Dry goods are items that can be bought in bulk and stored over an extended period due to their long shelf life. For many, having some pasta, rice, or oats in the pantry is part of having a well-stocked house. Even with these hardy foodstuffs, they will deteriorate and become unpalatable over time if they aren’t stored correctly.
When stored in an airtight container, grains, oatmeal, and pasta can last for years without spoiling. Several mechanisms are used to create airtight containers, utilizing gaskets, clamps, or airlocks. The material of your storage container can vary between plastic, glass, metal, or a combination of these materials. Which size and type of container are best depends on the foodstuff, quantity, and projected length of storage.
Dry goods are generally sold in temporary packagings such as plastic bags or cardboard boxes. While this is suitable if you are living in the right climate and will consume the product within a month, it is not wise to leave your dry goods in such packaging for much longer. Which containers to use, however, is, to an extent, down to personal preference.
The Best Storage Containers Are Airtight
Proper food storage is concerned with food preservation to maintain your foodstuffs fit for consumption as long as possible. The art of food preservation is rooted in eliminating exposure of food to nature and the surrounding environment. This means bacteria, rodents, insects, moisture, light, and heat. By exposing food to any of these factors, it will become inedible for human consumption quicker than it would if that element were eliminated.
The best way to protect your dry goods from most of these risks is to store them in an airtight container, like this type found on Amazon. By doing so, you prevent anything penetrating the vessel and consuming the food, including microscopic bacteria, insects, and mammals. Importantly, airtight containers reduce the oxygen and moisture levels in the food, which are essential elements for bacteria and fungi growth.
Using an airtight container is the ideal starting point for all long-term storage needs. To preserve your grains, oats, and pasta longer, keep the containers in a cool, dark, and dry environment. Also, you may want to include oxygen absorbers in the containers to help maintain freshness.
Airtight Container Construction
There are several mechanisms a container can use to ensure they remain airtight. When choosing containers for your dried goods, pick one that suits your needs.
Most will have a gasket on the lid that compresses once the cover is attached. The compression is essential to form a tight seal between the lid and the container’s body to keep air and moisture out. These gaskets are usually made from rubber or silicone, which makes them unsuitable for freezing as both materials will become brittle and break. Conversely, in sunlight, they will degrade, becoming soft and start to break apart. Gaskets will also lose their flexibility over time, meaning that eventually, the container will no longer be airtight. Take care of your gaskets by hand washing them and drying them immediately. The higher quality the gasket, usually gauged by thickness, the longer it will last.
- Exterior Fastenings
A gasket is of little use if you do not have a suitable fastening mechanism on your container. Typically, most containers use either a clip or clamps to compress the gasket. The strength of the fastening depending on which material the vessel is constructed from. Glass and metal jars, for example, tend to have metal clamps to compress the gasket, whereas plastic boxes will have plastic clips. The stronger the fastening, the better the gasket is compressed, the more airtight the container will be.
- Pop-Up Lids
These containers have a mechanism where you push a button to create an airtight seal. The release, you push the same button. Instead of compressing the silicone or rubber gasket from above, these work by pushing the gasket outwards to create the airtight lock. Inside the lid, there is a single engineered piece of plastic that expands or contracts when the button is pushed. These containers are excellent for everyday use, as they are easy to get in and out of. They are also designed for this purpose and should last several years.
Specific Considerations for Grains, Oatmeal, or Pasta
The proper storage of dry goods is essential if you want to keep them for longer than their sell-by date. Which material your airtight container is made from is a personal preference for most storage lengths. You can use glass, plastic, or metallic containers. If you opt for plastic, be sure to use a plastic container that has been rated food-grade, to avoid any toxic chemicals leaking into your food.
Most grains, such as rice, wheat, or barley, are sold in plastic or paper bags that aren’t suitable for long-term storage. Plastic bags will make the grains sweat in warmer, humid climates, allowing bacteria to multiply. Paper bags are an easy barrier for insects and rodents to penetrate and aren’t suitable to be left in your pantry, no matter how clean it may be. So, it is best to transfer your grains as soon as you purchase them into an airtight container. By doing so, you will extend the shelf-life of these products to at least six months. If you need grains to last longer than that, keep your airtight containers in the fridge or freezer. This will slow bacterial growth further and extend the longevity of the product.
