“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.
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
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
According to the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, unopened maple syrup will keep indefinitely, but it must be refrigerated once opened.
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
Distilled 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
When 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”
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
Storing 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
When 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
Because 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)
Salt 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
Bouillon 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
Honey 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
White 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 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.
No 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
Vanilla 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 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.
Invented 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 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
Basically, 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!