Spring Cleaning Your Pantry: Eat Well, Spend Less

Time for a little spring cleaning of the kitchen pantry. What to keep, what to throw, and how long do those shelf stable items really last?
Spring Cleaning the Pantry: Shelf Life of Everyday Staples via FoodforMyFamily.com

Outside my window I can see the water drip, dripping from glistening icicles off the roof. Spring is coming, and winter is moving silently through the backdoor like an uninvited guest, slinking into the shadows. Soon the snow will melt, revealing a brown lawn and gardens full of sad, brown plants and empty dirt, but as spring emerges, small bits of green will start to poke out, starting over anew for another growing season.

Changing seasons always captivate me, watching life turn and run its course, popping up from the once frozen ground. While my backyard is getting a makeover and starting over, it’s the perfect time to shake out the rugs that have a winter of collected dust and dirt, sweep out the corners, and open the windows to let a bit of fresh air in.

I find it helpful to empty the cupboards in the kitchen and give them a good shake out periodically. Sometimes I find hidden treasures in the back, candied ginger I had forgotten after tucking it away during the chaos of holiday baking or bags of hazelnuts, only partially used. Taking inventory and rotating helps me waste less food and serves as a good reminder for when I’m planning meals and snacks each week.
Spring Cleaning the Pantry: Shelf Life of Everyday Staples via FoodforMyFamily.com

How Long Do Pantry Staples Keep?

Spices

Spices have pretty long shelf lives, but buying a pound of cinnamon if you only use it sporadically isn’t doing you any favors on saving a penny. They lose their kick over time, especially ground ones. Clean out the cupboard and then start anew, storing spices in a cool, dark place in airtight containers.

  • Whole Spices and Herbs: 1-2 years
  • Whole Seeds and Roots: 3 years
  • Ground Spices and Herbs: 1 year
  • Ground Roots: (e.g. ginger) 1-2 years

Nuts, Seeds, and Oils

Nuts, seeds, and oils are particularly susceptible to turning rancid with fluctuating temperatures and humid conditions. Be sure your pantry is cool and dark to help extend their life. Bitter tasting nuts and oils should be thrown out.

  • Oils: up to 18 months unopened, 1-6 months opened in cool, dark conditions
  • Dried Beans: 1-2 years unopened
  • Canned Beans: 2-3 years
  • Raw Nuts (without shell): 4 months
  • Raw Nuts (with shell): 6 months
  • Peanut and Nut Butter: 6-9 months unopened, 2-3 months opened (shelf stable varieties)
  • Raw Seeds (without shell): 2-3 months
  • Roasted Seeds (without shell): 3-4 months
  • Roasted Seeds (with shell): 4-5 months

Flours and Whole Grains

Flours and whole grains need to be stored in airtight containers to avoid absorbing moisture and odors. Storing in the refrigerator can extend shelf life, which can be useful for whole grains that have a shorter shelf life due to the oils found in their bran and germ. These are estimates and not a complete list and information on shelf life in the refrigerator.

  • Barley (pearled):12 months
  • Brown Rice: 6 months
  • White Rice: 2-4 years
  • Wild Rice: 2- years
  • All-Purpose Flour: 8 months
  • Bread Flour: 3-6 months
  • Brown Rice Flour: Store in the refrigerator due to the high oil content.
  • Corn Flour: 1 year
  • Flaxseed: 2-3 months
  • Spelt Flour:4-5 months
  • White Rice Flour: indefinitely when properly stored
  • Whole Wheat Flour: 2-3 months in a cool place, 6 months in the refrigerator

Sauces, Condiments, and Other Pantry

Shelf lives for these products can be long, yes, but it’s always a good idea to check the expiration date on condiments and sauces or canned goods.

