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.
Storage Methods for White Sugar
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. A better option is to use air-tight plastic containers.
If you want to storage large amounts of sugar, the easiest solution is to put it in a large 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.
Gasket lids (above) are recommended when storing bulk sugar in buckets.
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.
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.
Vacuum Sealing and Sugar
You can vacuum seal sugar but there really isn’t much of a point. Air doesn’t cause sugar to go bad, so vacuum sealing to remove the air doesn’t provide any benefit.
Further, vacuum sealer bags aren’t completely impervious: they will let some air and moisture through. In the short-term, vacuum sealing will prevent brown sugar and powdered sugar from clumping. But, if you store them long enough, they will still clump.
There is also some debate as to whether vacuum sealing could result in botulism poisoning with brown sugar (botulism only grows in moist, oxygen-less environments). While it isn’t likely you’d get botulism from brown sugar, it’s still better to just keep it in an air-tight container without vacuum sealing.