10+ Forever Foods: Super Long-Lasting Survival Options for your Food Storage

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Does cornstarch go bad?

What about salt? Or maple syrup?

You might be surprised. Although they say nothing lasts forever, I beg to differ.

The following foods are commonly listed as being necessary components of a balanced food storage pantry, and they all have one thing in common.

They last virtually forever — truly, forever lasting foods!

image: bottle of vodka with blue and silver label

Forever Lasting Foods for Your Food Storage Pantry

This list was originally compiled by Laura Moss in this article, but I’ve added my own commentary for application to long-term food storage.

Sugar

“Regardless of whether your sugar is white, brown, or powdered, it will never spoil because it doesn’t support bacterial growth. The challenge with sugar is to keep it from hardening into chunks. To keep sugar fresh, store it in an airtight container or seal it in a plastic bag. If your brown sugar is more like a brown rock, you can revive it with just a minute in the microwave on low heat.” (Laura Moss)

If you don’t use sugar very often, store it in canning jars and even sealed, small mylar bags. The price of sugar has been rising, so now would be a good time to stock up on at least 40 pounds, which is the recommended amount for one person for one year. You’ll need a lot more if you’re planning on making preserves. Also, avoid using oxygen absorbers when storing sugar, or it will become rock-hard, and you’ll have to chisel it to use it.

Pure vanilla extract

If you have pure vanilla extract in the back of the cupboard, there’s no need to throw it out because it lasts forever. It may be more expensive than its imitation counterpart, but its shelf life certainly outweighs the extra cost. Keep that vanilla flavor at its best by sealing the bottle after each use and storing it in a cool, dark place.

If you buy extracts for storage purposes, they should all last at least four years if stored in a dark, cool place. Most contain an amount of ethyl alcohol, which has preservative elements and lasts for years.

Rice

White, wild, jasmine, arborio, and basmati rice all keep forever, so there’s no need to throw them out. Brown rice is the one exception because it has a higher oil content, so store it in the refrigerator or freeze it to maximize its shelf life. Once you’ve opened a bag or box of rice, move it to an airtight container or resealable freezer bag to keep it fresh.

You simply can’t go wrong by stocking up on plenty of rice. It’s a meal-stretcher and can be prepared in so many different ways that it’s one of my favorite food-storage basics. Save up 2-liter soda bottles, clean them and let them air dry for super storage containers for your rice. Also, parboiled rice combines brown rice’s nutritional value with white rice’s shelf life. That’s a win-win for your long-term food storage pantry!

Cornstarch

You can thicken gravies, sauces, soups, and other liquids for years with just one box of cornstarch because it has an indefinite shelf life provided it remains dry. Store this kitchen staple in a cool, dry area, and be sure to reseal it tightly after each use.

So, does cornstarch go bad? No, not if stored properly. And unlike baking powder, it doesn’t lose potency over time. However, it’s critical it doesn’t come into contact with any type of liquid or mold can result. If you don’t normally use cornstarch, stock up on a few cans since it can double as a treatment for diaper rash and skin irritations of all kinds, and deodorant and talcum powder substitutes. Plus, cornstarch mixed with some water effectively cools the sunburned skin. It’s also gluten-free. Bonus!

Honey

I think honey must be the original forever lasting food. Whether you use it in your tea, on your toast, or as an alternative sweetening ingredient, that jar of pure honey is good forever. It may get grainy or change color, but it’s still safe to eat — and delicious — because its antibiotic properties keep it from spoiling. You can help keep it fresh by storing it in a cool area, and you can improve the quality of crystallized honey by placing the jar in warm water and stirring it until the grainy parts dissolve.

Before pulling out the Neosporin or some other antibacterial ointment, try dabbing a little honey on scratches, scrapes, and bug bites. Do a little research on the benefits of honey other than as a sweetener, and you’ll want to stock up on a whole lot more of this sweet stuff!

Hard liquor

Mixing drinks at your holiday party? There’s no need to replace those decades-old bottles of gin and whiskey. Distilled spirits like vodka, rum, whiskey, tequila, and gin don’t ever spoil — even after opening. The taste, color, or aroma may fade over time, but it’ll hardly be noticeable. Keep the bottles tightly closed and store them in a cool area away from direct heat or sunlight.

Plenty of preppers talk of making their own stills and having alcohol on hand as an item for barter. It’s good to know that those little airplane-size bottles you buy of vodka, rum, or whatever will last a very long time. Historically, bottled alcoholic beverages have always been popular for trade and barter. Even if you are a teetotaler, there are some very good reasons to stock up on a bit of alcohol

Salt

The contents of your salt shaker will never spoil, regardless of whether it’s basic table salt or sea salt. Simply store it in a cool, dry place, and salt will keep indefinitely.

Try Celtic Sea Salt for a healthy version of salt, and remember to stock up on about 5 pounds of salt per person. Its main enemy is moisture, so make sure it’s stored off the ground, away from outside walls, and, if possible, in glass jars or commercially sealed cans.

Corn syrup

If you come across a years-old bottle of corn syrup in your pantry, don’t throw it out. This sweetener keeps indefinitely as long as you keep it sealed and store it in a cool, dry area.

