15 Top Pantry Items with a Long Shelf Life
A well-stocked pantry can be a lifesaver when a last-minute grocery run isn’t possible. Start covering your bases with these 15 items — under proper storage, they'll keep their flavor and nutrition, allowing you to focus on other pressing needs.
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When stored in a cool, dry place inside an airtight container, white rice can keep indefinitely. Just watch for bugs or other contaminants (and if you find any, toss the whole container). Brown rice won't keep for as long, and will look oily and give off a rancid odor if spoiled.
Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins for energy, plant-based protein, fiber and minerals like iron, zinc and potassium. If stored in an air-tight container in a dry and cool place, they will last for years.
Like the foods previously listed, powdered milk will keep indefinitely under proper storage conditions (cool, dark and dry). Use it for desserts, baked goods and soups when you're in a pinch.
Low-Acid Canned Goods
Think carrots, corn, beans, potatoes, pumpkin and spinach (not tomatoes). These low-acid canned vegetables will last for 2 to 5 years, according to the USDA. Stock up on the commercial kind rather than home-canned, and discard any that have a bulging end, which most likely mean some unsavory organisms at work.
On the pricey side, jerky could be considered a special treat in your emergency stockpile. Unopened commercially processed jerky can last up to a year, and should be eaten within a few days of tearing into a bag.
When it comes to hoarding chocolate, go for dark — 70% or higher — cocoa. It will last a couple years unopened. Avoid milk and white, which have dairy products in them and will spoil quicker. Once you start rationing littles squares, eat within a year.
Peanut Butter Powder
The powdered form of peanut butter is an excellent source of calories and protein. Make small batches of PB by adding enough water to make a paste. An unopened container has double the shelf life — about 12 months — of regular peanut butter, which is 6 to 9 months for an unopened jar. Once opened, use it within 4 to 6 months.
Honey has a low moisture content, which makes it extremely uninhabitable for bacteria — unless moisture is introduced to it, it will pretty much last forever. If it crystallizes over time, you can eat it as is, or heat the glass jar gently in a pot of simmering water just until it becomes liquid again.
Vinegar's high acidity extends the shelf lives of canned and pickled foods, so it makes sense that it's basically self-preserving. Stored in a cool, dark place, it'll last forever.