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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Starting your spring cleaning?  Don’t forget your kitchen pantry!

We usually spend all winter long trying not to get sick.  We constantly wash our hands, we pop extra vitamins, and we wear layers of clothing when we go outside.  When spring comes around, most of us go on a cleaning spree trying to rid our homes of the germs and grime that built up over the winter months.  But usually, after months of trying to stay healthy, most of us overlook a prime spot in our homes that can cause illness:  the kitchen pantry!

No one likes to throw food away.  But getting rid of potentially dangerous foods will cause far less damage than eating them.  Just ask anyone who has ever gotten sick from eating spoiled food!  

Here is a quick guide to cleaning your pantry:

Food Category

When to Toss

Storage Tips

Canned Goods (unopened)

After 2 years or sooner if can is dented, leaking, rusty or bulging.  Cans whose “use by” date has passed should also be discarded. 

Store in a cool, dry placeWrite the date on cans and other packages when you bring them home from the grocery store so you always know how long something has been lurking in your pantry.

Frozen Vegetables

After 8 months

For maximum storage life, always set freezer at 0 F

Frozen Meats

Beef steaks and roasts, whole chickens/turkeys, shrimp, & chicken/turkey parts: After 12 months
Pork & veal roast: After 8 months
  Cooked chicken: After 6 months
Other cooked meats & ground beef: After 3 months 

Use a permanent marker to date foods as you place them in the freezer so that you can be sure you are following these guidelines

Oils

After 1 year of purchase or harvest date as suggested by most oil manufacturers (check labels for a stamped harvest date).  Nut & seed oils should be discarded 6 months after purchase date.

Store in a cool, dark place.  Choose small opaque or dark-colored containers.  If the oil has an off smell or the oil is sticky (you have a hard time opening the cap), throw it out.

Nuts

6 months after opening (when kept in the refrigerator or freezer).  Or by the “use by” date on the package.

Store in the refrigerator or freezer

Flour

Whole Wheat flour: 1-3 months at room temperature, 6 months in the refrigerator, 12 months in the freezer
White Flour: 6-12 months at room temperature, 2 years in the refrigerator, indefinitely in the freezer

After buying flour, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer.  Bring to room temperature before baking.

Baking Soda/Baking Powder

Baking soda:  After 6-12 months
Baking Powder: After 18 months

Keep these items cool & dry. Write the dates you open these items on packages.

Herbs/Spices

Seasonings generally don't go bad, but they can lose potency.  After buying, use within 6 months to 1 year for the best flavor

The potency of whole spices generally lasts longer than that of ground spices.  Store away from sunlight and heat.

Condiments (ketchup, mustard, maple syrup, etc.)

Look for “use by” dates on most condiment containers.  Usually once they are opened, condiments should be consumed within 6 months.

Hot sauces and honey usually last up to 5 years at room temperature after being opened.

Vinegar can be stored at room temperature and can be used indefinitely.

Soy sauce, ketchup, barbecue sauce, pickles, etc. all need to be refrigerated after opening.

This guide is helpful, but remember this saying “when in doubt, throw it out”!  Don’t put yourself at risk by eating something that is potentially spoiled because you don’t want to “waste it”.


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