Cleaning Your Pantry

Do you know what’s in your cupboards and how long it’s been there? While flours, grains, and oils have a longer shelf life than most of the items in your fridge, they do eventually go stale. Use this guide to keep your pantry in shape

Keep your spices in airtight jars. Stored well, spices can last up to one year before they begin to lose their aroma. Check out my blog from June 20, 2014 – it’s all about your spice cabinet.

If you go through a lot of all-purpose flour in your household, you can keep it at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three months. Whole-grain flours (wheat, rye, buckwheat, spelt) contain the oil-rich germ of the grain, which can quickly turn rancid. These flours, as well as any others you don’t use on a regular basis (pastry flour and semolina, for example) can be kept in the refrigerator for up to six months. Slip the original bag of flour inside a zip-top bag for easy, moisture-proof storage.

Keep oats, barley, rice, quinoa, and their kin in airtight containers in your cupboard for up to six months. When transferring dry ingredients to glass jars, use an envelope if you don’t have a small funnel nearby. Cut a generous triangle from one end of the envelope, then snip tip off corner, and open into a cone. For large amounts, use big manila envelopes.

Because nuts and seeds have a high fat content, they’ll turn rancid if kept at room temperature for too long. Your almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, macadamias, sesame seeds, and flax seeds will stay fresh for up to two months in the refrigerator and as long as 12 months in the freezer.

Your most frequently used oils — olive and vegetable — can be kept in a cupboard at room temperature for two months once opened, so don’t buy a bigger bottle than you think you’ll use in that amount of time. (A gallon of olive oil is no bargain once it goes bad!) Nut oils, and other varieties you use less frequently should go straight into the refrigerator once opened. Kept cold, your oils will be good for at least six months.

Remember to rotate your canned goods. Don’t let them expire. Move the newest stuff to the back and the older stuff to the front so you use it first. Be sure to keep like items together so you always know how many cans you have. The last time I cleaned my pantry, I found seven cans of cream of mushroom soup! I kept buying them because I thought I was out.

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