Building a “home store” of food and other supplies isn’t easy: it requires a lot of time, effort, expense, and dedication. It takes work and, most important, knowledge of these 4 most common food storage mistakes. No one wants to waste that time, effort, expense, and work! Am I right?

Yet, more often than not, that is exactly what happens. Since 2010 or so, I’ve worked with many people that have had well-stocked food storage for a lot longer than I have and all of them tried to avoid these 4 common food storage mistakes.

So, you may wonder why these people have come to me as a food storage consultant if they already have a home stocked with food storage.

4 most common food storage mistakes

Well, the reason is that most of them have unwittingly “ruined” or wasted that food storage – and all the effort and money they put into building it – in one of the following four common ways.

4 Common Ways to Ruin Your Food Storage at Home

Please don’t invest in food storage if you don’t plan to keep it safe. Make sure you don’t ruin your food storage with one of these 4 most common food storage mistakes!

#1 Food Storage Mistake: Heat

Food should be stored between 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit: the cooler the better.  Most of the “shelf life” ratings you will find on food are based on a storage temperature of about 60-70 degrees.

As a general rule, for every 10° over 70°, you cut your shelf life in half for most products.  So, if you have a can of green beans from the grocery store that says it expires in three years, but you’ve stored them at 80°, you should probably throw them out after about a year and a half.

On the flip side, for every 15° under 60°, you double your shelf life for most products (to a point).  So, if you store that same can of green beans at 50°, you would likely be safe using them four to five years later.

**The estimates above are rough estimates and will vary slightly depending on the study, but give you a general idea of how heat affects your food**

It is important to note that heat alone typically will not make your food unsafe to eat, but it will cause it to lose its nutrition and flavor, and that makes it unappealing and less useful as a nutrition source (though it will still have caloric value).

Some may say, well, it is 40 degrees in my garage in the winter and 90 in the summer, so that balances out to an average of about 60 degrees, so I’m good, right?

Unfortunately, that is wrong. Large temperature swings can be worse for your food than high temperatures.  Big fluctuations in temperature like that can cause cans to expand and contract and mess with the seams, causing a poor seal (and exposure to oxygen & moisture…see below).

Many of the good-intentioned people I mentioned above stored their food in a hot garage and effectively “ruined” it–at least some of it.  When they went to open it and use it, they found the food inedible even though it had a shelf life of 25 years and maybe it had only been 20.

Don’t make the same food storage mistake!

#2 Food Storage Mistake: Light

Exposure to both natural and artificial light can damage food.  It is called photodegradation.  Light causes a chemical reaction to food that can cause it to develop an off-flavor or a change in color or vitamin loss.  Oil is especially susceptible to light as are vitamins A, D, and E.

As often as possible, food should be stored in opaque containers and kept in dark closets/areas of your home that are rarely exposed to light.

I’ve met many good-intentioned people who spent hours and hours over years of their lives canning food to preserve for later and then putting those beautiful glass jarred goods in an open pantry with lots of light exposure.  When they went to eat the food they had spent so much effort on, they were sorely disappointed to find that all that light exposure had “ruined” their food stores.

Again, exposure to light does not automatically make your food unsafe to eat, but it will cause it to lose its nutrition and flavor which makes it unappealing and less useful as a nutrition source (though it will still have caloric value).  This is especially true of fruits and veggies.

However, anything with oil or fat in it will go rancid quite quickly when exposed to light–canned meat, cooking oil, mayo, shortening, etc.

Don’t make the same food storage mistake!

#3 Food Storage Mistake: Humidity & Oxygen

Have you ever wondered why freeze-dried food has a longer shelf life than dehydrated food?  The reason is that it has a lot less moisture left in it.  Humidity and oxygen speed microbiological growth and can make your food unsafe to eat.  Ideally, you should store your food at 10% humidity or below.  However, this is very unreasonable for most areas.

The solution to this is proper packaging. Buy things that are already correctly packaged and sealed in food-grade buckets or mylar bags with oxygen absorbers.  Or, learn to properly package foods this way yourself.

how to use oxygen absorbers

In addition, even when food is properly packaged in a metal can, humidity can cause those cans to rust.  If you live in a humid area and/or do not plan to regularly rotate and use your food, this is especially a risk.  Ask food storage companies if they line their cans with food-grade enamel on both the inside and outside to prevent this from happening.  I know for sure that Thrive Life does. I know that Emergency Essentials and the LDS Home Storage Centerline theirs on the inside only (which is better than no lining).

I’ve seen many well-intentioned people spend money on big bags of flour, rice, or anything else from Costco and throw it on a shelf in their cool, dark, but humid pantry–it was not properly packaged against oxygen and moisture.

Sadly when they went to use it, they found it rancid.

Don’t make the same food storage mistake!

#4 Food Storage Mistake: Time

Are you using your food storage?  If not, you need to!  Yes, 10-30 years is a very long shelf life, but it is still limited.  And unless you are doing very well at all the above-mentioned things, the shelf life of many of your foods will likely be shorter.  If you don’t use your food before that shelf life, you will waste it, and the most expensive food we buy is the food we throw away!

The solution is to only store foods that you enjoy eating and can incorporate into your everyday lifestyle.  This makes rotation easy.  I highly encourage you to try any food you are considering purchasing before you buy a large supply of it.  Make sure you like how it tastes, that you can cook with it, and that the quality is high enough for your family.

Don’t make the same food storage mistake!

Avoid these 4 Food Storage Mistakes!

Finally, personally, I buy all my basics at the LDS Home Storage Center because they have the best prices around. Also, I buy all my freeze-dried meats, fruits, and veggies from Thrive Life. It is the highest quality food I’ve found.  As such, it not only works as “food storage,” but as part of our everyday meals as well.   Best of all, I won’t have to throw away thousands of dollars in food in 20-30 years because I never got around to using it.

Sadly, I’ve seen many well-intentioned people do just that. They invested thousands in food to protect their family, only to throw that food away years later because they didn’t use it and “ruined” it with time. That was some expensive food!

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4 common food storage mistakes