If you’re already storing food, then you’re two or three steps ahead of most Americans. You’ve got a measure of food security they don’t enjoy.
Of course, the food you store is only valuable if you can actually eat it when you need it. Imagine going to your pantry or basement to bring out some food only to discover it’s spoiled and no longer edible.
The emotional letdown would be horrible, especially if you were really counting on that food. In some ways, if your food spoils, you’d probably have been better off not storing any food at all.
With that in mind, I’d like to share with you the three biggest enemies of stored food so you know how to keep your stored food safe and edible.
The #1 Enemy of Stored Food: Rodents
You probably know this… rodents (like mice and rats) like to eat. And they especially like to eat human food that’s been left out in easy-to-get-to places.
A few years ago we rented a house that had a really bad mouse problem. In the previous house we had lived in, we’d never had a mouse problem, so this was new territory for us.
These mice would come in through the garage and get into our kitchen. Then they would actually JUMP UP the shelves in the pantry. Nothing on the first two shelves was safe. They would eat through all kinds of packaging to get to the contents inside.
Naturally, I went out and bought a variety of different mouse traps. I bought glue traps, the “new and improved” easy-set traps, and the traditional cheapo traps.
The glue traps took way too long to kill the mice. Glue traps are inhumane, and I won’t use them again. The easy-set traps were indeed easy to set — they just wouldn’t kill mice. The traps would go off and I’d find a mouse scooting around the garage with a trap stuck to it.
By far, the best mouse traps you can buy are the old cheapo ones that are two for a dollar. They work and they work fast.
So here are two recommendations. First, put your stored food in a place where it will be hard for rodents to reach it. Put canned food on lower shelves and dry goods (that come in bags or pouches) on higher shelves.
Second, place at least two mouse traps in your garage and keep them there year-round. Mice like to run along walls and baseboards, so you want to place your traps perpendicular to a wall, snug up against it.
Peanut butter is the best bait. Mice like it and the peanut butter gets them to sit there and lick it off.
You’ll probably find you catch the most mice in the fall when the weather starts to get cooler. The cold drives them indoors.
The #2 Enemy of Stored Food: Moisture
I live in Colorado, which is a dry state, so I don’t have to worry about moisture quite as much as some people, but I still have to think about it. After all, Colorado can experience severe flooding.
Obviously, canned goods are fairly well-protected. Mice and moisture will probably not damage your canned goods. But too much moisture can damage dry goods and any vegetables you may have stored in a basement or root cellar.
Too much moisture causes mold and mildew. It can also cause grain and seeds to sprout.
When you store food, store it in a dry place. In Colorado, basements and pantries are often the best choices. Store dry goods at least three to four feet off the floor. This is a precaution in case you ever experience flooding or other forms of water damage.
Air circulation is important for preventing moisture build-up. So make sure to leave some air space between walls and food.
If you live in a humid environment, then consider placing silica gel packets alongside your stored food to absorb extra moisture. Silica gel packets are cheap “insurance.”
The #3 Enemy of Stored Food: Light/Heat
There is a reason why so many products come with the instructions to store in a “cool, dry place.” It’s because cool, dry (and dark) conditions help to prolong life.
The jungles near the equator are hot, wet, and sunny. Things breakdown and decompose extremely fast in a jungle environment. Places that are cool, dry, and dark tend to preserve things for a long period of time.
Like moisture, both light and heat can activate the growing properties of grains, seeds, and tubers (like potatoes). So you always want to store your food in place that is cool, dark, and well out of the way of any direct sunlight.
By the way, basement temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, and are about 10 degrees cooler than the floor above. This means your basement may be around 58 degrees in winter and 62 degrees in summer.
This is cool enough for storing dry goods and other packaged foods, but probably not cool enough to store vegetables through the winter. For that you’d need to build a root cellar.
Remember these three “rules” for protecting your stored food…
1. Set mouse traps to prevent rodents from entering your house.
2. Keep dry goods elevated (at least 3-4 feet above the ground) so they are not ruined by water or flood damage.
3. Make sure you store dry goods and packaged foods in a cool, dry, and dark place to extend their usable lifespan.
If you have other tips or suggestions you’d like to share, feel free to submit those via my Contact page. Thanks!
Don’t be scared. Be prepared.