 Years
Steel Cut or Irish Oatmeal1-2 Years
Flavored/Cream Instant Oatmeal6-9 Months

As you can see, flavored instant oatmeal is the worst choice if you are looking for long-term storage.

Related How Long Does Oatmeal Last? | Proper Storage is Everything.

How to Store Oatmeal for the Long Term?

To store oatmeal for a much longer period of time, you need to protect it from moisture and temperature changes. The best thing you can do to achieve it is to store your oatmeal in a #10 can. There, if you properly seal it and keep it dry and cool, oatmeal will be good as new for 30 years. From the moment you open the can, oatmeal will serve you for up to nine more months.

One more option is storing oatmeal in a plastic bucket, but this decision will cost you 5 years of shelf life: oatmeal will stay fresh for only up to 25 years.

Oatmeal Packaging Has Other Uses

Even the packaging of oatmeal can come in handy. This is because it is generally made from flammable cardboard paper and will help you start a fire if you find yourself freezing in the woods. It’s great for kindling in a pinch.

How Much Oatmeal Should I Store for a Year?

If you choose to store oatmeal in #10 cans, like this one found on Amazon:

  • Breakfast Only- 16 cans will be enough to provide one person with a daily delicious breakfast of rolled oats for a whole year. If you are stocking up survival food for a family of four, 64 cans will do.
  • Every meal- If you want to limit your diet to oatmeal only, make that 48 cans for a year (3 food servings a day) for one person or 192 cans for a family of four.

If you go for a 20-pound plastic bucket:

  • Breakfast Only- One and a half of them will feed one person breakfast for a year. About 6 buckets will supply your whole family with oatmeal for breakfast for a year.
  • Every meal- If one person is planning to eat oatmeal three times a day for a year, he or she will need 4.5 buckets; 18 buckets will be needed for a family of four.

How Long Can a Person Survive on Oatmeal Alone?

Oatmeal is a very nutritious food. It’s full of natural fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. In fact, it’s generally good for your health because, according to scientific research, it can reduce cholesterol levels, lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes, stabilize your blood sugar, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancer.

You wouldn’t want to eat oatmeal by itself for more than maybe just a few weeks. This is because it doesn’t have everything needed to stay healthy. For instance, it lacks some important nutrients, such as beta carotene, and there is almost no fat, and it’s also essential. In addition, the amount of protein found in oatmeal just isn’t enough to provide you with a lot of energy.

To put it simply, you’ll survive if you stick to oatmeal alone, but you won’t be very healthy or energetic. Therefore, even though oatmeal is one of the best survival foods there are, it’s best if you have a little diversity and eat oatmeal only once a day. Perhaps the best quality of oatmeal is that it can be combined with other foods you might store in case of an emergency, such as dried fruit, honey, and instant milk.

According to the National Library of Medicine:

“The consumption of oats has been determined to be beneficial for human health by promoting immunomodulation and improving gut microbiota. In addition, oat consumption assists in preventing diseases such as atherosclerosis, dermatitis, and some forms of cancer.”

National Library of Medicine

How to Tell If Oatmeal Has Gone Bad

While oatmeal can be safely stored for years, you can throw this out the window if moisture somehow gets into the container.

The most typical things to look for to see if oatmeal is spoiled are:

  • Mold – If there are any signs of mold anywhere in the container, do not take a chance. Just throw away the entire lot of it.
  • Bad Odor – It will be pretty obvious when oatmeal has gone bad. Just give it a sniff to see if it has spoiled.

Comparing Oatmeal to Other Survival Foods

When evaluating oatmeal against other staples commonly found in survival food kits, its benefits stand out for several reasons. Foods like rice, beans, and freeze-dried meals are also popular for long-term storage due to their nutritional content and shelf life. Oatmeal, however, offers unique advantages such as ease of preparation and a balance of nutrients essential for long-term sustenance.

