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Long Shelf Life Foods – What Lasts Best (with Chart)

Beat rising food costs by shopping now for long shelf life foods. These long lasting foods are ranked from those that last the longest – decades – to those that last for weeks.

text "Long Shelf Life Foods - What Lasts Best (with Chart)" at top with dry goods grocery shelves

We recommend that you keep a mix of long shelf life foods – dry goods, canned goods and other foodstuffs. If you can afford it, freeze dried food has a great shelf life and adds variety to meals.

See more info on freeze dried foods: 5 Best Freeze Dried Foods Companies.

Stock what you eat. Stockpiling a bit of food can save you money AND prepare you for an emergency!

In the list below includes storage tips, and we're working on a series of articles with more detailed information on storage and growing tips, including produce varieties that have a longer storage life.

Why Stockpile Food?

Manmade and natural disasters happen.  Whether it is supply chain failure, a flood, pandemic, blizzard, earthquake, hurricane or even war, something will happen that will require food and water when grocery stores are closed or you can’t get to them. 

Buying larger amounts of foods that have a longer shelf life gives you a food cushion for emergencies, or unexpected job loss.  Even a small amount of emergency food storage can make a difference. If you opt for shelf stable foods, they'll keep well even if there's a power outage.

It's great to have a little extra food on hand in case you are sick and can't go out shopping, or you need to feed unexpected guests. If you buy bulk foods when they are on sale, you can save money, too. The way inflation keeps increasing, foods that last a long time are a good investment.

How do you determine shelf life of food?

Food from a supermarket will have a expiration date. That expiration date is an indication of when the product might start to go bad or lose taste. Many food products can be safely eaten far after their expiration date.

Fresh food is a little trickier. Specific fruit and vegetable varieties last longer than others. For instance, hot onions typically last longer than sweet onions. Growing conditions and storage conditions also make a difference.

Experiment and pay attention to what keeps well for you.

Try the foods before you store them

Make sure you like the taste of what you plan to store. Try cooking with it, and try it in various dishes. Test out different kinds of foods before you buy 50 pounds of something you don't like. For instance, you might like black beans but not pinto beans.

Salt and sugar are easy to use, but foods like dried beans require a bit of skill to use well. Someone else might think the dried beans are good to eat, but you might not like them at all.

What are Dry Goods

Dry goods include foods like salt, sugar, grains like wheat berries, flour, rice and dried beans. They can generally can be stored at room temperature.

Historically, dry goods were critical food supplies that would be stored in bulk for months or years.

bulk dry goods - coffee, vinegar, rice,and sugar
Folks used to buy and store dry goods in burlap and barrels. Now we have Mylar and other airtight options for longer storage.

Best Way to Extend Shelf Life

  1. Cool place – keep the food in a cool place, some prefer freezing temperatures.
  2. Humidity
    • Dry Place – Low or no Moisture in the air for wheat, flour and other items. This is true for 99% of dry goods.
    • Moist Place – Fresh foods like apples, potatoes, carrots, and others require specific humidity levels to extend the amount of time it can be kept in storage. (See “Root Cellars 101“.)
  3. Dark – Sunlight adds heat and can bleach foods. For long term storage, keep all foods out of direct sunlight.
  4. Lower fat content improves shelf life. (Fats react with oxygen and go rancid.)
  5. Reduce oxygen. Oxygen causes oxidation which spoil foods, oxygen also carries smells which can penetrate salt, sugar and flour as examples. Use tightly sealed containers (with oxygen absorbers for longer storage) to reduce oxidation.

What foods have longest shelf life?

Unless otherwise noted, store these foods in cool, dry conditions, out of direct sunlight, in an airtight container. White flour and white rice last longer than whole wheat flour or brown rice because they have a lower fat content.

