Pantry Staples

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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