How Long Does Food Keep in the Pantry - Pantry Storage - Backyard Boss
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How Long Does Food Keep in the Pantry – Pantry Storage

Whether it’s the dreaded time of the month where you have to clean out the fridge, or you just happened upon some food you had previously forgotten about, the question has likely entered your head, “Can I still eat it?”

This comprehensive guide will answer that question and more, with the expiration dates of numerous staple foods. Increase your pantry storage and keep yourself and your family healthy by figuring out how long food keeps in the pantry!

What Foods Keep the Longest?

Stocking your pantry with foods that last has many advantages, from serving unexpected guests to weathering power outages to having some food to fall back on when you feel too lazy to take a trip to the grocery store.

Some foods are just less perishable than others, like high acid canned goods, sugars, and alcohol-based extracts, which all can last for years if they remain unopened. Other foods, like dried fruit, pasta, and low acid canned goods can last more than six months.

How Can I Ensure Food Lasts Longer?

Shelves filled with canned food.

You don’t just have to buy long-lasting food to make sure your fridge and pantry are always stocked. You can also strive to store your food in an ideal climate so that it lasts a longer amount of time.

To extend your food’s life, store it at room temperature or slightly cooler in a dry, dark location. One of the easiest ways to extend how long food lasts is to relocate it to the fridge or freezer, where it will stay good for much longer.

High temperatures or high moisture environments will shorten how long foods last, leading to them molding over and going bad more quickly.

Below are some additional tips for making sure that your food lasts so you can throw less out, helping your wallet and the planet:

  • Avoid buying foods in bulk unless you know you are going to use them.
  • Vacuum seal dried foods to extend their storage period.
  • Use your oldest food first, rotating your pantry goods regularly.
  • Refrigerate foods after you open them to extend their shelf life.
  • Read the package for storage instructions.
  • Throw away any food containers that show signs of damage, bugs, or mold.
  • When in doubt, throw it out! Don’t risk your health.

Canning and Pickling Shelf Life

As a gardener, one of the issues I come across frequently is how do I keep the produce I harvest fresh? After all, as much as I love cucumbers, I don’t want to eat a dozen in a week, and they’ll go bad if I try to store them for longer.

That’s where canning and pickling come in. By canning and pickling produce you can preserve it indefinitely, for years of use. Pickling is a preservation process that involves soaking food in a liquid solution that inhibits bacteria growth. This allows food to safely be stored for years. Not to mention, it creates a salty-sour taste that is incredibly delicious.

What Do Expiration Dates Mean?

Expiration dates can be seriously misleading.

For the most part, they are used by manufacturers for liability protection, so they tend to be extremely conservative. Once products have passed their expiration date, manufacturers are no longer required to replace that product if it goes bad.

Because of this, you can often eat foods after their expiration dates. While they may not be “peak quality” they will still be totally safe to eat, especially if they are still packaged.

Below are descriptions of some of the “dates” you may see on food:

  • Pull By Date: when to stop selling the product by
  • Expiration Date: when the product may go bad
  • Best If Used By Date: when the quality of the product may lessen
  • Pack Date: when a product was packaged

To help you further navigate how to tell if food is safe to eat, below is a list of some of the most common household foods with when they are good by if they are unopened, and when they are good by if they are opened.

Shelf Life of Baking Ingredients

Name

Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Quick Bread or Cake Mixes
Cocoa and Cocoa Mixes
Cornmeal
Cornstarch
Flour (white)
Flour (whole wheat)
Frosting (canned)
Frosting mixes
Gelatin (unflavored)
Gelatin (flavored)
Molasses
Brown or White Sugar
Confectioners Sugar
Sugar Substitutes
Vanilla
Dry Packets of Yeast

Unopened

6 months
2 years
15 months
Indefinitely
12 months
18 months
1 year
1 month
10 months
12 months
3 years
18 months
1 year
Forever
18 months
2 years
5 years
Use-by date

Opened

3 months
6 months
Use-by-date
1 year
1 year in the refrigerator
18 months
6-8 months
6-8 months in the refrigerator
1 week in the refrigerator
3 months
4 months after being resealed
4 months after being resealed
6 months
Forever
18 months
2 years
1 year
Use-by-date after refrigerated

Shelf Life of Condiments

Barbeque Sauce
Unopened: 12 months
Opened: 1 month in pantry, 4 months in the refrigerator

Ketchup, Cocktail Sauce, or Chili Sauce
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 month in the pantry, 6 months in the refrigerator

Chutney
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1-2 months in the refrigerator

Chopped Garlic
Unopened: 18 months
Opened: Use-by date after refrigerated

Horseradish
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 3-4 months in the refrigerator

Gravy mix (dry)
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: Use entire packet

Gravy mix (wet)
Unopened: 2-5 years
Opened: 1 month in the refrigerator

Herbs (dried)
Unopened: 1-2 years
Opened: 1 year

Honey
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year

Jam, jelly, marmalade
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 6 months in the refrigerator

