To prolong shelf life and prevent spoilage, here are 11 foods you should keep in the refrigerator or freezer instead of the pantry.
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Well stocked pantry with a variety of pots and cans
Credit: Getty Images / Studio CJ

Hey, sometimes you don't see the fine print "refrigerate after opening" on the jar's label. Or, you grew up with the peanut butter in the pantry and never thought anything of it. But we're adults now, and we can be smarter about how we store things.

If you keep these common ingredients refrigerated or frozen, you'll cut down on food waste and keep these kitchen staples fresher longer—especially if you're buying in bulk.

Nuts

The natural oils in nuts can turn rancid when exposed to warm temperatures, giving them an unpleasantly stale taste. And when exposed to moisture, nuts can harbor unsafe bacteria as well. Store them in the freezer in an airtight container for up to a year. This goes for tree nuts, peanuts and seeds like pine nuts too.

Maple Syrup

If you're buying pure maple syrup and not one of those sugary "pancake syrup" blends, do yourself a favor and keep it in the fridge. The cold temperatures inhibit mold growth and keep the flavor fresh.

Cold-Pressed Oils

To prolong the shelf life of oils labeled "cold-pressed," keep them in the refrigerator. Because of the low-heat method used to extract the oil, they may spoil at warm temperatures. If the oil gets cloudy when chilled, that's fine—just take the bottle out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature before using.

Infused Olive Oil

Garlic-infused olive oil might have a wonderful taste, but it can also develop dangerous botulism when stored at room temperature, according to the USDA. To be as safe as possible, the USDA recommends storing infused oil in the refrigerator for up to seven days, or freezing. Thaw in the fridge before using in recipes.

Cured Meats

Sealed cured meats may be displayed at the supermarket at room temperature, but once opened, they should go straight into the fridge. Wrap leftovers tightly in plastic to keep air away from the meat, and store in the cheese drawer or another spot away from light.

Fish Sauce

While fish sauce can technically be stored for up to six months in a cool, dark place, warm temperatures are not its friend: gas can build up inside the bottle. Keep the pungent liquid capped in the refrigerator to prevent any unfortunate smells from penetrating the pantry.

Mustard

Whether whole grain, Dijon or your favorite variety, mustard won't maintain its strong flavor for more than a month at room temperature after the jar's been opened. Keeping it in the fridge will help that flavor last for up to a year.

Peanut Butter

Like whole nuts, the natural oils in peanut butter and other nut butters can go stale and rancid when left in the pantry. The cool temps of the refrigerator will not only keep these products fresh, but also help stabilize those oils so you won't have to stir them back in as frequently.

Bread

Sick of bread going stale before you can finish the loaf? Keep it in the freezer! Wrap whole or pre-sliced loaves in wax paper and foil to prevent them from drying out—this goes for all types of breads, from sourdough boules to baguettes to bagels. Frozen bread thaws quickly in the refrigerator, or simply toast slices or pieces directly from the freezer.

Chocolate

Storing blocks or bars of chocolate in the fridge or freezer can help prolong their shelf life, but be careful. Chocolate should not be exposed to moisture, so wrap it very well and make sure it's in an airtight container. Thaw frozen chocolate in the refrigerator, then bring it to room temperature before using in recipes.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

You might keep cookie dough in the freezer to bake up whenever you get a craving, but you can also stash baked cookies in there for snacking. Cool the cookies completely before sealing in an airtight container, and they'll stay as fresh as the minute they first came out of the oven. No dry and crumbly leftover sweets in this house!