At first glance, crackers seem like great food to stockpile for emergencies. They are nonperishable, go well with emergency meals like chili and stew, and don’t require any cooking. But storing crackers long term can be fairly complex.
Here’s what you need to know about long-term cracker storage: the best types of crackers to store and packaging methods.
It’s Probably Best to Make Your Own Crackers
For long-term emergency prepping, it’s probably better to store ingredients for making your own crackers.
Here’s the reason:
Also Read: How to Make Hardtack Crackers (Recipe)
However, you need an oven to make crackers (you have an emergency oven, right?). It isn’t always practical to bake during emergencies. And you’d use a lot of fuel. So, storing crackers is a good alternative.
Do Crackers Go Bad?
Because crackers are so dry, bacteria and other microbes usually won’t grow on them. So, crackers usually won’t go bad in the sense that they become unsafe to eat. However, crackers can become stale when they absorb moisture from the air around them, causing them to lose their crunchiness.
Left in humid conditions, crackers can absorb so much moisture from the air that they become wet enough to support microbial growth. In this case, the crackers can become moldy and unsafe to eat.
Most Crackers Will Go Rancid
Most brands of crackers contain a lot of fat. When exposed to oxygen or heat, fat starts to go rancid. You’ll know the crackers are rancid because they will get a very unpleasant sour or fishy taste and odor.
Eating rancid food won’t give you food poisoning like eating moldy food can, but rancid food has a really unpleasant taste. I wouldn’t want to be stuck eating rancid crackers during a disaster.
Also see: What to do with rancid oil
Crackers Shelf Life
The best-by date on crackers is usually 6-9 months after the packaging date. You can still eat crackers past this date, but they may have lost their texture or flavor.
If you repackage crackers in airtight containers to protect against moisture, crackers can last for years past the best-by date. If the crackers have lots of fat, you’ll have to protect them against oxygen and heat. Even then, they may still go rancid within 2-3 years.
Best Crackers for Long Term Storage
For long-term storage, you want to choose crackers that do not have a lot of fat. You’ll also want to avoid crackers with milk powder, cheese powder, or other fatty ingredients that will go rancid.
Below are some crackers on Amazon which have no or very low fat. They are all good for long-term storage.
Some brands also sell shelf-stable emergency crackers.
Yet another option is to buy canned bread (B&M makes it). You can quickly turn the bread into crackers by letting it dry and toasting it in the oven for a bit.
Crackers that are NOT Good for Long-Term Storage
All of these brands of crackers have a lot of fat, which means they end up going rancid pretty quickly. If you want to stockpile them, you’ll need to rotate through them within a year (sooner if you live somewhere hot).
I’ve listed the amount of fat they contain to give you an idea of just how oily they are!
- Wheat Thins: 16g fat per 100g
- Ritz Original: 28g fat per 100g
- Saltines: 10g fat per 100g
- Triscuit: 15g fat per 100g
How to Store Crackers Long Term
If you want to store crackers long-term, you’ll need to
- Choose crackers that are no-fat or very low fat. Then you won’t have to worry about the fats going rancid.
- Repackage them in airtight containers. This prevents moisture from getting into the crackers so they won’t get moldy. It also protects them from pantry pests like moths and weevils.
- Remove oxygen. Oxygen causes chemical reactions, which can make foods go bad faster. If your crackers have any whole grains or fats, you must remove oxygen from the packaging.
- Protect from physical damage. Crackers are very fragile, so you will need to put them in a container to keep them from getting crushed.
Best Methods for Storing Crackers
1. Mylar Bags + Oxygen Absorbers + Bucket
This is by far the best way to store crackers long-term. You must:
- Put the crackers in a Mylar bag
- Add oxygen absorbers
- Seal the bag closed
- Put the sealed bag in a bucket
The Mylar bag protects against moisture. The oxygen absorber removes air from the bag. And the bucket keeps the crackers from getting crushed. It also keeps rodents from getting to the bags.
The shelf life of fat-free crackers stored this way should be at least 10 years. Fatty crackers like Ritz will likely last 2+ years if you keep them cool.
For more detailed instructions, read:
2. Mason Jars + Oxygen Absorbers
If you don’t want to use Mylar bags, you can store crackers in Mason jars with oxygen absorbers. So long as the mason jars have good-quality two-piece lids, they should be airtight. The shelf life of fat-free crackers should be at least 10 years, if not more. Fatty crackers will likely last 2 years if kept cool.
I generally don’t like glass jars for long-term food storage. They are prone to breaking and wouldn’t likely survive a disaster like a hurricane. You also can’t fit much food into a jar. However, many preppers like to store their food supply in jars.
3. Vacuum-Sealed Jars
If you have a mason jar attachment for your vacuum sealer, you can store crackers this way.
Note that vacuum sealing does not remove all oxygen from the container. It also won’t remove oxygen that is inside the crackers themselves.
Still, because the jars protect against moisture and a lot of the oxygen is removed, you can extend shelf life. Fat-free crackers should last at least 2 years. Even fatty crackers like Ritz will last 1+ years like this, so long as you keep them somewhere cool.
4. Vacuum Sealed Bags
Vacuum sealing in bags is not a good long-term food storage method (read why). However, vacuum sealing the crackers is better than nothing. They should last at least 1 year packaged this way.
To vacuum seal crackers, it’s best to keep them in their original packaging. That means vacuum sealing the entire box. Don’t vacuum them so much that you crush the box, though!
5. Original Packaging + Airtight Plastic Containers
Take the entire box of crackers and put it into an airtight plastic container. Buckets with gasket lids are suitable for this.
No plastic container provides a 100% airtight seal, though. Air and moisture will eventually leak in. Some people put desiccants in the container to help control moisture. But this also isn’t 100% sure.
Because of these issues, you’ll need to rotate through the crackers within 1-2 years. You might get lucky and have your crackers last longer, but I wouldn’t risk it.
6. Dry Canning
Dry canning is when you heat dry foods in a canning jar. The heat creates a vacuum, so it removes oxygen from the jar. It also seals the lid on the jar.
A lot of preppers dry can their crackers and say that it works well. One woman, for example, said that her dry-canned Saltines tasted perfect even after 2 years in storage. By contrast, her vacuum-sealed Saltines only lasted 1 year. I’ve heard plenty of other anecdotal evidence of dry, canned crackers lasting for years.
However, dry canning is generally not considered safe for food storage. Moisture pockets can form in the jar, which can be enough moisture to let botulism grow. While this is highly unlikely with a very dry food like crackers, it is still possible.
Do this at your own risk! (I would rather just use oxygen absorbers in Mylar!).
If you do want to risk it, here are the instructions:
- Put the crackers in a clean canning jar
- Put the lid and ring on top of the jar but do not tighten it
- Put the jars in a cold oven
- Make sure the jars are not touching
- Set the oven to 225F.
- Once the oven reaches 225F, keep the jars in for the following times:
- Pint jars: 20 minutes
- Quart jars: 30 minutes
- Half gallon jars: 45 minutes
- Carefully remove the jars from the oven
- Tighten the lids (use a towel)
- Set the jars on a towel to cool