In my home, sugar is the spice of life. It is our guilty pleasure. Sweet tea, cookies, baking, cakes with frosting, sweet carrots, endless homemade sweets, and treats. Mary Poppins got it right, a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down – no matter what ails you.
We love our sugar! As a disabled person, going shopping is not something I can just go do whenever we need something. I buy almost everything I can in bulk.
Sugar is one of those items that can be stored for a really long time if packaged correctly. Storing sugar is as easy as keeping it away from moisture, and in an airtight container. It can be stored in a cool, dark place like a pantry, or in the fridge or the deep freeze.
Using food-grade buckets or containers is a convenient way to seal in flavor and seal out bugs.
Sugar does not support microbial growth, and therefore has an unlimited shelf life. You do not need to use an O2 absorber when storing sugar. For all types of sugar, an airtight container or packaging is all that is needed.
Let us look at how to store sugar long term to retain the flavor, whether it’s white or brown sugar.
When I say ‘container’ I do not mean you need to go out and spend a lot of money on storage containers. You can use clean, dry ice cream tubs, glass coffee bottles, Tupperware, or anything that seals up nicely.
But I love my canning jars. They seal nicely so I do not need to worry about air or moisture getting in or out. Canning jars also ensure that my sugar is not exposed to any odors or flavors floating around.
Storing White Sugar
Many people prefer white sugar as it is cheaper than any other sugar, and is sold in larger, bulk bags.
White sugar can be bought in buckets or packets; the only thing needed to store white sugar long term is to put it into a covered glass or plastic container. If you live in a humid area, you should not store sugar in cans as sugar corrodes metal.
Because of the quantity of sugar used, most hotels, B&Bs, and big companies purchase sugar in #10 cans. These are great for long term storage as they last 30 years unopened. Once they are open, the sugar needs to be used within one year.
If you have opened the can, I suggest you repackage the sugar into more practical portions in Ziplock bags, glass jars, or plastic containers. The cans should always be stored in a cool, dark space, and must always be kept dry.
Remember that metal rusts, and also that sugar corrodes metal. If the cans become wet, and you have built up a good supply of sugar, you may find yourself reaching for a can and finding it damaged. If you live in a very humid area, I do not recommend storing sugar in cans.
I buy my sugar in big 2 kgs / 4.4 lbs packets which I then put into clean, dry, containers which I store in the fridge once opened. It can be stored in the deep freeze too, but we have limited space in the deep freeze.
My daughter is single, I am still her mom, and always try to purchase some essentials for her when I visit.
I buy her a 2 kgs / 4.4 lbs pack of sugar and Ziplock sandwich bags that she decants the sugar into, and stores in her freezer. She only uses one Ziplock a month, so the large pack goes a long way.
Unopened packets I store in my pantry in hold-alls.
If you want to store white sugar, don’t do just it in its original paper packaging bag. You can keep it in the paper bag, but store the whole bag in an airtight container.
The paper packaging can cause lumps to form because of humidity in the air. It is best to keep it dry.
If your white sugar does harden, do not despair. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and place the sugar on the tray.
Place the tray into the oven at 390 F / 200 C for ten to fifteen minutes. Turn the oven off, but leave the tray in the oven for an hour. You will be able to loosen the granules easily with a fork, and your sugar will be good as new.
Storing Brown Sugar
There are different grades of brown sugar…
Light Brown Sugar
Where I live, we have a very light-colored brown sugar that is almost white, and needs to be stored the same way as white sugar – in airtight containers.
It has the same texture as white sugar, and does not contain much moisture, so I keep mine in the deep freeze or refrigerator, in its original packaging inside an airtight container or decanted into glass when opened.
It can be stored in its plastic packaging or in a Ziplock bag in a hold-all too, so you do not need to sacrifice space in the fridge.
Dark Brown, or Treacle Sugar
We use brown sugar more than white sugar. So, we normally buy light brown sugar as it is cheaper than REAL brown sugar. I always keep a few bags of the real deal as I love the taste it gives in tea.
Brown Sugar Lasts Longer in Glass
What I term REAL brown sugar is normally sold in plastic packets. These packets are air and moisture tight (to seal the moisture IN), so as long as the packet is sealed no further treatment is needed.
It is important to note that brown sugar contains moisture. While with white sugar you are trying to seal moisture out, with brown sugar you are trying to lock the moisture in. You do not want to expose it to air.
The brand I buy comes in a resealable Ziplock bag, which is very convenient. You can purchase Ziplock bags to seal the sugar in yourself.
