Foods That Stay Edible For So Long, You Might As Well Buy Them In Bulk

Anyone who has ever heard the phrase, “when in doubt, throw it out” will be able to relate to the pain of tossing what may have been perfectly edible food. Particularly for people who spend a lot of time away from home, knowing which foods last a long time can be a vital life hack. What many people don’t know is that some foods can last practically forever, and it isn’t because of GMOs. For example, foods naturally low in moisture like hard cheese and maple have their own way of surviving. Here’s a bit of background on how some long-lasting foods stay fresh for so long.

The Sweetest Thing About Honey

Two women happily taste honey at an outside vendor booth.
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

According to the Smithsonian, honey has an ideal chemical structure that gives it an eternal shelf life. The key is its hydroscopic sugars, which is a fancy way of saying it has hardly any moisture. Without moisture, most bacteria can’t survive.

Additionally, when bees create honey they suck out the nectar and then regurgitate it into the honeycombs, releasing an enzyme that results in hydrogen peroxide. On top of that, honey is very acidic. Both characteristics prohibit the sweet substance from going bad.

Maple Syrup Can Be Re-Sterilized

A smiling boy pours maple syrup over a tall stack of pancakes.
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images
H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Maple, like honey, is made primarily of sugar and is low in water. This is why both substances are so slow to pour. Unlike honey, maple syrup is best stored in a glass container and in the fridge. Unopened, the sweetener can last in the pantry for decades.

According to Anderson’s Maple Syrup, even if mold develops on an open container of maple syrup, you can easily re-sterilize it by bringing the syrup to a temperature of 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Then store it in a new bottle.

Oats Are Even More Of A Staple Than You Realized

Two older women work together to pour packages of quaker oats into a clear storage bag.
Denver Post via Getty Images
Denver Post via Getty Images

While moisture will surely cause oats to go bad, so long as they are kept in a carefully controlled environment (an airtight storage container at room temperature), these guys can last a very long time. A 2006 report by Food Science Journal said that oatmeal had beenstored for 28 years and still retained almost all of its nutrients.

Additionally, the study found that the oatmeal was good enough to eat, though not entirely ideal. 75% of panelists deemed the substance edible in the event of an emergency, which doesn’t sound too encouraging. So three decades may be pushing it in terms of taste, but the study goes to show that dry oats certainly last a long time.

Some Nutty News About Nuts

Two male hands hold shelled almonds out to the camera.
David Silverman/Getty Images
David Silverman/Getty Images

According to the University of California, Davis, storing nuts at room temperature can allow them to become rancid quicker. Depending on the environment they’re stored in, they can last for up to a few months at room temperature. However, researchers at Davis note that rancid nuts aren’t dangerous to eat, they just have a taste that some may find unpleasant.

Nuts can retain their quality for up to a year in the fridge and up to two years in the freezer. While nuts that are in a shell have a protective barrier, shelled nuts can more easily absorb moisture and thus need to be tightly packaged.

You May Have Been Storing Your Dried Fruit Wrong

A man stands beside a dried fruit stand complete with dried out dates, apricots, and figs.
Reza/Getty Images
Reza/Getty Images

When fruit is dehydrated, all of that bacteria-attracting water goes out with it. What’s left is mostly sugar, making it difficult for bacteria to grow. While some experts say dried fruit can last up to five years, and some suggest chucking it out after one year, the general rule of thumb is to base your judgment on where it has been stored.

Many people assume that because the fruit is dried out, it should be kept in the pantry while whole fruit goes into the fridge. In fact, putting your dry fruit in the fridge is an ideal way to keep it fresh for as long as possible.

Sauerkraut Technically Already Went Sour

A worker in a sauerkraut plant holds up a bucket of sauerkraut.
Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images
Carsten Rehder/picture alliance via Getty Images

Sauerkraut is simply cabbage that has been pickled. It is also fermented, making it a nice digestive aid as it is chock-full of probiotics. Store-bought sauerkraut has a defense mechanism that’s created when it is processed.

Manufacturers add in a sugar and vinegar solution, both of which prohibit the growth of bacteria. Ironically, the fermented food technically already has “gone bad,” but not in the traditional sense. You can give it about six months in the fridge before these gut bacterias may turn against you.

