You Don’t Have To Waste Your Food Storage Money

waste-food-storage-moneyThere’s nothing sadder to me than when I see someone who’s finally started taking steps to build up their food storage, only to hear that they’ve wasted tons of money by having to throw food out.  I see folks buy foods regularly without being mindful of the best way to store it.  More unfortunate is that folks are throwing away perfectly good grains when there’s no need to.  The good news is that you don’t have to waste your food storage money this way.  I’m going to show you how to maximize every precious buck!  This article is to help you understand how NOT to waste all of that hard work and food storage money.

Two things to keep in mind when storing food:

1) Environmental storing conditions

2) Storage containers.

When it comes to the ideal storing conditions, you always want to store your dry foods in a cool, dry place.  When I purchase MRE’s, I always request certifications or attestations of HOW they were stored prior to shipping them to me.  That’s a heck of a lot more important to me than when they were manufactured.  A cool, dry environment is your ideal storage condition.

When you’re buying foods, remember plastic is porous.  Aluminum and Mylar are much better, but well-sealed glass containers are ideal.  The sooner you can transfer things from a cheap paper box or plastic bag into a Mylar bag, a #10 can, or a Mason jar, the better and the significantly longer shelf life you’ll enjoy.  In fact, the shelf life of foods stored in this way usually last 3 to 6 times longer than your original expiration food information!  (See, we’re keeping up with the rate of inflation already.)

foodsaver-jar-sealerDon’t be afraid to buy chocolate chips, candy bars, or almonds on sale.  You don’t need to eat them all right away.  Simply store them in a vacuum packed Mason jar.  A Foodsaver comes with a jar attachment that you simply put on top of your partially lidded jar, suck the air out, and then put on the ring.  It’s that easy.  (See Foodsaver operation instructions for more details.)

If you have something finely powdered such as cocoa, cornmeal, or Kool-aid, put it in a bag first, squeeze out the air, and then put it in the jar.

With granola bars, candy bars and the like, simply poke a small pin prick in the wrapper, put them in the jar and seal them.  You can look forward to those peanut M&Ms for a few years down the road.

Think about all of the food items that this storing method will help you with!

  • Raisins
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Nuts (all kinds)
  • Volatile grains
  • Candy bars
  • Dried fruits (dehydrated or freeze-dried)
  • Bacon bits (real or artificial)
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cereals (warm or cold)
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Soup mixes
  • Spices
  • Dried herbs
  • Beef Jerky
  • Cookies
  • Malt-O-Meal

Now you can go CRAZY being sure to have the foods on hand that you actually LOVE.  You don’t have to waste your food storage money!  Woohoo!

The possibilities are literally endless!  The best part about this method is you can keep doing this so long as you have electricity.  Once you open a jar, you can simply reseal it as long as the lid hasn’t been damaged during the opening process.  You can extend the life of the foods that you’re living on every day.  It only takes a few second per jar to seal—the time is SO worth it!

Note: This method is NOT good for items that need to be refrigerated as a pressure canning process is typically needed to preserve such items.

Do you see weevils or critters in your dry foods?  Don’t worry about it.  Simply place that wheat, oats, rice, etc. on a small cookie sheet in your solar oven for an hour at 200 degrees, then sift through it, and your dried foods will still be just fine and nutritious without the unpleasant hitchhikers.

I hear of way too many people throwing out their brown rice, complaining that it goes bad too fast.  Can I just say “stop that”?  You can store brown rice for years in a sealed Mason jar.  Oats sealed in a #10 can should keep their shelf-life for 10 years if stored under ideal circumstances.

If a product is stored in a dent-free, sealed #10 can, it should have a long shelf life of years!  If it’s a more volatile food, put it in a sealed Mylar bag with an oxygen absorber or a Mason jar and then rest easy for a long shelf-life.

Speaking of oxygen absorbers, did you know that bay leaves also act as a great oxygen absorber?  All you have to do is put a couple of bay leaves in your quart jars, or about 5 of them in a #10 can, and voila!  You’ve got an inexpensive oxygen absorber that you can EASILY grow right in your own yard.

mylar-bagA Mylar bag sealer with Mylar bags can be obtained for about $200 dollars.  It’s great for my more finely powdered items such as cornmeal, risotto, and coconut.  You can use a flat iron in a pinch to seal a Mylar bag, but it’s not as reliable for putting suitable pressure and heat on the bag.  So double check your bag if you’re using this method.

