* The 6 Enemies of Food Storage

Stocking up on food gets expensive, and every frugal bone in my body shudders at the thought of anything going to waste. I try to store everything in the best possible conditions and watch out for these six enemies. Depending on your storage conditions all, some, or none of these may be a concern.

Watch out for these 6 enemies of food storage

1. Heat 

The longest possible shelf life is attained when food is stored somewhere between 40 degrees and 72 degrees. For every 18 degrees above 72, food will lose its’ nutritional value by half, and over time, it will lose much of its’ original flavor, texture, and appearance. If you can keep your food consistently cool, you’re in great shape.

2. Humidity

It’s important to keep food as dry as possible. An air-conditioner or a dehumidifer can help as well as making sure the food is packaged with as little moisture as possible. Store food off the floor and away from outside walls where moisture might seep in. Rust will be another concern if your storage area is humid. Place containers of Damp-Rid in the storage area — they really do help absorb moisture in the air — if you don’t have or can’t afford a dehumidifier. Keep in mind that a dehumidifier is great but will need to be frequently emptied.

3. Oxygen 

Over time, oxygen changes the appearance, flavor, and texture of food. When fats oxidize they become rancid. Use oxygen absorbers, rotate food to reduce the chances of oxidation, and pay attention to the other five enemies of food storage. Working to eliminate oxygen will also kill any bacteria, and vacuum packing food can help with this.

4. Pests 

Many dry foods can be popped in the freezer for at least four days to ensure that microscopic insect eggs will never hatch. Keep food in air-tight containers. Make sure there aren’t any food particles on the shelves or floor, and keep all food storage areas very clean. If mice are a problem, well, you know what you’ve gotta do. Given enough time, a determined rodent can chew its way through a 5-gallon plastic bucket.

5. Light 

If possible, keep your pantry area dark. Light can and will affect the flavor and appearance of food, but it’s also the easiest enemy to keep at bay. If you have food stored in clear containers, keep them in labeled boxes with lids. It won’t be as attractive as all those pretty jars filled with homemade preserves and canned veggies, but they’ll last longer.

6. Kids

So far, I’ve lost entire boxes of granola bars, energy bars, and two or three cases of Capri-Suns have mysteriously emptied. Perhaps a kid-proof lock on the pantry door can take care of this particular hazard.

Food storage is an investment and should be treated as one. Since an insurance policy like you get for your house or car isn’t possible, taking the extra steps to keep it safe from these six enemies is well worth your time.

One final enemy of food storage…

The wheels of time turn, and keep on turning. The only way to protect your food from growing old and losing nutrients, color, flavor, and texture is by using it up. This is where keeping your pantry organized is key. As you purchase new foods, those containers should be placed in the back of the shelves, pushing the older food to the front. Use those older foods every so often and keep adding new foods to replace the food you eat. This is called food rotation and needs to be a part of every long-term storage pantry.

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