This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no cost to you. As always, I only recommend links I personally use and love!
We live in a world of mass production and “best by” dates, so it may be startling to learn that some everyday foods essentially last forever. Many staple foods, from ancient dried beans to sugars and salts, remain edible for decades or longer if stored correctly. Their incredible shelf lives and natural preservative qualities have sustained people across centuries, wars, famines, long journeys and more.
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans can last for years if stored in airtight containers in a cool, dark place. The fat content of nuts means they may eventually go rancid, but have a long shelf life if properly stored. Nuts have been prized for their flavor and nutrients throughout history, referenced in ancient texts and myths.
If properly stored, chocolate can remain fresh and usable for 2-4 years beyond its expiration date. The cocoa solids and fats in chocolate make it resistant to spoilage. Chocolate originated in Mesoamerica and was treasured by ancient civilizations like the Maya and Aztec.
Canned vegetables can last for years beyond their “best by” date when stored in a cool and dry place. The canning process preserves the veggies and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.
When stored in airtight containers in a cool and dry environment, white flour can last for years. Its refined nature means it lacks the oils found in whole grain flours, which can go rancid over time.
Often used as a thickening agent in cooking, cornstarch can last indefinitely if kept in a cool, dry place and away from moisture.
Due to its high salt content and fermentation process, soy sauce can last a very long time, especially if unopened.
When stored in a cool, dry place, powdered milk can last for years beyond its expiration date.
Due to its low moisture content and acidic pH, honey has an indefinite shelf life. Archaeologists have even found pots of honey in ancient Egyptian tombs that are over 3,000 years old and still perfectly edible.
When stored in airtight containers in a cool and dry place, white rice can last for decades. Brown rice has a shorter shelf life due to its higher oil content.
In 2006, a 2,000-year-old rice grain was found in China, and scientists successfully germinated it, giving birth to a new plant. This showcases the resilience and longevity of this staple food.
Salt is a mineral that does not support the growth of bacteria or other microorganisms. As long as it is kept dry, it will last indefinitely.
Salt has been a valuable commodity throughout history. In ancient Rome, soldiers and workers were often paid in salt, which led to the term “salary” originating from the Latin word “salarium,” meaning “salt money.”
Similar to salt, granulated sugar has an indefinite shelf life when stored in a cool and dry environment.
Sugar’s ability to preserve food goes beyond satisfying our sweet tooth. In ancient times, sugar was considered a luxury item and used as a natural preservative. Its use in preserving fruits, jams, and jellies has been practiced for centuries.
Pure Maple Syrup
Pure maple syrup, when stored in sealed containers and refrigerated, can last for several years without spoiling.
It takes approximately 40 liters (10 gallons) of sap to produce just one liter (one quart) of syrup. The labor-intensive process and its distinct flavor make it a prized culinary ingredient.
With its acidic nature, vinegar has a long shelf life. Distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and other types of vinegar can last indefinitely if stored properly.
The word “vinegar” comes from the French words “vin aigre,” which mean “sour wine.” This sour liquid has a wide range of culinary and household applications.
Properly dried and stored beans, such as kidney beans, black beans, and lentils, can last for years. However, they may require longer cooking times as they age.
In the ancient Americas, beans were considered one of the “Three Sisters” along with corn and squash, as they were grown together symbiotically.
High-proof spirits like whiskey, rum, and vodka have an indefinite shelf life due to their alcohol content, which acts as a preservative.
Collectors and connoisseurs often seek out aged spirits for their unique flavors and historical significance.
When stored in a cool and dry place, dried pasta, such as spaghetti or macaroni, can last for years without going bad.
While commonly associated with Italian cuisine, its roots can be traced back to ancient China, where it was likely invented over 4,000 years ago.
Instant coffee crystals have a long shelf life and can remain usable for an extended period if kept in a sealed container in a cool and dry place.
Instant coffee has a notable historical connection to expeditions and wars. It gained popularity during World War II when it was included in soldiers’ ration packs.
14 Fun Facts About Money I Bet You Didn’t Know
14 Things Old People Do That Young People Don’t Understand
What is the Rarest Eye Color, and Why?
Michelle Harler is the founder of Guide2Free, a website dedicated to finding and sharing freebies, product testing opportunities, and other ways to save money. With over a decade of experience in the industry, her expertise in finding quality offers makes Guide2Free an invaluable resource for anyone looking to try new products and save money.