32 Long Shelf Life Foods to Keep In Your Pantry

Long shelf life foods are pantry staples. Keep these on hand for years (or even decades!).

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You’ll want to keep these staples in your pantry.

Don’t you just hate reaching into the cupboard and realizing that box of cake mix has expired or your favourite snack is past its prime? Certain pantry items just don’t seem to last as long as we’d like. However, there are plenty of long shelf life foods perfect for filling your cupboards. Foods like these are great to have on hand for everyday cooking, of course, but also times when you just can’t get out of the house (like when a global pandemic occurs!).

Many foods with long shelf lives are the basics—think rice, grains and salt—but others can last for a long time because they’re dried or canned. These techniques can extend the usefulness of all kinds of foods.

Here are some pantry must-haves that can last you ages—if stored properly.

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1. Bouillon

How long it lasts: Two years.

How to store bouillon cubes: Keep them in a dark pantry.

If you don’t have room to store containers upon containers of broth, grab a container of bouillon. This broth starter can be dissolved in water to start your favourite soup or added to sauces to add flavour.

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2. Canned Fruits, Vegetables and Beans

How long they last: Up to six years.

How to store canned goods: Keep canned goods in your cupboard.

Canned goods can last for some time after their best-by dates; however, they will taste best before their expiration date.

If a can is dented or bulging, don’t eat what’s inside. Cans that aren’t in great shape can indicate that what’s inside isn’t preserved properly—so for your safety, it’s best to avoid them.

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3. Corn Starch

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store corn starch: Keep in its original container, stored in a cool, dark place away from moisture. Cornstarch will begin dissolving as soon as it comes in contact with water. But as long as it’s kept dry, cornstarch can last indefinitely.

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4. Dark Chocolate

How long it lasts: Two years.

How to store dark chocolate: Keep dark chocolate at room temperature and stored in its original packaging or wrapped tightly once opened.

Of all the varieties of chocolate, dark chocolate keeps the longest. If you’re a fan of milk or white chocolate, eat those within a year.

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5. Dried Beans, Lentils and Legumes

How long they last: Forever.

How to store dried beans: Keep dried beans and lentils in sealed containers in your pantry.

As time goes on, dried legumes can become even drier, so if you’re cooking them up after their initial best-by date, they might take a little longer. If you use an Instant Pot to cook your dried beans, this shouldn’t take much extra time at all.

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6. Dried Fruits (Raisins, Dried Cranberries and More)

How long they last: A year or more.

How to store dried fruits: Keep them in their sealed packages or transfer to tightly sealed containers. You can extend their shelf life by six months popping them in the freezer.

Dried fruits are always good to keep on hand for snacking and baking.

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7. Dried Pasta

How long it lasts: Up to three years.

How to store dried pasta: Keep dried pasta in an airtight container.

If you buy pasta in a sealed, plastic bag, you can store it as-is in the pantry. Pasta that comes in a cardboard box or pasta that you’ve opened should be transferred to a sealed container so it lasts as long as possible.

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Plate with mixed quinoa seeds on dark background

8. Grains

How long they last: Up to eight years.

How to store grains: Keep them in a sealed container in the pantry.

When it comes to grains like quinoa, barley, rye, flax, millet and grits, buying in bulk is a worthwhile investment. You can keep all of these grains stored in airtight containers for best results.

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9. Instant Coffee

How long it lasts: Up to 25 years in the pantry, longer in the freezer.

How to store instant coffee: Keep instant coffee dry. Store it in its original container or transfer into an airtight container.

While many of us may be devotees to our favourite coffee shops (or even just our coffee makers), instant coffee is always good to have on hand for an emergency caffeine fix. And with a long shelf life, you can stock up on some of our favourite instant coffee brands and have them to enjoy for ages to come.

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10. Jams and Jellies

How long they last: Two years if unopened; once opened, six months.

How to store jam and jelly: Store unopened jams and jellies in the pantry. Once you’ve popped a jar open, keep it in the fridge.

Jams and jellies are perfect for getting great fruit flavours, even during the off-season.

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11. Jerky

How long it lasts: Up to two years.

How to store jerky: Keep it sealed in a dark pantry.

Unopened, store-bought beef jerky lasts a long time, so feel free to buy a bit extra of this protein-packed snack. Homemade jerky is a different story, though. That should be eaten within a few weeks.

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12. Liquor

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store hard liquor: Store hard liquors at room temperature. Few liquors, like vermouth and Irish cream, should be stored in the fridge after opening.

The high alcohol content of hard liquors helps ward off bacterial growth. That’s why they can last a lifetime or more. It’s not necessary to keep them in the freezer to extend their shelf life (though it helps if you like a chilled martini!). Stock your home bar with rum, whiskey, tequila, vodka, gin and other similar liquors, and you’ll always be prepared for an impromptu get-together.

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bottles of maple syrup in leaf-shaped bottles
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13. Maple Syrup

How long it lasts: Forever if unopened; up to a year once you open the bottle.

How to store maple syrup: Store unopened bottles of syrup in the cupboard. Opened bottles should be kept in the fridge.

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14. Molasses

How long it lasts: Up to 10 years if unopened, up to five once opened.

How to store molasses: You can keep your molasses in the pantry with the rest of your baking supplies. Make sure the cap is on tight.

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15. Oats

How long they last: Up to two years.

