How long oatmeal will last is a common question among those looking to stock their pantry or survival stores. There are very few breakfast options that can be kept long term that pack the nutritional punch of oats, so it makes sense to include them in the mix. I have been preserving food all of my life and can give you a definitive answer on the subject.
When properly stored in the original packaging, raw oatmeal can last up to 2 years in the pantry without losing its quality. However, if correctly packaged for the long term, it can last up to 30 years. Cooked oatmeal lasts up to 6 months in the freezer and 4 to 6 days in the refrigerator.
Without a doubt, oats are a treasure in the kitchen and a great survival food. But the key to keeping them for long is proper storage. This article will discuss methods you can use to properly store raw and cooked oatmeal, how long oats last with each method, and ways to identify bad or spoiled oats.
How Long Will Uncooked Oatmeal Last?
As mentioned earlier, when uncooked oatmeal is stored under optimal conditions at room temperature, it can last anywhere from 1 to 2 years without losing its quality or nutritional value in its original packaging.
Just like most food packages, oats have a “best by,” “use by,” or “best before” date, but this is only the manufacturer’s guidance on quality. In most cases, oatmeal will still be safe for consumption even when its “use by” date has passed. Keep in mind, however, that after some time, you may start noticing changes in its color, taste, or smell.
With a bit of work, you can likely extend the shelf life by several years. I wrote an article on how to store rice and beans over the long term, the methodology will hold true for storing any dry good. Be sure to check it out if you are building ultra-long term survival stores. Or, you can just buy oatmeal that has already been pre-packed to last a long time. I recommend My Patriot Supply if you want to go that route.
How Long Will Cooked Oatmeal Last?
Unlike raw oatmeal, cooked oatmeal can’t be stored at room temperature. It must be transferred into the fridge or freezer. When stored in the freezer, soaked or cooked oats can last for up to 6 months.
Cooked oatmeal will still be good in the fridge after 4 to 6 days, but they are best when consumed after day one or two. After the sixth day, it may start developing mold, yeast, or invisible bacteria on its surface.
How to Tell If Oatmeal Has Gone Bad
More often than not, you’ll be able to tell through your senses if something is wrong with your oats. Although it is unlikely that oatmeal will go rancid like meat or fish, its color, smell, and texture can still change. Here’s how to figure out oatmeal that may be no longer safe to eat.
Check the Expiration Date
The easiest way to know if oatmeal has gone bad is to check its expiration or “use by” date. If it is just a few days or weeks past its printed date, it may still be safe to consume. The period between the expiration date and when oatmeal actually goes bad varies depending on how it is stored.
However, if several weeks or months have passed after its expiration date, you may want to dispose of it. When in doubt, rely on your senses of smell, feel, and sight.
Color Or Texture Changes
The color or appearance of bad food is the first thing that gives it away. Bad oatmeal will have visible changes to its color and can be darker or lighter than normal. If you also notice dark spots or visible mold and yeast formation, it should be thrown away.
Also, if it seems clumped together with a powdery or whitish texture, it’s not a good sign. If it feels soggy to touch, it should be thrown away. Bad oatmeal may also have an increase in its original volume.
Odd or Off Smell
Bad or spoiled oatmeal may not have a strong smell, but if it smells sour or different than usual, it should not be eaten. Sometimes, oats can pick up smells from other foods. When this happens, it may still be safe to eat, but the best thing is to discard it. Oatmeal has a light smell and should smell like oatmeal, not something else.
Throw It Out
If you’re not sure whether your oats are bad or not, throw it out. Get rid of cooked oatmeal that has spent more than a week in the fridge. If you notice any insects or bugs in your oatmeal, it’s a sure sign that it should be disposed of.
How to Properly Store Oatmeal
Despite having a long shelf life, oatmeal can still spoil, rotten, or become unsafe to eat if not properly stored. The key is to reduce its contact with air, moisture, and exposure to light. Here’s how to store oatmeal and extend its shelf life.
How to Store Raw Oatmeal
Raw oatmeal must be stored in a tightly sealed container to prevent air, moisture, and bugs from getting in. It should be kept in a cool, dry area such as a pantry or even a root cellar. The recommended pantry temperature is 50°F (10°C) to 70°F (21°C). Anything higher than this temperature will speed up the deterioration of your oats. A good thermometer will come in handy for this task.
A cupboard also works if it is not susceptible to temperature changes. Temperature fluctuations can cause moisture to form in the package and lead to the growth of mold or yeast. Also, ensure it is clean and free of dust.
Steel-cut oats and oat groats don’t last as long as rolled and instant oats, so it is best to store them in the fridge or freezer. You can keep them in an airtight glass or metal container before freezing or refrigerating them.
A root cellar, which is mostly used for storing vegetables and fruits, can also be used to keep oats fresh and intact. One of the best options for long term storage of oatmeal is an #10 can with an oxygen absorber. Oats stored this way can last up to 28 years when kept in a cool and dry environment. Another option is to use plastic buckets or Mylar bags.
How to Store Cooked Oatmeal
Cooked oatmeal must be stored in the freezer or refrigerator to prevent bacterial growth and the potential risk of food-borne illness. Allow the oatmeal to cool down a little before transferring it into the fridge. However, do not leave it longer than 2 hours as this allows bacteria to grow and develop.
To make oatmeal cool down faster, separate it into individual portions, and place them in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags. You may stick a label on each portion to make it easier to know when you placed them there. The temperature of the refrigerator must be maintained at 40°F (4°C) or below.
The shelf life of cooked oatmeal can be further extended by storing it in a freezer. When wrapped in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags, cooked oatmeal can last up to 6 months. Remember to keep your freezer temperature at 0°F (-18°C) or lower.
Oatmeal is a nutritional powerhouse that has an incredibly long shelf life. It is a great staple food to have on hand anytime, especially if you need to stockpile food. But having a long shelf life doesn’t necessarily mean it can be stored indefinitely. Oatmeal will eventually go bad after some time.
Oats can last up to 2 years when properly stored. When cooked, it can stay in the fridge for 4 to 6 days, and up to 6 months in the freezer. Although oatmeal has a long shelf life, it can still go bad. You can identify bad or spoiled oats by performing a visual, touch, or smell check.
The following tips can help you maximize the shelf life of oats and keep them for longer:
- Store oatmeal in an airtight container or resealable bag
- Use #10 cans, plastic buckets, and Mylar bags for long term storage
- Keep the pantry free of dust and at a temperature between 50 to 70°F
- Maintain refrigerator and freezer temperatures at 40°F and 0°F, respectively.
Helpful Recommended Products
I took the time to some things you might need to store foods. Here are a few Amazon products that you may find helpful for both mid and long term storage. As mentioned before, you may also want to check out my article on storing rice and beans for the long term, to learn more about storing dry goods.
- Airtight Storage Containers– For short or mid-term use.
- Oxygen Absorbers– These help keep the moisture content down.
- 5-Gallon Gasket Sealed Plastic Buckets– The perfect size for my long-term storage needs.
- 5-Gallon Mylar Storage Bags– Fill these bags, seal, then put in the bucket for ultra long-term storage. Mylar Heat Sealer- Bag sealing option #1.
- Large Vacuum Sealed Bags– For a vacuum-sealed alternative.
- Portion-Sized Mylar Bags (Ziplockable)
- Vacuum Sealer– Bag sealing option #2.
- Storage Labels– Logging the date and contents is important.
Ready-Made for Storage
If you want to save yourself the hassle of DIY storage, a really good (and surprisingly affordable) option is to just buy foods pre-packaged for the long term. I highly recommend the products at My Patriot Supply.