Oats – A Must-Have Pantry Staple

There are only a few foods that are both nutritional powerhouses and candidates for long-term food storage. Oats are on my top 10 list of must-have staples for my long-term food storage. Let me explain why I think they should be one of the basic grains in your emergency or survival food supply.

Ten reasons why you should include oats in your long-term emergency survival food storage:

  1. Oats are one of the world’s healthiest foods and have been cultivated for thousands of years. 
  2. Oats are a good source of protein, dietary fiber, thiamin, folate, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and niacin.
  3. Oats are rich in minerals including manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, zinc, iron, potassium, and calcium.
  4. Oats are high in antioxidants and are known to possess both anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties.
  5. Oats contain between 5 and 9 percent of healthy fat, which is especially critical in a survival diet. 
  6. Health benefits include; increased weight control, better bowel function, lower cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease and diabetes, lower blood pressure, stabilization of blood sugar, enhanced immune response, and reduced risk of cancer.
  7. Correctly packaged and stored oats have an amazing shelf-life of up to 30 years.
  8. Oats are quick and easy to prepare, which is especially important when fuel is limited.
  9. Oats satisfy and make you feel full longer which can be quite beneficial when food is rationed.
  10. Oats are easy to rotate and use in your everyday diet.

Types of Oats

The diversity of oats makes them a unique treasure in the kitchen. The incredibly long shelf life makes it a necessity in every prepper’s pantry. Let’s discuss the variety of oats that are available and how to turn those oats into something edible and delicious. As we review these options, consider which varieties of oats you may like to store in your long-term emergency food supply.

Raw Oats

Raw oats are great fodder for animals, but not for human consumption. The outer husk is not digestible. It takes a lot of work to clean and process raw oats by hand. I would pass on raw oats when it comes to food storage and baking.

Whole Oat Groats

Whole oat groats have been cleaned and minimally processed to remove the inedible outer husk. The kernels are then heat-treated to increase shelf life. This treatment prevents fats from going rancid. Whole oat groat kernels look similar to wheat. The kilning process prevents oat groats from sprouting.

To cook whole oat groats, bring 1 cup of groats and 3 cups of water to a boil and simmer for 45-60 minutes until tender. Soaking reduces the required cooking time. Oat groats can be ground into rich nutty-oat flour. They make a delicious breakfast cereal.  For a little variety, try cooking the oat groats whole and adding them to baked goods, soups, salads, stuffing, or flavor and served as a side dish.

Steel Cut Oats

Steel-cut oats (Irish or pinhead oats) are oat groats that have been cut into 2-3 pieces with steel blades. They take less time to cook than the whole kernel; about 20-40 minutes. Steel-cut oats have a delightful texture when served as a breakfast cereal.

To cook, bring 1 cup steel-cut oats and 3-4 cups water to a boil and then simmer for 20-40 minutes, depending on how chewy you like your oats. Our favorite way to cook steel-cut oats is in a rice pot. Jonathan likes to put the water, steel-cut oats, a chopped apple, cinnamon, a little butter, and salt in the rice pot, and by the time we are all ready for breakfast, the cereal is perfect. Even our kids that do not like the texture of oatmeal enjoy eating steel-cut oats.

Scottish Oatmeal

Scottish oatmeal is stone-ground which creates various-sized broken bits. This results in a creamier porridge and decreased cooking time.

To cook Scottish oatmeal, simply add 1 cup of Scottish oatmeal to 3 cups of water and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Regular Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

Regular old-fashioned rolled oats are oat groats that have been steamed, flattened, and dried into flakes. This process stabilizes the healthy oils in the oats so they stay fresh longer and can be stored for up to 30 years in the ideal environment.

To cook regular rolled oats add 1 cup of oats to 2 cups of water to boil and stir.  Regular oats will cook in about 5 minutes. My favorite oatmeal breakfast starts by placing frozen peaches, regular oats, water, and salt in the rice pot. When the fruity oatmeal is done about 20 minutes later, I top it with chopped pecans, Greek yogurt, and real maple syrup. It is absolutely delicious.

Cinnamon and raisins are also a big hit at our home. Freeze-dried strawberries are also a favorite in oatmeal. Experiment with a variety of different fruits and spices until you find your favorite combination.

Quick-Cooking Rolled Oats

Quick-cooking rolled oats are processed like old-fashioned oats except they are cut a little finer before rolling. Prepare them just like regular rolled oats, but cook them for only one minute. The nutrition is similar, but the texture is different from regular rolled oats.

