How Do I Store Dry Foods
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How Do I Store Dry Foods

Buying food in bulk is a way to save lots of money.  That is, if you can store the food safely without loss.  

Generally, all dry foods can be stored for 3 to 6 months without too much extra care.  These foods are known as “shelf-stable” meaning they do not change in quality or nutrient levels if kept in the average kitchen cupboard.  And, these foods can be stored for 1-2 years if a little extra care is used.

 However, the shelf stability of these foods is based on being stored away from heat, moisture, light and vermin (yes, those creepy-crawlies like weevils and mice). 

Short-term storage in most kitchens only requires that you do not store these foods near a heat source and moisture.  Most of you know not to store food above your stove or oven, but did you realize that your refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher also give off heat.  Store dry goods as far away from these heat sources as possible.

And, most of you know that once opened, the packages need to be closed.  But, is closing the package enough?  In most cases, the original packaging is a barrier to moisture until it is opened.  However, not all packaging is a barrier to air and moisture.  And once the seal is broken in “barrier bags”, this shield no longer exists. 

It is best to store all dried foods in airtight containers.  Plastic containers with sealable lids like Tupperware or Rubbermaid work well.  Glass jars with screw type lids also work.  Use the size container that provides adequate space but not excess air space. 

Plastic bags with twist ties and zipper bags are okay for short-term but not for extended storage.  Doubling the bags will help some but will not prevent those creepy-crawlies from gnawing into them. 

For long-term storage, generally, you need this dry food in a hard container that mice won’t chew into like glass or plastic or metal (popcorn cans with a plastic liner works).

You need to store these in an area that is cool (normal room temperature or below) and dark like a pantry or basement (if it is not damp).

Weevils are in all grain and grain products.  They lay eggs that are microscopic and, even with care, these eggs may not be eliminated from the food.  In organic foods, no pesticides are used on the grain or finished product to kill these eggs.  Given the right conditions, heat, moisture, and light, they may hatch.   One way to kill these eggs before they hatch is to freeze the dry product for about 30 days.  This will usually prevent hatching and loss of food to these pesky creatures.  

Freezing dry products will not “clump” them or make them hard like ice cream if they are in an airtight container to prevent them from drawing moisture.  Just let them return to room temperature before opening the container because they will “sweat”.  By allowing the “sweat” to remain on the outside of the container, the inside product stabilizes without drawing moisture.

Here are a few tips for specific foods:

Herbs and spices – Don’t buy more than you need in a year.  They can be frozen.  Be sure to store them away from light and in airtight containers as exposure to light, air, and moisture can deteriorate the delicate oils that provide flavor.

Flour, Brans, Grits, Meals and Cereals—Freeze any amount over what you will use in three months.  Store in airtight containers that have moisture barriers while in the freezer and out. 

Beans and Legumes—Store in airtight containers.  You can freeze for a short time (although bugs are usually not a problem). 

Rice—Store in airtight containers. You can freeze for a short time (although bugs are usually not a problem). 

Dehydrated Vegetables— Place in airtight containers to prevent moisture, which can cause molding and keep out of direct light, which can discolor or bleach out the color. 

Dried Fruits— Place in airtight containers to prevent moisture, which can cause molding and keep out of direct light, which can discolor or bleach out the color.  Keep in a cool location but if refrigerated, watch for molding.  Optimum long-term storage temperature is between 50-60°F with moisture level below 50%.

Nuts-- Place in airtight containers to prevent moisture, and keep out of direct light, which can discolor or bleach out the color.   Keep in a cool location but if refrigerated, watch for molding.  Optimum long-term storage temperature is between 50-60°F with moisture level below 50%.  Raw nuts can be frozen.  Roasted nuts should not be stored long-term as the oils will become rancid.

Yeast-- Place in airtight containers to prevent moisture.  It should be kept refrigerated and may be frozen for longer storage.  Always proof your yeast before using.  Do not store more than you will use within a year or less.