6 Things That May be Damaging Your Food Storage

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Food storage is one of the most important aspects of being prepared. Preppers put a lot of time, money, and effort into putting together their food storage pantry! It’s a very valuable investment. Here are 6 things that may be damaging to your food storage so you can be sure nothing in your pantry goes to waste.

image: jars of preserved food, canned food for food storage, jars of preserved lemons and garlic

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.

If you need guidance on where to purchase food for your food storage pantry, you can check out this list of some of my favorite food storage companies here.

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.

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. Diatomaceous earth is excellent all-natural pest control.

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.

This article has been updated from the original version published on August 8, 2011.

47 thoughts on “6 Things That May be Damaging Your Food Storage”

  1. You forgot that along with kids …. there are husbands. I keep losing the cans of nuts, mysteriously. All I know is that they tended to disappear on Friday nights as my husband would watch Battlestar Galactica.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      That reminds me of the time my husband came with me to a business conference. He stayed in the hotel room and watched TV while I went to my workshops. Every day I noticed the mini bar getting more and more empty until we owed something like $200!!!

    2. Somewhat OT, but probably amusing to you: My husband got season 1 of Battlestar Galactica for Christmas. We finally started watching it last month and he really liked it, so I got the whole series on BluRay and hid it for Father's Day. I told him I had it so he wouldn't go buy it for himself. For the first time in the nearly 15 yrs I've known him, he went and searched out and took his present early! I guess BSG brings out the pilferer in husbands. :-p

  2. Well, that's what it's for. LOL My family regularly "rotates" stuff for me. I try to tell them to at least tell me they've eaten it, so I can replace it, but you know boys. I've learned to know what they'll most likely "disappear", and just check and replace those things on my own. Now and then I get thrown for a loop. Caught youngest son eating a can of gumbo soup he'd dug out of the deep storage. Mikey, eating something with vegetables? He may be under hypnosis!

  3. So, how do you keep husbands away from your stash? I haven’t figured that one out yet. I have this huge space in our atic, but it gets pretty hot up there in the summer. Any sugestions?

    1. I'm with Barbara – it's just part of the rotating system. As long as they tell me what part they're "rotating" out for me, it's all good. Well, as long as we're talking grocery store food, not the much more expensive Mountain House, which I have A LOT less of anyhow.

      Maybe storing them in the linen closet, behind or under towels? I know my husband has averaged going into the linen closet less than once a year in all our years together. 🙂 Or in with the Christmas or other holiday decorations.

      1. that makes me think of a piece of fiction I have read, which the main characters have a somewhat prepper attitude. The setup that this story describes to counter that, is effectively an old computer ( this house was already wired for UPS regardless), a barcode scanner, and some basic inventory management software. If you take something , you scan it out, if you don't it will *not* be replaced ( after all, it isn't officially out of stock, and the computer prints the shopping list for resupply. after a couple of times of their favourite things running out without restock, most kids get the hint)
        not viable if you can't afford to have a computer running all the time, but there is nothing saying that it has to be a sole use dedicated boxen ( it helps, mind, but it isn't a core requirement), or else maybe something modified for rapid start up, and linked in to the pantry door, as to make it only on when needed
        Then again, I'm thinking like an EE

  4. My boys are hopeless!!! I just remind them NOT to complain when disaster hits and we're out of chewy granola bars and canned Ravioli!

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      I have the opposite problem re: ravioli. My kids loved canned ravioli for years, and now when I occasionally open a can, they sort of pick at it and may or may not eat it all. I don't particularly like serving it, but it's a handy food for long-term storage. Wouldn't you know, I have about 40 cans of it.

  5. All foods get dated with black marker when I bring them home from the grocery store (things that have expiration date get that date, things that don't get date of purchase) before they get put away this makes it easy when I am rotating stock or pulling stuff off the shelf. I only shop when the hubby or kids are home to help. There is a shopping list on the refrigerator at all times and if you use something you have to write it on the shopping list. My kids (girls) don't get into the supplies I have stored. I'm not sure if they are too lazy to look or fear the wrath of Mom. I don't care if my husband gets into things because he is the best about putting things on the list. As far as rotating my stock I go through at least every 6 mos and pull out anything that has a date 9-12 months out I put those in the cupboard to be used and replace. I do wish I had a cool (temperature) place to store things though.

  6. I just put a bunch of food into 5 gallon buckets. I have one entire 5 gallon bucket dedicated to vacuum sealed chocolate. And it doesn't all fit in! 😮 Priorities are important. We have cows near us (and by near, I mean no more than 1/4 mile), so we should be able to get some milk, but I'm pretty sure we don't have a single solitary cocoa bean farm here in VA, so we're stocking up!

