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Food Storage Guide

FRUITS

BANANAS

REFRIGERATE IT: Optional after ripe              AT FRESHEST: Less ripe, 5 to 7 days; ripe, 1 to 2 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Remove any plastic wrapping. Store on the counter at room temperature, away from other fruit (unless you’re trying to ripen those fruit). Once ripe, you can store them in the refrigerator. The skin may darken, but the banana will be just right for several days.

FREEZING: Bananas can be frozen with or without the peel, but the peel can be difficult to remove when frozen. It’s best to peel them and store in an airtight container. If leaving the peel on, place loose in the freezer and, when ready to use, cut off both ends and slide a knife under the peel to loosen.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Browning or spotted bananas are perfectly fine to eat. Bruised parts of bananas may be easily cut away or used. Very brown or nearly black bananas and frozen bananas are great for baking quick breads, muffins, or cakes.

APPLES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes AT FRESHEST: Up to 6 weeks in the refrigerator, longer in a root cellar environment

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a breathable bag in the low-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Handle carefully to prevent bruising, and separate any with bruises from other apples (or they will cause others to brown). Apples ripen 6 to 10 times faster at room temperature. For large quantities, store in a cardboard box covered with a damp towel in a root cellar or other cool place. Ideally, you would wrap each apple individually in newspaper to reduce their influence on each other. Many heirloom varieties are not suited for long-term storage, so try to eat them right away.

FREEZING: Can be frozen raw or cooked, with or without sugar. Raw—Wash, peel (if desired), core, and slice. To prevent browning, either blanch for 1½ to 2 minutes or sprinkle with lemon juice. Then choose between (1) packing dry with ½ cup/100 g sugar per 1 qt/1 kg of apples; (2) packing in 40 percent syrup; or (3) placing directly on a baking sheet and freezing, then transferring to an airtight container. Cooked—Cook, cool, and pack in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: To prevent apple slices from browning, toss them with one part citrus juice and three parts water. Mealy or wrinkled—Cook! Even shriveled apples can be cooked into applesauce, apple pies, apple crisps, etc. A few bruises are fine and can be cut out; if the whole fruit is soft or mushy, however, discard. Use apple peels to make a tea, flavor fresh water, make a jelly or syrup, or in smoothies.

AVOCADOS

REFRIGERATE IT: After ripe                AT FRESHEST: Whole, after ripe, 2 to 5 days in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the counter until ripe, then refrigerate loose. Place in a closed paper bag to accelerate ripening (adding an apple or banana will make them ripen even faster). Do not refrigerate before ripe, or they will never ripen. Store avocado-based products such as guacamole with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the food to avoid browning.

FREEZING: Peel, purée, mix in 1 Tbsp lemon juice per avocado, and pack into an airtight container, leaving ½ in/12 mm at the top for expansion.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If you find that an avocado is not ripe enough after you’ve cut it open, sprinkle the surface with lemon or lime juice, close it back up around the pit, wrap tightly, and place in the refrigerator. Check periodically to see if it has ripened enough to eat. To prevent browning once cut, close the avocado back up around the pit or sprinkle with lemon or lime juice and place in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If your avocado or guacamole has turned brown, skim off the brown (oxidized) parts. Parts that are green are still edible (so are the brown parts, but they may not taste as good).

BERRIES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, 2 to 3 days; blueberries, 10 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Blueberries—Store either in their original container or in a covered bowl or container.

Raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries— Store on a shelf in the refrigerator in a single layer in an aerated container on a tray lined with cloth, and then cover loosely with another cloth. If space is constrained, add second and third layers with cloths between them. For strawberries, leave the green caps on until ready to eat. (The green caps are edible, but not that tasty. It’s no problem to leave them on when making smoothies.)

FREEZING: Blueberries— Rinse, dry, and pack loosely into rigid airtight containers.

Raspberries and blackberries— Rinse, dry, place separated on a baking sheet, and freeze, then transfer to airtight containers.

Strawberries— Rinse, dry, remove stems, place uncovered with cut side down on a baking sheet lined with wax paper, and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container.

Many recipes don’t require thawing the berries; if a recipe does require thawing the berries, let them sit at room temperature for an hour or so. If necessary, transfer to a colander to drain. You can capture the juice and use it to flavor drinks or for other recipes.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If a small amount of berries in a container show mold, do not discard the entire container. Pick through the container and throw away those that are obviously bad. Do this as soon as possible to prevent mold from spreading. To bring out the flavor of lackluster berries, put them in a bowl (hull and slice strawberries first), sprinkle with a little sugar, and let sit for 15 minutes. The sugar will draw the moisture from the berries to make a sweet natural syrup.

CITRUS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: Counter, 4 to 5 days; refrigerator, 3 to 8 weeks

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store loose in the low-humidity crisper drawer. Do not put in a plastic bag or airtight container. Peeled or cut oranges should be refrigerated in an airtight container or bag. If you have a citrus tree, the best way to store is to leave the fruit on the tree until you are ready to use. Citrus can stay good for months on the tree.

FREEZING: Rinse, peel, divide into sections, and remove seeds and membranes. Slice if desired. Then pack in 40 percent syrup. Citrus can be frozen in water or juice without the sugar, but may have a less desirable texture and color and will take longer to thaw. Navel oranges can become quite bitter when frozen.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Citrus can be ripe even if the rind is still green in places.

The inside of citrus may be good even if the peel shows signs of damage. Open and investigate before tossing. Fruit that has slight discoloration, normally a small amount of brown around the seeds, is usually acceptable to eat.

Peels/rinds— Often called “zest,” the outer portion of citrus peels can be used to flavor soups, stews, or pasta sauces. Use a vegetable peeler to pull strips of zest (the thin, colored outer portion of the peel) off the fruit, arrange on a plate, and let dry (in non humid weather, this should take 1 to 2 days). Then store in a jar in the pantry. The strips can also be candied and, in China’s Sichuan province, are pickled. Citrus peels have numerous uses around the house, such as to make cleaning supplies.

GRAPES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 2 weeks

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Keep unwashed bunches (grapes still on their stems) in a paper or breathable bag on a shelf in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Wash, dry, place separated on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer into an airtight container. A single grape cluster can also be frozen whole.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If a small amount of grapes in a container show mold or are wrinkled, do not discard the entire container. Pick through and throw away those that are obviously bad. Do this as soon as possible to prevent mold from spreading.

The powdery white coating on grapes is called bloom and is a naturally occurring substance that protects grapes from moisture loss and decay. Frozen grapes are their own mini-sorbet bites. This is a fantastic thing to do with grapes that you might not get around to eating in time.

MELONS

REFRIGERATE IT: After ripe    AT FRESHEST: Whole, 5 to 15 days, depending on ripeness; cut, 3 to 5 days in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: If unripe, store whole in a cool, dry place out of sunlight. Once ripe, store on a shelf in the refrigerator. Refrigerate cut melon, regardless of ripeness, wrapped or in airtight container. If possible, do not remove the seeds from the remaining sections of cut melon, as they keep the flesh from drying out. For watermelons, avoid storing them near apples, bananas, peaches, and avocados unless trying to ripen quickly.

FREEZING: Remove the rind and cube the flesh. Place separate on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container. Frozen melons are best used straight from the freezer in smoothies, margaritas, or other blended drinks.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Melons often have discoloration or deformed husks/rinds. This is no reason to discard them—check the inside before throwing a melon away. Melons that have spoiled often have an unpleasant odor and are overly soft.

The white part of watermelon rind can be pickled—an old favorite in the Southern United States. Watermelon seeds, even the black ones, are edible and can be toasted as you would pumpkin seeds for a nutritious snack. Melons should be washed before eating, even though the rind is not eaten.

PEARS

REFRIGERATE IT: After ripe                AT FRESHEST: After ripe, 5 days in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Leave firm, unripe pears at room temperature to ripen. Place in a closed paper bag to hasten ripening, with apples or bananas to hasten them even more. Not all pears change color when they ripen, but they will give to gentle pressure at the stem when they are ripe. Once ripe, refrigerate loose in the low-humidity drawer. Bring back to room temperature before eating for best flavor.

