Foods That Have a Long Shelf Life

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When you visited your grandparent’s house growing up, you probably noticed a large supply of canned and dried food products that were stored away. That’s because they grew up during the depression, a time when they had struggles to provide enough food for their family.

Maybe you have a good supply of pantry items, and that’s great. No one knows when hard times or an emergency might strike, so it’s good to have a backup plan with your food supply.

Foods That Have a Long Shelf Life

Are you looking to stock up on foods that have a long shelf life? You’ll want to start stocking up ASAP! Take a look at our list of foods that have key nutrients and a long shelf life that are worth having in your food pantry.  

Dried Beans

Dried beans are not only packed with protein, but they also are a great filler item for making your meals stretch further.

They are rich in potassium, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Chickpeas, soybeans, lentils, black beans, navy and kidney beans are just a few good ones. 

Rolled Oats

Rolled oats are a great source of fiber, zinc, iron and many other important nutrients. You can use them in a number of recipes, not just oatmeal cereal. They have a shelf life of around 2-3 years.  

Pasta Products

Dry pasta lasts for a long time, so it’s a great item to have stockpiled. There are also a number of different ways and dishes you can make with it. Pasta contains the carbohydrates for energy, as well as a few other key nutrients. 

White Rice

White rice has been processed to remove the husk, germ, and bran for longer shelf life. White rice can last on the shelf for up to 6 years, and is also a great ingredient to use to make your meals go further.

It also contains folic acids that are good for you. While many people enjoy the health benefits that come with brown rice, it only lasts for around 6 to 8 months. 

Canned Beans

Just like dried beans, canned beans are loaded with nutrients and protein that your body needs. Even though there’s a recommended expiration date on the can, these foods can last much longer if kept in a dark and cool place. 

Canned Veggies/Fruits

Canned fruits and vegetables are definitely a food source that you should stockpile. Not only do they stack and store well, but they also contain a wealth of nutrients.

Just like canned beans, if you put them in a cool, dry area, they’ll last much longer than the expiration date that is provided on the can. 

Canned Meat

If you’re a big meat-eater, you’ll want to make sure you have a healthy supply of canned meats during an emergency situation.

There are many options to choose from that are stuffed with protein and preservatives for extra energy for you many years from now. You can grab a few cans of chicken, beef, turkey, tuna, salmon, and many more of your favorite meats.  

Pickled Goods/Preserved foods

Pickled food that has been preserved in a jar has a much longer shelf life due to the vinegar, acids and other preserving agents. You can preserve your fruits, veggies, eggs, delicious jams, zesty and spicy salsas. It even tastes better than canned foods you pick up at the store.   

Honey

Honey is a great substitute for sugar and has an even longer shelf life than you do. Plus, it tastes so good on a number of foods, including your breakfast oatmeal, tea, or on a slice of bread. Try it with peanut butter, delicious.

Just remember to store it in quart mason jars so if it crystallizes you can set it in the sun to soften. A quart is easier to soften than a 5-gallon bucket of honey, just giving you the heads up.

Sugar/Salt

Sugar and salts are ingredients that are not only great for flavoring, but also for preserving your food. You probably don’t want to eat bland food anyway, so make sure you have a good supply of them. 

These are two items you never want to put oxygen absorbers in their storage containers. They will become bricks, literally.

Bouillon Cubes

Bouillon cubes come in a number of flavors, including beef, chicken, fish, vegetable, and turkey. They work great adding extra flavor to your meat and meals and can last for up to 2 years in a tightly sealed container. 

Dried Fruits/Veggies

Dried foods have been around longer than you may think. For several thousands of years, in fact. Dried fruit usually lasts for around a year, while dried veggies can last for several years.

The key is to make sure they are put in a tightly sealed container and not exposed to any moisture. The only downfall to dried out foods is that many of the nutrients are discarded.  

Popcorn

Let’s not forget about snacks that have a long shelf life. Popcorn is one that everyone loves and can also be stored for a long time. 

Jerky/Pemmican 

Jerky is meat that has been dried out, loaded with preservatives, while placed in a vacuum-sealed package for longer preservation. There’s a number of different animals that can be used for a tasty jerky.

Pemmican is what the Native Americans ate and is simply taking jerky one step further. It’s dried meat that has been combined with dried fruits. Jerky and pemmican are loaded with protein and a great method for still being able to eat meat.     

