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Food Storage: What is the Actual Shelf Life of Granulated or White Sugar

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Sugar is a foundational ingredient in a long-term food storage program. It enhances the flavor of basic dry ingredients and provides calories. White sugar is also used as a preservative to extend the life of fruits when bottling or making home preserves.

Sugar is often a highly sought-after commodity when things get tough. Sugar rationing is common during food shortages, which makes it an excellent barter item. In this post, we will review the basic facts that you should know about sugar in your long-term food supply.

What Is the Actual Shelf Life of Granulated Sugar?

Granulated sugar has an indefinite shelf life when stored correctly. That means that sugar is like edible white gold in your prepper pantry.

A quick internet search will tell you that white sugar should be used within two years of opening. The truth is that white sugar may change from a granular form to a solid clump, but it does not actually go bad unless it is contaminated.

What Happens to White Sugar as It Ages?

White sugar gets clumpy as it absorbs moisture and ages. It will change from a loose granulated state into a solid clump. Exposure to the humidity in the air will accelerate this process.

How Can I Tell if Sugar Has Gone Bad?

Sugar will store pretty much forever unless it is contaminated. It is not a good environment for bacteria to multiply, so the risks are low. However, if you notice any of the following you should discard the sugar.

Change in Appearance

Granulated sugar will frequently turn clumpy. That is generally not a problem. If you see signs of mold or other growth, or if it has changed from the original color, the sugar has likely been contaminated and should be thrown out.

Change in Smell

Sugar will readily absorb odors so this can be a little tricky. If it has been stored in a #10 can, the sugar may absorb the metal flavor of the can. That is to be expected. It does not indicate a problem with the sugar. Let the sugar “air out” in a different container. Using sugar that smells “off” in food may taint the final product.  If the sugar smells offensive, do not risk it. Just throw it out.

Why Should I Store White Sugar in My Survival Food Supply?

Food Preservation

Large amounts of sugar inhibit microbiological activity. Sugar helps to preserve and enhance the flavor, texture, and color of food. Jams and jellies get their wonderful gel form from sugar. Sugar can be used to help extend the shelf-life of some foods.

Cooking, Baking, and Making Candies

Sugar is a standard ingredient in most baked products, but it may surprise you to know that it is also added to many of our savory dinner recipes from taco meat to black beans.

Healthy diets limit the amount of sugar intake for good reasons, but we also should not ignore the fact that our favorite comfort foods often contain sugar. Storing sugar in your prepper pantry will enable you to create your favorite comfort foods when times are tough. Comfort foods can be emotionally soothing and give you the emotional energy that you need to make it through.


A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Sugar is used as a coating or to help flavor medicines. It is also rumored to cure hiccups. A paste made from equal parts of sugar and water can be applied to soothe bee stings and bug bites. While sugar is used in medicinal applications, this should not be misunderstood to indicate that sugar is healthy.

Miscellaneous Uses for Sugar

Sugar is not just a sweetener for baked goods and candies. It can be used to feed bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, added to a compost pile (brown), create a trap for wasps, clean stains out of laundry, and a host of other applications around the home.

What Is the Best Way to Store Granulated or White Sugar?

The primary enemies to sugar are moisture and heat. Sugar should be protected from moisture and stored in a cool, dry location in an air-tight container.

Store Sugar in an Air-Tight Container

White sugar should be stored in a tightly sealed container that will not allow moisture or odors to penetrate. Polyethylene bags, Mylar-type bags, food-grade plastic buckets, glass canning jars, repurposed plastic PETE bottles, and #10 cans are all acceptable containers for storing white sugar.

These articles might be helpful as you decide how to store sugar in your food supply.

Repackage Sugar to Extend Storage Life

Do not store granulated sugar in the original paper packaging. Sugar will absorb moisture and odors through the paper bag. If you would like to leave the sugar inside of the original 5-pound bags, place them inside of an airtight plastic bucket.

Do Not Package Sugar with an Oxygen Absorber

Sugar is not at risk for insect infestation like other dry goods. The insects that we might be concerned about are ants. A tightly sealed container will easily be able to keep them out.

Removing oxygen from the packaging through use of an oxygen absorber will turn the sugar hard and is not recommended.

How Much Sugar Should I Store for a One Year Supply?

A one-year supply of sugar for an adult is between 60 and 70 pounds of sugar. This recommendation may seem high until you take a closer look. Sugar is used not just in baked products, but as a preservative for fruits and preserves.

Check out the following recommendations for various professional opinions regarding the amount of sugar you should plan to store.

This amount may shock you until you realize the amount of sugar you are probably already consuming. According to The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, the average American ate 2 pounds of sugar 200 hundred years ago. In 1970, that increased to 123 pounds of sugar per year. In 2014, the average American was consuming 152 pounds of sugar each year.

What Does 60 to 70 Pounds of Sugar Look Like?

Let us explore what a year supply of sugar looks like. These metal garbage cans each contain four 25-pound bags of sugar. That is one hundred pounds of sugar in one metal can.

A 5-gallon plastic bucket of granulated sugar weighs 35 pounds. Two buckets is a year’s supply of sugar for one person.One number 10 can of granulated sugar weighs 5.7 pounds. You will need 12 number 10 cans of white sugar per person for a one-year supply.A gallon size Mylar bag of sugar weighs about 7 pounds. Ten Mylar bags is a year supply of sugar for one adult.

I agree that we consume significantly more sugar than is healthy. You can calculate the amount of sugar that you store for your survival food supply as seems best for you. However, understanding that sugar is a high value commodity, it would be wise to store more than you may need.

Is There Any Nutritional Value in White Sugar?

White sugar has no nutritional value and should be used sparingly. It is a source of calories that can be important when food is scarce. The primary reason for storing large amounts of sugar in your food storage is to make comfort foods, provide calories, and for use as a preservative in fruits, jams, jellies, and sweet sauces.

A Few Final Tips About Storing White Sugar

Most often, clumpy white sugar can be broken up using a fork or a hand mixer. Some sugar may be a little bit more challenging and you may need to get creative and use the following techniques.

How to Soften Hardened Granulated Sugar

Sugar dissolves easily and can be used in any recipe where it can be dissolved. When you are making preserves, simply break up the clumps enough to get an accurate measurement and put them in with the hot fruit and the sugar will quickly dissolve as you stir. Sugar clumps can be broken up and used in baked goods by dissolving it in wet ingredients like oil or eggs before incorporating into the recipe.

Granulated sugar may turn lumpy and hard if it absorbs moisture. You can dry it out by placing it in a 150° oven for 10 to 15 minutes. Break it up and turn the oven off. Just leave it in the warm oven for an hour. The sugar should return to a granular state.

A Full Pantry Is an Insurance Policy Against Hunger

Keeping your pantry stocked with food is the best way to ensure that your family will not go hungry when challenges knock on your door. There is great wisdom in stocking up and rotating through your stored foods on a regular basis.

Learn more about storing food for emergencies in these helpful articles.

How much sugar do you have stored in your prepper pantry? Perhaps it is time to take inventory and make sure you will have what you need, when you need it.

Thanks for being part of the solution!Jonathan and Kylene Jones

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