Food Storage: Pantry

How long will your staples last?

Pantry

The longevity of various foods depends on their perishability. Some, like sugars, alcohol-based extracts, and high acid canned goods, will keep for years unopened. Other foods like bread or cookies can get stale in a few days.

Tips for preserving staples

What do those dates mean?

Manufacturers offer "use by" dates as a guideline to peak quality. It's also a liability protection. Once the food has passed that date, the manufacturer is no longer bound to replace product that has gone bad. The federal government requires labeling only on infant formula and some baby food.

States regulate dates too so there is not much uniformity between states as to what "sell by" or "pull by" dates should be. Both tell the grocer the last day the item may be offered for sale, but has nothing to do with home storage or use. In some states, as long as food has not lost its quality it may be pulled and offered for sale at a reduced rate.

Another date is "best if used by" and again this is an estimate of how long the quality should stand up over time. Expiration dates indicate the when a product should used by. After that date, more caution should be exercised.

Pack dates tell you when food was packaged but give no indication of how long it will be good.

The following tables offer simple guidelines to the life expectancy of various foods. That said, many foods are perfectly safe to eat past the expiration dates as long as the packaging remains intact. You may notice some degradation in quality and that should be expected, but the foods should still be safe to eat. Items like cake or quick bread mixes may not rise and fats may develop rancid "off" flavors.

Baking Ingredients

Type of food Unopened Opened
Baking powder 6 months 3 months
Baking soda 2 years 6 months
Quick bread or cake mixes 15 months Use-by date
Cocoa and cocoa mixes Indefinitely 1 year
Cornmeal 12 months Refrigerate after opening (1 year)
Cornstarch 18 months 18 months
Flour (white) 1 year 6-8 months
Flour (whole wheat) 1 month Refrigerate after opening (6-8 months)
Frosting (canned) 10 months Refrigerate after opening (1 week)
Frosting mixes 12 months 3 months
Gelatin (unflavored) 3 years Reseal in four months
Gelatin (flavored) 18 months Reseal in four months
Molasses 1 year 6 months
Sugar brown or granulated white Forever Forever
Sugar confectioners 18 months 18 months
Sugar substitutes 2 years 2 years
Vanilla 5 years 1 year
Yeast dry packets Use-by date Refrigerate open packets

Condiments

Type of food Unopened Opened
Barbeque Sauce 12 months 1 month (refrigerated: 4 months)
Catsup, cocktail sauce or chili sauce 1 year 1 month (refrigerated: 6 months)
Chutney 1 year Refrigerate after opening (1-2 months)
Chopped Garlic 18 months Refrigerate; good until use-by date
Horseradish 1 year Refrigerate after opening (3-4 months)
Gravy mix (dry) 2 years Use entire packet
Gravy mix (wet) 2-5 years Refrigerate after opening (1 month)
Herbs (dried) 1-2 years 1 year
Honey 1 year 1 year
Jam, jelly, marmalade 1 year Refrigerate after opening (6 months)
Maple Syrup 1 year Refrigerate after opening (1 year)
Mayonnaise 2-3 months Refrigerate after opening (3 months)
Mustard 1 year 1-2 months (refrigerated: 1 year)
Olives 12-18 months Refrigerate after opening (2 weeks)
Pickles 1 year Refrigerate after opening (2-3 months)
Relish 1 year 6 months
Salad dressings 1 year Refrigerate after opening (3 months)
Salsa 1 year 1 month
Salt Forever Forever
Worcestershire sauce 1 year 1 year

Food Staples

Type of food Unopened Opened
Bread (store at room temperature in a bread box) 1-2 weeks 1 week
Canned goods such as soups, pasta, peas, potatoes, and spinach (low acidity or sugar) 2+ years Refrigerate after opening (3-4 days)
Canned goods such as juice, fruit, pickles (high acidity or sugar) 2+ years Refrigerate after opening (5-7 days)
Cereal (ready-to-eat) 6-12 months 3 months
Cereal (cook-before-eat) 6-12 months 6-12 months
Chocolate 12-24 months 1 year
Chocolate syrup 2 years Refrigerate after opening (6 months)
Coffee (whole beans from bulk bin) 2-4 weeks in air tight container Vacuum pack and freeze (3-4 months)
Coffee (ground, in can) 2 years Refrigerate after opening (2 weeks)
Coffee (instant) 1 year Refrigerate after opening (2-3 months)
Coffee Creamer, Powder 6 months 6 months
Dried Beans 1 year 1 year
Lentils (dried) 1 year 1 year
Pasta Dried w/out eggs 2 years 1 year
Pasta Egg Noodles 2 years 1-2 months
Peanut Butter 9 months 3 months
Peas Dried split 1 year 1 year
Popcorn Kernels in jar 2 years 1 year
Popcorn Microwavable Bags 1 year 1-2 days popped
Potato Chips 2 months 1-2 weeks
Potatoes Instant 6-12 months 6-12 months
Pudding mix 1 year 3-4 months
Rice White 1-2 years 1 year
Rice Brown 1 year 6 months
Rice Flavored Mixes 6 months Use entire amount
Rice Cream Flavored Mixes 1 year Use entire amount

Cooking Ingredients

Type of food Unopened Opened
Bread Crumbs 6 months 6 months
Dried Mushrooms 6 months 3 months
Oil (olive or vegetable) 6 months 4-7 months
Oil Sprays 2 years 1 year
Spices Whole 2-4 years if vacuum sealed 1 year
Spices ground 1 year Six months
Sun dried tomatoes 9–12 months 6 months
Vinegar 5 years 3 years

Packaged Goods

Type of food Unopened Opened
Cookies (packaged) 2 months 1 month
Crackers 8 months 1 month
Diet powder mixes 6 months 3 months
Nuts (jars or cans) 1 year 3 weeks
Shortening, Solid (eg. Crisco) 8 months 3-5 months
Soda (Bottles) 3-5 months Refrigerate after opening (2-3 days)
Soda (Cans) 9-12 months N/A
Soup Mix 12 months Use entire amount

Miscellaneous

Type of food Unopened Opened
Baby Food Two months Refrigerate after opening (1-2 days)
Candy 1 year N/A
Dried Fruits 6 months Refrigerate after opening (6 months)
Evaporated milk (canned) 1 year Refrigerate after opening (4-5 days)
Juice boxes 6 months Refrigerate after opening (8-12 days)
Marshmallows 2-4 months 1 month
Tapioca 1 year 1 year
Tea Bags Freshest before 18 months Freshest before 1 year
Tea Loose 2 years 1 year
Tea Instant 3 years 1 year
Toaster pastries fruit filled 6 months 1 week if packet is unsealed
Toaster pastries non fruit filled 9 months 1-2 weeks if packet is unsealed

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