Nuts/Trail Mix

Nuts and trail mix are a salty snack that contains protein and many other nutrients for energy. They are a food group that should be a part of your diet every day, so stock up on a few of your favorites that have a long shelf code.  

Powdered Milk, Tea, and Coffee

If you’re looking for a great way to still get your calcium, powdered milk is a great option to turn to. It’s not only good to drink, but also for making desserts and other recipes.

Powdered tea and coffee might not be great sources of nutrients, but they can provide some much-needed normalcy. Tea and powdered milk can last for several years, while coffee usually lasts right around one year. If you keep ground coffee in the freezer it will last longer.

Final Word

These are several foods that you should have tucked away in your pantry. They last for long periods, and you never know when they will be vital for your family’s survival.

What other foods have you discovered to have a long shelf life that might not have made our list? These are food items that have a long shelf life, what’s on your list? May God bless this world, Linda

8 thoughts on “Foods That Have a Long Shelf Life

  • November 16, 2019 at 9:42 am
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    I would suggest storing honey in pint jars rather than quarts. I find it easier to handle pints when the honey crystalizes. I have kept it in quarts but the amount of time it takes to melt it down is much longer than pints. As a single person, I actually re-store my honey in half-pint jars! Of course, I don’t buy it in 5 gallon buckets either!

    I had some tea that went really stale on me a few years ago. I had repackaged the tea bags in vacuum sealed bags but when I opened a bag, the tea was pretty stale. Now I only store loose leaf herbal teas in quart jars with oxygen absorbers. It appeared to me that the vacuum sealed bags were not as impermeable as I thought. Now it is glass jars all the way!

    It is funny that people (well a lot of people) tend to think that the “best by” date is the expiration date. It takes some convincing to get them to realize that it is not expired necessarily but that manufacturers are required to put that date on the cans/boxes. I have had pasta on the shelf for years and it is just as good as it was the day I purchased it. The key is storage – constant, even temperature, dark space, free from pests (bugs and rodents).

    As for sugar with oxygen absorbers! I purchased some LTS from a well known company and when I opened my first can of sugar, I found an oxygen absorber and rock hard sugar! I finally used up that can but it took a lot of muscle to break it down into usable sugar! A suggestion for those who might purchase sugar in bulk – repackage it into jars or whatever container but DO NOT use oxygen absorbers OR vacuum seal!!! Vacuum sealing will result in nearly as hard a sugar as with the oxygen absorbers! Don’t ask me how I know!! LOL! And along with the sugar, keep a few jars of molasses so you can make your own brown sugar: 1 cup of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of molasses – mix well and use right away.

    Oh and we have all heard about how hard it is to cook really old dry beans?? Well, if you are not having success with that, make bean bags with a bit of cloth and needle/thread! Use with the kiddos for hopscotch, corn hole, and other games of that sort. Easy to make and uses what might otherwise be tossed out in the garbage. Also, when it comes to beans, purchase organic, non-gmo if at all possible – that way, you can grow them in your garden for new beans!

    I would not consider jerky as having a long shelf life. It would depend a great deal on how it is processed to begin with. When I make my own jerky, I try my best to get all the visible fat off the meat which helps with the meat not going rancid. I also keep it in vacuum sealed bags but I try to use it up within 6-8 months. After that, it tends to have a bit of an off taste – like it is getting old. Even if the meat is a bit off tasting, it is still good but just not as tasty!

    Reply
    • November 16, 2019 at 10:01 am
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      Hi Leanne, I like your idea of putting some honey in pint-size jars. I make jerky sometimes but because it doesn’t have preservatives I keep it in the frig and the freezer. The sugar story, oh my gosh! I always tell people there are two things you NEVER use oxygen absorbers, sugar or salt! Great comment! Linda

      Reply
  • November 16, 2019 at 10:45 am
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    Linda,

    When you visited your grandparent’s house growing up, you probably noticed a large supply of canned and dried food products that were stored away. That’s because they grew up during the depression, a time when they had struggles to provide enough food for their family.

    I agree except it was not the home of my grandparents; but, the home where I grew up. My parents and eventually my own mindset had a bit to do with their depression experience; but, part of the mindset and lifestyle was raising a family of 6 with only a single income. My mother was a normal homemaker for the time, which meant we had cereal for breakfast some days and eggs, French toast, or pancakes other days, all prepared from scratch. Lunch and dinner were also from scratch , with the possible exception of purchased luncheon meats or PB&J, Most of our meats were purchased in bulk, beef by the quarter and hogs by the half. Bread, buns, and occasional pastries came from the local bakery outlet, we kids called the ”Day Old Bread Store”
    We had a can pantry in the basement and most shopping was done from there.

