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
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
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.
Some Nutty News About Nuts
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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
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.
Oats Are Even More Of A Staple Than You Realized
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 been stored 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.
Legumes Are Kind Of Like Rocks
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!
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.
White Rice Is Prone To This Disgusting Infestation
Although it may not be the healthiest food in the world, white rice has one of the best shelf lives of all time. If white rice is kept dry, it has the capability of lasting forever.
It's extremely important to check if there are any flour bugs in the rice, especially if the bag is old. These little black bugs can either find microscopic openings in the bag or have eggs already in there. A good way to keep the rice fresh is to place it in dried, airtight containers.
Dark Chocolate Will Last A While
Not all chocolate will last a long time. Since milk chocolate contains dairy, it will go bad a lot quicker. Dark chocolate has very little dairy and is mostly cacao.
It has a shelf life of around two to five years, but it should never be kept in warm temperatures. Keeping it stored in a refrigerator of freezer between 60 and 65 degrees should make it last a while. Don't fret if it develops some white spots because those are harmless.
The Unique History Of Beef Jerky
Beef jerky was invented in order to last a long time. It's one of the most popular foods to take while on a long journey such as a camping trip in the wilderness.
This lean, dehydrated, and salted snack foods can stay edible for about one to two years. During the 1990s, beef jerky was a top choice for NASA astronauts while they were in orbit. The original recipe for beef jerky dates back to 1550 and was made by native South Americans.
Powdered Milk Has A Lot Of Nutrients
Powdered milk is evaporated milk that has become a solid, but has the same amount of nutrients as its liquid state. It's a good source of protein, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamins.
This food has the potential to last up to 18 months, but it can start to change color, texture, and flavor the older it gets. It can be mixed with water or with other food items. Those who are trying to stay away from dairy can find powdered milk in other varieties such as almond, oat, and soybean.
Discover How Long You Can Have Your Cup Of Tea
Most teas use natural ingredients including leaves and herbs, which really helps extend its shelf life. Both boxed and loose tea can last over a year if they are kept in good condition.
This means they can't be left in a moist or humid environment. It's important to note that the older the tea is, the less flavorful it will be. Also, the more processed the tea leaves are, the more likely that it will stay fresh longer. This applies to teas such as Early Grey and English Breakfast.
Winter Squash Is Thick-Skinned
The main reason why winter squash such as butternut, spaghetti, and hubbard stay fresh longer is because they have a thick-skin. This makes them more durable and prevents them from rotting.
Typically, winter squash last about one to three months and they should be stored in a cool, dry place set at 50 to 55 degrees. When they are in a humid environment it causes them to rot rapidly. If the skin is already broken or bruised, it won't store well.
Never Place Onions In Here
Onions are a kitchen staple because they can be used to cook a multitude of dishes. These have a shelf life of about one to two months before the will start sprouting and go mushy.
Whole onions should never be placed in the fridge because they could develop moisture. Instead, they should be stored in a cool, dry, dark, and well-ventilated room or cabinet. You can use a mesh bag or a box with holes to ensure they will be well-ventilated.
The Proper Way To Store Carrots
It's crucial to know how to store carrots in order for them to last longer. Whole carrots have the longest shelf life. They should be kept in the refrigerator with a wet paper towel and will last about a month and a half.
Throw carrots away when they start to become slimy, soft, or produce a foul odor. If you buy your carrots with the leafy stems still attached, it's best to cut those off. The stems suck out the moisture from the carrots, which causes them to dry out a lot faster.
Do This Test To See If Your Eggs Are Still Fresh
Most kitchens usually have a carton of eggs because they can be used in endless recipes. Although most cartons have "use by" dates, those are actually suggestions of when to toss them.
When eggs are properly stored, they can last between 45 and 90 days. They shouldn't be placed in the refrigerator door, even though most refrigerators have a special egg compartment there. Instead, they should be in the middle of the refrigerator, so they maintain a cool temperature. One way to make sure an egg is still fresh is to put it in a bowl of room-temperature water. If it floats to the top, throw them out.
Are Twinkies An Apocalypse Food?
While some may think that Hostess Twinkies last forever, that's not really the case. Their shelf life is around 25 days, which is actually pretty long for baked goods. This is done by not using dairy and packaging in air-tight cellophane.
One teacher did an experiment where he ate a 30-year-old Twinkie and it was still edible. Twinkies have the capability of lasting a long time, but they will diminish in texture and taste. Despite the rumors, Twinkies aren't all artificially made because they have fresh ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, and canola oil.
