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DAY 7: No Expiration Date, No Problem—Shelf Life Recommendations for Bulk Ingredients

Congratulations! You made it to DAY 7 of our crash course—but don't toss your tassels into the air just yet—our final lesson is an essential one. Today’s topic: shelf life recommendations for bulk ingredients.

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Congratulations! You made it to DAY 7 of our crash course—but don’t toss your tassels into the air just yet—our final lesson is an essential one. Today’s topic: shelf life recommendations for bulk ingredients.

Since stores don’t usually post the date that their bulk bins are filled, the first rule of thumb is to try to shop in stores where the bulk bins get a lot of action. If you see other shoppers swarming the bins on a regular basis, it’s safe to assume that the turnover rate for the product will be higher, thus increasing the shelf life of the ingredients you bring home.

“Here at the Co-Op, we turn products so quickly that our bulk items are always fresh,” says Ricardo Chavira, marketing director for the Co-Opportunity Natural Foods in Santa Monica, Calif. “We sell so much that nothing sits for more than two weeks at most. Most of our bulk inventory turns so quickly that nothing really sits for longer than a couple of days. We top off every product about once a day, which means our bulk items are rotated almost on a daily basis.”

So just remember: if the bulk bins aisles are busy, chances are the products in the bulk bins will be fresher.

Once you’re home, it makes sense to write the date you purchased the ingredient on your homemade label (bust out that masking tape and Sharpie!), such as “Brown Rice/October 18, 2012.” That way, you can keep tabs on how long you’ve been squirreling it away.

Below, Chavira shares some handy shelf-life recommendations for popular bulk buys:

COLD & DRY STORAGE SUGGESTIONS

Dried Fruit & Dried Fruit Mixes

Shelf Life (Bulk): 12 Months

Storage Requirements: Cold (50°- 60° F)

Grains

Shelf Life (Bulk): 12 Months

Storage Requirements: Cold (50°- 60° F)

Granolas & Mueslis

Shelf Life (Bulk): 9 Months

Storage Requirements: Cold (50°- 60° F)

Nuts, Seeds & Nut Mixes

Shelf Life (Bulk): 12 Months

Except Peanuts: 6 Months

Storage Requirements: Cold (50°- 60° F)

Pastas

Shelf Life (Bulk): 15 months

Storage Requirements: Dry & Cool (Below 60° F)

Spices, Herbs & Seasonings

Shelf Life (Bulk): 12 Months

Storage Requirements: Dry & Cold (50°- 60° F)

Bean Blends

Shelf Life (Bulk): 24 months

Storage Requirements: Dry

Chocolate & Carob Candies

Shelf Life (Bulk): 12 Months

Storage Requirements: Cool (60°- 65° F)

Veggie Chips

Shelf Life (Bulk): 6 Months

Storage Requirements: Cool (60°- 65° F)