6 Pantry Staples You Can Salvage (and 1 You Can’t)

What's a person to do when the bag of brown sugar in the pantry is rock-hard or the honey in the cabinet is crystallized? Before tossing seemingly spoiled foods, try these creative solutions. Tweet this

Freezer-Burned Meat

It's safe to remove freezer-burned or discolored areas before cooking (to minimize the less-than-fresh taste). Try cutting the meat into bite-sized chunks and adding it to the slow cooker for stew or chili.

Expired Baking Soda

"Expired baking soda can be used as an abrasive cleaner. Mix it with liquid soap to form a paste to clean the tub, shower or sink." – Layne Lieberman, MS, RD, CDN

Rock-Hard Brown Sugar

Seal it in an airtight container or storage bag with a slice of bread — after a day or two, the moisture from the bread revives the brown sugar.

Old Cornstarch

"Turn extra cornstarch that's no longer good enough for baking into a craft! All you need is cornstarch, water and maybe some food coloring." – Elana Natker, MS, RD

Old Grains and Beans

"Old grains and dried beans can be used as pie weights." – Ariella Nelson, MS, RD, CDN

Crystalized Honey

First, why it crystalizes: pollen, especially in fresh, raw honey, can cause crystallization to occur much faster than in filtered honey, which may not be as flavorful. Colder temperatures make honey crystallize quicker, but high temperatures will degrade its quality. Store honey in a cupboard at about 70°F (21°C) to delay crystallization. The balance between fructose and glucose, the two main types of sugars in honey, determines when and how quickly crystallization occurs.

But fear not: crystallization isn't bad! In fact, crystallization is honey's natural preservation method (which is why the sweetener has no expiration date). Here are four ways to save it:

  1. Place the jar of honey in a bowl of hot water for five to 10 minutes or until smooth.
  2. Microwave the jar (without the lid) in 30-second intervals until gooey.
  3. Heat a pan of water over low heat, remove from stove and place open jar of honey inside until the sweetener softens.
  4. Embrace it! Crystallized honey is a tasty topping for toast, bagels or muffins, and a way to add a touch of sweetness to coffee or tea. Plus, frequent heating and cooling can increase crystallization and diminish the flavor and aroma of honey.

Cut Your Losses — Toss Old Flour!

If you notice your flour has changed color or texture, smells sour or — even worse — tastes sharp or moldy, it has gone rancid. The best-case scenario is that foods made with this flour will have an unpleasant flavor or strange texture, but potential risks include contamination by grain beetles, microbes and even strains of salmonella.

Lauren Fox
Lauren Fox is the managing editor of Food & Nutrition Magazine and senior manager of creative media at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.