With the holidays soon under way (with a stream of leftovers to come), it’s the ideal time to think about a major purge of what’s cluttering up your kitchen. If you can’t remember how long that Tupperware has been sitting in the back of your fridge or when was the last time you bought soy sauce, it’s time to pull out the garbage bags and get to tossing things. Here’s where you should start: 

Deli meat

If you haven’t made your way through your packaged lunch meat within a few days, you might want to toss it for your health. That’s because it can be a major carrier of listeria, a bacteria that can cause fever, muscle aches, and stomach troubles. If you’ve picked up deli meat from the counter at the store, aim to eat it within 3-5 days. Packaged lunch meat can last about a week after opening it before it’s got to go.

Beer

Beer, unlike some other booze, doesn’t really get better with age. In fact, bottled beer should be enjoyed within four months of buying it, while cans have a longer life, and can stay in your fridge for about a year. If you’re unsure, do a sniff test before taking a swig—you’ll 100 percent want to get rid of it if you get a whiff of a foul odor.

Coffee

If you’re a caffeine addict then, you might never have to worry about having coffee go “bad” before using it all up. If, however, you only serve coffee for company, you should know that ground coffee only lasts about three to five months after opening before it starts to lose its freshness. No, it won’t kill you, but it will begin to lose its flavor and the color of your final brew may be a bit off.

Spices

This is another instance where time affects flavor.  Spices you bought a while ago won’t exactly spoil, they just won’t be as powerful, which means that you may have some disappointing results with recipes you’re trying to throw together. Bottom line, get rid of leafy herbs after about three years, or ground spices after four at most. And in the meantime, get a spice rack or Lazy Susan for your cabinets so your unused oregano doesn’t end up lost in your cabinets for years at a time.

Condiments

Think twice before you dress your burger. Three commonly used condiments (ketchup, mustard, and barbecue sauce) don’t exactly last as long as you think. Ketchup’s color or flavor may start to change after four to six months of opening, while mustard’s consistency and taste will alter after about two years. Barbecue sauce that is refrigerated will last about a year before its flavor begins to change. (Condiment packets, like those leftover from take out, will last about one year for ketchup and barbecue sauce, and about two for mustard.) So if you didn’t get rid of all your sauces during last summer, you may want to get a new batch before next year’s cookouts.

Olives

Now this one can get a bit confusing since olive oil can actually hang out in your kitchen for about two years. (Though it should be stored away from heat and light, like in a pantry or cabinet.) Olives, however, are best eaten within six month of opening the jar for the best taste. After that, the texture and flavor may not be optimal.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor based in New Jersey. She has written for a number of health and lifestyle publications, including Women's Health, Brides, and NBC News Better. Hot sauce, black coffee, and bacon make up 50% of her diet.
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