16 Pantry Items That Might Be Lingering Past Their Prime
While you're probably aware of foods that should be avoided beyond their expiration dates, such as milk and cheese, you might not have given much thought to the items in your pantry. It's worth taking a moment to inspect those items that have been sitting in your pantry for an extended period and to consider whether some of them should have been stored there in the first place.
The shelf life of whole grains like quinoa and farro depends largely on their fat content. Heat, air, and moisture can adversely affect the healthy oils in grains, causing them to go rancid. According to the Whole Grains Council, grains should have a faintly sweet smell or no aroma at all; a musty or oily scent indicates that they've passed their peak.
Ground spices like turmeric, paprika, and nutmeg typically lose their potency after two to three years. While using old spices won't harm your health, they won't add much flavor to your recipes either. Conduct a quick sniff and taste test to check if your spice is still fresh.
3. Baking Powder
The same rules for ground spices apply to baking ingredients. Bags of baking powder and baking soda lose their leavening power over time, leading to flat cakes. You can test their leavening power by mixing baking soda with vinegar and baking powder with hot water. If they foam up and bubble, they're still fresh enough for baking.
4. Graham Crackers
Always place an opened bag of graham crackers in an airtight container to prevent moisture from making them stale. However, even unopened graham cracker batches can become stale in their original bags, usually lasting up to nine months, according to foodsafety.gov.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Unshelled nuts like almonds and peanuts should be consumed within a few weeks to a few months. Nuts and seeds contain a high amount of oil, which can turn rancid after a couple of months in your pantry. Signs of rancidity include a grassy or paint-like odor and a dark or oily appearance. For optimal freshness and longevity, store nuts and seeds in a clear freezer bag in the refrigerator for up to a year.
Once opened, a box of cereal will go stale from air exposure in about three months. However, sealed boxes can last up to a year. Shelf life may vary, particularly if the cereal contains nuts, which are more prone to rancidity.
Candy doesn't typically spoil due to its low moisture content, but its quality can degrade over time. Safety concerns with candy are usually related to quality rather than expiration dates.
Storing beer at room temperature can accelerate spoilage after around four months. Heat, light, and air can seep through bottle caps, leading to off flavors. Refrigerated storage is recommended for all beers.
Tea bags should be consumed within a year to avoid old oils giving your tea an unpleasant flavor. The same applies to coffee beans and grounds, which are best consumed within two to four weeks. Instant coffee has a longer shelf life, typically lasting about two months.
10. Brown Sugar
An opened bag of brown sugar tends to dry up and harden after four months due to exposure to air. Store it in a resealable plastic bag or an airtight container to keep it soft and prolong its shelf life.
11. Canned Vegetables
Canned vegetables may last for years, but over time, the can's texture can break down, resulting in a metallic, tinny taste. High-acid canned goods like pickles can last for 12 to 18 months, while low-acid canned vegetables like corn can last up to five years.
12. Olive Oil
Light and heat can negatively impact the flavor of olive oil. While it won't make you sick, an opened bottle can taste off after six months. If you don't use olive oil frequently, opt for a smaller bottle to consume it before the flavor deteriorates.
13. Whole Grain Flour
Whole grain flour lasts longer when stored in the refrigerator or freezer. It can remain fresh for up to eight months in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer. Whole grain flours turn rancid more quickly than white flour, affecting food quality and taste rather than food safety.
Potatoes typically last up to two weeks in the refrigerator and two months in the pantry. Look out for sprouts and soft black spots on the skin as indicators that they've passed their prime.
15. Brown Rice
Brown rice has a shorter shelf life of about six months due to the oil in its bran layer, which can go rancid. Storing it in the freezer can extend its shelf life to up to a year.
Store garlic in a dark, cool pantry at around 60 degrees Fahrenheit for three to five months in mesh bags. If stored for too long, garlic cloves may shrivel or sprout, indicating that the garlic is no longer at its peak quality."
Remember, proper storage and regular checks can help ensure the quality and safety of your pantry items.