The Pickle-Making Process Is Foolproof

Two female workers organize pickles as they fall down the assembly line.
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images
Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images

Cucumbers can rot in just five days. So how can pickles last for multiple years? That’s because, like sauerkraut, they undergo a process that transforms their chemical properties. First, pickles are put into boiled salt water and vinegar.

After 48 hours in the airtight jar, the good bacteria essentially win the battle of bacterias, leaving the food full of good bacteria that preserves it, and lacking bad bacteria that rots it. This good bacteria, aka lactic acid, remains the winner so long as its environment (the jar and the fridge) permits.

Here’s What To Do With That Bag Of Flour You Forgot About

A woman smiles while pressing a pile of flour into dough.
Massimo Sestini/Mondadori via Getty Images
Massimo Sestini/Mondadori via Getty Images

Your standard, all-purpose flour last for an entire year according to the USDA. However, if you place it in the fridge or freezer, you can double that lifespan. In case you find a bag of old flour in your pantry and have no idea when it got there, just smell it for any signs of must or staleness.

Whether your flour is enriched, bleached, or non-bleached, all of the same rules apply. However, whole grain flour contains wheat germ and should be thrown out after a few months.

Dried Pasta Might Outlive Your Pet

A woman holds a bag of dried pasta in one hand while contemplating the other pastas on the shelf at a grocery store.
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images
Sergei BobylevTASS via Getty Images

Being that pasta is made up primarily of flour, it makes sense that it has an extensive shelf life. However, dried pasta definitely beats flour in terms of pantry life. According to Robert Gladder, M.D. of Lenox Hill Hospital, you can eat decade-old dried pasta without an issue.

The key is keeping the pasta tightly sealed. Being that there isn’t any moisture in the substance, without external oxygen there is nothing for bacteria to grow from. Once the package is opened, however, you’ll want to check for staleness.

Watch Out For This In Potatoes

A male worker holds up a potatoe from a large pile of potatoes at a plant.
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images

Potatoes can last a quarter of a year so long as they’re kept in cool, dark areas. One thing that is nice about potatoes is that it is very easy to determine if they’re still good to eat. Once the potatoes have sprouted and their sprouts begin taking on a life of their own, you’ll want to toss them.

An old wives trick is to put an apple inside of the potato bag to preserve its freshness. The apple releases ethylene gas which can prevent the potatoes from sprouting.

Canned Meats Need To Get Canned The Minute You See This

A woman in an apron is out of focus behind a can of sardines that she holds up to the camera.
JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images
JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images

Theoretically, canned meats should last forever. This is why canned foods have been pegged as a survivor staple in the event of an apocalypse. However, the true lifespan of these miracle meats depends mostly on the way in which it was stored. Improper canning can have a host of threatening side effects.

However, the likelihood of canned food bought from the store being bad is very low. So long as the packaging doesn’t have any abrasions, canned meats will last a few years at a minimum, depending on the kind of meat.

We Can Thank Our Ancestors For Cured Meats

A man smiles at the plate he's holding, full of cured meats and cubed cheese.
David Silverman/Getty Images
David Silverman/Getty Images

Salt was the “fridge” of our ancestors, providing preservation to meat before electricity was around. For this reason, cured meats last far longer than unprepared or cooked meats, because they are bathed in salt when they are produced.

While you’ll still want to keep these meats wrapped up and in the fridge to prevent exposure, they can last in there for months according to Vincent Olivieri, a Chef at Fairway Market Cafe. The lifespan also depends on the kind of cured meat, as some meats, like salami, may last longer than others.

Look Out For These Signs In Olive Packaging

A man digs into one of several olive displays, each barrel holding a different variation of olives.
Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images
Frédéric Soltan/Corbis via Getty Images

Like cured meat, olives are cured in salt. Most olives are brined, meaning they are kept in saltwater, within their sealed jar. Olives that are kept in salt, in an airtight container, in the fridge are incredibly protected from any harmful bacteria, making them okay to eat for years.

