How Long Do Pantry Staples Really Last?

Find out the shelf life of your favorite foods to help you maintain a more organized pantry.

CI_transFORM-Kitchen-Pantry-2_h

CI_transFORM-Kitchen-Pantry-2_h

Photo by: Krause, Johansen

Krause, Johansen

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We showed you how to cleanse your kitchen in an hour, but let's dig deeper into the pantry. After all the cooking and baking you did over the holidays, your pantry is probably your worst kitchen nightmare right now. The biggest source of clutter is most likely expired foods. But exactly how long can you safely keep food staples? Check out our list of common foods and their expiration dates.

Let's start with foods that never expire. The FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest you can keep the below foods in your pantry indefinitely as long as you keep them in a container away from moisture.

These items last forever:

  • pure vanilla extract
  • pure maple syrup
  • apple cider vinegar
  • distilled white vinegar
  • honey
  • powdered milk
  • instant coffee
  • white rice
  • cornstarch
  • baking soda
  • sugar
  • salt

 Produce

Stacking Wire Baskets in Pantry

Stacking Wire Baskets in Pantry

The humble wire basket gets a modern upgrade with these Bronze York Open Stack Baskets from The Container Store. Storing onions, potatoes, squash and more, these bulk bins also stack so you can maximize space inside the pantry.

Photo by: The Container Store

The Container Store

You should keep most fruits and vegetables in your refrigerator or kitchen countertop, but there are a few that store better in a cool, dark place like your pantry.

Produce with short shelf-life:

  • potatoes — up to two weeks
  • onions — up to two weeks
  • unpeeled garlic — up to six months (in a wire basket for air circulation)
  • winter squash — up to three months

 Flour, Pasta + Grains

Jar of Rolled Oats

Jar of Rolled Oats

You can safely consume pasta, flour and certain grains beyond the "best by" date if kept in airtight containers.

Items that last for one year or more:

  • flour — white lasts up to one year; whole wheat lasts up to three months; keep in freezer indefinitely
  • brown rice — up to one year
  • dry pasta — up to two years
  • bread crumbs — up to six months
  • oats — up to two years
  • quinoa — up to two years
  • popping corn — up to two years

 Oils, Nuts + Spices

Labeled Glass Spice Jars on Pantry Shelf

Labeled Glass Spice Jars on Pantry Shelf

Spice Cabinets can easily get cluttered. Using uniform, clearly labeled jars keeps your spices organized and creates a clean storage space. Make sure to replace your spices about every 12 months for the freshest flavors.

Photo by: Faith Durand ©Elana's Pantry

Faith Durand, Elana's Pantry

Store these in airtight containers.

Shelf-life varies by item:

  • vegetable and olive oil — up to two years
  • coconut oil — up to three months
  • oil sprays — up to one year
  • spices — up to two years
  • nuts — up to six months
  • nut butters — up to three months

 Baking Items

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Scones

The perfect companion to an early morning (or late night) cup of hot tea, coffee or cocoa, these dense, flavorful scones combine two favorite fall flavors: pumpkin and chocolate. Get the recipe: http://www.hgtv.com/entertaining/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-scones-recipe/index.html

Store these in airtight containers.

Shelf-stable items:

  • baking powder — up to one year
  • cake mix — by "use by" date
  • chocolate chips — up to two years (keep in freezer for longer shelf life)

 Condiments (Unopened)

KETCHUP AND MUSTARD CONTAINERS

KETCHUP AND MUSTARD CONTAINERS

Upgrade your basic condiments by taking them out of their containers and instead emptying them into more decorating ketchup and mustard squirt bottles. This is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than looking at logos and price tags!

Photo by: Flynnside Out Productions

Flynnside Out Productions

Refrigerate condiments once opened.

Unopened, shelf-stable items:

  • barbecue sauce — up to one year
  • ketchup — up to one year
  • mustard — up to one year
  • jams and jellies — up to one year
  • mayonnaise — up to three months
  • hot sauce — up to three years
  • salsa — up to one year
  • Worcestershire sauce — up to four years

 Beverages (Unopened)

Southern Wedding Groom's Cake Table Display Featuring Whole Coffee Beans Scattered Over Wooden Scoop

Southern Wedding Groom's Cake Table Display Featuring Whole Coffee Beans Scattered Over Wooden Scoop

The groom at this wedding had a well-known passion for good coffee. Coffee beans served as a beautiful, textural table display element with a personal significance. The casual display is perfect for a relaxed, homey vibe.

