Monday, April 15, 2013

Buying in Bulk and Shelf Life Basics ~ Pantry Series

"I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread."
~ Psalm 132:15

Here are some important things you will want to remember when purchasing in bulk. Storing a large quantity of food is not prudent if your family won't consume items prior to their expiration. We are also sharing some of our personal preferences for stocking a pantry.
  • First and foremost, keep in mind that all your food will last longer when stored in a cool, dry, dark area, away from direct sunlight (such as behind a cabinet, curtain or closed door) and in airtight containers.
  • Resist the urge to show off your canned goods because sunlight will compromise the quality of your food (and may spoil in time). Heat should be avoided also (so do not store next to stoves, furnaces, etc.).

Storing Nuts and Seeds:
  • Nuts can go rancid rather quickly (and are very expensive!), so once the package is opened (especially in the warmer months), we store our excess in the freezer and keep only a small amount in our pantry. Pine nuts and pistachios are the most sensitive to expiration dates.
  • Whole seeds may last between 1 - 4 years (depending on the kind), if stored properly in airtight containers, and out of direct sunlight. Chia can last from 2-4 years, flax for 1 year, while pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds have a shorter shelf life of 2 - 3 months in your pantry (though longer in the refrigerator).

Storing Whole Grain Flours:
  • Whole grain flours such as whole wheat flour have a shorter shelf life (about 3 - 6 months) so I keep a smaller supply in the pantry and store the rest in the freezer. Because of the wheat germ content, it tends to go rancid quicker than the processed white flours. Intact (un-ground) whole grains will last longer in your pantry.

Storing Spices:
  • Spices stored properly in airtight containers should last a year and will begin to lose potency after that.

Storing Leaveners:
  • Yeast, baking soda and baking powder should be watched carefully for expiration dates because they will lose their strength and will compromise your baking. Generally, baking soda should last two years while baking powder will last 18 months. You can also freeze your yeast to extend its shelf life.

Storing Dried/Basic & Bottled Foods:
  • Most other food items such as dried pastas, rice, sugars, beans, canned and bottled foods will generally last one to two years (use your discretion).

Storing Larger Inventory of Certain Foods/Preparedness & Our Personal Preferences:
  • We like to keep a larger amount of honey in our pantry because it boasts an excellent shelf life (practically indefinite) and is therefore an excellent preparedness food. It is more affordable to buy raw honey in bulk via 5 gallon bucket if you can find a local source.
  • We maintain a larger inventory of tomato puree because it is so versatile. You can prepare Italian dishes, Mexican dishes, soups, sauces and stews with it.
  • We store a larger quantity of vinegar because the shelf life is almost indefinite. We use the white vinegar for cleaning and canning so it helps to be stocked. Balsamic and red wine vinegar are delicious as dressings and raw apple cider vinegar is simply excellent for your health.
  • We also keep a large quantity of certain oils. The shelf life of unrefined coconut oil is about 2 years (some claim even longer) if properly stored away from direct sunlight. Also, high oleic sunflower oil boasts a longer shelf life so we purchase a case of this. Unopened grape-seed oil should keep 1-2 years (unopened) in a cool, dark place. Unfortunately, olive oil goes rancid rather quickly (so I would maintain a smaller inventory of it).
Storing Water:
  • Water is one of the wisest items to store. Being on a farm with a climate prone to powerful storms, we lose electricity often (which is what operates our well pump which means no electricity, no water if our tank isn't full). I encourage everyone to store what you can because every area is prone to some sort of disaster (please know that this is not meant to scare but simply encourage you to prepare).
There are many options for storing foods in a larger scale for a longer period of time. However, these posts are intended to aid the home pantry while trying to maintain a fair amount of food storage for practical and preparedness purposes. We hope to go into detail of longer term food storage in the future. Do you have any tips you would like to add? We will be sharing the first set of pantry printables in our next pantry post.


  1. I am enjoying this series, thanks so much for linking up to Modest Mom, I have been browsing through your blog since last week and am enjoying all you have to share. Just wanted to wave hello (from Vermont) and let you know that you are appreciated. Blessings, Melissa

    1. And I would like to let you know that your kind comment was much appreciated :)

      Thank you Melissa!

  2. The best thing we've done for 'preparedness' is to add chickens to our family. We live in the city with a teeny tiny back yard if you can call it that (think patio)..but we have a garage. So we built a coop with a run that houses 5 hens. We've had them for 5 months and so far it is working well. We use pine shavings as the 'litter' that gets changed out every two weeks and we use the old/used litter in out garden bed (what should be a flower bed, but we chose vegetables instead of flowers)as mulch..which then turns into a rich compost in a couple months time.

