How to Store Food in Bulk

If you're going to buy food in bulk, you need to know how to store food in bulk. Because you don't want things to go bad before you use them, and you definitely don't want to create pest problems for yourself.

So, let's look at the right way to store everything from fresh produce to grains and meat in bulk.

Fruits and Vegetables

Bulk Food Storage
Bulk Food Storage. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Many fall fruits and vegetables -- apples, pears, onions, potatoes, winter squash -- are ideally suited to long term storage. Just find a cool, dark place to store them, and they'll keep for months.

Other fruits and vegetables need to be frozen, dried or canned, if you're going to store them for the long haul. But that taste of summer in the middle of winter makes its well worth the effort.

Meat

packaged chicken legs at the store
Tom Hahn/E+/Getty Images

Whether you're buying half a cow from a local farmer, or snagging packages of reduce-priced meat from the grocery store, you need to wrap your purchase carefully before you stick it in the freezer. A good wrap job is your best defense against freezer burn.

Grains

Flour
Flour. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Freeze flour, brown rice and other grains when you get them to kill any insect eggs that might be present (yuck!). Then, seal them in air-tight containers before you move them to your pantry or stockpile. If you have the room in your freezer, keep them there. Whole grains go rancid at room temperature in a matter of months, but will keep in the freezer indefinitely.

Nuts

Nuts
Nuts. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

The high oil content in nuts causes them to good rancid quickly, so it's best to store them in the freezer, if you have the space. The refrigerator is your next best bet. And if you absolutely have to store them in the pantry, leave them in the shell, until you're ready to eat them.

Dairy and Eggs

Eggs
Eggs. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Milk, cheese and eggs may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to buying in bulk, but if you can spare the freezer space, it's definitely worth stocking up when you find a good sale. 

How to Freeze: butter, buttermilk, cheeseeggs heavy cream

Powdered milk will keep for 18 months in the pantry, so only buy what you can use in a reasonable amount of time. Here are some tips to extend the shelf life, and to help you determine when it's time to replace it.

And milk isn't the only thing you can buy in powdered form. Keep powdered buttermilk, sour cream, heavy cream and eggs in your stockpile, so you always have some on hand. Learn more.

Herbs and Spices

Dried herbs (homemade or store-bought) will keep for years, but are at their best the first year after they've been dried. So, stock up accordingly.

Prefer to use fresh herbs? Then, fill your freezer when they're in season. They'll keep indefinitely.

Dried Beans

Dried Beans
Dried Beans. Photo © Erin Huffstetler

Only buy as many beans as you can use within a year. Older beans take longer to soak and cook, and they may never soften up completely.

Buy What You Use. Use What You Buy.

It's easy to get carried away when you're buying in bulk. Stick to the foods that you know your family will eat, and buy them in quantities that you know they'll be able to eat. A 50-pound bag of flour won't save you any money, if no one in your family likes to bake, and you end up throwing 49 pounds of it away at the end of the year.

It's also smart to consider the shelf life of foods, when evaluating how much to buy:

Keep your pantry, stockpile and freezer(s) well organized, so you know what you have on hand, and make an effort to plan meals around what you have. An inventory list can be a big help:

Rotate through your inventory, using the oldest foods first, and inspect your food storage areas regularly for signs of pest infestations and mechanical failures. Power outages can cause large food losses when you're storing food in bulk, so it's wise to have a plan in place.

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