Waste not, want not, right? Learn how to stretch your flour — and your dollar — for good conservation hygiene.
Flour is a kitchen staple for many, but if it’s not part of your regular repertoire, it can easily get forgotten on the shelf. Neither the environment nor your wallet want high turnover when these products go bad before the bag is empty. Find out how you can extend the life of flour and avoid unnecessary waste.
How Long Does Flour Last?
Flour, which is the powder derived from grinding uncooked grains, seeds, or roots, typically has an expiration date printed on the packaging. That means flour does and will expire, it’s just a matter of when. Depending on the type and the preservation methods used, flour can last anywhere from three months to two years. However, most flour types can last long after their printed expiration date before needing to be tossed. More on that below.
Flour Life Depends on Type
The type of flour you use has a big impact on shelf life. All-purpose flour, for instance, can last between 10 to 15 months as long as it’s stored in its original unopened container and in a cool, dry place. Bread flour or whole wheat flour on the other hand will typically last around six months if stored in an airtight container and kept away from heat. Self-rising flour can stay good on the shelf for up to 15 months, with cooler temperatures extending its life. Instant flour will hold out about eight months, and cake flour will give you about two years in a cool, dry pantry. Nut-based flours are a little more sensitive given that nuts contain oils that can go rancid. These can last around three to six months in the refrigerator.
Tips for Extending Flour Shelf Life
What you definitely shouldn’t do is leave that bag of flour sitting out. In addition to flour type, the environment you keep flour in and the way you store it have a big impact on how far it will go. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow to extend your flour’s lifespan regardless of type.
- Whether you keep it in its original container or move it to another one, whatever you store your flour in should be airtight. If the bag it came in has been punctured but you want to continue using it, place it in a large, sealable bag to prevent air exposure.
- Keep it fresher longer by putting it in the refrigerator, still in an airtight container. If you’d rather store it in the pantry, make sure the environment is away from heat. Flour does best in cooler temperatures.
- If you rarely use your flour or bought some in bulk quicker than you could use it, you can store it in the freezer for a couple years.
- Don’t let flour be exposed to moisture. Whether it’s from cooking or humidity, moisture is not a friend to powders.
- Put a bay leaf in the container to ward off insects. Though this shouldn’t be an issue if your container is airtight as suggested, a bay leaf will provide some extra insurance against bugs.
- If you want to keep your flour in a decorative jar on the kitchen counter, opt for one that’s opaque, and keep it away from heat and direct sunlight.
How to Tell If Flour Has Gone Bad
There are a few signs to look for to tell if your flour is past its prime. One is color changes. For instance, if your white flour has turned more of a grayish hue, it’s time to toss it. A darker color than normal is a big indicator that it’s turned.
Another big sign is smell. If your flour has acquired a stale or rancid odor, it’s far from fresh and should be discarded.
Taste is also an indicator. While this can be hard to judge if you’ve baked the dish you used it in, a strong or somewhat sour taste is a giveaway that it’s time for a new bag.
If you see mold, don’t even think about using it.
Lastly, bugs. If you spot a single weevil, moth, larvae, or other sign of life, get rid of it immediately, preferably outside of your home.
If you’ve got a batch that doesn’t quite show these obvious signs but you’re still feeling unsure about it (or if you just have some flour you know you’ll never use), give it a new purpose instead of throwing it out. Flour can be repurposed for other household uses besides cooking and baking. For instance, sprinkle a tiny bit around doorways and windowsills to repel ants. You can also use it to clear up acne by mixing a bit with honey and applying it to the blemish, or cleaning oily residue off playing cards by putting them in a bag of flour and shaking it. Mix it with some salt and vinegar for a stainless steel polish, or substitute it for dry shampoo.
The coolest use perhaps is to ripen avocados. Place your avocado in a bag, cover it with flour, then leave it sitting for 24 hours. After that, you should have a perfectly ripe avocado and flour that didn’t go to waste.
Can I Still Use Flour If It’s Expired?
As long as your flour doesn’t show any of the above indicators that it’s way past its prime, you can likely get away with using it beyond its suggested expiration date, especially if you’ve stored it properly. If it’s been a while since you’ve opened the container and you aren’t sure about it, open it up and shake it around a bit. If the color is as it should be, there’s no foul smell, and no bugs are visible, take a small taste on the tip of your finger. If the flavor is normal, go for it. There’s no need to throw away perfectly good flour because of a printed date.
When your flour finally does go bad, we’ve got you covered. Our all-purpose flour is unbleached with no bromate or other additives. Our whole-wheat blend is stone-milled to preserve flavor and fiber, and it’s never made with chemical pesticides, GMOs, or synthetic additives. Great flavor, great ingredients — packaged with recyclable materials and made in California.
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