Now that we are in the midst of fall and the holiday season is kicking off, there is no better time to give your pantry a quick clean-out to prepare it for all the cooking, baking, and entertaining that's ahead. Carve out a little time this week to purge these five items and you'll be left with a fresh pantry that's ready to take on all the fun that comes with this most festive season.
With all the baking you're about to do, you want your cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices to be up to snuff. Although dried herbs and spices don't technically go bad, they do loose their potency quicker than you may think. The shelf life can vary but a general rule of thumb is whole spices are best within two years, while ground spices are really only good to use within one year. Use your nose to be sure: If the spice doesn't have much aroma and smells more like the pantry than anything else, it's time to toss it.
Related: 5 Tips for Storing Your Spices
2. Rancid oils
While you may have thought it was a good idea to save the last bit of that fancy bottle of olive oil you brought back from your Italian vacation years ago for a special occasion, I hate to disappoint you — it very well could be rancid. Olive oil (or any oil, for that matter) spoils quickly when exposed to oxygen, light, and heat. Even if the oil is unopened, if you've left it in a warm kitchen or the bottle is made of clear glass and it hasn't been kept in a dark spot, it could be bad. Rancid oil will have a metallic, soapy, bitter smell to it, so give it the good ol' nose test.
Related: The Best Way to Store Olive Oil
3. Stale crackers, chips, and nuts
If you plan on entertaining at all during this holiday season, you'll likely need crackers, chips, and nuts for cheese boards, dips, and more, so check to see the status of what you already have in your pantry. If you didn't seal the cracker box well or forgot to use a bag clip, the contents could be stale. Also, if you've stored nuts at room temperature in your pantry, they could be spoiled — they're actually best stored in the fridge or freezer.
4. Expired cans and jars
Go through the stacks of cans and jars in your pantry to check for expiration dates. Remember, the terms "Expires On" and "Best If Used By" have different meanings: The latter means the item could still be fine, but just not at it's best quality after the date posted. If there are any cans and jars that have expiration dates in the near future, bring them to the front of your pantry to remind yourself to reach for them first, or consider donating them to a local food bank if you don't think you'll use them.
5. Old coffee beans
The holidays may also have you brewing a few more extra pots of coffee for overnight guests, so now is a good time to toss stale beans and start fresh. Coffee beans are really only at their best for about two weeks from their roast date, so you're better off buying in small amounts and stocking up more frequently.