Should you toss these pantry items?
You may be surprised to know that many of the items you store in your pantry have expiration dates not just in the near future, but far off into the future as well. That doesn’t mean that a product that has not yet expired isn’t edible, it’s just not as optimal. Although you know which foods you shouldn’t eat past the expiration date, like milk and cheese, it’s likely you don’t think much about the foods in your pantry. You might want to take a look at some of the older foods to see if they’re still okay. And don’t forget to consider removing these unhealthy items from your pantry altogether. This article shares important information on which pantry items you’re probably keeping for too long.
Most spices have an expiration date. If your spices have expired, you can still use them, but they won’t taste as strong as they should. If you can’t remember when you bought your spices, consider buying smaller quantities and replacing them more often. You should also always replace any bottles that are leaking or broken to avoid contamination or losing flavor. Keeping your spices in airtight containers with plenty of room will help keep them fresh longer—but even so, it’s a good idea to replace them every six months to be safe.
Flour usually has a 12-month shelf life if you store it properly, but can go rancid quicker. In order to prevent spoilage and keep your flour fresher for longer, keep it in an airtight container and keep it away from heat or sunlight. To be safe, throw any flour with an expiration date that’s less than six months old out; if you’re not sure how long it’s been there (or you forgot about that bag), play it safe and toss it out before using. If your product does become rancid, try cooking with some cloves—they are one of nature’s best natural preservatives.
– Baking powder
Similar to spices, baking ingredients such as baking powder and baking soda lose their potency over time. It will lead to sad, flat cakes for you. For your convenience, here is a fun science experiment to try in your kitchen: Combine baking soda with vinegar and baking powder with hot water. Foaming means that the ingredients are still fresh and good for baking.
– Graham crackers
Graham crackers always need to be placed in an airtight container if you want to maintain the integrity of their taste. Graham crackers that have not been opened in a bag, however, may end up feeling stale before you’ve finished using them. Graham crackers will stay fresh in your pantry for around nine months, according to foodsafety.gov.
–Nuts and seeds
Shelled nuts such as almonds and peanuts last in the fridge for only a few weeks, but un-shelled nuts like walnuts can last up to a few months. Signs of a nut’s rancidity are an unusually bad odor, oiliness, and appearance. For optimum freshness and durability, place the nuts and seeds in a see-through freezer bag and store them in your fridge for up to a year.
Honey typically lasts forever and has been known to last up to 1,000 years. However, natural honey is best stored in jars that are dark or clear; honey that’s exposed to light can develop mold, which might make you sick. If your honey has crystallized over time, simply place it near a source of heat (like your stove) until it melts again. And just like wine and cheese, certain types of honey go bad more quickly than others. For example, buckwheat honey spoils much more quickly than most other types because it’s made with pollen collected from a single plant (so you don’t have much variety), whereas clover honey—the most common type—can last for years without spoiling.
Within a year, your tea bags and coffee beans will go stale, so enjoy them now before they taste bad. A registered dietitian and nutritionist, you are best served by drinking beans and grounds within two to four weeks. Instant coffee lovers, by contrast, have a bit more time it took me about two months.
Vinegar is made from fermented alcohol, which makes it acidic. While vinegar will keep indefinitely, taste is one thing that should never be kept for too long. Vinegar can become too sour to use if it’s been sitting around for longer than six months. If you’re not sure how old your vinegar is, pour some into a glass and wait about 10 minutes before tasting it; if it still smells and tastes okay, then you’re good to go! If not, toss it out or save it for cleaning purposes. Vinegar with cloudy white-colored residue is sour (or maybe moldy!) and needs to be thrown away right away; chances are there’s bacteria growing inside that container as well.
– Brown Sugar
In a pinch, brown sugar can be substituted for white sugar. But if you’re substituting brown sugar over and over again, you might as well just use white—it’s not going to lose its sweetness anytime soon. When it comes to using brown sugar in baked goods, always go by weight rather than volume (the weight is right on every bag). That way you’ll get consistent results every time. Also, don’t store your brown sugar in an airtight container; keep it loosely wrapped and it’ll last longer than anything that’s refrigerated or even frozen!
– Cooking Oils
Cooking oils, like canola oil, vegetable oil and olive oil are some of our favorite pantry items. Every kitchen needs olive oil and vegetable oil, but it’s likely you’re keeping them for too long. They’re shelf-stable (you can keep them for about two years), super versatile and absolutely delicious! However, cooking oils do lose their flavor over time so when you’re looking at an expiring date, you might want to consider saving that bottle for something else. Oils with low smoke points—meaning that they burn easily and can turn rancid faster—include extra virgin olive oil (about six months), safflower oil (about nine months) and sesame seed oil (about two years). Medium-smoke point oils include soybean, peanut and corn oils which have a shelf life of about one year.