Why Sugar Is A Survival Staple

If you are anything like me, there is no such thing as a crisis worth surviving if breads, cakes, and pastries are no longer available.  Aside from flour, one of the most important ingredients in food is sugar. 

From making medicinal wines to high calorie foods that will sustain you in a time of need, it is very important to know how to store sugar so that you can use it in a time of need.

4 Reasons Why Sugar is a Survival Staple

When it comes to long lasting supplies for your stockpile, sugar is one of the most important. Depending on the type of sugar, it can be stored away for as long as 30 years. You will also find sugar costs less and can be used for a wider variety of survival needs than other items on your list.

No matter whether you are just starting to set supplies aside, or you have been doing so for years, here are some reasons to store away as much sugar as possible.

Important for Basic or Staple Recipes

Even if you don’t prepare many meals from scratch right now, you will find that sugar is in almost everything you eat.  During a major social collapse, this is not likely to change.  No matter whether you want to make leavened bread, pancakes, or other staple foods, sugar will be absolutely necessary.

In addition, sugar is also very important for making medicinal wines from herbs that may not have enough sugar to produce sufficient fermentation.

Vital for Caloric Intake and Energy

As you may be aware, your cells use a very simple form of sugar known as glucose for energy. When you consume foods and beverages, sugars are broken down first so that your body has the fuel required to carry out other processes.

As such, sugars are very important for every metabolic function in your body.   Sugars and starches also provide the highest number of calories in your diet.

Other Uses Besides Food

While food may be a primary concern, there are several other important ways to use sugar. First, as strange as it may seem, you can pour sugar on wounds to prevent them from getting infected.  Honey, as a form of sugar is especially effective in this arena because it also contains a molecule that breaks down to form hydrogen peroxide.

Since sugar doesn’t dissolve well in cold water, you can use it as a short term abrasive while washing your hands.  When combined with vinegar, sugar can also be used to feed flower stems.  Depending on the plant, this mixture may also accelerate root development for cuttings placed in water.

Insofar as gardening, sugar can also be used to increase microbial activity, which can help get rid of nematodes.  Sugar can also be used to feed insects such as butterflies. You can also use sugar as bait to trap wasps and other unwanted insects.  This includes luring roaches to areas where you have baking powder (which kills roaches) laying around.

Versatile Source Options

Today, many people think of sugar only in terms of white, granulated sugar.  This sugar can be made from sugar cane or beets.  Since modern brown sugar only requires the addition of molasses, you will find that granulated sugars are easy enough to make in the time after a social collapse.

It will be best to focus on beets since they are easy to grow and heirloom seeds can be stored away with no problem.

There are also several other important sources of sugar or sugar like products that you can store away for a time of need.  This includes maple syrup from the sap of sugar maple trees, honey, and stevia.

It should be noted that Stevia differs considerably from other sugar types.  To begin, it is much lower in carbohydrate.  It can also be difficult to locate suitable plants that will produce a sweet tasting powder.  That being said, some newer research indicates that Stevia extracts may fight Lyme disease as well as, if not better than modern antibiotics.

Even if you do not cultivate Stevia for use as a sugar replacement, it may be a good idea to make sure you have some onhand for managing Lyme disease.  Sadly, in a post crisis world, getting bit by a tick can lead to endless suffering or death if you do not have the antibiotics required to treat a possible Lyme disease infection early on.

Different Kinds of Sugar and How to Store Them

Aside from providing a variety of tastes and textures for various recipes, you will also want to store different kinds of sugar to achieve other goals.  Regardless of the type of sugar you are interested in, there are some basic rules you must follow.

First, sugars should always be stored away in a cool, dry location.  As with many other foods, increases in temperature can increase the risk of bacterial growth.  By the same token, an increase in moisture can also bring along an increased risk of fungal  growth, mold, and mildew.

Many people also say that you should store sugar in a dark location because darkness will supposedly inhibit bacterial growth.  While this may work for some bacteria, others will thrive in a dark location.

