It’s that wonderful time of the year again, when we start to pull out our baking supplies, and get ready to make some Christmas cookies and cakes and other delicious holiday treats. And if you step inside anyone’s pantry, you’ll find most if not all the necessary baking essentials. But the question is: how long have they been sitting in that cupboard? 

Whether you’re an avid baker or someone who gets an occasional craving for homemade cookies, it’s important to know how to keep those staple ingredients fresh so you can use them for as long as possible, because using expired baking ingredients can greatly alter the taste and texture of your sweet treats.

But before you start tossing food away, here are a few things to look out for to see if they need to be replaced, or can still be used.

Does Flour Expire? 

While flour is considered to be non-perishable, it will certainly go bad if left in its bag for too long. In fact, flour will only stay fresh for about three months if not stored properly. That’s why you should transfer any store-bought flour to an air-tight container after you open it. By moving the flour to a designated food storage container, you can extend its shelf life for up to two years.

Alternative types of flour, like oat or almond flour, spoil much faster than all-purpose white flour, but if stored properly, almond flour has a shelf life of about one year.

Does Sugar Expire? 

Unlike flour, granulated white sugar truly has an indefinite expiration date, especially when stored in a dry, dark place. This is the reason why foods like jelly and peanut butter can stay good for so long—because sugar acts as an effective preservative.

However, brown sugar is a bit different because it hardens when it’s exposed to air. That’s why you’ll notice that brown sugar turns into a brick when left in its original packaging. To make the most of your brown sugar, store it in an air-tight container and use it within two years for optimal freshness and flavour.

Confectioners’ or powdered sugar can also last a lifetime if stored the same way. However, just like white and brown sugar, if confectioners’ sugar is exposed to moisture or air, it won’t taste as good, so transfer any type of sugar to an air-tight storage container and keep it in the back of the pantry.

Does Baking Expire? 

Baking soda has a relatively short shelf life. Once opened, it only stays good for about six months. To extend the shelf life a bit more, store your baking soda in any type of sealed container and place it in the pantry or cabinet. If you want to test if the baking soda is still good, sprinkle a tablespoon of it in a bowl with vinegar. If it fizzes, it’s still fresh and safe to use.

Does Baking Powder Expire? 

The expiration rules for baking powder are similar to those for baking soda. Since it’s sensitive to moisture and humidity, baking powder should be transferred to a container and stored in a dark, dry place to prolong its shelf life. If it’s not stored well, or has been kept too long, your baked goods will not rise as they should.

Does Salt Expire? 

Not all salts are the same. While regular salt will last a lifetime, iodized or flavoured salt will go bad over time because it contains other ingredients. Even though most salts can last for years, you may want to invest in a wooden salt cellar or some type of container to make it last longer.

Does Vanilla Extract Go Bad? 

Pure vanilla extract has an indefinite shelf life. If stored in a cool, dry, dark place, an opened bottle of vanilla extract will likely last for years, but it’s always a good idea to smell it before using. If the vanilla extract doesn’t have that typical, sweet scent, chances are the flavour isn’t as strong anymore either.

With so much food being wasted globally every single day, it would be more responsible to check your cupboards or pantry before you next head down to the shops, and only buy what you need. Happy baking everyone!