There are a number of tricks and tips to maximize the longevity of your food purchases. Processing and freezing many types of fresh fruit will keep them for months and make them handy for making smoothies and cooking, while canning vegetables and sauces is a great way to keep food stored past growing seasons. Even these foods have shelf lives that range from a few months to a year.
They say nothing lasts forever. And that’s mostly true. Unless, of course, you’re talking about these pantry staples which, when stored properly, can be kept indefinitely:
Topping the list, honey is the one food that truly does last forever. This natural sweetener is water-sucking, or hygroscopic, is acidic, and contains some natural hydrogen peroxide. These are all traits that keep it from spoiling, because it won’t host bacteria. This is why honey is sometimes used as an emergency antiseptic dressing. This sweet treat is so long-lasting that honey recovered from the tombs of Egyptian pharoahs has been tasted and found to be safe for consumption!
Pure honey that has been opened may crystallize or change colors, but that doesn’t mean that it has spoiled. If your honey has crystallized, you can place the open jar in warm water, stirring the honey until the crystals have dissolved.
Rice won’t truly last “forever,” but rice that has been stored in an airtight, dry container away from bugs, grain weevils, and other pests, can last for several years. Brown rice is the exception to the rule. Because of its high oil content, it will spoil much faster than other varieties, including white, arborio, jasmine, and basmati rices, according to Mother Nature Network.
To keep rice, either store it in a cool, dry area in its original packaging, or place it in an airtight container or in a heavy duty freezer bag, according to the site.
Dry Beans and Lentils
Dried beans are great bulk purchases because they are full of nutrients and inexpensive sources of protein. Like rice, dried beans can be stored for long periods of time when stored in airtight containers, in cool, dry places. If you freeze or refrigerate them, you will introduce moisture and the beans may lose flavor, but you can pre-soak and freeze beans for cooking convenience.
Rodale Organic News advises that you should soak the beans overnight, then boil them for 45 minutes to an hour, until they begin to soften. Once cooled, you can package the strained beans into freezer containers and they can be stored for a year or longer, ready for use in your next dish.
Instant coffee crystals, iced tea or lemonade, or even instant hot cocoa are all examples of instant drinks that, if kept sealed ,will last indefinitely. Once opened, these crystals will need to be kept away from moisture, either in an airtight container or in a heavy-duty zipper bag. These instant beverages are prone to clumping from humidity, so keep them in sealed containers away from moisture.
Wine and Liquor
Speaking of drinks, most types of distilled spirits, which include vodka, rum, tequila, and others, won’t spoil - even after they’ve been opened. Bottles of wine will last indefinitely as long as they remain unopened, but their flavor and color will change over time. You should store your spirits and wine in a cool, dark area, away from direct heat or sunlight, and keep bottles tightly closed when not in use to maximize freshness.
Like its counterpart, honey, sugar doesn’t have the characteristics to create an environment in which bacteria will thrive. Sugar is also hygroscopic, meaning that molds or bacteria will not thrive in the powdery sweetener, especially when kept in a sealed, airtight container. Sugar will become hard over time. But both white and brown sugar can be revived by being heated for 30 seconds in the microwave, or you can throw a slice of bread in your sugar container, which has been said to help soften it. Be sure to pull the bread out - because bread will spoil and introduce mold to the container.
Just like sugar, salt doesn’t have the characteristics that would encourage bacterial growth, meaning that you can keep your salt for a long time, as long as it’s stored properly. To avoid clumping in humid climates, you can add some crackers or uncooked rice to your storage container or salt shaker.
Cornstarch is another kitchen staple that tends to hang around for a long time. This sauce thickener will keep indefinitely when stored properly - tightly sealed in an airtight container, and stored in a cool, dry area of the kitchen, away from direct heat.
Pure maple syrup is not only a delicious topping for your favorite breakfast, but it can be used to enhance a number of savory meals, as well. This sweet staple can be kept indefinitely when frozen or sealed, and can be stored for months in the refrigerator once opened.
Prefer imitation maple syrup, or pancake syrup? The good news is that corn syrup, just like real maple syrup, can be stored indefinitely as well.
Distilled White Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar is a pantry staple that has uses far beyond the kitchen. It’s great for use as an all-natural cleaner and laundry additive, it can be used for beauty treatments and even gardening projects, and, of course, it’s an essential part of any salad dressing or marinade. Because of its diverse uses, it’s great to hear that this staple made the list of forever foods - it doesn’t spoil and can be kept indefinitely when stored in a sealed container. Be mindful of other types of vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar, which may go bad after several years.
Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in alcohol - so just as your distilled spirits will keep indefinitely, so will pure vanilla extract. It’s best for the flavor to keep the bottle sealed and storing it in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator. Note - imitation vanilla extract will not keep forever.