Since the bags and buckets you will store the sugar in are not likely to be light permeable, it makes little to no sense to concern yourself with the overall lighting in the storage area.

Right now, there is also considerable amount of controversy over how to store sugar so that it will last as long as possible.  Sadly, just because there are more “modern” methods such as vacuum sealing, oxygen absorbers, and other storage products, that doesn’t mean they work as well or are as reliable  as you would want them to be.

To begin, let’s have a look at vacuum sealing and oxygen absorbers.  Typically, these storage methods are both used to deter the growth of bacterial organisms.  They are also very useful for keeping moisture from building up in the bag.

Unfortunately, some of the most dangerous micro-organisms do not require oxygen to grow.  In particular, the bacteria responsible for botulism can easily grow and proliferate in vacuum bags and other environments where oxygen is not present.

Unlike cans where you will notice swelling or other signs of contamination, it can be difficult, if not impossible to determine if a vacuum packed bag of food has been harboring the bacteria responsible for botulism.

If you have ever done any kind of baking, then you already know that granulated sugar will melt easily enough in an oven setting. This, in turn, means that it is not a good idea to try and oven can this kind of sugar.  By the same token, heating honey is also not a viable option because it destroys some of the most important nutrients within the honey.

While it may seem very simplistic, the best way to store sugar is in large, airtight buckets that can be stored in a cool, dry place.  Do not use oxygen absorbers or try to reduce the amount of air in the buckets. It is also very important to mark the bucket with the date you stored the sugar away.

Be sure to rotate your stores often and inspect the contents from time to time.  As you gain experience with storing sugar, you will also gain a good idea of how to spot spoilage and avoid this problem as much as possible.

Here are some common sugar types and how long you can expect them to last:

Granulated Sugar

If you buy this sugar pre-manufactured, you can expect it to last for about 30 years.  Depending on how much sugar you plan to use on a weekly or monthly basis, it may be best to break the bag down into smaller amounts.  Just make sure that you store the package in a place where moisture cannot get to it.

If the area is too damp, the sugar will form into a hard brick. Even though you can still use the sugar for a time after it hardens, it may also be more susceptible to mold, mildew, bacterial, and fungal growth.

When processing beets for sugar, do not forget to check the stored sugar often to see if you need to make changes in the storage method or container type.

While granulated sugar is cheap and easy to store, it is also a bit hard on your health.  Excess processed sugar consumption is associated with diabetes, weight gain, and heart disease.  New research also indicates that consuming too much processed sugar can also lead to an increased risk for many types of cancer.

While granulated sugar will be a necessity before, during, and after a major crisis, it will be worth your effort to work with healthier sugar options.


Can be stored indefinitely as long as it is kept in an airtight jar and away from excessive moisture.  It is best to keep honey away from excess heat or freezing temperatures.  If you notice crystals forming on the honey, simply warm it up to get rid of this problem.

While most honey on the market does not come with the honeycomb, you may want to store it as well. Aside from being edible and useful for making beeswax, the honeycomb can also extend the shelf life of honey jars that have been opened.

Honey is a viable option to granulated sugar and is much better for your health.

Today, more than a few preppers avoid buying large quantities of honey for their stockpile because it is expensive.  On the other side of the equation, the increased concern of declining bee populations has spurred a good bit of innovation in backyard bee keeping.

You can make a small sized hive out of little more than a few mason jars and some wood.  Gear for bee keepers is also readily available, as is the training in how to manage a beehive safely and efficiently.  Aside from getting honey at a lower cost, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are doing something useful to help prevent a mass bee extinction.

Maple Syrup

As long as you don’t open the original container, it can be stored indefinitely. It will taste best if stored in a freezer, and must also be refrigerated once opened.  Maple syrup is similar to honey in the sense that it is best stored in an airtight jar as opposed to a bucket.

