Oils, Condiments & Spices

coconut milk

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, once opened

AT FRESHEST: Opened, 4 to 6 days

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a covered airtight container. Do not store metal cans in the refrigerator or freezer.

FREEZING: Coconut milk can be frozen, but its consistency may change. Use frozen coconut milk for smoothies or other dishes that don’t rely on its consistency. Freeze in zip-top freezer bags or in ice-cube trays, then pack frozen cubes into a freezer bag.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Coconut milk has many recommended beauty uses, such as hair conditioner, and moisturizer when added to bath water.

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AT FRESHEST: Room temperature, up to 2 weeks; freezer, 1 month

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Purchase only as much coffee as you will use within two weeks to experience it at its top quality. Store in an airtight glass or ceramic container in a dark, cool location. If purchased in larger quantities, freeze a portion of it.

FREEZING: Wrap weekly portions in zip-top freezer bags. Putting coffee back in the freezer once it’s been taken out is not recommended because the change in temperature (and thus moisture) destroys its integrity.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Coffee beans that are past their prime can be put into the bottom of vases of flowers or underneath tea lights in votive holders as decoration.

Place an open bowl of coffee beans in your refrigerator to reduce unwanted odors (do not plan on using the beans to make coffee to drink after this).

Rub your hands with coffee grounds to reduce lingering odors of garlic, salmon, and cilantro.

Used coffee grounds can be turned into soil as fertilizer (in small amounts), or used to scour caked pans. It can also be used to dye paper: Pour hot coffee into a 9-by-13-in/23-by-33-cm glass container, and soak up to three pieces of paper at a time; allow to dry fully.

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AT FRESHEST: A few years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Store in a sealed container away from direct sunlight in a cool, dark, dry place (as cold as 50ºF/10ºC). Storing honey in the refrigerator accelerates crystallization.

FREEZING: Store in an airtight container.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Crystallized or granulated honey is still good! To re-liquefy, take off the lid and place the container upright in a pan of warm water for 10 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it's in a plastic container, it’s best to place it in a glass container before heating in the water. If not possible, be sure that the water is only warm and not hot to avoid any negative effects from heating plastic.

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maple syrup

REFRIGERATE IT: Yes, once opened

AT FRESHEST: Room temperature, unopened, 2 years; refrigerator, open, 1 year; freezer, indefinitely

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer.

FREEZING: Pure maple syrup, properly made, should not actually freeze, making the freezer a great place to store it as it will keep indefinitely. Store in an airtight container. Mix in any condensation on the top before use, and place back in the freezer after thawing, if desired.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Maple syrup is graded according to color, sugar content, and flavor. Grade A is lighter and more delicately flavored and is typically poured directly onto foods, while Grades B and C are stronger in flavor and are used more for cooking and baking.

Maple syrup adds a nice richness to everything from Asian stir-fries to salad dressing. Try it in place of other sweeteners.

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REFRIGERATE IT: After opening

AT FRESHEST: Commercial, unopened, 2 years; opened, 2 to 3 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Commercial mayonnaise uses pasteurized eggs and has a high acidity level, which means it’s in fact safe when stored at room temperature. However, quality and flavor are improved by keeping the jar in the refrigerator once opened.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If the oil in mayonnaise has crystallized, stir gently and add a few drops of water, if necessary, to re-emulsify it.

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nut butters


AT FRESHEST: Commercial, opened, 6 months; natural, opened, 3 months; unopened, 2 years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Commercial nut butters can be kept in a cool, dry spot in the pantry but will last twice as long if kept in the refrigerator. Natural nut butters, once opened, should be stirred and then stored in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Over time, the oils in natural nut butters may separate into a layer at the top of the container. This is a natural process that does not affect the quality. Simply stir the oil back into the butter. Do not drain it off, as it will cause the butter to be overly dry.

Commercial peanut butter may be edible for much longer than listed here, but the quality will degrade.

Nut butters that have spoiled will smell “off” and should not be consumed.

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REFRIGERATE IT: Sesame, yes; others, no

AT FRESHEST: Coconut oil—2 years in a cool, dark, dry place

Vegetable oil— Unopened, 1 year; opened, 2 months

Olive oil— Unopened, 2 years from harvest date; opened, 3 months

Sesame/flavorful nut oils— Unopened, 1 year; opened, 2 months

OPTIMAL STORAGE: All oils should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place.

For best quality, buy olive and vegetable oils in small quantities that you’ll use within a couple of weeks. If you do buy larger amounts, transfer what you need for a week or two in the kitchen into a small, opaque bottle, and store the rest in a cool, dark place to minimize exposure to heat and light, then refill your small bottle as needed.

Coconut oil is a solid at room temperature and generally lasts longer than other oils.

Sesame oil and other flavorful nut oils are very sensitive and should be bought in small quantities and kept in the refrigerator after opening (but brought to room temperature before using).

FREEZING: Not beneficial/not recommended, though some products such as fresh herbs can be frozen in oil.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: If oil begins to get rancid, it can still be put to good use. You can use it to polish and condition both wood furniture and leather shoes (wipe down the surface with a sponge to remove dust and grime, allow to dry, and then apply a light coat of olive oil, rubbing to allow the oil to fully soak in); to fix squeaky doors (use a rag to apply oil to the top of a problematic hinge); or to free stuck zippers (dab some olive oil on the zipper teeth).

Olive oil and coconut oil can be used to make homemade salt or sugar body scrubs.

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spices, dried and ground


AT FRESHEST: Whole, up to 2 years; ground, up to 1 year

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Buy spices whole when you can and grind just before using. Also, buy them in small amounts. Keep in a cool, dark, dry place (not near the stove!) in airtight containers.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Spices don’t usually spoil, but they do lose potency over time. To test whether a ground spice is potent enough to be effective, rub a little between your fingers and taste/smell to see if the flavor and aroma are to your liking.

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AT FRESHEST: Loose leaf, 6 to 9 months; tea bags: 2 years

OPTIMAL STORAGE: Loose leaf—Store in an airtight ceramic container or tin away from coffee and strong-smelling spices.

Tea bags— Store in original packaging in a cool, dry, dark place.

FREEZING: Not recommended.

USE IT UP/REVIVAL: Tea won’t spoil, but it will lose potency and flavor over time.

Certain teas can be used to dye fabrics.

Bake cookies or quick breads and flavor them with dry tea.

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