Having sold Tupperware many years ago, I know their containers are great quality as they have a great airtight seal that allows you to ‘burp’ the container to remove air. Canning jars lock out the air nicely, and retain flavor as well.
(REAL) Brown sugar must never be stored in the fridge as the low temperature will cause it to harden. On the packaging, you will see that it is recommended that you use it within six months of purchase.
That recommendation is based on the package being opened, and not put into an airtight container. I have never thrown brown sugar out. It stays fresh and tasty in my Tupperware container.
It does not last as long as white sugar because of the moisture content. It can last up to a year if properly stored.
If you do have a bag of brown sugar that has gone hard, place a slice of bread in with the sugar for one day. The bread will moisten the sugar, restoring it to its original state.
Storing Powdered Sugar
Powdered sugar should always be stored in an airtight container. If you buy smaller bags, you can fit these into any plastic container, and it will last many years.
Powdered sugar is not packaged in large bags, so it does not take up a lot of space in your pantry. You can fit several small packets into a repurposed ice cream tub. Powdered sugar actually lasts longer than any other sugar if it is in an airtight container.
I have to admit I’m a big fan of honey. Whether I am making iced tea, roasting chicken, or warding off infection, my go-to is honey.
At the first sign of a cold or flu, I grab a bottle of honey for the potentially sick person, and over a day we just take a mouthful every hour. It is a natural antibiotic. No side effects!
Honey lasts for ages (when no-one is sick or drinking iced tea). I like to transfer my honey into glass jars – canning jars – because it lasts longer, and if it does crystalize it is easy to melt at low heat.
I love it when I find honey that is packaged in glass jars. It makes storage easier and I keep the jars for future projects. I do rotate the jars so that we are always using the jar that has been in the pantry the longest.
I use jars that hold 250ml. I use a flatter jar for honey so that if it crystalizes it melts down quicker. I just place the jar in warm water until it is usable.
Honey lasts forever (literally) and retains all its nutritional qualities. If it crystallizes it is easy to melt down. Its antimicrobial properties ensure that nothing grows in it – no bacteria, fungus, etc.
Agave is a great natural sweetener to cook with. It does have a shelf life of two years. Store it in airtight containers and make sure you rotate packets so that you’re using the packet that is the oldest first.
And be sure to keep it away from heat, not that it goes bad or anything, it just tends to harden and get clumpy.
It is gaining popularity worldwide, but it is not available everywhere, and where it is available it is rather pricey.
Storing Icing Sugar and Castor Sugar
Confectionary sugar can last up to eighteen months if it is stored in an airtight container. Both glass and plastic containers work well.
Storing Artificial Sweeteners
If you prefer to use artificial sweeteners, these can also be stored for up to two years in very tightly sealed containers.
I recommend you use proper Tupperware containers as you can ‘burp’ the air out of the container, extending the lifespan of the sweetener.
Glass or plastic are sugars best friend when it comes to long term storage. Ziplock bags are also a great tool for storing sugar. Especially if you are single, it is always best to open only what you will use within a month at a time.
Decant what you will use into your containers or Ziplock bags and store safely until needed. You do not want to expose five pounds of sugar to air over three months because you needed to open a packet of sugar.
I recommend that you take the time to write the date on each bag as you buy sugar. Always put the newest bags at the back.
Storing your sugar in airtight containers, hold-all’s, or food grade buckets will also help protect your sugar from ants and other creepy crawlies.
Very few things annoy me more that opening a fancy sugar pot to discover it has been invaded – which is why these are not for storage, just for serving.
Sugar absorbs odors too, which is why airtight containers are so important. You do not want sugar sitting open next to garlic. Anything with a strong odor will affect the taste of the sugar. Make sure you keep anything stinky away from your sugar.
Always check the package in the shop before you buy it. Make sure there are no holes in the packaging.
Check for leaks, and check if the package stays inflated when you gently squeeze it. Holes in the packaging mean the sugar is not airtight, so it could clump up over time.
Nothing beats canning jars for storing food long-term. What do you do to preserve your sugar for longer? Let us know in the comments below.
Di-Anne Devenish Seebregts was raised in an environment where daily life consisted of hiking, environmental conservation, growing fruit and vegetables, and raising poultry for meat and eggs.
She combined her passion for the writing word with her love of the pride that comes with not relying on others. She raised three children (who are now adults) to value the environment, and understand the value of being self-sufficient.