Foods & FoodstuffsShelf LifeNotes
SaltIndefinite Requires airtight container. No temperature control needed.
Storage: Dry, Sealed.
How to Store Salt Long Term
SugarIndefiniteRequires airtight container. No temperature control needed
Storage: Dry, Sealed.
RAW HoneyIndefinite Store in glass. No temperature control needed. Must be PURE RAW HONEY if anything is added, including water, it will limit shelf life
Storage: Dry, Sealed, no sunlight, preferably cool.
How to Store Honey Long Term
Maple SyrupIndefiniteStore in glass. No temperature control needed. Must be MAPLE SYRUP if anything is added, including water, it will limit shelf life. Many products labeled as maple syrup are NOT real pure maple syrup Aunt Jemima Maple Syrup is NOT pure maple syrup.
Maple Syrup – 6 Things You Need to Know
LiquorIndefiniteHard alcohol, wine* (*some wines improve with age, others do not)
Jello IndefiniteDry jello mix or unflavored gelatin will last indefinitely, but may develop off flavors over time .
Water Indefinite Water will store pretty much forever, but water can leach chemicals from the container, and will pick up chemicals from the air if not sealed. We recommend filtering ALL stored water for drinking using a Berkey Filter or ZeroWater filter.
Emergency Water Storage and Filtration – What You Need to Know Before Emergencies Hit
VinegarIndefiniteThis includes Apple Cider Vinegar
Baking SodaIndefinite
Frozen GheeIndefinite
Hard CandyIndefinite
Corn SyrupIndefinite
Popcorn Indefinite Whole kernel popcorn lasts for years, but packaged microwave popcorn only lasts 2-3months past the expiration date.
Table of Foods that Last Forever commonsensehome.com

Foods that last 25 to 30+ years

Mylar, glass, or other durable airtight containers maximize shelf life for dry goods. Oxygen absorbers and vacuum sealing also improve shelf life. See “Best Mylar Bags for Food Storage“.

Foods and FoodstuffsShelf Life Notes
White Rice25 to 30yrs5gal bucket = 16,400 calories or 8 days 1 person
Wild Rice 25 to 30yrs Not related to Asian rice.
Grains20 to 30yrs Flour, rolled oats, corn, buckwheat, or red/white winter wheat – cool dry place
Bulk Grain – Where to Get it, How to Store it
Dried Legumes20 to 30yrs Pinto Beans, Black Beans etc.
5gal bucket = 19,600 calories or 9 days 1 person
Waxed Cheese25yrs+Waxed hard cheese in cool storage. Flavor and texture changes over time.
Dehydrated fruit slices5yr to 30 yearsIf they are not fully dehydrated that don't last as long.
Freeze Dried Eggs15-30yrsVaries with fat content and manufacturer
Vanilla Extract15-25yrsStore in a glass container. Imitation Vanilla extract is only 2-4yrs.
4mo-1yr
#10 Can Instant Coffee
(freeze dried)
20yrs to 30yrsInstant coffee from a supermarket likely will only keep a few years as most store coffee isn't sealed well
Hard red, white winter wheat10yrs to 25yrsYou need a hand grinder/mill to use these. Practice baking with fresh ground grain before you buy bulk.
Bulk Grain – Where to Get it, How to Store it
Rolled oats, buckwheat 10yrs to 25yrsIf stored dry, in mylar and/or a 5gal bucket, with O2 absorbers, in steady cool temperature.
Dried corn (dent or flint corn)10yrs to 25yrsIf stored dry, in mylar and/or a 5gal bucket, with O2 absorbers, in steady cool temperature.
Hardtack30yrs to 50+yrsHard baked flour and salt, not tasty but lasts 50+ years
Soy Sauce5-25yrsVaries with contents, look for a simple ingredients list and glass jar
Freeze dried meals 15yrs to 35yrsValley Food Storage, Readywise, MREs, Mountain House, Augason Farms and Backpackers Pantry
8 Best Freeze Dried Foods (For Prepping & Long Term Storage)
Home Freeze Drying – Read this Before You Buy a Freeze Dryer

waxed cheese in cooler
The pros are set up for large scale storage, but you may be able to set up a small refrigerator for long term cool storage.

Foods that last 5 to 25 years 

Foods and Foodstuffs Shelf Life Notes
Raw Molasses up to 10 yearsMust NOT have other ingredients stored in glass jars or heavy sealed food grade buckets (not squeezable plastic)
Powdered Eggs5-10yrs
Dehydrated carrots5-20 yearsShelf life depends on the volume of moisture left in the carrots
White Flour3yr to 5yrsFreeze it the flour first, then package for long term storage in Mylar and a food grade bucket with oxygen absorbers
How to store flour long term
Ghee10yrs to 15yrsClarified butter. This can be canned at home. Indefinite in freezer
#10 can powdered Lowfat Milk7 to 20yrsShelf life depends on fat content
Powered sour cream5-10 years
Favorite Canned Goods1yr to 25 yrsVaries widely with the contents. Higher fat lower shelf life.
Freeze dried Bacon 1yr – 10yrsVaries. Longer storage life, has fat removed and is more like jerky.
Freeze Dried Fruit10 to 25yrsFreeze dried blueberries, apples, and other fruits will last much longer than just “dried” fruit