    1. Chickens are a wonderful start! Your own fresh eggs are little protein pouches delivered daily :) Thanks for sharing Katie.

  3. Wow, I just learned a lot of new things today :) Thanks, Jes, for sharing - you are full of wonderful wisdom! I keep my yeast in the fridge, but didn't know I could freeze it.
    May you have a blessed week, dear friend!


    1. You too :) And yes, I actually keep all my yeast in the freezer. I buy the big bag and it lasts long that way...

  4. I am enjoying your series and all the pretty pictures. Thank you for the encouragement.


    1. Thank you Cinnamon for your warm words :)

  5. Hello
    Can you tell me if it is ok to store water in those plastic containers they come in when you buy water? I'm not really sure how to store water without it going bad or tasting aweful. I absolutely love your site and I am so glad to have found it! I'm a single mom of 2young kids, tyring to find a way to work from home and homeschool,, there's never a dull moment! I find your site very encouraging! Thank you!

    1. Hi Melanie, thank you for introducing yourself :) While I am not an expert (I will help as I can) you can certainly store your water in those containers because it is food grade and safe. They also recommend using bottles that store juices (just not milk jugs). Don't use bottles that have been used over and over again (and show age and wear) but you are welcome to use something that is in good shape like you mentioned. Here is the easiest way I have seen it described for your use:


      Use only food-grade containers. Smaller containers made of PETE plastic or heavier plastic buckets or drums work well.

      Clean, sanitize, and thoroughly rinse all containers prior to use. A sanitizing solution can be prepared by adding 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of liquid household chlorine bleach (5 to 6% sodium hypochlorite) to 1 liter (one quart) of water. Only household bleach without thickeners, scents, or additives should be used.

      Do not use plastic milk jugs, because they do not seal well and tend to become brittle over time.

      Do not use containers previously used to store non-food products.

      Water Pretreatment

      Water from a chlorinated municipal water supply does not need further treatment when stored in clean, food-grade containers.

      Non-chlorinated water should be treated with bleach. Add 8 drops of liquid household chlorine bleach (5 to 6% sodium hypochlorite) for every 4 liters (one gallon) of water. Only household bleach without thickeners, scents, or additives should be used.


      Containers should be emptied and refilled regularly.

      Store water only where potential leakage would not damage your home or apartment.

      Protect stored water from light and heat. Some containers may also require protection from freezing.

      The taste of stored water can be improved by pouring it back and forth between two containers before use.

      ~ from (though I am not affiliated with LDS in any way, I do appreciate their thorough food storage information).

      Also, rotating your water storage every 6 months with a fresh batch would be prudent.

      I pray you are able to manage all the wonderful things you have planned for your family (ie., working from home and schooling your children). You can certainly home educate for pennies if you use the library. Quality "living" books serve as a free education (without the need for fancy, expensive curriculum)… Feel free to ask any questions you may have :)

  6. That how to store water advice was really cool!

  7. Good information. I love your containers and labels!

  8. Lots of good information - glad you are writing about this.... I am shocked at how many people do not stock up on ANYTHING and are totally taken by surprise when a storm comes. BTW, we don't drink soda, but have found that 2 liter soda bottles work well for storing water (and Kombucha! :) ...........and we have been filling the empty gallon vinegar bottles with water and are storing them under the bathroom sinks inside the cabinets - that way they won't get knocked over, but the bottles are really strong and the water could be used for other than drinking since it will smell/taste like vinegar. :) Appreciate your post. :)

    1. Thanks for adding your great tips! Also, if it was a rough time, no one would mind drinking the vinegar water, they would be thankful to have anything!

  9. Absolutely loved reading your pantry notes. So much important information. Would love to be able to study them all. Thank you

  10. Where do you get your storage containers for food? I've been looking all over!

    1. Hi there! I got some through a Tupperware Party I threw as well as the Container Store (make sure to use their online coupon). Hope this helps! :)

    2. Also, Smart N Final sells some nice stackable containers I like.

  11. I really like using the 2 gallon pop bottles but since we moved and rarely buy them I am keeping my eyes and ears open and begging for them! LOL I really like your blot. Nancy

    1. Thanks for sharing Nancy! I hope you have a lovely weekend!


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