When you’ve prepped for as many years as I have, you’ve had a lot of food storage failures and successes. Based on my own personal experiences and mistakes, these are my recommendations for the top ten foods to not store, at least not in large quantities for the long term.
Please keep in mind that I’m not saying to never buy these or to never have a few of these on your shelf. I’m only saying they just aren’t good candidates for long-term storage. Therefore, don’t stock up on them in large quantities unless you really are going to rotate through them on a regular basis.
Foods To Not Store, Long-term
Here’s my list of foods not recommended for long-term storage:
1. Any canned vegetable or fruit that you do not like
This may seem obvious, but I assure you, there are thousands of preppers across the country who have shelves and shelves of canned who-knows-what and #10 cans of why-did-I-buy-that! Don’t assume you’ll fall in love with slimy, aged canned apricots five years from now if you detest apricots now!
Canned veggies and fruits aren’t nearly as tasty as fresh versions, so if you decide to store them, make sure you really like them. Any that you don’t like should be a no-brainer for your “foods to not store list.”
I know that canned tuna is a staple in many food pantries. However, I’ve discovered that after a couple of years, canned tuna becomes mushy. Now, if you love the taste of tuna, you may not mind the mushy version, but for me, I really didn’t like it. Also, tuna from various parts of the world has been known to contain mercury and other contaminants.
If you have stored tuna, why don’t you find the very oldest can, open it, and see if your results are different from mine? Try this for each brand of tuna you have to see if one brand holds up better, long-term.
As flour ages, it can develop a stale, rancid smell. Additionally, it likely contains the microscopic eggs of flour weevils, which will hatch at some point. To get the longest possible shelf life out of flour, first, place it in an airtight container and freeze it for about a week. This kills the insect eggs. Then, before storing it, add an oxygen absorber or two, depending on the size of the container. Still, you can expect a shelf life of 18 months or so from flour, which is why most preppers prefer to store wheat. Wheat is more versatile and is one of my top ten foods to stock up on.
4. Saltine crackers
Just for fun, take a sleeve of saltine crackers out of the box and set them aside, at room temperature, for 3 or 4 months. You’ll never get over the stench of rancid saltines! It made my list of foods to not store with ease.
Some folks have had success with vacuum sealing them with oxygen absorbers but that hasn’t been my experience. You could also learn how to make them from scratch. Or just buy and enjoy saltines but do rotate through them. Don’t necessarily depend on a giant stash staying fresh a year from now.
5. Graham crackers
I didn’t think our family favorite, graham crackers, could go bad, but they do go rancid with time. Again, you can repackage them in an airtight container using oxygen absorbers, but that’s a lot of extra work. You can also store the ingredients to make homemade graham crackers. Have an extra 3 or 4 boxes around is quite fine. Just remember to rotate and use up the oldest crackers first, while storing the newly purchased crackers for later.
6. Breakfast cereals
These are not packaged for long-term storage. They also likely contain GMO ingredients and probably contain a lot of additives that you would just as soon not consume. However, I know they’re a quick and handy breakfast food, especially if you have kids. If you must store them, again, rotate and repackage them for the longest possible shelf life. Stock up on oatmeal instead.
7. Canned tomato products
Personally, I have always stored a number of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste, but then, we use those products often in our meals. Over the years I have heard more complaints about canned tomatoes than any other canned foods: the cans leak, they bulge, a seam opens. If you store these, be sure to rotate through them and plan on growing your own fresh tomatoes so you’ll have those to rely on instead.
Consider tomato powder as an alternative to canned tomato products in many recipes.
8. Home-dehydrated foods
Again, these aren’t bad, but for long-term storage, they won’t last nearly as long, mold-free, as commercially dehydrated foods. This is because we have no way of measuring the actual moisture content of our home-dehydrated foods. We dry them “until crispy” or “leathery” but those are pretty subjective measurements. Commercially dried foods are tested for moisture and then packaged in a container in which most or all of the oxygen has been removed.
If you dehydrate your own foods (and please continue to do so!), just keep in mind that it has a shelf life of a year, maybe two, and rotate through them.
9. Brown sugar
There’s really no need to store brown sugar if you have granulated sugar and molasses on hand. Molasses has an extremely long shelf life, as does sugar. Just combine 1 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon molasses, and voila’, you have freshly made brown sugar.
10. Bottled salad dressing
When a bottle of Kraft ranch salad dressing is the same color as Thousand Island, you know something went very, very wrong on your pantry shelf! That was our experience just last week. About 4 years ago I used a number of coupons to buy bottled salad dressings for my brand new food storage pantry. I didn’t stop to think that I usually make my own homemade dressings, so those 8 or 10 bottles just languished on the shelf. Needless to say, we tossed them into the trash.
Forget the store-bought dressings unless you rotate through them fairly quickly. It’s too easy to make homemade from fresh or shelf-stable ingredients. Instead, stock up on oils, dried herbs, True Lemon to provide lemon juice when no fresh lemons are available, and any other ingredients for your favorite dressings. Remember to rotate your oils as they become rancid rather quickly.
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What are your top ten foods to not store?
This post updated 10/4/2021.
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