Food is what sustains us and fuels us each day. Thanks to the advancement in food processing and food storage technology, we now have the luxury of maintaining a steady supply of food year-round. For example, many fruits and vegetables, meats, seafood, and poultry are no longer seasonal like they used to be, thanks to the invention of canning, refrigeration, dehydration, pickling, and many other food preservation methods.
In a well-stocked healthy pantry, there is always a combination of fresh perishable food items as well as non-perishable food items and many others that fall in between these 2 simple classifications of foods based on their shelf life. Together, these ingredients can create many delicious memories.
What are perishable foods?
Perishable foods are those foods that deteriorate rather quickly like in days or less than a week or so. They usually require some sort of refrigerated storage in order to keep fresh for those days or that week or so. 
- Examples of perishable foods would include your fresh fruits and vegetables that you store in your refrigerator or even your crisper to help extend their shelf life a little.
- Perishable foods will also include your eggs and non-fermented dairy products such as milk and heavy cream.
- Fermented dairy products such as yogurt and cheese will have different shelf lives depending on their processing method. So read your labels.
- Your leftovers from yesterday are also considered perishables. Leftovers are usually good for up to 7 days. But always check for foul smell or visible mold before consuming leftovers that have been sitting in the fridge for too many days.
What are non-perishable foods?
Non-perishable foods, on the other hand, have a much longer shelf life. We are talking about months and even years. These foods usually do not require refrigeration but these foods are not indestructible either. They will also go bad at some point but you just have a lot longer time to use them as long as they are stored properly. These food items are usually stored in a cool dry place, protected from moisture contamination. 
- Examples of non-perishables include dried spices and herbs, dried mushrooms, and flour.
- Canned foods (soups, vegetables, and just about anything that comes packaged in a can), processed foods stored in airtight jars and bottles (such as pasta sauce).
- Unroasted nuts
- Dry pasta and noodles, rice, and whole grains (including those that are sold par-boiled or quick-cooking).
- Some frozen food items, etc.
What are semi-perishable foods?
Then there are the in-between foods that we call semi-perishable foods. Like non-perishables, these foods usually do not require refrigeration unless they are opened. And these foods still have limited shelf life in terms of a few weeks when stored without refrigeration. 
- Examples of semi-perishable food items can include produce such as potatoes, onions, whole squashes, and pumpkins.
- Cured meats such as salami.pepperoni, and Jerky.
How to store non-perishable foods?
As mentioned, different types of non-perishable food items can come packaged in different packaging mediums. Depending on how they are packaged, they need to be stored differently.
1. Flour and dried grains:
Food items like flour, grains, pasta, beans, and legumes need to be stored in airtight containers in a cool dry place. A plastic container can help protect these food items from moisture and bugs, as compared to a paper sack or woven sack that they might have originally come in. You can either store each item in a separate airtight container or you can also get a huge airtight storage tub and store similar items all in the same big container, in their original packaging.
Nut flours have become increasingly popular and some nut flours such as hazelnut meal, with higher fat content, need to be stored in a fridge after the package has been opened. When storing these nut flours in the fridge, still use an airtight container to prevent them from absorbing flavors and odors from other items in your fridge.
2. Frozen goods:
Frozen meats and seafood usually have a shorter expiration date than frozen fruits and vegetables. But they all usually last for about a year if they are purchased frozen already. If you are buying fresh meats, seafood, and produce and freezing them yourself, their shelf life will be considerably shorter. Consume them within a couple of months.
3. Commercially canned foods:
Even though the FDA considers commercially canned foods as having unlimited shelf life, there are still best-by dates stamped on these food products to indicate the best flavor and quality of the product is used by that date. As long as there are no signs of rust, bulging, dents, or leakage from the can, the food item inside the can may still be consumed even if the best-by date has passed.
A can with a bulge is the most dangerous for consumption because it indicates microbial spoilage inside the can. Usually, this contamination, usually botulism, has already happened at the processing plant. So discard the can immediately.
4. Packaged peanut butters and other nut butters:
These usually last for a couple of months after opening and stored at room temperature. If stored in the fridge, it can last a little longer but do know that the flavor and the quality deteriorate over time. Also, when stored in the fridge, nut butters harden due to their natural fat content. So my best advice is to buy these in reasonably sized jars depending on your frequency of consumption and let it last you a couple of months.
5. Jams, jellies and syrups:
The pH levels of these items make them quite spoilage proof but does not make them last forever. Similar to jarred peanut butter and nut butters, their flavor and quality can deteriorate over time. As long as you do not see visible mold, jams and jellies can be consumed past their printed expiration date as long as they are stored properly in the fridge. Similarly for maple syrups and agave syrups.
6. Bottled condiments and sauces:
Store-bought ketchup, hot sauces, barbecue sauces, mustard sauces, etc. all contain some form of preservatives to help prevent mold and yeast growth and keep their shelf life reasonably long. These food products usually have a shelf life of months even up to a year. However, after they have been opened, be sure to store them in the fridge. If they have been sitting in your fridge for a couple of months, always check for visible mold before using.
7. Dried spices and herbs, dried baking supplies:
Most dried herbs and salt have unlimited shelf life although they can lose intensity in their flavor after a while. The same goes for pepper however, my way around having fresh pepper flavor all the time is to use whole peppercorns and a pepper grinder. If there is another spice that you use a lot of, say coriander, I would say do the same thing as you would black pepper. Get your coriander seeds with their own grinder.