FREEZING: Uncooked pears do not freeze well. They freeze best when cooked in sugar syrup. Wash, peel, core, and boil in a 40 percent syrup for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, cool, and place, covered with syrup, in an airtight container. Leave ½-in/12-mm headspace. A small piece of crumpled water-resistant paper on top will help hold the fruit down.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Brown spots on peels are natural for some varieties and can be eaten. Browning flesh after a pear is cut is simply oxidation and will not affect taste or quality. To keep pears from browning, dip them in a solution that is half water, half lemon juice. Some pear varieties, such as Bosc and d’Anjou, remain firm and are better for cooking. Asian pears are particularly susceptible to bruising and are thus often sold in protective sleeves. Pears that are overripe or damaged can still be used in baked goods and sauces. Pears can be substituted for apples in most recipes.

STONE FRUITS

REFRIGERATE IT: After ripe AT FRESHEST: After ripe, 3 to 7 days in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. If unripe, store at room temperature out of sunlight. Place in a closed paper bag to hasten ripening. Once ripe, refrigerate loose in the low-humidity drawer or in an open paper bag with nothing stacked on top. Peaches, nectarines, and apricots will become mealy if left in the refrigerator too long. Most cherries are sold already ripe, so you may want to refrigerate immediately.

FREEZING: You have your choice with stone fruit. You can freeze them raw (whole, in halves, or in slices) or cooked. In most cases, you’ll want to remove the pits. Blanch to remove the skins and dip in a lemon juice solution (1 Tbsp lemon juice in ¼ cup/60 ml water; optional) to prevent darkening. Then either (1) place directly on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to airtight container; (2) place in airtight container, cover with juice or 30 to 40 percent syrup, then seal, leaving ½- to 1½-in/12-mm to 4-cm headspace, depending on the container; or (3) pack into containers, layering with sugar and leaving ½- to 1½-in/12-mm to 4-cm headspace.

To freeze cherries, wash, pit, dry, place separated on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container. To defrost whole fruit, place in cold water until the skins slide off. Then slice and serve. Cherries frozen whole can be soaked in a bowl of cold water. Defrost cooked preparations in the refrigerator or microwave.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Remove bruises; the rest of the fruit can be used.

To prevent browning in stone fruits, toss with some lemon juice after slicing. The outer shell of the pits can be used to infuse just about any liquid—water (for tea or sorbet), dairy (for cakes or ice cream), or liquor—with a mild fruit flavor. To make a simple syrup, bring 2 cups/240 ml water to a boil with 2 cups/200 g sugar and 1 cup/100 g pits. Let cool and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks. Enjoy in cocktails or sauces.

Inside the pits, there is a kernel that looks like an almond. This “noyau,” as it’s called by the French, contains the dangerous chemical hydrogen cyanide, but can be roasted and then used to impart a bitter almond (marzipan) flavor. It is used in Europe in small amounts to flavor marzipan and amaretto dishes and also to make crème de noyaux liqueur. If you want to use this part of the fruit, be sure to check a recipe from a verified source to be sure you are doing so safely. (Some of the apricots grown in the Himalayas have kernels that can be eaten raw, just like almonds, but most cannot.)

TROPICAL FRUITS

REFRIGERATE IT: After ripe

AT FRESHEST: Whole, 2 to 3 days past ripe on counter; 5 to 7 days in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: If unripe, store whole on the counter at room temperature. Once ripe, store loose on a refrigerator shelf or in the low-humidity drawer. If cut, place in an airtight container. Mangoes and papayas are often already ripe when sold, in which case refrigerate immediately. Pineapples will turn gold and then almost brown, but their sugars do not increase or ripen further.

FREEZING: Peel and cut into chunks. Place separated on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If a fruit is bruised or damaged, refrigerate it rather than leaving it at room temperature.

Papaya seeds can be dried and used as a mildly mustardy seasoning. Green papaya and green mango can be used in salads, eaten fresh, or pickled. Overripe mango can still be used in chutney.

Brown or black areas inside a pineapple are caused by over chilling—cut them out and enjoy the rest. Use the scooped-out shell of pineapple as a serving bowl for fruit salads or pineapple fried rice.

COCONUT MILK

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, once opened                AT FRESHEST: Opened, 4 to 6 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a covered airtight container. Do not store metal cans in the refrigerator or freezer.

FREEZING: Coconut milk can be frozen, but its consistency may change. Use frozen coconut milk for smoothies or other dishes that don’t rely on its consistency. Freeze in zip-top freezer bags or in ice-cube trays, then pack frozen cubes into a freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Coconut milk has many recommended beauty uses, such as hair conditioner, and moisturizer when added to bath water.

COFFEE

REFRIGERATOR: No                AT FRESHEST: Room temperature, up to 2 weeks; freezer, 1 month

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Purchase only as much coffee as you will use within two weeks to experience it at its top quality. Store in an airtight glass or ceramic container in a dark, cool location. If purchased in larger quantities, freeze a portion of it.

FREEZING: Wrap weekly portions in zip-top freezer bags. Putting coffee back in the freezer once it’s been taken out is not recommended because the change in temperature (and thus moisture) destroys its integrity.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Coffee beans that are past their prime can be put into the bottom of vases of flowers or underneath tea lights in votive holders as decoration.

Place an open bowl of coffee beans in your refrigerator to reduce unwanted odors (do not plan on using the beans to make coffee to drink after this).

Rub your hands with coffee grounds to reduce lingering odors of garlic, salmon, and cilantro. Used coffee grounds can be turned into soil as fertilizer (in small amounts), or used to scour caked pans. It can also be used to dye paper: Pour hot coffee into a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm glass container, and soak up to three pieces of paper at a time; allow to dry fully.

HONEY

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: A few years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a sealed container away from direct sunlight in a cool, dark, dry place (as cold as 50ºF/10ºC). Storing honey in the refrigerator accelerates crystallization.

FREEZING: Store in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Crystallized or granulated honey is still good! To re-liquefy, take off the lid and place the container upright in a pan of warm water for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it’s in a plastic container, it’s best to place it in a glass container before heating in the water. If not possible, be sure that the water is only warm and not hot to avoid any negative effects from heating plastic.

MAPLE SYRUP

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, once opened

AT FRESHEST: Room temperature, unopened, 2 years; refrigerator, open, 1 year; freezer, indefinitely

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

FREEZING: Pure maple syrup, properly made, should not actually freeze, making the freezer a great place to store it as it will keep indefinitely. Store in an airtight container. Mix in any condensation on the top before use, and place back in the freezer after thawing, if desired.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Maple syrup is graded according to color, sugar content, and flavor. Grade A is lighter and more delicately flavored and is typically poured directly onto foods, while Grades B and C are stronger in flavor and are used more for cooking and baking. Maple syrup adds a nice richness to everything from Asian stir-fries to salad dressing. Try it in place of other sweeteners.

MAYONNAISE

REFRIGERATE IT: After opening          AT FRESHEST: Commercial, unopened, 2 years; opened, 2 to 3 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Commercial mayonnaise uses pasteurized eggs and has a high acidity level, which means it’s in fact safe when stored at room temperature. However, quality and flavor are improved by keeping the jar in the refrigerator once opened.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If the oil in mayonnaise has crystallized, stir gently and add a few drops of water, if necessary, to re-emulsify it.

NUT BUTTERS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              FREEZING: Not recommended.

AT FRESHEST: Commercial, opened, 6 months; natural, opened, 3 months; unopened, 2 years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Commercial nut butters can be kept in a cool, dry spot in the pantry but will last twice as long if kept in the refrigerator. Natural nut butters, once opened, should be stirred and then stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Over time, the oils in natural nut butters may separate into a layer at the top of the container. This is a natural process that does not affect the quality. Simply stir the oil back into the butter. Do not drain it off, as it will cause the butter to be overly dry.

Commercial peanut butter may be edible for much longer than listed here, but the quality will degrade. Nut butters that have spoiled will smell “off” and should not be consumed.

VEGETABLES

PARSNIPS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 3 to 4 weeks

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Wash, peel and chop (if necessary, chop out the hard core), blanch, immerse in ice water, dry, and pack into an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Young parsnips and parsnips without a waxed coating do not need to be peeled, just washed well. If you scratch the peel with your fingernail and notice a waxy residue, peel the parsnip and discard the peels.

