Most food products are stamped with a “best-by” date, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are expired after that date! Some foods will stay good indefinitely when properly stored. (That’s right—even if they come with a date!)
These 13 everyday items will last for years—sometimes decades—even after they’ve been opened. Keep these products on hand rather than throwing them out, and you’ll be reducing food waste and keeping money in your pocket. Score!
13 Foods That Will Never Expire
Honey may crystallize over time, but it won’t actually spoil or become unusable. The reason it is so resistant to spoilage is because it’s only made up of about 17% water, which is too low to accommodate most bacteria and fungi. The honey actually dehydrates bacteria, so it is essentially its own preservative!
If your honey does crystallize, just run your sealed container under hot water for a few minutes. The honey will soften, while maintaining its sweet flavor. (I store mine in a mason jar with this cool dipper lid!)
Both white and brown sugar can be used indefinitely if they are stored in an airtight container away from light and heat. When sugar is properly stored, it is extremely inhospitable to bacteria and other things you probably don’t want to eat.
However, if moisture is allowed to mix with the sugar, it can become hard and clumpy, and even become a food source for bacteria. For long-term storage, try storing your sugar in a vacuum-sealable container.
3. White Rice
I mention white rice specifically, because brown rice will eventually go bad due to its higher oil content. But white rice, if stored properly in an airtight container, will stay good forever!
Treating foods with salt is one of the world’s oldest methods of food preservation. It is extremely effective at dehydrating things, including bacteria, so properly stored salt will remain usable for years.
However, if the salt is fortified or has added ingredients, like iodine, you can assume that the salt will have a shorter shelf life than regular old salt. (It will still stay good for several years, though!)
Cornstarch is another powdery ingredient that will stay good indefinitely. Follow the same storage tips listed above to ensure it stays uncontaminated (in an airtight container, stored away from light and heat.)
According to the Vinegar Institute, the shelf life of most vinegars is virtually indefinite. The acidic nature of vinegar makes it self-preserving (and also makes it a great preservative for other foods!)
Properly stored white vinegar will remain unchanged over time, but other types of vinegar (like wine vinegars or apple cider vinegar) may change in color and appearance over time. The Vinegar Institute says that these changes are usually just aesthetic, and that the vinegar will still be perfectly good to use.
7. Pure Vanilla Extract
Pure vanilla extract has a very high alcohol content (around 40%), and alcohol is a well-known preservative. A bottle of pure vanilla extract will stay good pretty much indefinitely! Imitation vanilla also contains alcohol, but it also contains other ingredients that contribute to its shorter shelf life.
8. Maple Syrup
You can store unopened maple syrup in your pantry indefinitely, but once it has been opened, it needs to be stored properly to stay usable. Put your maple syrup into an airtight container and store it in the fridge after opening. Even stored this way, pure maple syrup should stay good for years!
9. Soy Sauce
Soy sauce contains a high level of salt, which as we know is a great preservative. So if your soy sauce is properly sealed and stored in a dark cupboard, it will stay perfectly usable indefinitely.
10. Bouillon Cubes
Bouillon cubes are another food item that have a long shelf life due to high salt content. These cubes will stay good forever, which is a great reason to keep a container of them in your cupboard. You’ll always be ready to make a simple broth or add some extra flavor to soups and sauces!
11. Dried Beans
As an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants, beans are great staple food to stock up on. Dried beans will last indefinitely if stored in a cool, dry place.
That claim was put to the test in a 2005 study at Brigham Young University, which prepared and served pinto beans that were up to 32 years old to a group of 58 people. Among those taste-testers, around 80% said they would eat even the oldest beans as part of their regular diet in an emergency situation.
12. Powdered Milk
Powdered milk will stay good for two to 10 years after its best-by date, especially if you store it in an airtight container. Store it in a cool place below 60°F to extend the storage life even further, or pop it in your freezer to keep it fresh indefinitely!
Reconstituted powdered milk isn’t a perfect substitution for the fresh stuff, but it sure is nice to have on hand when you’re in a bind!
Bags of microwave popcorn won’t last forever, but the loose popcorn kernels can last virtually forever! Store them in an airtight container in a cool, dry area, and you can have popcorn anytime you want (even years from now!)
Obviously these aren’t the only food items with a long shelf life. A good rule of thumb to remember is that foods will generally have a very long shelf life if they are very salty, very sugary, or stored in vinegar.
Which of the items on this list were you most surprised by?