Instant Oatmeal

Instant oatmeal is produced by cooking whole grain oat groats, very thinly rolling, and drying. Salt, sugar, and flavorings are often added to instant packaged oatmeal and they are sold in an individual serving packets. All you do is add boiling water and you have a quick breakfast.

Instant oatmeal is not a good candidate for long-term storage unless specifically packaged commercially for long-term storage. It does make a great addition to emergency survival kits or a 3 month supply of everyday foods.

Oat Bran

Oat bran is the outer bran layer of oat groats ground into a fine meal. It is considered a whole grain due to its exceptionally high fiber content. It can be added to muffins or bread to increase the fiber content.

To cook add 1 cup of oat bran to 2 cups of water. Cook for 5-7 minutes to make a smooth creamy breakfast cereal. has a smooth texture and is very high in soluble fiber. Oat bran is not a good candidate for long-term food storage. It has a high oil content and goes rancid quickly. It is best to store oat bran in the refrigerator.

Oat Flour

Oat flour is the result of grinding oat groats into flour just like wheat. Rolled oats can be ground in a blender or food processor to create oat flour. Oat flour can be used in baking or to thicken soups or stews. It does not make good yeast bread due to the lack of gluten but is delightful as an addition to wheat flour in bread.

Best Cooking Methods for Oats

Each variety of oats requires a different amount of cooking time. During a crisis, fuel is a precious commodity and must be used wisely. It is a good idea to consider fuel consumption when deciding which varieties to store. Remember whole oat groats may take a long time to cook, but when ground into flour they can thicken gravy in a minute. Pre-soaking the oat groats will reduce the required cooking time. Store what you enjoy eating and plan your fuel storage accordingly.


The most common way to prepare oats is on a stove top. Quick oats, regular oats, steel-cut oats, or whole oat groats can be cooked by bringing water and grain to a boil, then simmering until tender. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching.

Rice Cooker

A rice cooker is my favorite method for cooking oatmeal. When I first wake up in the morning, I place all of the ingredients in the rice cooker, put the lid on top, and push start. Even with all the craziness involved with getting ready for the day, I can still serve my family a hot breakfast that took only minutes to actually prepare. The best part is that if I get distracted, it doesn’t burn. The oatmeal just stays warm and ready to serve until we are. This works well for steel-cut oats, regular rolled oats as well as quick oats.

Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot

A pressure cooker or Instant Pot are wonderful tools that significantly reduces cooking time over standard stove-top methods. Place water and grain (along with fruit, salt, and spices) in the pressure cooker. Pressure cook each of the following oat varieties for the amount of time specified below:

  • Whole oat groats = 15-18 minutes
  • Steel-cut oats = 10 minutes
  • Scottish oats = 10 minutes
  • Regular rolled oats = 2 minutes

Quick and instant rolled oats do not need to be pressure cooked.

Thermos or Thermal Cooker or Retained Heat Cooker

A Thermos or thermal cooker or retained heat cooker is another way to save both energy and time. You simply bring the water and oats to a strong boil and then place them in the thermal cooker to finish cooking without additional fuel. Whole oat groats and steel-cut oats are perfect when left overnight. Rolled oats take less time to actually cook but still work well in a Thermos or thermal cooker. Learn more about thermal cooking by clicking here.

Cooking oats using a thermal cooker is incredibly easy. I put the pot on the stove and bring the water (part milk) and salt to a boil. Next, I add the oats, seasoning, and fruit and bring it back up to a rolling boil. I replace the lid and tuck it into the thermal cooker. I leave the thermal cooker out on the counter all night long. When we wake in the morning, the oatmeal is hot and ready to eat.

You can make a great breakfast on the go by using a wide-mouth metal thermos like this one to cook your oatmeal. Bring the water and oats to a full boil along with any fruit or flavorings and then pour it into the thermos. Screw the lid on and place the thermos on its side and let the oats cook. The time it will take to finish cooking depends on the type of oats you use. Steel-cut oats take much longer than quick oats to finish cooking. It is really nice to open that thermos and find a steaming hot meal waiting for you anywhere between 1 hour and 8 hours later.

You can learn more about cooking with retained heat in our post, Retained Heat Cooking: The Secret to Stretching Your Fuel Supplies. 

Solar Oven

A solar oven takes advantage of the free energy of the sun. Place the water, grain, and other ingredients inside of a covered pot and put it in the solar oven. Place the oven in the path of the sun. Cooking time will vary depending on the UV index and type of oats. Go to Cooking with the Sun–Clean, Abundant Energy to learn more about solar cooking.