Parsnips are very sweet and can be grated and used in cakes and breads.

ARTICHOKES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 1 week

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Slice a small bit off the end of the stem and sprinkle just that end with water. Then store in an airtight container in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Cooked artichokes should be cooled completely and then stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

FREEZING: Trim tops, rub cut surfaces with lemon to prevent browning, and boil until “al dente” in water flavored with lemon juice. Thoroughly drain upside down. Place upside down on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container. Artichokes can also be blanched, with lemon juice in the water, but it can be difficult to make sure the core of large artichokes is blanched without cooking the outsides completely. Do not freeze raw.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Outside leaves may be bronzed due to frost. This discoloration is cosmetic only and does not affect the edibility.

Dried whole artichokes are often used in dried floral arrangements.

ASPARAGUS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 3 to 5 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Either put bundled stalks upright in a bowl or dish with 1 in/2.5 cm of water and place on a refrigerator shelf (best) or wrap the cut ends in a moist paper towel and put in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Asparagus toughens quickly when not chilled, so be sure to refrigerate it as quickly as possible.

FREEZING: Blanch, immerse in ice water, dry, place separated on a baking sheet to freeze, then transfer spears to an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: To remove the tough parts of asparagus spears, bend them until the stiff portion snaps off.

To use the woody ends that are removed, peel them and slice into small rings to use in cooking or as part of a soup.

If spears have started to wilt, soak them in cold water before cooking, and they should perk up a bit. You can also try adding 2 to 3 Tbsp sugar to the soaking water to restore the sugars it has lost.

BEETS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Beets, 7 to 10 days; greens, 1 to 2 days OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Separate green tops from the beets, leaving 1 in/2.5 cm inch of stem on the beet (otherwise the greens will draw moisture away from the beet). The green tops can be stored separately in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer and used like chard.

FREEZING: Wash, trim off tops, cook fully (25 to 50 minutes, depending on size), cool in ice water, rub away peel, dry, slice or cube or purée, and seal into zip-top freezer bags. If beets seem over mature, freezing can magnify woodiness and is not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Beets are the main ingredient in borscht, a popular Eastern European soup.

Beet peels and shriveled beets can be used for making natural dyes—rub your hands with salt to remove any staining.

Beets can be used to make lip stain and blush.

BROCCOLI

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 5 to 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Refrigerate in the original wrapping or a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer.

FREEZING: Wash, separate into smaller florets, blanch, immerse in ice water, and drain until dry. Lay florets out separately on a baking sheet and freeze, then transfer to an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Eat the stalks! You can grate them and make a slaw, use in a stir-fry, or just chop and cook them like the broccoli tops. Depending on use, it helps to peel off the tough outer skin.

To revive slightly limp broccoli, apply ice directly to the bunches or plunge into an ice-water bath, drain, and place in refrigerator.

BRUSSELS SPROUTS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 10 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store loose Brussels sprouts in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Brussels sprouts on the stalk will last longer than those off the stalk—wrap the bottom of the stalk with a moist paper towel and then plastic wrap and keep it in the refrigerator, space permitting, or in a cold place.

FREEZING: Wash, trim any yellowing outer leaves, blanch, immerse in ice water, drain until dry, and pack into an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Peel away the yellowing outer layers of sprouts; often there is still a significant and beautiful sprout inside. Brussels sprout stalks tend to be too tough and woody to eat (though the thinner end may be tender enough). They can be used in soup stock.

CARROTS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Carrots, 2 weeks, a few months in a root cellar environment; carrot tops, 2 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer or submerged in water on a shelf of the refrigerator. Store cut carrots in water in the refrigerator. Separate green leafy tops, if present, from the roots, leaving 1 in/2.5 cm of stem on the carrots (otherwise, the tops will draw moisture away from the carrots). The green tops can be stored in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer and used like fresh herbs to add color and flavor to dishes.

FREEZING: Remove tops, wash, blanch, cool, chop or purée, and pack into an airtight container. Raw carrots can also be shredded and frozen in zip-top freezer bags and used for baking.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Carrots do not need to be peeled, just washed carefully; however, peeling does remove some bitterness.

Bruised, browning, or damaged carrots can be salvaged by peeling away the external layers and removing the damaged pieces with a paring knife.

The whitish coloring that appears on cut carrots is simply dehydration. Revive limp carrots by placing them in an ice bath in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Limp carrots can be used in soups and stews and stocks. Carrot tops are great additions to soups and stews, or even floral arrangements.

CAULIFLOWER

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 5 to 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in the original wrapping or in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Wash, separate into smaller florets, blanch, immerse in ice water, drain until dry, lay florets out separately on a baking sheet to freeze, then transfer to an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: A yellowish coloring on cauliflower is from exposure to sun while growing and does not affect edibility. Brown spots that appear are normal and harmless when small and light brown in color; if the appearance is not to your liking, use it to make dips and soups. Use the green leaves at the base of cauliflower just as you would cabbage (or just throw into whatever you’re making with the cauliflower).

MUSHROOMS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: Up to 1 week, depending on type

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Mushrooms should be used as quickly as possible after purchase. Do not wash until ready to use. Store in original packaging or in a paper bag on the lower shelf in the refrigerator. For very delicate mushrooms, lay them in a single layer on a tray and cover with a damp cloth. Don’t store mushrooms next to anything strong smelling, as they tend to absorb odors (one of the reasons to use them quickly).

FREEZING: Steam or sauté and then pack into airtight containers. Do not pack raw.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Stems of most common mushrooms can be eaten. Dirty mushrooms can be wiped clean with a delicate cloth. Marinate mushrooms that are on the older side in an oil, vinegar, and herb mixture of your choice.

CELERY

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 2 weeks

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Refrigerate either standing in a jar with water or in a perforated or open plastic bag in the high-humidity drawer.

FREEZING: Celery loses its crispness when frozen but can be used for cooked dishes. Slice to the size you would cook with, blanch, immerse in ice water, drain until dry, and place in an airtight container to freeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Wilted celery can be revived by a 10- to 15-minute soak in ice water; serving celery on ice will also enhance its crispness.

Pitted or discolored surfaces are simply places where oxidation has occurred; they can still be eaten, or pare them away. Celery leaves add great flavor to soups, stews, and stir-fries. Celery bottoms can be planted.

CORN ON THE COB

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: In the husk, 2 to 3 days; husked, 1 to 2 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Eat as soon as possible. (The sugars in sweet corn turn to starch rapidly.) Store in husks if possible in a warmer section (middle or upper shelf) of the refrigerator or, if husked, wrapped in damp cloths in an airtight container.

FREEZING: Remove husks. If freezing on the cob, blanch for 7 minutes; if freezing just the kernels, blanch on the cob for 4 minutes. Chill, drain, and either pack whole cobs into zip-top freezer bags or scrape kernels off the cobs and pack into airtight containers or freezer bags.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Corn cobs can add sweet flavor to soup stock.

Make tea or soup with the husks and silks. Corn with dry, browned, or slightly slimy outer husks is often still good once the husks and silks are removed (but not if the corn itself has slime or mold).

CUCUMBER

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 1 week

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Because their ideal temperature is somewhere between room temperature and refrigeration, cucumbers can be stored in a cool place on the counter or wrapped in a damp cloth and placed in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Do not store near tomatoes, apples, avocados, or bananas. They are best if used within a few days, as more time at low temperatures can damage them.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Peel or cut away any damaged flesh, and serve as usual.

Slightly overripe cucumbers can be bitter, but scooping out the seeds with a spoon before using helps minimize that bitterness. Many times the skin of the cucumber is undesirable, but the inside flesh is perfectly fine. In this case, simply peel the cucumber. Pickle, of course!

EGGPLANT

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: 1 week

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store loose or in a breathable bag in a cool place. Refrigeration can lead to browning and off-flavors.

FREEZING: Wash, peel, slice about ⅓-in/8-mm thick, blanch with ½ cup/120 ml lemon juice per 1 gl/3.8 L water, immerse in ice water, drain, then freeze in airtight container, leaving ½-in/12-mm headspace.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Salt the flesh of older eggplant to remove bitterness.

