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How Long Can I Keep It? Shelf Lives for Common Foods

June 4, 2009

I am a stickler for a couple things, food safety is one of them.  Adequate washing of hands is another, oh I could go on and on.

Anyway, it should be no surprise to anyone that I have this list to share with you. 

Product: All-purpose flour

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dry place*

How long: 10 to 15 months

Comments: Heat and moisture accelerate staleness. When weather is hot or humid, keep flour in the freezer.

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Product: Whole wheat flour

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dry place*; fridge/freezer

How long: Cool, dry place or fridge: 1 to 2 months; freezer: 6 months

Comments: The oil in the bran quickly becomes rancid at room temperature.

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Product: Whole grains

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dry place*; fridge/freezer

How long: Cool, dry place: 2 to 3 months; fridge: 6 months; freezer: 1 year

Comments: The oil in the bran layer quickly becomes rancid at room temperature.

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Product: White rice

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dry place*; fridge/freezer

How long: Indefinitely

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Product: Brown rice

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dry place*; fridge/freezer

How long: Cool, dry place or fridge: up to 6 months; freezer: 1 year

Comments: The oil in the bran layer quickly becomes rancid at room temperature.

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Product: Pasta

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dry place*

How long: 1 year

Comments: After opening, transfer to airtight container.

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Product: Bread crumbs

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool, dry place* or refrigerator

How long: Cool dry place: 3 to 6 months; refrigerator: 2 years

Comments: To keep flavor fresh, refrigerate after opening.

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Product: Coffee

How to store/where: Unopened/opened airtight glass or ceramic containers in cool, dark place*

How long: 1 to 2 weeks

Comments: Whole beans can be frozen in small amounts for up to a month; do not refreeze — the flavor will be affected.

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Product: Sugar (brown)

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in a cool place*

How long: 4 to 6 months

Comments: Brown sugar hardens when it dries out.

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Product: Sugar (granulated)

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in a cool, dry place

How long: Indefinitely

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Product: Honey

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool, dark place*

How long: Indefinitely

Comments: If honey has crystallized, place open jar in pan of simmering water; stir honey until crystals dissolve.

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Product: Real Maple syrup

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: refrigerator or freezer

How long: Refrigerator: 1 year; freezer: indefinitely

Comments: For optimal storage, buy in glass containers only; maple syrup is subject to mold, and glass helps prevent mold.

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Product: Vegetable oil

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool, dark place* or refrigerator

How long: Cool, dark place: 3 months; refrigerator: 6 months

Comments: Refrigerated vegetable oil shouldn’t be left out; frequent temperature changes aren’t good for it.

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Product: Olive oil

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool, dark place*

How long: 12 to 18 months

Comments: Olive oil solidifies if refrigerated, but this does not affect its flavor.

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Product: Vinegar

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool, dark place*

How long: Unopened: indefinitely; opened: 6 months

Comments: Strain vinegar with added ingredients, such as herbs, into a clean bottle when vinegar level drops below ingredients.

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Product: Mayonnaise

How to store/where: Unopened: cool, dark place*; opened: fridge

How long: Unopened: see use-by date; opened: 2 months

Comments: In refrigerator, store in door; the oil may separate if the jar is kept in colder parts of the fridge.

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Product: Soy sauce

How to store/where: Unopened: cool, dark place*; opened: refrigerator

How long: 1 year

Comments: Can use for up to three years, but evaporation may darken the color and intensify the flavor.

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Product: Worcestershire sauce

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool, dark place*

How long: 12 years

Comments: Tastes better with age because liquid evaporates and flavor intensifies.

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Product: Salsa

How to store/where: Unopened: cool, dark place*; opened: fridge

How long: Unopened: 1 year; opened: 2 weeks

Comments: To prevent contamination from bacteria, don’t dip food into the jar; spoon from jar to serve.

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Product: Spices

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: airtight container in cool, dark place*

How long: 1 year

Comments: Date the containers when you purchase them; refrigerate red spices (e.g., paprika), poppy, and sesame seeds.

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Product: Peanut butter

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: cool place,* if processed; natural types must be refrigerated

How long: 6 months

Comments: Gets rancid when exposed to air or heat. To determine if it’s still fresh past the expiration date, smell and taste.

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Product: Eggs

How to store/where: In its original carton in main part of refrigerator (it’s not cold enough in the door)

How long: 3 to 5 weeks

Comments: If yolks and whites are separated, can be frozen up to a year.