Remember, sugar is sugar no matter how old it is.  It simply doesn’t go bad.  You don’t have to worry about whether to store it in a 5 gallon bucket or a bag.  But if you store it in a bucket, you can put in a “brown sugar bear” in with it (easily purchased at any cooking store) and it will keep its fine consistency.

Yeast has a shelf life of about 1 year on your shelf.  But if you keep it in your freezer, it has an INFINITE shelf-life.  I’ve been using my yeast for my bread right out of the freezer every time I make it.

If you open a can of food and it seems to have taken on the smell of the can, don’t worry.  You STILL don’t have to waste your food storage money by throwing it out.  All it usually needs is a little bit of aerating.  Just set it out in an open container and let it air out.  It can take a couple of days or a couple of hours.  A little bit of oxygen goes a long ways!

While your shortening that comes already sealed in a can will last 3 years as is, you can also can it by melting it and then sealing it.  You’ve now got a 5 to 10 year shelf life!  The same goes for butter!  You don’t have to ever be without REAL butter! (There’s been a great deal of controversy about bottling butter, but I’m finally willing to come out and say that it’s JUST FINE AND DANDY to do!)

In the future, think twice about throwing food out or storing it “as is” from the manufacturer.  Now you don’t have to waste your food storage money.

For additional information on perishable foods, check out "Yes, You Can Easily Can Meat”.

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An iron and a metal level with ridges on the edge work just as good as a mylar bag sealer and saves a lot of money.

Lots of great suggestions and insights. Our dilemma right now is between keeping our SW home cool enough for optimum food storage and keeping our summer electric bills manageable. Any suggestions?

Keep things under the bed and on the floor. That's your coolest spot if you don't have a basement. That should be sufficient. Folks have been storing food just fine for years before A/C came about. :-) (Although it's my personal favorite invention.)

That would definitely be better than a curling iron. Good one.

Actually, there are a couple of reasons. First you should know that I do use the Foodsaver bags too. I buy them all the time on e-bay for cheap. I use the Mylar bags for items that I won't be cooking IN, and when I feel that light exposure is important to. I like to store items that I can cook directly IN the Foodsaver bags or items that aren't as tempermental with light.
As for what you do to the grains, I think you're working too hard. Also, I think that actually freezing your grains, thus freezing the content therein, only compromises the integrity of the grain. When moisture is frozen it expands. Thus when you freeze the grains, they will expand slightly, and then when they are thawed they will shrink back. That's unnecessary expansion of your foods, in my opinion. Based on your current routine, I would simply put them in the food saver bags and then in your buckets. Also, due to the cost of the gamma lids, I only use the gamma lids on buckets that I'm getting into regularly. Otherwise, I use the regular lids and then switch out a gamma when it's time to get into it.
Thanks so much for your comments and questions!!

Good advice. Thank you! Fortunately, I've had the gamma seals for a long time and I might as well use what I've got, but I think you are right about using them for only regularly accessed items.

I plan to try some Mylar bags in the future for items that are sensitive to the light. I hadn't thought of that.

Can you tell me why you prefer mylar bags over the type that come with the Food Saver? Is it just cost, or a health concern? I keep a lot of grain and mason jars would take up a lot of space. I freeze my grain for at least 3 days, then pack it in food saver bags with air removed, then put it in food safe buckets with gamma seals. What do you think?

Well, considering that the price on the gamma seals keeps going up, it's probably not a bad investment. Think of all of the items that you may want to use them for...brown sugar, salt, rice, wheat, flour, sugar, oats, etc, etc. They'll come in handy, espeically when you're using the items constantly. there any tricks to handling brown sugar? To keep it soft or at least granular rather than rock hard?

Yes. Use a "brown sugar bear". It works with regular sugar well also. Google it. You'll find pictures etc. they are made of a terra cotta material.

