Have you ever gone into your pantry only to pull a can of whatever out, look at it and wonder if it is still good because you’ve had it for so long? If so, don’t feel bad since this is actually a fairly common occurrence in most households.
Pantry goods have such a wide array of expiration dates that it can be hard to tell when something should be tossed or when it is still good to use and it is that wide array that can lead to confusion.
Learning how long you can safely store pantry items as well as how expiration dates affect your pantry can help end that confusion while allowing you to build a fully stocked pantry stockpile.
First, the skinny on expiration dates. For refrigerated items and items in your medicine cabinet, you need to pay attention to them since using them past their “use by” date can be dangerous, but for pantry stockpile items, you have a bit more leeway.
Manufacturers are required to date their products and as such, most of them do so with a date that they can guarantee the product will still taste good and hold onto its nutritional value. This is why most canned or boxed foods actually say “best by” and not “use by.”
That best buy date is, simply put, a guide so that you are aware that after that date the product may taste a bit differently than you might expect.
Because of the difference in wording, this means that the majority of the products in your pantry can be stored a lot longer than the six months or so that they actually say by date.
How long though? We can help you out with info on a few common pantry stockpile products and how long they are actually good for.
Before we get to the date information, one thing is key: How you store your pantry items makes a difference! By transferring items from their cardboard boxes or bags into tight-sealing containers, you can greatly extend the life of your staples.
I'm a fan of Rubbermaid containers because they're easy to use and have a tight seal. Another option that looks gret if you have glass front cabinets or open shelving is Mason jars. They even make them in a big half gallon size!
If you do transfer your foods into other containers, you'll want to mark the container with the date it was stored. One way to do this is by using freezer tape. You can just tear off a piece, write the date on it, and attach to the jar or container.
These pre-printed labels let you just fill in the date and the contents, which is especially helpful if you have multiple types of flour or other items that look similar out of the packaging.If you want to get fancy, you can also use a label maker.
Pantry Expiration Dates
Canned Tuna – 2 to 5 years from the date of manufacture
Canned green beans – 2 to 5 years
All-purpose flour – 6 months to 1 year if stored in the freezer or an air tight container
Granulated sugar – 6 months to 1 year if stored in the freezer or an air tight container
Brown and powdered sugar – 6 months if stored correctly
Canned pastas – 2 years – 4 years
Canned soups – 2 to 5 years
Spam – 2 to 5 years
Canned broth – 2 to 3 years
Other canned meats – 2 years
White rice – up to 20 years if stored in an air-tight container
Salt – indefinitely if stored in a dry area – moisture is salt’s worst enemy
Canned whole kernel corn – 2 to 5 years
Honey – Indefinitely – If it crystallizes, heat the honey and shake to reconstitute.
Baking soda – Indefinitely if kept dry
Pasta – 2-5 years if kept in their own packages, 20+ years if stored in air-tight containers with oxygen removed
Oats – Indefinitely if stored with oxygen removed, 2-5 years in an air-tight container.
Dried beans – 5 years if stored in normal air-tight containers, 20+ years if stored with oxygen removed.
Crazy, right? So what does this mean for you? Feel free to stock up the next time you see a great sale! You’ll have time to use them before they spoil and you’ll be able to save big by building your pantry stockpile!
Also be sure to check out this Baking Ingredients Shelf Life Guide!