Before you go through your kitchen pantry and throw away food based on the expiration date, you should know that for certain foods, that is merely a suggestion. Some edible items never expire… or, at least, they can last for years before it’s time to dispose of them. The likelihood that you will actually need to keep food around that long is slim-to-none, unless you’re a doomsday prepper or preparing to watch a few Youtube cooking channels. But, you never know if we’ll have a nuclear holocaust or a zombie apocalypse. If you want to be prepared for anything, here are 10 foods that almost never expire.
If you read old stories about pioneers and explorers, you may have already learned about a dried bread called “hardtack.” This food has been given several nicknames over the years, like “sea bread” or “pilot bread,” because of the fact that it was often taken on long journeys. It was also given to soldiers as part of their daily rations across the world. Usually, people would dip their hardtack into their tea or coffee, because with its brick-like consistency, you just might break a tooth trying to eat it.
So… just how long does it last? Some say that they may actually still be edible for hundreds of years. In Denmark, there is a hardtack on display at the Maritime Museum of Kronborg from 1852, and it has yet to go moldy or disintegrate into dust. So you can rest assured that if you add a supply of hardtack to your prepping kit, it will last for the rest of your life. And if you’re stuck in an underground bunker for multiple generations, like the Fallout series, maybe you could even hand it down those rock-hard crackers to your grandkids.
9. White Rice
Ahh, rice. It’s easy to cook, it’s filling, and totally delicious next to some sesame chicken. Everyone knows that brown rice is much more healthy and nutritious, but it will only keeps for 4 to 6 months before it goes bad. So, if your goal is to save money and stock your pantry for decades, you need to skip the brown rice at the grocery store, and go for white.
When white rice is kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight container, it is estimated to stay good for 30 years. Some preppers have speculated that if white rice is kept in the refrigerator or freezer, it can actually stay fresh forever. Rice is easy to find in bulk. It’s available at most grocery stores and big-box stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. Of course, in an apocalyptic scenario, you wouldn’t have electricity to keep your rice lasting for multiple generations. But in your standard emergency situation like a blizzard or hurricane, this will come in handy.
There is a long-standing rumor that Twinkies are like the cockroaches of the snack food world, in that they will simply never die, even after a nuclear holocaust. Well, it turns out that it’s only half true. According to Hostess Foods, the official shelf life for a Twinkie is 45 days. This is actually longer than any of their other snack foods. However, plenty of people have kept Twinkies in their pantries for years. Brave consumers have reported that they still taste great years after the official expiration date, which make them a good addition to any emergency food ration.
In Blue Hill, Maine, a school called the George Stevens Academy has held on to a Twinkie since 1976. They believe it still looks good enough to eat, even after being removed from its airtight packaging for decades. The outer layer looks a bit grey, but it’s actually because it has been accumulating chalk dust in the classroom.
Not everyone is a huge fan of the salty canned meat called SPAM, but some people love it enough to eat every single day. In Hawaii, SPAM became a huge part of the culture. It is typically eaten together with fried eggs and rice as a hearty breakfast. During World War II, GI’s who were stationed in Hawaii ate SPAM because it did not require refrigeration, and had such a long shelf life. Between 1941 and 1945, Hormel Foods shipped 15 million cans to Allied troops around the world every single week. For most war veterans, they were happy to go back to eating food that wasn’t from a can. But in Hawaii, many of their food rations came to the islands by boat, so the tradition of eating canned food with a long shelf life stuck long after the war over.
On their official website, Hormel basically insinuates that their canned meat will last forever. They say, “The product is always safe to consume as long as the seal has remained intact, unbroken and securely attached. However, the flavor and freshness of the product gradually begin to decline after three years from the manufacturing date.”
6. Hard Liquor
If the world truly has ended, and you’re stuck in an underground doomsday bunker for the rest of your days, you just might need a drink or two. Lucky for you, hard liquor lasts forever. Distilled spirits like whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, and vodka will last a lifetime if they are still sealed. Just keep in mind that cream liqueurs don’t last very long, since they contain dairy. If there truly was an emergency situation, you need alcohol for more than just a stiff drink. Remember that you will also need alcohol to sanitize objects and clean wounds.
