A plate of food and a cup of coffee

Shelf Life of Baking Supplies + Free Printable Cheat Sheet

Look up the word ‘impulsive’ in the dictionary and prepare to see my face. In my basement pantry, I have bags of chocolate chips to prove it. They are the ghosts of a Christmas past—left over from one of my Gift-in-a-Jar marathon projects.

And those two containers of candied fruit that must be ten years old by now, which I keep only because they’ve become a novelty. They appear to be the same as the day I bought them and perhaps one of the reasons fruit cake has gotten such a bad rap!

A plate of food and a cup of coffee

So what’s the deal with baking supplies, anyway? We know that notoriously they’re on sale at rock-bottom prices starting around Thanksgiving and continuing through the end of the year (check the calendar!). It’s the right time to load up but wisely!

I still have bags of all-purpose flour from last holiday season, which I bought for $.99 each, which I’ve stored in the freezer. Sugar is cheap during the holidays, too. Ditto for other holiday baking ingredients from marshmallows to sweetened condensed milk dates to nuts.

One of my basic rules of grocery shopping is this: When it’s on sale, buy enough to last until the next time it’s on sale. Baking supplies become so cheap this time of year, now is the time to stock up.

Which begs the question: How long will baking supplies last in the event you decide to buy enough to last the year? It all depends on the items and if you have the storage space to keep them at their optimum.

To make the information that follows more useful I put together a handy cheat sheet for you. Below you’ll see a link to download a free printable version that you can attach to the inside of a cabinet or another place to serve as a reminder.

Shelf life and Cheat sheetShelf life

Baking powder

Store in a tightly lidded container; 18 months unopened, six months opened. Stored in the freezer, baking powder is good indefinitely.

Baking soda

Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place; good for two years unopened, six months opened. Kept in the freezer, good indefinitely.

Brown sugar

Store in freezer and use within six months opened or unopened.


Comes two ways: salted and unsalted. Salt is added for flavor and as a preservative so it will have a longer shelf life. Salted lasts up to five months refrigerated; unsalted has a short shelf life of about three months in the refrigerator.

If you do not plan to use unsalted butter right away, it is best to freeze it. When properly wrapped so it won’t pick up any odors, butter can be frozen for around six months. It’s best to defrost butter overnight in the refrigerator.

Canned evaporated milk

Store unopened on the pantry shelf for up to six months. Best to check the “use by” date on the product. After this time, it will not turn sour, but it will turn yellow and lose its flavor.

Chocolate chips

Store in a cupboard at room temperature; 18-24 months unopened, one year if opened. I can attest to the fact that chocolate chips will last what seems like forever in the freezer. They may get a white haze, but this will not affect the taste when used in baking.

Cooking oils

Store on pantry shelves at room temperature; good for up to a year; check if still good with the smell test. Oils can become rancid.


Properly stored in the refrigerator, fresh eggs are good for four to five weeks past the “sell by” date.


Expect these to last up to three or four years when kept at room temperature. (See pure vanilla extract below).


Unopened flour lasts for up to a year; opened, six to eight months. Whole wheat flour is good for up to a year unopened but use within six months if opened. If you have room, store flour in the freezer.

MORE: 5-Minute Artisan Bread: The Master Recipe, Tools, Resources

Granulated sugar

Store in a cool, dry place; good for two years unopened; use within six months if opened.

Karo syrup

ACH Food Companies, Inc., the conglomerate that owns and markets Karo syrup, says its Karo syrups are safe for consumption for an indefinite period of time whether it has been opened or not. I know, kinda’ creepy, but that’s the fact.

Light corn syrup may turn slightly yellow with age, but this is normal and not harmful. Storage conditions affect product quality.

Before or after opening, Karo syrup may be stored at room temperature. Bottles may be refrigerated after opening; however, the syrup will be thicker and pour more slowly.

Marshmallow creme

Store at room temperature for four months unopened; store in the refrigerator once opened and use within two months.


Keep in an airtight container on the pantry shelf; good for three months.


Store unopened in a cool, dark place for one year; store opened for six months in a cool, dry place or the refrigerator. Make sure the lid is tightly sealed.


