The Healthiest, Longest-Lasting Foods to Buy in Bulk

By buying food in bulk, you can save time and money and delay trips to the grocery store. But it’s harder than it sounds. When many foods go bad after a few days or weeks, you’ll have to visit the grocery store anyway.

If you know which foods to buy, you can stock up on healthy foods. Some nutritious fruits can last up to two months, and some inexpensive grains will give you years of fiber. If you want to buy foods in bulk while staying healthy, read on.

Dried Beans And Lentils Have Many Uses

Dried legumes are not only a nutritious source of protein, but they also last for a long time. An average bag of lentils or beans will stay fresh for up to three years in the pantry. Research from BYU indicates that some bags of beans can remain edible for up to ten years.

Several varieties of dried beans sit in a pile.
Tim Graham/Getty Images
Tim Graham/Getty Images

Lentil beans supply antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. According to 2011 research in the Annals of Internal Medicine, eating legumes at least four times a week decreases your chances of heart disease by 22%. You might as well stock up.

Stock Up On Nut Butters

Nut butters are flexible ingredients. They can decorate toast, add protein to oatmeal, or blend into a smoothie. While shopping for nut butters, watch out for sugar, says Advanced Health. Low-fat butters replace healthy fats with high amounts of sugar.

A man stocks the shelves with jars of peanut butter.
Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Jeremy Papasso/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter–all can survive for a long time if you store them correctly. After opening, a jar will stay fresh for three months. If you refrigerate it afterward, it’ll last for another three months. That’s half a year of healthy fats and protein.

Lemons Can Flavor Almost Anything

Because people pour lemon juice into many recipes, you may want to stockpile this fruit. If stored correctly, lemons can last for up to six weeks in the fridge. Store lemons in a resealable plastic bag, and place them in the crisper. They’ll add vitamin C to almost any dish.

A girl squeezes lemon juice onto a kale slaw.
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Lemon’s citric acid benefits the kidneys. Just 1/2 cup of lemon juice daily can prevent kidney stones in people who have had them before, according to the Journal of Urology. Plus, lemon water encourages some people to stay hydrated.

Frozen Fruit Is As Nutritious As Fresh Fruit

Frozen fruits keep for up to nine months in the fridge, but that’s not the only reason you should buy some. In the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, one study suggests that frozen fruit has as many nutrients–if not more–than fresh fruit. Since fruits are chilled at peak ripeness, they have the highest mineral content possible.

Frozen raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries sit in a bowl.

The only downside to frozen fruit is a loss of vitamin C. Frozen fruits are blanched to preserve their color, which reduces the vitamins. You can restore it with a bit of lemon juice and have nutritious fruits year-round.

Yes, Dried Fruits Are Healthy

Dried fruits remain edible for one year, even longer than frozen fruits. Although some people debate whether dried fruit is healthy, research says that it is. According to a 2011 study in Nutrition Research, dried fruit-eaters have better nutrition and lower weight than those who don’t eat it.

A variety of dried fruits lie on a wooden cutting board.
Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post via Getty Images
Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The danger of dried fruit is its size. Because they’re so small, many people tend to over-consume dried fruits. Registered dietitian Lori Zanini recommends eating two tablespoons–about one serving–at a time. Doing so will limit your carbohydrate intake.

A Cup Of Quinoa Goes A Long Way

Quinoa is a seed that is eaten like rice. One cup of quinoa supplies twice as much protein and fiber as regular rice. If you buy it dried, it can last up to four years in an airtight container. After you cook some, it’ll stay fresh for a week in the fridge.

Several varieties of quinoa are served in dishes.

Dried quinoa only takes around ten minutes to cook, and it offers many health benefits. It’s gluten-free, has a low glycemic index, and contains all nine essential amino acids. Toss some into a salad or soup for extra fiber!

Top Your Meals With Salsa

Made from lime juice, onions, and tomatoes, salsa adds heat and vitamin C to almost any dish. If left unopened, salsa can sit in the pantry for over a year. After opening it, though, you’ll have to use it within two weeks. But that shouldn’t be difficult. Salsa can spice up eggs, tacos, salads, stir-fries, chicken, or rice bowls.

