20 Foods that Will Outlast You

C. Davis
By C. Davis February 21, 2015 15:25

20 Foods that Will Outlast You

“If the grocery shelves are empty, you are only nine meals away from anarchy” – Mike (Doomsday Preppers)

All the foods listed below should be stored in similar conditions. The four main enemies of (preserving) any foodstuff are:

Oxygen – causes food to oxidize
Sunlight – speeds up the spoiling process and can produce chemical reactions;
Temperature – speeds up the spoiling process;
Moisture – allows bacteria to grow

So remove as much oxygen as possible when storing a food item in an impermeable container. Store in a cool dark dry place.

1. Hardtack

Hardtack from 1862

Hardtack from 1862

Hardtacks contains Sodium, Potassium, Protein, Vitamin B6, Carbohydrates, Zinc, Calcium … I’m not going to write down the whole list because it contains a little bit of any Vitamins and Minerals.

Records show that ancient Egyptian and Roman sailors had their own version of hard tack.

But the Civil War is what most people remember it from, and it was that war that proved the extreme longevity of this hardy biscuit. Much of the initial supplies fed to Union and Confederate troops were leftovers from the Mexican-American War, and so much hard tack was made during the Civil War, that it wouldn’t be completely eaten until the Spanish American War; a whole 50 years later.


2. Dry Milk in nitrogen packed cans

dry milkPowdered milk is a good source of Calcium, Vitamin D, Protein and also contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Potassium.

If the dry milk purchased was not packaged for long term storage then it should be repackaged right away.

Powdered milk canned with nitrogen or carbon dioxide to replace air (which contains oxygen) will keep longer (decades) than powdered milk exposed to air. Vacuum canning or oxygen absorbers will also decrease the available oxygen.

After opening a package of dry milk, transfer the powder to a tightly covered glass or metal container (dry milk can pick up odors from plastic containers) and keep it in the refrigerator. Unsealed nonfat dry milk keeps for a few months; dry whole milk for a few weeks.


3.   Maple syrup

mapleAccording to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, unopened maple syrup will keep indefinitely, but it must be refrigerated once opened.

Opened maple syrup can grow mold at room temperature. Don’t worry – bring the syrup to a slight boil, skim the surface, and pour into a clean container and refrigerate. (Source)

A portion of ¼ cup of maple syrup contains 100% of the Daily Value of manganese (helps the immune and nerve systems). Pure maple syrup also contains 18% of the recommended daily value of Zinc. And of course lots of calories!


4.   Hard liquor

wiskeyDistilled spirits do not age (or mature) in the bottle. This means that your 20 year old, unopened bottle of 18 year Scotch will taste the same as it would have the first day it was bottled.

Alcohol contain only calories – considered “empty” calories because alcohol contains no beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.


5. Ramen Noodles

RamenWhen you buy a small plastic pack of ramen noodles, check out the print that indicates the expiration or best before date. This information only tells you that the food is best consumed on or before this date.

The truth might be that not even the Maruchan (producer) knows the exact expiration date. On their website you can find this: “We recommend that you refer to the “Best By” code on our packages and suggest that our products should be consumed in a timely manner. WHILE RAMEN NOODLES HAVE A VERY LONG SHELF LIFE, certain conditions over time may reduce the soup quality”

why is FEMA doing spotchecks around farms

Some even go as far as say that they last forever. For one, instant noodles undergo a dehydration process wherein moisture is removed from the food item to prevent growth of microorganisms. Second are the added preservatives. These are chemicals used to make any food item last for a long time.

For the familiar packaged and dehydrated noodles available at most U.S. supermarkets, a package of ramen noodles delivers around 380 calories; of these calories, 131 come from fat, another 223 come from carbohydrates and 31.6 come from protein.


6. Instant coffee, Tea, and Cocoa

coffe teaStoring these favorites will definitely keep up the morale. Instant coffee that is vacuum freeze dried will last forever if kept in a dry airtight container.


7. Baking Soda

baking sodaWhen left sealed will last indefinitely. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry area.

Besides Sodium (52%), baking soda contains almost no nutritional values.


8. Apple Cider Vinegar

VinegarBecause of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.

What is “Mother”? “Mother” of vinegar will naturally occur in vinegar products as the result of the vinegar bacteria itself. Mother is actually cellulose (a natural carbohydrate which is the fiber in foods like celery and lettuce) produced by the harmless vinegar bacteria. After opening, you may notice “mother” beginning to form. Vinegar containing “mother” is not harmful or spoiled. Just remove the substance by filtering and continue to enjoy the product. (source)


9. Salt

saltSalt is an essential mineral needed by the human body in order to function properly. Salt is here from the beginning of time, and will probably be still good to eat at the end of time.


