Originally posted in January 2014 on myRegence.com
It seems our pantries have become black holes. Stuff gets put there with good intentions of using it, but then we forget and it just sits there for the next several years. Has this ever happened to you? If so, here are some suggestions for keeping your pantry fresh and up to date.
Instead of having a multitude of partially opened bags, jars, and containers with various mystery contents, why not try some glass of plastic containers? I buy several sizes of old fashioned glass storage jars with the round rubber seals. I place a washable label on the front and use an erasable pen to label each jar’s contents. Not only do they look nice in the pantry and keeps things fresh, but everything is easy to find!
Use for dried goods such as: beans, nuts, cereals, fruits, rice, pasta, flours, and sugars
One of the best ways to use things in your pantry is to plan your meals. Yes, I know this takes some time and brain power, but it’s worth it. At home, we plan the food for the upcoming three or four days. This way we make sure the fresh stuff in the refrigerator gets eaten – and the stuff in the pantry. Plus, it means no more wasted food. You paid for it, why not eat it?
Okay, confession time. How long have you had those spices in your pantry? A couple weeks? A couple months? A couple years? Ground spices tend to lose their flavor and aroma within six months. Whole spices are usually good for one to two years. So should you throw out all those old spices you haven’t used? No! They’re still good, so use them in your dishes.
The next time you need to buy spices, may I suggest the bulk section? Not only does it save money, but the spices are fresher and you can buy just what you need. But instead of having a bunch of little plastic baggies floating around, simply reuse your existing spice jars. Personally I prefer dark or opaque containers to keep out the light, but if all you have are the glass kind, just make sure they’re in the dark.
When storing flours, sugars, baking agents (baking soda and baking powder), keep them in tightly sealed containers. Make sure you label your baking agents with a date – when kept too long, they can lose their effectiveness. If you keep a lot of whole grain flours on hand, those are best kept in a sealed container either in the refrigerator or freezer.
Oils have a tendency to go rancid, especially when exposed to heat and light. So to make them last longer, keep them in the darkest part of your pantry. Oils that are first pressed (like extra virgin olive oil) don’t last as long and vegetable or filtered olive oils. I’ve found oil usually lasts between 6 months and a year, but a lot depends on the type of oil.
To check for rancidity, heat a small amount of oil in a pan. If it smells funny, it’s best to discard the oil. It won’t make you sick, but it will make your food taste bad!
So now that you’re armed with the knowledge, don’t you feel inspired to do a little cleaning? I know I do. And if you have questions about specific pantry ingredients and how long they keep, just post a comment below!