16 Pantry Items You’re Probably Keeping for Too Long
Out with the old! In with the new!
The shelf life of whole grains like quinoa and farro is largely dependent on their fat content. Heat, air, and moisture are the top three enemies of whole grains because the elements can negatively affect their healthy oils, which in turn can cause your grains to go rancid sitting in your pantry. “Grains should always look and smell faintly sweet or have no aroma at all,” states the Whole Grains Council. “If you detect a musty or oily scent, the grains have passed their peak.” A good rule of thumb for freshness is to keep all grains in air-tight zipped bags or containers. Most will maintain their taste quality for up to six months. Quinoa typically lasts four months in the pantry and even longer when stored in the freezer—about eight months. On the other hand, you may want to think twice before you throw away these 11 foods too soon.
Your favorite ground spices like turmeric, paprika, and nutmeg generally lose their potency after about two to three years. Eating old spices isn’t harmful to your health, but it won’t add any flavor to your recipes anymore. Do a quick sniff and taste test to determine if your spice is still fresh. If you can’t identify the flavor or scent, then toss it in the trash with these other foods you shouldn’t eat past the expiration date.
The same rules for ground spices apply to baking ingredients as well. Bags of baking powder and baking soda will lose their leavening power over time, which means a sad, flat cake for you. You can test their leavening power with this easy science experiment in your kitchen: mix baking soda with vinegar and baking powder with hot water. If they foam up and bubble, it means the ingredients are still fresh enough for baking.
You should always place an opened bag of graham crackers in an air-tight container to prevent moisture from seeping in because no one likes to make s’mores with stale graham crackers. However, an unopened batch of graham crackers can still get stale in the bag they come in. According to foodsafety.gov, graham crackers will typically stay fresh in your pantry for up to nine months.
Nuts and seeds
One of the best snacks to chow down on in the middle of the day are nuts and seeds full of healthy fats and proteins. But, you’ll want to eat the un-shelled ones like almonds and peanuts within a matter of a few weeks to a few months. “Nuts and seeds typically have a high amount of oil in them and that oil will start to go rancid after a couple of months in your pantry,” Tryg Siverson, chef and co-founder, COO and culinary director of Feel Good Foods, told INSIDER. Signs of rancidity on a nut or seed include a grassy or paint-like odor and dark or oily appearance. For optimal freshness and longevity, place the nuts and seeds in a clear freezer bag and pop them in your fridge for up to a year. Here’s why watermelon seeds are just one of the many food parts you should stop throwing in the garbage.
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After three months, an opened box of cereal will go stale from air exposure, but a sealed box should last up to a year. Then again, the shelf-life can vary, especially if a cereal contains nuts, which are more prone to rancidity. When the fats in nuts are exposed to the elements of heat, light, and air they start to oxidize. “That said, if you eat cereal with rancid nuts or oils, you’re at very little risk,” Jennifer Kaplan, a Liberal Arts instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley told TODAY Food. “The most common side effect will be an unpleasant taste.”
“If there are safety issues with candy, it’s usually a quality issue, not an issue of expiration date,” Fadi Aramouni, PhD, member of the Food Science Institute told bestfoodfacts.org. “Generally, it is very difficult for candy to spoil, due to its low moisture content, but it depends on the candy.” Consult the National Confectioner Association for candy shelf-life guidelines. To ensure freshness, make sure you never mix candies like caramels that absorb moisture with harder candies such as fudge that lose moisture. Throwing these candies into a jar together will make the harder candies sticky. Always sprinkle harder candies with finely ground sugar and throw them separately into an air-tight jar to maintain their hard consistency. Much like candy, these are the 11 foods that will never expire.
Storing beer at room temperature isn’t necessarily bad for your beer, but it can spoil it faster. After around four months, heat, light, and air can seep through the bottle caps. “Non-refrigerated storage accelerates aging and development of off flavors,” Cicerone Certification Program, an education service for beer experts, said in a statement to craftbeer.com. “Refrigerated storage is best for all beers at all times.”
Your tea bags should be consumed within a year because the oils in the tea will go old and give your morning cup of tea a bad flavor. The same goes for your coffee beans and grounds. Maples recommends consuming beans and grounds within two to four weeks. Instant coffee lovers have a bit more time—about two months. If you want a longer shelf-life for your coffee, store the grounds in the freezer instead of the refrigerator or pantry. Just make sure you don’t return them to the freezer once they’re taken out. If you’re shocked to discover that tea bags can lose their quality over time, check out the 16 other things you never knew had an expiration date.