Foods that last a 2 to 5 Years

Foods and Foodstuffs Shelf Life Notes
Virgin Coconut Oilup to 5 yearsTastes like coconut
SpicesVariesAirtight container, out of sunlight in a cool dry place depending on the spice. Some spices don't react well to either oxygen absorbers or moisture absorbers.
Mustard Powder3-4yrsStored in mylar
Dark Chocolate 2-5yrsVaries with fat content of the dark chocolate
Cocoa Powder1-5yrsVaries with fat content of the cocoa
Dried Pasta / Macaroni2-4 years
Shell Beans2-3yrsNote note DRIED BEANS, these are the same but havent been dried.
What are Shell Beans? (Growing Tips, Usage, Storage)
Most Canned Soup and Chili3-5yrs
Canned Tuna, Chicken, Beef2-5yrsSupermarket canned. Note: #10 canned freeze dried tuna, chicken or beef shelf life is closer to 15 to 30 years.
Flavored Liquor6mo-2yrsFlavored liquor, or liquor mixes such as: Kahluha, Baileys, Bloody Mary Mix etc
Pemmican1-5yrsAmerican Indian long term food preparation. Shelf life depends on moisture and fat content + temperature.
Frozen Eggs10mo-3yrs Supermarket eggs only store 3-5 weeks. Unwashed eggs have a membrane that lets them keep longer up to 3mo. Mineral oil coated eggs store 6mo-1yr. Frozen eggs will last 10mo to 3 years
Jelly2yrs+Depends on sugar content and amount of fruit remaining. Full sugar recipes keep the longest.
Jam1yr+Depends on sugar content and amount of fruit remaining
Low sugar generally have shorter shelf life
Canned Fruit1-2yrsVaries with the fruit and how much sugar is used
Pickled veggies1-2yrsPickles whether from a store or canned at home will be safe to eat after they are no longer palatable
Peppercorns1-4yrsStore in Mylar or glass. Will need a pepper grinder to grind them into pepper.

Foods that last 1-2 years 

Foods and Foodstuffs Shelf Life Notes
Regular Beef Jerky up to 2yrsShelf life varies with moisture and fat content.
Bouillion Cubes up to 2yrsThe less fats and oils they have the longer they last. Do NOT use oxygen or moisture absorbers with them. Store cool and dry.
Canned Tomato Sauce, Salsa and other Tomato based products 1-2 years
Store vegetable oil1 year
Powdered Milk, whole 1 to 1.5yrs
Peanut Butter up to 2yrsif low fats/oils (check jar for details)
Dried Raisins/Cranberries/Cherries up to 2yrs (varies)Varies with moisture and sugar content
Freeze dried last much longer
Gatorade bottle1-3 years
Mineral Oil Coated Eggs6mo-1yrMineral oil coated eggs store 6mo-1yr.
Vitaminsvaries
Homegrown Garlic 4-12 monthsHow to Grow Garlic in the Garden – From Planting to Harvest
Pancake mix1yr in original container
Dry Yeast, and
baking powder
4mo to 2yrsVaries with storage. Fresh yeast will only last a few weeks. Lasts longer in a freezer. It loses 10-25% of its potency per year (in good storage) more in bad conditions.
Ground Pepper 4mo to ?Doesn't go bad, but loses flavor over time
Frozen Broccoli, corn off the cob9mo-18moThey last longer in the freezer vacuum sealed
Vacuum Sealed Frozen Meat9mo-18months
long shelf life foods
You can pack up most of your bulk storage in larger containers, but keep enough for daily use in containers that are easier to access.

Foods that last 3 to 9 Months

Foods and Foodstuffs Shelf LifeNotes
Hard Winter Squashup to 9 months+Some of our spaghetti squash last from one harvest to the next. We eat it and also cook and feed it to the chickens to supplement their feed.
When to Harvest Pumpkins and Winter Squash (and how to store them)
Peanut Butter2-9 monthsdepending on brand (ones with more oils go bad faster)
Long Storage Apples6-9 months Varieties such as Russets will last a few 3 to 6 months in a cool root cellar.
See
Dehydrating Apples for Easy Homemade Apple Chips
Preserve Apples for Year Round Use 17 Easy and Creative Ways
Long storage potatoes6-9 monthsSome good storage varieties include: Elba, Katahdin, Red Chieftain, Yukon Gold, Burbank Russet, German Butterball, Yukon Gem, Red Pontiac, All Blue, and Kennebec.
Brown Rice 6-9 months
Short storage potatoes weeks to 3 monthsThese are potatoes that tend to be softer and get spongy in storage
Breakfast Cereals
Block Cheese 2-4mo2 to 4 months stored in a refrigerator
Farm Fresh (unwashed) Eggsup to 3moSupermarket eggs only store 3-5 weeks. Unwashed eggs have a membrane that lets them keep longer up to 3mo. Mineral oil coated eggs store 6mo-1yr. Frozen eggs will last 10mo to 3 years
Granola Bars 3-6mo
Home Grown Carrots or Parsnips4-6moWe store ours in a root cellar or in the garden
The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Store (Perfect for Home Gardens)
Growing Carrots – From Planting to Harvest – Learn How to Grow Carrots
Microwave Popcorn bags2-3months past package expiration
Supermarket Garlic Cloves 3-6mo
Vanilla beans 6mo-1yr
Maple Flavored Syrup6mo-1yrArtificial flavoring will break down, as will the plastic bottle.  It will still be edible past the best by date.
Storage Onions4mo-9moYellow onions Stuttgarter Reisen and Yellow of Parma are our favorite storing onions. Hot onions tend to store better than sweet onions.
How to Store Onions
When to Harvest Onions
Growing Onions from Seed
Sausage 6mo-1yrvaries
Beer3mo-6movaries
Store packaged frozen meat4mo-12moHamburger, turkey, chicken, beef, other poultry, veal, pork, lamb etc

