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15 Foods You Probably Shouldn’t Keep in Your Pantry

Updated: Apr. 11, 2024

Read this if you're the type of person who stores anything that’s not dairy or fresh veggies in the pantry.

Shelf in the kitchen with various cereals and seeds - peas split, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, beans, rice, pasta, oatmeal, couscous, lentils, bulgur in glass jars
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For many grocery staples, it’s obvious where they belong in your kitchen. But the jury is still out on a few products—or so you thought. It’s important to know which food products go where (even the ones that never expire), since no one wants to see food go past its best-by date because it was in the pantry instead of the fridge, or the fridge instead of the freezer. According to experts, you should probably avoid storing these foods in your pantry. Keep this in mind next time you’re organizing the pantry or putting the groceries away.

full frame of tomato sauce
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Tomato sauce

Your pantry may be stocked with tomato sauce you bought the last time there was a sale, but it should always go in the fridge after you open it. “In the old days, a lot of us used to keep tomato sauce in the pantry,” Lydia Buchtmann, spokeswoman for the Food Safety Information Council, told HuffPost Australia, “but since then these products have gotten a lot healthier, so they’ve got less unhealthy preservatives in them like salt.”

If you’re curious, here is the best way to store tomatoes to ensure peak freshness.

Mustard swirls
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Dijon mustard

Although your favorite hot dog condiment won’t spoil if it’s kept in the pantry, keeping it in the fridge removes any risk of your Dijon losing the flavor you love. So, refrigerate to store it properly.

Charcuterie Salumi plate in Rome Italy
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You already know to keep raw meat like chicken and beef in the fridge (and here’s how long meat can stay in the fridge), and the same applies for cured meat like salami. In a 2006 study, researchers found that 23 percent of the tested 1,020 dry Italian salami contained the foodborne pathogen Listeria monocytogenes.

full frame of bananas
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Surprised? You may be used to keeping your bananas in prime pantry real estate, but if you keep them there, they just keep ripening. When they’re ready to eat, put them in the fridge, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says. If the peels turn brown, they’ll still be good to eat. Here are some tips for keeping your fruits and veggies fresh longer.

Belgian waffle with syrup macro full frame
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Pure maple syrup

If you love syrup, why would you eat anything other than the 100 percent pure maple stuff? However, unlike syrup that’s only maple-flavored, this pure kind must be kept in the refrigerator to prevent mold. Store it in the freezer (don’t worry, it won’t freeze solid), and it’ll keep indefinitely. Syrup in the freezer? Quite a concept, we know! It might have you asking what else you can freeze (or not).

full frame of chocolate syrup
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Chocolate syrup

Maple isn’t the only kind of decadent topping that needs to be kept in the fridge. Left in the pantry, the flavor of your chocolate syrup will go bad. One notable exception is Nesquik syrup; because it doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup, refrigerating it will make it crystalize. Here are some foods to toss after their expiration date.

Whole-grain flour

Any variety of whole-grain flour is healthier than your average all-purpose white flour. That’s because these flours contain some or all of the bran and germ from the original wheat, meaning they use the whole grain. (Get it?) However, the oils in the bran and germ can spoil quickly. Storing whole-grain flour in the freezer significantly slows down the spoiling process, Kitchn reports, and increases its shelf life.

close up of Fresh corn on the cob
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Corn on the cob

Either cook up this summertime staple right away, or toss it in the fridge. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, an ear of corn can lose 50 percent of its sugar if left at room temperature. If you opt to refrigerate, eat it within two days for the best taste. While corn on the cob will eventually spoil, you don’t have to worry about these non-perishable foods going bad.

Unsalted butter

You may be one of the thousands of Americans who leaves their butter on the counter (or in the pantry) so it gets soft and spreads easily. While this hack is technically safe, health experts told TODAY that only salted butter should be left out of the fridge, since the salt can keep bacteria away. Additionally, you should store it in an airtight container and only leave it out for two weeks, max.

Strawberry jam background
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Jam and jelly

Some people prefer room temperature jams and jellies, but at the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather eat something that won’t potentially make you sick? Almost all jellies and jams say “Refrigerate after opening” on the jar, so just follow the instructions. The Smucker’s website says that any opened fruit spreads left unrefrigerated for 48 hours should not be used.

close up of Peanut Butter spread
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Organic peanut butter

Typical peanut butter, like Jif spreads, can be kept in the pantry. But if your peanut butter is natural or organic, the oils will separate and turn rancid. These types need to be kept in the fridge. The same goes for other organic nut butters. Peanut butter in the fridge—just when you thought you’d heard it all!

fresh herbs basil, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage
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Fresh herbs

While basil can thrive in a pantry, many other herbs need to stay in the fridge to stay fresh. Hardy herbs, like rosemary and thyme, should be washed, wrapped in a damp paper towel and then in plastic, and kept in your fridge’s crisper drawer. Soft herbs, like cilantro, dill, and parsley, should also stay out of the pantry. Keep them in plastic bags in the fridge.

Corks of wine bottles, Paris, France
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Opened red wine

What?! Blasphemy! I’m sure that’s what all you wine lovers must be thinking. But it’s true. Opened red wine should be re-corked and refrigerated to stay fresh for another day, TODAY.com reports. The cold temperature will slow down the oxidation process. Don’t have space in your fridge? Well, we have plenty of tricks to squeeze more into all your storage spaces (top rack included!).

coconut oil smear close up
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Coconut oil

Like the oils in nuts and nut butters, coconut oil can eventually go rancid when stored at room temperature for too long. Take it out of the pantry and put it in the fridge.

Mexican tortilla wrap close up
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You may not realize it, but tortillas are actually prone to molding. They’ll stay good for about a week at room temperature, but keep them in the fridge immediately after opening, just to be safe.

Next, read about these fruits and vegetables that you shouldn’t store together.


  • Huffington Post:Fridge vs Pantry: Where to Keep These 10 Common Foods”
  • Eat Right: “10 Surprising Foods That Benefit from Refrigeration”
  • Kitchn: “Why You Should Probably Be Storing Your Whole-Grain Flours in the Freezer”
  • TODAY: “Does butter need to be refrigerated?”
  • Smucker’s
  • TODAY: “What’s the best way to save leftover wine? You’ll never guess!”