How Long Do Pantry Staples Really Last?

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



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


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

Spice Jars

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:

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


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)

Coffee Beans

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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