Storing grains, pasta, beans, etc.

adellabedella_usaMarch 9, 2009

There's been a lot of discussion on this forum regarding stocking up and storing food. What are the best methods for storing some of the foods such as grains, sugar, flour, beans, etc.? I've been putting some of it in the freezer for a few days to kill any bug larva. I don't want it in there long term. What do you do with it afterward? The sugar and flour sacks don't fit into any containers very well. I hesitate to open it to pour it in something.

I've been keeping the old plastic and metal coffee cans so I may be able to store some things in there. My dh has suggested the five gallon containers you can buy. I may try that. I could buy some ice cream in buckets and save those. What is the best method for keeping the bugs out?

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My favorite are hard to get these days. The glass institutional size pickle jars. Get them from delis, convenience stores that have fast food and the like. Some grocery stores carry the institutional size items if you use that much. They seal tight and work great. I especially like it for flour. I just give the whole jar a good shaking and it's the equivalent of sifting the flour. Gently scoop or spoon it out. I have some glass canisters that I use for pasta.

I too put all pasta, flour, etc, in the freezer for a few days, then into air tight containers.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 12:24PM
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I'm a big FoodSaver fan and use it to vacuum seal dry goods in canning jars, FoodSaver canisters, and FoodSaver Bags. All foods will keep longer if you eliminate oxygen and store in a cool, dry, dark place. I also have lots of FoodSaver Universal Lids that can go on nearly anything that has a smooth opening to vacuum seal the container.

DO NOT store flour vacuum-sealed in FoodSaver bags. Flour should be left free-flowing rather than air-tight and packed in a bag - so use a jar or a canister and vacuum-seal those. Flour has enough moisture in it to develop a mildew flavor or foster mold when compressed.

I keep hundreds of pounds of grain/seeds/beans vacuum-sealed in FoodSaver bags and canning jars and have used this method of storage for over 20-years. I've never had an infestation when I've used this method for food storage of dry goods.

You may enjoy the link below for more food storage information.


Here is a link that might be useful: Prudent Food Storage Q & A

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 2:13PM
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Some of the fast food places that have fryers may have some plastic pails for the oil, about 5 gal., I think, that they throw out, so might save one, a couple or a few for you, if you ask.

Ice cream in gallon tubs?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 4:13PM
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Although ole joyful has a good idea, it's also a bad idea. Fats and oils, and fats and oils in foods, BOND with plastic and no amount of cleaning or degreasers can completely remove it. So the bonded fat can go rancid and affect the food stored inside the bucket. Check the link below for more storage containers and information.

Once again, unless you use an oxygen-free method for long storage, such as oxygen absorbers or a FoodSaver, you haven't avoided the #1 enemy of stored foods - oxygen. Air-tight just doesn't cut it! Another reason for taking OUT the air in stored foods is to prevent weevil and other crawley things from consuming your food before you do.


Here is a link that might be useful: Emergency Essentials - Food-Grade Storage Containers

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 7:31PM
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Would a plastic bag in there mitigate all/most/much of the deterioration, in that the stored material would not contact the bottom and tube of the pail, or would it contaminate even through the folded-over excess plastic at the top, Grainlady?

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 9:43PM
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If anyone knows about food storage, it's grainlady.

But not having the great storage supplies she has, I'll say Bay Leaves scattered on shelves & in containers keep bugs away too. (I stash pasta, beans, meal, etc. in freezer for a week before putting in containers). Haven't had a food pest since I began this practice 4 years ago.

BTW, if you see 'moths' flying around in baking isle of grocery, don't buy anything offered -you can bet one or another of the products contain larva.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:26PM
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"I just give the whole jar a good shaking and it's the equivalent of sifting the flour."

Wouldn't that be the opposite of sifting?? Sifting make the flour fluffier. Shaking it in a container compresses it, just like the dry contents in containers settle during shipping.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 1:58AM
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Depends on how you shake it, Dilly. There's a way to shake that compacts, and a way to shake that loosens. Many times, I will dip my measuring cup into the flour, pour it back into the container and then scoop up enough to fill the cup. I feel like this fluffs up the flour enough to get as accurate measurement as I need. I cook and bake more by "feel" anyway, and I think Grainlady does, too. Sometimes you need a little more flour than called for in the recipe, sometimes less, depending on the humidity, etc.

I read an interesting article once that said that the only reason why flour was sifted "way back when" was because flour was kept in wooden barrels and this eliminated any splinters from inside the barrel. I hardly ever sift dry ingredients. Baking soda is prone to clumping, which sifting solves, but it's just as easy to either dissolve it in some of the liquid called for, or smush the lumps out with your finger while it's in the measuring spoon.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 7:38AM
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I once took a class entitled "Pests in the Pantry". The entomologist said bay leaves are not a pest deterant and you only find it listed as a deterant in unscientific writings.

He explained most people have their homes regularly sprayed for pests and this is a deterant, but doesn't necessarily prevent infestation.