Help!! I have critters around my wheat! I have 16, 50lb bags of wheat in (supposedly) rodent and insect proof bags, stored on wooden pallets in the basement under steel storage shelves. The wheat is about 10 years old. We try and keep the area clean by frequent sweeping, vacuming, etc., and we spray our foundation for bugs in and out about twice a year.
The critters look like little dried shells of a larve. It took a couple of dust pan attempts, but I did find a couple of squirmees making me think some are alive. I think they are weevils and I looked at pictures online, but now I am just confused - I don't see anything that looks like the adult pictures.
Your post said something about heating the wheat in a 200 degree oven, but how in the world could I do that with 800 pounds of wheat??!! Since it is so cold outside, could I pull all the bags out, clean really well and check for any possible torn bags, then spray the pallets with bug spray, and then stack the wheat in bags in a single layer outside (on the pallets with a tarp to cover)on my deck to freeze for a couple of weeks or something? Would that work? Would I need to open the bags and sift them into buckets? What would I sift with? We are just really space challenged and keeping the wheat in the bags takes up less space. We open one bag at a time and put that in buckets, the top one on the stack with a gamma lid that we cook from. (Those buckets look fine.) Please help - - my skin is crawling even as I type this! In all these years, I've never had bugs and it is just creeping me out. Ewwwww!

Preparedness Pro's picture

Sally, it sounds like you at least have some weevils. Get you some diatomaceous earth--food grade only--and sprinkle it around your food area there. Also, transfer your wheat into buckets and put 1 tablespoon of diatomaceous earth--food grade only--in there. You don't need to mix it in. Just put the tablespoon of the DE on the top. Yes, when it is time to eat your wheat, you can cook it in the oven, whole grain and all, at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes and you will absolutely fine. The DE is also good for you to consume, but bad for the bugs. Cold does not deter weevils. They thrive on oxgen and moisture. Don't worry abou sifting the wheat. The DE will do the job for you. Know that when you're treating your wheat with DE you are getting rid of those critters and providing added quality nutrition for yourself as well. It's OK! Be at peace. This is not a crisis, just an inconvenience.

Thank you! Where can I get the DE? If I sprinkle around the storage area, is it hazardous to pets? Toddlers? You said it is nutritious for adults, but I just wanted to make sure if my 2 year old grandson found some, it wouldn't be too strong for him or something.

I have never read anywhere that bay leaves are for absorbing oxygen - they're already dehydrated when you buy them. Bay leaves are for discouraging bugs - they don't like the smell of them - so 'they' say. There are also many opinions about whether they even work for that.

Yes, they are effective at repelling bugs, however, the use of bay leaves is a tried and true method, used for decades way back when as THE method for this purpose. I have a really old "Housewife Companion" book, and it discusses the use of Bay Leaves in there repeatedly. Who knew, eh?

I am new to the whole preparedness idea but I am trying to get up to speed as quickly as I can. I have visited multiple sites and spent countless hours in research on the subject and can honestly say I have gotten more good information from this site than all others combined!! Thank you Kellene. I do have a question. Can I assume it is not a good idea to use the FoodSaver on brown sugar because of the moisture content? Would the brown sugar be something you just store in the original bag in a five gallon bucket withe some DE? Thank you!

It's perfectly fine to use the FoodSaver on brown sugar, however, I recommend using it in the jar instead of the FoodSaver bag.
You wouldn't want to use DE in the brown sugar though. Primarily only use that in grains such as rice, pasta, wheat, dry beans, etc.

I never thought of using the foodsaver to "can" items such as chocolate chips, marshmallows, cake mixes, etc. I never knew before I read your article you could get a lid sealer for the jars! Brilliant!! I was so excited when I read that I went out and bought cake mixes on sale at an incredible deal (and with coupons of course) and now I am a little concerned with shelf life. I think I may have been a little over zealous.....Do you have any idea of the shelf life of such items if I can them? I also loved the article on canned meat. Who knew? I am so excited to give it a try! Thank you for all your wonderful articles and insight. I don't know how you do it, but I am glad you do and pass the information along to the rest of us.

Pam I have an entire article on the Foodsaver method including shelf-life. Just do a search for "foodsaver" on this blog.

Got it. Thanks!!

Found it. Thanks!!

What brand do you recommend for vacuum sealers? I have read mixed reviews on the FoodSaver brand, but I really want the mason jar sealer. Thank you for your time!


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