If you’re trying to stock up your pantry, you might be wondering what the longest-lasting foods are. Stocking up with the foods that last the longest will get the most bang for your buck. So, what is the longest-lasting food?
The longest-lasting food is honey because it has an indefinite shelf life. Other long-lasting foods are beans, rice, and rolled oats which can last upwards of 30 years. There are a variety of fresh foods, including apples and potatoes, which can last several months. Liquor will never spoil, so it has an indefinite shelf life.
Check out the chart below for how long various popular prepper pantry items last, and how to best store them.
|Food||Max Shelf-Life||Ideal Storage Method||Ideal Storage Location|
|Dried beans||30 years||Airtight container||Cool, dry location|
|Rolled oats||30 years||No special treatment||Out of humidity|
|Pasta||8-30 years||Vacuum-seal in glass storage jars||Any location|
|White rice||30 years||Food grade storage containers or bags||40℉, dark, no oxygen|
|Legumes||10 years||Sealed package or airtight container||Cool, dry, and dark|
|Canned fruit & vegetables||6 years||Original container||Pantry|
|Canned or vacuum-sealed tuna||3-5 years past the printed “Best By” date||Original container||Pantry|
|Honey||Indefinite||Original or airtight container||Room temperature, out of direct sunlight|
|Bouillon||2 years||Original or airtight container||Pantry|
|Powdered milk||15 years||Airtight container w/oxygen absorbers||Cool, dry location|
|Cornstarch & baking soda||Indefinite||Original container||Cool, dark, moisture-free|
|Instant coffee, cocoa powder, tea||10 years||Original or airtight container||Cool, dry, dark|
|Dark chocolate||2 years||Original packaging||Room temperature|
|Dehydrated fruits & fruit slices||1+ year||Home canning jars, plastic freezer bags, or vacuum packaging||Cool, dry, dark|
|Beef jerky||1-2 years||Vacuum-sealed w/oxygen absorbers||Pantry|
|Liquor||Indefinite||Original bottle or airtight container||Any location|
|Peanut butter||2 years||Original or airtight container||Room temperature|
|Potatoes||1-2 months||Well-ventilated, light blocking container||Cool, dry, dark location away from onions|
|Onions||1-2 months||Paper bag or wire hanger||Well-ventilated space, away from potatoes, not in refrigerator|
|Peanuts||1-6 months (fridge) 1-2 years (freezer)||Airtight container||Keep away from onions or other smelly foods|
|Winter squash||2-4 months||Wrapped individually in paper||50℉, dark|
|Apples||Up to 6 months||Refrigerator crisping drawer||30-40℉, dark, humid|
|MREs||3.5 years (81℉) 3.5+ years (< 81℉)||Original packaging||Room temperature|
|Sugar||Indefinitely, but best if used within 18-24 months||Tightly closed container||Room temperature|
|All-Purpose Flour||Up to 1 year||In an air-tight container, or put the original package in a sealed plastic bag||Room temperature|
|Wheat Berries||10+ years||In an airtight container, such as a sealed 5-gallon bucket||Room temperature|
Foods can last for a long time in your pantry, provided you store them correctly. We have compiled a list of the 26 longest-lasting foods, and we also explore the best ways to preserve them for the longest possible amount of time.
This post includes affiliate links.
1. Dried Beans
Properly packaged dried beans can last up to 30 years. You will need to keep them in airtight containers that do not allow for the entrance of moisture. We recommend that you use mylar bags for storage to prevent oxygen absorption.
If you plan to use your beans in the first month after you have purchased them, you can store them in the original packaging. When you plan on keeping them for more than a month, you will need to store the beans in a mylar bag or a glass jar. Store beans in a cool, dark location, and they should last up to three years in this type of container.
Additionally, you can vacuum seal your storage bags to remove the oxygen from the bags. Vacuum-sealed bags of dried beans have a shelf life of five years or more. You can also put oxygen absorbers in the containers. Why? They contain iron, remove oxygen from their surroundings, and kill bugs.
