There's no time like the present for starting to prepare for tomorrow. Preparing for emergencies or times of need by buying food storage is a worthy pastime. Gathering any amount of food storage is no small task and it costs money. Money that you don't want to see go to waste by having food spoil due to lack of protection. Trust me, there's nothing worse than needing to use your food storage, opening it up, and finding that it's infested with some little bug or rodent. It's happened to me, so here are the best ways to protect your food against invaders.
- Freeze What You Can. Freezing foods like flour, rice, and other grains can prevent a bug infestation. It also helps prevent any larvae from hatching which may already be in the food. The problem we run into is that freezer space is limited, and storing everything in a freezer is not practical. So pick out the most coveted grains and freeze them. You don't necessarily need to leave them in the freezer forever; freeze them for a week and then take them out. All the bad bugs should be dead.
- High Density Buckets. Professional-grade thick plastic buckets are rodent-proof. That means there's no way those little rats and mice can chew through a bucket containing your food storage. I recommend the 5 gallon premium food storage containers that meet FDA standards.
- Mylar Bags. Mylar bags are made of a thin metal material that have been created for lining food storage bins. The great thing about mylar bags is that they can be sealed with heat creating an oxygen barrier to the outside. You need to place low moisture foods, like beans, with oxygen absorbers in your mylar bags. Then put your mylar pouches in rodent-proof containers.
- Carbon Dioxide. For those packing their own food storage, making sure your product is free of pests before you seal it up is important. The big companies fumigate food using a series of chemicals which works very well and kills lots of the insect larvae. For the home food storage packer, dry ice is a great way to do the same thing. Dry ice will fumigate products with carbon dioxide gas. It's heavier than air so it stays low in the container. Simply place a sheet of dry ice at the bottom of your food storage container and let the gas cover the food and all the bugs should die.
- O2 Absorbers. Oxygen is not your friend when it comes to keeping your food pest-free. Oxygen absorbers or silica packets work great when preparing your food storage. Simply place them at the top of the food before they are sealed and it will soak up all the oxygen. Insects need oxygen to thrive, so by removing oxygen they can't thrive and they will die.
- Bay Leaves. Spreading bay leaves throughout the food storage container is a popular way of deterring pests. Bugs don't like the smell of bay leaves. You don't need very many leaves to do the trick. Just add 5 to 10 leaves for a 5 gallon bucket. You can also spread the leaves throughout cupboards containing the food storage. Bay leaves will not affect the taste of your food.
- Temperature. Proper temperature is crucial to food storage. The most ideal temperature to keep your food safe for a long time is 75°F or 24°C. This comes into play when people decide to store their food storage in the garage or shed. Sure there's more room out there, but the temperature fluctuates way too drastically for the food to remain safe for a long time. Keeping temperature consistent will not only protect your food against spoilage, it will also protect it against those nasty pests...bacteria.
- Diatomaceous Earth. Mixing Diatomaceous Earth into your food storage, like beans or grains, can control insects. When purchasing your Diatomaceous Earth, make sure it's approved by the FDA for human consumption. There are companies which make it for swimming pools and this type can contain lots of harmful chemicals. Using this method is really easy: for every 40 pounds of grains, add 1 cup of Diatomaceous Earth. This should kill the bugs and you can still eat the food mixed with this product.
- Use Glass. Glass containers work really well to create an airtight oxygen-free environment when combined with oxygen absorbers. The nice thing about using glass containers is that you can store things in "every day size", as some people hesitate to open a 5 gallon bucket of sealed grains unless it's absolutely necessary.
- Vacuum Sealing. Vacuum packaging your food storage is another great way to get the oxygen out. Remember without oxygen all the little critters will die. I put vacuums sealing at the bottom of the list because honestly it's hard to vacuum seal food really well. The food needs to contain less than 1% oxygen, and that's not easily done with vacuum sealing. That said, it is still a good idea to vacuum seal your food but you will want to supplement this approach by using oxygen absorbers.
Lee Flynn is a freelance writer and expert in outdoor survival food storage and freeze-dried meals.