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14 Pantry Items You’re Keeping Way Too Long

Generally, pantry items can be stored for quite a long time, some even for years. However, the long shelf life is not in all instances an indication that the product is still good for consumption. The fact that pantry items have altered might not be as clear as in the case of dairy such as milk and cheese; but you should still pay attention when using them, especially the ones that have been sitting on the shelves of your pantry since forever.

That being said, take a closer look at the following pantry items you’re most likely keeping for too long.

Photo by Kristen Prahl on Shutterstock


Whole grains such as quinoa can last for quite some time, depending on their fat content. But nothing lasts forever, and in the case of quinoa, air, moisture and heat can cause quite the damage. These three elements destroy the healthy oils in quinoa, making them rancid and stale.

As explained by the Whole Grains Council, “grains should always look and smell faintly sweet or have no aroma at all”. If the quinoa in your pantry smells oily or musty, then you’d better throw it away.


Ground spices have many positive effects due to their antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Although they can last for a couple of years, they lose their properties if you use them at the end of their shelf life. Consuming them will not cause any irreparable health damages but don’t expect any flavored foods anymore.

To identify the spices that are not good anymore, just taste and smell them to check if they are still fresh. It’s that easy.

Read also: Most Americans Don’t Know They Can Freeze These 5 Foods

Baking powder

Similar to ground spices, baking ingredients also have a long shelf life. But just like spices, baking powder and baking soda will lose their leavening properties. This means your baking goods will not be as airy and fluffy. How to tell if your baking ingredients can still be used? Try mixing baking powder with hot water and baking soda with vinegar. If they become foamy and bubbly, the ingredients are still fit for purpose.

Graham crackers

Once you open a bag of crackers, you either finish it in one go or throw it away. On the other hand, left unopened, a bag of graham crackers can last up to ten months. Unfortunately, even if unopened, some types of graham crackers can become stale.

The best way to keep crackers as fresh as possible is to keep them in airtight containers.

Nuts and seeds

Almonds and peanuts have to be consumed in several weeks, maximum a few months. As explained by Tryg Siverson, chef and co-founder of Feel Good Foods, “nuts and seeds typically have a high amount of oil in them and that oil will start to go rancid after a couple of months in your pantry”.

To make sure your nuts and seeds have not gone rancid, check for grassy-like smells or oily aspect. To preserve their freshness for an even longer period of time, store the nuts and seeds in small bags and put them in the freezer. This way, they can last for a whole year.


Cereals are among the pantry items that can go a long way. However, if open, a box of cereals can easily go rancid and stale. The expiration date depends on the type of cereals in the box. For instance, if there are also nuts in there, the product can go bad faster.

If you eat rancid cereals, don’t worry, nothing bad will happen to you other than having an unpleasant taste in your mouth, says Jennifer Kaplan, an instructor at the Culinary Institute of America.


According to Fadi Aramouni, PhD, member of the Food Science Institute, when it comes to candy, the problems are not caused by expiration date but by their quality, of lack thereof. Usually, candies do not go bad that easily, but moisture can affect them nonetheless.

If you want to know how long candies generally last, see the guidelines provided by the National Confectioner Association.

See also: Best 9 Fast Food Breakfasts For People With Diabetes


For a better taste and longer life, beer should be kept in the fridge. If you keep it at room temperature, it won’t taste worse than normal, but it won’t last quite as long. In maximum four months, light, air and heat do eventually find a way through the bottle caps and ruin the beer.

“Non-refrigerated storage accelerates aging and development of off flavors,” warns Cicerone Certification Program, an education service for beer experts.

See also: 10 Non-Food Items That You Should Store In the Fridge

Tea and coffee

If you want your morning tea to continue being flavorful and tasty, make sure you don’t keep the tea bags more than one year in your pantry. This is also valid when it comes to coffee, beans or ground. The tastiest coffee is the one consumed no later than four weeks from the moment you’ve opened the coffee bag, explains Isabel Maples, MEd, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist.

If you’re coffee lover, you might want to take a look at these 8 Signs You’ve Had Enough Coffee for Today.

Canned vegetables

When it comes to canned vegetables, the general belief is that they can last for years and years. However, the more you keep them in your pantry, the mushier they become. Not to mention that they get a metallic taste.

Canned veggies with a high acid content have a shelf life of 12 to 18 months while canned good with a lower acid content can go way longer, but no more than five years (as if that’s not enough). According to Maples, if the can itself has not suffered any dents or is not rusty, canned goods can still be consumed even paste their expiration date.

Photo by Gleb Usovich on Shutterstock

Olive oil

Another pantry item that seems to still look good after a few months in the pantry is olive oil. When unopened, a bottle of olive oil lasts between 18 and 24 months. On the other hand, once you’ve opened the bottle, make sure you use it in maximum six months. After that, expect a foul taste.

To avoid buying and then throwing olive oil bottles, buy smaller recipients that you can use before the oil loses its flavor and properties.

Whole grain flour

Where do you keep the flour? If your answer is in the pantry, then you’re like most people. But guess what? Nutrition experts say that flour should be kept in the fridge or freezer to stay fresh for a longer period of time, namely eight months in the fridge and a year in the freezer.

In terms of expiration date, whole grain flour usually goes rancid faster than white flour, according to Maples. Even if it does not cause any safety issues, it can alter the quality and taste of foods.


When it comes to potatoes, it’s pretty easy to recognize if they’re still good for consumption. They develop sprouts on the skin. That’s your cue that they should no longer be used. If stored properly, they can last for a few weeks: in the fridge, potatoes can last for about two weeks while in the pantry, for about two months.


Garlic is a popular seasoning, and for good reason. Apart from its strong aroma and flavor it adds to foods, garlic also comes with important health benefits. To make the most of its properties, it’s important that you store it properly in cool, dark places, at a temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. And do not keep it longer than three to five months, otherwise, you’ll find it all shriveled or with sprouts all over, says University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources.


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