GARLIC AND SHALLOTS

REFRIGERATE IT: Unpeeled, no; peeled, yes

AT FRESHEST: Unpeeled, a few weeks to several months (garlic will last a bit longer); peeled, up to several weeks

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store unpeeled garlic and shallots in a cool, dark, and dry place in a well-ventilated container such as a basket or mesh bag. Do not store in plastic. To help prevent the heads from drying out, leave the papery skin on and break off cloves as needed. If peeled, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Peel garlic or chop shallots and store in an airtight container. Both will lose crispness when thawed but will retain most of their flavor.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: In gardens, green garlic leaves can be used just like green onions. Similarly, if garlic grows a shoot while in storage, that can be eaten as well. Even garlic flowers are edible and have a mild flavor.

Blend garlic with basil or blanched kale stems and other ingredients to make a pesto, which can be frozen for up to 6 months.

GINGER

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Refrigerate, either unwrapped or in an airtight container, in a dark section of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Freeze whole in an airtight container and cut off slices as needed. The texture will be slightly mushy, but the flavor is fine for adding to cooked dishes.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Grate fresh or frozen ginger into a mug of boiling water and enjoy as a healthful tea.

Ginger does not necessarily need to be peeled before using; if the ginger is young and the skin is very fine and clings to the root, you can skip peeling. The rough and dry spots on ginger are not dangerous; simply cut them away (and use them in tea).

GREEN BEANS, SNAP PEAS, AND FRESH PEAS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 3 to 5 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Green beans and peas are fragile vegetables; they quickly degrade in quality, even at cold temperatures. Store unwashed peas and beans in the refrigerator in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer, but try to eat them as quickly as possible.

FREEZING: Blanch, immerse in ice water, drain until dry, and then place in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If the pods are too tough to eat (this can happen when beans are over mature and bulging from the pods), peas can still be shelled and eaten or refrigerated in an airtight container and used within 2 days.

You can let the shelled peas dry out and save their seeds for planting in your garden.

Although often the ends of the beans are cut off before cooking, they need not be—remove only the stem end and enjoy the rest of the bean. Salvage less-than-ideal green beans by removing any that are soft to the touch or slimy. Wash the remainder in cold water.   Briefly cooking older green beans can enhance their flavor.

GREEN ONIONS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 1 to 2 weeks

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Wash, dry, chop (if desired), and seal in zip-top freezer bags. Will lose crispness but retain flavor.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Soak root ends in cold water for an hour to revive wilting green onions. Browning or dried outer layers can often be peeled away, revealing a fresh green onion that is still fine to eat. Grow new green onions from the sliced-off roots.

GREENS, HEARTY

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 3 to 5 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Remove twist ties and store loosely, with a damp cloth, in an airtight container in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Blanch, immerse in ice water, drain, dry, and then place in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Soak wilted greens in a bowl of ice water for 5 to 10 minutes to revive crispness. Kale stems can be blanched and made into a pesto. They can also be prepared right along with the leaves. Chard stems make a great substitute for celery, particularly in cooked preparations.

GREENS, SALAD

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes  AT FRESHEST: 7 days; head lettuces, such as iceberg, keep longer than leaf lettuces

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store with a damp cloth in an airtight container in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Alternatively, place in a cup with water on the counter, as you would cut flowers. Cover bitter lettuces, such as endive, as they increase in bitterness when exposed to light.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Heads of lettuce that appear rotten can be salvaged by removing several outer leaves and cutting away any bruised parts. Packaged lettuce with a few bad pieces can be saved by removing those pieces and then soaking the rest in ice water for 5 to 10 minutes.

Wilted greens can be soaked in ice water 5 to 10 minutes to perk them up. Yes, lettuce can be cooked! Even older or wilted leaves and packaged mixes. If the outside leaves of a bitter lettuce are too bitter, remove them and try the inner leaves, as exposure to light can increase bitterness.

HERBS, BASIL

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: Up to 1 week

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Trim stem ends and stick the bunch in a tall glass of water, as you would cut flowers. Loosely cover with a plastic bag and keep on the counter, changing the water daily. It can also be stored in the refrigerator by wrapping in cloth and then placing in an airtight container on the top shelf. However, the cold is likely to brown the leaves quickly.

FREEZING: Chop and cover with olive oil or blend with olive oil in a food processor or blender. Freeze in an ice-cube tray, transferring to an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag when frozen. Basil leaves can be frozen on baking sheets and then transferred, but they may blacken. Basil can also be used to make pesto and then frozen.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If wilted, trim stems, then soak in ice water for 15 minutes. Both stems and flowers are edible.

HERBS OTHER THAN BASIL

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: 1 week, depending on the herb (heartier herbs such as rosemary and thyme last longer)

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store loosely wrapped in a cloth in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: For heartier herbs like rosemary, sage, thyme, and oregano, pack into ice-cube trays, filling them two-thirds full, then top the compartments with olive oil or melted butter; cover lightly and freeze, then transfer the cubes to an airtight container.

To freeze without oil, wash, drain, and pat dry with a cloth. Wrap a few sprigs or leaves in freezer wrap and put in an airtight container. The flavor of many herbs is well preserved by freezing (more so than by drying for many), but they may become discolored and limp.

Herbs can be dried in the microwave—a process that, in fact, preserves their flavor better than using ovens or dehydrators. Remove stems, place herbs between two paper towels, and microwave on High (full power) for 1 minute. If not completely dry, continue to cook and check in 20-second intervals. Stop early if you smell burning.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Place fresh herbs in a jar of olive oil and store in the refrigerator for a flavored oil (bring to room temperature before using within 4 days). Strong rosemary stems can be used as skewers for kebabs.

ONIONS

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: Whole, several months; cut, 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store whole onions in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place. Do not store in plastic. Remove onions with mold or other signs of dampness immediately so others aren’t affected. Storing in hanging sacks is a great idea, as it encourages ventilation. Do not store near potatoes; onions will cause the potatoes to sprout. Partially used onions should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, with the peel left on if possible.

FREEZING: Remove the skins and root. Chop and freeze raw. Don’t blanch. Plan to use in cooked dishes when thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Onions sprouting green tops are still safe to eat; simply remove the green sprouts and peel as usual. Use the green sprout as you would a green onion.

If there are layers of onion that are bruised or rotten, peel them away until you get down to a fresh layer. The sliced-off (and cleaned) ends of an onion can be saved and used for soup stock or can be put into a pot of cooking beans for added flavor. Onion peels can be used to make a dye for Easter eggs or even fabric. You’ll get a gold color from yellow onions and a purplish brown color from red onions. The sliced-off root end of an onion can be planted.

PEPPERS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: Whole, 5 to 7 days; cut, 3 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a breathable bag in the low-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Store cut peppers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Wash and core peppers, chop and lay out on a baking sheet to freeze, then transfer to an airtight container. Can also be blanched. Or roast peppers and then flatten them and pack into zip-top freezer bags. Best used for cooked dishes, as crispness can be lost when thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Drying (hot peppers)—If you have a lot, string them up together and hang in a well-ventilated place in the sun as long as the evenings don’t get cool enough to cause dew. Alternatively, use a dehydrator or place in the oven at 120ºF/50ºC for several hours until fully dry.

Green peppers last a lot longer than red peppers, which are fully ripe when picked. All peppers start out green on the plant, then change to red or yellow, purple, etc.

POTATOES

REFRIGERATE IT: No

AT FRESHEST: New potatoes, 2 to 3 days; mature potatoes, 2 to 3 weeks; a few months in a root cellar environment

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store away from sunlight in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place, in a bag with ventilation—mesh, paper, burlap, or perforated plastic.

FREEZING: Not recommended. If you must, you can cook, mash, add 1 Tbsp white vinegar, and place in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Greening potatoes should be peeled deeply or discarded, as the green can indicate natural toxins that are not destroyed by cooking; sprouts should be cut out before using potatoes.

Bruised or damaged potatoes can be salvaged by peeling away outer layers and removing rotting pieces with a paring knife. Potato cooking water can be used to add flavor to yeast breads. If you’ve over salted a soup, cut a boiling potato into slices and add to the pot. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes and remove the potato; it will have absorbed some of the salt.

