Friday, October 22, 2010

Shelf life of Stored Foods

Sir Knight has been bringing wonderful gifts home from work!  Barrels.  I love them.  We have a number of barrels that have already been pressed into service for bulk foods, but as our family has grown, and we see a need reaching beyond our family for stored foods, we have looked to 55 gallon barrels for things we would normally store in 4 or 5 gallon buckets.

Rice, hard red wheat, rice, white flour, white sugar - these things we have been bulking up on for years, and 55 gallon barrels just make sense.  Recently, we have filled enough 4 gallon buckets with things like powdered milk, hard white wheat and turbinado sugar, to re-think our storage options.  It is becoming apparent that 55 gallon barrels of these commodities is not out of line, so into barrels they will go!

Last evening, Sir Knight and I were discussing the storage shelf life of powdered milk (we had just picked up another 75 pounds) and realized that we needed to reacquaint ourselves with the storage life of many of our stored foods.  We date everything that we put into storage, but what good is a date, if you don't have a baseline for when that food is out of date?!

Here is a partial list of the storage life* for some of our stored foods.....

  • Beans (black, pinto, white, kidney etc.)
    • 30 Years
  • Non-fat Dry Milk
    • 30 Years
  • White Rice
    • 30 Years
  • Granulated Sugar
    • 30 Years
  • Hard Red Wheat
    • 30 Years
  • Hard White Wheat
    • 30 Years
  • Dehydrated Fruits (apples, pears, berries)
    • 30 Years
  • Dehydrated Vegetables (carrots, green beans, corn)
    • 25 Years
  • Pasta (pre-packaged)
    • 30 Years
  • Oats (quick, regular, groats)
    • 30 Years
  • Onion Flakes
    • 30 Years
  • White Flour
    • 10 Years
  • Canned Meats (Some home canned meat was found and tested after 118 years and analyzed-it was still good!)
    • 5 Years
  • Canned Low Acid Foods
    • 2 to 5 Years
  • Canned High Acid Foods
    • 2 Years
  • Powdered Eggs
    • 5 to 10 Years

* Properly packaged and stored at 75 degrees or below

Like I said, this is just a partial list.  More to come.....


  1. The first time I ever ate home canned pears, I was 20 years old, and so was the can of pears. They were delicious and were even made without sugar. That was a wonder to me, and so I have always wondered since how long you can keep canned goods.

    I love your blog and am always tempted to comment, but I guess I'm more tempted to go on and read the next one instead. Your posts on children have really blessed me.

    Gracie Wray

  2. Do you divide the bulk foods into 5 or 10 pound mylar bags before sealing the barrels? Or do you put the food directly into the barrels, in bulk and undivided? Seems that the extra trouble and expense of bagging the bulk foods prior to storage would be well worthwhile as a way to avoid contamination of all the barrel's contents should a breach occur. Also, it's much easier to grab a single mylar bag for the family's monthly use. What are your thoughts on this?

    My first aid supplies have an expiration date of 18 months, on average. They are proving to be the biggest rotation problem for me since I seldom use them. I think reverting to using old-fashion remedies from my grandmother's generation may be a practical alternative for me. With no expiration dates, those tried and true remedies may be more economical for a single person like myself who seldom needs to use first aid supplies.

    NoCal Gal

  3. Save the Canning JarsOctober 22, 2010 at 9:13 PM

    My mom brought over some powdered milk for me to put into canning jars and vacuum seal with a food saver in order to take out the air in hopes of it keeping well beyond the expiration date. She had just purchased the 5 lb. box and already it was out of date (according to the manufacturer's date stamp). We gave it to the feeding mission so that it would be consumed immediately. Your posting of shelf life for powdered milk is a "NOW" word for me. How do you get this to last 30 years? I know about 5 gallon food grade buckets and oxygen absorbers. I just don't know how to "milk" this stuff to the 30 year mark. Thanks in advanced for any info on making powdered milk last so long.

  4. Thank-you for the list. I've been wondering how long some of my food will last. Where can I find the bulk milk and about how much money for a bag? Enjoy reading the blog.

  5. Gracie Wray-- I did a specific study on canned goods. I called both the Dept. of Agriculture and several major producers of canned goods. This was in the days before most of them began printing expiration or "use by" dates.
    Canned goods are SAFE to eat at any age, provided the can is intact. (no creased dents, no bulging, no leaking or corrosion spotting, etc.)
    Most canned foods BEGIN loosing taste, texture, color and nutrition at about 5 yrs. Very high acid foods are quicker. Canned milks and formula could be questionable as soon as 2-3 yrs.
    Canned goods have been found at as much as 100 yrs. old. The food inside was still SAFE to eat, though it contained little nutrition and tasted like paper towels.
    With the majority of canning companies the expiration dates are selected by the MARKETING department. There is NO scientific reason for it.
    The possible life span of home canned goods is the same. If the seal is good, the color and texture and smell is good, and it tastes good, it's good.
    These days the Dept. of Ag. will recommend you follow the "use by" and expiration dates, but they're buying into political correctness these days.

  6. My experience with beans is that they become hard to cook after 5- 8 yrs. The older they are the longer you must cook them until finally, no matter how long you cook them they won't soften. I never recommend keeping beans past 10 yrs, if that long.

  7. Where do you find a 75 lb. bag of nonfat dry milk. I can't find more than a few pounds anywhere. Thank you for any help.
    PS I love your blog.

  8. Bumping this in hopes of some answers to the questions above and my own question:

    Do you know if they make powdered milk that actually keeps the fat IN it?