You never know when an emergency will leave you without access to food, so it’s always a good idea to stock up on non-perishables. According to foodsafety.gov, the trick to storing food is to make sure that you are cycling through it by using the products before their expiration date and replacing them. As you’ll see below, most foods like it best when there is an absence of oxygen and light, so your pantry needs to be a cool, dark, dry place. Here are some shelf-stable basics that can handle a long stay in the pantry.
This low-fat plant-based protein is inexpensive, filling, and healthy. Dried beans, lentils, peas, and other legumes can last up to a year when stored in an airtight container. Black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans, Great Northern beans, kidney beans, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, and split peas are all varieties of legumes that do well in dry storage. According to Utah State University, dried beans become harder as they age, resulting in longer rehydration and cooking times. But you don’t have to wait around for them to soak—an Instant Pot makes cooking dried beans a cinch.
Canned fruits such as tomatoes, grapefruit, pineapple, peaches, and pears can be stored in the cabinet for 12-18 months. The same goes for pickles and sauerkraut.
Low-acid canned food such as meat, poultry, and fish will keep two to five years in an unopened can that has been stored in a cool, clean, and dry place. You may be familiar with canned chicken and tuna, but you can also buy sardines, oysters, turkey, pork, sausage, and of course SPAM in a can. Vacuum-packed (aka retort) pouches only last about 18 months, but will come in handy if you don’t have a can-opener. Sick of tuna salad? Here are four other dishes that use canned tuna.
Canned potatoes, corn, carrots, spinach, beans, beets, and peas provide essential nutrients when fresh isn’t readily available. Stock up when canned veggies go on sale because they can last anywhere from two to five years in the pantry.
This protein-packed snack comes cured or uncured, dried, smoked or unsmoked, and air or oven-dried. Store-bought beef jerky will keep for a year when it is kept sealed in a dark pantry at room temperature. However, homemade jerky needs to be consumed promptly, as it only lasts 1-2 months.
Coffee & Tea
An unopened can of coffee can still be used for up to two years. The same is true for instant coffee, even though it is freeze-dried. (Speaking of instant coffee, have you tried our Whipped Dalgona Coffee yet?) Looseleaf tea and instant tea both last for a couple of years in an airtight container, whereas tea bags will be good for about 18 months.
We’re not saying you need to keep chocolate in the house, but the government suggests keeping comfort or “stress” foods stocked in your pantry in case of emergency. Dark chocolate lasts longer than milk or white chocolate. Apparently it will keep for up to two years in its original packaging, although we’re not sure how anyone was able to keep their paws off it for that long to test that theory. Unopened chocolate syrup is also good for a couple of years.
Peanut butter is only shelf-stable for six to nine months, so you’ll want to keep rotating out your backup PB. This protein would be lonely without it’ sugar-filled besties, jams and jellies! Unopened jars are good for a year. Once opened, they can be kept it in the fridge for six months.
You may think it’s safe to stock up on grains like barley, farro, quinoa, and amaranth, but they only last in the pantry for four to six months, according to the Whole Grains Council. Grits last a little longer at one year. Remember that heat, air, and moisture are the enemies of whole grains, so be sure to store them in airtight containers for best results.
Because of its relatively low cost, high calorie density, and long shelf life rice serves as a primary staple for more than half the world’s population. According to Reader’s Digest, “White, jasmine, wild, basmati, and Arborio rice have low oil content and therefore have an indefinite shelf life. Brown rice, however, is higher in oil, so it spoils much faster than its white counterparts.” Kept tightly covered, white rice can be stored for one to two years, while brown and wild varieties only last about six to 12 months. However Minute Rice doesn’t expire for four to five years, and if you seal your white rice in an oxygen-free container with oxygen absorbers and keep it at 40°F or below, it can be good for 10-30 years, according to Utah State University.
Rolled oats or steel-cut oats are handy to keep around for oatmeal, overnight oats, oatmeal cookies, granola, and granola bars. Rolled oats are heat treated, so they store quite well. If you plan on storing them for more than a year, transfer them into an airtight container. According to Utah State University, they will keep this way for up to eight years, however, they note that “Oats contain natural oils that may cause them to go rancid. They should smell clean, sweet, and grassy when you open the container. If they smell old, sour, and/or rancid, throw them out.”
Honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, and vanilla extract all have long shelf-lives. In fact, raw honey never spoils. It may crystallize, but you can always warm the opened jar in pan of hot water. Syrups can sit on the shelf for up to a year before pouring it over pancakes. Pure vanilla extract is just dried, cured vanilla beans soaked in booze, which preserves the beans. You would think it would never go bad as long as it’s stored in a dark container away from light, heat, and moisture, but its shelf-life is only two years, which goes down to one once it’s been opened.