10. Bouillon Cubes

mccormick-bouillon-cubes-chicken-174979Bouillon is a great prep. I like homemade stock for most things but bouillon is great to have on hand for when you run out or just to throw into soups or stews for a bit of extra flavor.

Because bouillon has large amounts of salt, it can last a long time.

The only problem for longer term storage is the fact that there are fats and oils in the cubes that can go rancid even with the salt. But vacuum sealing may allow it to outlast you. Rancidification does not occur without oxygen or humidity.

So, how long it stays good after the “best by” date depends on storage conditions only.

Also great to just heat some in water when you have a sore throat or stomach ache.


11. Raw Honey

Raw HoneyHoney is one food that never spoils! Although the look of your product will change somewhat over time, it will never actually spoil. It will begin to look yellow and cloudy instead of golden and clear and will get thicker and grainy over time, eventually looking white and hard. But, it is still good. In this form, the honey may have started the process of crystallizing.

To decrystallize honey, place the sealed jar in a warm, non-boiling pot of water and heat the honey. The crystals will dissolve as the honey heats. Do not add water to the honey. This will raise the moisture content and the honey will ferment.


12. Oxygen Free White Rice

riceWhite Rice lasts for 4-5 years but oxygen free white rice will lasts at least 30 years. Brown rice is a whole natural grain with only the hull removed, thus the fats between the remaining layers cause it to spoil more easily than white.

White rice has been found perfectly preserved in Egyptian tombs.

Rice will not store forever, especially brown rice which has more fats and oils than white rice (but is better for you). Brown rice may become oily and give off a rancid odor because of its essential fatty acids that go bad as they oxidize.

One thing to watch for is the presence of the rice weevil, a tiny reddish-brown bug.


13.  Soy Sauce

soy souceSoy sauce is made of soybeans, wheat, salt and water which are put through a process which brews, ferments, pasteruizes and stabliizes the end product.

Even after opening the bottle it is still good to eat for 2-3 years.


14. Sugar

sugarNo matter if white, brown or powdered, sugar it won’t spoil (sugar inhibits microbial growth) as long as it’s stored in an airtight recipient, away from humidity and sunlight.


15. Pure Vanilla Extract

VanillaVanilla extract has an alcohol base so it doesn’t really go bad. You should, however, know that the alcohol will slowly evaporate (when the bottle is open). As the years go by, the flavor of the vanilla extract might become more intense. That’s because there’s less alcohol in the liquid. All in all, if you’ve always kept the bottle of vanilla extract closed, it’ll last decades, so you can freely use that bottle of vanilla extract you’ve bought 20 years ago.


16. Corn syrup

corn syroup Corn Syrup is safe to eat for an indefinite period of time whether it has been opened or not.

When brushed onto baked ham, barbecued meats, baked vegetables or fresh fruit, it is an ideal glaze. In baked goods, corn syrup holds moisture and maintains freshness longer.

Corn Syrup contains only sugars – which means calories (71%). So 1 ounce of Corn Syrup has 79 calories.


17. Pemmican

pemmican 544Invented by the natives of North America, pemmican was used by Indian scouts as well as early western explorers. These people spent a great deal of time on the go and depended on having portable, high-energy, highly nutritious, and filling foods that would last for long periods of time.

Pemmican was light, compact, high in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and if done properly can last anywhere from a few years (decades) up to a lifetime without refrigeration!


18. Dry Beans

dried beansDried beans can last almost indefinitely in the absence of oxygen and light, but gradual moisture loss will affect taste and texture. Old beans may need longer soaking and cooking times.

Dry beans have the highest protein content of any seed crop. They contain all essential amino acids, fiber, starch, minerals and some vitamins.


19. Corn starch

cornstarchboxBasically, the only way cornstarch will go bad is if it gets wet.

You can thicken gravies and sauces for years with just one box of corn starch.

Corn starch contains mainly Carbohydrates (91%) and some proteins and iron. Only one tablespoon contains 30 calories.


Rumor has it… that Twinkies  may last for a lifetime despite their official shelf-life (of only a month). But this is NOT true. This has been tested a number of times. They go stale just like other bread products, and have mold after 5 weeks or so, and decay into a pile of mold after a few months. Plus I don’t think they are available anymore in the US (I think only in Canada).

Most canned goods can’t last for a decade. Have you ever opened a tuna can 5 years after expiration date? Not good!

So… What is the 20st Food that can last for over a decade, even half a century?

simple 2You may also like:

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C. Davis
By C. Davis February 21, 2015 15:25
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52 Comments

  1. vta February 27, 04:43

    I’ve opened canned soup after ten years. It was fine.

