Food That Lasts Forever – Indefinite Shelf Life

Which foods will last forever? Is there such a thing as an indefinite shelf life? Okay, maybe some of them won’t actually last ‘forever’, but maybe ‘almost’ forever!

When we’re talking about decades, that’s almost forever, right?

Here’s a starter list to get you thinking about some of the foods that last a LONG TIME, perhaps with a somewhat indefinite shelf life…

TWINKIES (They’ve proven this, right?)
KRISPY CREME DONUTS (?)
SPAM (!!!) (read about it here)
McDonald’s “hamburgers”
FRUITCAKE ‘bricks’ (great for re-gifting)
POP TARTS (everyone knows this, right?)

Okay, all joking aside (or not?), first you might want to read about so called “expiration” dates that you see on most food product packaging. It’s probably not what you think… (hint: foods don’t suddenly “expire”)

[ Read: ‘Use by’ ‘Best by’ dates – What do they really mean? ]

INDEFINITE SHELF LIFE FOODS?

Here are some foods that you might say have somewhat of an indefinite shelf life. Add your own thoughts below…

WHITE RICE

White rice is a food that will last forever (almost indefinitely) with proper storage (sealed, airtight container in a cool dry place). Cooked white rice has about 200 calories per cup (nearly 700 raw).

[ Read: How To Seal a Mylar Bag in a 5 Gallon Bucket ]

[ Read: How To Cook Rice with 80% Less Fuel ]

DRY BEANS

Dried beans can last almost indefinitely if stored properly. That said, gradual moisture loss will eventually affect the taste and texture. Old beans will need longer soaking and cooking times (try adding salt toward the end of the recipe to avoid toughening up the skin). Use a pressure cooker to quickly cook those old beans (it works!). Pinto beans are packed with about 250 calories per cup boiled (almost 700 raw).

[ Read: The Best Way to Store Beans ]

[ Read: All American Pressure Canner That Will Last Forever… ]

WHEAT

‘Wheat Berries’ if stored properly will last forever – many decades (or longer!). A flour mill will be needed to grind the wheat into flour (the best way for delicious fresh bread!). There are more than 600 calories in one cup of raw wheat berries.

[ Read: Flour Mill – Hand operated & Electric ]

[ Read: How Much Wheat in a 5 Gallon Bucket? ]

SUGAR

White sugar will store indefinitely. It will last forever. Sugar has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth. There are almost 800 calories in a cup of sugar! Not exactly a food, but health issues aside, it’s a common ingredient in so many foods or food preparation…

[ Read: Raw Honey For Nutrition and Medicine ]

SALT

Again, not something that you would consume directly, but it’s probably the most common additive to spice up foods. Salt will last indefinitely. It is a mineral and will not spoil. Salt is a powerful flavor enhancer and anti-microbial meat preservative.

Sherpa Pink Himalayan Salt
(view on amzn)

[ Read: 30+ Uses for Salt ]

HONEY

Raw honey keeps well because it contains practically no water content and it’s loaded with sugar. The consistency and color of honey can change over time. An easy fix for crystallized honey is to gently reheat it. Honey also serves as a topical wound healing treatment. Honey in contact with any bacteria will ‘dry’ it out.

[ Read: The Many Benefits of Honey ]

VINEGAR

White Vinegar is made out of corn. Apple Cider Vinegar is (you guessed it) is made from apples. Vinegar contains a low pH and is technically a preserved food. Vinegar can be used as a condiment, a cleaning agent and for many other uses.

[ Read: Practical Uses for Vinegar ]

POWDERED MILK

Powdered milk has pretty much an indefinite shelf life when sealed up. Perhaps a good alternative for long term food storage preps.

Augason Farms Morning Moo’s Low Fat Milk Alternative
(view on amzn)

[ Read: The Benefits of Powdered Milk for Long Term Storage ]

COCONUT OIL

‘Unrefined’ coconut oil is also called virgin coconut oil. This type of coconut oil has the most nutritional benefits. Shelf life has been documented as anywhere from 2-5 years to ‘indefinite’. It can be used in place of butter, shortening, and cooking oil. We use it here at the MSB homestead. Delicious too.

Pure Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil
(view on amzn)

ALCOHOL

Hard liquor. Distilled spirits will last indefinitely. It will never go bad (even if it has been opened). Be aware that ‘Liqueurs‘ though contain sugar and other ingredients that can spoil over time. Cream liqueurs have dairy, cream or egg and only last about 18 months.

More Food That Lasts Forever…

This article was posted a few years ago. The following are a few more foods with a seemingly indefinite shelf life that you added to the list from your comments back then.

(I’ve cleared the comment slate so you can add your latest opinions)

CORN STARCH

Thickening agent for gravy and other things.

