What You May Not Know About Food Storage

What You May Not Know About Food Storage

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I’ve been thinking about discussing with my readers what you may not know about food storage. You may be aware of the many factors that go into an effective food storage plan, or maybe you’re not. Either way, someone may be able to use this information to helo them in their journey. You may think the items I’m talking about today have a long-term shelf-life. It’s just the opposite, these foods have a very short shelf-life.

It’s frustrating to me when people think if they add flour to a Mylar bag with some oxygen absorbers it will extend the shelf-life to 30 years. Here’s the deal, please don’t make food storage harder than it is. Even Thrive Life, a reputable commercial food storage company, states the shelf-life of their #10 cans of white flour is 5 years unopened and one year if opened.

Please be aware of the short-term food storage items I have listed below. There are many more I could write about, but let’s start with these. Keep in mind that these are suggested time frames, if you smell an unfamiliar, strange, or unique odor you don’t recognize as you open or use the product, please discard it. When in doubt, throw it out, let’s stay well.

What You May Not Know About Food Storage

About Food Storage

Oils

Oils actually have a very short shelf-life. I want you to think about where you buy your oil, the bright lights in the store and how long has it been sitting there on the shelf. Remember, we need to store our oils and most other food storage items in a dark, cool location whenever possible in an effort to extend the products’ self-life.

I follow the expiration dates on oil very closely. Have you ever tasted olive oil, or any other human consumable oil, that is rancid? I have. We had dinner a someone’s house and they made a vinegar and oil salad dressing. Well, it was rancid, I can’t even describe the flavor. Let’s just say, I had to push the vegetables around on the plate, I couldn’t eat the salad.

It definitely tastes stale and old, that’s the best way I can describe it. When in doubt, throw it out. Now, if you just bought the bottle, take it back to the store and ask for a refund. Here are my thoughts on the shelf-life of oils.

Olive Oil: most are 18-24 months

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: 12-18 months

Canola Oil: 12 months

Coconut OIl: up to two years

I quote MasterClass, “Virgin or extra-virgin coconut oil, also called unrefined coconut oil, is made from fresh coconut meat, or copra. It has a shelf life of up to five years.”

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Avocado Oil: It will last about 8 months after it’s been opened and then stored in your refrigerator. Yes, it will solidify, but the flavor and quality are still the same. Just bring it to room temperature before you use it, and then return it to the refrigerator.

Shortening: Unopened packages will be good for 8 months. Once opened, three months.

Canned Tuna

Mark and I don’t stock a lot of tuna because after about a year the canned tuna goes mushy. By mushy, I mean you can no longer distinguish the water from the tuna meat. That’s the only way I can describe it. You are better off buying canned chicken, canned roast beef, canned corn beef, or Spam. So, one year is my suggested target for using your canned tuna products.

Breakfast Cereals

If you see a lady in Walmart pushing a shopping cart overflowing with cold breakfast cereal, it may be me. Yes, people stare at me, they probably think I have 12 kids. No, it’s for Mark, and the grandkids if they stop by. I go twice a year and stock up on the large bags of cereal. Lots of bags. Then we transfer them into my Rubbermaid 8-quart commercial containers when we open a bag. The rest is stored on a shelf in the pantry.

Cereal has a very short shelf life. Cold breakfast cereal has a shelf-life of one year unopened. Once the bag or box is opened it changes to four to six months. These containers are Rubbermaid Commercial 8-Quart Containers that have lasted me at least 10 or more years, or whenever I first started buying them. I love them!

Mark has a system for his breakfast cereal use. He rotates what he eats every day. We don’t have seven different kinds of cereal stored, but he tracks that rotation. He seems pretty healthy, so maybe there’s something worthwhile to his approach.

Cereal

Mayonnaise and Miracle Whip

Mayonnaise: An open jar of mayo should be used within two months when stored in the refrigerator. Unopened 6-8 months.

Miracle Whip: An open jar stored in the refrigerator will last 1-2 months past the expiration date if stored properly in the refrigerator. Unopened in the pantry is good for only one week past the expiration date/best by date.

Ketchup: Because of the acidic nature of ketchup, it will keep unopened on your pantry shelf for about one year. If the ketchup is open and stored properly in your refrigerator it will be best if used within 3-6 months.

Mustard: 2-3 years unopened. If stored properly in the refrigerator when opened, plan on one year.

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Baking Mixes

Cake Mixes: Unopened or opened 6-12 months. You can use them for up to 2 years after the best by date, but they may not have the quality or the leavening you would want or expect.

Brownie Mixes: 12-18 months on the pantry shelf. To extend the shelf-life store them in the freezer.