Smaller jars will also make it easier to avoid wasting a whole bucket if you don’t use it very often.  If you don’t find keeping bees appealing, growing sugar maple trees may be more suitable to your lifestyle.  These trees grow quickly in just about any region and will produce enormous amounts of maple syrup once the tree is mature enough to tap.

All you will need is a good bucket and a means to insert a drain into the truck of the tree.


This derivative of a succulent (not a cactus!) is rapidly becoming favored over corn syrup and other sugars that pose a risk to human health.  Unfortunately, the shelf life of agave is only 2 to 5 years even in the best of circumstances.

You will also find it somewhat more expensive than other kinds of sugar.  If you are interested in using Agave as a form of sugar, you may be better served by focusing on how to grow the succulent it comes from and then determine how best to harvest it.


There are two ways to obtain and store Stevia.  First, you can purchase pre-processed Stevia from a number of different manufacturers.

While this form of Stevia may last indefinitely, there are some growing concerns about the process used to extract the sweetener.  In particular, there is very little information on the chemicals used and the long term health impacts.

While Stevia extracts may be very useful for a healthy diet, they may not be such a good idea in the pre-processed form.

You can also obtain Stevia extracts from plants that you grow.  Typically, this extract may have a shelf life of just a few years.  It will be up to you to decide if you are going to store away leaves as you would other herbs, or if you are going to experiment with oil infusions or other storage methods.

Do not forget that vacuum bags and sealing can do more harm than good.

Corn Syrup

As with many other sugars, the shelf life for corn syrup is usually indefinite.  While corn syrup is fairly cheap and readily available, it is also very dangerous to your health.  Corn syrup is a refined sugar that puts an excessive burden on your pancreas and digestive system.

If you must use corn syrup, do so sparingly.  It is truly better to use some other sugar source and avoid this one as much as possible.

Things You Should do When Storing Sugar

When it comes to storing sugar, many people overlook the fact that insects, rodents, and other vermin are drawn to the smell of sugar.  Even a few small drops of sugar on the floor of your store room can bring swarms of ants and other hungry insects.

Therefore, when storing away sugar, it is very important to make sure the area is kept clean and free of anything that will offer comfort to these creatures.  Try to avoid storage areas where rodents can exit and enter easily. Without a question, if these animals can get in, then insects can as well.

If you store away sugar for even a few months, you can rest assured that the local insect and vermin population will eventually sniff it out.  Once that happens, you will have a never ending struggle to keep these creatures from getting into your stockpile of sugar.

While you may not have to worry about liquid sugars stored in glass jars, granulated sugars can present a problem.  In this case, it may not be enough to store the sugar in a plastic bucket. Instead, you may need to store the sugar in a metal can or something else that mice and other creatures can’t chew through.

Sadly, many people mistakenly believe mice cannot chew through plastic.  Even though it may take some effort for the rodent to get started, once the plastic begins to develop an abraded surface, sharp teeth will make quick work of the rest.

In conjunction with metal bins or pails, you will also be well served by using both animal and insect deterrents.  For example, you can sprinkle peppermint or spearmint around your stockpile room to deter mice.

There are also other herbs and flowers that will deter ants and other insects. Finally, as long as you can provide the electricity, sonic frequency generators can also be used to deter unwanted animals and insects.

Things to Avoid When Storing Sugar

Without a question, the worst thing you can do when storing sugar is to store it in containers with large quantities.  Once you open a large bag or bucket, the sugar may only last for a few months to a year, even though it may take much longer to consume it.

Buy small jars and packing materials so that you have just enough to last a month in each container.  While it may take a bit more room to store sugar in smaller packages, you will find it very useful.  Aside from making it easier to avoid waste, smaller packages are easier to transport.

If you have to bug out, taking along two or three packages that weigh a pound each will be much easier than trying to lug around a 10 – 20 pound bucket.

One of the worst things you can do when storing sugar is focus exclusively on pre-manufactured products.  While these items can help you get started, you must also know how to make your own sugars and store them away safely.