The primary thing to look out for with olives is if their can or jar is leaking, rusting, bulging, or dented. Additionally, of anything is off about their appearance, smell, or taste, it’s time to get rid of them.

Cooking Oil Shouldn’t Smell Like Your Car

A woman pours olive oil over a plate of bread peices.
Marco Secchi/Corbis via Getty Images
Marco Secchi/Corbis via Getty Images

Oil can last years and requires less maintenance than most of the other things on this list. For that reason, it can be easy to overlook if your cooking oil has gone rancid. One foolproof way to know is by smell. Depending on the kind of oil, it should smell somewhat like the food it was derived from. Rancid oil can have a smell similar to motor oil.

According to Live Strong, consuming rancid oil probably will not make you immediately sick. However, oil that is rancid contains free radicals, which can contribute to your risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

Sprinkles Can Grow Old With Us

A toddler boy holds a bowl of sprinkles in one hand while he licks his other hand
Steve Grayson/Getty Images
Steve Grayson/Getty Images

There’s a reason that sprinkles bottles contain way more sprinkles than could likely be used in one event. Sprinkles are primarily sugar, devoid of all moisture, and a dash of oil. Since they contain oil, they can eventually go rancid, but it likely won’t happen for a very long time.

Once sprinkles do go rancid, the little guys won’t harm you being that they are far too minuscule to have much of an impact at all. However, the taste will definitely be off. So before you douse those fresh cookies, throw back a few sprinkles to make sure they still taste OK.

Ever Wonder About Those Warm Cheese Packets From The Pizza Place?

A person grates a block of parmesan over their bowl of pasta.
Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images
Oliver Berg/picture alliance via Getty Images

Parmesan cheese is one of the denser, harder cheeses. These are very low in moisture and as a result, don’t grow bacteria as easily as softer cheeses or yogurts. If tightly sealed and kept in the fridge, a block of parmesan can last upwards of a year.

On the flip side, parmesan that has already been grated and comes in a shaker, such as Kraft parmesan cheese, is even less high-maintenance. These crumbles are recommended to be kept in the fridge but can last exceptionally long on the shelf due to their high sodium and preservatives.

Apples: Fridge or Famine

A woman reaches up to pick a red apple off of a tree.
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

One of the classic aspects of still life paintings is the bowl of fruit sitting on the dining room table. But not all fruit is created equal when it comes to being left out. While some fruits, like bananas, seem to go bad faster when refrigerated, apples actually should be placed directly into the fridge.

Dietician Ysabel Montemayor says that placing apples in the fridge rather than leaving them on the counter can double their lifespan, making them edible for a couple of months.

Peanut Butter Has Two Lives

Actress Hillary Duff smiles while spreading peanut butter onto a slice of bread.
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Jif
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Jif

According to the National Peanut Board, once you’ve opened a jar of peanut butter it will last for three months in the pantry. After that, they suggest moving it into the fridge, where it will last another three to four months.

While it is suggested to move the peanut butter until the fridge to further its life, it can last in the pantry for more than three months without any real danger. The primary issue is simply that oil separation can occur.

Legumes Are Kind Of Like Rocks

Hands bring a pile of small, white legumes into focus in from of a large pile below.
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images
JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images

Legumes are known to typically be on the softer side. But long before those beans appear in your seven-layer dip, they would have chipped your tooth if you tried to eat one. The good thing about these little pebbles being so solid is that they are impenetrable. That means they literally can last forever.

The one kick is that, kind of like a rock, the longer it remains solid the more compressed it becomes. This just means that the cooking time will increase the older the legume is.

Don’t Refrigerate Your Bread!

A woman carries a tray of freshly baked french rolls.
AJUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images
AJUAN MABROMATA/AFP/Getty Images

When bread is freshly baked, it is best kept at room temperature to ensure that warm, soft texture we love so much. However, most people don’t go through bread in 36 hours or so, or the time it would take for that freshness to dissipate.

In order to preserve it, many people make the mistake of throwing it in the freezer. With this will help prolong its lifespan in terms of preventing mold, it destroys the quality of the bread by evaporating its moisture and tightening its bonds, resulting in stale bread. Instead, throw it in the freezer and use as needed.