For those of us who like cereal, but are looking for ways to store it for long-term freshness, there are many ways that this can be done successfully.
Cereal is a staple in many houses, but trying to keep it fresh can be a burden. Depending on how often it is eaten, where you live, and what type of cereal it is, keeping it fresh is not always as easy as it sounds. And let’s remember…cereal is not cheap and takes a chunk out of most of our grocery budgets. Having it go stale is not only annoying when breakfast time rolls around, but also when it’s time to do the monthly budget.
Here are 5 ways to store cereal in order to keep it fresh:
- keep your cereal in a cool, dry place
- seal the bag with bag clips after opening
- put the cereal in separate storage after opening
- use Mylar bags for extended shelf life
- avoid cereals that are close to their expiration date
We’ve all had that annoying moment when a box of cereal we recently bought has been opened and not cared for appropriately. The contents have gone stale and we feel as though we just poured some of our hard-earned money straight down the drain or, in the case of cereal, dumped it into the trash can. We all know that cereal doesn’t have an indefinite shelf-life…but what can we do to keep it fresh for as long as possible? Luckily, there are some easy, inexpensive ways to help make this happen, no matter what the conditions in your home or your budget may allow.
I am a mother of four, and everyone in my house lives on cereal. But the stuff is not cheap, and when it stops being fresh, no one in my family seems willing to eat it, including me! I’ve spent some time perusing and researching some of the best ways to keep my cereal fresher, and longer. Here I will share with you the top five ways I have found to do this.
The 5 Best Ways to Store Cereal for Long Term Freshness
Did you know that cereal is one of the most expensive items on our grocery lists when you look at the price per ounce amount? Even grocery store brands are not always budget-friendly, and if you are buying name-brand cereals, you already know what they can do to your budget.
But cereal has long been a staple in many homes. Whether you have little kids or even grown adults, most of us enjoy at least one bowl of cereal each week.
In fact, statistics show that more than 283 million people in the United States eat cold cereal on a daily basis. That’s a lot of bowls and a lot of boxes that need to stay fresh!
Many cereals are made with a long shelf life. An unopened box of cereal can last anywhere from six to eight months.
And, if properly stored and sealed, an open box of cereal can usually last for one to four months. After that, even a cereal that is stored appropriately will start to lose some of its consistency and taste.
But don’t worry – there are lots of ways to keep your favorite cereals in your pantry for as long as you need them to stay there.
1. Keep Your Cereal In a Cool, Dry Place
Perhaps the easiest way to ensure your cereal stays fresh for the long term is to store it somewhere that stays cool and dry for most of the year.
Pantries are a great place to keep cereal, especially once it’s been opened because they are designed to stay dry and cool. Some even have special shelving that allows air to circulate and many come with doors that can easily be left open and are rarely placed near stoves, sinks, or other appliances that give off heat or could leak.
Keep your cereal on a high shelf, in order to allow as much air circulation as possible and where your cereal would not be compromised if something were to spill in your pantry.
People who live in areas with high humidity, like the South or any town near large bodies of water, know the challenge of keeping cereal fresh on the shelf for very long. Even one high humid day can wreak havoc on a recently opened bag.
On the other hand, those who live in extremely dry climates, like the midwest or the southwest, will find that their cereal will stay crisper, and longer, even when not stored properly.
If you are trying to keep your cereal fresh in its original box, with no other help, try to always make sure that the inside bag is rolled down as far as possible. Cutting off as much airflow to the bag (especially if the air is thick or wet) will help preserve your cereal for longer.
2. Seal the Bag With Bag Clips After Opening
For those of you who haven’t had success keeping your cereal fresh with just a cool, dry pantry, the next thing you may want to try is investing in some bag clips to help lock in the freshness for longer.
Bag clips come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and price points. These ingenious inventions have been a game changer in the world of keeping foods fresh and functional for longer than in the past.
Usually made of plastic, bag clips will keep all kinds of foods from going stale. Most bag clips come in packages of a dozen or less and can be bought widely, from online retailers to local stores.
They are easy to use. Just pinch together the ends (different styles will vary) and place the thicker end against the bag.
By closing the bag clips around the bag, you will seal in the tiny bit of air in the bag, and keep out the rest.
Bag clips are known to increase the shelf-life of an opened bag of cereal by up to one to two months. Well worth the money you’ll spend, and the time to put them in place.