No matter whether you choose to start with beet sugar, maple syrup, or honey, the more you can do from scratch, the better. Ideally, you should be able to do everything from plant seeds and save them to cultivate plants and process them into sugars for long term storage.

As you learn more about the fascinating uses of sugar, you may be surprised at how versatile it really is.  Being able to process and store away different kinds of sugars can help you do everything from manage insect problems to heal wounds and cure infections.

Knowing how to store sugar away for long periods of time will make it easier to have different kinds of sugars onhand now, as well as in a time of social collapse or other extended need.


Written by

Carmela Tyrrell is committed to off gridding for survival and every day life. She is currently working on combining vertical container gardening with hydroponics. Tyrrell is also exploring ways to integrate magnetic and solar power generation methods. On any given day, her husband and six cats give thanks that she has not yet blown up the house. You can send Carmela a message at editor [at] survivopedia.com.

Latest comments
  • Some good information, but wash your hands with sugar, come on!

    • It works with soap and helps get the toughest grease out. An old mechanic’s trick. You can elininate nausea by making a thick sugar syrup and taking a tablespoon.

  • Carmela, It is Critical that you get this Right: Organic Honey – Yes; Organic Maple Syrup – Yes; Organic Aguave – Yes; Commercial Granulated Sugar – NEVER (Toxic); Corn Syrup – NEVER (Toxic); Any Commercial Liquid form Sugars – NEVER (Toxic). Stevia is a Completely Different Item. You can make pale (Not White – Bleached – Chlorine) > Sugar – ONLY from Non-GMO Sugar Beets you raise yourself. THIS Seed is Very Rare and Hard to find – I have some and I can show you how to get it. Those are your Options. Fruit that you raise yourself – of course these contain Organic Sugars.

  • Nothing was mentioned about storing sugar in glass jars with seals. Is this an option?

    • IF you are talking about in the sense of canning then no it is not as sugar melts when heated

  • I’ve had my eye on sugar for years now. Even before I started thinking about survival situations. I was always taught to have a LITTLE extra on hand. Just incase. Hardly anyone ever talks about storing sugar. I’ve had some sugar around in the original bags for over ten years and absolutely no problems as long as you keep the critters out and keep it dry and clean. My emergency supply is in 2 litre mason jars and nothing can get in there. Where I live there is no possible chance of earthquakes so I don’t have to worry about the glass jars breaking. My bigger supply is in tight critter-proof Rubbermaid garbage cans. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting metal garbage cans and either cutting the bottoms off of them to reinforce the plastic containers or outright just moving the things that rodents like into metal containers altogether. I like the thick plastic garbage cans because they have VERY tight secure lids. I’ve also thought about the mice problem getting through plastic. They are the most tenacious little bastards and for their size do a disproportionate amount of damage. I hate any kind of rodent with a passion including rabbits and squirrels. The only saving grace is that in a post-crisis world those little mothers will be hunted for food. When your only activity is to survive a little sugar every once in a while helps to sweeten the situation. Things like sugar, salt, alcohol, tobacco can also be used for barter. And in an extended grid down situation we WILL need barter items. Money, gold, silver, gems. They’ll all be useless in an ongoing crisis. They MAY once again become valuable once law and order is restored. In a colder climate the obvious choice for what to grow so that we can make our own sugar are sugar beets. Obviously not sugar cane up here. Also maybe think about sugar maple trees. Takes a lot of boiling down but you still end up with a very thick sweet syrup. There’s even an earlier article on survivopedia on making sugar from sugar beets. It’s pretty simple. Cut ’em into small pieces. Boil them until you get a soft mash. Strain the liquid out of the mash. Re-boil until you get a honey-like consistency. Then use the resulting product just like you would use granulated sugar. On the upside, if you’re so inclined, you can also use sugar beets to make one heck of a potent liquor. Remember my mum telling me that when she was a young girl, some of her relatives were making their own booze from sugar beets. She just tried a little bit as it was dripping from the still and it knocked her on her butt. Depending upon how long the situation lasts a little booze every once in a while will also help. Also medicinal.