  • Nutritional Value: Oatmeal is rich in carbohydrates and fiber, providing sustained energy and aiding in digestion. It also contains more protein than most grains, though it is lower in essential amino acids compared to beans or freeze-dried meat.
  • Preparation and Convenience: Unlike beans or rice, which require significant cooking time and water, oatmeal can be prepared with just hot water. This makes it particularly valuable in situations where fuel and water supplies are limited.
  • Shelf Life: Oatmeal, especially in forms like steel-cut or whole oat groats, can last up to 30 years when stored properly in airtight containers. This is comparable to white rice but longer than brown rice or certain dehydrated meats.
  • .Versatility: Oatmeal’s mild flavor makes it a versatile base that can be enhanced with various additives like nuts, dried fruits, and spices. This adaptability can prevent palate fatigue during extended periods of reliance on survival food.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Oatmeal is typically less expensive per calorie than specially prepared freeze-dried meals and is often on par with or cheaper than other grains like rice or pasta.

While each survival food has its merits, oatmeal’s combination of nutrition, ease of use, storage longevity, and cost-effectiveness makes it an excellent choice for emergency food supply lists.

Below is a table comparing oatmeal to other common survival foods:

Food ItemShelf LifeNutritional ValueCost-EffectivenessPreparation EaseVersatility
OatmealUp to 30 yearsHigh in carbs and fiber, moderate proteinHighVery easyHigh (can be mixed with many additives)
Rice30+ years (white rice)High in carbs, low in proteinHighEasyHigh (staple in many dishes)
BeansUp to 30 yearsHigh in protein and fiberModerate to highModerate (requires cooking)High (varied culinary uses)
Freeze-Dried Meals25+ yearsBalanced nutrients (varies by meal)LowerVery easyModerate (pre-determined flavors)
Canned Foods1-6 yearsBalanced, depending on contentsModerateVery easyLow (limited by type of food)
PastaUp to 30 yearsHigh in carbs, low in proteinHighEasyModerate (requires cooking and sauces)
Powdered Milk20 yearsGood source of calcium and proteinModerateVery easyModerate (used in recipes or reconstituted)

Key Insights:

  • Oatmeal: Excellent for long-term storage with a balance of nutrition and ease of preparation. It’s one of the most versatile and cost-effective options.
  • Rice and Beans: Both offer long shelf lives and are cost-effective but require cooking. Beans provide more protein, making them crucial for balanced nutrition.
  • Freeze-Dried Meals: Offer convenience and a variety of nutrients but at a higher cost and less flexibility in terms of meal options.
  • Canned Foods: Very convenient but have a shorter shelf life and limited variety once stockpiled.
  • Pasta: Similar to rice in terms of storage and carbohydrate content but generally requires additional ingredients to make a complete meal.
  • Powdered Milk: Useful for adding dairy nutrition to other foods or drinks, though it requires water for reconstitution.

This comparison should help in deciding which foods might best meet your needs in a survival scenario, balancing factors like longevity, nutritional content, ease of preparation, and cost.

Final Thoughts

Surprisingly, there aren’t many foods that could pass all of the criteria we just discussed. Oatmeal is one of them, which makes it an amazing survival food.

It’s very easy to buy; you don’t have to search for a specific shop to purchase it because you will find it pretty much in any supermarket. There’s nothing easier than making a meal out of it: adding hot water will be enough.

Finally, oatmeal is something that many people already eat on a daily basis and really enjoy, so, if a disaster happens, you won’t have to force yourself into eating something disgusting just because there’s nothing else available. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you include oatmeal on your “must-have” list of survival foods.

Related Questions

How long is cooked oatmeal good in the refrigerator? When stored correctly, oatmeal will generally last up to a week in the refrigerator. It is recommended that you keep it in a covered airtight container or in a sealed plastic bag. If you just cover it with saran wrap, expect it to only last about 3 days.

What is the longest-lasting food? Honey is known to have the longest proven shelf life. Ancient honey jars were found in an Egyptian tomb that was over 3,000 years old. When tested, the honey was found to still be safe to eat.

What Is the Best Way to Cook Oatmeal? To cook oatmeal, add one cup of oats to two cups of water to boil and stir: quick-cooking oats will be ready in a minute, and for regular, you will have you wait for five minutes. To spice things up and add more nutrition, you can try them with raisins and other dried fruit.

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