Weevils, beetles (and their ilk) ride into the home inside dry goods purchased pre-packaged in plastic bags/boxes/paper, dry pet food, bird seed, sealed boxes of food, bags, decorative vegetation (dried Indian corn), etc., and bay leaves have little to no effect on them. They already have their "home" and food source.

Removing food from plastic bags, boxes, waxed paper and other similar packaging because pests can chew through them; and storing food in a container with an air-tight lid will help pest control.

Dry ice treatment kills most adult insects and larvae, but treating a container of food with dry ice will probably NOT destroy the eggs or pupae. So unless you store the food in an oxygen-free container/package, the eggs or pupae can thrive after the dry ice treatment.


    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 8:01AM
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Are weevils, etc. more of a south thing? I've never had problems with bugs and I store a lot of grains. I like my Click Clack storage because they stack nicely, are rectangular in shape(round containers are space wasters,) are air tight, and have wide enough tops to get a measure cup in and leveled w/out making a mess.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 10:44AM
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Thanks for posting that article. Something I thought was interesting, but never thought about was the appetite fatigue (page 9). Also, making sure what you have a variety of foods so you don't stock up on wheat and then discover you're allergic to wheat made sense.

Dh and I sat down and discussed our goals for food storage a little bit again last night. He wants to have around six months of food on hand while I probably want more like a years worth just because I'm more conservative. We think it would be worth our while to find some usable recipes for things we could easily store, but don't normally use such as cornmeal or lentils. It'd be variety in our diet and also a way of learning to cook new things. If something bad happens like dh getting laid off, we'd be able to make our money stretch further.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 11:59AM
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I've been wondering about that too. I don't know anyone in my area that's ever had bugs in their dry goods. I asked my mom and mil as well. Perhaps it is a regional problem.

The only thing I've heard about is cockroaches in people's kitchens. I know a lady who goes into homes of those in poverty in the inner-city to teach them nutrition and cooking basics and she has some stories of cockroaches! Yuck!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 1:48PM
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"Pantry pests" can happen anywhere. You guys are either very lucky or very clean - ;-). People who tend to quickly use foods in their cabinets/pantries also tend to have the least problem with infestation. It's that forgotten plastic bag of beans or cardboard box of "I don't know HOW long that's been there" oatmeal that makes a perfect stopping place for "pantry pests". As well as having fewer things where the pests tend to foster and spread - pet food, bird seed, etc. Do you also have your homes sprayed for "pests" on a regular basis - that can also help eliminate infestation.

adellabedella -

Here's a potential compromise for you and your hubby. How about a year's worth of what is commonly called the "Seven Survival Foods", and 6-months of other things. With the Seven Survival Foods you can make any number of things even under the most frugal situation.

Seven Survival Foods: grains, legumes, sprouting seeds, honey (or sweetener of choice), salt, oil, and powdered milk.

My main sweetener in storage is agave nectar instead of honey (agave nectar has a longer shelf-life and it's a natural low-glycemic sweetener that is appropriate for use by most diabetics), some honey, white sugar, sucanat, and maple sugar. I keep raw honey mainly for it's medicinal purposes.

For oil I store coconut oil (LouAna brand from Wal-Mart as well as lesser amounts of Tropical Traditions and Nutiva). Coconut oil has a longer shelf life than shortening or vegetable oil. I've never had coconut oil go rancid on me. I also have a couple cans of powdered butter in our long-term emergency storage.

Milk - I keep several brands in storage. The bulk of it is Morning Moo's - a whey-based milk substitute. Morning Moo's is also low-lactose and tastes closest to store-bought milk of all powdered milk products, but I also keep a lactose-FREE whey-based milk substitute (1st & Best Whey Milk - in storage. Just like finding out you had a wheat allergy, how about that lactose intolerance.... (which affects our son and granddaughter). A couple brands of instant non-fat dry milk (also in #10 hermetically sealed cans), and a small amount of Nestle NIDO - a dry whole milk powder (you can find it at Wal-Mart in the Hispanic/Latino section). Most of these are in hermetically-sealed #10 cans for long-term storage, but I use from a 24# bucket of Morning Moo's for daily milk use.

I'd also add one more thing to the list of 7, and that is powdered whole eggs or egg substitutes. If you don't have powdered eggs, then plan for things that are egg substiutes (I can use flaxseed goop as a substitute because I keep flax in storage). I've kept powdered eggs in storage ever since the potential for pandemic Avian Flu hit the headlines several years ago. If they start to destroy flocks of chickens because of some disease or other, powdered eggs in storage would be a BIG blessing. I also have powdered egg whites and powdered yolks. They work wonderfully well in baking.

If you don't have a mill, you can make lots of things with whole grains. Check out the recipe for Blender Batter Waffles and Pancakes at Sue Greggs web site: - click on the picture of the batter being poured onto the waffle iron for the recipe.

I store dried corn and make my own cornmeal as needed, or you can find a Sue Gregg recipe for Blender Corn Bread that uses whole dried corn. We also make cornmeal pancakes for a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast...

Here is a link that might be useful: Cooking With Food Storage Ingredients

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 3:19PM
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Thanks again! I'll look at the other stuff later when I have more time.