Pancake Mixes: 6-12 months on your pantry shelf unopened. If opened, 1 month. It’s best to store in your freezer in an airtight container.

Nuts

Nuts contain a lot of oil, so they go rancid very quickly. Please place all nuts in airtight containers in your freezer. If nuts have gone bad, you will smell a distinct paint smell. They may smell rancid even before they get to the paint smell phase.

Crackers/Graham Crackers

Saltines: 9 months unopened and 2 weeks if opened. I worry when I see people putting them in mason jars and using their FoodSaver and opening them 5 years later.

Graham Crackers: 1-2 months once the packages are opened. If unopened, the shelf-life is 6-9 months, or the best if used by date.

Flour

White bread or all-purpose flour is good for 12-18 months. Be sure and check the best by date on the packages you purchase. I make bread, cinnamon rolls, bagels, and dinner rolls all the time, so I MUST have fresh flour, or the end result after baking will not be to my liking.

Brown Sugar

This is one thing I never buy from a store anymore, I make my brown sugar. In case you missed this post, How to Make Brown Sugar

But if you buy brown sugar, it lasts indefinitely, although it may go hard as a rock. Please try these jars, my brown sugar never goes hard. Airtight Glass Jars

Brown Sugar

Peanut Butter

Oh my gosh, have you ever opened a jar of peanut butter and can smell how rancid it is? It’s the nuts and the oil that make it go rancid so quickly. I had to start buying smaller jars of peanut butter.

Peanut Butter: I’m talking today about JIF or Skippy type peanut butter. It will last 6-24 months depending on the brand. Please check for the best by dates on the container. If the jars are opened they will last 2-3 months. If you want to extend the shelf life after opening, place the jar in the refrigerator and it will last 3-4 months.

Final Word

I hope you enjoyed my post today, what you may not know about food storage. My intent today was to show you some things we can’t stock safely for 5 years, or whatever extended period you are shooting for. If you have ketchup that is 5 years old, that’s your choice. I’m showing you the SAFE timelines for these short-term foods. Please stay out of the ER, it’s not worth the price of a jar of mayo. May God Bless this world, Linda

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30 Comments

  1. All of these foods that may not be “up to par” may well become harder to get soon. I am keeping some things that i will not eat, to provide food for animals.
    examples: rice is easily turned into dog or chicken food, by adding veggie scraps, and a little extra to,(maybe scratch grain,) for chickens. Add a little chicken or wild meats to rice, for dogs… Flour can be used to bake cornbread with corn/or cornmeal. and some of that oil or mayo..This can buy time until the grass is up and your chickens can run in their area or you can sprout fodder for them.

    1. I once ran out of mayo/salad dressing for potato salad when my much older sis was here. We live 7miles from the nearest gas station convenience store. She just went to my cupboard and frig. Grabbed some eggs, other stuff, my hand mixer, and Made mayonnaise. She said it needed refrigeration if we didn’t use it all. I could understand this as it had eggs in it. I’m not sure I’d want to chance mayo or salad dressing Not kept in the frig after opening.

      1. Wendy, when old mayo is baked in bread for animals, any bacteria would be destroyed in the baking process, they are animals they eat much worse stuff if allowed to free range. You are right, ..however,I did NOT address eating ..”less than pristine” food at all in my comment- just ways they can be USED for animal feed…
        YOU SHOULD be aware: flour/rice in other countries is sifted to remove bugs- that are hatched because they have nothing else.. rice is washed to remove larvae that have hatched.., same reason. It does not kill those, but they may get hatching larvae and worms… if foods not fully cooked.
        … Be careful what you throw away, you may be required to have “an air sandwich’ if you waste too many things..
        This is a very good reason to make sure WE buy things in appropriate sizes and rotate everything continually. i would not use(rancid mayo–your example.) it if left out of refrigerator and it’s temp went up… it does make fantastic bread for chickens or a supplement for dog feed. Have a good evening and do what you need to do for your family.

  2. Hi Linda! Another great post! Some of this I knew, some was news to me. Thank you so much. I appreciate all you do for us.

  3. I totally agree .This is why I keep stock and rotate through the short term food storage. Yeast also last longer if kept in the freezer .