    Reply to this comment
    • C. Davis Author March 6, 04:21

      You might be right. I’ve opened a canned soup a year after the expiration date and it was fine. And I’ve just read on some forums … some people said it was fine even 5 years after the expiration date.

      But (except some personal experiences) I can find a trustworthy source to back up these claims. Otherwise I would have listed it as no. 20.

      Reply to this comment
    • BillH April 19, 01:01

      A critical issue is how acidic the contents are. Anything in tomato sauce will eat through the inner lining of the can in a few years. Other foods last much longer.

      My guidelines:
      1. Throw away anything in tomato sauce after its expiration date.
      2. Throw if there are any dents at all. They can create hairline fractures in the inner lining, leading to spoilage. I hold the can with one end in each hand and rotate it, feeling for any inconsistencies. Dents near the ends can be hard to see.
      3. Look at the ends of the can. They should be concave (very slightly curved in). The slightest bit of outward curve means botulism. The can is hazardous waste and can kill just by breathing the air released when you open it.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Tex March 1, 22:15

    So the 20th food is a stinking advertisement? PS. I will not buy anything from nor listen to one of those long-winded ads. They promise the world and deliver nothing.

    Reply to this comment
    • C. Davis Author March 6, 04:01

      No Tex, the 20th food its and “opened question” – meant to share some experience and thoughts. I would like to see how many “long-lasting” foods we can find (with a trustworthy source to back-up the claims).

      The advertising has nothing to do with this article. But keep in mind that I only allow a few products on my website. And most of them… I tried myself. For example (this one) last summer I built my first aquaponic system. This spring I’ll probably build a larger one.

      Reply to this comment
  3. bluwaterkayaker March 2, 00:16

    how about ghee – the clarified butter?

    Reply to this comment
  4. bluwaterkayaker March 2, 00:51

    dried beans – like rice – can become contaminated by bugs. I recommend vacuum packing.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Eveready May 7, 20:12

    Rice, Beans & Pasta are all good and easy to store for the long run. What types of foods store well and are low carbs for folks with Diabetes who can’t eat rice, beans etc?

    Reply to this comment
    • Mothermouze May 5, 09:33

      1/2 cup of rice, beans and pasta = 5 to 10 carbs ( as a rule). Guess it depends on how heaping your measurement cup is. Most people can have 30 carbs per meal, or even 40 carbs. Don’t know about children.

      Reply to this comment
  6. KessyEileen04 September 2, 13:44

    What about all those places that advertise foods that last for 30 years? Or are we not talking about those?

    What about dried pastas?

    Reply to this comment
    • BillH June 22, 20:53

      The foods that are advertised as lasting for 30 years are (1) some of the above commercially sealed in cans or buckets without oxygen and (2) freeze-dried foods. Nearly any food can be freeze-dried, but it costs more than the “naturally long-life” foods detailed in the article above.

      Reply to this comment
    • BillH June 22, 20:54

      Pasta last some years, but will not outlast you, unless you die early.

      Reply to this comment
  7. alberta jeff December 10, 07:20

    (Shelled) Raw sunflower seeds last a long, long time, and are nice because they can be eaten without any prep if necessary, are high in protein, and healthy fats.

    Reply to this comment
  8. K January 28, 17:52

    Wheat Berries, sealed in oxygen free container.

    Reply to this comment
  9. redcoffee February 2, 02:36

    About #8 Apple Cider Vinegar: “Just remove the substance (Mother) by filtering…” To remove/filter out the Mother is absolute sacrilege! Please do some research on raw apple cider vinegar (check out Braggs). Just shake the bottle to blend and use it.

    Reply to this comment
    • ma May 5, 00:59

      You are absolutely correct. The “mother” is where the nutrition lies. If you don’t have the “mother” the apple cider vinegar is pretty much useless.

      Reply to this comment
    • Tifferscy May 15, 14:39

      Yup I keep Braggs also I have used it for many things and with the mother is the best it has helped aching teeth, it can help with lice if caught quick..there was a wart on my sons foot put some of that on a bandaid every night for a week and it turned it black and then was just gone LOVE this stuff!

      Reply to this comment
  10. Kat May 12, 14:26

    The 20th food is potatoes.

    Reply to this comment
  11. pep prep May 13, 06:01

    Can some one tell me how to store milk powder?Is it possible to buy ‘nitrogen?. In what form does it come? And how do you handle it? I would like to put it in a glas jar.( the milk i mean) Please help me !!!!