RADISHES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: Radishes, 1 to 2 weeks; radish greens, 2 to 3 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Separate green tops from radishes (otherwise the greens will draw out moisture). Store radishes in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator, and store the greens as you would other dark greens.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Radish greens are edible and can be eaten in salad or cooked. Peeling radishes is not necessary, but can give them a less peppery taste.

SQUASH, SUMMER

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 5 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a breathable bag in the high-humidity drawer of the refrigerator. Wrap cut ends with damp cloth. Handle carefully, as bruising can reduce vitamin content.

FREEZING: Wash, chop, blanch, immerse in ice water, drain, dry, and then place in an airtight container. Or shred raw zucchini and place in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Peel or cut away any damaged flesh, and serve as usual.

Slightly overripe squash are best served cooked. Grate overgrown squash or squash that has started to go soft for use in baked goods such as muffins and breads. Note that the grated squash can be frozen. Summer squash can be substituted for pickles in some pickling recipes.

SQUASH, WINTER

REFRIGERATE IT: No

AT FRESHEST: At 55ºF/13ºC—Acorn, 1 month; pumpkin and butternut, 2 to 3 months; Hubbard, 3 to 6 months. Life may be somewhat shorter if stored on the counter at room temperature

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store unwrapped in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place (they keep best at around 55ºF/13ºC).

FREEZING: Cook until soft, remove rind, and mash. Allow to cool, then place in an airtight container and freeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: The skins of most winter squash, including butternut and acorn squash, are edible when cooked.

The seeds of winter squash are also edible and can be toasted just as you would pumpkin seeds. The skins can be used to make an edible container for other dishes—fill with desired filling, then bake and serve. Make squash “chips” in the oven. Slice very thin using a mandoline or peeler, toss with olive oil and salt, and bake at 400ºF/200ºC until the chips are curling but not browned, 20 to 35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes—they will crisp the way cookies do after coming out of oven.

SWEET POTATOES

REFRIGERATE IT: No

AT FRESHEST: 1 to 2 weeks if stored at room temperature, 1 month or longer in a root cellar environment

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store in a cool, dark, dry, well-ventilated place—ideally a root cellar with temperatures of 55º to 60ºF/13º to 15ºC. Avoid potatoes with holes or cuts in the skin; this leads to decay that can affect the whole sweet potato.

FREEZING: Cook until almost tender, and let cool. Peel and cut in halves or slices, or mash. Dip in a solution of ½ cup/120 ml lemon juice to 1 qt/1 L water to prevent browning, or if mashing, add 2 Tbsp lemon juice per 1 qt/200 g of sweet potatoes. Place in container with ½-in/12-mm headspace and freeze. Baked sweet potatoes can also be frozen slightly undercooked and wrapped in foil, then put in a container, with final cooking completed when ready to eat.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Sweet potato skins are edible.

TOMATOES

REFRIGERATE IT: No, unless cut

AT FRESHEST: Whole, ripe, up to 3 days at room temperature; cut or nearing overripe, 2 to 3 days in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Store fresh tomatoes on the counter away from direct sunlight, with the stem end up. Storing them on their sides will cause bruising. Refrigeration can cause loss of sweetness and texture but is an option to add a few days of life if nearing overripe; cut tomatoes should be refrigerated. If refrigerating, store in their original container or in a breathable bag in the low-humidity drawer. Let come to room temperature before eating for best flavor.

FREEZING: Freeze raw or cooked in zip-top freezer bags. Frozen whole tomatoes won’t have a great texture once you defrost them, but you can easily turn them into sauce or salsa or soup, where they are mashed up anyway. You can leave the skin on whole tomatoes, because it will come off under cold running water during defrosting. You can also freeze tomato juice, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, and any tomato products, such as salsa.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: To ripen green tomatoes, put them in a brown paper bag with a piece of ripe fruit to initiate the ripening process. Cracked tomatoes can still be eaten. Just cut out and discard the cracked parts and enjoy the rest.

TURNIPS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, unless there is a root cellar

AT FRESHEST: 2 weeks in refrigerator, 2 months in a root cellar environment

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Do not wash until ready to use. Separate from their green tops (otherwise the greens will draw out moisture). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator, unless a root cellar is an option. Store the greens as you would hearty greens in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Wash, peel and chop, blanch, cool, and pack in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Turnip greens are edible. Turnips do not need to be peeled before eating. Turnips can be pickled.

MEAT, POULTRY & SEAFOOD

BACON

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, 7 days; dry-cured, 4 to 6 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen, up to 3 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Original packaging or inside a zip-top plastic bag with air removed.

FREEZING: Unopened—Overwrap store package with heavy-duty foil. Opened—Layer slices between wax or parchment paper, and then wrap tightly a few times with the paper; store in a sealed zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Bacon s’mores, bacon cookies, bacon bits, bacon-wrapped vegetables, bacon cupcakes.

Store bacon grease in a covered container in the refrigerator and, when the mood strikes, use it in cooking. Try rubbing bacon fat onto cleaned russet potatoes before baking; meanwhile, sauté some red onions in bacon fat, then top the potatoes with the onions and crumble on some cooked bacon if you’ve got it.

CANNED FISH

REFRIGERATE IT: Once opened

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 3 years; opened, 3 to 4 days; frozen, up to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Unopened—Cool, dry place. Opened—Covered in an airtight container (not the original can) in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Remove from the can and place in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Feed small amounts to your dog or cat. Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted. Make a tuna melt or a tuna casserole.

CANNED MEAT

REFRIGERATE IT: Once opened (unless label says to store refrigerated)

AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 years; opened, 3 to 4 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Unopened—Cool, dry place.

Opened— Covered in an airtight container (not the original can) in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Remove from the can and place in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Discard cans that are dented, leaking, bulging, or rusted.

Make a “Spamburger” with pineapple, add some Spam to your macaroni and cheese, make some Spam and kimchi fried rice . . .

DELI MEATS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes            AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 weeks; opened, 3 to 5 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store prepackaged meat in original packaging; for meat that is not prepackaged, keep in an airtight container in either the shallow meat drawer or the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Keep in original packaging or wrap tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap or freezer paper and then again in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Thaw in the refrigerator.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Deli meat can be eaten after the “sell by” date, but it’s not a good idea to eat it cold after the “use by” or “best by” date. If it is past that date and still smells and appears fine, cook it thoroughly before eating. Cooked deli meat makes a great breakfast accompaniment for eggs. For some cuts, when a whole slice is cooked, it will form a cup shape that can then act as a “basket” for the eggs.

FRESH FISH

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh— Raw, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 3 to 4 days; frozen raw, 2 to 6 months (lean fish keeps longer); frozen cooked, 4 to 6 months Smoked—2 weeks; frozen, 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Remove from package, remove any guts, and pat dry with paper towels. Place on a cake rack set in a shallow pan for up to 24 hours; fill the pan with crushed ice if it will be stored more than 24 hours. Do not allow ice to come directly into contact with the fish. Cover the pan with plastic wrap or foil, seal tightly, and refrigerate. Each day, rinse the fish under cold water, clean the rack and pan, and change the ice. Smoked fish should be stored in an airtight container on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Pat dry with paper towels. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, squeezing out all the air, then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze. Thaw in the refrigerator.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Fish heads can be used to make fish soup or bouillabaisse. They’re also used in several Asian dishes, such as curries. Fish tacos are a great way to use up leftover fish.

FRESH MEAT

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Poultry, whole cuts—Raw, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 3 to 4 days; frozen raw, 9 to 12 months; frozen cooked, 3 to 4 months

Pork, whole cuts— Raw, 3 to 5 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen raw, 4 to 6 months; frozen cooked, 2 to 3 months

Beef, whole cuts— Raw, 3 to 5 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen raw, 6 to 12 months, depending on cut; frozen cooked, 2 to 3 months

Lamb, whole cuts— Raw, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 4 to 5 days; frozen raw, 9 months; frozen cooked, 2 to 3 months

Ground meats— Fresh, 1 to 2 days; frozen, 3 to 4 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in airtight packaging (it’s best to leave it in the store packaging until first use). Place on a tray if there is a chance of dripping. The longer meat is left warmer than refrigerated temperatures, the more quickly it will spoil. Therefore, shop for it last and go directly home to put it away, if possible. Alternatively, keep a cooler in your car. Freeze unless you plan to use it within a couple of days. Poultry should not be rinsed before use. Cooked meat should be stored in airtight containers.