How to store oats: If you plan on keeping your oats long-term (for more than a year), you’ll want to transfer them out of their cardboard container and into an airtight container.

Oats are a fantastic staple to keep in stock at home for homemade oatmeal, oatmeal cookies and granola.

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16. Oils

How long do they last: Up to two years.

How to store cooking oils: Keep them in the pantry and out of direct sunlight and heat.

Left unopened, many cooking oils can keep in the pantry for a few years. Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil and vegetable oil all will keep well when stored in a dark place. Once you open these oils, be sure to use them within a few months.

If you prefer cooking oil in spray form, you’ve got two years to use it.

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17. Packaged Tuna

How long it lasts: Up to five years.

How to store canned tuna: Keep it in the pantry or cupboard.

Tuna is a love-it or leave-it sort of food, but tuna fans can take solace that they can store tuna in the cupboard for up to five years. The sealed packets of tuna can last for three. (Try this healthy tuna salad recipe!)

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18. Pickles and Pickled Vegetables

How long they last: Four years if unopened, one year opened and refrigerated.

How to store pickles: Unopened jars of pickles and other pickled vegetables can stay in your pantry. Once you’ve popped open a jar, keep it in the fridge.

Pickles that have been canned can last a long time (up to two years past their best by date). Just double-check what you’ve got on hand before enjoying.

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popcorn kernals

19. Popcorn

How long does it last: Forever.

How to store popcorn kernels: Keep them in a sealed container in the cupboard

You can safely buy popcorn in bulk without ever fearing an expiration date. (Here are some fantastic ways to flavour your popcorn.)

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20. Powdered Jell-O

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store powdered Jell-O: Keep boxes of gelatin in the pantry or cupboard.

That’s right—Jell-O packets last a long time.

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21. Powdered Milk

How long it lasts: Up to 20 years.

How to store powdered milk: Store powdered milk in an airtight container with a moisture-absorbing packet in a cool, dark place.

Powdered milk might not be the first thing on your grocery list, but it can be a useful thing to keep on hand for baking. Powdered milk adds richness to breads, cookies and other baked goods. If you’re an avid baker, snag a package.

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22. Ramen Noodles

How long they last: Two years.

How to store ramen noodles: Keep them in the package at room temperature.

Having a few packages of ramen on hand is always a good idea. You can make them as the package instructs or stir them into soup.

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23. Raw Honey

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store honey: Keep tightly sealed in a jar to keep out humidity.

To be clear, only the real deal will keep indefinitely. Be wary of fake honey and be sure to grab the good stuff. Honey is also a great remedy for a sore throat.

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24. Rice

How long it lasts: 30 years.

How to store rice: Store rice in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. White, jasmine, wild, basmati and Arborio rice have low oil content and therefore have an indefinite shelf life. Brown rice, however, is higher in oil, so it spoils much faster than its white counterparts.

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25. Salt

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store salt: Keep salt a cool, dark, dry place, where temperatures remain constant.

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Soy sauce is poured into a spoon over the saucepan
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26. Soy Sauce

How long it lasts: Forever (if unopened).

How to store soy sauce: Because of its high concentration of salt, soy sauce will last forever as long as it stays sealed. Once opened, soy sauce is safe to eat for two to three years when kept in the refrigerator—still a long time!

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27. Whole Spices and Herbs

How long they last: Up to four years.

How to store spices: Store spices in airtight jars in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.

Your dried spices don’t have an indefinite shelf life, but they can last for quite a while. Whole spices can last for up to four years; ground they are best within three years. Dried herbs can also last up to three years. Eating herbs and spices that are older won’t make you ill or harm you, but they really start to lose potency over time, so use them within the suggested time frame for the best results. (Here are some herbal remedies that may benefit your health.)

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28. Sugar

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store sugar: Keep white sugar in a dark, dry place. An airtight container is best.

Brown sugar also keeps for a long time since both sugar and molasses have long shelf lives. However, brown sugar is apt to turn hard after a while. To soften brown sugar, you can use a slice of bread or a marshmallow slipped into the container overnight.

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29. Tea

How long it lasts: Up to two years.

How to store tea: In an airtight container.

Looseleaf tea and tea bags can both handle a long stay in the pantry. Keep them in a sealed container for the best results. (Keep in mind, this is what happens to your body when you drink tea every day.)

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30. Tomato Sauce (Canned or Jarred)

How long it lasts: Up to two years if unopened.

How to store tomato sauce: Keep unopened jars and cans of tomato sauce in the cupboard.

It’s safe to stock up on your favourite brand of pasta sauce since it can last on the shelf for a good while. (Here are some more canned foods nutritionists actually buy.)

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vanilla extract
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31. Vanilla Extract

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store vanilla extract: Keep pure vanilla extract in a dark container, away from sunlight, heat sources and moisture.

Pure vanilla extract is made from dried, cured vanilla beans soaked in alcohol, and that alcohol acts as a preserver for the beans, ensuring it will stay fresh and flavorful forever. But imitation vanilla will expire after just two to four years. So if you don’t want to toss out that bottle, spring for the higher-quality pure vanilla extract.

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32. Vinegar

How long it lasts: Forever.

How to store vinegar: Keep in its original airtight container in a cool, dry place, away from heat sources.

Next, check out these grocery items that can last for years.

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Originally Published on Taste of Home

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