    Reply to this comment
    • BillH January 24, 05:06

      Nitrogen is the largest constituent of normal air. Packing in nitrogen is usually accomplished by removing oxygen rather than flushing with nitrogen. The usual prepper approach is to add oxygen absorbers and seal absolutely air tight to keep out both oxygen and water vapor. Sealing absolutely air tight means using a Mylar bag within a plastic bucket and heat sealing the Mylar bag.

      This process works reliably for grains and similar items which have air spaces throughout. It can fail for compact items like powdered milk and flour., as the oxygen in the center may not get removed. For milk powder, I would recommend either purchasing commercial product intended for long-term storage, or stock rotation of simple untreated boxes..

      Reply to this comment
      • Chuckem March 6, 17:16

        Dry Ice will also displace oxygen and is sold by my local grocery. BillH is right. I place a 3-finger size piece in the bottom of a blanket storage zip-lock bag (Lowes) then a 50 lb. bag of wheat/corn/rice/beans from a farm feed store. I close the zip-lock almost completely until the dry ice evaporates, completely purging the oxygen with CO2, then I close the zip-lock completely. Place it all in a large plastic storage box for physical protection. Very cost effective. But now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I simply buy Auguson/Walmart 30-year buckets delivered to my home.

        Reply to this comment
  12. Tifferscy May 15, 14:35

    LOL I love this list ty!!! the ending I got a laugh out of the canned soup ….I had a few different cambell’s soups chicken n noodle etc…after about a year or so they molded in the can…the tomato soup has lasted over 2 years so far…and in the US twinkies can be bought again I tried to keep twinkies to see how long they really would last mine never molded etc. but it turned out to be harder them a brick after a few months and it was not coming back even tried to soak water into it hahaha they might be good for weapons if stored right!

    Reply to this comment
  13. TreedOK September 1, 14:57

    Mustard lasts forever. Food for flavoring things.

    Reply to this comment
  14. newbie October 15, 03:10

    How about whole spices not the ground stuff

    Reply to this comment
  15. Lucy November 25, 20:13

    I suspect we can extend the storage life of almost everything on this list (except for the ones that last forever, like honey!) by storing it in a dry cool storage area. An example: I had a whole lot of seeds in packets, partially used, when we moved. I put the opened packets of the same kind of seeds (like beets, for example) in plastic zip-lock bags with little desiccant packages, the kind that come in vitamins. I put the baggies in a plastic box (not air tight), and kept them in my root cellar. For years, while I built our house. Finally, in 2005, I got to have a garden again. I fished out those ancient seeds (from 1994 and 1995), and thought, Why not try them? The smallest seeds had really poor germination, as expected. The larger seeds, like corn, beets, beans, had almost 100% germination! All but two of the fava beans grew. I couldn’t give them all away.

    I wouldn’t recommend this, but it explains to me how really effective keeping things cold can be!

    Reply to this comment
  16. BobCanuk February 1, 16:59

    #20 Diatomocues Earth..or DE…Food Grade for human consumption…….to many benefits to list,
    google it…. definitely included in my list….

    Reply to this comment
    • BobCanuk March 20, 17:37

      #20 Diatomocues Earth..or DE…Food Grade for human consumption…….to many benefits to list,
      google it…. definitely included in my list…
      Just a quick follow up …also use DE to mix in with rice beans cereals & grains etc ..will solve the problems of possible infestation from weavils insects etc

      Reply to this comment
  17. Beaver February 8, 17:12

    This is one of the most helpful sites I’ve had the pleasure of reading in a while…
    Thanks everyone !

    Reply to this comment
  18. Brightsea February 24, 01:50

    If you look up the Steamboat Bertrand, you will find that some of the 100 year old canned goods that were retrieved when the wreck was found were still perfectly safe to eat. Although Vitamins C and A had been “significantly reduced”, protein and calcium values had not.

    Reply to this comment
  19. V March 17, 16:00

    My basement has moisture in it …. but I have high shelves (away from any water on the floor) if I packaged my items in buckets with mylar bags and oxygen absorbers would this be a safe place to store my items … the only other option is the attic which gets wayyyy too hot

    Reply to this comment
  20. roro March 18, 00:20

    tho not actually a food i would say nitrogen all these foode listed as going rancid need to be packed in gas form nitrogen —– put yor dry product in a seal-able (air tight is best) and run a tube to the bottom of container fill container with dry goods .. have other end of tube connected to your nitrogen regulator on your nitrogen bottle open valve (you can nearly seal container if using plastic or Mylar bags as nitrogen displaces o2 it removes the need o2 for bugs and bacteria (such as mold) to grow……

    Reply to this comment
  21. Priscilla April 23, 07:04

    Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always exciting to read through articles from other writers and use a little something
    from other web sites.

    Reply to this comment
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