Birds are chirping and green grass is growing. It’s all a sign to American households that it’s time for a much needed spring cleaning. But your annual overhaul shouldn’t be limited to your clothing closets. Chances are, your kitchen pantry could benefit from a little tidying too.
Sure, you know you need to toss that stale box of cereal. And those graham crackers you left open last weekend surely should go, too. But many other items aren’t going to be as obvious.
The expiration date food system can be confusing. There are as many as a dozen different ways processed food companies stamp their goods to tell us when to toss and when to keep — Sell By, Use By, Best Before. The list goes on.
A new voluntary initiative is being led by two major trade associations, Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), that will streamline this process down to two phrases:
“BEST If Used By” describes product quality, where the product may not taste or perform as expected but is safe to use or consume.
“USE By” applies to the few products that are highly perishable and/or have a food safety concern over time; these products should be consumed by the date listed on the package — and disposed of after that date.
The new system is expected to be widely adopted by summer of 2018.
But there are, still, other foods that you may have stored that have no need for tossing — ever. These shelf staples have the winning combination of traits that make for food immortality.
Here are 15 foods that can live longer than you.
- Cup of Noodles. The airtight container teams with bone-dry noodles for a product that couldn’t possibly spoil.
- Dried corn. Dried corn is moisture-free, so as long as the kernels are kept dry, they will stay good for years.
- Honey. Archaeologists have famously found edible honey in Egyptian tombs. Your year old bear-shaped bottle has a long way to go to compete with that!
- Peanut butter. No need to worry about peanut butter. It only has about 2 percent moisture content, and the natural peanut oil and other added oils will keep any moisture at bay. It may “go bad” in that it loses its flavor after about 12 months, but health wise, there isn’t a concern.
- Maple syrup. Kept sealed, maple syrup, similar to honey, will always be edible.
- Canned foods. Canning is society’s major method of preserving food — and for a good reason. Doing so can keep foods safe for up to 30 years.
- Corn syrup. As long as it’s sealed, corn syrup can go the distance.
- Corn starch. Keep in a cool, dry place, and keep it forever.
- Dried beans. In a dark, airtight container, dried beans won’t ever go bad. Old beans might lose their flavor and could need extra soaking time before cooking, but they’ll be safe to eat.
- Salt and Sugar. Salt is a mineral and sugar are crystals. Neither of these things can go bad. Moisture might cause clumping, but they’ll never spoil.
- Powdered milk. Kept in a cool, dry place, powdered milk can last forever.
- Rice. White rice can last up to 30 years in a dry container.
- Distilled white and apple cider vinegar. Keep them capped tightly after opening, and they’ll store for a very long time.
- Ghee. Ghee is butter with the milk fats removed. This process allows ghee to stay shelf stable forever.
- Twinkies. Legend has it that all of the unnatural food chemistry packed in to Twinkies means they could survive a nuclear apocalypse. The science is still out on this one.