Garlic Remains Fresh For Half A Year
Although garlic powder lasts for a long time, you can buy whole garlic and keep it on hand for six months. It'll taste fresher and provide more health benefits. However, you need to keep garlic away from the fridge. Cold and humidity cause whole garlic to sprout and mold earlier.
Keep the bulbs whole in mesh bags or woven baskets. Place them in a dim, dry, cool area. Chopped garlic will stay fresh in the fridge for a couple of weeks. At some stores, you can pick up whole garlic for $2 per pound.
Dried Lentils Are Cheap And Long-Lasting
Lentils are a type of legume that's smaller than a bean. A bag of dried lentils may cost anywhere from $3 to $10, but it lasts for up to three years. Unlike dried beans, lentils don’t need to be soaked or cleaned before you cook them. Simply rinse and sort them before tossing them in a pot.
Put dried lentils in an airtight container in your cabinet. After you cook them, they stay fresh in the fridge for up to a week. Lentils cook in about twenty to thirty minutes and make a filling soup or side dish.
Whey Protein Is Worth The Price
When some people see a $20 container of whey protein, they may think that it's expensive. But every two-pound container provides 20 to 25 servings, making it cheaper than meat. Whey is a protein byproduct that can flavor shakes, oatmeal, smoothies, and yogurt.
Most whey proteins can last for up to two years. If they contain no additives, they’ll stay fresh for 19 months. Keep your whey powder away from heat and cold; store it in a dry, cool place. Many already come in airtight containers that work perfectly in the pantry.
Cabbage Can Survive For Months In The Fridge
Did you know that cabbage can last up to two months in your refrigerator? Cabbage has a lower water content than other leafy greens like spinach and romaine. Most vegetables go bad because of water loss or over-moisture and molding.
Wrap a head of cabbage in plastic and keep it in the crisper. Make sure that you don't bruise it! If the cabbage gets damaged, it will degrade more quickly. Store it correctly, and it will stay fresh for at least three weeks, or even a few months.
This Is Why Apocalypse Shelters Contain Canned Beans
Have you ever seen an emergency room or shelter stacked with canned beans? According to TODAY, canned beans can remain edible forever. However, their taste and quality will degrade over time.
Like other canned foods, canned beans exist in a vacuum. There is no oxygen inside, which prevents the food from decaying. But if you want these beans to retain their quality, eat them between three and five years, explains registered dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix. No wonder people keep them for so long!
Pay $1 For Tuna That Lasts Five Years
For a healthy source of protein and omega-3s, buy canned tuna. A single can costs $1 at some stores, and it lasts for years. Canned tuna will continue to taste great for five years, although it can last longer than that.
To maximize its shelf life, store the can in a cool, dry area. Ensure that there is no damage, leaking, or rusting on the can. If you follow all these steps--and if the tuna still smells good--you can eat it after its expiration date.
Dried Seaweed Packs Give You 50 Long-Lasting Sheets
Since dried seaweed naturally contains salt, it will stay fresh for two years. A packet only costs around $2, and it's a nutritious source of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. Seal it in its original container or a ziplock bag for the longest shelf life.
Dried seaweed is an easy flavor component. Crumble it onto salad, rice, and popcorn as a healthy spice. If you want to rehydrate it, simply soak it in warm water until it expands. Some packets will hold up to 50 sheets, which will feed you for a long time.
You Can Afford To Forget About Frozen Vegetables
Frozen vegetables could save your meals if you run out of fresh veggies. If they're kept at a consistent temperature, they’ll last up to ten months in the freezer. To keep them fresh, transfer the veggies to a ziplock bag and squeeze the air out of it.
Contrary to popular belief, frozen vegetables may have more nutrients than fresh ones. Since they’re frozen at peak ripeness, they are perfectly healthy to eat. Plus, a one-pound bag may only cost $2 at some grocery stores.
Dried Herbs Provide Years Of Nutrition
Never underestimate the power of dried herbs. They give you nutrients while flavoring your food without excess salt. If you buy them ground, they should last for two to three years. Whole dried herbs, such as whole cloves, stay fresh for three to four years.
Dried herbs will retain their quality if you keep them away from light, heat, and moisture. Do not store your herb containers near the oven or stove. While cooking, scoop out the herbs with a spoon to prevent contact with steam.
Dried Quinoa Might Be Healthier Than Rice
Quinoa is, essentially, a healthier version of rice. This seed, which acts like a grain, has far more fiber and nutrients than brown rice. Raw, dried quinoa stays fresh for two to three years from its production date.
You can store quinoa just like rice, in a dark, cool area in an airtight container. Once you cook it, you can keep it in the fridge for about a week, or you can stick it in the future for eight to 12 months. Perhaps you'll end up liking quinoa better than rice.