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26 Storage Tricks to Make Your Foods Last Longer

Don't just save your food—save money with these insider tricks to making kitchen staples last a bit longer.

Bottle with fresh olive oil on tableNew Africa/Shutterstock

Olive oil

Stick to small bottles unless you're heavy-handed. Once opened, olive oil can go rancid in as little as three months (even though the bottle might say it will last longer). Fresh olive oil smells like green, ripe olives and has a bright, peppery taste with a kick; be wary of a crayon- or putty-like odor, which indicates spoilage. Here are some more foods that might expire sooner than you think.

smooth peanut butter in dishneil langan/Shutterstock

Peanut butter

Flip natural varieties upside down to allow the pool of oil near the lid to move through the rest of the jar and make the peanut butter creamier (and to skip messy stirring). Just make sure the cap is screwed on tight to avoid a greasy pantry shelf. Here are some other foods you've been storing all wrong.

various types of cheese in wooden box on white wooden table, top viewMaraZe/Shutterstock

Cheese

Let it breathe. Wrap cheese in a porous material. If you don't have cheese paper, parchment will also work. Avoid tinfoil and tight plastic wrap. Failing to expose cheese to enough oxygen will cause it to dry out quickly.

butter on white wooden table backgroundimages72/Shutterstock

Butter

You can freeze bars you don't plan to use quickly. This will prevent spoilage and the scent absorption of, say, Chinese leftovers. In the fridge, unopened butter should last about four months. It can stay in the freezer for about a year. Leave wrapped sticks in the original carton, then enclose in double plastic freezer bags. One sign you need to freeze butter: inconsistent color, which means you're not using yours fast enough. Butter that is lighter on the inside than on the outside is no longer fresh, thanks to oxidation — color should be consistent. Here are some more foods you had no idea you could freeze.

SugarSea Wave/Shutterstock

Brown sugar

Store the sweet crystals with "friends" to prevent hardening. Transfer to an airtight plastic container and include moist items like marshmallows, a slice of bread, or apple slices; the sugar will soak up the moisture and stay soft. On the other hand, these are some foods you should never store together.

Sour cream in crystal bowl on white wood. Top view.etorres/Shutterstock

Mayonnaise

Store in the fridge door. In the inner part of the fridge, mayo may get too cold, which will cause it to separate and leave oil at the top of the jar. If kept in the refrigerator door, your tasty sandwich dressing will last two to three months past the purchase date.

Scoop with flour. On a white wooden table.Artem Shadrin/Shutterstock

Flour

Keep whole wheat flour chilled. High oil levels in the wheat germ can make this baking staple go rancid if kept in the pantry too long. If you use it infrequently, store in an airtight container in the fridge, where it can last two to six months. Sniff to check freshness—it should be almost completely odorless. Toss it if it smells sharp or bitter. (Regular white flour can last about a year in the pantry in an airtight container.)

Maple syrup in glass bottle over wooden backgroundMAHATHIR MOHD YASIN/Shutterstock

100 percent maple syrup

Once opened, store in the freezer to preserve if you use it rarely. Because of its high sugar content, syrup won't freeze. Pure maple syrup should last indefinitely unopened in the pantry; once opened, it can last up to a year refrigerated.

Soy sauce and soy bean with chopsticks on wooden tableMakistock/Shutterstock

Soy sauce

Watch the color. Common varieties are reddish brown when fresh. If it's darkened, this go-to Asian-food ingredient has likely fallen victim to oxidation. Soy sauce doesn't need to be kept chilled, but refrigeration will help the flavor remain at peak quality longer. It should last up to two years this way. Here are some foods you're actually throwing out too soon.

red pepperHaskounek/Shutterstock

Spices (red ones)

Stash red spices in the fridge. Paprika, cayenne powder, and chili powder will stay fresher and keep their bright color—which can be dulled by light and heat—longer.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest