Shelf Life of Canned Goods, Dried Foods, and Other Goods

Freeze Dried Food: Food in the Cupboard

Ever wondered about the shelf life of different items in your long term food storage? Sure, you have. Well, let’s look at the shelf life of canned goods, dried foods, and other goods.

Now, if you have freeze dried food that is still in the factory packaging, such as No. 10 cans, then you don’t have to worry. Tests have shown that Mountain House Freeze Dried Food in No. 10 Cans can have a shelf life that exceeds 30 years. However, other foods are different.

For purposes of our discussion, we will assume that the temperature of the storage area is 70 deg F. Also, these are somewhat conservative estimates, meaning safe estimates.

Canned goods that are unopened will store for 12 months or longer.

Canned fruit juices that are unopened will store for 9 months.

Dried fruits in an airtight container will store for 6 months.

Dried vegetables in an airtight container will store for 1 year.

Dehydrated vegetable flakes will store for 6 months. You may need to refrigerate this one.

Grated Parmesan Cheese will store for 10 months.

Meat substitutes (imitation bacon, etc.) will store for 4 months.

Peanut Butter, unopened will store for 6 to 9 months, opened for 2 to 3 months.

Popcorn will store for 2 years.

Powdered Breakfast Mixes will store for 6 months.

Whole Spices will store for 1 to 2 years.

Ground Spices will store for 6 months.

Herbs will store for 6 months.

Herb/Spice Blends will store for 6 months.

Dry Yeast has an expiration on the package. However, I have stored yeast in the freezer for a couple years or more with no problems.


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  1. Meg says

    My question is if you put things like flour, pinto beans etc in storage vacuum seal packages, will it preserve longer?
    I am thinking of starting to stock up. Buying containers that mice etc can not get into (we live in the mountains) doing my own canning as I have for years, but to preserve the food as long as I can. We have daughter with 3 kids. Want to be able to feed them too.

  2. Freeze Dried Food says

    Hi Meg,

    You can vacuum seal dry foods and it does preserve it longer than just putting them in jars. Actually, some vacuum sealers have a canning jar attachment so you can suck the air out of the jars. I have done both methods and have kept things for several years. One gauge we can go on is that the manufacturer for Mountain House Freeze Dried Foods says their food in pouches (both sealed and vacuum-sealed pouches) will last for 7 years. I certainly have kept vacuum sealed dry goods in bags for many years.

    I can tell you that vacuum sealing powdered items (flours, cheese powder, etc.) is an adventure. It’s tricky and will probably take several tries to get it right, but it can be done. However, trying to vacuum seal bags and bags of flour is going to get on your nerves real fast. For staples, the best way to go is to use 3.5, 5, or 6 gallon food grade buckets with lids.

    If you use these kinds of buckets, you know that no rodents or bugs will get in there. The ideal method is to buy a regulator, a piece of hose, and a piece of copper tubing, rent a nitrogen cylinder, and nitrogen-pack your food in these buckets. However, you only want to do it when you have a lot of buckets to do, because the nitrogen cylinder is not cheap to rent. The last time I did it, it was around $85.00. That’s for the gas, you have to put down a deposit for the cylinder, but you get it back when you’re done.

    If that is too expensive for you, or sounds too intimidating, you can just get food grade buckets and pack your food in there, and just hammer the lids on (gently). This will work for a few years. I’ve done it and have had no problems.

    For the longest life, you would have to nitrogen-pack buckets. I have opened buckets I packed 15 years earlier and the dry goods were fine when used in cooking. Sometimes, beans can taste a little bitter with age, but if you add spices it’s not a problem.

    Another option is to buy oxygen absorber packets. You just put your dry goods in the bucket (fill it almost up to the top), throw in a packet, and hammer the lid on. The packet absorbs the oxygen and that is good for many years.

    If you are on a budget, then you can just store food in buckets and put the lid on. It won’t last indefinitely, but it will work when you are on a budget. Just remember that things like salt, sugar, cheese powder, etc. will be caked when you open the bucket. So, you will have to loosen it up.

    The ideal thing is to use new food grade buckets. However, sometimes you can get used ones if you work in the food industry. Just make sure the lid really seals. Remember that when you do not pack the same food item in a previously-used bucket, it make acquire a taste of the originally-packed item. This is not a problem in most cases. But if you use buckets that had pickles or olives in them, your newly-packed food may acquire some of the taste.

    If you have any more questions, write back.

    Uncle Lester

  3. azurevirus says

    From what I have read online..I gathered unopened canned good can last quite a long time if they arent really acidic such as tomato or some of the more acidic fruits and veggies….the down side is as time passes..canned goods lose nutritional value

  4. Buck Seibert says

    Way back in the 1960s I was a member of the U.S. Air Force.
    The usual meal on Sunday evening back then was cold cuts.
    I once had to work KP (Kitchen Police) on a Sunday. One of my little jobs that
    day was to slice the meat. To my surprise the meat was canned. And the package date
    on the cans was in the early 1940s. This meat was older than I was at the time.
    I don’t know if the military used special preservatives in their canned foods. I suspect they were full of sodium and other such things.

  5. Jessica says

    I have a large bag of rice (white) that just went out of code in October. I have just acquired a vacuum sealer machine. Is this suitable to vaccum seal and will it keep very long? Thanks so much.

  6. Freeze Dried Food says

    Hi Jessica,

    I have used vacuum sealing but have not done a lot of testing with it. It won’t keep as long as nitrogen packing, but it should keep for several years.

    I have even just put the dry food (rice, beans, etc.) into 5 gallon buckets (with a good sealing lid) with no nitrogen and it will keep for several years. Just as long as you keep them in a cool, dry, more or less even temperature place. Beans can become more bitter over time, even if after 15 years of being nitrogen packed. But, all you do is add spices when you cook them and they are fine.

    I have heard of rice becoming rancid over time, but that has never been my personal experience. If you take care and vacuum seal, nitrogen pack, or just put the stuff in buckets and seal it tight, it will last several years. If you want food to last 25 years plus, then you would have to get freeze dried food. But, if you just want to pack some things yourself, you should be fine.

    Thanks for the question,

    Uncle Lester

  7. Mike says

    I have been doing months of research on “shelf life” for Food and Drug products of all types. And what you are stating as “shelf life” of the foods above, is actually “best if used by”, in other words they will have the best favor if they are used in that time frame. Now the actual shelf life of canned goods can be as high as 100 years, if stored properly, and still be free of micro-organisms! It may not taste as good as it did in the freshness date, but it will still be edible and safe to consume( I still don’t think I would eat a 100 yr old can of beans though). White rice,in a vac- sealed bag, has a shelf life of 30 years! There is NO NEED to go out and get a nitrogen bottle to seal your food in nitro filled bucket to keep them fresh for more than a couple of years! Buy a $40 food sealer from Wal-Mart and a couple rolls of refill bags. Store your food in a cool, dark place,( heat and light are what kills your food as much as oxygen) such as a basement or closet. And you will be set. The “Food Company’s” dont want you to know this! If you knew your food was still good after the “expiration date”, they would not get the turn over of product and make less profits! Dont just take my word for it, Do a search and start reading about the FDA study’s the food industry does not want us to know. Same thing with Over the counter and Prescription drugs. We are told to “throw out everything old (expired) and buy new” for our safety. Wrong its for their pockets! Now if not a conspiracy theory nut who is on a rant, I just dont like to lied to! The information above is incorrect, and I realize you are a freeze dried food company trying to sell your product. But for God sake’s TELL THE TRUTH!

  8. Freeze Dried Food says

    Hi Mike,

    I agree with a lot of the things you said. Since I have been involved in emergency preparedness, I have done a lot of testing myself. You don’t have to use nitrogen to seal buckets of food. You can just pour beans, rice, whatever in 5 gallon food-grade buckets, pound the lids shut, store in a dark and cool place, and you can get years out of it.

    For example, I have done that with beans, flour, sugar, many other things. With the beans, I opened them up 10 years later and cooked some. They had a slightly bitter taste, but with seasoning they were fine. So, you are right, you don’t have to do anything.