A spoon dips into a jar of salsa.
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Salsa’s spiciness comes from a chili compound called capsaicin. According to the scientific journal Open Heart, capsaicin encourages metabolic health and weight loss. Since it lasts for so long, you can buy a few salsa containers and use them over time.

Cook With Healthy Olive Oil

As an all-purpose cooking oil, olive oil can help you cook for up to two years. Olive oil is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, which U.S. News ranked as the number one healthiest diet of 2020. According to the journal Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases, this oil regulates weight and delays heart disease.

A customer picks up a bottle of Spanish extra-virgin olive oil at a supermarket.
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Despite olive oil’s calories, its healthy fats and vitamins help people lose weight. You can stock up on this oil and use it for years, but beware of your cooking temperature. If you cook olive oil on high heat, the nutrients could break down.

Enjoy A Healthy Snack Of Nuts

If you store nuts correctly, they’ll last for three months in the pantry and half a year in the fridge. Keeping the shells on nuts will lengthen their lifespan. Nuts provide a healthy source of protein and healthy fats, and you can add them to yogurt, salads, oatmeal, noodle dishes, and granola.

A basket is filled with honey and nuts.
Valery MatytsinTASS via Getty Images

During the Nurses’ Health Study, researchers reported that nut-eaters have a 30% lower chance of heart disease. All you need is one serving per day–but beware! Nut servings are small, only a handful at most. Still, you may want to stock up because of their long shelf life.

Buy Dried, Whole Grain Pasta

Dried noodles can contribute to many healthy meals. While any pasta is useful, whole grain or quinoa pasta is the healthier choice. In 2016, research in the journal Appetite found that whole grain pasta fills people more than refined pasta. It’s also better for your heart and weight.

Dried whole wheat penne pasta sits in a bowl next to wheat grass.
Chapeaux Marc/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Chapeaux Marc/AGF/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Dried pasta remains edible for up to two years after its “best by” date. Gluten-free noodles, such as black bean, quinoa, and veggie noodles, also last for months in the pantry. Each serving provides a meal of fiber, nutrients, and healthy carbs.

Onions Will Last For A Long Time

Onions are one of the most versatile and longest-lasting vegetables. If you store onions whole at room temperature, they will stay fresh for four to six weeks. That’s two months of fresh vegetables to flavor meat, pasta, stir fry, eggs–almost any dish can benefit from onions.

Red onions are in a bowl on top of a large pile of onions.
Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Whole onions remain fresh in a cool, dry area such as a pantry. After cutting one, you can refrigerate it for up to a week. According to Phytotherapy Research, onions have an anti-bacterial and anti-cancer effect on the body. And they’re just tasty!

You Can Never Have Enough Frozen Vegetables

Like frozen fruit, frozen vegetables are stuffed with nutritional value. According to the Journal of Food Consumption and Analysis, frozen vegetables have similar nutrition contents to fresh vegetables. In fact, fresh veggies lose their nutrients while in the refrigerator, while frozen food doesn’t.

Frozen carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and peas lie in a pile.
FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images
FRED TANNEAU/AFP via Getty Images

Frozen vegetables can last for up to ten months in the freezer. They’re an inexpensive, easy way to add more greens to a meal. Why wouldn’t you stock up on more veggies? Avoid packages that have added sauces, which include trans and saturated fats.

Keep A Container Of Raw, Dry Oats On Hand

Raw oats can stay fresh in your pantry for two to three years. Seal them in a cool, dry place inside an airtight container for the best lifespan. According to Harvard University, oats can keep people fuller for longer because of their soluble fiber, beta-glucan. As a whole grain, they can also improve heart health.

A man lifts a package of raw oatmeal containers.
Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Lewis Geyer/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

Raw oats are also a flexible source of fiber. You can add them to pastries, smoothies, granola, and even in meat as a binder. Oats provide plenty of magnesium, zinc, and B vitamins.

Want More Vitamins? Consider Superfood Powders

Superfood powders are made from dried vegetables, herbs, and fruits that have been ground into a powder. Common ingredients include wheatgrass, goji berries, beets, kale, ginseng, and green tea extract. They are designed to add more nutrients to peoples’ diets easily.

