Protecting Food from Pests
How can you keep the pesky creatures from getting into your food and ruining it, before your family gets a chance to eat it? You need to consider where you store your food and how to keep it safe from pest contamination.
We would all love to have the perfect, dry basement that maintains a steady 65 degrees F, but very few families have that luxury. Most of us are dealing with damp basements, hot garages, tiny closets and wherever else we can find. You have to do the best you can with what you’ve got.
The key is proper rotation. Those 10 pound cans of food, that boast 25 year shelf lives, are only good that long when stored in “ideal” conditions. If your storage area is warmer than the recommended storage temperature, you likely will have a 5 to 7 year maximum shelf life.
Heat isn’t your only enemy. Pesky mice and bugs must also be considered when storing food.
Flour can be stored for a year on a shelf. It is a recommended hat you keep in it in the freezer for a bit, to kill off weevil eggs, that are very common in flour. It will take about a week in the freezer to kill the larvae. Bags of flour left on the shelf, especially a warm shelf, are ideal hatcheries for the bugs. Kill them before they get a chance to contaminate your flour.
Ok, don’t freak out. The fact is that you have been eating bug larvae, but you’ve managed this long.
If you do open a bag of flour and see little bugs you have 2 choices:
- You can throw it away. The old adage, “when in doubt, throw it out” might be your chosen method for dealing with this.
- Many people just sift the flour and continue on.
The Power of Bay Leaves
Bay leaves can be used for more than soup. They make great bug deterrents for dry foods.
Put a few leaves directly into the dry foods, like beans, or line the containers that you are using to store your food. If you are using the very common 5-gallon food grade buckets for your dried foods, 10 bay leaves should do the trick. You can even put bay leaves into your flour after you have frozen it to give it added protection.
Plastic Totes and Mylar Bags
Mice are not deterred a bit by plastic bags or cardboard. They will chew right through it to get to the good stuff inside.
To prevent this put your food inside food grade 5 gallon buckets or tightly sealed totes. Things like rice, flour, beans, pasta and sugar are better kept free of mice when stored in totes. These are also ideal for stacking and are easily organized. Label these containers for easy identification. I label mine with paint labels, from the local hardware store… and the color is a code for the food inside. I hope there won’t be groups of thieves who are out to steal people’s paint!
Mylar bags are fabulous for long-term food storage needs. They protect food from air, light and critters when sealed properly. You can find these bags in a variety of sizes. Once you pack your food inside, you will vacuum out the air and moisture, before sealing with a hot iron. These bags can be opened and sealed again, which makes them super nice to have in your food storage supplies.
Food Storage Basics Series:
- Part 1: Making a Food Storage Plan
- Part 2: Think Ingredients
- Part 3: Math, Recipes and Shopping Lists
- Part 4: Storing Your Food Storage
- Part 5: Storing Water
- Part 6: Storing Dairy Products
- Part 7: Building Up your Food Storage
- Part 8: Protecting Food From Pests