2. Rolled Oats
If you store them like you store your beans, you can keep rolled oats for upwards of 30 years. Oats are relatively easy to keep as they initially need almost no special treatment to store for a long time. However, without any extra storage care, it’s best to use your oats within 12 – 24 months.
If you live in a humid area, you will need to protect your store oats from moisture. You can add a desiccant pack to your storage containers, including silica gel packets, calcium chloride in a cloth bag, and a small cloth bag filled with rice. Alternatively, you can store your oats in an airtight glass container that prevents the entrance of moisture.
Alternatively, you can store your oats in the freezer. This will kill off any bugs and prevent any moisture buildup. However, this can be a problem with finding enough storage space for all of your other foods that need to go into the freezer.
Adding oxygen absorbers is another excellent method for increasing the length of time your oats can be stored. These little packets absorb the oxygen from the air and kill the bugs that would infest your oats. Oxidation will not occur, so your oats will not lose any nutrients.
Most commercially packaged pasta has an 8-30-year shelf life. You can vacuum-seal your pasta in glass storage jars. You will want to avoid using bags as the pointed ends of the pasta can puncture the bags. This method can be a bit pricey with all the attachments you need to buy. However, if you plan to store a lot of food long term, vacuum sealers, jar attachments, and mason jars are a worthwhile investment.
You can also use a mylar bag with oxygen absorbers. However, this method works best with rounded pasta that cannot puncture the bag. Additionally, you can place the pasta in a glass storage container with oxygen absorbers.
Rice can be stored for up to 30 years but should be placed in food-grade storage containers or bags.
Storing rice in #10 cans is a solid choice because these cans are not easily damaged and maintain a seal very well. Additionally, they keep the light off the rice. Other options include mylar bags, mason jars, and food-grade buckets.
5. Legumes (Beyond Beans)
Legumes can have a shelf-life of 10+ years if stored in a sealed package or airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark location.
For the most part, you should follow the directions for storing beans to keep your lentils and peas as long as possible.
All canned fruits and vegetables come with a “Best By” date. However, the products are still good for some time after this date.
Canned food can have a shelf life of up to six years and can be stored in your cupboard.
It’s important to rotate your canned goods so that you use the oldest canned goods first. You can do this in a couple of ways. First, you can put new canned goods you just purchased in the back of your pantry and pull the older cans forward. Depending on your pantry set up, that can be a bit cumbersome, as you may need to pull all of the cans out of the pantry before putting new cans in.
Because of that, many preppers use a can rotating system, such as these on Amazon.
Tuna is one of the hardier fish, and it takes well to canning. It comes commercially packaged and labeled with the “Best By” date.
Do not keep your tuna more than 3 to 5 years past this date for best results.
Honey is probably one of the easiest things in your pantry for you to store. All you need to do is keep it in a tightly sealed container away from direct sunlight at room temperature.
We recommend that you store your honey in glass jars. Avoid using non-food plastic and metal containers because these can cause the honey to oxidize. Honey has an indefinite shelf life.
Bouillon cubes have a shelf life of two years. They need to be kept dry and well-sealed as moisture and oxygen are their natural enemies. This is a great option to have in your pantry as stock takes up so much more room.
If your dried milk is exposed to temperatures over 104℉, it will spoil in just 30 days. You can prolong its shelf life to 15+ years with the proper storage techniques.
It is important to note that non-fat dried milk will last longer than full-fat dried milk, so opt for the non-fat version if longevity is important.
To maximize the shelf life of your dried milk, store it in a cool, dry location. Store it in an airtight container and use oxygen absorbers. If you have mason jars, you can vacuum seal them instead of using oxygen absorbers. You will also want to use desiccants to control the moisture.
Cornstarch and baking soda don’t go bad. That said, they can lose efficiency if not stored properly. You will want to store both cornstarch and baking soda in their original containers. Keep them in locations that are cool, dark, and away from moisture.
Both are natural moisture absorbers and will be ruined if they come into contact with too much moisture.
