How to Store Dry Sugar
Even if you are trying to limit the amount of sugar you consume, it’s almost impossible to go completely sugar free. I’m not sure I could go without apple crisp…That makes sugar an important part of a food storage plan. When thinking about long term storage the first thing that might come to mind is packaging your sugar with oxygen absorbers. After all, if you can remove the oxygen from most food it will last longer right?
Not so with dry sugar.
Removing the oxygen for long term sugar storage is not required and not recommended.
Why? Oxygen absorbers will cause your sugar to become one giant “rock” inside the container. It won’t go bad but you’ll literally need a chisel to use it in the future.
Since there are only a few packaging requirements for sugar, that’s going to save you some money in the long run.
Sugar storage containers
Have you ever made flavored sugars? You can combine granulated sugar and dried herbs or spices, let them sit together in a glass container and after a few weeks you’ll have lavender or rose sugar. Tasty for cooking and herbal teas. Not so good for your sugar storage. The storage container you choose needs to keep the sugar away from other strong odors.
Food-grade plastic buckets are a great option and the one I use the most. We often purchase 25 pounds of sugar at the big box grocery and then pack it into manageable 3 pound plastic zip bags. I do this only for convenience. It is not necessary and it can just as easily be stored in bulk and scooped from the container.
When you purchase 25 pounds of sugar, I think it’s easier to remove smaller portions at a time. That way you are not getting into the bucket as frequently which risks introducing moisture. Moisture is not your sugar friend. See how I do this in my Storing 25 Pounds of Flour post.
Glass canning jars are also an option but they take up a lot of space and are easily broken. They will protect your dry sugar from odors and moisture.
#10 size cans are suitable for dry sugar storage. You can purchase these at most wholesale food warehouses, from providentliving.org or from ThriveLife. If you are lucky enough to have access to an LDS Dry Pack Cannery in Utah, you can even pack your own.
However, if you live in a humid climate skip the can. For some reason, sugar is corrosive and will “eat” into a metallic can over the years. especially if humidity is also an issue.
Polyethylene bags from a FoodSaver will work, but do not remove the air.
Mylar bags can be used to package your sugar into smaller portions. Remember oxygen absorbers are not needed, unless you want to turn the sugar into a brick.
Sugar storage is perhaps the easiest of the commodities to store, and if it is stored correctly you’ll have it at hand indefinitely. You only need to protect it from moisture, use airtight containers and you’re good to go.
– // Brown sugar should be stored in an airtight container. It will last for at least 1 year.
– // Confectioners sugar should be stored in an airtight container. It will last for at least 18 months
– // Granulated sugar should be placed in plastic bags, tubs, or #10 cans. Do not use oxygen absorbers. Stored properly it will last indefinitely.
– // Artificial sweeteners should be stored in airtight containers, covered tightly. They will last for at least 2 years.
If sugar is exposed to too much humidity, keep a slice of bread in the container. The bread will help remove the extra moisture and prevent white sugar from caking up. This one can be a save you a lot of headache especially if you live in an insanely humid place. Remember to replace the slice of bread before it goes bad.
Unlike most things you see in the grocery, sugar does not have a definite shelf life. It can last up to several years, depending on how well you keep them. If your sugar has gone beyond restoration, you can always mix it with water and boil to make a liquid sugar sweetener, or caramelize it to use with other recipes.
How to store brown sugar
Unlike regular refined sugar, whose worst enemy is humidity, brown sugar’s nemesis is air. If you allow brown sugar to get in too much air it will lose moisture and cake up. This is because brown sugar contains molasses which needs a fair amount of humidity to retain shape.
The best way to store brown sugar to be able to use it for around one year or even longer, is to store it in its original package. Most brown sugar brands come in plastic bags and for a good reason: paper bags would allow it to dry out.
If you lack the original packaging, a quality zip lock bag should do the trick too. To store brown sugar for longer you’ll just need to remove most of the air out of the bag when closing the bag shut. It is also a great idea to store brown sugar in small bags so that you don’t expose your entire batch of sugar to too much air.
The best way to get the air out of the bag you use to store brown sugar is to roll it up as shown in the video below. You’ll notice that brown sugar stored this way will be as good as new for many months.
Note: Never store brown sugar in a refrigerator, and that is not because of the extra humidity. The molasses in it simply solidifies at low temperatures and you’ll have to live up with the consequences. Brick hard sugar, anyone?
How to soften hardened sugar?
The damage has been done and your precious sugar has turned into cement. (The most common cause for this is improper storage but some preppers have learned the hard way that adding oxygen absorbers to their stored sugar to “prolong shelf life” turned it into a rock literally overnight).
So, how do you bring hardened sugar back to its former glory?
There are several ways to do it.
The main idea is to restore the lost moisture back into the sugar.
– // Damp paper towel: Cover the container with sugar with a damp paper towel, cover everything with cling film, and let the towel do its thing overnight. The next day, restore the sugar with a fork to its former self.
– // Apple: Cut a fresh apple into four bits (get rid of the core first). Place one of the bits on top of the hardened sugar in the container. Seal the container and leave it overnight someplace cool and dry. Flake off the sugar with a fork the next day and you’re set.
– // Microwave (this method works best to harden brown sugar): Place the hardened sugar in a microwave-proof container with a damp towel on top. Cover everything with a plate or lid. Microwave for 20 seconds. If the sugar hasn’t regained its original shape, microwave for an extra 20 seconds. Break the lumps with the forks between the short microwaving sessions.