FREEZING: Divide meat into meal-size portions. If freezing for a short period, one layer of wrapping is sufficient. If freezing for longer than 2 months, wrap in a second layer to prevent freezer burn. The original packaging is often not moisture proof. It’s preferable to rewrap more tightly so that the meat is exposed to less air. If leaving in original packaging, overwrap tightly with heavy-duty foil or freezer paper, or place in a zip-top freezer bag and remove the air. If repackaging, separate portions with freezer paper, wrap again tightly in freezer paper, then place in an airtight container or a zip-top freezer bag with the air removed. An additional layer of heavy-duty foil before putting the wrapped meat in the container is optional and may help if it will be stored for a long period. Thaw in an ice-water bath, a microwave, or the refrigerator.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Portions with freezer burn are not harmful but may be dry and tasteless. If desired, cut out those areas and discard; the rest can be eaten. Bones can be used to make stock or add flavor to beans.

HOT DOGS AND PRECOOKED SAUSAGE

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: Unopened, 2 weeks; opened, 7 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in airtight packaging. (Even though they’re precooked, make sure to heat the sausages thoroughly before consuming.)

FREEZING: Unopened vacuum-packed packages can be stored directly in freezer; otherwise double-wrap tightly in freezer paper or plastic wrap.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Extra sausages are great in soups and chili.

SAUSAGE

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh—Uncooked, unopened, 1 to 2 days; open, 1 to 2 days; cooked, 3 to 4 days; frozen, 1 to 2 months

Dry/cured— Unopened, 6 months in pantry or indefinitely in refrigerator; opened, 3 weeks in refrigerator; frozen, 1 to 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, wrapped tightly in airtight packaging.

FREEZING: Wrap tightly in plastic, and then wrap in white freezer paper.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Combine cooked sausage with rice and spices to make a version of jambalaya, or make stuffed peppers with the mixture.

SHELLFISH

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, 1 to 2 days; shucked, 2 days; cooked, 1 to 2 days; frozen, up to 4 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Live—Place in a bowl on the low shelf in the refrigerator and keep damp with a cloth, but do not allow to come into direct contact with ice or water (for live lobster and crab, store in moist packaging such as seaweed or damp paper towels). Do not store live shellfish in airtight containers or bags, since the animals can die from lack of oxygen. Do not store beneath raw meat, to avoid contamination.

Shrimp Keep in their own containers or in a zip-top bag on a bed of ice in refrigerator. Do not allow ice to come in direct contact with the seafood. Eat as soon as possible.

FREEZING: Live oysters can be frozen live; just wash the shells and place in a plastic zip-top freezer bag. Alternatively, wash the oyster shells, and shuck into a strainer (save the liquor). Rinse to remove sand. Place oysters and liquor in a plastic container or zip-top freezer bag, leaving ½-in/12-mm headspace; seal; and freeze. Do not freeze dead oysters (with open shells). For shrimp, wash and drain, freeze raw with heads removed but shells still on. Package in zip-top freezer bags, leaving ¼-in/6-mm headspace; seal and freeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Do not eat shellfish such as oysters or mussels that have died before shucking (not even if you cook them).

Pulverize oyster shells with a hammer (best to boil the shells and let dry first), then sprinkle around the garden to deter slugs. Oyster shells can also be fed to chickens.

Crab pincers can double as little picks to get the leg meat out of the shell.

PANTRY STAPLES

QUINOA

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: 1 year

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in a dry, dark, cool place, or freeze.

FREEZING: Airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Bake uncooked quinoa into cookies for an added crunch. Leftover cooked quinoa? Make a flourless chocolate cake!

BREAD

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: Counter, a few days; freezer, 6 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: If using bread within 2 days, store at room temperature in a bread box or paper bag to reduce moisture loss while allowing the crust to remain crisp. Do not keep at room temperature in a plastic bag, as this encourages mold. If using beyond 2 days, freeze individual slices, if that’s how you plan to use it. Keep in the refrigerator, well wrapped, only if you plan to toast it.

FREEZING: Wrap tightly in airtight wrapping. Thaw at room temperature or put directly in the toaster or oven.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: As long as it’s not too old, staling can be reversed by toasting or reheating at about 140ºF/60ºC. There are myriad recipes for using stale bread—bread pudding, French toast, bread crumbs, and croutons are some of the most common. Gazpacho uses stale bread as well.

BREAD CRUMBS

REFRIGERATE IT: Not necessarily

AT FRESHEST: Commercial, in pantry, 1 year; fresh, in refrigerator, 1 month; fresh, in freezer, 1 year

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in a cool, dry place.

FREEZING: Airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Discard if moldy. Use bread crumbs as a filler to make meatloaf, hamburgers, or veggie burgers.

FLOUR, WHITE

REFRIGERATE IT: Not necessary                     AT FRESHEST: Pantry, 1 year; refrigerator, 2 years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Opaque, airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. For longer storage, place in the refrigerator (bring to room temperature before using). In all cases, store away from foods with strong odors.

FREEZING: Store in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. Bring to room temperature before using.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Use up your flour by making a pie crust or cookie dough and freeze it for up to 3 months.

Polish copper or brass! Combine equal parts flour, salt, and white vinegar and apply the mixture with a sponge to brass or copper, let dry, then rinse with warm water and buff dry with a cloth.

FLOUR, WHOLE WHEAT

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes; freezer recommended

AT FRESHEST: Opened, in refrigerator, 6 to 8 months; freezer, 2 years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Opaque, airtight, moisture-proof container in the refrigerator or freezer away from foods with strong odors.

FREEZING: Store in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag. Bring to room temperature before using.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Old whole-wheat flour won’t make you ill, but it can go rancid. In order to tell, taste a tiny amount. If it has a strongly bitter taste, it’s likely rancid. Otherwise, it should still be fine to use. Substituting half the required amount of white flour with wheat flour can make any recipe more healthful.

OATS

REFRIGERATE IT: Optional                  AT FRESHEST: 1 year

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in a dry, dark, cool place, or freeze in an airtight container.

FREEZING: Airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Leftover oatmeal can be used to make bread and pancakes, or can be fried into oatmeal cakes. Dried or cooked oats add heartiness and flavor to smoothies.

PASTA

REFRIGERATE IT: All fresh and cooked pasta should be refrigerated; keep dry pasta in the pantry.

AT FRESHEST: Dried, pantry, 2 years; fresh, in refrigerator, 2 days; cooked, in refrigerator, 3 to 5 days; fresh, in freezer, 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store dry pasta in original packaging or an airtight container; wrap fresh pasta in airtight wrapping.

FREEZING: Wrap fresh pasta tightly in airtight wrapping or seal into a zip-top bag. Freezing cooked pasta may alter its texture, so it’s best used in a casserole or baked dish when thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Bake up a pasta dish in a foil-lined pan, then allow to cool and place, covered with parchment paper, in freezer until frozen. Remove the pasta dish from the pan, wrap in more foil, and then seal into a zip-top freezer bag. Keep for up to 2 months; thaw in the refrigerator overnight and pop back into the pan and place in the oven to warm through.

Make pasta salad.

Dried pasta is great for all sorts of children’s crafts.

RICE, BROWN AND WILD

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes                          AT FRESHEST: 6 to 12 months; cooked, 1 week

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in the refrigerator. Brown rice will eventually go rancid because of the oils in its outer hull; this happens more quickly when stored in a pantry.

FREEZING: Cook, cool, spread flat inside large zip-top freezer bags, and squeeze out the air. Pack the bags into an airtight container or larger bag. USE IT UP/REVIVAL: To soften leftover cooked rice that has hardened, add a small amount of water and heat gently. Extra cooked rice can be used to make homemade rice cakes, rice salads, and fried rice.

