A couple decades ago I had a terrific set up in my Iowa homesteading kitchen. I stored bulk grains, flours, nuts, dried fruit, and so forth in 5-gallon and 10-gallon size galvanized cans with "tight-fitting" lids. I didn't search beyond the galvanized bins. They were perfect. They were slick and hid away tons of food. Neatly stacked. Very homesteady!
One day I opened my sack of flour and it was infested with weevils. I was horrified! I thought that I had great storage. I soon discovered that all the cans were infested with little creepy buglets. Yuk! Beans, flours, whole grains, seeds, corn, every-freaking-thing. It was devastating. Nearly everything was a loss.
What did I do next? Eliminated all infested food to the compost heap. I declared: "I will prevent this from happening again". I had a book, I don't recall the title, but it was on household pests...from mice and rats to pantry pests. There were lots of tips in the book: store in containers with watertight screw top lids, wipe shelves down, don't store food in grain sacks, and so forth.
The Pantry Motto
I will prevent, prevent, prevent. Inspect. Bulk items will be segregated. Store in quality containers.
- Biosecurity: Never bring new dry items into the kitchen without an inspection. Period. Never. Ever.
- Clean, dry storage container: Have a clean container ready. I prefer Vittles Vaults for bulk storage and mason jars with lids/rings for smaller quantities.
- Inspection: All grain sacks big and small will be inspected. Those little buggers' mamas like to lay eggs in the folds. Check all the glued seams too. Open the sack and look for the little buggers. Pour the food into a container and inspect as you fill. Check the bottom of the bag for evidence of creepy crawlies.
- Inventory management: Never, ever co-mingle old inventory with new! Use up the flour or transfer to a smaller container, clean the Vault, and refill with the new flour.
- Segregate: Never, ever store more than one bulk item in a Vault. Note the exception below for long term storage.
- Store: Pour dry goods into storage container.
- More protection: Toss in oxygen absorbers or dry ice. Vacuum seal mason jars.
- Long term emergency provision storage: If you are storing in vacuum sealed mylar bags with oxygen absorbers it's fine to store multiple ingredients in one vault. Of course, it's still good practice to rotate your emergency provisions regularly. Label with date--makes it easy to rotate inventory. 5-gallon food storage containers with gasket can be more affordable for long term storage compared to Vittles Vaults.
- Go hunting periodically: Go through pantry and all storage jars and containers and check for signs of infestation...wipe down shelves as you go. Make a note to use up that 1 cup of beans that was behind all those other jars.
Other pantry considerations:
- Use canning jars with lid and ring rather than plastic storage lid for more secure storage.
- My thoughts on "tight-fitting": fill container with water, cap it, and turn it upside down. Over a sink. If it leaks I wouldn't use it for dry storage.
- Segregated bulk storage can limit the damage if something is infested. Better to loose a couple of pounds of one item than many pounds of several items.
- Freeze special or expensive grains, seeds, nuts, etc before storing or store in the freezer.
- If you want to try to save a something that is infested--perhaps the infestation isn't too bad--consider baking in the oven to kill the critters.
- Consider adding diatomaceous earth to bulk storage.
- Consider metal racks in the pantry rather than shelving with lots of nooks and crannies.
- If it's food it can be vulnerable to infestation.
- Plastic bags and paper will not keep the critters at bay.
- Cereal and Pantry Pests, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Entomology (identification)
- Insect pests of stored food, University of Minnesota Extension
- Pantry Pests, Utah State University Extension (identification and management)
- Pest of Homes, Structures, People, and Pets, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (identification, management)
- Special thanks to Dale, Nia, Kiki, and Steph for all the love and support!
- Raleigh, the guy I love to hate when it comes to all things internet, thank you for all your great ideas...not!
- Aaron Glasson, Permaculture Velocity logo
- Music: Tell Somebody by Alex Beroza featuring AdmiralBob, digccmixter, licensed underCreative Commons 3.0
- And to all those podcasters out there sharing good information on podcasting for those of us just getting going with this podcast thing! Thank you!