Stocking up your pantry, refrigerator and freezer is vital during a shelter in place situation. Some foods keep better than others, and it is important to stock up on these items as they will likely be depleted first. In addition, their long shelf life allows you to make fewer trips to the grocery store, minimizing your exposure and risk.
Foods With an Indefinite Shelf Life
There are some foods that last for more than 15-20 years if stored properly, and these foods are good for keeping in your well-stocked pantry.
Dried beans–you can store dried beans almost indefinitely, although they will start to lose their moisture after the second year. Typically, they will last about 30 years.
Dehydrated fruits-as long as they are stored properly, dried fruits can last up to 20 years without needing replacement.
Potato flakes–instant mashed potatoes can last up to 30 years with proper storage.
Honey-If you store honey away from heat, it will last for up to 20 years without spoilage.
Dried corn–dried corn can last for up to 20 years if properly stored away from moisture.
Wines and liquors–Wine actually improves with age, making it a good pantry item. The wine can, however, go bad if there is a leak in the cork or if it is exposed to temperature extremes. Hard liquor, on the other hand, is virtually indestructible. You can keep vodka, rum, whiskey and scotch for up to 50 years in unopened bottles.
Salt and Sugar–Salt and sugar can last for years if kept dry. Moisture is definitely the enemy when it comes to these two shelf staples, so keep them away from floors, windows and other sources of moisture.
Foods With a Long Shelf Life
Grains like grits, quinoa, polenta, cornmeal and rye can last up to eight years in secure packaging. It helps to remove them from their store packaging and store them in airtight containers to preserve their life. In their original packages, they can last up to six years before you will need to replace them. You can buy an oxygen absorber that will increase their shelf life so you can get the full eight years of use from them.
Buckwheat, soft white wheat and millet can last up to 10 years in your pantry if stored properly. Hard grains are most vulnerable to rodent attacks, so it is important to make sure they are in airtight containers and stored in a place that makes it hard for vermin to access. If you seal them in an oxygen absorber, they can last up to 12 years.
The oats that you buy at the supermarket can last up to 24 months in their original packaging if you store them at room temperature. If there is no outside moisture and your oats are stored in a dry place, they will last up to five years. Again, the most important element here is the packaging and the storage.
Powdered Milk- Powdered milk can last up to 20 years and still maintain its nutritional value. Instant coffee and tea are excellent compliments to powdered milk and can last for decades if kept away from moisture.
White, wild and jasmine rice can last up to 20 years, while brown rice typically lasts about 10 years.
Foods With a Medium Shelf Life
Dry and Canned Goods
Dried pasta can keep for up to 1-2 years past the expiration date on the package. Fresh pasta, however, which is made from eggs, will only last for a few days in the refrigerator.
Typically, you can use canned vegetables for up to two years past the “best by” date on the package. Vegetables, fruits and tuna are canned using preservatives that will allow them to keep in a variety of temperatures. Stocking up on canned goods is a smart move when you are planning to shelter in place for long periods of time.
Peanut Butter–unopened peanut and other nut butters are typically shelf stable and can last up to a year past the “best by” date. Natural peanut butter typically lasts less time—only about 2-3 months unopened.
Because flour is so versatile in cooking and baking, it is often one of the first items to be depleted when people make supermarket runs in a crisis. Flour typically lasts for one year if kept dry.
Yukon, fingerling and red potatoes typically have a shelf life of about two to three weeks. Large white or Russet potatoes often last up to five weeks. Sweet potatoes can also last for 4-5 weeks. Experts recommend against storing potatoes and onions together as they can often accelerate the spoiling process when placed together.
Onions are used in a variety of recipes, and often go quickly when people are shopping for their pantries in a crisis. Because they can last up to two months, you can stock up on them. Keep them in a cool, dry place to ensure that they will last the maximum amount of time.
Apples can last up to five months if properly refrigerated. After about 2-3 months, however, they will start to go soft, so it’s best to use them as quickly as possible.
Packaging for long-term use
The best packaging for long-term food storage is in sealed cans. For dry goods like flour, sugar, rice and wheat, five-gallon plastic storage containers with airtight seals work best. Make sure your storage container protects the food from moisture, direct sunlight and vermin.
When it comes to stocking your pantry to sustain your household in a crisis, the most valuable foods are those that can last for years before you need to replace them. The good news is that some of the most shelf stable foods—flour, rice, sugar and beans—are the least expensive, so stocking up on them is cost effective as well. By stockpiling shelf-stable and long-lasting foods that are most likely to be sold out during a panic-buying frenzy, you can be assured that you will always have the food you need for your survival.