It might take a little longer than on a stovetop, but the payback in fuel savings is well worth it. One disadvantage of this method is that you will not have hot cereal for breakfast. Optimal solar cooking is between 10 am and 4 pm. Baked goods with oats will work perfectly in a Sun Oven, so bake those oat muffins the day before and serve them for breakfast the next morning.

Several Oat Varieties Have a Place in My Pantry

Experiment with the different varieties of oats. Which do you like to eat? Each type of oat serves a different purpose in my pantry, although I usually don’t buy instant. I have a no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookie recipe that works best with quick oats. My homemade chocolate granola demands the old-fashioned oats to be perfect. We love the texture and flavor of the steel-cut oats for breakfast cereal.

Oat flour is a delightful addition to many baked goods. I usually put rolled oats in my food processor to get a nice, coarse flour that adds both flavor and texture to the final product. However, it is just as easy to throw oat groats in with the wheat when I grind it. I like having a variety of oats on hand.

Storing Oats in Long Term Food Storage

Rolled oats have a shelf life of 18-24 months when stored in the original packaging. That packaging is fine for your short-term or 3-month supply of everyday foods.

The best long-term storage container for oat groats, steel-cut oats, regular oats, and quick oats is a #10 can with an oxygen absorber to protect against critters and extend the storage life. #10 cans of rolled oats will store for up to 30 years if stored in a cool, dry location. Once opened rolled oats will stay fresh for about 6-9 months.

The plastic buckets are also a good option for storing oats but shorten the shelf life to about 25 years when stored in a cool, dry place. To learn more about how to package your oats in 5-gallon buckets or Mylar bags for long-term storage click here

Quality Suppliers

We recommend purchasing rolled oats for long-term storage locally whenever possible or from Amazon or Augason Farms or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Store. You can purchase rolled oats packaged for long-term food storage from any of these quality suppliers. You can avoid shipping charges when purchasing from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints by picking up the product directly from a Home Canning Center. Click here for locations in your area.

Amount to Store

  • One #10 can of regular rolled oats contains about 24 – 1/2 cup servings. Storing 16 cans of rolled oats will provide one person with one serving of oatmeal each day for breakfast for an entire year.
  • One 20-pound bucket of rolled oats contains 216 – 1/2 cup servings. Store 1.5 buckets of rolled oats for each person to provide one serving of oatmeal each day for one year.

We go through oats so fast that I keep them in plastic buckets with a Gamma Seal Lid in my kitchen pantry for easy access. I have one 5-gallon bucket for quick oats (for my no-bake cookies), one 5-gallon bucket with regular oats (for everything else), and one 3-gallon bucket for steel-cut oats (Jonathan’s favorite breakfast cereal).

My Favorite Oat Food Storage Recipes

Oats are absolutely irresistible with fresh or dried fruit; milk or yogurt; brown sugar, honey, or real maple syrup; a dash of cinnamon or nutmeg; or even sprinkled with chocolate chips. Replace a little of the cooking water with milk for a creamier texture. The possibilities are endless.

For a delicious twist, try replacing part of the flour in your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe with oat flour. You will be delightfully surprised by the new taste. Think about how you like to spice up your oats and make sure to keep your pantry stocked with those tasty treats also. Food storage can be amazingly delicious!

Regular rolled oats are the magic ingredient in my famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe below. It has been the absolute favorite treat for my family, co-workers, and friends. Go ahead and give it a try. If you are using only shelf-stable ingredients, reconstitute the powdered eggs before adding them to the recipe. Substitute coconut oil for fresh butter, but it changes both the flavor and the texture a bit. My grandmother’s original version called for shortening which has a very long shelf life. It is just not very good for you. We hope you enjoy these delightful cookies!

Stock Up on Oats for Your Food Storage

Now you know just about everything you could possibly need to know about the different varieties of oats and which ones will store best for an extended period of time. Remember, oats are a nutritional powerhouse, easy to prepare, and inexpensive. Don’t neglect this valuable resource as you build your food storage.

Thanks for being part of the solution!


Kylene Jones is a blogger, content creator, published author, motivational speaker, homesteader, prepper, mother, and grandmother. She practices self-reliance, provident living, and emergency preparedness in her everyday life. She loves working with her husband, Jonathan, and is committed to helping our community be prepared to thrive during the challenges that lie in our future.

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