A pantry shelf holds whole grains in Mason Jars.
Where do you store whole intact grains and whole grain flours—the fridge, freezer or pantry? (Spectrum Health Beat)

You may know to keep tomatoes out of the fridge to preserve their taste, but did you know which pantry staples actually do better under refrigeration?

While many of the following foods may stay fresh for up to six months under “ideal” conditions—in a cool, dark pantry—that’s not always possible, especially if your home often gets warm and humid.

Here’s what you need to know.


King size?

Many people buy larger, economy-size items from wholesale clubs or big box retailers. Maybe you planned to use those bulk purchases for multiple uses, or for recipes that never played out.

Either way, if you’ve forgotten about those large items or you decided not to use them—or more than likely, you’ve opened it and used it just once—those items often get pushed toward the back of the refrigerator.

When the time comes to clean, you’ll find those big bags of items—carrots, celery and such—are no longer edible.

It’s often quite clear what you need to discard. But watch closely for items that have long exceeded their due date. They should be tossed.

Read up on more tips for cleaning the refrigerator.

Keep whole intact grains and whole grain flours and meals in the fridge or freezer.

These include:

  • Whole grains, such as wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice, cornmeal and barley.
  • Whole wheat flour.
  • Coconut flour and coconut flakes.
  • Wheat germ, wheat bran and rice bran.
  • Ground flaxseed.

The good-for-you natural oils in nuts go rancid faster at room temperature. They’ll stay tasty for a year or more in the fridge and up to 2 years in the freezer. Nut flours, natural peanut butter, other nut butters like cashew and almond butter, and nut and seed oils, especially walnut and sesame oils, should be refrigerated.

If you don’t use up opened bottles of other oils, such as olive and safflower oils, within a month, consider keeping them in the fridge, but definitely away from the heat of your stove. Note that refrigerating oils may cause them to become cloudy, but they’ll return to normal at room temperature, and this doesn’t affect taste.

More surprising foods for the fridge are maple syrup, vanilla, molasses, instant coffee and active dry yeast.

Before the big chill, place foods in airtight containers or sealed plastic bags so they won’t absorb any moisture or pick up odors from other foods. And periodically check the temperature inside your fridge—it should always be between 34 and 40 degrees.