Long Shelf Life Fresh Foods that last a couple of weeks to 3 months

Foods and FoodstuffsShelf LifeNotes
Sweet Onions3weeks to 2moSweet (soft) onions last from weeks to a couple months at most
How to Store Onions so they last
When to Harvest Onions
Growing Onions from Seed
Minced jarred garlic 3w-3mo
Pears3day-10yr3-6days in fridge, some pears are “harder” and store much better
dried (dehydrated) pears 6-12mo, canned pears 18-24mo, freeze dried 10-25yrs
Dehydrating Pears (With Tips for Prep and Storage)
9 Ways to Preserve Pears, Plus Tips to Prevent Browning
Short Storage Apples1-2 weeksmight only last a couple weeks on the counter
Supermarket eggs3-5weeksSupermarket eggs only store 3-5 weeks. Unwashed eggs have a membrane that lets them keep longer up to 3mo. Mineral oil coated eggs store 6mo-1yr. Frozen eggs will last 10mo to 3 years
Regular Squash3weeks to 3monthsPie pumpkins, acorn squash, and other thin skinned varieties don't keep as well as others known for storage
StrawberriesVaries 3-7days fridge, 8-12months frozen, 4-12months dehydrated, 10-25years freeze dried.
How to Store Strawberries 12 Ways – Plus Tips to Keep Berries Fresh
Walnuts2-3mo2-3months refrigerated, 18-36 months frozen (flavor starts to go at 24mo)
Harvesting Walnuts – The Right Way to Pick & Store Walnuts for Freshness
Garden TomatoesUp to 4 weeksWhen hard frost threatens, we pick all tomatoes near full size and bring them inside in trays. They will ripen over the following weeks.
Pumpkin2-3moWhole fresh pumpkin stores 2-3mo, refrig 3-5mo some harder squash pumpkin varieties will keep longer, canned or processed last longer.
When to Harvest Pumpkins (and the Best Ways to Store Them)
Supermarket tomatoes1 week to 2 weeks at mostRemember they are a week to as much as month old before you buy them
Asparagus3days to 12mo3-5days fridge, 6mo-12mo freezer
25+ Healthy Asparagus Recipes Plus 4 Ways to Store Asparagus

Get 10% off at Country Life Foods

If you're thinking about stocking up, you can use coupon code “COMMONSENSE10” at Country Life Foods to take 10% off your order. Country Life Foods has a wide variety of bulk grains, beans, dried fruit, nuts, flour, meat substitutes, seeds, herbs and spices.

Printable Long Shelf Life Foods (PDF)

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6 Comments

  1. Not a comment as much as a question. Do you have a copy of the food storage chart available without pictures, ads etc. tried to see if could make a copy but too may little things obscure it to make it readable as desired. I could make a hand-written copy but takes time during this busy holiday season. Love the chart and hope you have or soon will have a simple one available for copy with only the important information on it! Thanks, Sharon K

  2. Does waxed cheese that has been refrigerated at the store have the same shelf life? I know that sometimes items that have been refrigerated must remain refrigerated.

    1. With all food storage devil is in the details. A simple hard cheese will store well waxed. Cheese that has lots of chemical additives will not likely store as well. Softer cheeses in wax will store less time. Waxing cheese has been a way to age (safely store it) for hundreds of years.

  3. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! Sorry. lol
    This is an awesome list of food storage Laurie and August. I wish it was in PDF format or even in Word so I can print it. I’ll figure it out. Thank you again. Bless you both.

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