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  • Michelle Schwartz

Spring Cleaning of Your Kitchen Staples

Buying in bulk is great for your pocketbook and the environment — just make sure you check your pantry now and then so you don't leave anything sitting unused for too long. With bulk foods, you decide the amount to buy, so you don't have to purchase unneeded product that goes to waste. Most bulk items store well and are less likely to be thrown away than packaged items, which also results in less wasted food. We suggest labeling all of your bulk containers or bags with the name of the product and the date you purchased or opened it on.

Use this chart as a guide when buying and storing your bulk items.

*For optimal shelf life we suggest storing all open bulk food items in an airtight container, in a dark, cool area.


1-4 weeks Don't wash before storing; dampness can cause decay. Don't refrigerate - flavor will change. Don't store by onions.

Onions 4 to 6 weeks in pantry; 1 to 2 months in fridge Don't store by potatoes.

Eggs 3 to 5 weeks in main part of refrigerator Store in original carton in main part of refrigerator. If yolks and whites are separated, can be frozen up to a year.

Spices 3 years if unopened; 1 to 2 years if opened Spices may also contain a Julian date for manufactured date reference.

White rice Indefinitely if unopened Brown rice 6 to 8 months in pantry; up to 12 months in refrigerator unopened Store in air-tight container

Whole grains 2 to 3 months in pantry; 6 months in refrigerator; 1 year in freezer unopened Dried beans and lentils Indefinitely unopened Whole wheat flour 1 to 2 months in pantry; 6 months in refrigerator unopened All-purpose flour up to 8 months in pantry; up to 1 year in refrigerator unopened Brown sugar 4 to 6 months unopened Granulated sugar Indefinitely unopened Pasta (dry) 1 year unopened Oats 12 months (instant); 2-3 years (steel cut, 1 minute, 5 minute) unopened Moisture will cause dry oatmeal to go bad.

Bread crumbs 3 to 6 months in pantry; 2 years in refrigerator unopened Pre-grated cheese Reference date on package 3 to 4 weeks opened Whole bean coffee Reference date on package 3 to 4 weeks opened Whole beans can be frozen in small amounts for up to a month; don't refreeze — the flavor will be affected.

Fresh ground coffee 7 to 10 days in pantry; 3 weeks in refrigerator Natural nut butters Cool place unopened 3 to 6 months in refrigerator opened Becomes rancid when exposed to air or heat.

Nuts 3 to 9 months in pantry; 1 year in refrigerator; 1 to 2 years in freezer unopened Pistachios and pine nuts are good for no more than 3 months at room temperature.

Honey Indefinitely unopened If honey has crystallized, place open jar in pan of simmering water; stir honey until crystals dissolve.

Olive oil 12 to 18 months unopened Vegetable oil 3 months in pantry; 6 months in refrigerator unopened Refrigerated vegetable oil shouldn't be left out; frequent temperature changes aren't good for it.

Vinegar Indefinitely unopened 6 months opened Maple syrup 1 year unopened Indefinitely in refrigerator or freezer opened For optimal storage, buy in glass containers only; maple syrup is subject to mold, and glass helps prevent mold.

Mayonnaise Reference date on package 2 months in refrigerator opened Highly acidic canned foods (tomato sauce) 18 months unopened Store between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Low-acid canned foods (green beans) Up to 4 years unopened Store between 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Garlic whole 3 to 6 months; broken into cloves 1 to 2 months Garlic should be stored separately from fruits at room temperature.

Squash (winter, spaghetti, butternut) 1 to 3 months from purchase date; 3 months from harvest date Store at room temperature away from direct sunlight.

Granola 6 to 9 months unopened Bread, fresh 2 to 3 days in pantry, 6 months in freezer Bread, packaged (soft) 5 to 7 days in pantry, 6 months in freezer Dried cereal 6 to 8 months unopened 4 to 6 months opened Dried fruits 6 to 12 months in pantry; 1 to 2 years in refrigerator; indefinitely in freezer ** I find that I simply do a smell and taste test on most foods. If they are past date but still taste fine, I eat it. I don't believe in wasting food!

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