If you are wondering how to prepare oats for long-term storage, several tips and tricks will help keep your oats fresh.
Having a long shelf-life for our staple foods is something many of us desire, and oats are no exception. Whether we are trying to cut down on trips to the grocery store, have a large family to feed, or just like to keep a well-stocked pantry, knowing the best way to store foods like oats will make a difference. And, with rising food prices, none of us want to purchase something that’s then going to go to waste before we have a chance to use all of it.
Here are 5 ways to prepare oats for long-term storage:
- Make sure you have a dry, well-ventilated space
- Make sure you don’t have unwelcome pests
- Use air-tight containers
- Use oxygen absorbers
- Use Mylar bags
Since oats are a nutrient-rich food that tend to have a long shelf life, many of us think of this staple when filling our pantries. But, knowing that preserving their taste and ingredients is important, we want to make sure we are storing them correctly. But with so many varieties of storage on the market today that it can sometimes feel intimidating to choose what is going to work best for preparing your oats for long term storage. That said, there are plenty of tips to help you decide what type of storage is going to work best for you.
I love having a well-stocked pantry, but I can’t stand it when I open a package or container and realize a food item I’ve purchased has gone bad. Not only is it annoying from a budgeting aspect, but it’s also inconvenient when I reach for something that is no longer edible. Let’s explore the best ways to prepare your oats so that they will always be fresh and available when you need them.
How to Prepare Oats for Long Term Storage
Oats have been a staple in human diets for thousands of years. They are inexpensive, readily available, and are a great source of nutrition.
Oats are high in fiber, which helps keep our digestive systems happy and healthy and also have a decent amount of protein, which is great for those who need to sneak more of it into their diets.
They also are high in (good) carbohydrates, so they tend to be a favorite food amongst people who are trying to lose or maintain their current weight, since they work well to keep us feeling fuller, longer.
Oats come in a variety of options, from steel cut to rolled and even instant. Oat flour has also become increasingly popular as it is more nutrient-rich than regular, white flour.
With so much goodness and diversity, it’s important to learn how to store the oats in our pantry so that they maintain their nutritional value and continue to provide us with their unique, delicious taste.
1. Make Sure You Have a Dry, Well-Ventilated Space
Before you do anything else, check and make sure the area where you plan to store your oats is dry and well-ventilated.
Oats, like many grains, don’t do well in humidity. The genetic makeup of an oat means that it is almost like a little sponge – while it is processed to be relatively compact, if it’s exposed to humid air or moist conditions, it will expand.
Once that expansion occurs, there is a much higher chance that toxins can enter the outer shell of the oat, allowing for mold to grow from the inside out.
Unfortunately, if your oats have been exposed to moisture and mold has started to grow, you may not realize it right away.
Mold is tricky, and can be living on another organism for a while before it actually becomes visible.
By the time you notice mold growth, you may have already had a bowl of oats, or used it in a recipe. Though mold will make your oats taste slightly different, you won’t really notice the full effect until your oats are significantly contaminated.
The best line of defense against mold infiltrating your oats is to make sure you keep them in a dry, ventilated place in your pantry and ensure that no water or humidity can get to them.
2. Make Sure You Don’t Have Unwelcome Pests
Another big challenge for oat lovers is just as unpleasant as mold, but preventable if addressed quickly.
Oats are not just a favorite of humans. Tiny pantry pests will thrive on oats, if allowed to permeate the packaging in which you store them. And they can be aggressive once they’ve set up shop in your oats.
The most common type of pests to take over your oats are weevils or grain beetles. These are both microscopic in size and will lay eggs in your oatmeal that aren’t even visible to the human eye.
Even when hatched, these bugs can be difficult to spot, as they are brown and blend well with your grains, thus making it likely that you may serve up or use your oats before you even realize you have an infestation.
Because both weevils and grain beetles are so tiny, they can be hard to get rid of before the problem becomes bigger than just one container of oatmeal.
These pantry pests are stubborn and multiply quickly. Once you have weevils or grain beetles in your oats, you may very well have them in other items in your pantry as well. Your only recourse at that point is to throw away all the infected foods.
The best way to deal with these little critters is to prevent them from taking over your pantry in the first place. Properly storing your oats and other grains is the best line of defense against these unwelcome critters.
3. Use Air-Tight Containers
Once you’ve made sure you have a well-ventilated, dry spot for your oats, and you’ve rid your pantry of any pests, another key factor in preparing your oats for long term storage is finding the appropriate containers in which to keep them.
Finding the best type of storage containers for your oats isn’t hard. There are so many options to choose from now that your challenge will be to determine which ones are best for you.
Most storage containers are made out of a BPA-free type of plastic, which means they’ve been approved for food storage and do not contain any sort of toxic chemicals that could be harmful to you or your foods if ingested.
When deciding what type of container to use for your oat storage, look for one that has a tight-fitting lid, but one that is also easy to open, especially if you have kids who will be serving themselves, or adults who struggle with fine motor movement skills.
A container that has a silicone sealant and an easy-flip top lid will be best for frequent usage and will also keep the moisture and pests away. Make sure that the lid closes tightly after each use.
With so many options available, you can really customize what you are looking for in food storage. Whether you want a container that’s small and easy to access, or if you are planning on buying and storing oats in bulk, there is something available for every person and every pantry.
4. Use Oxygen Absorbers
Another great tip for keeping your oats fresh and safe for a long period of time is to use oxygen absorbers to keep them dry.
Oxygen Absorbers are a neat little trick that manufacturers have long known about, and are now widely available for private consumer use.
Oxygen is a culprit for anyone trying to keep foods fresh, because the more oxygen that is allowed in a container, the easier it is for air-born toxins to spread. Oxygen also contributes to extra moisture in the air, which leads to things like fungus and mold.
These tiny packets can be dropped into your container, package, or bag to help rid the air around your oats of extra oxygen. Think about these as mini air-purifiers for your favorite foods.
5. Use Mylar Bags
Finally, another tried and true tip for preparing your oats for long term storage is to invest in Mylar bags that are designed for food storage.
Having a myriad of uses, Mylar is best known for its ability to protect items from harsh environmental factors, such as excessive light, heat, moisture, or toxins in the air. It acts as a barrier between a sensitive item and the elements around it.
In food storage, Mylar has become an essential key for keeping items fresher for longer, and not allowing outside factors to compromise a food’s nutrient makeup or taste.
Using Mylar bags will prevent any air from getting to your oats and will prevent critters from showing up as well. For added protection, place an oxygen absorber in the bag as well.
Storing your oats in Mylar bags means their shelf life could last decades, since these bags are created for long term, sustainable use.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker