If you let expiration dates dictate how long you keep your food, you're probably wasting a big chunk of your grocery budget.
“People definitely waste too much food,” says Janice Revell, co-founder of online shelf life guide Still Tasty. “A big, big problem is people throwing food out before they have to.”
The key to extending the shelf life of kitchen staples ranging from flour to mustard is proper storage, says Revell. “People often don’t understand the power of their freezer. Foods that have been frozen properly will stay safe forever.”
Of course, something that has been frozen for years may not taste as great as it once did. Revell has come up with the best tips on how to get the most flavour for your buck out of your go-to kitchen staples.
LOOK: 15 foods and do and don't expire:
When Do These Foods Expire?
This picnic staple often gets a bad rap, says Janice Revell, co-founder of online shelf life guide Still Tasty. But it actually lasts much longer than most people think. “Mayonnaise will last a long time because it has a relatively high acid content and there are a ton of preservatives put into commercially made mayonnaise,” she says. “Usually it’s going to last at least six months after the date on the container.”
White flour will last for one year in the pantry, while whole wheat flour will last just six months because of its higher oil content, Revell explains. Both freeze quite well for up to two years.
White sugar will be good forever, as long as it doesn't start to crystallize, says Revell. To keep it from crystallizing, keep it tightly sealed in a heavy plastic bag or a sugar canister, she advises.
This breakfast fave will start to lose its texture and flavour about three to four months after it has been opened – and that’s assuming it has been stored properly. Revell recommends keeping the box well-covered to keep your cereal crispy longer.
This sweet treat is another staple that will keep indefinitely if it’s stored properly. “Bacteria really can’t grow on either of those substances (honey and sugar),” Revell points out. If your honey hardens, Revell recommends heating it up to get it back into liquid form again.
Every type of rice will keep indefinitely except for brown rice, says Revell. “It’s got a much higher oil content. It will last for six months before it starts to taste different,” she explains.
Dry pasta is a common culprit when it comes to foods that are thrown out prematurely, says Revell. “Dry pasta will last at least a couple of years,” she says. Just make sure it is wrapped up well to keep out things like dust and insects.
\Java is the one staple that people most likely aren’t tossing before they have to. Revell says once it’s ground, coffee will start to lose its flavour after just one-to-two weeks in your pantry. “This is a question of quality, not safety,” she points out. She recommends freezing it to preserve its rich flavour.
Revell notes that eggs have a very long shelf life, typically lasting three to four weeks after the date on the package
“If you’re dealing with something with a high fat content, then you’re looking at two-to-three months in the freezer,” says Revell. “The issue is quality. With ground beef and bacon, you’re going to have more problems with the texture and the taste because of the fat content.”
Tomato-based soups will last about 12 to 18 months in an unopened can. After that, the colour, texture and taste will start to change because of the acid, Revell warns. Soups that don’t have an acidic base will last three-to-five years – just make sure the can isn’t damaged, she advises.
Put this sandwich staple in the fridge to keep it fresher longer, Revell advises – especially if it’s all-natural and doesn’t have any preservatives in it.
For best results, keep the opened ketchup bottle in the refrigerator. It will only last about one month in the pantry, or six-to-eight months in the refrigerator, Revell says.
Plain beans, without anything acidic like tomato paste in the mix, will retain their flavor for three-to-five years in the pantry in an unopened can, Revell says.