It’s good to know that the bottle of corn syrup I’ve had for at least five years is perfectly fine! You can always make your own, another good reason for stocking up on plenty of sugar.

Maple syrup

What good are pancakes or waffles without maple syrup? Luckily, this flavorful syrup will never spoil if you refrigerate it or freeze it. For long-term storage, seal it in an airtight plastic container and freeze it.  “The freezer is such a useful tool that can really save you money because there are very few foods that don’t freeze well,” says Janice Revell of Still Tasty.

image: open can of pure maple syrup, a forever food
image by Kai Hendry

Except where food storage is concerned, the freezer is only a backup since it’s so vulnerable to power outages and even something as simple as someone leaving the door open. It’s possible to make your own maple syrup using this tutorial. If your family enjoys pancakes, French toast, and waffle breakfasts, you’d better have plenty of syrup on hand or a few maple trees out in the backyard!

Distilled white vinegar

This wonder product can be used for everything, from making marinades and salad dressings to cleaning the house and doing laundry. But the best thing about distilled white vinegar is that it lasts for years. Simply close it tightly after each use and store the bottle in a cool, dark place.

Vinegar is one of those long lasting foods that can be used for so much more than food. My recipe for a multi-purpose cleaner is equal parts vinegar and water; I use it for just about everything.  

Wheat Berries

Whole wheat has a shelf-life of 30+ years when stored in airtight containers. Grind it into wheat flour for baking, or cook them whole for a tasty hot cereal. Read more about selecting, storing, and using whole wheat.

Should You Add These Forever Lasting Foods to YOUR Food Storage Pantry?

Absolutely! The only caution will be if you have any allergies to any of them. Many of these are relatively inexpensive, too, making it easier to acquire them in bulk quantities.

How many of these forever lasting foods do you stock in your food storage pantry?

[The original list, “10 cooking staples that can outlast you“, was written by Laura Moss. It’s great info for anyone stocking up on food and would make a good addition to your Survival Mom Binder.]

Originally published February 21, 2010; updated by The Survival Mom editors.

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I'm the original Survival Mom and for more than 11 years, I've been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more with my commonsense prepping advice.

37 thoughts on “10+ Forever Foods: Super Long-Lasting Survival Options for your Food Storage”

  1. I got very excited about this post, but then saw that included in the ten items that store forever are: sugar, honey, maple syrup, and corn syrup. I mentally group those all together, and knew that they were forever foods.

    I occasionally use some small amounts of corn starch. I'd love to hear from others what you use corn starch in. I just use if for a thickener in soups and gravies and I know people use it in fruit deserts also to thicken. Can you use it in quickbreads, dumplings, or anything more like that? Or, is it ever a main ingredient in any ethnic food?

    1. you can make deodorant using equal parts cornstarch and baking soda. I put mine in an old plastic spice jar with shaker holes. Sprinkle on your hand and pat/rub onto your arm pits. Works great!

    2. Hi! I have been using Corn Startch in place of Talcum Powder for years. I am allergic to the talc and perfumes that are in regular Powder, like baby powder. My grandma told me to just use Corn Starch and it is amazing. No more infected bumps or rashes! I used it on my new born with no problems and NO Powder dust to risk them inhaling. The only problem I have is finding large enough Powder puffs for applying it. Try it I think you will be pleased. And SO much cheaper!

  2. Thank you for sharing these long term items for storage. I will keep this in my preparedness folder. Excellent advice.

  3. I also recommend baking soda and cream of tartar. Baking soda has a ton of uses, of course, but one lesser-known one (that I learned of on this site) is to combine it with cream of tartar and make your own baking powder. Baking powder doesn't last very long at all, so this is a good way to ensure you'll be able to bake away for much longer. 🙂 I got my cream of tartar in a big bag from amazon.com so it was A LOT cheaper than at the grocery store near me. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Home

    Vinegar is also a great weed-killer. Kills 'em right down to the roots. I pour it directly on my weeks, personally. Mostly the ones that try to grow up through cracks in the sidewalk and driveway that can be very hard to get out, and very damaging long-term.

    The LDS Calendar is great, but some items it recommends A LOT less than the average prepper would keep on hand. I don't think they take cleaning and hygeine needs into account on the amounts. Salt comes to mind. It's great to keep more of in case you need to salt down meat for storage, for instance. And as you said, a lot more sugar if you plan on making your own jam or jellies.

  4. You can also make your own vanilla flavoring with the leftover brandy/cognac/vodka. Purchase a vanilla bean or two at a bulk foods or health food store (least expensive sources) or a grocery store. Slice the bean open lengthwise to expose the seeds, place it in a bottle and add the brandy/cognac/or vodka to cover. Let it set in a dark cupboard for a couple of weeks shaking it up once a day. You can leave the bean in the bottle and just add more alcohol as the flavoring is used up.

  5. Thank you! I was wondering what the shelf life of vinegar was. I only have a few gallons left and want to stock up on that soon.

