Proper food storage will keep your food, spices and condiments both fresher and safer. Most store-bought food today comes with certain guidelines to help you ensure that you are eating high quality, safe food. Some foods we think will last and stay fresh forever (or at least for a very long time) actually do have an expiration date. Here’s a list of food and beverages that don’t last nearly as long as we think!
Flour – You can keep it for six to eight months past its “best by” date, but whole wheat flour will go rancid more quickly because of the essential oils from the grain. If it has an unpleasant odor or taste, it’s time to throw the bag away.
Yeast – Yeast is a live living organism! You can hold onto the packets for a few months past their printed expiration date, but you should use them within six months of opening the package. If the yeast turns dark brown and clumps together, it’s definitely past its prime.
Rice – With white rice lasting at least 4-5 years, or even longer if vacuum sealed, other types of rice have a much shorter shelf life. The shelf life of rice is influenced by a variety of factors, such as the type of rice, whether it is cooked or not, its packaging and how it is stored.
For instance brown rice lasts for 6-8 months in the pantry and 8-12 months in the fridge.
Ketchup and other condiments – That mustard that’s been in the refrigerator since last summer’s cookout should still be okay to slather on a hot dog this weekend. But if you’re pulling out pickles and ketchup of the same vintage, it’s safer to toss them than dress your burger with them. Mustard typically keeps for a year in the refrigerator but the shelf life of most other condiments is much shorter.
You might want to check the expiration date of your sauces and toppings before your first picnic this season. Here’s how long the Food Safety and Inspection Service says you can safely refrigerate certain things after they’ve been opened. (You can check other foods by using the Food Keeper feature on the Food Marketing Institute website.)
- Ketchup, cocktail or chili sauce: 6 months;
- Chutney: 1 to 2 months;
- Horseradish: 3 to 4 months;
- Mustard: 12 months;
- Pickles and olives: 2 weeks;
- Mayonnaise and salad dressing: Up to 2 months;
- Barbecue sauce: 4 months;
- Worchestershire sauce: 12 months;
- Jams and jellies: 6 months.
Just how long do spices really last?
General Spice Care
Before we get into the common expiration dates of spices, it’s important to note that the best way to store spices to last is in their original container or a similarly sealed airtight container.
The shelf life of your spices isn’t dependent on whether they’re unopened or unopened, but that they’re fully sealed after each use.
As for seasoning blends, simply follow the two to three years guideline to ensure you take advantage of peak freshness.
It’s best to store your spices in a dry environment and in a dark place, like a dark cupboard or pantry.
Whole spices will stay fresh for about four years, while ground spices run between three and four years. For dried herbs, many will last from one to three years, but it varies depending on the type.
You can tell a spice is expired if you rub a tiny bit into your palm and take a big ol’ whiff. In the sniff test, fresh spices will be very fragrant, and you’ll know immediately if your spices are dull and without flavor from sitting around if you can’t smell it.
Suggested Spice Expirations
Just about every fresh herb or vegetable will stay fresh for about five to seven days, and the ground and/or dried versions will stay fresh for about two to three years.
The vibrant color of dried and ground spices and herbs will fade as they lose their fragrance and in the case of fresh leafy herbs, begin to wilt.
For example, I knew my pumpkin pie spice was long expired when it was no longer a brighter orange, but instead a sad brown.
A good general rule of thumb is to put a small piece of painter’s tape or Scotch tape on the bottom of your spices when you buy them and write down the date.
This makes sorting through and cleaning out your spice rack so much easier. For the full list, and its exceptions, check out our round-up of spice expiration dates.
Allspice: Ground and dried allspice last about two to three years.
Basil: Fresh basil lasts about five to seven days, while ground and dried lasts about two to three years.
Bay leaves: Fresh bay leaves last about five to seven days, while ground and dried bay leaves last about two to three years.
Black pepper: Ground and dried black pepper last for about two to three years, while whole peppercorns last about five to six years.
Cayenne pepper: Fresh cayenne lasts about five to seven days, while ground cayenne pepper lasts about two to three years. Like paprika, cayenne pepper will last longer in the refrigerator, though it’s not required.
Chili powder: Ground chili powder lasts about two to three years.
Cilantro: Fresh cilantro lasts about five to seven days, while ground and dried lasts about two to three years.
Cinnamon: Ground and dried cinnamon lasts about two to three years.
Cloves: Fresh cloves last about five to seven days, while ground and dried cloves last for two to three years. Whole cloves last four to five years.
Cream of Tartar: Ground and dried cream of tartar lasts about two to three years.
Cumin: Ground cumin lasts about two to three years.
Dill: Fresh dill lasts about five to seven days, while ground dill lasts about two to three years.
Garlic: Fresh garlic lasts for four to six months, while ground and dried garlic each last about two to three years.
