Opt For The Freshest Ingredients When Making Trail Mix

Trail mix is a handy and nutritious snack for all ages, whether you're packing it in your child's lunchbox or keeping it on your office desk as a mid-day pick-me-up. While pre-packaged trail mix is convenient, making your own at home allows you total control over what ingredients go into the blend, meaning it will include only your favorite flavors and textures. If you do put together a unique trail mix yourself, however, a word to the wise: Make sure your ingredients are at peak freshness to avoid a rancid surprise when you dig into your next snack.

Trail mix is often prepared in advance, and most recipes suggest making it in bulk so that you can have multiple portions readily available. This results in large quantities of dried fruits, nuts, and whatever else you've got in your mix sitting out at room temperature for weeks or even months. In most cases, this isn't an issue, but contrary to popular belief, these ingredients do not stay fresh indefinitely. As such, it's important to buy the highest-quality ingredients at the peak of their freshness and to know the shelf life for these ingredients in order to ensure your trail mix stays delicious and safe.

Which ingredients expire when?

Nuts and candy are the trail mix ingredients that last the longest. Most types of nuts last six to nine months but can expire faster if exposed to warm temperatures or too much sunlight, as these conditions will cause the oils in the nuts to go bad. Meanwhile candy like chocolate chunks will last for six months to one year. Dried fruits and seeds are the most delicate. The shelf life of dried fruits maxes out at just six months, and that of most seeds is only three months.

You can maximize the shelf life of your trail mix by selecting ingredients that are as fresh as possible and by storing it properly. Buying these ingredients loose from bulk stores is recommended, since these stores tend to replace their stock more often, increasing the likelihood of fresh options. Some packaged ingredients may also have "packed on" dates, allowing you to determine how long they have been sitting on a shelf before you've brought them home. Finally, refrigerating or even freezing trail mix that you don't plan on eating right away can preserve the ingredients for additional months without damaging the flavor or texture of the ingredients.