Colorful coffee is made with natural food powders such as turmeric, barley, coconut, black carrot, matcha powder, and beetroot.
Gavriil GrigorovTASS via Getty Images
Gavriil GrigorovTASS via Getty Images

Some superfood powders have science-backed benefits. For instance, a study in Nutrition Journal found that acai powder lowered cholesterol in overweight adults. Beware that some powders conflict with certain medications and health conditions. But if you can, buy some powders to add to yogurt, smoothies, drinks, and oatmeal.

Get Coconut Oil For Your Gut, Hair, And Skin

If you aren’t an olive oil fan, try coconut oil. This oil can last for two years in the pantry, and it can withstand high heat–even frying. Coconut oil has a slight coconut taste, and it remains in a semi-solid state while at room temperature. Along with being healthy, coconut has multiple uses for skin and hair health as well.

Someone dishes out coconut oil with a wooden stick.

According to registered dietitian Lisa Young, coconut oil’s fats are made with nourishing medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These may promote weight loss and supply energy. However, the American Heart Association still doesn’t advise more than one tablespoon per day.

Drink Tea At Your Leisure

Tea has improved human health for thousands of years. In Current Pharmaceutical Design, a review of 60 studies stated that tea fights against heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and several different cancers. From caffeinated to non-caffeinated, fruity to smooth, tea can fit in anyone’s pantry.

Mint tea steeps in a glass mug.
Unkel/ullstein bild via Getty Images
Unkel/ullstein bild via Getty Images

On average, tea bags stay fresh for around a year. If you stock up, you’ll have healthy, flavorful beverages that you can drink hot or cold. Check the caffeine before you buy; black teas have high amounts of caffeine, while green teas have a lower amount.

Need Quick Meals? Get Cheese!

Cheese provides a nutritious source of protein in a pinch. If you run out of dinner ideas, a quesadilla, grilled cheese sandwich, or plate of nachos will work quickly. Registered dietitian Samantha Lynch recommends low-fat cheeses such as feta, ricotta, mozzarella, and cottage cheese.

A woman prepares to eat mozzarella cheese with tomato.
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images
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Unfortunately, soft cheese only lasts for two weeks, while hard cheeses can stay fresh for six weeks. But cheese’s flexibility makes up for its short shelf life. Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition at Harvard, recommends two servings of dairy per day for calcium, protein, and potassium.

Have You Tried Tofu?

Tofu is a healthy source of protein that cooks within minutes. Depending on how you season it, tofu can contribute to a stir fry, soups, rice dishes, and salads. Unopened packages of tofu will stay fresh for up to three months in the fridge. After you open it, it’ll keep for up to four months in the freezer.

A chef fries spicy tofu.
May Tse/South China Morning Post via Getty Images
May Tse/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

Despite the misconceptions surrounding soy products, research has highlighted many benefits of tofu. According to Harvard University, studies have linked tofu to a lower risk of stomach cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

Canned Tuna Is A Healthy Backup

Canned tuna provides a convenient, healthy source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. If you need a fast meal, pop open a can. According to registered dietitian Jessica Cording, canned tuna’s nutrients promote brain function and reduce inflammation.

A grocery store employee stacks canned tuna.
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images
Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images

In the pantry, canned tuna remains edible for up to five years. By stockpiling them, you’ll always have something for dinner. Compared to other canned foods, tuna is minimally processed besides its relatively high salt content. And compared to white and albacore tuna, it has lower mercury levels.

The Many Benefits Of Apple Cider Vinegar

If you pick up a bottle of apple cider vinegar, you’ll have an essential ingredient for salad dressings, marinades, pickling juice, and glazes. Despite the many health myths surrounding apple cider vinegar, research supports its ability to lower blood pressure, support the gut, and aid weight loss, according to the University of Chicago.

A cook splashes apple cider vinegar onto a salad.
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images
Ben McCanna/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

Like many vinegars, a bottle of apple cider vinegar will last for years and contribute to many dishes. It can also be used in DIY toners, probiotics, or cleaners if you use it safely.