  6. Do you know the shelf life of cider vinegar? For canning you need the more acidic vinegar. Also, hard liquors could be used for medical reasons as an anesthetic or antiseptic.
    @Mike cornstarch is also used as a powder. Think for diaper rash. Hub and I use cornstarch after our showers(although we currently buy it in the powder sized containers for easy use) It would definitely be cheaper to use the cooking cornstarch(which is the same really).

  7. apple cider vinegar never goes bad and can be used for so many things. If you ever run out of regular vinegar you can use acv in its place. As for the LDS calculator, well to each their own I suppose, but in my house a gallon doesnt last a month much less a year. Vinegar, baking soda, and peroxide are my main cleaning ingredients.

  8. Replacing part of the flour in a cake recipe with cornstarch gives a lighter texture to the cake (more like a boxed mix). You can find the proportions on line, just search for cake flour.
    Cornstarch does work well as a body powder and can be scented with essential oils by placing a few drops on a cotton ball in the bottom of your container of cornstarch.
    If you use spray starch, you can make your own from cornstarch and water.

  9. Good list. Includes something one doesn't often see on these types of lists: I've always said that liquor is important to invest in.

    Liquor, bullets and blue jeans.
    When the SHTF, I know I'M going to need a drink!

  10. Two things that aren't on your list that also last forever are white flour and white rice. Like your white sugar, they don't have much in the way of nutrition but they will fill the belly so even though they don't keep forever, get and keep a year's supply of vitamins. Keep buying and using them and rotating your stock. You'll be healthier now and you'll be healthier when the SHTF if you've got that stock of GOOD vitamins.

  11. The old "Big 4" – wheat berries, honey, salt and powdered milk – will last nearly forever – there are 'leftovers' in 5000 year old Egyptian tombs – sill viable (not the milk, that's relatively new), but a good start

  12. Any ideas on the best way to longterm store saltine or oyster crackers? Most have an average shelf life of up to one year. I'm a beginner and am starting my stores. Can't image not having my crackers with chili and soups. Thanks Kimmer

    1. I haven\’t tried to store oyster crackers long term, but saltines get super nasty. Ugh. You could try storing them in plastic or glass containers with an oxygen absorber. That would probably buy you a little time — a few more months, maybe. You could also learn how to make crackers from scratch and store the ingredients. In general, ingredients have a much longer shelf live than prepared foods.

      1. I'm learning how to make my own crackers from scratch. I REALLY hate crunching up some saltines in my soup only to find that they've gone stale and rancid! LOL

  13. I see you mention the 2-liter soda bottles for storage. I was wondering what you thought about using the 1-gallon vinegar jugs for storage?

    1. The best storage bottles are the empty Arizona Tea gallon bottles. Thick, strong, well balanced, and tea, even sweetened tea is much better for you to use up than soda.

  14. SilentNightPrepper

    Honey Lip-Balm

    1 cup sweet almond oil
    1/2 cup beeswax**
    2 Tablespoons honey
    Place almond oil and beeswax in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until mixture melts. Whisk honey into beeswax mixture; stir well. Set aside to cool completely. When cool, pour into small containers with lids. Apply to lips as a moisturizer. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. *Sweet almond oil can be found at natural food stores; other sheet oils can be substituted. ** Beeswax can be purchased at craft and beekeeping stores.

  15. I used your link to the LDS calculater and put in 2 adults. It seams off since it only told me I need 28 gallons of water for 1 year. Everything else seamed okay (fats & oils seamed a bit low for a year). Why would this only suggest 28 gallons? Is their calculation only for preparing the recommended pounds of food (and not drinking, washing, etc…)?

    1. I have no idea how their calculator comes up with the various amounts for each food listed. I think their numbers are only helpful as a general guideline. Personally, I don’t own any flavored gelatin or molasses!

      1. Jello is a big thing for the LDS. I still have my jello Olympic pins from when we lived there.

  16. I’m not sure abut the corn syrup…I had some for several years (unopened) and it was rather cloudy. I went online and the Karo website said that bacteria can grow in corn syrup so if it is cloudy, better to throw it out.

    Rice must be frozen for at least a week before storage. I forgot to do that and found bugs in my rice.

  17. Okay, question. Can one store salt in sealed mylar bags (maybe 5 gallon?) with an oxygen absorber and then just place all the bags into sealable plastic buckets?
    Would that be efficient at keeping the moisture out?
    I don’t usually buy the food grade buckets as much as they tend to be more but I almost always have mylar bags & O2 absorbers on hand. So I buy the el cheapo buckets, use mylar, usually in 5 gallon bags, and then fill and seal as I acquire beans, rice, sugar, and what not.
    Mucho thanks!
    (another skinny survival Mom)

  18. Hi just came across this and hope you still look at the emails. We have several family members who do not consume any gluten products. I have gluten ataxia and don’t enjoy walking into walls and falling over so I avoid all gluten. Also no dairy, soy, corn, no artificials and various food allergies. I couldn’t find the info on storage time. I’ll keep looking, I probably went right over it. I guess in a dire emergency we could eat items we don’t normally eat. I don’t have room to keep items that we won’t/can’t eat.

  19. Pingback: Prepping essentials: 11 Forever foods for your food storage pantry – The Cuture War

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