Wine also tends to actually taste better as it ages, as long as it is corked properly and well cared for. Keep in mind that only sealed bottles will last for several years in a cool, dark, dry place. But if it comes with a screw-on-top, wine will eventually turn to vinegar, because oxygen can seep in through the top. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to give older wine a good sniff before you try to drink it.
5. Instant Coffee
At the end of the world, you won’t be able to get your morning Starbucks fix. If you feel grumpy in the morning without your coffee now, just try to imagine what life would be like without it in a doomsday scenario. And if you’re indulging in too much of that hard liquor to ease the pain of spending eternity in a bunker, you’re going to need a pick-me-up.
Caffeine addicts are in luck, because instant coffee can last 2 to 20 years at room temperature. And if you keep it in the fridge or freezer, it can actually last for the rest of your life.
Considering how terrible instant coffee usually tastes, you probably don’t want to drink your coffee black. Never fear, because granulated white sugar keeps for about 2 years at air temperature, and supposedly lasts forever if you keep it airtight, in a cool place. Powdered coffee creamer only lasts for 18-24 months, so you’d eventually have to go without cream in your morning brew at some point.
4. Dry Pasta
Who doesn’t love pasta? Plenty of people already eat some form of pasta multiple times in one week, and they wouldn’t mind continuing that lifestyle in case of an emergency. Dry pasta pops up as a common “forever” food on a lot of doomsday prepper lists on the internet. But before you run out to the grocery store to buy boxes of spaghetti in bulk, keep in mind that will only last 2 to 3 years in your pantry.
Yes, we know: three years is till a very long time to keep food around, especially when it’s something as delicious as penne or macaroni. But it’s still a far cry from forever. The shelf life can be extended to 8 to 10 years if it is vacuum sealed, and kept in a cool, dry place. However, you won’t have as much luck keeping canned tomatoes or sauce. The shelf life of an unopened can of tomato sauce is just 18 to 24 months.
So far on this list, we haven’t included any dried meats. Sorry to say, but your beef jerky will only last for about 1 to 2 years. But the Native Americans had meat preservation figured out years ago with their dried meat concoction called “pemmican.” The secret to its longevity is that both fat and dried meat are mixed together into a cake. The name comes from the Cree word pimî, which just means “fat.”
Now, for you health-conscious readers out there, eating a lump of fat doesn’t sound too appealing. But this became very popular among men working in the North American fur trade, as well as Arctic explorers who would go long periods of time without finding any plants or wildlife. Eating fat is important to keeping energy levels high, and in most cases, this became a life-saving food.
Pemmican is said to last 3 to 5 years at room temperature, and up to 20 years if kept in the refrigerator. So, basically, those Arctic explorers traveling in below-freezing temperatures could keep eating their pemmican for as long as they needed.
2. Powdered Milk
If you’re trying to chow down on your hardtack, you just might want a glass of milk to dip it in. But as we all know, real cow’s milk typically only lasts for about two weeks in the refrigerator. So, unless you find a cow, you just might have to live without dairy, unless you stock up on some powdered milk. Full fat dry milk lasts 2 to 5 years, and nonfat dry milk can last up to 25 years.
Just like every other item on this list, its shelf life is extended if you keep it in a cold, dry place — preferably your refrigerator. If you have some sitting around, and you aren’t sure if it has spoiled, you’ll know when it has gone bad, because it will smell of rotting milk. Please do keep in mind that this only counts for powdered milk, not dry baby formula, which only lasts for one year. Do not try to give a baby or young child expired baby formula, because it may have some serious consequences.
Last and certainly not least on our list of forever-foods is honey, which is the one food that truly may never expire. Pots of honey have been found in clay pots that date back to the ancient Egyptian times, proving that it still tastes great even thousands of years after it was originally sealed. The secret behind honey’s eternal shelf life is its high sugar content. It is also very acidic, so bacteria doesn’t have the chance to grow.
Honey has been known for being a “super food” with loads of health benefits. It’s high in antioxidants, helps to suppress coughs, and it has even been proven to help heal wounds and burns. And, of course, honey is delicious, so it will help make all of your other food more palatable. If you’re going to be in an emergency situation, you might as well enjoy a sweet treat whenever you can.