Exactly How Long You Can Extend the Life of Certain Pantry Items By Refrigerating Them

Photo: Stocksy / Boris Jovanovic
While it’s true that lots of foods are A-okay to leave at room temperature after you open them, it’s also true that pantry staples like maple syrup and ketchup expire (and quicker than you may think!). So it’s important to know how to tell when food’s gone off since best-buy dates aren’t necessarily the most-accurate indicator.

On the flip side, one way to potentially extend the shelf life of certain pantry staples is by keeping them in the fridge instead. (Shocker, we know.) Not only will it help you cut down on food waste, it’ll also help you save money in the long run. These are the best pantry items to refrigerate if you’re looking to maximize shelf life and use, according to experts.

Experts In This Article

14 best pantry items to refrigerate

1. Balsamic Vinegar

“Most vinegar won't spoil at room temperature no matter how long you keep it out on the counter or in the pantry,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook ($18). So, use balsamic vinegar as a staple salad dressing and for drizzling over burrata and toast at home. “Nothing can live in that highly acidic environment.” Yet, flavored balsamic vinegar is a bit different: “Any fruit or herb-infused vinegar like balsamic is better stored in the fridge for anywhere from three to eight months,” she advises.

2. Mustard

“You probably don't need to refrigerate mustard immediately upon opening, but it will only last at room temperature for about one to two months versus a whole year when in the refrigerator,” says Harris-Pincus.

3. Maple Syrup

“Pure maple syrup doesn't have any preservatives and can last one to two years unopened in the pantry, but upon opening, it needs to be stored in the fridge to prevent mold from growing,” says Harris-Pincus. You can keep it there for about a year or two, and perhaps a bit longer if stored in a glass jar as opposed to a plastic one.

4. Apples

“Apples are one of those foods where storage makes all of the difference, as they last five to seven days on the counter—but a whopping four to six weeks when stored in the refrigerator,” says Harris-Pincus.

Learn more about apples and other fiber-rich foods:

5. Lemons

Lemons are usually sold unrefrigerated, but don’t let this fool you. “They’ll last about one week at room temperature but the shelf life is extended by two to three weeks when kept in the fridge,” says Harris-Pincus.

6. Bananas

You can extend the shelf life of this tropical fruit by two or three days if you place them in the refrigerator once they've reached their full ripeness, according to Trista Best, RD. “Their peels will continue to darken, but their taste and quality are unaffected.”

7. Yeast

“Storing yeast in the refrigerator or freezer can extend its shelf life for up to two years,” says Best; however, it’s best used within four months for quality and freshness. (FYI: Storing it in the freezer bumps it to six months after opening.)

8. Nuts

Because nuts contain oils, they start to degrade within about a month when stored at room temperature, and typically expire after three months. You can double that time in the fridge, though: “Placing them in the refrigerator in an airtight container will extend their life for up to six months,” says Best. That timeline extends to a full year in the freezer.

9. Seeds

Much like with nuts, seeds have a similar shelf life. “If you’re keeping your nuts and seeds in the pantry, think again, as putting nuts and seeds in the fridge can extend the shelf life by about three extra months,” says Ilyse Schapiro, RD, CDN.

10. Whole-grain bread

“Breads with a lot of preservatives will last a long time out of the fridge, but whole-grain bread (think Ezekiel bread, Dave’s Killer Bread, etc.) will last longer in the fridge,” says Schapiro. “Typically, bread lasts around five to seven days if left out, but seven to 12 days when in the fridge.”

11. Flour

Schapiro says, “Flour kept in the pantry lasts around six to eight months, but when stored in the fridge, it’ll last up to one full year. It should also be stored in an airtight container, whether it's stored in the pantry or the fridge,” Schapiro adds.

What’s more, refrigerating flour protects it from pesky invaders in search of a nibble. “Flour stored in the pantry is also susceptible to bugs and pests, but storing it in the fridge helps to avoid this,” Best adds.

12. Nut Butter

“Opened nut butter can last two to three months in the pantry but six to nine months when stored in the fridge,” Schapiro says. You’ll preserve the taste and quality and promote a more balanced spread with less oil separation within the jar, as well.

Learn what a dietitian thinks about peanut butter:

13. Ketchup

Opened, unrefrigerated ketchup will only last up to one month. “If left in the fridge, however, ketchup can last up to six months,” says Schapiro.

14. Matcha

“While some boxes say the powder can last up to a year, your matcha will taste its best when consumed one month after opening it,” says Schapiro. “By refrigerating it, you can extend the shelf life of matcha powder by an extra month.” She recommends storing it in an airtight container inside a ziplock bag.

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