  • Baking Soda: 18-24 months
  • Baking Powder: 6 months
  • Dried Bread Crumbs: 6 months
  • Buttermilk Powder: 2 years
  • Oatmeal, Grits, and Hot Cereals: 1 year
  • Chocolate: 6-12 months unopened and stored in a cool, dry place
  • Corn Meal: 6-12 months
  • Corn Starch: 18 months
  • Dried Fruits: 6-12 months
  • Jam and Jelly: 1 year unopened
  • Ketchup: 1 year unopened
  • Sweetened Condensed Milk: 2-3 years
  • Evaporated Milk: 1-2 years
  • Molasses: 1-2 years
  • Mustard: 2 years unopened
  • Olives: 1 year unopened
  • Pasta (dried): 2 years
  • Sauces: 1 year
  • Sugar (Brown): 6-12 months
  • Sugar (Confectioners’): 2-3 years
  • Sugar (Granulated):2-3 years
  • Vanilla and Other Extracts: 2 years unopened, 1 year opened
  • Vinegar: 2 years unopened, 1 year opened
  • Yeast (packets): 2 years (check expiration date)

Home-Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Home canning is a wonderful way to preserve the harvest from local farmers and your own gardens. Store glass jars in cool, dark places that are free from large temperature fluctuations. Home canning generally has a recommended shelf life of 1-2 years before they need to be consumed. Always check the seal when opening and discard any broken seals. Discard any jars with leaks or that have an “off” odor to them.
Spring Cleaning the Pantry: Shelf Life of Everyday Staples via FoodforMyFamily.com

As always, you can check out what others are writing about transitioning their kitchens from winter to spring in the Eat Well, Spend Less series:

Comments

  1. Great resource list Shaina!! I don’t know why I never thought to give my pantry a spring cleaning!

  2. My pantry could really use some spring cleaning! Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Great tips! I am typically clueless about these things. Thanks!

  4. what about organic spices, oils, condiments, flours etc??

  5. Nice list. Definitely the season to do a little cleaning and organization. I just went through my freezer and found a few things that needed to be eaten in the short term. I decided to schedule “freezer checks” every 3 or 4 months. Guess that should go for the rest of the kitchen!

  6. I forwarded this on to my mum – she’s been known to discover food in the pantry older than her grandchildren (who aren’t toddlers anymore)

  7. Brilliant post! Already printed it out and plan to do a big pantry cleanout soon! Thanks!
    Justin- Writing Pad Dad
    Writing Pad Dad Blog
    Writing Pad Dad on Facebook

  8. i really needed that spices timeline, i keep mine way too long lol

  9. Great tips! I am always questioning how long things will last and if I should throw them out. I will be referring back to this post for sure!

  10. Just saying transitioning from winter to spring makes me happy. Happy happy happy!

  11. Heather says:

    I also love the idea of clearing out the pantry and finding all those fun things (and sometimes not so fun things) that need to be used up or cleared out! The list is a great idea too, but the number differ from other places I’ve seen. I’ve seen sources that show dry beans, wheat and such can be stored for 20-30 years if kept in the right conditions. ANd I know personally I’ve stored brown rice and barley much longer without a change in taste (no rancid smell or flavor like oils will develop). Just curious if what I read (some from LDS sources as they do a lot of food storage) is wrong?

    • A lot of it has to do with how you store it, and sometimes it’s not so much about whether it is bad, as it is whether it has lost flavor or is slightly stale. Stale doesn’t mean inedible, and loss of flavor doesn’t mean you can’t eat it. You can definitely keep brown rice, barley, and beans longer. Usually the “right” conditions include a vacuum bag. I actually keep mine longer sometimes because I hate waste and prefer to buy in bulk. I just test it before I use it if I know it’s a bit past the date they recommend tossing it.

  12. I’m knee deep in some spring cleaning at the moment, pantry, fridge and freezer have been attacked and conquered!

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  1. [...] with the old and in with the new! Shaina gives you the lowdown on Spring Cleaning Your Pantry, including time tables for how long to keep spices, nuts, grains, and other pantry [...]

  2. [...] Spring Cleaning Your Pantry | Food for My Family [...]

  3. [...] Kitchen Stewardship 46 Ways to Serve Fruits and Vegetables at Snack Time, by Mandi at Easy Homemade Spring Cleaning your Pantry, by Shaina from Food for My Family Stock-up on Fresh Spring Produce (and what to do with the [...]

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  5. [...] from Food for My Family: Shaina shares tips for spring cleaning your pantry, including a handy guide to know how long a variety of pantry staples [...]

  6. […] from Food for My Family: Shaina shares tips for spring cleaning your pantry, including a handy guide to know how long a variety of pantry staples […]

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