    What packing freeze-dried and dehydrated food in nitrogen-filled #10 cans does is preserve them much better. With dehydrated foods, there is sometimes still an off taste to the food. With freeze-dried food, it still tastes like the day it was made. Even 25 or 30 years later.

    If there was no reason to freeze dry food, then why is the U.S. government, U.S. military, and FEMA buying 90% of the freeze-dried food made in this country today? Right this minute. They obviously know something’s going to happen. And for the most part, they are just telling people to have 72 hours of food and water, and in some cases they say 2 weeks of food and water.

    They obviously place a value on freeze-dried food themselves. However, I would imagine they are buying dehydrated food as well.

  9. Mike says

    Then I am sorry for my accusation.
    I get a little passionate (PISSED) when a person or company tries to tell some one false information, just so they can make a buck!

    You are correct about the govt buying up food stores, they are buying up as much as they can! They know something big is going to happen soon. What is funny to me is they are buying up everything except for the MRE’s that they give to our troops. They know damn good and well that they have very little nutritional value,VERY high fat content, extremely high in sodium, and have such a low fiber count, that they block up the digestive systems of the persons eating them. Not to mention they are expensive!

    And you are also correct about them telling us to have 72 hours worth of food and water on hand. I could see only carrying that much food in my GHB (Get Home Bag), Just to keep the weight to a minimum. But at home I am very close to having a years supply for my whole family. At the year mark we will start to rotate the more perishable (higher acid) with new stock as we go. Storage for myself, I rotate out my Homemade MRE’s sealed in vac bags every 6 months in my GHB. This gives me a chance to inspect every item,making sure everything will work properly if and when I need it. The main food bank is not much more than shelving constructed in my basement( which has been waterproofed inside and out for moisture control). Everything is either can goods or vac sealed for oxygen control. My wood furnace is on the other side of the house with a wall in between, so no matter what it stays at a pretty steady temp year round.
    After reading your reply to my earlier post, I realized your are just trying to educate people to proper long term food storage,and how to prepare. Same with myself

  10. Freeze Dried Food says

    No problem. I am always interested in people’s opinions and experience. Like you said, I am only trying to educate people in different types of food storage.

    All in all, I just want people to do something. Because when it hits the fan, they’re not going to be happy. A large majority of Americans are still missing the signs. It’s unfortunate.

  11. Ellyn says

    My advice is to always learn everything you can about storing supplies for any emergency BEFORE you buy anything. The reality is that, while you want to have enough to sufficiently take care of you and your family, people often do over-buy. That\’s normal to want the best for your family. But, please take time to listen to videos on our site, talk to our emergency preparedness expert live in online chat. Jeff Davis is quite often there himself. FEMA recommends at least 72-hours of supplies to hold you over until help can come. We have all seen how it can (and probably will) take much longer than 72-hours to even see rescue workers, Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc. But, where you keep your food, drinking water and shelter supplies can mean as much as what you store. Obviously, in a flood zone, the basement is not the best choice and, vice versa, in a tornado zone the basement would be better. Temperature matters a lot. Learn and then buy. Knowledge is your real power for survival.

  12. Britton says

    MREs aren’t a bad thing to have on hand; they last a long time when stored properly (60 months at the right temp). However, I wouldn’t suggest anyone have a year’s supply of food wrapped up in MREs. While they do have a lower nutritional value when compared to prepared meals it’s not much worse than what you buy at the store, in fact MREs contain no chemicals or preservatives to extend their shelf life but instead use a method similar to canning. They aren’t a substitute for prepared meals but a source of calories in situations where meals can’t be prepared or no other food is available.
    Personally, I have a month’s supply of MREs stored to supplement any dried food I have or are I the process of acquiring. They’re good if you need to move quickly and will provide enough calories to function until a more agreeable situation can be found or established. It never hurts to have more than one source of storable food available to you or your family; it’s dangerous to rely solely on one method or the other.
    I also noticed you mentioned pharmaceuticals several times, check out I found this site quite helpful when it came to what medicines would be of most use and have the most uses. I’d recommend anyone give it a look, it was very informative.

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