Thursday, January 3, 2013

Day 18 - Storing Bulk Foods and Grains

***This is a continuation of my 31 Days of Preparing Properly series***

When I was just a young, newly-married bride with stars in my eyes, I went on a grocery shopping trip, which included buying a 5 pound bag of flour.  After coming home to put my groceries away, I noticed some teeny tine little bugs around the flap of the bag.  I carefully opened the bag up to find the flour inside was infested with the little buggers.  Yuck!  I learned my lesson; every time I pick up a bag of flour, sugar, cornmeal, etc.  I check the whole bag for signs of bugs.  Especially since i buy these things in bulk most of the time.

Unfortunately, bugs or larva or eggs in our grains that we store is a fact of life.  Now that I'm an adult I can accept that fact much easier than when I was a kid!  The thought of anything that might be living in my food would have grossed me out!

But how do we store our grains without giving these critters the perfect environment to hatch and eat their little hearts out?

In my research on the best ways to keep critters out of the pantry and food storage, I've found several different techniques.

Bulk food at our local Winco grocery store.

The first and easiest way to protect your food from bugs is to put it in your freezer for a minimum of 3 days.   Make sure it is in a spot that it won't get exposed to excess ice or moisture; you don't want wet grains.  3 days is long enough to kill any larva that may already be in your flour, rain, or cornmeal.  And gross as it sounds, there is more than likely larva already in the bags.  

Gamma lids make it easier to get into your buckets
if you are rotating your food storage

I use these 5 gallon buckets to hold my longer term bulk food storage.

After the 3 days you can transfer it to your canisters, plastic containers, or 5 gallon buckets. It can be left there longer if you have the extra space for it.  We have an extra freezer that I keep space for a 25 pound bag of flour or oatmeal until I need it or package it for long term storage.   

I store my everyday dry foods in these Tupperware containers.

Another way to keep grains pest free is to use oxygen absorbers for long term storage.  This can be done in addition to freezing the dry foods.  The only problem with oxygen absorbers is that you have to use what you have right away.  They don't keep since they start absorbing oxygen as soon as the package is opened.  Oxygen absorbers work best in non-porous containers like mylar bags or plastic food-grade buckets, or even large canning jars.  I've also seen them used in large PETE recyclable containers
Rice that I buy at for less than 50 cents per pound.
These next two options are for whole grain and 

Diatomaceous earth is can be used to protect whole grains (but not milled grains!), and is what my parents used when storing wheat berries for long term in 5 gallon buckets.  There is a good breakdown of food storage tips here that includes diatomaceous earth.  This is not an ideal way to protect foods, though, because the fine silica dust can be inhaled and damage lungs.

A small amount of dry ice can be used to kill insects before storing whole grain.   Dry ice is frozen CO2. Treatment with dry ice may improve storage life of the grain, but it is not the most effective fumigant for controlling pests in stored grain.  Basically, it will kill anything that is living in there already, except for eggs.  A single treatment with dry ice will be fine, you will not have to treat it again unless you notice little buggers in it down the road.

I hope this makes sense!  If you have any questions or anything to add, please leave a comment!

And if you'd like to read more about buying in bulk you can read my posts here and here.

And start reading from day one here!

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