Spring Clean Your Cabinets: The Shelf Life of Pantry Staples.

Despite the lingering snow piles here in Vermont (and seemingly everywhere else in the country), the long days and the calendar indicate that spring is here. As such, it's time for a little spring cleaning, not just of the closets, but in the kitchen, too. Beyond simply cleaning surfaces, now is the time to go through your pantry staples, check expiration dates on canned and other dry goods and toss anything that's been buried in the back of your fridge. For a handy reference —and for food that might not have an expiration date — here's a list of the shelf life of pantry staples.

Baking Ingredients
Baking powder and soda

Shelf life: 6 months, opened

Storage: Check the shelf life by putting a few drops of vinegar into a small amount of baking soda; if it bubbles a lot, it's still good. This works for baking powder, too.

Brown sugar

Shelf life: 4 months

Storage: Store in an air-tight container or place a slice of orange peel in the box to help keep it soft.

Cocoa powder

Shelf life: 1 year

Storage: Keep in a cool, dry place.

Shelf life: 1 year

Storage: Store it in the freezer to double the shelf life.

Corn Syrup

Shelf life: 3 years

Storage: Keep in an airtight container.
Shelf life: 6 months (opened); 12 months (unopened)

Storage: Keep in an airtight container; refrigerate to extend shelf life.

Spices and herbs

Shelf life: 6 months

Storage: If possible, buy them in small quantities in the bulk section and store them in jars. Also, don't sprinkle herbs into cooking food directly from the jar — the steam will make the herbs go bad faster.

Whole-grain flours
Shelf life: 6 - 8 months (fridge); 1 - 2 years (freezer)

Storage: Always store whole-grain flours in the fridge or freezer, since they go rancid easily.

White flour

Shelf life: 6 - 8 months

Storage: Keep in an airtight container.
White Sugar

Shelf life:  2 years

Storage: Keep in an airtight container.

Brown rice and whole grains

Shelf life: 6 months

Storage: Store in an airtight container
Evaporated milk

Shelf life: 12 to 13 months

Storage: Keep in a cool, dry place.
Canned and Jarred Goods
Canned beans and tuna

Shelf life:  2 - 5 years

Storage: Keep in a cool, dry place.
Canned fruits and vegetables (including tomatoes and tomato sauce)

Shelf life:  12 - 24 months

Storage: Once you open the jar, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Milk, condensed or evaporated

Shelf life: 12 - 23 months
Tips: After opening, you can keep it for 8  - 20 days in the fridge
Condiments and Miscellaneous 

Shelf life: Indefinite

Storage: Keep at room temperature.
Bread crumbs

Shelf life: 6 months

Storage: Keep in an air-tight container.
Dried fruit

Shelf life: 6 months

Storage: They'll stay fresher in the refrigerator.

Shelf life: 6 months (in the fridge); 1 month (unrefrigerated)

Storage: Refrigerate it.


Shelf life: 6 - 8 months (opened)

Storage: Keep it in the fridge once opened.

Shelf life:  6 months - 1 year

Storage: If you live in a warmer climate, consider storing them in the fridge

Peanut butter
Shelf life: 6 - 9 months (unopened); 2 - 3 months (opened)

Storage: Store opened jars of natural peanut butter in the fridge.


Shelf life: 1 year (opened)

Storage: Store in a cool, dark place
Sources: Virginia Cooperative Extension; What's Cooking America?

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