Instant coffee can last up to ten years in storage in an unopened container. Once opened, it will remain safe to drink for the same amount of time, but it might go stale. This is because the coffee is freeze-dried, and all the moisture has been removed. However, if you live in a humid area, the coffee can absorb moisture and start to go bad.
Store cocoa powder in an airtight container or bag in a cool, dry, and dark location. It will last for years; however, it will start to lose potency after about 18 months.
Teas need to be stored away from light, moisture, and heat. Doing so will allow you to keep your teas for up to 6 to 12 months past the “Best By” date.
Dark chocolate keeps the longest out of all the varieties of chocolates. Dark chocolate needs to be stored at room temperature in its original wrapper. If it has been opened, it needs to be rewrapped tightly (or scarfed down immediately).
Dehydrated fruits are those that have been dried out. Most will keep for up to one year. Some, like dates and raisins, will keep longer if stored like dried beans but in cooler temperatures. Storage areas should be cool, dry, and dark.
Dried fruits are susceptible to moisture reabsorption and insect contamination, so they must be immediately and correctly stored. They should be stored in dry home canning jars, plastic freezer bags, or vacuum packaging.
Pro Tip: Pack dehydrated foods in single-serving amounts because air and moisture will lower the food quality each time you open the package.
Alternatively, you can dehydrate fruit yourself, and store it in mason jars. I like to vacuum seal dehydrated food that I store in mason jars. To do so, you can pick up a vacuum sealer on Amazon, such as this full size one, or this hand-held vacuum sealer. You will also need this Food Saver accessory kit to be able to vacuum seal food in mason jars.
Pro Tip: I personally recommend a Nesco stackable dehydrator. You can pick it up the dehydrator I use at Pleasant Hill Grain or if you prefer to shop at Amazon, you can get it here.
To store beef jerky long-term, you will want to vacuum seal it to keep the moisture in and the air out.
Add an oxygen absorber to maintain the consistency and freshness of the jerky. It will also prevent oxygen from ruining your jerky. Following these steps will allow you to preserve your jerky for over 12 months.
Liquor has an indefinite shelf life because the high alcohol content wards off bacterial activity.
Unopened bottles of booze are pretty much unchanging. The only exception is with some sweet liquors. Over the years, some of the sugar content crystallizes, leaving the liquor a little less sweet.
An unopened jar of peanut butter should be good for up to two years. However, the oil will separate over time, and the peanut butter may dry out. Additionally, the flavor may fade. PB is best stored at room temperature.
For longer term storage, you can buy peanut butter powder. I personally like a two-pronged approach. I buy enough peanut butter to meet our needs for a year, and then also store peanut butter powder in my long-term storage.
Potatoes can be stored for 2 to 5 weeks in a cool, dark, dry location like your pantry or a cupboard. Store potatoes in a well-ventilated container to allow any excess moisture to escape. The container should be covered to block light, which will keep the potatoes from sprouting.
Do not store potatoes next to onions. They each emit gasses that will cause the other to ripen more quickly, causing faster spoilage.
Of course, you can also purchase instant potato flakes for mashed potatoes, and can dehydrate potato slices, dices, and shreds.
Check out this article, How to Dehydrate Potatoes to see how easy it is to dehydrate them!
Onions have a storage time of one to two months. They should be kept in a well-ventilated space, like your countertop. They can be stored in a variety of containers, such as a paper bag or a wire hanger. Onions should not be stored in the refrigerator as the cold will eventually cause them to turn soft.
I also like to store dehydrated onion flakes, such as these that you can get on Amazon. You can also dehydrate onions yourself. Just be sure to dehydrate them outdoors or in your garage if you want to avoid having a house with a very strong onion smell. 🙂
Peanuts can be stored in the shell or out of the shell. Those left in the shell can be stored in the pantry for up to two months.
Keep peanuts away from onions and other foods that have odors as they will tend to absorb the smells. Additionally, it’s critical to store your peanuts in an airtight container to keep moisture out.
Shelled and unshelled peanuts can be kept in the refrigerator for up to six months and in the freezer for a year or more.