-// Oven: Place the hardened white sugar on a tray lined with parchment paper and put the tray into the pre-heated oven (200°). “Bake” the sugar for ten to 15 minutes and let it rest inside the oven for one hour (with the heat off). Loosen up the granules with a fork and you’re done.
Sugar vs honey for long term storage
This is a highly contentious issue, with die-hard fans on each side of the debate. While many preppers suggest stocking up on sugar for when SHTF (I believe that we’re already in the midst of a test-run with the Covid 19 issue), a minority of preppers advocate for stocking up on honey, instead.
I like to side with the latter and I have my reasons. Here’s a handful of them:
- Unlike regular sugar, which is just “empty calories,” honey packs several nutrients that could be lifesaving during, let’s say, a famine or another major cause for prolonged food supply distruptions.
- Unlike sugar, honey is a strong antibacterial, which can help you prop up your immune system to fight off disease in times of need.
- Unlike sugar, honey lasts forever as bacteria cannot spoil it and it is too dense to let any other nasties to flourish in it.
- Unlike sugar, honey doesn’t cause hunger pangs. You might have noticed that you become hungry relatively fast after consuming added sugar (I crave especially meat and high protein foods for some reason after eating too much of it). Hunger pangs appear so fast because added sugar boosts the levels of hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin while inhibiting the hunger suppressing hormone. Going hungry faster is a big no-no when food is already scarce.
- Unlike sugar, honey doesn’t promote inflammation throughout the body. Yes, sugar creates a hot bed for inflammation and harmful bacteria. Candida feasts on sugar and so do other bad actors in our systems when the immune system is not at its peak.
- Honey is also an effective pre-biotic, which means that it keeps the good bacteria in your gut in optimal shape. Sugar, on the other hand, creates a welcoming environment for the bad guys in your gut to thrive.
- And the list can go on.
However, let’s give credit to sugar where credit is due. Unlike honey, sugar is more easily available, it is (way) cheaper, and baking recipes don’t need to be altered to offset the extra moisture in honey.
Plus, for some peeps ( I used to be one of them, I feel you), honey simply seems to taste horrible for some unknown reason – I think it is more of a acquired taste as now I really enjoy it and like to experiment with different types of honey.
So before stocking up, please take into consideration the advantages and disadvantages of honey vs sugar for long term storage, too, and come with a plan that best fits your family’s needs and long-term health and survival.
If you plan on storing honey too avoid metallic containers as it may turn black and develop a horrible off-taste after ten years or more. Go for glass or plastic.
Vic Bausell says
I don’t quite understand the non use of O2 absorbers in sugar. The O2 absorber is not to dry food but reduce the oxygen level to 0 so that bugs cannot live in your stores. I use them all the time and my 5 year stored sugar has very slight clumping which reduces back by breaking it up with your hands.
The reason is “B” style absorbers suck some moisture out of food at the beginning before absorbing oxygen. “D” style has moisture already within but aren’t as good for dried food.
Jim White says
You are correct about the function of O2 absorbers. They keep any insects (and their larvae) from living inside of your containers. But sugar comes with no insects or insect eggs. (Flour comes with a lot of insect eggs from every mill. This is because it is harvested from the fields. Same with rice, cornmeal, oats, etc.. Also, every grain mill is naturally infested with insects because they just keep coming in with every grain shipment from the fields. I worked at Wonder Bread for 12 years and every one of our silos had a weevil problem to some degree. We did what we could to control the level of infestation, but as long as it wasn’t too bad, we just sifted the weevils to tiny pieces and baked them in the bread. Any eggs would die in the ovens. When the infestation got out of control, we would then take serious action and gas our silos, at great expense.) Now, sugar (and salt) are processed in plants so they do not present the same weevil and weevil-egg problem that flour presents. Also, they are both natural preservatives so even bacteria cannot grow. With sugar, you are not hurting anything by using the O2 absorbers, but you are wasting your money because you are not really helping anything at all. Now, if insects are ever able to chew through any cheap or flimsy containers, your O2 absorbers will be useless with oxygen now getting in. Also you would be amazed at what mice are able to chew through. Mice are the greatest threat to LTS. Once they get in, their droppings get in, the oxygen gets in, the bacteria gets in, the insects get in, and then the insects start laying eggs. Ants are the next greatest concern. They can get through the smallest crack in plastic buckets and almost anywhere else they choose to go. They would mess up our sugar inventories at Wonder Bread/Hostess Cakes.
Alisa Pinotti says
I just bought 10 – 4 pound bags of white sugar. Can I store them in an air tight container as they are already packaged, or do I need to put them in plastic bags instead of the paper ones they came in? I bought food grade plastic buckets and air tight food grade lids.
How do you store sugar cubes in Florida?
I buy 25 lb bags of brown sugar at Costco. I vacuum seal it into half gallon canning jars using my Foodsaver machine. It will stay fresh and soft for at least three years (that’s the longest I’ve stored it). It’s every bit as fresh and soft the day I take it out as the day it went into the jars. You can’t beat that storage method. The glass also protects the sugar from pests and rodents.
Can I use 2 gallon Ziploc bags to store my sugar “long term” or does it need to be a more specialized storage bag??
There’s no need for a specialized storage bag.