Whether focusing on daily needs or planning for natural disasters, proper food storage can make your life much easier. Here are some basic principles to follow when deciding how and where to store your food.
Understand Your Goals
There are a few goals to keep in mind when storing food.
First, the food must be accessible. Having 20 years of dried food doesn’t matter much if you can only access two weeks' worth.
Second, you should store food in the best environment for it. Cold things need to stay in a fridge or freezer, while other things need to remain at room temperature. Changes in room temperature, such as between summer and winter in a garage, can affect your food’s lifespan.
Third, you should find it easy to see what you have. If you can’t see the food, you may forget about it.
Fourth, we want to minimize waste. Food prices have been rising, so aside from wasting food, poor storage techniques are getting more expensive.
Now that we know our goals let’s look at some specific principles for storing food best.
First In, First Out
Put new food behind older food. This organizational style encourages you to use the older things first and stop them from going bad. If you use new food right when you buy it, you’re more likely to put off using old food and ultimately throw it out.
Keep Similar Products Together
Keep products like cereal, cooking ingredients, and oils close together. This setup makes finding what you’re looking for easier and minimizes time spent digging around the contents of your storage zones.
Stop Pests From Reaching Your Food
The most effective way of stopping pests from reaching food is using a sealed container like a cabinet to physically block pests from entering. Cabinets don’t need to be completely airtight, but limiting the ability of pests to reach food can protect them.
Know Your Temperatures
Appliances like refrigerators and freezers don’t have uniform temperatures inside.
As a general rule, cold air sinks while warmer air rises, so the coldest part of a fridge is usually the lowest area. You can manipulate this to keep things that need to stay as chilly as possible in the lower areas while things that can tolerate slightly warmer air can go on higher shelves.
Check Storage Directions
Most packaged products have storage guidelines that tell you how to keep them fresh. Expiration dates assume you’re following these directions, and failure to follow them could lead to spoilage.
Remember, storage directions may differ between products even if they seem similar on the surface. It’s always better to read the labels than to assume products are similar to what you’ve bought in the past.
Believe it or not, you can reuse some foods. This applies mainly to food scraps, like the ends of vegetables. You can save these up in your freezer until you have a whole bag full of them, then use them to make a stock for soups. By getting more meals from the same amount of ingredients, you can save space while eating healthier.
Buy Food With Different Expiration Dates
If possible, buy and store food with a wide range of expiration dates. Ideally, you’ll waste as little food as possible, but it can be hard to plan things exactly. Having some food you can eat practically any time gives you more flexibility.
For example, you can store some types of rice for decades. Instead of storing it all in one container, it makes more sense to use multiple containers that you can go through relatively quickly. Multiple containers minimize the risk of spoiling from opened containers while maximizing your use of space.
Similarly, honey doesn’t go bad if you store it correctly. Archaeologists have found containers more than a thousand years old with honey that’s still edible. Having long-term foods alongside your short-term options gives you the most flexibility when deciding what to eat next.
Store Emergency Food in Safe Areas
Emergency foods are separate from your regular food supply and should remain in the safest part of your house. In this context, safest means the part of the home most likely to survive any disaster you’re realistically likely to face.
For example, in areas with tornadoes, people often build basement storm shelters because these have a good chance of surviving the disaster. While a tornado may rip apart the rest of the house, food in the basement will probably survive, so that’s where emergency foods should go.
However, in areas that are prone to flooding, basements may be the worst place to store emergency supplies. It may be better to keep them on an upper floor or even in the attic if temperatures allow.
From regular meals to planning for emergencies, correct food storage can help make your life easier. Make sure to follow whatever rules you set down, and eventually, good storage will become a habit you don’t even need to think about.