Pantry-safe beverages:

  • ground coffee (unopened or opened) — up to five months
  • whole bean coffee — up to nine months
  • juice boxes — up to six months
  • soft drinks — up to nine months
  • tea — up to one year
  • bottled water — up to two years

16 Ways to Maximize Your Pantry Space

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Go Above and Below

A tip from professional organizer Tidy Tova: Max out your vertical storage by adding undershelf baskets. They instantly multiply your cabinet’s capacity and create designated areas for different types of ingredients.

Photo By: Tidy Tova, TidyTova.com

Open the Door to More Storage

Take full advantage of the backs of cabinet doors by installing wire racks, suggests Tidy Tova. Keep spices, oils and often-used condiments here so they’re handy.

Photo By: Tidy Tova, TidyTova.com

Put Your Stamp on Spice Storage

Not enough room in the cupboard for all of your spices? Put them on display! Stylist Janna Lufkin and organizer Elizabeth Goodsell discovered that a vintage stamp holder perfectly fits the small jars.

Photo By: Jules Frazer, SugarShoots.com

Double Up on Duties

Cake stands don’t get everyday use, so put them into service as two-tiered storage, like Lufkin and Goodsell did. Small items, like ramekins and sauce dishes, can sit both on top and underneath.

Photo By: Jules Frazer, SugarShoots.com

Smartly Stash Food Containers

With various sized bins and a range of lids, it doesn’t take much for your collection of leftover holders to get out of hand. Lufkin and Goodsell say to group bottoms, then stack lids vertically with the help of a plate rack.

Photo By: Jules Frazer, SugarShoots.com

Sort by Category

Gathering like items guarantees you’ll be able to find what you need, advise the organizing pros behind Neat Method. Start with basic groups like baking, breakfast, grains and snacks.

Photo By: Michelle Drewes, MichelleDrewes.com

Pick a Clear Winner

The Neat Method pros can’t get enough of OXO containers. “They help you use the full height of your shelf, ensure food stays fresh, and did we mention they’re dishwasher safe?!” To track expiration dates, apply stickers to the bottoms.

Photo By: Michelle Drewes, MichelleDrewes.com

Add a Base Layer

Here’s a trick for making the most of deep shelves from Clea Shearer, cofounder of The Home Edit: Line up boxes and jars of food on top of a bin, basket or serving tray that’s not in everyday rotation. “Pull out the whole container to access anything in the back,” she says.

Photo By: The Home Edit, TheHomeEdit.com

Think About the Kids

Put children’s snacks on the bottom pantry shelf, Shearer suggests. This makes it easy for them to help themselves without accidentally knocking over, say, a nearby bag of flour.

Photo By: The Home Edit, TheHomeEdit.com

Cut Out the Excess

Save space by throwing out packaging, advises Shearer, who recommends transferring items like granola bars and wrapped crackers into labeled bins. Or, shop in the bulk section when possible to skip cardboard boxes altogether.

Photo By: The Home Edit, TheHomeEdit.com

Build a Snack Station

A narrow strip of wall space is the ideal spot for single-serving bags. To create her custom holder, Christy at 11 Magnolia Lane glued curtain hooks (minus the rings) to a strip of painted wood.

Photo By: 11 Magnolia Lane, 11MagnoliaLane.com

Hang in There

Open bags of chips or pretzels always getting lost on your shelf? With Rubbermaid’s hanging clip, snacks can dangle freely — and avoid getting crushed to oblivion.

Photo By: Rubbermaid

Go for High Visibility

If you’re redoing your pantry, choose wire shelving and drawer bins, like these from ClosetMaid. They let you see exactly what’s located where, even on high, hard-to-reach spots that solid shelves would obscure.

Photo By: ClosetMaid

Take It to the Next Level

To squeeze every last square inch out your cupboards — and still be able to easily access what’s in back — install a tiered shelf, like this bamboo option from The Container Store that expands to fit the width.

Photo By: The Container Store

Give Each Place a Purpose

Designate a specific spot for the items you buy most so there’s no question where things go when it’s time to unload your grocery haul. Ikea’s Ivar labels slip right onto the front of shelves.

Photo By: Ikea

Corral Beverages

Sometimes bottles and cans won’t store upright. If that’s the case, turn to the Fridge Monkey, a rubber mat with a series of grooves that keep stacked cylinders from rolling away.

Photo By: Cooks Innovations

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