CORN SYRUP

It’s sweet. Keeps indefinitely.

SOY SAUCE

Useful for flavoring dishes.

100% MAPLE SYRUP

The pure kind. Best in glass bottles.

GHEE

A clarified butter.

BOULLION CUBES

Great for enhancing the flavor of your food storage ‘staples’.

Freeze Dried & Dehydrated Foods

Properly sealed. Up to 25 years, depending on food type.

OATS

Like rice, oats will keep for a LONG time if stored properly.

Any additional suggestions for naturally long-lasting foods with an apparent indefinite shelf life?

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24 Comments

    1. Don’t give up so easy. Just because we eat them before forever comes, doesn’t mean they would not last if we didn’t eat them.

    2. Ron – Fresh or stale, you know you are going to trim off the gnarly dry edges of each Pop-Tart so every bite has a satisfyingly balanced proportion of icing and filling. This renders the issue moot, I think. Glad to help.

  1. Too bad that Spam now has a pull top. I have had to pitch 2 bulging cans that were less than 7 years old. I wonder how the Dak type hams will last. Guess we will see, lots of sodium nitrate to help out. I FD ham slices, the kind that is packaged like a small ham, has no bone. FD’s really well and rehydrates nicely too.

    1. Just heard that Spam has just started it’s second run of their products. The last pallet from the first run in 1946 has finally been shipped out…

  2. Mrs. U,
    i have alway,s stocked the Dax Ham. to me it just tastes better. not as salty. and stores well.

  3. Basically anything with lots of sugar or salt – like full-sugar jams and jellies, or salty sauces like several Asian or hot sauces.

  4. Mixes like koolaid packets or tang
    Dried tiny tapioca balls ( uncooked)
    Boxed jello mixes
    Vanilla extract ( or make vanilla sugar using beans and then recycle by making those dried beans/pods into extract with vodka)
    Instant coffee/tea bags
    Baking soda

  5. From the asian markets on the Left Coast:
    Unagi – canned eel cooked in teriyaki sauce served with rice.
    Nori – dried seaweed sold in vacuum packed sheets. ( Kinda tough to eat fresh out of package. Toast in oven for 1 minute at 300 degrees to make brittle ) To be eaten with hot, salted rice.
    Also in cans at asian markets are tins of smoked oysters and/or smoked mussels. These are too rich to be eaten alone butt are intended to be eaten with crackers or hot rice.
    Plastic pickle press: Many that live in larger cities in Japan and Korea can only go to market to buy vegetables 1x per week so they return home with large bags of many vegetables. That which is not eaten within 2 days gets washed and cut up and placed within a pickle press along with mild brine solution to add spice, tenderize the vegetables and reduce loss through oxidation. My pickling brine is: 1 cup boiled clean water, 2 Tablespoons white vinegar, 1 Tablespoon each of white sugar and non-iodized salt, Hot sauce of your choice to taste. This can be made without refrigeration if there is a cooler area of the house. ( I make mine in an ice chest within my garage with a frozen water bottle that gets changed out every 2 days ). Fair warning – some may be offended by the odor of fermenting vegetables. ( smells like a cabbage fart or dirty laundry on a hot day )
    If what NH Michael says is true about disruptions in the supply chain, My/our grandparents dealt with times of surpluses and shortages by preserving their existing food through a variety of means to include pickling of vegetables.

    1. I’m thinking that pork floss should be able to last for a long time too
      Eat that with rice porridge/congee
      Make some salted eggs to extend life of that protein source . Can of pickled cabbage and it’s a great meal
      Mom would make a spam salad with lemon juice and julienned ginger too

      1. Wow Fireswamp I had to look up pork floss. Interesting, lean pork cut into small cubes cooked almost to death in a well seasoned pot of water until it falls apart into shreds. The cooked carefully in a wok into a dry product for storage.

        Any idea how long it would be safe in storage?

        Is it rehydrated before eating? Seems it would be a little like shredded jerky or such?

        Pity I don’t have an Asian Market nearby to seek it out.

        1. NH Michael – You got the idea. Like jerky, with a quasi-cotton-candy texture. It comes in flat vac-packs with an O2 absorber inside. Storage is probably indefinite, possibly with some nitrate help. FWIW there are non-meat versions too. In that configuration it is hard to tell the difference; it’s pretty much all about the seasoning.

