How to Store Dry Goods
No idea how long that spaghetti or olive oil will last in your pantry? Follow these rules to extend the shelf life of your dry goods -- and save some cash.
Rule 1: Send dry food products to the freezer for a two- to four-week visit.
For items you don't plan to use anytime soon, this “freezer visit" will prevent microscopic bugs from contaminating your goods (gross!) and help them to stay fresh longer. Flour, powdered, granulated and brown sugars, cornmeal, potato flakes, rice, beans, oatmeal, dry cereals and baking mixes that have never been opened should be kept in their original container before being placed in the freezer. But if you've only used half of the Bisquick and now the rest won't be used for a few weeks, place it in a ziplock bag before putting it in the freezer. Following a freezer visit, the shelf life for these staples is one to two years.
Rice mixes, cake mixes, pudding mixes, seasonings and gravy packets can also be placed in the freezer (in their original containers), but the shelf life is generally less than one year, post-freeze. Believe it or not, spices and dry herbs don't last forever, so freezing them is also recommended. Salt, baking powder, cornstarch and baking soda, however, should be transferred to airtight food-safe containers before freezing.
Rule 2: Always allow the product to thaw inside the wrapper in which it was frozen, so it doesn't absorb excess moisture, which can invite mold.
Rule 3: Store properly thawed products in a clean, dry and airtight food-safe container.
Transfer the item to an airtight container as soon as it's completely thawed. There are many different types available, including Lock & Lock, Rubbermaid or Tupperware. Glass jars with rubber seals and rings are also a good choice.
Rule 4: Store in a cool, dry space.
To make them last longer, store dry goods away from direct sunlight in a cool (50 degrees F is ideal), dry spot, where they will stay dry. (So if your basement frequently floods, pick a different spot.)
Nestpert: Cynthia Briggs, author of Pork Chops & Applesauce and Sweet Apple Temptations and owner of PorkChopsandApplesauce.net.