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Spring Clean Your Cabinets: The Shelf Life of Pantry Staples.

Despite the lingering snow piles here in Vermont (and seemingly everywhere else in the country), the long days and the calendar indicate that spring is here. As such, it’s time for a little spring cleaning, not just of the closets, but in the kitchen, too. Beyond simply cleaning surfaces, now is the time to go through your pantry staples, check expiration dates on canned and other dry goods and toss anything that’s been buried in the back of your fridge. For a handy reference —and for food that might not have an expiration date — here’s a list of the shelf life of pantry staples.

Baking Ingredients

Baking powder and soda
Shelf life: 6 months, opened
Storage: Check the shelf life by putting a few drops of vinegar into a small amount of baking soda; if it bubbles a lot, it’s still good. This works for baking powder, too.

Brown sugar
Shelf life: 4 months
Storage: Store in an air-tight container or place a slice of orange peel in the box to help keep it soft.

Cocoa powder
Shelf life: 1 year
Storage: Keep in a cool, dry place.

Cornmeal
Shelf life: 1 year
Storage: Store it in the freezer to double the shelf life.

Corn Syrup
Shelf life: 3 years
Storage: Keep in an airtight container.

Molasses
Shelf life: 6 months (opened); 12 months (unopened)
Storage: Keep in an airtight container; refrigerate to extend shelf life.

Spices and herbs
Shelf life: 6 months
Storage: If possible, buy them in small quantities in the bulk section and store them in jars. Also, don’t sprinkle herbs into cooking food directly from the jar — the steam will make the herbs go bad faster.

Whole-grain flours
Shelf life: 6 – 8 months (fridge); 1 – 2 years (freezer)
Storage: Always store whole-grain flours in the fridge or freezer, since they go rancid easily.

White flour
Shelf life: 6 – 8 months
Storage: Keep in an airtight container.

White Sugar
Shelf life:  2 years
Storage: Keep in an airtight container.

Brown rice and whole grains
Shelf life:
6 months
Storage:
 Store in an airtight container

Evaporated milk
Shelf life: 12 to 13 months
Storage: Keep in a cool, dry place.

Canned and Jarred Goods

Canned beans and tuna
Shelf life:  2 – 5 years
Storage: Keep in a cool, dry place.

Canned fruits and vegetables (including tomatoes and tomato sauce)
Shelf life:  12 – 24 months
Storage: Once you open the jar, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Milk, condensed or evaporated
Shelf life: 12 – 23 months
Tips: After opening, you can keep it for 8  – 20 days in the fridge

Condiments and Miscellaneous 

Honey
Shelf life: Indefinite
Storage: Keep at room temperature.

Bread crumbs
Shelf life: 6 months
Storage: Keep in an air-tight container.

Dried fruit
Shelf life: 6 months
Storage: They’ll stay fresher in the refrigerator.

Ketchup
Shelf life: 6 months (in the fridge); 1 month (unrefrigerated)
Storage: Refrigerate it.

Mustard
Shelf life:
6 – 8 months (opened)
Storage:
Keep it in the fridge once opened.

Oil
Shelf life:  6 months – 1 year
Storage: If you live in a warmer climate, consider storing them in the fridge

Peanut butter
Shelf life: 6 – 9 months (unopened); 2 – 3 months (opened)
Storage: Store opened jars of natural peanut butter in the fridge.

Vinegar
Shelf life:
1 year (opened)
Storage:
Store in a cool, dark place

Sources: Virginia Cooperative Extension; What’s Cooking America?

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