9 Ways I Extend the Shelf Life of My Food Stockpile

woman putting food in pantry
Photo by maroke / Shutterstock.com

As you build a stockpile, it’s important to make sure the food doesn’t go bad. There’s no point in having 25 pounds of flour if it ends up going rancid.

How you store food is critical to preserving freshness and extending shelf life.

Let’s look at the best way to store foods that are commonly stockpiled or bought in bulk, to ensure they don’t go bad before you can eat them. Following are methods that I’ve personally had success with.

1. Refrigerate coffee

Some experts say you should never put coffee beans or ground coffee in the fridge or freezer, as we detail in “11 Mistakes That Make Your Food Go Bad Faster.”

I disagree. To keep coffee fresh, I store the whole beans in the refrigerator in the original package but closed tightly.

I buy a 2-pound bag of coffee beans from Costco and put it in my fridge. I take out about 1 to 2 cups of beans at a time and grind them, then place the ground coffee in an airtight container in the pantry and use it over the next few days.

The ground coffee stays fresh in the pantry for a few days. Coffee has lasted me months in the pantry before, but it ends up tasting stale.

2. Freeze ginger

Did you know you can freeze ginger root? Just wash it well before putting it in a freezer-friendly container or bag. Since I don’t like using the skin, I peel it before freezing.

When you’re ready to use it, just grate it with a Microplane zester straight from the freezer.

3. Portion out and freeze meats

If you buy meat but don’t plan to use it within the next two to three days, pop it in the freezer. For bulk meat purchases, I portion out what I use in recipes (about 1 pound) and store it in a freezer-friendly plastic bag with the air squeezed out to prevent freezer burn.

You can also freeze cooked meat, which makes it easier to put meals together quickly. Just cook the meat and portion it out in freezer-friendly containers, then freeze. Frozen cooked meat is best used within a month, in my experience.

For more tips like this, check out my article “How to Prep Meals for a 14-Day Quarantine.”

4. Store yeast in the freezer

When stored properly, your dry yeast can stay fresh for months and even years.

If you don’t plan to use the yeast in the next few weeks, pop it in the freezer. This is how I store mine, and I have had it last for several months — and use it with success straight from the freezer, even past the expiration date. I’ve had friends report yeast lasts them years stored this way.

Since the pandemic has made yeast scarce, I bought a 1-pound bag of yeast that is now stored in my freezer, and so far so good. I’m sure I’ll be using it for years to come since I don’t use a lot of yeast in baking.

If you’ve been unable to find yeast, you might be able to substitute sourdough starter or baking soda plus lemon juice, as we detail in “9 Never-Fail Recipe Substitutions for When You Can’t Get to the Store.”

5. Refrigerate flours

While flour is shelf-stable, I store mine in the back of my refrigerator to extend its shelf life. Whole-grain flours are best stored in the freezer if you don’t plan to use them soon.

No fridge or freezer space? Transfer your flour to an airtight container, label it and put in the pantry.

6. Store sugar in airtight containers

Sugar is shelf-stable, and its shelf life is indefinite, according to the Domino brand. But granulated sugar is best used within three years, and powdered sugar and brown sugar are best used within two years.

Moisture ruins granulated and powdered sugar. So, to ensure they last as long as possible, store them in covered containers in a cool, dry place — but not in the refrigerator.

An airtight container prevents bugs such as ants from getting into sugar and helps extend its shelf life. I don’t go through sugar very quickly, but a 10-pound bag of granulated sugar from Costco lasts me about two years stored this way in my pantry

Air causes brown sugar to harden, Domino says, so it should be stored the same way. It’s OK to freeze brown sugar, though, if you live in a very dry climate or you don’t expect to use it up for a long time.

7. Put nuts in the refrigerator or freezer

Nuts contain oils that can go rancid quickly if the nuts are stored at warmer temperatures, says Susan Westmoreland, the culinary director in the Kitchen Appliances & Technology Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute. So, you should not store them at room temperature for more than a month.

After that, put them in your refrigerator in an airtight container. Storing them in the freezer is also an option. Westmoreland says nuts will keep for up to six months in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer.

8. Chop up and freeze veggies for cooking

When the vegetables in my crisper start to turn, I chop them up and freeze them to use in recipes. You can store them in a labeled glass container with a lid or in a freezer-friendly plastic bag.

9. Refrigerate apples

Apples last for as little as a week when stored on the counter. To extend shelf life, I put mine in the fruit crisper drawer. When I refrigerate my apples, they can last a month without going bad.

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