Italian Seasoning: Ground and dried Italian Seasoning lasts for about two to three years.
Jalapeños: Fresh jalapeños lasts for about five to seven days, while ground and dried will last about two to three years.
Mint: Fresh mint lasts about seven to 10 days, while ground and dried mint lasts for about one to three years.
Mustard: Fresh mustard, not the condiment, lasts for about five to seven days. Ground and dried mustard, on the other hand, lasts for about two to three years.
Nutmeg: Ground and dried nutmeg lasts for about two to three years.
Onions: Fresh onions last for about five to seven days, while dried and ground onion powder lasts for about two to three years.
Oregano: Fresh oregano lasts about five to seven days, while ground and dried oregano lasts about two to three years.
Paprika: Dried and ground paprika lasts about two to three years.
Parsley: Fresh parsley will last about five to seven days, while ground and dried will last about two to three years.
Pumpkin Pie Spice: Ground pumpkin pie spice will last about two to three years.
Rosemary: Fresh rosemary will last about 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator, while dried and ground rosemary will last about one to three years.
Sage: Fresh sage will keep about 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator, while dried sage leaves will last about one to three years. Ground sage will last about three to four years.
Salt: Table salt keeps indefinitely, just like kosher salt and sea salt.
Steak Seasoning: Bottled or bulk steak seasoning will last about one to two years.
Taco Seasoning: Packets of taco seasoning will last about two to three years.
Thyme: Fresh thyme will last about 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator, while ground and dried thyme will last about three to four years.
Turmeric: Ground turmeric will last about three to four years.
Tea – Tea has its own expiration date, like other beverages, and because of this tea can become expired, losing its natural aroma and taste as the natural oils in the tea leaves evaporate with time. When stored properly in a freezer, tea can last up to 2 years past its expiration date.
Juice – Unopened refrigerated orange juice has an average shelf life of one to two weeks. Once opened, it lasts between five and seven days. You will typically know that your orange juice is sour even before you look at its stamped expiration date, since it may start to ferment or form mold. In either case, it’s time to dump it.
And remember, freshly squeezed juice isn’t pasteurized. It can become contaminated with bacteria in as little as 48 hours! If your juice is discolored or smells sour, toss it out (and definitely get rid of it if you see mold).
Soda – In many places, you can find people suggesting that soft drinks last about 6 to 9 months past the date on the label. That’s a pretty good estimate. Of course, you might open a can of Coca Cola that’s “expired” for over a year, and it’s still good. Or a bottle of Pepsi that’s only a month “old” that lost most of its fizz. There are no hard and fast rules here.
Once you open the drink that’s months past the date on the label, look for typical signs of spoilage, like an off odor, or changed color. Chances of that happening are slim to none, but hey, it’s always better to check.
If everything with the liquid seems to be okay, give it a taste to find out if it’s good enough to drink. If it’s flat or just doesn’t taste that great, it’s probably best to pour it down the drain.
Baking Soda – Baking powder usually has a shelf life of about 9 to 12 months. Testing it is super easy. Just stir about half a teaspoon of baking powder into a cup of hot water. It will immediately start to fizz and release carbon dioxide gas if it’s still fresh enough to use. This trick should work with both single- and double-acting powder.
Peanut Butter – The shelf life depends on a variety of factors such as the best before date, the preparation method and how it is stored. Oxidation can cause it to go rancid, which means that the taste changes and it begins to give off a particular odor that may not be appetizing to all.
The more oxygen the peanut butter is exposed to over its lifetime, the more its taste and smell are spoiled and it becomes unfit for use.
There is, however, a natural guard against this. The vitamin E present in the peanut butter acts as an antioxidant and helps prolong its shelf life, according to a senior scientist from England.
Usually, this process does not begin until about nine to 12 months from purchase. This is why the jar comes with a “Best if used by” date on its label.
If it has gone bad, it will tend to be dry and hard. The shade may be a tad darker and its pleasant aroma changes to a rancid one. If any of the above are seen, it is best to toss the jar in the bin.
Maple Syrup – Unopened it can stay indefinitely. Opened in the fridge it can stay up to a year without spoilage. Spotting spoiled maple syrup isn’t that hard. Signs of mold are the first indication that the syrup is spoiled.
Some people just remove the mold and boil the syrup while pouring the rest into a clean container. While you can do this, I wouldn’t. It can be risky.
Another sign of something going bad is that is smells off, giving off a sour smell (fermentation) or yeasty or just wrong. If that’s the case definitely toss it away.
Canola Oil – When stored properly, opened canola oil can last up to a year but if not closed securely this type of oil can go rancid long before that. Keep it in a cool, dry location away from the stove. Warm environments will give this oil an unpleasant flavor and aroma.