Whole spices usually keep longer (i.e. years) compared to ground spices in terms of flavor intensity. If you can afford a simple coffee bean grinder, I would recommend that you buy as many of your spices whole as possible. Then grind them when you need them. For those spices that you use on a daily basis, I would say go ahead and buy them ground for convenience. Regardless of the form they come in, store dried spices and herbs in cool dry places away from heat and that includes sun from the window.
Baking supplies such as baking powder and baking soda, instant dry yeast technically have no shelf life but they do lose their leavening power over time.
8. Commercially baked cookies and crackers:
These snacks can definitely get stale and unpalatable over time but stale does not mean that consuming them will be bad for you. It is more a matter of eating pleasure than a health issue. Generally speaking, the drier the cookie or cracker, the longer the shelf life. You can also consider storing them in the fridge to extend their shelf life for a little longer especially if you live in very humid climates.
So not all non-perishable foods are created equal, if you find yourself in situations where you need to stock up for a period of time, or bringing enough food supplies with you on say a long road trip on the unbeaten path, here are some healthy options to choose from. As with all packaged processed foods, be sure to read your labels to make sure that they do not contain any added sugars, too much sodium, and ingredients that you can hardly pronounce.
List of healthy non-perishable foods
1. Beans and legumes – canned or dried. Canned beans such as chickpeas, cannellini, black beans, and kidneys beans are very easy plant-based proteins to add to any stir-frys, stews, and soups. Dried lentils cook very quickly and therefore is a great non-perishable healthy protein to have on hand. 
2. Canned animal protein – anchovies, chicken, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. 
3. Frozen protein – chicken, fish, pork, turkey, plant-based burgers, and veggie burgers.
4. Eggs – commercial egg replacement products, flax eggs or chia eggs.
Fruits and vegetables
5. Canned – tomatoes, applesauce, chili, pasta sauces, pesto sauce, pineapple, pumpkin puree, stews, and vegetables.
6. Frozen – all varieties. These are great for stir-frys, pasta sauces, and stews.
7. Root vegetables – they keep longer than other fresh vegetables. Examples include beets, carrots, daikon, squash, garlic, ginger, fennel, horseradish, jicama, kohlrabi, onions, parsnips, potatoes, radishes, rutabagas, sweet potatoes, turmeric, yams, turnips, and yams
Breakfast and snack items
8. Cereals – gluten-free oats, whole grain cereals such as brown rice.
9. Crackers and snacks – breakfast bars, rice cakes, roasted chickpeas, dark chocolate, dry roasted edamame, granola bars, kale chips, sweet potato chips, and baked veggie chips. 
10. Pancake mixes – buckwheat, cassava, paleo, and sprouted grain.
11. Protein bars – prepackaged or homemade, energy balls, protein bars, KTO energy bars.
12. Yogurt – non-dairy options include almond, cashew, coconut, flax, hemp, and oat milk.
13. Coffee and teas – flavored or unflavored coffee, herbal tea bags, or loose tea.
14. Non-perishable milk – almond, coconut, hemp, nut, and oat milk.
15. Protein drinks – whey, pea, rice, hemp, keto, Collagen powder
Seasonings and condiments
16 Condiments – apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, honey, horseradish, mustard, and extra virgin olive oil.
17. Sauces – liquid amino, hot sauce, no sugar added marinara sauce, pesto sauce, salad dressings, salsa, tahini, tartar sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
18. Spices and Herbs – all varieties.
Nuts and seeds
19. Nut Butters – almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, peanut butter, pecan, pistachio, sunflower seed, and walnut.
20. Nuts – almonds, brazil, cashew, hazelnut, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, and trail mixes.
21. Seeds – chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower seeds.
Grains and rice
22. Pasta – whole wheat or multigrain pasta or gluten-free options include brown rice, chickpea, quinoa, mung bean, shirataki noodles, and soba noodle.
23. Rice – arborio, basmati, black rice, brown rice, jasmine, red rice, and wild rice.
24. Whole grains –barley, bulgur, farro, Kamut. Gluten-free options include brown rice, gluten-free oats, and quinoa.
25. Flours – if there is only one flour you want to have on hand, that would be the all-purpose flour. For gluten-free options, try almond flour, chickpea, coconut, or oat flour.
26. Frozen entrees – this is especially convenient for those of you who do not really have time to cook or simply do not enjoy being in the kitchen too much. Try healthier options that use primarily plant-based ingredients. 
27. Soups – low sodium canned soup or dried soup mixes, vegetable broth, and chicken broth.
For some easy and healthy recipe ideas using one or more of these non-perishable ingredients, please check out my “Healthy Non-Perishable Meals.”
Need help putting a healthy meal plan together for you and your loved ones? CONTACT ME and learn what your body needs and how to build a diet plan that is healthy and sustainable.
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1. Ask.usda.gov. What foods are perishable?
2. USDA. Shelf-Stable Food Safety.
3. Study.com. Semi-Perishable Foods.
4. Extension Utah State University. Dry Beans.
5. NBCI. Health Benefits of Dietary Whole Grains: An Umbrella Review of Meta-analyses.
6. REI. Mountain House Pro-Pack.