I had a bug outbreak in my dried goods about 8 years ago when I was living in Little Rock. I'm not positive the bugs came from the store. We had picked up some free pecans from some old plantation sites in the area. Those got infested too. My mom had bugs eat through Tupperware from the inside out one time. I've also opened up a bag of sugar straight from the store during the summer and found some freshly hatched bugs. I'm not big on spraying for critters because of the kids. I'll do it out away from the from the house. I do want to prevent an infestation if I can help it. I'd absolutely hate to have to have emergency provisions and then find out they were ruined.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 5:31PM
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Years ago I use to get 5 gallon buckets from the donut shops that they get their icing in. You may want to try there. I am sure they are food grade, but we use to use them Girl Scouts. Makes it easy for some camping gear and a great seat.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2009 at 8:58PM
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How would you store 2 100# bags of Colorado Pinto Beans? Several years ago the ex came home with these. I stored as much as I could in 5# plastic buckets with tight fitting lids. (not air tight) We didn't have a problem with pests but being that there were only 2 of us and we maybe cooked beans once a month, most became extremely "hard". It took more energy to cook than savings on beans and eventually became impossible to cook long enough to get tender. My question is - would air tight containers prevent this. (yes, I know, why 100 lbs of beans for two people. I don't remember what his answer to that was at the time.)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 5:52PM
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When browqn sugar got hard, Dad used to put an apple core in the package overnight, on a piece of waxed paper - and the sugar moistened up nicely. I use banana peels - but bananas were a seldom used luxury when I was young.

Works with cookies, too.

Might work with beans.

ole joyful

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 10:30PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

One idea for milk for those who are lactose intolerant is almond milk. It does not need to be refigerated and will keep for quite a while in those boxes (our family prefers Blue Diamond brand, cheapest at Trader Joe's).

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 1:43AM
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Grainlady I am going to check out Foodsaver. Thanks for the suggestion. Now that we are more concerned about long-term food storage, vacuumed sealed seems like a better idea.

For short-term (a few months) storage, I use old "Charles Chips" Tins. They are hard to find though. Pepperidge Farm makes a nice little tin for "Pirouette" creamed filled wafers. They are pricey though. I buy them when I have to take something to a shower. That way I get to keep the tin and use them to store pasta, beans, rice etc.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:56AM
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: ) I do use the 5 gallon tubs from food service companies- the twist-off lids are the best, but hard to find.

but for my every-day needs, I depend on my husband - his drink of choice is chocolate Quik, which we can only afford in the bulk size - which comes in a nifty plastic container with a handle, and a screw-top lid.

I have them all labeled in the under-stairs pantry, and use stickers to date-stamp them, so I know which one to use next.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 12:03PM
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I am totally with the Grainlady when it comes to the foodsaver for food storage. I use the canisters for most things rather than the bags. Canisters are more economic because they are reusable. But for freezer items, I use bags. No nasty freezer burn. Love, love, love the foodsaver.

You can also use the foodsaver to marinade food--the vacuum pressure pulls the marinade into the food, cutting the marinade time in half. They actually make a marinade canister.

I got the mid-range model that included a couple of canisters and bags for under $100 at Tuesday Morning.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 12:48AM
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"Wouldn't that be the opposite of sifting?? Sifting make the flour fluffier. Shaking it in a container compresses it, just like the dry contents in containers settle during shipping."

No. Think of it like a tumble dryer. It essentially air-fluffs the flour. When I look at the level of product in there before and after, it's definitely different if it's been sitting a long time and settled.

I don't store the volumes that Grainlady does so I get by with canning jars and my Pump-n-Seal which is an excellent vacuum sealer. I have a Food Saver but seldom use it anymore. THe PnS does great for me with the smaller quantities.

But in the end, I've started buying smaller quantities to avoid spoilage, damage and other storage issues. So I don't deal with it too much anymore.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 1:03AM
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Hello Grainlady and all,

I have a dozen 25lb. bags of pinto beans that have started to mildew in their original bags. I have been a little slow about getting them into storage. Any way to save them, such as rewashing and then drying them?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 12:04PM
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susie - No. Washing would only spread the spores further, and any trace of moisture would let the mold grow more. They are processed in industrial-size dryers.

They are compost pile material.

This is why you have to store bulk purchases correctly and quickly.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 1:07PM
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I agree with lazygardens. You shouldn't use these beans for human consumption. Those mold spores (mildew) can also be deadly aflatoxins. You need to take care storing grains/beans/seeds to prevent mold, so do some study on the subject to prevent so much waste.

Another suggestion... Although they have a good storage time, I'd suggest you purchase only what you can reasonable use within a year or two. and keep it rotated. Old beans don't work well for food preparation, and take a lot longer to cook, which requires a lot more energy. If you do need to use old beans, they will cook faster if you mill the beans into bean flour before cooking.

"Fresh" pinto beans will be a creamy tan color. The older they get the darker they will get, so that is one way to check age.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 8:52PM
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