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Having a well-stocked pantry can mean the difference between having a last-minute dinner on the table without much in the refrigerator, or going to the store for supplies or dining out.

Most things in a pantry will have an expiration date, but an expiration date doesn’t always mean that a product is unsafe to eat. It refers to the nutritional value and could be eaten afterward—unless you notice discoloration, odor or compromised packaging. If so, throw it out.

Food lasts longer if it has been preserved through canning, pickling, drying, smoking or pasteurization, or if it contains food preservatives. All of these inhibit bacterial growth, keep the food looking good and prevent food-borne illnesses.

That said, you don’t want to take the risk of eating spoiled food. If something smells off, looks bad or tastes bad, throw it away.

Still, there are some things that should stay fresh in a pantry for a long time. For example:

  1. Soy Sauce

If unopened, soy sauce can last indefinitely. Once the top is off, it should remain fresh for three years. What helps it last so long? High salt and acid content act as preservatives.

If you expect to use a bottle of soy sauce within a few months, you can store it in a pantry. Any longer and put it in the fridge to retain the best quality for longer.

  1. Honey

Honey’s sweetness is from a low acidic pH and very low moisture levels, which prevents the growth of bacteria. Honey can be kept indefinitely, though it may crystallize over time.

  1. Sugar

Sugar can also last a long time—if you keep it away from moisture. Technically, sugar never spoils.

  1. Rice

If stored properly in airtight containers, rice should also last indefinitely. White rice will store well for 25 to 30 years if properly sealed and stored.

Whole grain rice is processed and has a shorter shelf life, so keep whole grain rice and brown rice no more than six months.

  1. Peanuts

Peanuts and items such as peanut butter, which is high processed with sugar and other food additives, can last up to two years.

  1. Canned Fish

Tuna, salmon, sardines and other types of canned fish can last three to five years if their original packaging isn’t opened or damaged. Canning removes all air in vacuum-sealed containers that are heat processed. It destroys microorganisms and prevents new bacteria from getting in.

  1. Cornstarch

This cook’s helper that’s often used to thicken recipes can last indefinitely. Keep it away from moisture and you can keep a box in your pantry for years.

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