12 Pantry Items That Will Last Nearly Forever

12 Pantry Items That Will Last Nearly Forever

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Kelli Foster
Dec 1, 2014
(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

Whether you're preparing for a major pantry clean-out or you're about to load up on essentials for holiday baking and entertaining, there are quite a few items where an expiration date doesn't apply.

When stored properly — in an airtight container, kept in a cool, dry place — there are a number of pantry staples that can last just about forever.

We're not talking until the end of time forever, although some of these staples just may hold up that long. Rather, when stored properly, these items can last years tucked away in the pantry.

The Simplest Reason Why Food Goes Bad

There are a number of reasons why food goes bad, but one of the main causes is bacteria growth. The main culprit for bacteria growth in food is moisture — when moisture is present, it creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

These foods either aren't very susceptible to moisture and bacteria growth, or actively discourage bacteria (as in the case of alcohol). Others of these depend quite a bit on proper storage.

12 Foods That Can Last Nearly Forever

A common theme in extending the shelf life of these foods is storing them in a sealed container in a cool, dry place.

  1. Salt: Salt is a preservative, and when stored in a cool, dry place, it will last a really long time.
  2. Rice: While the shelf life of brown rice holds at about twelve months, white rice — including jasmine, basmati, and arborio varieties — will last indefinitely when stored properly.
  3. Honey: Because this natural sweetener has a low water content, it can last for years when stored in a sealed container and kept in a cool, dry spot. Even if it crystalizes or the color changes slightly, don't throw it out — it's still perfectly safe to eat.
  4. Sugar: Sugar is another sweetener with no expiration. This includes all varieties — white, brown, and powdered. Be sure to store it in an airtight container to prevent moisture from dampening the sugar.
  5. Vinegar: While all varieties of vinegar won't last indefinitely, distilled white vinegar will last forever.
  6. Pure vanilla extract: Pure vanilla costs a good deal more than its imitation counterpart, and for good reason. Not only is there a huge difference in taste, but pure vanilla also lasts a lot longer.
  7. Dried beans: Store dried beans in a dark, dry place and they will last indefinitely. One thing to keep in mind, though, is that older beans may require longer soaking and cooking times.
  8. Cornstarch: Cornstarch is a go-to thickener for pudding, sauce, and gravy. Most recipes use only a couple tablespoons, yet cornstarch is usually sold in large packages, but don't worry — this is totally okay since it doesn't have an expiration date. Just remember to keep the lid completely sealed and store it in a cool, dark place.
  9. Maple syrup: As long as it's unopened, pure maple syrup will last forever.
  10. Powdered milk: While it's not as refreshing as the fresh stuff when it comes to drinking, powdered milk is quite useful for cooking and baking. Store it in a sealed container in a cool, dark place, and it will have an indefinite shelf life.
  11. Canned food: Canning is one of the best methods of food preservation. Once something is canned, it will last for years.
  12. Alcohol: Even if it's been opened, distilled liquor — like vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, and tequila — will last forever.
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