Posted on: April 23, 2020 at 2:39 pm
Last updated: May 1, 2020 at 12:57 pm

With the current global pandemic, people are rethinking their grocery trips. Whether they are ordering online or shopping in stores, the incentive is the same: stock up on the essentials. It’s best to avoid grocery shopping too often, and ordering online frequently can quickly become expensive. Fortunately, there are many foods that have a long shelf life. Sure, fresh foods like vegetables, fruit, eggs, and dairy are staples, but having a healthy supply of non-perishables is always a great idea, but which ones should you stock up on and how long do they last?

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Many people may have these foods in their pantries already but aren’t sure if they are still good. Take a look and see if you have any, as this might save you an unnecessary trip to the store.  

Just because the date on the product has passed, that food may not be expired (aside from baby formula, which must be eaten before the use-by date.) Best-before or sell-by dates indicate the time period of the food’s prime quality, but they are very much edible after that. They do not indicate the safety of the food. Knowing this can prevent excess waste of good food. [1] 

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Related: 11 Foods That Stay Good After Their Expiration Date

Keep in mind that these foods will last if they are stored properly in airtight containers in a cool, dry environment. Open packages that weren’t properly sealed, for example, can go bad, as well as foods that got moisture inside their containers. If this happens, check for mold, sour smells, or strange colors and textures. Another indicator is a can that this dented or bulging. These are signs that the food should not be eaten. [2] 

Here’s a guideline as you explore the dark corners of your pantries or items you should consider adding to your shopping cart, virtual or real.  

The Shelf Life of 32 Foods in Your Pantry  

0–1 Year  

  1. Dried fruits – Either keep them in their sealed packages or in tightly-lidded containers or pop them into the freezer to extend their shelf life by six months.  

1–3 Years  

  1. Bouillon  
  2. Dark Chocolate – This keeps best when wrapped in its original packaging, or at least wrapped tightly if it was opened. Dark chocolate lasts longer than milk or white chocolate, which should be eaten within a year.  
  3. Dried Pasta   
  4. Jerky – Keep in mind that store-bought jerky lasts up to two years. Homemade jerky, however, should be eaten within a few weeks. 
  5. Oats – If you want to keep your oats good long-term, take them out of their cardboard containers into airtight ones. They should stay good for about 12 months. 
  6. Oil – Keep unopened oils out of direct sunlight and heat, and they should keep for a few years. Once they are opened, it would be best to use them within a few months. Cooking oil spray should keep for two years.   
  7. Tea  
  8. Ramen noodles (yes, there are healthier ways to make it, just ditch the flavor packets, use your own ingredients)
  9. Powdered Milk – Powdered milk can last up to 1–2 years in an airtight container with a moisture-absorbing packet in a cool and dark area.  
  10. Tomato Sauce (unopened) 
  11. Unopened Jam – Once jams and jellies are opened, they should be kept in the fridge for up to six months. Unopened jars can stay good for two years. 

Related: 10 Hacks to Keep Your Produce Fresh

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3–5 Years  

  1. Canned Tuna  
  2. Unopened Pickles and Pickled Veggies – Once they are opened, they should be able to last several months in the fridge. 
  3. Spices – Spices can lose their potency over time, but whole spices can last for about four years and ground spices are best eaten within three years. 

5–10 Years  

  1. Canned Fruit, Vegetables, and Beans – These can last 1–2 years past their best-by dates, but give them a sniff test to make sure. [3] 
  2. Grains – Buy grains like quinoa, barley, rye, flax, grits, and millet in bulk and store them in airtight containers.  
  3. Molasses – Keeps up to ten years unopened, and up to five when opened.  

Related: This Is How Long Fresh Produce Will Last Before Going Bad

10+ Years  

  1. Instant Coffee – This can last for about 25 years, longer in the freezer, and good thing too. Instant coffee provides a quick caffeine fix during a time when venturing out to a coffee shop is not recommended.  
  2. Rice – White, basmati, jasmine, wild, and Arborio rice have low oil content and have an indefinite shelf life with proper storing conditions. However, brown rice has more oil so it spoils more quickly [4] 

Forever  

  1. Corn Starch  
  2. Dried Beans, Lentils, and Legumes  
  3. Liquor – The high alcohol content (typically 40% alcohol or higher) of hard liquor wards off bacterial growth that spoils food. Store them at room temperature; no need to freeze them. Keep in mind that some liquors like vermouth and Irish cream, should be kept in the fridge after they are opened, and have a shorter shelf life. Most manufacturers recommend using opened liquors within a year, but this has to do with taste, and not product safety. For more info on the shelf life of alcoholic beverages in general, check this article out.   
  4. Unopened Maple Syrup – Unopened maple syrup can be kept on the shelf, but once opened it should be refrigerated and eaten within a year. 
  5. Popcorn kernels  
  6. Honey  (Of any type. It will only crystalize, which is harmless)
  7. Unopened Soy Sauce – Once opened, soy sauce should be consumed within two to three years while stored in the fridge. 
  8. Unflavoured gelatin powder
  9. Sugar  
  10. Salt
  11. Pure Vanilla Extract – Imitation vanilla expires after two to four years. 
  12. Vinegar  

Keep Reading: 15 Medicinal Plants That Can Easily Be Grown In Your Yard

[1] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food Product Dating. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/food-labeling/food-product-dating/food-product-dating Last modified October 2, 2019 

[2] Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Food Storage. https://food.unl.edu/free-resource/food-storage 

[3] Colman Andrews. Stay prepared: Foods with the longest shelf life. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2019/08/11/foods-longest-shelf-life-expiration-date/39924813/ August 12, 2019 

[4] https://www.tasteofhome.com/article/long-term-food-storage-staples-that-last-forever/

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Sarah Schafer
Founder of The Creative Palate
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender. Her blog The Creative Palate shares the nutrition and imagination of her recipes for others embarking on their journey to wellbeing.

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