  7. What I am looking for is a good shelving system that does not take up much room. Some for long term storage really.

  8. A "#7"?? Time and Oil. Foods with oil content will go rancid with time. Wheat is fine "as built", but after grinding, it will deteriorate due to the oils within. Brown rice will not last as long as white, etc… Consider the food, and when in doubt, check it out against a known source of information.

  9. With regard to brown rice, can someone please provide information that supports the idea that brown rice doesn't last very long? I have looked all over and found statements like that, but nothing scientific or empirical. We eat short grain brown rice almost exclusively and the last 20# bag lasted us almost a year. It was fresh and good from the word "go" until tonight when I finished the last of it. We live in Michigan, so there's definitely humidity, and I did nothing special to keep the rice.

    My other thought about storing brown rice is that if I store it like my beans and other things (mylar bags with O2 absorbers), and then (most importantly) cook what I store and store what I cook, is there a problem? Or am I missing a piece of the puzzle?

    1. We've used stored brown rice as late as a year, also, and it cooks differently. It was stored on a shelf. Other brown that came out of a seal mylar bag was better. The white was unchanged. I expect 7 years at least from the white, and about 2 years max from the brown, based on the changes. A pal of mine, who'se been at this for 35 years or so says the brown will continue to deteriorate – some fast than others. The trick to extending its life is the removal of oxygen, as with just about all foods.

    2. We've eaten brown rice from 4 years ago still stored in the paper bag it came in. Tasted fine to us. We're in the desert in the southwest and didn't do anything special in storing it.

  10. I'm a bit new to the preparedness scene, so please forgive my lack of knowledge on the following question.

    I've seen some companies promote preparedness packages with #10 cans (restaurant size) of foods. This seems way too large for a family of three adults (I'm counting my 12 year old as an adult).

    After opening a can of dehydrated food, would it have to be kept in a refrigarator? The plastic lid seems a bit less than needed, (for storage) to me.

    Or, would I simply reseal the remains via a Food Saver system (I have one already) and store in the pantry?

    Thanks for any suggestions.

    1. TheSurvivalMom

      Usually, once a can of dehydrated or freeze dried food is opened, it has a shelf life of six months to a year. Of course, that will depend on whether or not it's in a hot or humid environment and kept safe from insects and rodents. There's no need to refrigerate the opened can. Most likely, considering the shelf life once it's open, you're pretty safe to go ahead and just keep it in the pantry. Now, if you hate the food once you try it, that's another matter. You might want to track down smaller cans to try first, before a disaster hits. Some people are just fine with taco flavored TVP, for example, others can't stand it. That's something you really should know ahead of time. All-in-One Preparedness sells smaller cans of many dehydrated foods.

      1. I really want to prepare for our uncertain future by storing food for emergencies. However, I am not sure where the best place for my pantry would be. We have a basement but it also houses our water cistern. Anything metallic stored in the basement rusts very quickly. I suppose that means that its probably very humid. How do you go about determining whether ones basement is humid or not. If I used a dehumidifier what if we lose electricity which happens periodically out here in the country?

  11. How many of us use and rotate or food storage?
    I have found myself purchasing things I thought I didn't store, due to not keeping some type of journal on stock.

    1. I keep a cilp board on each set of shelves,inventory the whole lot and INSIST that whom ever takes some thing off the shelf marks it off the list…..It may take a while to train the family….mine learned the hard way that you mess up mom's list….it's PB&J and water till it gets straighted out

  12. I have a question about Enemy #1 – Heat. Does this apply to even the vacuum sealed, with oxygen absorbers, in Mylar bags, In gamma sealed buckets stored food??? It's hard to have a "root cellar" here in Hawaii!

  13. Re boys, husbands & rotation – I always place the "Newer" stuff in the back, while moving the "Older" stuff to the front, then I give those who eat the "Older" stuff. Since it's easier for those who reach in to grab the "Older" stuff, it's rotated out and replaced by the "Newer" stuff… It takes more time, but it trains others to eat & drink the "older" stuff as it's replaced by "newer" stuff.

  14. I’m new to prepping and survival basics and I have a question. We live in Arizona the land of extreme’s weather wise. If we were to say, lose electricity and we don’t have a generator to keep our house at optimal temperatures for storing dry goods. What’s the best thing I can do to keep my food from spoiling in the extreme temperatures or my bottles of water exploding from the heat? I’ve tried to keep a bugout bag in my car but everything melts or explodes from the extreme temperatures. What can I do? What if I can’t go home in an emergency? Please help! Thanks!

