Some foods have naturally long shelf lives, and if stored properly will keep for months or years. Other foods spoil quickly, usually due to a high oil and/or moisture content, and will last a long time only if they’re dried, canned, or otherwise preserved. There are numerous foods that spoil faster than you’d think.
There is great interest in long-lived foods among so-called preppers or survivalists, who anticipate having to live off the grid when widespread calamity strikes. Embracing the idea of lengthy self-sufficiency, they exchange tips on stockpiling particularly long-lasting foods.
You don’t have to be worried about doomsday, however, to see the advantages of stocking a pantry with things that will be good to eat for long periods of time. Unexpected guests, power failures, and simply the kind of inertia that makes a trip to the market or going out to eat just too much of a project — these are all instances when anyone would be glad to have shelves stocked with the makings of a meal.
Many kinds of food, including both fresh and dried produce, are known for their longevity. 24/7 Tempo has assembled a representative list of examples in many categories, including some that will last for weeks, and some that are virtually immortal.
In all cases, the estimated shelf life is for foods stored at room temperature or slightly cooler — not in the refrigerator or freezer, both of which will extend the lifespan of most items substantially. Evolving technology has brought many more options to the grocery store freezer, and there are a number of foods you couldn’t buy frozen 35 years ago.
Note that moisture and high temperatures will shorten the lives of most foods, and that foods tend to change over time in color, texture, and/or flavor — so while they may last months or years, they may be at their prime somewhat earlier.