    Maybe you have a good supply of pantry items, and that’s great. No one knows when hard times or an emergency might strike, so it’s good to have a backup plan with your food supply.

    Our pantry is divided loosely into 3 sections, immediate food like canned goods that may be opened and eaten, food requiring more preparation, like a freezer full of meat, vegetables and fruits, as items like Bear Creek soup mixes, and long term, like #10 cans of wheat, rice, beans, barley, apples, strawberries, etc.
    The long term storage will simply take more preparation time and in some cases may require extra steps, like sprouting or grinding.

    Dried Beans
    We have these by the bag and the #10 can; but, keep in mind that most require a long soaking step or a pressure cooker.

    >strong>Rolled Oats
    Also by the box (round cardboard) and the #10 can as well as whole oats that will just require more preparation.

    Pasta Products
    We have a lot of these, some in #10 cans and quite a lot in one of the freezers.
    Ground beef, tomato sauce and rotini combine to make an easy & great filling meal ”Johnny Marzetti”

    White Rice
    You can make many things from meals to deserts with this, and when combined with beans, it makes the perfect meal, containing all of the needed essential amino acids. Mix a few cups of cooked white rice with a scrambled raw egg and some brown sugar and butter or a little maple syrup and heat in a microwave until the egg congeals and you have a tasty, healthy desert.

    Canned Beans
    We like most beans; but, the Aldi’s canned baked beans are really good. We take 2 cans of them mixed with ¼ cup brown sugar and a few tablespoons of minced onion. Heat on full power in the microwave for about 8-10 minutes and you have a side dish, that’s great with hamburgers or other meats, or even a little left over rice.

    Just like dried beans, canned beans are loaded with nutrients and protein that your body needs. Even though there’s a recommended expiration date on the can, these foods can last much longer if kept in a dark and cool place.

    Just a nitpicky point. Unless the beans are in flass cans (jars) dark doesn’t really matter as much as dry, so the cans don’t rust.

    Canned Veggies/Fruits
    We actually prefer frozen vegetables except corn; but, some canned goods, like mandarin oranges are a really good healthy treat.

    Canned Meat
    We have a lot of beef & pork in the freezers; but, canned chicken, tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines take up little shelf space and are all healthy and good sources of protein.

    Pickled Goods/Preserved foods
    I love pickled foods and often mix them. My favorite concoction was a combination of beets and red cabbage that was to die for. Another thing you can do with pickled beets when the jar is partially empty is to drop in some hard boiled eggs and put the jar back in the fridge for a few days. The eggs come out really tasty.

    Honey

    Just remember to store it in quart mason jars so if it crystallizes you can set it in the sun to soften.

    Good point. I have some in quarts; but, most are in pints or half pints. I kept honeybees up until 2014 and had to stop due to some health issues in 2015; but, that honey I produced is fine, golden good with only a tiny bit of crystallization.
    You can use the sun or scoop out the honey and gently heat it in the microwave or a pan on the stove, although a double boiler configuration may be better.

    Sugar/Salt
    We purchase cane sugar in 10 pound bags and never have less than 40 pounds on hand. We also keep a gallon or more of real maple syrup on hand for sweetening.
    While you may want some iodized salt for the shaker, non-iodized is potentially better for some recipes, so keeping canning salt or kosher salt can fill that need. We always have at least 500 pounds of water softener salt on hand for the water softener; but, in a pinch, we can easily grind that up and use it.

    Bouillon Cubes
    Actually we prefer the granulated in the jar, and simply find it easier to use.

    Dried Fruits/Veggies

    The key is to make sure they are put in a tightly sealed container and not exposed to any moisture. The only downfall to dried out foods is that many of the nutrients are discarded.

    Freeze dried if you can afford it, or have a freeze dryer as we do.
    That preserves the nutrition, or so we are told.

    Popcorn
    You can make this healthy with an air popper or have it in an emergency over a campfire or fireplace with a popping basket available from Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and others for $15-20

    Jerky/Pemmican
    I prefer jerky to pemmican; but, another thing you can do to make your own if you have a dehydrator (or an oven) is the get a ”Jerky Gun” that lets you mix your favorite flavors into ground meat, extrude it and dehydrate it for a less chewy but sill tasty snack.

