16 Pantry Staples with the Longest Shelf Life

Throughout a worldwide pandemic, soaring market prices, and numerous doomsday conspiracies, it’s only natural that we all may be trying to make choices that act in our favor for any and every one of these reasons. And those choices may be in reference to what goes into our pantries, cupboards, refrigerators and freezers. The ability to buy an item that won’t go bad after a week, two weeks, or even a month, is a blessing and a money-saver.

Staple items are what you need to get all the jobs done and they’re what you reach for when you’re in a pinch, whether you need that extra ingredient or you haven’t been able to get to the store and it’s time for dinner! And what’s amazing about some of these items is that some can stay on the shelves for years and years—if stored correctly!

Today, we’ve compiled a list of 16 pantry staples with the longest shelf life. Take a peek, take some notes, and grab what you need next time a visit to the market is on your to-do list.

#16: Canned Veggies & Fruits

Canned foods are known to last quite a bit when left unopened. Which is why canned foods are necessities in our pantries. When all else fails, these don’t. Having enough extra food and veg to grab in a pinch saves so much stress, money, and planning.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget, dented cans need to be tossed as the food inside won’t be preserved in ways that are safe for keeping and ingesting.

Shelf Life: 1–2 years beyond stamped date

#15: Dry Pasta

Dry pasta in jar

Although some say dry pasta never really expires, it will look its quality over time and is best to consume within two years of its purchase date. With that being said, if you have pasta on hand, you will always have a meal for the family.

There are so many dishes you can make if you have spaghetti, elbows, shells, rigatoni—and any other type of pasta—on hand in the pantry. You can even plump up dishes or add them to leftovers to create a brand new meal.

*Pro Tip: Keep your dry pasta in an airtight container for longer lasting freshness.

Shelf Life: 2 years

#14: Instant Coffee

With the shelf life of instant coffee, you’ll never be hurting for a caffeine break. Wait for sale prices to drop and then stock up on your favorite brands. Just make sure you are storing the coffee properly. Airtight containers are best—and keep the grounds dry!

Shelf Life: Opened 12–18 months; up to 20 years while sealed

#13: Olive Oil

It’s important to keep cooking oils, like olive oil, at room temperature and away from direct sunlight (which is why the pantry is a great option). And olive oil is a staple product that can exceed so many expectations and be used in so many different ways.

It can replace essentially any other cooking oil and be used to create sauces and dressings. It also has infinite other uses around the house, such as naturally moisturizing your hair and skin, and remedying creaky doors.

Shelf Life: Up to 2 years when left unopened

#12: Popcorn

Popcorn will last a lifetime when in kernel form—so stock up! Learn how to make a mean stovetop recipe and add toppings of your choice throughout the seasons. Caramel in the fall, chocolate and cinnamon in the winter, and extra butter throughout the warmer months. This is a family favorite so you should always have a bit on hand.

Shelf Life: Kernels last forever if left sealed; popped corn should be consumed within 1-2 days of opening

#11: Raw Honey

Raw honey being taken out of jar with dripper

True, raw honey will last a lifetime if stored properly and kept from humidity. Most other kinds of honey can be kept for around two years without an issue. Because raw honey is made of mostly sugars and very little water, bacteria cannot grow in it—making it one of the most stable foods we can get our hands on. And it’s a perfect sweetener, as well as a sore throat cure!

Shelf Life: Forever if raw honey and stored properly; 2 years in most other cases

#10: Salt

Salt should not be kept in an area with humidity—but keeping it in your pantry, at room temp, away from the heat will keep it lasting for a good while. Don’t be fooled though, table salt is only good for around five years before you should switch it out, whereas natural salts are the ones that will last forever and always (think of the kind that’s found in the oceans).

Shelf Life: Natural salt lasts forever; table salt lasts around 5 years

#9: Grains

When we say grains, we’re talking quinoa, barley, grits, oats and even millet. Store your grain in airtight containers so they’re fresh for when you need them. This is the type of staple you should keep in bulk for when you need filler for your meals or when you cannot get to the store.

Shelf Life: 6 months to 1 year

#8: Vanilla Extract

The alcohol found in vanilla acts as a preserver to the beans the extract is made from. Pure vanilla extract has the ability to stay for a lifetime. But it’s important to note that imitation vanilla will need to be disposed of after about 3 years.

Pro tip: Do not keep your vanilla extract cold after opening.

Shelf Life: Forever when stored properly; up to 5 years for best flavor

#7: Sugar

Again, if kept in airtight containers, your sugar will withstand the test of time. And this goes for both white and brown sugar. Even with the molasses in the mix, keep your brown sugar soft by adding a slice of bread to the container.

Shelf Life: Forever; although brown sugar can turn if not stored correctly

#6: Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate lasts the longest of all chocolates. It doesn’t contain milk, so its life expectancy is quite a bit longer than milk or white chocolate. This one is also great to have on hand to snack on by itself or add to plenty of sweet treat recipes when you’re craving something indulgent!

Shelf Life: 2–3 years

#5: Rice

Rice in wooden box

More than a staple, rice is good in all kinds of things and we should all have some on hand. It’s the perfect food when you’re sick in an emergency situation. And it lasts a good while! Everyone can make a meal if you have rice to start with.

Pro tip: Brown rice will not keep as long as white, jasmine, or basmati.

Shelf Life: Forever when stored properly (dry, and alone)

#4: Powdered Milk

Perfect for baking, powdered milk can come in handy when you’re hurting for fresh ingredients. And when kept in the right containers and out of the way of humidity, it will last up to a decade!

Shelf Life: Upwards of 10 years

#3: Maple Syrup

Everyone needs some maple syrup in their life. And it will last you awhile too, whether you leave it unopened forever or go ahead and crack that top for your pancake breakfast in the morning.

Shelf Life: Forever if left unopened; one year after opened

#2: Dried Beans

We put beans in the category of rice and pasta, and with the combination of them, you can have a balanced meal in no time. This is absolutely one of those staples you should have a small stockpile of for the family—easy protein!

Shelf Life: Forever in a sealed container

#1: Bouillon Cubes

This may not be the first item on your grocery list, but you should always have some on hand. There are so many delicious recipes you can whip up if you have them and they will last a while on your shelves too. Broth and sauces can be created from these cubes (keep them dry) and added to those beans, rice, or pasta you have in the pantry too.

Shelf Life: Up to two years

For more kitchen inspiration, check out 52 awesome and inexpensive recipes you can use to feed a family (using a few of the ingredients mentioned above)!