By Benjamin St. Jacques
These days, many people are spending more time in their supermarket’s bulk bin aisle and stocking up on food staples at big box stores. Buying food in bulk is a smart idea because it has several benefits.
For one, buying bulk goods is cheaper than buying prepackaged food. It’s also less wasteful because you’re not throwing away food packaging. Buying in bulk also encourages healthy eating habits as most bulk items are nutritious foods like whole grains, beans, and nuts. Finally, if you buy in bulk then you will be better prepared for an emergency.
Whether you buy in bulk for savings, health, or preparedness, you’re going to face the challenge of food storage. Follow these tips to make sure your bulk items stay safe and flavorful for as long as possible.
Plain white wheat flour is a great pantry staple because it’s so versatile. But flour that sits too long can attract beetles, weevils, and tiny worm-like moth larvae (gross).
To prevent bugs, first store your flour in the freezer for about two weeks. Then, you can transfer the flour to glass jars or metal containers with tight fitting lids and place them in your pantry. You can use that stash for up to two years. And remember, flour absorbs odors, so be sure to keep your it away from spices, coffee, and other strong scents.
There’s a wide variety of nutritious whole grains available in your bulk bin such as whole wheat, oats, brown rice, quinoa, and amaranth. All whole grains should be placed in freezer-safe bags or containers and then stored in your freezer or refrigerator. That will keep them fresh for up to a year.
Unlike refined grains, whole grain still contains oils that can go rancid if left at room temperature for too long. Here’s a simple test to tell if your grains are fresh: If they start to smell like turpentine, throw them out. These rules apply to whole-grain flours as well!
Nuts and Seeds
Ideal storage for nuts and seeds is in a tightly sealed glass jar in the refrigerator. They’ll last for up to 5 months. If you won’t be eating the nuts for a while, then transfer them to the freezer (in a freezer-safe container of course) where they’ll stay fresh for up to a year.
Herbs and Spices
Light and air are enemies to dried herbs and spices, so store them in airtight containers in a dark cupboard. You can also refrigerate or freeze them to extend their freshness and shelf life. Also, be mindful of what herbs and spices you typically use. If you use a lot of oregano, then it makes sense to buy it in bulk. But if you don’t use paprika that much, then just buy it as you need it.
First, sift through the beans to remove any broken beans and pebbles. Then, transfer them to a food-safe storage container with a tight-sealing lid. Keep the beans in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, and they’ll last for up to a year. It’s not necessary to refrigerate or freeze beans, although doing so won’t hurt them either.
Dried fruit may be the simplest item to store long term. Place the fruit in a food-safe jar and store it in the refrigerator. It will be good to eat for up to two years. Or put your dried fruit in the freezer, and it’ll last indefinitely.
One Final Piece of Food for Thought
If you ever forget these rules or are unsure of how to store something, just remember: light, air, and heat are enemies of most foods. Keeping your bulk items away from those elements will make your food last longer.
Images used with permission, courtesy of www.dreamstime.com and www.shutterstock.com