Oatmeal rolled oats and is the same as grains in that they need to be kept in airtight containers. However, it is more important to keep the oats in the dark to extend their shelf life. Therefore, using metallic containers is the most common choice with oats to ensure there is a light barrier without having to keep them in a cupboard. If stored correctly, a package of rolled oats will last up to two years before it starts to degrade.
When you buy pasta, it is usually sold in a plastic bag or a cardboard box. Both of these packagings are fine for short to medium-term storage, i.e., a few months. That is, of course, true if you live in a cool, dry environment that’s free of pests or store them in something like a root cellar. Transferring them to an airtight container will guarantee their longevity. Other than that, you don’t need to make any special provisions for dried pasta. It is a robust food group and will last a few years with minimal care. Signs that the pasta has spoiled are foul odors or discoloration. You may notice that the taste and texture are unusual after cooking, showing that the product had deteriorated during storage. If you see this, throw the pasta away.
Useful Food Storage Products
I took the time to some things you might need to store foods. Here are a few Amazon products that you may find helpful for both mid and long term storage. You may also want to check out my article on storing rice and beans for the long term, to learn more about storing dry goods.
- Airtight Storage Containers– For short or mid-term use.
- Oxygen Absorbers– These help keep the moisture content down.
- 5-Gallon Gasket Sealed Plastic Buckets– The perfect size for my long-term storage needs.
- 5-Gallon Mylar Storage Bags– Fill these bags, seal, then put in the bucket for ultra long-term storage. Mylar Heat Sealer- Bag sealing option #1.
- Large Vacuum Sealed Bags– For a vacuum-sealed alternative.
- Portion-Sized Mylar Bags (Ziplockable)
- Vacuum Sealer– Bag sealing option #2.
- Storage Labels– Logging the date and contents is important.
Ready-Made for Storage
If you want to save yourself the hassle of DIY storage, a really good (and surprisingly affordable) option is to just buy foods pre-packaged for the long term. I highly recommend the products at mypatriotsupply.com.
Whether you are storing grains, oatmeal, or dried pasta, you will want to store them in an airtight container during storage. This will prevent air and moisture from getting into your dried goods, which bacteria and fungi need to multiply. You can purchase airtight containers made from plastic, metal, or glass with various types of gaskets and closing mechanisms. For long-term storage, use containers made of glass, with metal clips. Always keep your dried goods in a cool, dark, and dry environment to prevent them from spoiling.
Which Material for Storage Containers is the Eco-friendliest?
As the material of airtight containers is a personal choice, there are other considerations other than performance to determine what the right product for you is. The price point will likely be an important factor, but so will environmental concerns. Plastic containers are notoriously bad for the environment and will degrade over the decades. Eventually, they will need to be replaced. In contrast, metallic and glass jars should last a lifetime and can be passed down through generations. As aluminum can be recycled, it is the best choice for the green-minded consumer.
How Can You Extend the Shelf Life of Dried Goods?
Other than airtight containers, there are other things you can do to extend the shelf life of your grains, oats, and pasta. Oxygen is what bacteria need to multiply. Therefore, adding in oxygen scavengers into the container before you seal it will create a better environment for preservation. Reducing the temperature and eliminating light are also excellent options for limiting deterioration from fungi. For best results, in terms of longevity, freeze your dried goods. By employing these methods, your dried goods could last decades.
Should I Use Mylar Bags to Store Dried Goods?
Mylar bags are foil containers that are designed to prevent oxygen and light absorption. They are commonly used in the food industry to preserve foods. If you are seeking long-term storage solutions, then yes, Mylar bags are an excellent method to ensure that your foodstuffs are protected as much as possible from the environment. Mylar bags are produced with a thickness between 3.5 and 7 millimeters. The thicker the bag, the better it will protect your food. Of course, the thicker, the more expensive it will be. Unless you are storing goods for a bomb shelter or you are buying many years’ worth of rice at once, this is probably a little excessive.