    • Thank you for addressing my question about storing sugar in glass jars with secure lids.

    • I’m not a fan of “original bags” or any kind of cardboard. Best to repackage for long term storage in food safe plastic or mylar. Paper/cardboard invite moisture, bugs and vermin.

  • There are also bath/shower scrubs using sugar as a cleanser/exfoliant (lots of recipes online!). I also remember in my younger days when I was working in hospitals and nursing homes, we used a mixture of Vaseline and sugar to put on bed sores.

  • Good info. In times when food is in short supply or rationed, sugar is always hard to get. Sugar is thought of as a luxury, when in fact it can be an important source of calories during food shortages.. Americans are so used to trying to loose weight that we forget how hard it is to get enough calories in times of scarcity.

    Sugar maples only produce sweet sap when grown in the right conditions. Planting maple trees is a good option if you live in the right place. The weather in the NE and Northern Great Lakes areas are about the only places in the US that have the right winter and summer temperatures.. So use care about planting sugar maples for sweetener. Thomas Jefferson planted sugar maples on his plantation in VA and was disappointed that he never produced maple syrup.

    Stevia is a warm weather perennial that grows well in hot humid places. It won’t survive the winter in most of the US. You would need to buy new plants each year or plant in pots and bring inside during the winter. –Sweet Cicely is a perennial herb that grows in much of the northern and central parts of the US (zones 3-7), has sweet leaves,and all parts of the plant are edible. It may be a useful alternative to stevia in many parts of the US. Don’t buy Sweet Cicely seeds as they have a short shelf life and need a long vernalization period. Buy a couple of plants and they will multiply in size and number, growing back each spring.

  • Back the truck up people. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate. 4 calories per gram. That is it! Sugar is not a great survival food at all! Eaten on an empty stomach that sugar will screw your pancreas up making it think a large meal is on the way. So the pancreas pumps out the appropriate amount of insulin. Gobbling up all the calories in your blood stream and making your blood sugar even LOWER.

    People should not drive cars nor should people be trying to think and survive on sugar. When the insulin gobbles up the glycogen, blood sugar we are unable to think. Our brain and spinal cord need readily available glycogen to use for energy to THINK. To react.

    Sugar is a great antibacterial. Honest. That is cool. Sugar offsets the bitter taste of too much acid such as tomato sauce. Sugar in no way should be a staple food. It is only 4 calories per gram!! Here is the lowdown; Protein (lean meat no fat) is 4 calories per gram…and it needs to be cooked to get those calories! Fat; is 9 calories per gram. Great stuff. Has literally NO TASTE. It is wonderful to ‘carry’ bits of food like starches and spices and vegies to your taste buds. You can then taste other foods with a little tiny bit of fat. Alcohol; 7 calories per gram. Yup, Sugar makes fermentation easier. Carbohydrates; anything grown from the earth is a carbohydrate, including dairy with also has fat. Avocados have fat so their caloric content is higher. Nuts, Olives….they are carbohydrates with fat.

    Sugar should not be eaten in a survival situation and here is why! It will make you not only weird in the head it will make you HUNGRIER. And ruin your teeth. We all need to learn how to recognize REAL hunger. Get OFF the sugar crap and you will find your body talking to you more clearly. “Hey we need some vitamin K….get spinach’! Don’t ever do that while on Coumadin or Warfarin! Ugh. Meat is great calories but make sure it is cooked.

    Cooked meat was what zipped us humans to the ‘top rung’…we could last longer in between hunts and gathers. Cooked meat is better for dogs, snakes and other omnivores/carnivores….cooking makes the nutrients and calories more available to our bodies.

    Fasting is butt stupid. Dumb dumb dumb…

    Water; plain water, hopefully from a well, ice cold is the best hydration period. Any electrolytes or stuff that needs to be dealt with by the body will slow the water in the stomach down from becoming absorbed until those electrolytes and other sugars, other molecules are digested.

