When it comes to the pantry, many of us can expect to find a twelve-year-old bottle of ranch dressing hidden somewhere in a dusty corner. But aside from those always surprising finds (we’ve moved twice and somehow still have this?) there are a few pantry regulars that go bad much sooner than many of us think.
If you have even a little time make sure to check up on these common pantry items that spoil.
Oils: It’s best to store all your oils in a cool pantry, or failing that, in the fridge.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Over time olive oil loses many of the beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that make it an important CFYL mainstay. The expiration date for many olive oils is two years from the time they were bottled. However, many variables come into play when determining the shelf life of olive oil. Depending on the conditions it was stored in and the quality of the oil, it can go rancid much sooner. A good way to tell if olive oil has gone bad is to smell it. Rancid oil will have the smell of cardboard or crayons. If you notice a funky smell when you check the olive oil, ditch it and consider storing the new bottle in the refrigerator if your pantry is not particularly cool and dry.
Grape Seed Oil: Grape seed oil has one of the shortest life spans and should be replaced every 3 months. Luckily it can be purchased in small quantities. Store in the fridge.
Sesame Oil: Sesame oil comes in second with a 4-6 month life span.
Canola, peanut, flaxseed: If you’re not using them often it’s best to store them in the refrigerator. If they’ve been around a while, smell them before you cook with them.
You’ve probably baked a cake with two-year old flour before, but this spring cleaning will ensure you never do that again. Flour goes bad sooner than you think, and can harbor unhealthy molds, and even insects. Both of which don’t belong in the kitchen, especially for those going through treatment. Can you say eeeek?
Whole Wheat: The natural oils in this flour make it more volatile and give it only 4-6 months of shelf life open or unopened. To keep your whole grain flours sweeter for longer, do what we do and store them in the fridge.
White: This flour has been stripped of many nutrients, but it still can turn after 6-8 months, whether opened or unopened.
Brown rice should generally be used within 6-8 months. Like flour, brown rice can harbor mold or bugs. If you notice a dusty or oily look to the rice, or sense a rancid smell, it’s time to throw it out.
As with everything else, the main culprit here is the fat content in the nuts. Oils and fats make nuts very volatile. If you are buying nuts in bulk, or don’t eat them that often, it’s best to keep them in the fridge or even the freezer to keep them from going bad.
There’s not much danger in using old herbs and spices, but if you notice they are dull in color and don’t have that blast of aroma they once did, it’s likely they’ve not only lost their oomph taste-wise, but also their nutritional value and antioxidant content. Spices should really be replaced every six months. If you noticed a lot of recipes aren’t quite as tasty as you might think, it could be that your spices are old.
Store your new spices in airtight jars inside a dark cupboard, and not out on a rack. This will keep their aroma stronger for longer.
Canned Tomatoes & Other Canned High Acid Foods:
We definitely recommend having a lot of canned tomatoes around, but that’s only because we LOVE tomatoes and use them all the time. If you’re not cooking with tomatoes a few times a week as we are, don’t buy them in bulk. Turns out they only last around 12-18 months and the antioxidant properties in tomatoes often dissipate within the first three months of their life in the can. High acidity foods in general do not have a long shelf life because they can degrade the inside of the can quite easily. Not so great considering many cans are not BPA-free. When stocking up again, look out for tomatoes packed in BPA free cans or in cardboard Tetra-paks, like Pomi or Whole Foods 365 brand.
Similar to herbs, old tea is generally still safe to drink. However, the tea itself loses a lot of the beneficial antioxidant power quickly. Keeping it in an airtight container can help it keep longer.
In general, it’s always a good idea to check the expiration date of ingredients you don’t often use, and give them the whiff test before cooking with them. To help your pantry items stay fresh, keep them in glass containers, and your pantry cool and dry. And don’t be afraid to store items like oils, whole grain flours and nuts in your fridge. Proper storage will help your pantry ingredients live long and help you prosper!