Canned foods can last for a very long time. While they usually have a shelf life of around two years, during which foods retain their proper color and texture, they tend to be safe for consumption well beyond that. In fact, canned foods that were 100 years old were recovered from sunken ships and proven safe to eat. The key is making sure the can doesn't have any leaks [source: Meal Time].
How to Keep Pantry Foods Fresh
It's likely that many of the foods you keep in your pantry are considered nonperishable. That means they can last for years without going bad. These foods include canned goods, like vegetables, beans and tuna as well as grains, such as oatmeal, pasta and rice. However, not all pantry items are safe from expiration, and even some of the things that are will go bad if you don't store them properly. That's why organization is the key to keeping your pantry foods fresh.
When organizing your pantry, make sure to stock any foods that do have an expiration date in order. Those with the earliest expiration dates should reside toward the front of your shelves [source: Ehman]. That way, you'll use them sooner. It's also a good idea to buy airtight containers for items like sugar or your grains. There are two reasons for this. First, things like sugar and flour can get clumpy if they're exposed to moisture, and second, airtight containers will also help protect your food from critters like bugs or moths.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the foods in your pantry may not last as long as you think they will. For example, sugar and other dry goods usually last about a year if you store them properly, but oils may last only about six months in their original bottles [source: Martha Stewart]. You can make sure everything is fresh by labeling items with the date you purchased them. This will ensure that you'll always know exactly how long something has been sitting on your shelf.
On a similar note, spices and other flavoring items should be stored in a cool dark place. Light and heat can rob them of flavor and your dishes will pay the consequence. Perhaps the back corner of your pantry is the best place to keep these items. Sealable containers that block out light aren't a bad idea either [source: Martha Stewart].
Sometimes, it takes a little more to get things organized than what you have on hand at home. Read on to learn what tools can help you get your pantry in order.