I recently cleaned out my pantry and discovered a five-pound bag of white sugar that I had forgotten for a very long time. To my surprise, the sugar inside was perfectly usable and tasted just fine! After a bit of research, I realized that sugar could be stored easily for long-term use, if you know how.
Sugar can be stored indefinitely if it is kept away from moisture, heat, light, air, odors, and pests. You can store sugar in mason jars, mylar bags, food-grade buckets with gamma lids, and even plastic bags. Make sure you keep your sugar where it won’t pick up musty or foul odors and where pests can’t get to it.
In this article, we’ll talk about storing different types of sugar long-term. We’ll also talk about how to tell if your sugar has gone bad. But first, let’s take a look at why you might want to store sugar for the long term.
Why You Should Store Sugar
Sugar is a source of calories and carbohydrates. But even more importantly, sugar is a morale booster. There’s nothing like a sweet treat to improve your mood, and in a prepper situation, you might feel a whole lot better about life if you have a little sugar to savor in a sweet dessert or to brighten up your morning coffee.
Another reason to store sugar, aside from its delicious flavor, is that you might want to use it for barter and trade to get other things that you need. So storing a healthy amount of sugar alongside your other preps is a great idea. But, of course, sugar needs to be stored correctly.
What Happens When Sugar Isn’t Stored Correctly
Technically, sugar doesn’t go bad, making it an excellent food for long-term storage. According to dominosugar.com, sugar will store indefinitely when stored properly because it does not support microbial growth. However, when sugar isn’t stored properly, there are a few things that can happen to your sugar that may make it unpalatable.
- Sugar can absorb moisture. When left open to the air, sugar can start to absorb moisture. A little bit of moisture in your sugar will make it hard and clumpy. At this stage, it’s still fine to eat. Just smash the clumps, and they’ll break apart.
However, if you have too much moisture in your sugar, it’ll be runny like syrup. In this case, It isn’t going to be safe to eat and might grow mold.
- Sugar can get bugs in it. Another thing that can happen to your sugar if it isn’t stored well is bugs. Sugar with bugs in it isn’t appetizing at all, and some bugs can be harmful. So if you see this happening, you’ll want to throw it out.
- Sugar can absorb smells and flavors. So if your sugar is kept in paper bags, like it often comes in, it can absorb smells and odors from other foods and even your trash if it is nearby. In this case, you’ll probably want to throw it out because it just doesn’t taste good.
What Types of Sugar Store the Best
According to Utah State University, the best sugars to store are pure cane sugar or granulated beet sucrose. Raw sugar does not store as well because it isn’t as refined as cane sugar. And sugar syrups or brown sugar do not store long at all. Brown sugar has moisture in it, which shortens its shelf life. Likewise, sugar syrups can grow mold and probably won’t last very long in storage.
How to Store Sugar, So It Lasts
The quality of your sugar can degrade when it isn’t stored correctly. Even if it doesn’t go bad, it might lose its flavor and effectiveness. The things that destroy food are the things that also destroy sugar:
How to Store White Sugar
White sugar often comes in paper bags. These are fine for short-term storage, but they will allow pests and moisture to get to the sugar over the long term. If you want to keep them in the paper bags, you’ll need to put them in an additional, air-tight container.
White sugar can be stored in glass mason jars that are well sealed. Mason jars are available in a variety of sizes, so you can choose to store them in small or large containers. All you need to do is pour your sugar into a clean, dry mason jar and tightly close the lid.
If you prefer, you can store white sugar in mylar bags. You do not need oxygen absorbers. However, they can make the sugar hard. Pour the sugar into the bag, remove excess air, and seal it.
If you need to store large quantities of sugar, you might want to use large food-grade buckets with gamma lids or purchase it already sealed in #10 cans. Keep the containers tightly closed so moisture and pests can’t get in. You can keep the sugar in its original packaging if you put it into food grade buckets.
You need to store your sugar in a cool, dark place away from humidity and odors. Even in plastic containers, sugar can pick up odors, such as a musty basement smell, so be extra careful where you store it.
Don’t store sugar in the refrigerator or freezer because it can cause moisture to build up and ruin your sugar. In addition, heat can cause condensation to happen inside the container, which can also ruin your sugar.
How to Store Brown Sugar
Brown sugar can also be stored in airtight containers. For example, you can store it in plastic zip lock bags with the air squashed out.
Over time, though, brown sugar can get hard. You can place a marshmallow or slice of bread into your brown sugar to soften it up. Check the bread often to make sure it isn’t growing mold, as this can ruin your sugar.
Brown sugar may only last about a year, however, because of its moisture content, so you’ll always want to rotate your stock. Check it periodically to make sure it is still good. In addition, some people prefer to store extra white sugar and molasses so they can make their own brown sugar.
How to Store Powdered Sugar
Powdered sugar, or confectioner’s sugar, also lasts indefinitely when stored properly. Make sure to store it in airtight containers away from heat, cold, and especially moisture. You can store it in plastic bags, plastic or glass containers, or mylar bags with the air removed and tightly sealed.
Keep in mind that even in plastic, the sugar can absorb odors from nearby food.
Always check if there are pests or mold in your sugar before using it. If a little bit of moisture gets into your sugar, it could cause hard clumps to form. However, your sugar should be fine if there are just a few small clumps. You can remove the clumps by running the sugar through a small sieve, squishing any clumps with your fingers.
If there are a lot of clumps, there may be too much moisture in the sugar, and it might have gone bad.
If you can’t store powdered sugar, you can make your own. First, make your own powdered sugar by running regular white sugar through a clean coffee grinder. This will give you fresh, powdered sugar. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, you can use a clean mortar and pestle to grind it into a powder.
How to Tell if Your Sugar Has Gone Bad
When you bring your sugar out of storage, you’ll want to check it to make sure it hasn’t gone bad.
You’ll know your sugar isn’t good anymore if it has an off or rancid odor. This generally happens if moisture has gotten into it or if the sugar has absorbed odors that occurred where it was stored (such as a musty basement smell).
You’ll also want to make sure your sugar hasn’t grown any mold. Mold will only happen if moisture has gotten to the sugar, but you don’t want to eat it if this is the case. So you’ll need to throw it out.
Check to make sure bugs have not gotten into your sugar. If you see evidence of bugs or bug eggs, it’s safest just to throw it out. And be sure to check your other food storage to make sure bugs haven’t traveled from your sugar to other nearby foods.
Final Thoughts on How to Store Sugar Long Term
Sugar is very easy to store, especially if it is simple white sugar or beet sugar. Just make sure to keep it in a clean, dry, airtight container. Keep your sugar away from heat, light, moisture, pests, and odors. Check your sugar – and your other preps – regularly to make sure they haven’t gone bad.
Can I use sugar that has an off-odor?
Sugar can absorb odors from the area it is stored in. So if you have stored your sugar near stinky fish, it might be perfectly fine to use. However, it would make your food or beverage also smell like a stinky fish, which isn’t very appetizing. On the other hand, an off odor can also be a sign that too much moisture has gotten into your sugar, and it has spoiled.
Does sugar have an expiration date?
Sugar will usually have a best-by date printed on the packaging. However, if it is stored correctly, sugar will usually last indefinitely.
Why can’t you store brown sugar for the long term?
Brown sugar can have a moisture content of up to 20%, according to theprovidentprepper.org. Ideally, food being stored long-term should have less than 10% moisture content.