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How to Store Sugar for The Long Term


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Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Sugar is one of those foods which will last forever, even without any special packaging.  However, it’s not recommended to keep sugar in its original packaging.

Here’s what you need to know about storing sugar for the long-term.

White Sugar Storage

White sugar has a forever shelf life and will never go bad.  However, if not stored properly, your sugar stockpile could:

  • Succumb to Pests: Insects and rodents both love sugar, so you want to keep it in a container they can’t get to. Read how to prevent pantry moths..
  • Develop bad smells: Sugar will absorb odors from whatever is nearby. Don’t store sugar near any household chemicals, in musty places like your basement, or near any strong scents.
  • Turn into one big clump: White sugar clumps when it is exposed to moisture.
  • Get physically damaged: Hurricanes? Earthquakes? Flooding? If you want sugar for emergency preparedness, it needs to be in a sturdy container that will keep it safe from physical damage.

The easiest way to store sugar is to simply put it in an air-tight container. Food-grade buckets with gasket lids are a good option for large quantities of sugar.  The gasket lid (aka gamma lid) provides a tight seal.

As an extra layer of protection, you might want to package the sugar in smaller bags before putting it in buckets. This makes it easier to remove the sugar when you want to use it.  These don’t protect against moisture though, so your sugar might still turn into a hard clump (leaving you to hack away at it with a clean hammer).  For protection against moisture, sealed Mylar bags are your best bet.

Smaller quantities of sugar can be stored in jars, though jars are subject to breaking and take up a lot of space so not recommended for emergency prepping.

gamma lid

Gasket lids (above) are recommended when storing bulk sugar in buckets.

Powdered Sugar

Even though manufacturers will usually put a “best by” date of 2 years on powdered sugar, it can last forever.  It is subject to the same issues as white granular sugar though, so you’ll want to make sure it is stored in an air-tight container.

You can put bags of powdered sugar directly into a bucket with a gasket lid; it will be fine indefinitely.

Since most people don’t use that much powdered sugar, you might instead want to keep it in sealed #10 cans or Mylar bags.

Brown Sugar

Like other types of sugar, brown sugar lasts forever.  However, most sources will only put the shelf life of brown sugar at around 2 years.  The reason is because brown sugar contains a lot of moisture, often up to 20%.

In storage, the brown sugar will eventually dry out and turn into a rock-hard clump.

To keep brown sugar from clumping:

  • Store it in an air-tight container
  • Put a clay disk in the container to keep the sugar moist.

Oxygen Absorbers and Sugar

Oxygen absorbers are packets which remove oxygen from a container.  They are used to prolong the shelf life of foods like flour, rice and beans.

However, you should NOT use oxygen absorbers with sugar. 

First off, the OAs are completely unnecessary as sugar is not subject to spoilage from oxidation.  Secondly, OAs will turn sugar into a rock-hard clump.

Simply keep the sugar in an air-tight container protected from pests or physical damage and it will be good forever.

Read more about using oxygen absorbers for food storage.

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Leave a comment

  1. Storing brown sugar does not have to be necessary as long as you have white sugar and molasses on hand. I make my brown sugar as I need it. Mix one tablespoon of molasses into one cup of white sugar. I’ve done this for years.

    Reply
    • That’s a great tip, thanks! I also stockpile molasses, but more as a source of iron than for making brown sugar. I mix molasses with peanut butter and spread it on apples or crackers. Delicious.

      Reply
  2. If I don’t learn it from the site I learn it from readers’ posts. Thanks for posting that recipe! One last thing to worry about.

    Reply
    • Good question — I’ll update the post to address that. No, you don’t need a desiccant when packing sugar or salt. It won’t do any harm but it could cause them to clump (which also isn’t harmful but it’s a pain when you’ve got to use a chisel to hack up your sugar or salt!). Instead, I’d just recommend making sure it is a dry day when you pack your food. That advice applies to ALL foods though. If you live somewhere humid, then get your AC going for a while to dry the air out.

      Reply
  3. Am confused. You say sugar should be repackaged. At the end you wrote one can just toss the sugar bags into the bucket. Can I use zip lock bags instead of Mylar bags?

    Reply
    • Sorry about the confusion. I rewrote that part to make it more clear. Sugar can go straight into a bucket. However, to make it easier to use and provide an extra layer of protection (if the bucket cracks or breaks during an earthquake, for example), it’s smart to put the sugar in bags and then put it into the buckets.

      Reply
  4. you can put a marsh mellow to keep it soft I have done this and put in a tight rubber maid container and its fresh for years . I do not use much brown sugar and read it and it really works the amount for two cups is 1 large marsh mellow

    Reply
    • No — you don’t need oxygen absorbers for any sugar. You especially don’t want it with brown sugar because brown sugar is so moist and could create a botulism issue.

      Reply

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