Maple Syrup
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year in the refrigerator

Mayonnaise
Unopened: 2-3 months
Opened: 3 months in the refrigerator

Mustard
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1-2 months in the pantry, 1 year in the refrigerator

Olives
Unopened: 2-18 months
Opened: 2 weeks in the refrigerator

Pickles
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 2-3 months in the refrigerator

Relish
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 6 months

Salad Dressings
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 3 months in the refrigerator

Salsa
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 month in the refrigerator

Salt
Unopened: Forever
Opened: Forever

Worcestershire sauce
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year

Shelf Life of Food Staples

Bread
Unopened: 1-2 weeks
Opened: 1 week

Canned Goods with Low Acidity or Sugar (soups, pasta, peas, potatoes, and spinach)
Unopened: 2+ years
Opened: 3-4 days in the refrigerator

Canned Goods with High Acidity or Sugar (juice, fruit, pickles)
Unopened: 2+ years
Opened: 5-7 days in the refrigerator

Cereal (ready-to-eat)
Unopened: 6-12 months
Opened: 3 months

Cereal (cook-before-eat)
Unopened: 6-12 months
Opened: 6-12 months

Chocolate
Unopened: 12-24 months
Opened: 1 year

Chocolate syrup
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 6 months in the refrigerator

Coffee (whole beans from bulk bin)
Unopened: 2-4 weeks in air tight container
Opened: 3-4 months when vacuum packed and frozen

Coffee (ground, in a can)
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 2 weeks in the refrigerator

Coffee (instant)
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 2-3 months in the refrigerator

Coffee Creamer, Powder
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 6 months

Dried Beans
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year

Lentils (dried)
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year

Pasta – Dried Without Eggs
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1 year

Pasta – Egg Noodles
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1-2 months

Peanut Butter
Unopened: 9 months
Opened: 3 months

Peas – Dried Split
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year

Popcorn – Kernels in Jar
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1 year

Popcorn – Microwavable Bags
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1-2 days popped

Potato Chips
Unopened: 2 months
Opened: 1-2 weeks

Potatoes – Instant
Unopened: 6-12 months
Opened: 6-12 months

Pudding mix
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 3-4 months

Rice – White
Unopened: 1-2 years
Opened: 1 year

Rice – Brown
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 6 months

Rice – Flavored Mixes
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: Use entire amount

Rice – Cream Flavored Mixes
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: Use entire amount

Shelf Life of Cooking Ingredients

Bread Crumbs
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 6 months

Dried Mushrooms
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 3 months

Oil (olive or vegetable)
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 4-7 months

Oil Sprays
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1 year

Spices – Whole
Unopened: 2-4 years if vacuum sealed
Opened: 1 year

Spices – Ground
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 6 months

Sun Dried Tomatoes
Unopened: 9–12 months
Opened: 6 months

Vinegar
Unopened: 5 years
Opened: 3 years

Shelf Life of Packaged Goods

Packaged Cookies
Unopened: 2 months
Opened: 1 month

Crackers
Unopened: 8 months
Opened: 1 month

Diet powder mixes
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 3 months

Nuts (jars or cans)
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 3 weeks

Shortening, Solid (eg. Crisco)
Unopened: 8 months
Opened: 3-5 months

Bottled Soda
Unopened: 3-5 months
Opened: 2-3 days in the refrigerator

Canned Soda
Unopened: 9-12 months
Opened: 2-3 days in the refrigerator

Soup Mix
Unopened: 12 months
Opened: Use entire amount

Shelf Life of Miscellaneous Foods

Baby Food
Unopened: 2 months
Opened: 1-2 days in the refrigerator

Candy
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: Depends on the brand

Dried Fruits
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 6 months in the refrigerator

Evaporated Milk
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 4-5 days in the refrigerator

Juice Boxes
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 8-12 days in the refrigerator

Marshmallows
Unopened: 2-4 months
Opened: 1 month

Tapioca
Unopened: 1 year
Opened: 1 year

Tea Bags
Unopened: Freshest before 18 months
Opened: Freshest before 1 year

Loose Tea
Unopened: 2 years
Opened: 1 year

Instant Tea
Unopened: 3 years
Opened: 1 year

Toaster Pastries – Fruit Filled
Unopened: 6 months
Opened: 1 week if packet is unsealed

Toaster Pastries – Non-Fruit Filled
Unopened: 9 months
Opened: 1-2 weeks if packet is unsealed

Pantry Food Storage Sorted

Depending on what food you were looking up, you may be ecstatic to know that it’s still good or let down to know that it’s long gone. Either way, you get to stay healthy!

Hopefully, you found exactly what you were looking for in this guide. If you did, be sure to share our article and infographic to help other people clean out their pantries and fridge!

Next, build your emergency food supply list with items that will keep for the longest possible time.

Infographic detailing the shelf life of pantry food and tips to make food last longer.

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