  4. Thanks for all the helpful information. Could you please share what the best way to store flour long term please.

    1. Hi Jessica, unless you place your flour in the freezer it will only last 12-18 months. I buy 200 pounds of flour every year, I cannot store it in the freeze.r I must use it and I do. Unless you want to buy commercially processed flour for instance from Thrive Life (long-term is 5 years). I bake and I must have fresh white flour. My bread never fails, literally. Only store what you will use in a year or store whole wheat and get a grinder. I hope this helps. Linda

  5. I learned this lesson the hard way. There was a man in the town near we live that would go back east every year and buy pie filling at a fantastic price. Well for a while I did not make pies and a lot of the cans ended up rusting and we had to throw it out. Now he has a fit if I can get 1 or 2 free with a store coupon these days

    1. Hi Jackie, oh, that is sad. I love to buy one get one free! Or just FREE! I love having a few cans of pie filling. I’m so sorry to hear this, my friend!! Linda

    2. I too am sorry he feels this way but a person just can’t be throwing out food. That being said, I’ve had apple and cherry pie filling in cans for a long time. I wonder if the cans he got for so cheap were iffy to begin with? You just keep on with your coupon deals, especially if no problems with the cans.

      1. Wendy:

        The cans were too gone too use what was inside. They were probably long out of date. I am changing where I keep what I have in cans to a spare room in my house instead of the garage. Then I know they won’t go bad.

  6. Your husband, Mark, and my Tom are brothers from other mothers. Between his Raisin Bran, Rice Krispies and oatmeal he is good for breakfast and a bedtime snack…..and even dinner, if his stomach is acting up.
    The biggest shelf in my pantry is cereal. I am more a maple sugar and walnut granola girl.
    Stay safe and healthy everyone

  7. Love these tips! Most I knew but making notes in my binder including from others comments (chicken food). Thanks all!

  8. Hi Linda,

    I have to share this with you. Many, many years ago, when my sis-in-law was still living, we had a discussion about what food items needed to be refrigerated and which did not.

    She was from the south (Alabama) and insisted that she NEVER put her mayo in the fridge. She stated that is it was never introduced to the cold, it didn’t need it. Well, since then, I’ve never refridgerated my Mayo either. AND guess what, It keep just fine. However, My house is kept on the cool side so that may contribute to its well being.

    Keep well and stay safe.

    Suzanne

  9. I giggled at a memory of crackers that went stale on me. I had gone to a food distribution site where one of the items was a case of restaurant pkgs of crackers. Score! You know, the little 2 crackers/pkg. The best use by date was 6 mos away. It took my family almost a year to get to the bottom fourth of the box. Then, I noticed each and every pkg tasted blah. Eek, I had to actually buy a box of crackers. My giggle came from remembering me patiently opening each pkg, putting the crackers in a bucket for my chickens. The ‘girls’ didn’t care if they were stale, lol.
    Lately I’ve noticed that even the top name brand crackers don’t taste all that good. I have no clue why. Oh, and the wheat saltines? (I’m not talking about snack crackers.) They seem real stale even when fresh.
    I may end up making my own saltines, sigh. Pretty simple but a pain in behind, at least to me. My old cookbook from the 1940’s has the recipe. Yep, did this once…and until now, thanked Zesta every time I made soup.
    Weird but I’ve found the snack crackers last longer than a new box of saltines. Probably the preservatives used for the flavoring but I like the convenience of Not making my own. Wondering if any one else has noticed the flavor change of saltines?

    1. Hi Wendy, oh my gosh the small packages, I love them! I can almost visualize you opening all those packets!! Gosh, I haven’t bought Saltines in years, now I want to see if they taste stale. I didn’t know they made wheat ones, boy I’m out of the loop. LOL! Linda

      1. I accidentally bought the Zesta wheat crackers, lol. I was used to buying my Aldis store brand crackers which were great. Then Not. When I saw the name brand box, I just put it in my cart. Heck, I didn’t bother really looking at the box til I put some in my soup. Ugh. Thought I could eat them with cheese slices. Nope. They are Not the same taste as Wheat Thins, lol. So, I looked for regular Zesta saltines. None at Any of my grocery stores. Wtheck? I got a store brand kind of white saltines but haven’t opened yet. Maybe some people will love this kind of saltine but not me. I did notice another thing: the wheat crackers have a far shorter best use by date than did the white cracker box.
        A question for you: I remember you once saying you like the oyster crackers…have you noticed any flavor difference recently? I rarely buy these but would if it means I don’t have to make my own crackers.

        1. Hi Wendy, oh I love oyster crackers but I haven’t bought them for months. I will have to buy some and test them. I love Wheat Thins and Chicken n’ biscuit ones. I rarely buy crackers these days except when I make dips. Oh, wait, I buy Ritz crackers more than any other cracker. Linda

  10. Yes saltines in NW Florida seem to be rather bland & quickly lose their crunch this year. I’ve had better luck with the Crunchmaster brand of whole grain snack crackers.

    I also keep a few boxes of Matzah, both salted & unsalted for my butter, crackers & cheese cravings. Jewish hardtack lasts well past the best buy date & even opened in a very humid climate keeps several months. I just store the open box in a gallon Ziploc bag.

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