It's gradually warming up here in Northern Michigan and soon you'll be able to open the windows and let the fresh, Spring air blow out all the stale air accumulated over the winter. Along with a good freshening of floors, windows, bedding, etc., now is also a good time to refresh your kitchen pantry.
Assuming that everything was packaged in air tight containers and kept at a modest temperature, most pantry foods will last at least 6 – 12 months. Even though they have a fairly long expiration, it’s a good idea to check the dates on canned goods, because, let’s face it, who hasn’t discovered a can of beans or soup that got pushed far back on the shelf and was forgotten?
And while you're at it, give the shelves a good wipe down. You probably haven't cleaned the space since you first stocked it, right?
Pantry foods that deserve a Spring check-up:
- Cooking oil: olive oil, especially, does not have a long shelf life which is why it’s better to buy it in small quantities. After 6 months it will start to deteriorate.
- Whole grain flours: If stored in the refrigerator, whole grain flours last a lot longer but if you’ve kept them in the pantry, the oils in them go bad after a couple months. Refrigerated flours are good for up to 6 months.
- Spices: Spices that are ground do not keep their freshness for more than 6 months. If the spices are whole, they will keep a year.
- Frozen foods: The freezer is also a place to check for food past its prime. Although frozen food keeps for a long time, the quality diminishes over time and freezer burn sets in. According to the USDA, processed meats last 2 months, uncooked meat lasts up to 12 months, prepared foods up to 3 months, and vegetables for up to 6 months for best flavor.
- Nuts and nut butters: Nuts and nut butters should be consumed fairly soon after purchasing because the oils in them will go rancid. If kept refrigerated, nuts will keep for 6 months but after that they will start to taste like refrigerator air.
- Dried Beans: Although they will last a long time, the longer they are stored, the longer it takes to cook them, so it’s best not to purchase a lot more than you plan on using up within a few months.
- Brown rice/other whole grains: Did you know brown rice only lasts about 6 months? That’s because it contains oil which oxidizes over time. White rice lasts much longer.