RICE, WHITE

REFRIGERATE IT: No                           AT FRESHEST: Indefinitely; cooked, 1 week

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in a dry, dark, cool place. Cooked rice should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Cook, cool, spread flat inside large freezer bags, and squeeze out air. Pack the bags into an airtight container or larger bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: To soften leftover cooked rice that has hardened, add a small amount of water and heat gently.

White rice is more shelf stable than brown rice, which is why it was originally invented. Ancient people hulled rice kernels to remove the outer layer that causes rancidity. Without that hull, rice won’t go bad nearly as soon, but it isn’t as nutritious.

SUGAR, BROWN

REFRIGERATE IT: No                           AT FRESHEST: Indefinitely

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Opaque, airtight, moisture-proof container in a cool location.

FREEZING: Necessary only if storing for a very long time or in a very dry area.

Place in an airtight container. Thaw for 2 to 3 hours. If ice crystals form after long freezer storage, gently stir the sugar as soon as it thaws to prevent pockets of moisture from causing damage.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Brown sugar hardens easily. To soften hardened brown sugar, place in a bowl with a slice of bread, an apple slice, or a couple of damp paper towels. Cover tightly, and let sit for about 2 days. Remove the bread or apple or towels after the sugar absorbs the moisture and softens. Stir the sugar with a fork. To soften more quickly, remove from the package and pour into an oven-safe container. Place in a 250ºF/120ºC oven. As soon as it’s soft, measure out the amount you’ll need, as it will quickly harden. Use caution, because it will be very hot

SUGAR, WHITE

REFRIGERATE IT: No                           AT FRESHEST: Indefinitely

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Opaque, airtight, moisture-proof container in a cool, dry location.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: To soften granulated sugar that has caked together, preheat oven to the lowest temperature. Remove the sugar from the package and put in an oven-safe container that will hold the sugar. Place in the warm oven for approximately 15 minutes. Tap the sugar with a spoon. If it starts to fall apart, turn off the oven and leave the sugar in the oven for 1 to 2 hours to completely dry out.

WHOLE GRAINS

REFRIGERATE IT: No                           AT FRESHEST: 6 to 12 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in a dry, dark, cool place, or freeze in an airtight container.

FREEZING: Airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Whole grains are great in kids’ craft projects, such as gluing different grains onto paper to make a mosaic art piece. Make a garland of popped popcorn for your trees; the birds will love it. Make a popcorn ball to prolong the life of popcorn that you’ve popped.

DAIRY, EGGS

BUTTER

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes  AT FRESHEST: Opened, about 3 weeks; unopened, 2 months; freezer, up to 9 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Keep reserves in the freezer. Butter can be kept at room temperature if it will be used up within several days, but only if kept out of the light. If used only occasionally, store in the refrigerator in its original packaging and in the cooler parts of the refrigerator (the top and middle shelves near the back). Butter readily absorbs strong odors and flavors from its surroundings; additional wrapping or storing in a closed container (bag or butter dish) can help prevent this.

Clarified butter or “ghee” keeps three times longer than other butters because the milk solids (which cause butter rancidity) have been removed. Clarified butter is good for cooking but not for use as a spread. It will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

FREEZING: For the best results, freeze fresh butter in its original carton within a zip-top freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: The translucent dark yellow patches on the surface of butter are simply spots that have been exposed to air and dried out. Eat them or scrape off. Save butter wrappers to grease pans or separate homemade burger patties. Store each wrapper, folded onto itself, in the freezer in an airtight container, and use as needed.

CHEESE, HARD

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes                          AT FRESHEST: 1 to 10 months, depending on the cheese

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Buy small amounts of cheese. Cheese is best stored loosely wrapped in wax paper or parchment paper to allow it to breathe, which likely means rewrapping it once you get it home to get it out of plastic wrapping. Wrapping it tightly in plastic traps moisture, thus encouraging growth of bacteria and mold. Store in the refrigerator drawer, if possible, to reduce the chance that the cheese will absorb other flavors. For best taste, allow to warm to room temperature before serving (unless it’s extremely warm out).

FREEZING: Grate or cube before freezing, then seal into a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and use soon there-after; the texture may be compromised, so plan to use for cooking and baking rather than straight eating.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If hard cheese develops a blue-green mold on the exterior, remove ½ in/12 mm below the mold; the remainder will be fine. Use rinds of hard cheeses to flavor soups and stews.

CHEESE, SOFT

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes                          AT FRESHEST: 1 to 4 weeks, depending on the cheese

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Buy small amounts of cheese. Cheese is best stored loosely wrapped in wax paper or parchment paper to allow it to breathe, which likely means rewrapping it once you get it home to get it out of plastic wrapping. Wrapping it tightly in plastic traps moisture, thus encouraging growth of bacteria and mold. Store in the refrigerator drawer, if possible, to reduce the chance of the cheese absorbing other flavors. Strong-smelling cheeses should be wrapped and placed in an airtight container to avoid having their flavor absorbed into other foods. For best taste, allow to warm to room temperature before serving (unless it’s extremely warm out).

FREEZING: Cheese can be frozen but may become crumbly and lose flavor, and is therefore best used in cooking when thawed. Cube before freezing for ease of use. Very soft cheeses such as Brie will not freeze all that well.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Soft cheeses with blue or green molds (that are not intentional as in blue cheese) should be discarded. Take care with unpasteurized cheeses, which carry food safety risks and are not recommended for populations at higher risk for food-borne illness.           Rinds of soft cheeses can often be eaten. Whip small amounts of leftover soft cheeses together with some olive oil to create a delicious whipped cheese dip.

COTTAGE CHEESE

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes                          AT FRESHEST: Unopened, up to 10 days; opened, 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Closed container in the refrigerator.

FREEZING: Not recommended, although dishes that include cottage cheese as an ingredient may be frozen.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Substitute for ricotta cheese in lasagna. Cottage cheese can be used in place of cream cheese or ricotta cheese in dips, casseroles, pancakes, and desserts. Process in a blender if you prefer a smoother texture. Add cottage cheese to custards, pasta sauces, egg dishes, cheesecakes, and all sorts of recipes where cheese or milk would normally be used.

EGGS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, 3 to 5 weeks after sell-by date; freezer, 12 months; hard-boiled, 1 week.

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Keep in a cold part of the refrigerator in their original carton (not in the door, even if there’s a space for them—it is too warm).

FREEZING: Eggs should not be frozen in their shells. Lightly beaten eggs can be frozen in an airtight container, with 1-in/2.5-cm headspace, or sealed in a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible. Yolks can be frozen alone if mixed with 1 tsp salt per 1 pt/480 ml, and whites can be frozen without salt.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Cracked eggs should be placed into a clean, airtight container and used within 2 days. If you’re not sure when it cracked, it’s best to discard the egg. As eggs age, the whites will thin and the yolks will flatten, but the nutritional value will not diminish. Older egg whites are actually better for whipping up into a voluminous meringue than fresh egg whites. Egg grades (such as A and AA) are a reflection of how well the yolk and white hold together and the appearance of the shells, not size or flavor. Frittatas make quick work of extra eggs (and anything else in your fridge).

EGG SUBSTITUTES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Fresh, unopened, 10 days; opened, 3 days; frozen, 12 months; thawed, 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a cold part of the refrigerator, sealed in the original container. If the original container is not airtight once opened, transfer to an airtight container to extend life.

FREEZING: Freeze in the original unopened package. Freeze portions in zip-top bags with the air removed. Once thawed, do not refreeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Egg substitutes can be used just as you’d use traditional eggs, so if you’re nearing the expiration of your egg substitute, bake up some cookies or make a seasonal frittata.

MILK

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes (if in shelf-stable carton, refrigerate after opening)

AT FRESHEST: Pasteurized, 1 week beyond sell-by date; freezer, 3 months; shelf-stable carton, unopened, 6 months; opened, 7 to 10 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Keep milk in a cold part of the refrigerator (not the door), closed in its original container. It keeps its flavor better in opaque, sealable containers. Milk that comes in a shelf-stable carton has gone through ultrahigh-temperature pasteurization and can be stored in the pantry until opened, then refrigerated.