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Product: Pregrated cheese

How to store/where: Unopened/opened: Unopened: check date on package; opened: 3 to 4 weeks

How long: Unopened: check date on package; opened: 3 to 4 weeks

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Product: Potatoes

How to store/where: Cool, dark place*; do not refrigerate: flavor will change

How long: 1 month

Comments: Don’t wash before storing; dampness can cause decay. Near heat and light, spuds develop a bitter flavor and last only a week.

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Product: Onions

How to store/where: Cool, dry, well-ventilated place, such as a basket, away from direct sunlight

How long: 1 to 4 weeks

Comments: Refrigerate cut onions in tightly sealed container. If an onion has a strong odor before peeling, it may have a rotten layer.

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Product: Nuts

How to store/where: Unopened: room temperature; opened: refrigerator or freezer

How long: Unopened: 1 month; opened, in fridge or freezer: 2 to 3 months

*Choose a cupboard away from heat sources such as the range or heat-radiating under-cabinet lighting.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2009 9:44 am

    I have found that those Debbie Meyers (Myers?) green bags are outstanding for keeping foods fresh also. The vacuum sealers are also a “must have” of mine since our son bought us on several years ago. We just ate pork chops from 2000 and they were fresh, not freezer burned and flavorful even after 8 years! Frozen, of course. I suggest everyone get one. Fantastic!
    xoxo,
    Connie

  2. June 4, 2009 9:51 am

    Wow, thank you so much for your heads up list. I founded it fascinating. Who knew. Did you know a slice of bread put in your brown sugar will soften it. Change the bread often. It works.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the wildlife photos from yesterday. We are on vacation until June 21st. Posting has been fun until my computer came to a halt last night. It is the connection though, not my computer. Thank the good Lord.

    Hugs…Jeanne

  3. June 4, 2009 9:52 am

    A great reference! I did not know many of these expiration dates and or that egg whites could be frozen! Cool!
    Sorry about your computer, mine is starting to freeze….soon! I’ll need a replacement. Hope you feel better, no air, ugh. Once in Texas the power went down, oh….my….goodness. I was just visiting so I wasn’t as panicked as the homeowner. It’s spooky to lose heat in the winter though. That’s what we do for a living, heating service company here in Maine.

  4. June 4, 2009 10:21 am

    Excellent list. Thanks for the share. No air conditioning? Wow! Hope it can be fixed soon without a new, unless the new is a more efficient model.

    Frost warnings this week in Vermont. Glad I’m not there. I bought sweaters on sale in LA because I guess I’ll need them most of the summer. 🙂

    Take care. I’m totally back on Tuesday. Back to the declutter and toss for the downstairs. Back on eBay, etsy, and with another stab at making the website go…never, ever give up.

  5. June 4, 2009 10:33 am

    What a helpful list. Some things I knew, but some were completely new to me. We are having hot weather right now, middle 80’s. Once you have the air, you can’t imagine living without it. Hope all of your problems get resolved and your day goes off without a hitch!

  6. Dru permalink
    June 4, 2009 11:05 am

    Thanks for the great tips and the natural remedies – I use them all the time!! Thank you too for stopping by my blog and your sweet comments. Sorry to hear of your computer and most of all cooling problems – I am definitely a cool weather gal!! Take care, Dru

  7. June 4, 2009 3:50 pm

    This is great! Thanks for sharing this!.. It would be even nicer if I could get my PRINTER SET UP!.. (sigh)… I was surprised to hear ground coffee is only good for a couple of weeks! I guess Dear Daughter and I never give it the chance to LAST that long, between hot coffees and iced coffees!! (0;

    I am curious about the “Debbie Meyers green bags” Connie (above) is talking about? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of these??

  8. June 4, 2009 5:37 pm

    Great post. There is a lot of good information here. Thanks so much for sharing it. Hope you got your airconditioning fixed and your doctor appointments went well. Send some of that heat my way I could definitely use it.

  9. June 4, 2009 6:31 pm

    Very interesting! I think I have some things improperly stored and I think I have some passed these lifetimes you posted… hmmmm

  10. June 6, 2009 11:49 pm

    Hello , Happy Pink Saturday! Cute pink post. Have a great weekend!
    Bless you, Shirl
    Shirls Rose Cottage

  11. June 8, 2009 3:17 pm

    That is so interesting. I didn’t realize mayonnaise opened would only keep a couple of months? I had never thought about pasta…hm…
    thank you so much for sharing..
    Judi

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