    Sugar, is a no no. Fructose comes with its own ‘dinner’ foods. Corn syrup that is GMO is a huge no no. Complex carbohydrates are critical and should be 60 % of our diet. (this carb diet really pissed me off)….

    If you are on a long sea voyage without vitamin C or citrus, do not eat the carbohydrates. Our bodies make vitamin C but carbohydrates will reduce our vitamin C to the point we get scurvy. Eat just the meat and fat. Look up a wonderful book called Good Calorie, Bad Calorie. Amazing information.

    To imagine DIETING to lose weight during survival tells me someone doesn’t know what it is like to be hungry. Dieting during survival is INSANE.

    • I agree with you 100%, Stormy. No reasonable person would use sugar as a survival food. The phrase empty calories comes to mind. It would be nice every once in a while just as a treat to help lift our spirits. Survival in an extended grid down situation is going to be pretty grim. Sometimes if there is not much else it’s a matter of not so much what we need but what we want as long as we’re very judicious in the use of sugar. Sugar can be used as a barter item. We will need barter items. If we have enough supplies to make jams or cakes or booze we will need sugar. I understand your point about us being more aware of our teeth. May not be a dentist around the corner. If we need a good source of vitamin C, then maybe think about things like sauerkraut and cranberries. Both cranberries and cabbage grow well in cooler climates and it’s very easy to make sauerkraut as long as you have salt. Personally I can do without sugar but not without salt. I have no sugar cravings;. Salt is another matter altogether. Especially iodized salt. At one time salt was so precious it was used as a currency. Gives you a good idea about people’s priorities. GMO corn syrup is also one of my biggest pet peeves. I used to be able to eat corn. Won’t buy it anymore. My body is unable to digest it. Comes out just the way it went in.

  • First fruitcake above, your body CANNOT “make” vitamin C Period. Full stop. If you believe this is possible,
    Tag one peer reviewed article that states that is possible. By all means store multivitamins in vacuum packed Mylar. But realize they have a short storage life and are temperature sensitive. Long term vitamin intake if dependent on a good variety of vegetables, meat and sunlight. Store heirloom seeds, learn livestock management and animal husbandry and get out side.

    Second, processed white sugar has an indefinite shelf life. It is you people who post articles all the time about “over processed” foods and how if you leave XXXXX out it won’t rot or change. Then a second later you act like Refined sugar goes bad in 30 days. If you would like to store sugar for use in the future then just bag it in Mylar and place in a sturdy container like a plastic bucket or a metal can. Use it for baking, meat curing, jams and jellies, or just making your tea taste good.

    • Freeheel, you are a voice of reason in this yuppie stew of comments. Sugar is toxic? That’s odd – I’m 72, haven’t seen a doctor in 25 years or taken a prescription drug in at least 35 years & guess what; I consume sugar every day. If it’s toxic I must have super powers! Moderation, people! I have 2 cups of coffee every day with sugar. There’s almost always homemade cookies in the jar & a homemade dessert after dinner. As mentioned in the article, a little sugar can make other survival food a little more palatable. And Armin, try living totally without salt & see how long you last. I get so frustrated with self-appointed health nazis .

  • I just looked up vitamin C, Stormy and you are right to an extent Ascorbic acid is naturally found.in the body but it’s essential that our diet includes foods rich in vitamin C. If it doesn’t then we do get scurvy after a length of time. Include foods in your diet that contain vitamin C if you want to stay healthy. 🙂

  • that is all true but if you think outside the box i store sugar,cigarettes and alcohol even though i dont drink or smoke but people crave these things and would give anything for them. so i keep these as a bartering items. as for storage i vacuum seal everything in 1lb bags then store them in buckets. had a flood in 2011 house was under water for months lost alot but none of my food storage was compromised due to vacuum sealing them

  • not mentioned – storage of brown sugar – it’s a NO NO – doesn’t store worth a hoot … better off mixing your own with your stored white sugar and a bit of molasses ….