In the Pantry: Surprising Shelf Lives of Pantry Staples

Are any of these items lurking in your pantry past their expiration dates? You're probably keeping these items, like flour, baking soda, and butter, longer than you should. Here are the surprising shelf lives of five common kitchen staples and tips on how to properly store them.

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Flours - It's a common misconception that flour will simply last forever; however, that's just not the case. Store flour in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Flour kept in the pantry will last up to six months, but in the freezer, flour can last up to one year. Remember to write expiration dates on the airtight containers.

Butter - Butter will be past its prime in about two weeks. To keep butter tasting fresh, store only one bar of butter in the fridge at a time, and place the others in the freezer where butter will last up to a month.

Baking soda - Are you using the same box of baking soda as an air freshener for your refrigerator and in your recipes? Keep the two separate. As an air freshener, you'll need to change the box of baking soda every 30 days. If you're using baking soda in recipes, be sure to pick up a new box at the store after three months. Wondering if your baking soda is still good? Fill a small bowl with hot water and place a generous spoonful of baking soda in the water and stir. If it bubbles and fizzes, the baking soda is still fresh.

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Grains, pastas, and rice - These generally last six months in the pantry, but whole grain pasta and rice have a significantly shorter shelf life, lasting only about three months.

Oil - After about six months, oil will go rancid. Store oil in a dark container and in a dark place away from heat. If you're not using the oil often, store it in the refrigerator where it will last eight months, or in the freezer where it can last up to one year. Keep in mind, olive oil will solidify if cold, so bring it to room temperature before using it.


For more cooking tips and tricks, check out host Aida Mollenkamp's book, "Keys to the Kitchen."


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