Additionally, if you can’t get your hands on any bag clips, you can also design your own. Paper clips, clothespins, and binder clips can also work to seal your cereal bag. That said, a bag clip that has been designed for keeping foods fresh will probably be your best line of defense when you really want long-term shelf life for your bag of cereal.
3. Put the Cereal in Separate Storage After Opening
For those who want longer-term freshness, you may want to consider investing in storage containers for your cereal.
Cereal containers have become the unsung heroes of all types of food storage in our kitchens, and cereal is at the top of that list.
Most containers are made out of a BPA-free plastics with silicone sealants that will keep cereals fresh in even the most humid and moisture-rich climates. When properly closed, the seal is air-tight and will keep your cereal fresh for up to six months.
Not only are there a myriad of companies that are now designing food storage containers, but there are many that have containers that are specifically made for cereal.
Some of these containers have air-tight lids that can also open on just one side, for easy pouring. Others have spots on the front where you can use reusable markers to label and identify what types of cereal are in each storage unit.
You also can choose from sizes that will fit a normal box of cereal to ones that can easily fit two or even three boxes, if your family are big cereal consumers or like to buy in bulk.
Many of the containers come in different colors and designs if style and aesthetics are also important to you.
There are also plenty that is kid-friendly, with ergonomic designs for smaller hands, and portion-control options, where only a certain amount can be dispensed at a time.
Obviously, cereal storage containers are going to be more expensive than bag clips, but for those who are serious about locking in freshness, or others who have lots of boxes of cereal to choose from, investing in a good set of clear, cereal containers may be worth it next time you find yourself heading to the grocery store’s cereal aisle.
4. Use Mylar Bags for Extended Shelf Life
The next line of defense after a storage container is an item that is relatively new on the market, but serves the same purpose as a cereal’s original bag does.
Mylar bags have found a special place in food storage, as they are able to not only lock in freshness and keep out moisture, but because of their design, they also keep out light, heat, and oxygen, all elements that cause a food to go stale.
Though many may claim that food storage containers are still more convenient and attractive compared to Mylar bags, one advantage the Mylar bags have is their ability to absorb oxygen as well.
Mylar has been used for many different purposes in the past, from heat-generating blankets to balloons.
Bags made from Mylar are better for food storage because they won’t allow moisture to build up, like regular storage bags eventually will. They also provide a significant amount of light protection, something a normal plastic bag can’t.
Light and Moisture are two top reasons that your cereal will not stay fresh as long as you’d like. Investing in Mylar bags to store your favorites, or the ones that don’t get used on a daily basis is a good way to ensure their shelf life.
When stored properly, cereal and other dried goods can last for well over six months in a Mylar bag that has the appropriate oxygen absorber element in place.
Another important thing to note with Mylar bags – the lower in fat your food is, the longer the Mylar bag can keep it fresh.
Foods that are high in fat may not respond as well to Mylar bags as those that are not.
5. Avoid Cereals That Are Close to their Extended Shelf Life
Finally, in an effort to get the most out of your cereal before you put it in your pantry, try to make sure the expiration date on the package is as far away from the date you are buying it as possible.
Cereals are made to last a long time on a shelf. From the time they are packaged in factories, then distributed to various stores, and finally landing in your grocery cart, a good deal of time has probably already passed.
On top of that, food manufacturers know that most consumers want to know their cereal will also stay fresh for a while longer in their homes as well, even before they’ve been opened.
Most cereal experts believe that a box of your favorite oats or granola can last for up to six months after its expiration date, if you haven’t opened it. Once opened, most will last between two to eight months, depending on the brand, and how you store it.
If you are worried about your cereal growing stale or losing its taste, keep an eye on the expiration date when you buy it. The less time it has already been sitting on the grocery store shelf before it sits on your shelf, the better.
A little-known fact is that grocery stores tend to move their items with the closest expiration date to the front of the shelf, so customers will grab those up first.
If you are worried about an expiration date being too close for comfort, consider reaching behind the first box or two of cereal and seeing if you can find one with an expiration date that is farther in the future.
This may buy you a bit more shelf time with your cereal than you previously thought.
And, if you are trying to stretch your dollars and buy in bulk, or purchase items when they are on sale, finding the cereal boxes with the expiration dates that are the farthest away, means those unopened boxes can sit in your pantry for longer, and save you some money and another shopping trip.
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