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Kitchen Chart

The shelf life of various pantry staples depends on many factors: the type of food, the packaging, and the temperature at which they're stored. 

Although these elements are largely beyond your control, you can maximize your investment by checking products' expiration dates at the store and rotating the supplies in your cabinet so that the recently purchased items are stored in back (the "first in, first out" rule). 

Below are basic storage guidelines, but you'll still need to rely on old-fashioned common sense: If you're unsure about an item, it's best to throw it out.

For How-To, keep at room temperature unless otherwise noted.

Special thanks to North Dakota State University Extension Service

Baking Powder
Shelf Life: 18 months
How-To: Keep in a dry place, in an airtight container.

Baking Soda
Shelf Life: 2 years
How-To: Keep in a dry place, in an airtight container.

Chocolate (Semisweet, Unsweetened)
Shelf Life: 18 months
How-To: Keep in a cool place.

Cocoa
Shelf Life: 1 year
How-To: Keep in a cool place.

Coconut (Opened)
Shelf Life: 6 months
How-To: Refrigerate after opening.

Coconut (Unopened)
Shelf Life: 1 year

Cornstarch
Shelf Life: 18 months
How-To: Store in an airtight container.

Corn Syrup
Shelf Life: 3 years
How-To: Store in an airtight container.

Flour (White or Whole-Wheat)
Shelf Life: 6 to 8 months
How-To: Store in an airtight container; freeze to extend shelf life.

Gelatin
Shelf Life: 18 months
How-To: Store in original container.

Marshmallows
Shelf Life: 2 to 3 months
How-To: Store in an airtight container.

Milk (Condensed or Evaporated) Unopened
Shelf Life: 1 year
How-To: Refrigerate after opening.

Molasses (Unopened)
Shelf Life: 2 years

Molasses (Opened)
Shelf Life: 6 months
How-To: Store in an airtight container; refrigerate to extend shelf life.

Nuts, in Shell, Unopened
Shelf Life: 4 months
How-To: Freeze to extend shelf life.

Nuts, Shelled, Opened
Shelf Life: 2 weeks
How-To: Refrigerate after opening.

Peanut Butter (Opened)
Shelf Life: 2 to 3 months
How-To: Natural peanut butter must be refrigerated after opening.

Peanut Butter (Unopened)
Shelf Life: 6 to 9 months
How-To: Refrigerate to extend shelf life.

Spices and Herbs, Whole
Shelf Life: 1 to 2 years
How-To: Store in airtight containers in dry areas away from sunlight and heat. Before using, check aroma; if faint, replace. Spices can be frozen to extend shelf life.

Spices and Herbs, Ground
Shelf Life: 6 months
How-To: Store in airtight containers in dry areas away from sunlight and heat. Before using, check aroma; if faint, replace. Spices can be frozen to extend shelf life.

Spices and Herbs, Herb/Spice Blends
Shelf Life: 6 months
How-To: Store in airtight containers in dry areas away from sunlight and heat. Before using, check aroma; if faint, replace. Spices can be frozen to extend shelf life.

Sugar, Brown
Shelf Life: 4 months
How-To: Store in airtight container.

Sugar, Confectioners'
Shelf Life: 18 months
How-To: Store in airtight container.

Sugar, Granulated
Shelf Life: 2 years
How-To: Store in airtight container.

Vinegar, Unopened
Shelf Life: 2 years

Vinegar, Opened
Shelf Life: 1 year
How-To: Keep tightly covered. A slightly cloudy appearance doesn't indicate or affect quality.

Yeast (Dry)
Shelf Life: Check expiration date on package.
How-To: Freeze to extend shelf life.