What to Stock Up on Before the Holidays
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Get a Head Start
Just like wrapping paper and tree lights, holiday cooking staples such as sugar, flour and canned pie filling tend to be deeply discounted after the holiday shopping season. Other standbys, including cooking oil and nuts, go on sale throughout the year. If you’ve ever been tempted to stock up on some of these seldom-used holiday must-haves, read on for our definitive guide to how early you can safely shop for some of the most commonly used items, and find out how to store them properly to ensure they’ll make it to your next holiday feast.
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Buy Them: Up to five years in advance. Holiday staples such as canned pie fillings that contain fruit are typically safe for up to 18 months. Canned broth and stock retain peak quality for up to five years.
Store Them: In a cool, clean and dry place, such as a cupboard. Never store canned goods outdoors or in spots where they’ll be exposed to heat, such as over the stove, or in damp surroundings similar to a basement or under the sink. All could compromise the integrity of the can and cause foods to spoil prematurely.
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Store Them: In a cool, dry spot and out of direct sunlight.
Buy It: Up to 12 months ahead, depending on how you’ll store it. Frozen, butter or margarine can survive up to one year. Milk can make it three months in the freezer, so long as you safely defrost it in the fridge. Eggs should never be frozen, but they last up to five weeks in the refrigerator in their shells. If you’re planning to crack and separate eggs for baking, or you are making a batch of eggnog, then limit their fridge time (sans shell) to no more than four days.
Store It: In the refrigerator or freezer, as appropriate, and always in the original container so you can reference sell-by dates. Egg containers, in particular, are designed to keep spills contained if an egg cracks, and they include essential information in the event of a recall.
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Onions, Garlic and Potatoes
Store Them: In a cool, dry spot with good airflow. These veggies fare best in temperatures between 42 to 50 degrees F, slightly warmer than a fridge and slightly cooler than a kitchen cupboard. Dry basements, attics and garages are all good options, just make sure to keep the vegetables loose — sealing them in a plastic bag will restrict airflow and cause moisture to collect. If you chop onions or garlic in advance, they'll be fine in sealed containers in the fridge for up to seven days.
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Store It: Nuts are made up of fragile oils that can go rancid quickly, so they fare best in sealed packaging with minimal airflow. Here's a quick reference guide on how to store some popular shelled varieties:
Almonds:Up to two weeks at room temp.; up to nine months in the refrigerator; up to one year in the freezer
Pecans: Up to two weeks at room temp.; up to nine months in the refrigerator; up to two years in the freezer
Walnuts: Up to two weeks at room temp.; up to six months in the refrigerator; up to one year in the freezer
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Flours and Sugars
Store It: White flour will last for eight months in an airtight container in a cool spot and up to one year in the refrigerator. Whole-wheat flour is good for eight months in the fridge. Freeze both varieties and they'll last two years, plus, keeping them out of the cupboard is also a good way to ensure bags aren’t infiltrated by pests. Sugar can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
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Store It: In the refrigerator in dedicated produce drawers for up to one week.
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