        2. I just took a look at the plastic tub I bought last year-Formosa brand pork sung made in the USA – official best by date 8/2022
          I think if you repackage into smaller Mylar bags with o2 absorber it should last longer
          You can eat it as topping to rice or in congee (rice porridge) you can find them sprinkled on buns/ bread
          1serving is an ounce =9 grams protein
          You can try ordering on line a small container and check it out
          Or perhaps if there’s a local take out Chinese restaurant- ask if they have to sample

          1. Fireswamp –

            There is always leftover rice. And the only way to make proper fried rice, is with day old rice. Whatever’s left after that can be rendered into congee (‘juk’ in HK). You can add virtually anything to it. Formosa brand is top notch, but the made in the USA products might be limited to pork, since China lost most of their pigs to a (not covid) viral pandemic a couple of years ago.

      2. Fireswamp
        Thanks for the heads up on pork floss. Sounds delicious and I hadn’t heard about it before!

    2. Calirefugee thanks for posting about pickling veggies. I do kimchee and sauerkraut in 5 gallon pails and they seem to last nearly forever until I eat them up. They DO however get s stronger flavor as they age. My oldest batches so far was about a year old.

      Do you have any idea how long your “Pickled” veggies recipe would be safe to eat? I’d expect months as long as the veggies are kept well UNDER the Brine solution.

      Please advise, I’ve got a box of “Imperfect Veggies” to pick up from my grocer tomorrow and I think they’d make perfect pickled veggies. Doesn’t the Italians call that Giardiniera?

  6. I must say I ate hardtack in 1995 from the Korean war, 45 years old. It was used to add with hot water and anything found, so I used beef broth and it was great. It was the oldest food I ever ate. I sold the large 20 gallon canister to Revolutionary war re-enactors. I also read in excavations of Roman occupied period of Egypt, a type of hardtack was found and considered edible.
    I haven’t read much dehydrated food that held its good properties after 2000 years. Maybe that is a good thing.

    I had stored elbow noodles in a metal container I had from at least 1986. I ate the noodles in 2010. That’s when I discovered they last forever. So I bought 20 gallons worth in 2010-11 and have then stored in airtight plastic gallon containers. Never need to buy them and just made pasta yesterday with them. Bowtie, spaghetti, ziti, twisters, shells, and flat noodles.

  7. Fireswamp –

    There is always leftover rice. And the only way to make proper fried rice, is with day old rice. Whatever’s left after that can be rendered into congee (‘juk’ in HK). You can add virtually anything to it. Formosa brand is top notch, but the made in the USA products might be limited to pork, since China lost most of their pigs to a (not covid) viral pandemic a couple of years ago.

  8. Reply to NHM regarding storage of pickled veggies: The window for eating this stuff in our house was about 2 days to 10 days after processing and pressing in pickling solution. We have not gone much beyond 10 days. Due to osmosis, the vegetables begin to take on a lot of the salt from the brining solution and my family hx has a lot of high blood pressure related illnesses. Generally the brined vegetables were eaten within 10 days because, if it gets too salty, it can be rinsed in cool water and dressed with seasoned rice vinegar and fresh greens. With hot rice, this stuff goes fast much like jerky and teenagers.
    I never did learn to can (yet) so canning sauerkraut has not been in our family DNA/traditions. Besides, my relatives raised truck-crops several hours north of TMAC and Socal Gal along the coastal valleys north of Ventura, CA. The weather, soil and other seasonal growing conditions meant we could plant and grow things down there year round. Growing up working on some of those farms meant less time canning and more time planting and cutting + boxing. Much of that same farm land is now being used to grow strawberries for commercial use (freeze dried berries for General Mills) or subdivisions of single family homes.
    The preparation of these pickled veggies is in-line with my job I had working in commercial kitchens as a prep cook: lots of washing rinsing and cutting of produce straight from the cardboard carton. In my home, as in most kitchens I worked in, I have my own knives kept very sharp and plastic cutting boards. I had to help my mom make salad for BBQ’s that fed 200 people on weekends. I learned to make asian pickled veggies from watching and helping my grandma on both sides. (Both grandma’s were FOB – Fresh Off the Boat)

  9. Calirefugee,
    are you talking about pickled vegies or fermented vegies. we pickle a lot of our stuff, cucumbers, yellow squash, beats, okra. and it is usually lasts for about two years when processed in a pressure canner.
    i have never tried to ferment veg,s , so i have no input on shelf life on that.
    i may try it this year, if the garden makes.
    the garden looks kind of iffy right now.

  10. Reply to nyscout: I believe this was “light pickling” as opposed to fermentation because we were not producing alcohol as a byproduct. As an older male that has seen cycles of feast and famine over the years, lightly pickled vegetables have been a part of our diet growing up in a large family with many children. (shopping once per week as opposed to every day). In that zone of Cali, we were almost always able to find some type of vegetable to either eat now or take it home to eat later. (thus my lack of knowledge and experience about canning of meat or vegetables) We ate fresh salads on days 1 and 2 after shopping. We ate a combo of pickled and fresh on days 3 thru 6.

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