Friday, January 8, 2010

Shelf Life: How Long Is This Stuff Supposed To Last?

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What is the shelf life of my food storage?

The answer to that partly depends on how you store it. Food needs to be kept in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Storing food correctly means storing it at 68 degrees or less. High temperatures for prolonged periods of time will destroy your food storage. So that means your garage is NOT a good place for your food! If it is your best food storage option, then you'll want to make sure that you rotate through your stock.

About the only foods that can withstand the heat of a hot garage is wheat, white sugar, and salt (wheat is good, but sugar doesn't make a perfect food!).

Below is a list of general guidelines of the shelf life of many foods. This is assuming that your food has never been opened. Once food is opened, take special care to repackage or store food so it will stay fresh and insect-free.

Wheat, Honey, Sugar
20+ years
These products will last almost indefinitely, if stored properly. The honey may harden, but it is still good (just warm it).

Vegetables and Fruit (dehydrated - nitrogen packed)
8 years
This includes banana chips, apple slices, dehydrated raisins, corn, onions, peppers, potatoes (flakes, slices, dices, hashbrowns), broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, tomato powder, vegetable stew mix, split peas, sweet peas,etc. Many people get nervous to open a #10 can (very large can that you can get in the bulk foods aisle at supermarkets or purchase at warehouse clubs like Sam's or Costco) of dehydrated fruits and veggies because they are afraid it will go bad before they can use it all. Once opened, you can repackage the food into zipper baggies for prolonged freshness, or vacuum seal the food in plastic bags or your extra canning jars.

Beans, Pastas and TVP (textured vegetable protein)
6-8 years
All beans and peas, macaroni, spaghetti and other pastas, and all TVP will last quite awhile if stored in #10 cans or vacuum sealed containers. If too old, beans will become very hard. So learn to eat those beans & keep them rotated!

White Flour and Most Grains
5+ years
White flour can go rancid after a few years, but if stored properly, it can last 5 more years. Storing whole wheat is a lot healthier and it lasts a lot longer! Included in this group are popcorn, quinoa, spelt, barley, millet, kamut, amaranth, buckwheat, and grain mixes--like 7 grain cracked cereal.

Dairy Products (or anything with dairy in it)
3-5 years
Dairy products include cheese powders, powdered milk, powdered eggs, sour cream powder, butter powder, margarine powder, shortening powder, etc. Also any mixes with dairy products in them--pancake, muffin, cookies, biscuits, bread and roll mixes, etc.

White Rice, Oats, Baking Powder, Baking Soda, Spices
3-4 years
Sometimes these items last longer than this. White rice may smell rancid after a couple years, but the rice is still good for 3-4 years and the rancid smell will go away once cooked. The shelf life of these items truly does depend on how it is packaged, the quality of the actual food, and the temperature at which it is stored.

Brown Rice, Yeast, Oil
1-2 years
Brown rice can go rancid really fat. It is suggested to keep it in zipper baggies or air tight containers in the freezer, or in vacuum sealed jars or bags. Yeast is also better stored in the freezer. Oil will actually last a long time if left unopened. Keep it in a cool, dark place. Do not put it in the cabinet next to the stove!

When all is said and done, remember, no one really wants to eat 20-year-old food, so always:

Store what you use and use what you store!

More helpful food storage, 72-hour kit, and stockpiling tips are on their on the lookout!


  1. Thanks! I've wondered about that stuff, but never taken the time to look it up.


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