We’ve all been guilty of keeping food items for far too long from time to time. That’s particularly true when it comes to pantry items. They’re not always visibly spoiled, and some have extremely long expiration dates. So what’s most likely to have gone bad in your pantry?
Whether it’s a can of beans that’s been sitting in the back of your pantry for months or a jar of spices that you’ve had for years, it’s important to toss out old pantry items every few months. Not only can expired pantry items affect the taste of your meals, but they can also be harmful to your health.
What pantry items could you be hoarding that might have gone bad without you realizing it? Here are some of the most common.
Nuts and Seeds
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Grains certainly can last for a long time if stored properly—so long, in fact, that they’re easy to forget about. After enough time, however, even your favorite grains can become rancid and lose their flavor. If you notice a change in color, texture, or smell, it’s time to toss.
Once you get new grains, be sure to store them properly. For example, stored white rice can last up to two years, and it’s best to store it in a cool, dry environment such as an airtight container. If the rice is poorly stored and gets exposed to moisture, it won’t last nearly as long. The same is true of uncooked quinoa which can last over two years when stored in an airtight container.
Then, there are oats. They won’t quite last two years, but they will be good for up to a year. If completely unopened, they could make it to two.
In general, to help your grains last longer, keep them in a dry place away from sunlight. Be sure to keep the containers closed to prevent pests and moisture from infesting your grains.
25-Pound Rice Dispenser
This is the grain storage container and dispenser you didn't know you needed.
Canned goods are another common pantry staple. They have just as much nutrition as fresh vegetables and can keep meats good for months on end. Plus, they’re typically easy to prepare come mealtime.
The good news here is that canned goods are good indefinitely. But that doesn’t mean they can’t go bad due to outside factors. If cans are dented, bulging, have signs of rust, or are open in any way, you should toss them.
Storing canned goods properly also includes keeping them in a cool, dry place without sunlight. Avoid areas of high humidity or heat sources.
When this is done, canned fruits and vegetables can last anywhere from two to five years depending on their storage conditions. Signs of spoilage for canned fruits and vegetables include bulging or dented cans. You can also perform a smell test to ensure nothing smells off.
Utopia Kitchen Storage Can Rack Organizer
Keep your cans organized and in place.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are high in healthy fats and protein, which makes them a delicious and healthy snack. While different types of seeds and nuts have different shelf lives, for the most part, though it’s nuts oils that make them prone to spoiling quickly— especially when stored improperly.
In general, almonds can last up to two years while most bags of walnuts are only good for about six months. Chia seeds can stay good for up to two years while pumpkin seeds tend to have a shelf life of about 3 months.
But here’s the thing—if you’re storing nuts in the pantry, you might want to rethink things. While nuts are fine in your pantry for a few weeks, if you bulk buy or don’t eat them quickly enough, you should actually transfer this item to the fridge.
KTMAMA Glass Square Food Storage Container With Airtight Bamboo Lid
Keep your nuts fresh longer with these adorable pantry containers.
Baking Powder and Baking Soda
Baking powder and baking soda are leavening agents used to help baked goods rise. Both of these ingredients are common staples in kitchens…but when was the last time you checked the expiration dates?
Typically, an opened container of baking powder or baking soda lasts about six months. Unlike foods, though, it can be hard to check freshness thanks to a lack of odor and textural change. Before tossing these items, you’ll want to experiment a bit.
To test if your baking powder is still active, mix 1 teaspoon with 1/3 cup of boiling water. If it bubbles vigorously, it’s still good. For baking soda, mix 1/4 teaspoon with 2 teaspoons of vinegar. If it bubbles, it’s still good. Store both of these items in a cool, dry place away from moisture.
Set of 3 Glass Mason Jar with Airtight Lid
You can always decant your baking soda and baking powder.
This is another baking item that lives in most kitchens. It is used in both baked goods and savory dishes to make a roux or breading. That means its a great staple to have on hand at all times. But if you rarely bake or use it when cooking, don’t assume you can just keep it around.
Unlike other items, though, the biggest issue with flour is that it can attract bugs when badly stored.
Avoid this by storing your flour in an airtight container. If you want to make your bag of flour last as long as possible, you can save some space for it in your freezer. Keep in mind that all-purpose flour tends to have a longer lifespan while whole-grain flours have a shorter shelf life due to its higher oil content.
SPLF BPA FREE Reusable Storage Bags
These reusable freezer bags can help keep your frozen goods fresh.
Most home cooks agree. You don’t have much chance at a delicious meal without spices. From your typical black pepper and garlic powder to more unique flavors like cajun seasoning, a well-stocked spice rack can make a meal. But you can’t keep those spices forever.
Typically, ground spices can last between two and four years while whole spices (like peppercorns or cloves) can last up to four years. While sure, you’ll probably use them before that much time elapses, you never know about that one random spice you used for that one random recipe two years ago.
As for how to test them if there’s no expiration date or if you’ve decanted the spices, simply open them and give them a sniff. If the smell is off, stale, or there’s no smell at all, toss them.
Storing spices properly is the best way to keep them fresh longer. Keep them in airtight containers stored in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. While it might go against your first instinct, avoid storing your spices above or near the stove. Heat can lead spices to lose their flavor prematurely.
NETANY 24-Piece Spice Jars with Labels
Keep your spices fresh and looking chic with these jars and labels.
Another thing you want to examine is your collection of cooking oils. Olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, and sesame oil can all go bad given enough time. Exposure to light, heat, and air all speed up the oxidation process, leading to an off taste and smell.
Generally speaking, though, opened jars of cooking oils can last up to six months. Unopened, though, you’ve got about two years before tossing needs to happen. Of course, the key to all this is proper storage.
To keep your oils fresh, store them in a cool, dark place and consider transferring them to a smaller container if you’re not using them often. Olive oil can last up to two years if stored properly, while a lot of other oils tend to have a shorter shelf life.
DWËLLZA KITCHEN Olive Oil Dispenser
Make your cooking oil easier to use.
Dried fruits such as raisins, dates, and prunes are great for adding to recipes or snacking on. However, they do have a shelf life and can go bad if left alone for too long. Generally, you’ve got about six months before they go bad, so if you’ve had a bag of dried mangos in your pantry for a year, it’s time to toss them.
Keep your dried fruit fresh longer by placing them in an airtight container and keeping them—you guessed it—in a cool, dry place. If they start to smell off, go stale, or develop mold, it’s time to say goodbye.
Sistema 5-Piece Food Storage Containers
Take your dried fruit on the go.
When you take a little extra time to get your pantry in good shape, you can rest assured knowing all your snacks and meals will be that much better. Don’t settle for spoiled nuts, oils, fruits, or baked goods. Practice proper food storage and you won’t need to worry about nasty ingredients again.