    Nuts/Trail Mix
    More dried fruits or GORP (Granola Oatmeal Rasins & Peanuts or Good On Rocky Places)

    Powdered Milk, Tea, and Coffee
    I’m not much for drinking powdered milk; but, it mixes well to make things like from scratch pancakes that only need oil and water.
    I don’t drink coffee and don’t like powdered tea; but, we use a lot of powdered Gatorade and always have a quart or two in the fridge.

    Final Word
    As always, store what you eat and eat what you store. This is a good list for keeping a deep pantry, since it doesn’t take an asteroid strike to cause a problem, just an illness, job loss, or weather condition like a blizzard, hurricane, etc.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2019 at 11:19 am
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      Hi Ohio Prepper, you know I always love your comments. Life is so good when you have a food storage stash! Great comment, Linda

      Reply
  • November 16, 2019 at 11:26 am
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    Linda, I have a question regarding the shelf life of oatmeal and pasta. Are those numbers for those products in their original packaging? Also how long would dry beans last?

    It never occurred to be that once could plant beans, so I am glad Leanne Long mentioned it. I would like to grow them myself along with rice, but I have never seen or read an article on how to do that. I am content to stockpile, but if it became necessary to grow something, it’s good to know how and be able to provide for one’s self and family.

    Regarding items going stale. I have noticed our granola bars often seem less than crunchy and the idea that Twinkies and such never go bad is a myth. Breakfast cereals and crackers go stale. From that I have learned over the years, vacuum sealing in bags or jars can help and sometimes just placing items into jars with oxygen absorbers can help. Of course this only applies to dry foods. You may have seen people repackage dry white rice in soda bottles. I wonder is that helpful or would that really help the rice to last a lot longer?

    I realize you might have the answers in your book, but I like to visit the site. My computer sent your last e-mails to the spam folder. I was wondering what happened…. I fixed it now. 🙂

    One last comment: If you ever organize a class to teach food storage, or even another book, I’d be interested in it. I’ve got other areas covered – or I know what to do, but food is the most important thing next to herbs and medicines.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2019 at 12:05 pm
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      Hi Frank, I’m so sorry my newsletters went to your spam. Darn! I had a glitch so I’m hoping it works now. Thanks for letting me know. Oatmeal is good for 2-3 years if unopened. 6-12 months if opened. Pasta is good for 1-2 years after “best” date and 8 years if professionally processed like Thrive Life. Thrive Life stated 2 years on the pasta if opened. The interesting thing about using a FoodSaver is that it will keep a lot of food longer on the shelf but not all. It comes down to the food item. I have heard people had crackers for 10 years. Hmmm, I used mine and after 2 years they tasted stale to me. It still has flour in it, so I would be cautious, just my 2 cents. Better safe than sorry, stay out of the ER. White rice will keep for 4-5 years in the bags they come from in the store. I just place the bags I buy in airtight containers. I have some commercially processed rice from Thrive Life that will last 30 years unopened and opened only 5 years. The key here is to buy long and short term items. I would love to learn how to do a question and answer video, just not sure how to do it on food storage or any emergency prep topic. I’ll keep you posted. Linda

      Reply
  • November 16, 2019 at 4:37 pm
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    I have all the listed items in my storage. I must say ground coffee lasts longer than 1-2 years. I just finished a can of coffee that was dated use by 2015. While I rotate my food stores, I guess I missed this one can, LOL. When I opened it, the smell was wonderful as per any freshly opened can of coffee. This week, I have been dealing with a case of pneumonia, which started out as allergies. The only thing I bought to treat the condition was orange juice. I have everything else I needed on hand. Home canned soups, broths, spices, herbs,honey,garlic and essential oils. My doctor was amazed at how well I am doing without the use of antibiotics at my age. (65). I am so thankful I have what I need .I try to stock up on the items I use when they go on sale. I will be going to Costco for more coffee next week. God has blessed me greatly. Thank you for all your posts ad research. You are greatly appreciated. God Bless.

    Reply
    • November 16, 2019 at 4:45 pm
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      Hi Judy, wow, I’m so sorry to hear you have pneumonia. You sound like me, I stock the very same things for colds and flu. That’s awesome about the coffee after 4 years, I love it! Get well, my friend. Linda

      Reply

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