FREEZING: Milk can be frozen, but it will separate if left frozen for long periods. Low-fat and nonfat milk separate less than whole milk. Thawed milk is best for cooking or baking purposes. Freeze in airtight containers, leaving 1-in/2.5-cm headspace. You can also freeze it in ice-cube trays, then seal the frozen cubes in a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator. Do not freeze again once thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Sour milk can still be used in all sorts of recipes, such as baked goods, pancakes, homemade cottage cheese, cream fillings, etc. Milk will smell or taste bad before it would make you sick, making a sniff test a good method for evaluation. Do not return unused milk to the original container. Store it in its own airtight container instead. A nomadic Asian people used to ferment milk into an alcoholic drink called koumiss, described by Marco Polo as having “the qualities and flavor of white wine.”

MILK SUBSTITUTES

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes. If in shelf-stable carton, refrigerate only once opened.

AT FRESHEST: Shelf-stable carton, unopened, up to 12 months; refrigerated packaging, unopened, 7 to 10 days; all packaging, once opened, 5 to 7 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: In the pantry, store in a cool, dry spot. Once in the refrigerator, store sealed in the original carton in the middle of the refrigerator, where the temperatures are not too warm or too cold.

FREEZING: Freeze for cooking or baking purposes. Freeze in airtight containers, leaving 1-in/2.5-cm headspace. You can also freeze in ice-cube trays, then seal the frozen cubes into a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator. Do not freeze again once thawed.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Milk substitutes are great in place of milk in most recipes, so if you’re nearing or just past the expiration date, make a smoothie or pancakes or pudding.

BEANS, NUTS & VEGETARIAN PROTEINS

BEANS, CANNED OR COOKED

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, after opened or cooked

AT FRESHEST: Can in pantry, several years; cooked beans, refrigerator, 3 to 5 days; freezer, up to 3 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store cooked beans in their cooking liquid or water in an airtight container.

FREEZING: Freeze in sealed airtight containers in their cooking liquid or water.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Made too many beans? Cooked beans can also be used in all sorts of recipes, such as cookies and cakes.

BEANS, DRY

REFRIGERATE IT: No

AT FRESHEST: Can last indefinitely, but after 1 year may need slightly longer cooking times

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in airtight containers in a cool, dark, dry place. Do not wash until just before use.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If the lengthy preparation time is the reason that bag of beans is hanging around in your pantry, you might like to know that pressure cooking vastly decreases the time to cook beans. Beans soaked for as little as 1 hour will cook in 3 to 14 minutes, depending on their variety, size, and age, using a pressure cooker. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, beans can be partially cooked in the microwave to decrease conventional cooking time. Be careful to fully cook red kidney beans, as they can be toxic when undercooked, and do not cook them in a slow cooker unless boiled for at least 10 minutes beforehand. Do not add salt, lemon juice, vinegar, tomatoes, chili sauce, ketchup, molasses, or wine until after the beans are fully cooked, as they can prevent beans from becoming tender. Brown foam in a pot of cooking beans is protein from the beans, not dirt. If you don’t like this, simply skim it off or add a bit of butter or oil to the water to prevent foaming.

PEANUTS

REFRIGERATE IT: Recommended

AT FRESHEST: Unopened jar in pantry, 2 years; unopened bag in pantry, 1 to 2 months; refrigerator, 4 to 6 months; freezer, 9 to 12 months. Peanuts in the shell keep longer.

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a cool, dry, dark place in an airtight container. If using only occasionally, it’s best to refrigerate or freeze them.

FREEZING: Shell and seal in zip-top freezer bags, or boil whole peanuts in a brine solution, drain, and seal in freezer bags.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Peanut soup is a popular African dish. Peanut shells can be used to make finger puppets or ornaments or to replace Styrofoam packing peanuts. However, many folks have allergies to peanuts, so be careful with how you use the shells.

SEEDS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, ideally

AT FRESHEST: Sunflower seeds—Raw, at least 1 year at room temperature; roasted, 8 months in refrigerator, 4 months at room temperature

Flaxseeds— Whole, at least 1 year at room temperature; ground, at least 90 days in refrigerator

Pumpkin seeds— Raw, 4 to 6 months in refrigerator

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Make sure the seeds are dry before storing. Store in airtight containers in the refrigerator or at least in a cool, dark, dry place. If using only occasionally, store in the freezer (not necessary for sunflower seeds).

FREEZING: Pack into zip-top freezer bags or airtight containers. USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If seeds are raw, they can likely be sprouted by soaking in water overnight and then leaving in aerated containers and rinsing once a day. If moths have gotten into a container of seeds, discard all the seeds and wash the container well before using again.

TOFU

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes              AT FRESHEST: 10 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Refrigerate in original package until opened. Once opened, keep submerged in water in an airtight container in the refrigerator and change the water daily.

FREEZING: Freezing tofu causes moisture to drain from it and changes its consistency, making it more firm and dense. This is helpful for marinating but may not be desired for some uses. If marinating, rinse, drain, and place in a sealed zip-top freezer bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and drain, squeezing out excess moisture.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: The consistency of frozen tofu once it’s thawed makes it a great substitute for ground beef, perfect for soups, chilies, and sauces. Make a tofu “ricotta” as a nondairy substitute for pizzas and lasagnas.

TREE NUTS

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes

AT FRESHEST: Without shell—Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios in refrigerator, 1 to 2 years; freezer, 2 years or more

With shell— Almonds, walnuts, pecans (storing pistachios in the shell is not recommended), 1½ to 2 years

Pine nuts— refrigerated, 3 months; freezer, 9 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Wait to shell or chop until ready to use. Store shelled nuts, even if roasted, in an opaque, airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer. If you must keep them in the pantry, store in a cool, dark place in an airtight container and use within a few months. Store pine nuts tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in an airtight container.

FREEZING: Pack into tinted zip-top freezer bags and freeze.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Translucency or darkening can be a sign that nuts are becoming rancid. Be sure to taste before using.

OILS, CONDIMENTS & SPICES

OILS

REFRIGERATE IT: Sesame, yes; others, no      AT FRESHEST: Coconut oil—2 years in a cool, dark, dry place

Vegetable oil— Unopened, 1 year; opened, 2 months

Olive oil— Unopened, 2 years from harvest date; opened, 3 months

Sesame/flavorful nut oils— Unopened, 1 year; opened, 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: All oils should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place.

For best quality, buy olive and vegetable oils in small quantities that you’ll use within a couple of weeks. If you do buy larger amounts, transfer what you need for a week or two in the kitchen into a small, opaque bottle, and store the rest in a cool, dark place to minimize exposure to heat and light, then refill your small bottle as needed.

Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and generally lasts longer than other oils.

Sesame oil and other flavorful nut oils are very sensitive and should be bought in small quantities and kept in the refrigerator after opening (but brought to room temperature before using).

FREEZING: Not beneficial/not recommended, though some products such as fresh herbs can be frozen in oil.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If oil begins to get rancid, it can still be put to good use. You can use it to polish and condition both wood furniture and leather shoes (wipe down the surface with a sponge to remove dust and grime, allow to dry, and then apply a light coat of olive oil, rubbing to allow the oil to fully soak in); to fix squeaky doors (use a rag to apply oil to the top of a problematic hinge); or to free stuck zippers (dab some olive oil on the zipper teeth). Olive oil and coconut oil can be used to make homemade salt or sugar body scrubs.

SPICES, DRIED AND GROUND

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: Whole, up to 2 years; ground, up to 1 year

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Buy spices whole when you can and grind just before using. Also, buy them in small amounts. Keep in a cool, dark, dry place (not near the stove!) in airtight containers.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Spices don’t usually spoil, but they do lose potency over time. To test whether a ground spice is potent enough to be effective, rub a little between your fingers and taste/smell to see if the flavor and aroma are to your liking.

TEA

REFRIGERATE IT: No               AT FRESHEST: Loose leaf, 6 to 9 months; tea bags: 2 years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Loose leaf—Store in an airtight ceramic container or tin away from coffee and strong-smelling spices.

Tea bags— Store in original packaging in a cool, dry, dark place.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Tea won’t spoil, but it will lose potency and flavor over time.

Certain teas can be used to dye fabrics.

Bake cookies or quick breads and flavor them with dry tea.

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