    1. thesurvivalmom

      Bozy, I’m in Arizona, too, and know all about extreme weather! You probably don’t have to worry about water bottles exploding. I keep a few cases in our garage to grab whenever we hit the road and have never had a problem. If you’re thinking they might freeze, add a couple of inches of head room at the top before capping. Regarding food in the bugout bag, you need to keep that food in a separate small bag you keep stored right next to your purse or backpack. OR store food like granola bars, hard candies, high calorie energy bars — foods that won’t melt and are usually okay in high temperatures.

      If the power goes out and you’re concerned about your food, just do the best you can. Keep it in the coolest part of the house, under beds, in closets. And by the way, a generator won’t be of much help in a long-term power-down scenario anyway.

      A zeer pot might come in handy someday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V_PDTmebF8

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  17. For the kid problem, I go against all common advice and stock some foods that we don’t normally eat but would in an emergency. They still have a tendency to eat the favorites too quickly, but by storing foods that they’ve outgrown or are tired of, I know that we’ll always have spare food. I also use canning jars to divide things like drink mixes and snacks, and I make sure that they’re not all stored together. If someone gets into a single jar, it’s no big deal, because they’re not likely to sort through all the jars in all the cupboards to wipe out the entire supply. The kids are older now, but we’ve been using this method with success for most of their lives.

  18. For Sue regarding brown rice going bad faster than white: Brown rice still has the hull on, which contains more of the oils. Oils go bad faster than non oil products, so it WILL go bad faster than white rice.

  19. I have a question regarding what type of rice to buy. I usually get long grain, but I’ve been reading lately that some rice sold has arsenic in it. So, how does one buy the product without fear of being poisoned?

  20. I do a lot of canning and have a son who helps in that department, too. However, we do not can meat so I have been buying canned meat. We have a small stock of canned meats, now, but with prices going through the roof in the grocery stores, I won’t be purchasing much more! I’m also keeping in mind the expiration dates on these cans. We stock up our freezers, too, but if an EMP occurs, without a generator would permit those frozen foods to thaw and go to waste. Water is also a main concern. My son bought a water purifier that wasn’t cheap and it is suppose to purify even some chemically charged waters, tho not all. I’m so glad to have been referred to this site. Looking forward to more tips on how to plan ahead to be prepared just in case!

  21. Living on Vancouver Island, I thought that humidity was my biggest enemy of food storage. Then one day I rowed across the bay to where my sons would go camping and found 19 empty #10 cans of freeze-dried strawberries stored neatly by their campfire pit. (we live in a wilderness area) When I asked my sons about it they said they were just testing our food storage. Teenage boys really are helpful!

  22. What suggestions would you have for storage in a desert climate? I live in the Mojave and summer temps can reach 118°. The only place I have to keep things is my garage, and even though it’s a finished garage it easily hits 100° in there for weeks on end.

    1. The Survival Mom

      Kathy, if you store food in those hot temperatures, its nutrients, flavor, color, and texture will deteriorate within months. Honestly? You might as well save your money and not buy it. Here’s a great online document, http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/FN_502.pdf

      Scroll down to pages 8 and 9 for more information about heat and food storage. By the way, I used to live in Phoenix and am very well acquainted with summer heat! We set aside a room in our house for food storage.

  23. Capri sun??? Why on earth are you storing that? It’s just squash and not even good for children. Surely water would be a much better use of space?

    Also, teach your children not to take the food!

  24. so when I buy a bag of rice at the grocery store just put it in the freezer and store it with the proper containers? can I also freeze the rice i’m going to use for that month or so?

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  29. Hi there!
    Actually, you CAN insure your food storage. It’s part of the “contents” in your homeowner’s insurance (if you have renters insurance, the whole policy is “contents”). You should document what you have — do a walk through video showing off all your posessions, preparedness & otherwise, & upload it to the cloud. Keep hard copy or snap a pic of your receipts for everything. When my MIL’s house burned down in 1995, she filed to reimburse every individual spice in her cabinet. After a week of this, the insurance company didn’t ask for any more documentation & paid out the maximum for her policy.
    I have Dropbox on my phone, and every pic or video is automatically uploaded to the cloud and then downloaded to my desktop. Periodically we back it up to an external hard drive. Eventually, hubby wants to store the hard drive in a faraday cage 🙂

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