Consult these storage techniques and guidelines* before cleaning out your pantry.

By Elizabeth Passarella
Updated March 15, 2012
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Jamie Chung

Most of these items, once open, can be kept at room temperature in their original packaging in the pantry. Exceptions include baking goods in bags, such as flour, sugar, and cornmeal, which should be transferred to airtight containers as soon as you bring them home, and dry items, such as grains and rice, which should be transferred to airtight containers once open (see below). For items with active ingredients, like baking powder and yeast, follow the use-by dates.

Baking mixes

such as brownie and cake mixes

Pantry: 1½ years

Baking powder

Pantry: 6 months (unopened); until the use-by date (open)

Baking soda

Pantry: 1½ years (unopened); until the use-by date (open)

Note: If you keep baking soda in the refrigerator as a deodorizer, replace it in 1 month or by the use-by date if that comes first.

Beans, canned

Beans, dried

Pantry: 2 years

Bread crumbs

Pantry: 6 months (dried); 2 months (panko)

Freezer: 6 months (dried and panko)

Note: Fresh bread crumbs should be kept in the freezer and will last for up to 6 months.

Broth, boxed and canned

Pantry: 5 years (unopened)

Refrigerator: 4 days (open)

Freezer: 3 months (open)

*Real Simple consulted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food scientists, food manufacturers, and a host of other experts—including fishmongers, cheese sellers, coffee roasters, bakers, and bartenders—to establish these storage guidelines. The first consideration was safety. But because you want your food to be delicious, too, for some products, Real Simple chose the conservative storage time for optimum freshness.

Cereal

Pantry: 1 year (unopened); 3 months (open)

Chocolate, bar for baking

Pantry: 6 months

Chocolate chips

Pantry: 1 year

Cocoa

Pantry: Indefinitely (unopened); 1 year (open)

Coconut, shredded

Pantry: 1 year (unopened)

Freezer: 6 months (open)

Coffee, beans

Pantry: 1 year (unopened can); 4 months (unopened vacuum-packed bag); 2 weeks (open)

Note: Do not keep coffee beans in the refrigerator or freezer. Condensation and odors from other foods can damage the flavor.

Coffee, ground

Pantry: 1 year (unopened can); 4 months (unopened vacuum-packed bag); 1 week (open)

Note: Do not keep ground coffee in the refrigerator or freezer. Condensation and odors from other foods can damage the flavor.

Cornmeal

Pantry: 1 year (unopened and open)

Refrigerator: 1 year (unopened and open)

Cornstarch

Pantry: Indefinitely if kept in a dry place

Corn syrup

Pantry: 3 years

Dried fruits

Pantry: 6 months (unopened); 1 month (open)

Flour, white

Pantry: 1 year

Flour, whole-wheat

Pantry: 1 month

Refrigerator: 6 months

Freezer: 2 years

Grains

Pantry: 6 months

Note: Keep unprocessed whole grains, such as wheat berries and hulled barley, in the pantry for 1 month or freezer for 6 months.

Grits

Pantry: 1 year

Herbs, dried

Pantry: 2 years

Oats

Pantry: 6 months

Pancake and biscuit mixes

Pantry: 15 months

Pasta, dried

Pantry: 2 years

Note: Fresh pasta will keep for 2 days in the refrigerator and 2 months in the freezer.

Popcorn, kernels

Pantry: 2 years (unopened); 1 year (open)

Popcorn, microwave packs

Pantry: 1 year

Rice, brown

Pantry: 1 year (unopened); 6 months (open)

Rice, white

Pantry: 2 years (unopened); 1 year (open)

Rice, wild

Pantry: 2 years (unopened); 1 year (open)

Shortening, can

Pantry: 1 year (unopened); 1 year (open; in a cool, dark place)

Spices

Pantry: 3 years (whole, such as nutmeg and cloves); 2 years (ground)

Sugar, brown

Pantry: 4 months (tightly wrapped)

Sugar, confectioners’

Pantry: Indefinitely if kept in a dry place (unopened); 2 years (open)

Sugar, granulated

Pantry: Indefinitely

Sugar substitutes

such as Splenda and Equal

Pantry: 2 years

Tomatoes, canned

Vanilla, pure extract

Pantry: Indefinitely

Yeast, active

Pantry: Until the use-by date (unopened)

Refrigerator: 4 months in an airtight container or until use-by date if that comes first (open)