Stored in a tightly sealed container, shelled nuts will be good for up to six months in the pantry; 9 months to a year in the freezer.

Powdered sugar

Store in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator); good for 18 months unopened.

Pure vanilla extract

Store at room temperature; as long as it is pure, it has an indefinite shelf life. In fact, it even gets better with age.

RELATED: Still the Most Perfect Homemade Holiday Gift


Up to three years stored on pantry shelf at temperatures up to 80 F. Can be refrigerated.


Store in the pantry at room temperature. Unopened, shortening lasts up to a year; opened, three to four months until it turns rancid.

Spices, ground

Store in a cool, dry place for two to three years. Here’s a tip to extend the shelf life: Don’t measure or sprinkle spices over a boiling pot. The steam from the pot will hasten the loss of flavor for what spice remains in the bottle. Measure spices into a bowl beforehand and then add them to the pot. Note: Paprika and cayenne pepper should be refrigerated.

Spices, whole

Whole and ground spices don’t spoil, they just lose their strength. Store in a cool, dry place for two to four years.

Sweetened condensed milk

Store in a dry, clean and cool place; good for one year unopened; invert can every two months. Carnation does not recommend using sweetened condensed milk past its “best before date” for quality reasons.

I am still searching for information on candied fruit. So far I can find no indication that it will ever spoil or change in quality or texture.

I’ll keep you posted.

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18 replies
  1. Linda Kubitz says:

    Mary, i keep a can of Crisco on hand, but usually only use it to grease pans or for pan frying. Is that the shortening you are referring to, and if so, what do you use it for? With all the concerns about trans fat, saturated fats etc, I never know what is good for you or not. We do use butter in our house! Thanks.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Yes, Crisco is a brand name for solid vegetable shortening, made entirely of cottonseed. In 2007, all Crisco shortening products were reformulated to contain less than one gram of trans fat per serving. I use Crisco to make pie crust.

  2. Lynn Luft says:

    I make my own sweetened condensed milk when I need some for a recipe. So easy and just as good as store-bought. My recipe calls for: 1 cup dried milk, 2/3 cup sugar, 1/3 cup boiling water, and 3 tablespoons butter or margarine. Mix all together until sugar and milk are dissolved. It thickens as it cools but I’ve used it as soon as made.This recipe equals one 14.5-oz can.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      According to eatbydate.com,. dry active yeast lasts for 4-6 months in the refrigerator, 6 months in the freezer. Compressed or cake yeast last for 4 months in the refrigerator and not recommended to be stored in the freezer. Hope that helps!

  3. Pat Weiser says:

    What will happen to flour and sugar after the dates mentioned? I have used them way past the suggested times and they seemed fine.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Past those “best used by” dates, flour may be just find to use, but know that flour can become rancid and even bug-infested. Use your best sense—smell it, look at it to see if it has changed color; taste it if you’re not sure. While you may be not detect it in its raw state, old stale flour is not going to make the best bread or other baked goods. When I bake bread etc., I try to start with the best ingredients to give me the best chance of a great outcome!

  4. Snuggles says:

    As for candied fruit, when I stock up for making fruit cake, over the years I’ve had some seem like they are drying out, but not a big problem. Why? Because that just gives me an even better reason to dump them in a bowl and add rum, brandy and whisky to them to rejuvenate them by letting them soak up all that extra flavor overnight! YUM! Otherwise, I agree whether stored in the freezer, frig or on a shelf, I’ve never had them go bad over the years that they have set there waiting to become part of a fruit cake.

  5. Dana says:

    A note about “Karo” syrup…
    One year, I decided to buy a GENERIC light corn syrup. The product seemed comparable to Karo brand. However, I only use it occasionally, and the generic brand MOLDED.
    I but ONLY KARO BRAND now. Through the years, I’ve never had it mold or go bad.

  6. Carolyn Powell says:

    I freeze marshmallows and raisins, other dried fruits.
    I also freeze brown and white sugars. Brown sugar needs to thaw (soften) before use. Otherwise it’s a frozen brick.


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