Between 30% and 40% of the nation’s food supply goes to waste every year, according to the USDA.
That means most American households are throwing away thousands of dollars of food, including items that probably didn’t need to be tossed quite yet.
9 foods with a really long shelf life
Grocery manufacturers and retailers are moving to simplify labels because of the food waste crisis.
Shoppers currently have to make sense of more than 10 different date labels on items, such as sell by, use by, expires on, best before, better if used by or best by.
But the industry is now recommending the use of just two phrases: “Best if used by” and “Use by.”
Adding to the confusion, some products don’t really need expiration dates printed on them because they have an indefinite shelf life. Here are 9 of those foods:
National Honey Board: “Honey stored in sealed containers can remain stable for decades and even centuries! However, honey is susceptible to physical and chemical changes during storage; it tends to darken and lose its aroma and flavor or crystallize. These are temperature-dependent processes, making the shelf life of honey difficult to define. For practical purposes, a shelf life of two years is often stated.”
2. Dried beans
Rancho Gordo: “It would be great if you could eat beans within six months but easily they have their charms past five years if you store them in a dark, cool, dry place. I would tell you the age of some commercial beans but it might upset you!”
3. Maple syrup
Anderson’s Maple Syrup: “Unopened syrup stores easily, it does not need refrigeration just keep in a dry place at a room temperature or lower. However, prolonged (more than two years) storage may cause the color of maple syrup to darken and the flavor may deteriorate slightly. It is recommended that if you are going to store syrup, for over two years, to keep it in a freezer or cooler. This is the best way to prevent spoilage and to keep the syrup at its peak of quality. Maple Syrup unopened will keep for a long time. Glass keeps the best; we have a bottle over 50 years old on our shelf that is still good. Plastic we normally recommend not keeping for more than 18 months to 2 years and tin should be stored no longer than 6 months.”
Domino Sugar: “Sugar, properly stored (tightly closed and in a dry place), has an indefinite shelf life because it does not support microbial growth.”
5. White rice
Riceland: “White rice products have nearly indefinite shelf lives. If stored properly and protected from infestation and extreme temperature fluctuations, white rice products may be maintained for long periods of time.”
6. Pure vanilla extract
Nielsen Massey: “Our pure vanilla extracts have a shelf life recommendation of 3 years. Though, in actuality, they will continue to mellow and develop flavor as they age just as a fine wine or liquor would. If, over time, the extract starts to look cloudy or you see sediment at the bottom of the bottle, this is because the flavor matter has dropped out of suspension. This is normal, and you just need to shake the bottle to put the flavoring material back into suspension.”
Morton Salt: “The salt itself does not expire but added ingredients such as iodine may reduce shelf life. The shelf life of Iodized Salt is about 5 years.”
8. Corn starch
Argo Starch: “Before or after opening, uncooked Argo and Kingsford’s Corn Starch are good to use to prepare recipes for an indefinite period of time. Corn starch may be stored indefinitely if it’s kept dry.”
9. Distilled white vinegar
The Vinegar Institute: “The Vinegar Institute conducted studies to find out and confirmed that vinegar’s shelf life is almost indefinite. Because of its acid nature, vinegar is self-preserving and does not need refrigeration. White distilled vinegar will remain virtually unchanged over an extended period of time. And, while some changes can be observed in other types of vinegars, such as color changes or the development of a haze or sediment, this is only an aesthetic change. The product can still be used and enjoyed with confidence.”
Other foods may last longer than you realize!
Of course, there are many other foods that can last years or decades before spoiling, as long as they’re stored properly. Most are either very sugary, very salty or kept in vinegar.