21. Winter Squash
Winter squash, including spaghetti, kabocha, butternut, and acorn (among others), has a shelf life of two to four months when stored correctly. It’s best to keep them at 50℉ in a dark location.
When packing them, it’s best not to let them touch each other or any hard surfaces. While they are stored, they will need to be culled and rotated. Remove any squash that starts developing spots.
If you place your apples in a fruit bowl at room temperature, they will only last around 5 to 7 days. Placing them in a humid location at 30-40℉, however, will keep them fresh for up to six months. Additionally, a dark storage spot is best.
If you only have a few apples to store, the crisper location of your fridge will work great because it keeps your apples fresh for the longest time possible.
MREs or Meals Ready to Eat were initially developed for soldiers. They have high-energy sources of food that last a long time. They are compact but carry 24-72 hours’ worth of nutrients. They are designed to be shelf-stable.
MREs have a required shelf life of 3.5 years if stored at 81℉. This shelf life can be prolonged when stored at typical room temperatures.
Sugar obviously isn’t needed for survival, but it can definitely make life a lot sweeter (pun intended!). Sugar is a great option for adding enjoyment to life in general, but especially in hard times, when it may seem you don’t have much to look forward to.
Sugar has an indefinite shelf life, but it’s best if you consume it within 18-24 months after purchasing. It’s generally fine to keep sugar in its original packaging, but especially if you want to avoid critters, it’s best to store it in mason jars or other airtight containers.
Sugar is one of the rare items that should not be vacuum sealed. If you use a vacuum seal or oxygen absorbers, sugar turns as hard as a rock.
25. All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose flour is so named for good reason. You can use it for everything from biscuits, pancakes, cakes, tortillas, pasta, and even bread. For that reason, it’s one of the main things I love to store in my prepper pantry.
All-purpose flour lasts for about a year when stored at room temperature. If you want to store it longer, store it in the refrigerator or freezer. It will last in the freezer for up to two years.
26. Wheat Berries
If you want to be able to store “flour” long term, buying wheat berries is a better option. The great news is, there are various types of wheat berries that can be used in different ways. For instance, if you plan to make bread or pizza dough with your wheat berries, hard red wheat is a good option. If you want to grind wheat for cakes and pastries, soft white wheat is a better option.
Just remember that if you buy wheat berries, you need a way to grind the wheat into flour. I recommend buying both the Wondermill Grain Mill and the Wonder Jr. Deluxe Hand Grain Mill, both from Pleasant Hill Grain.
Longest Lasting Food Recap
When stocking your pantry, you may want to find the longest-lasting foods so that you always have the staples on hand. There are many foods to choose from with shelf lives ranging from a few months to 30 years. Preserving your food in the right way will ensure that you get the longest possible shelf life.
Tools for Storing Food Long Term
Thanks so much for reading this article. Below are some of the items that I’ve found helpful when it comes to storing food long term. Please note that these are affiliate links, so if you purchase using the links, I’ll receive a small commission. But also know that these are the items I truly use and recommend.
Mason Jars are one of my favorite ways to store food long term. I use them for everything from grains to beans to dehydrated food and more. You can purchase mason jars here on Amazon, but since there are a lot of people selling knock offs on Amazon, I’ve recently switched to buying them from smaller sellers such as Lehman’s.
Grain Mills are essential if you plan to store wheat berries, or other grains to grind into flour. Get one here at Pleasant Hill Grain.
Vacuum Sealer with optional mason jar attachments is my favorite way to store food. I prefer full-size vacuum sealers such as this one on Amazon, but it’s also handy to have this handheld one on my kitchen counter. If you want to store your food in mason jars, be sure to pick up the mason jar accessory kit.
A food dehydrator is a great accessory if you want to dehydrate your own food. This is my personal favorite way to preserve food, since dehydrated food doesn’t take up much space and is easy to do. If I was only going to buy one dehydrator (I have 3!), I’d buy a Nesco, which you can get from Pleasant Hill Grain or Amazon.
Freezer containers are a great way to increase the length of time you can store foods, including foods that don’t need to be frozen such as flour. Check out this selection of freezer containers on Amazon.
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