Apart from housing costs, food tends to take the largest portion of a family's household budget and though there are various ways to save on food, a good start is to reduce food waste. Wasting food is something we're often guilty of - whether it's not closing the package properly and moisture gets in, or having good intentions and not cooking or eating all those vegetables and fruit we bought. And depending where you live, pests in the pantry may be the biggest food waste culprit and keeping foods fresh and safe - your biggest challenge.
There are food storage options that you can consider, some of which are more economical than others. You can learn and practice better food management and educate the whole family about storing foods properly when they come from the grocer, as well as every time the container is open and resealed.
Making Food Storage Decisions
How much food to store depends on several factors including your household budget, whether you often get unexpected guests and the size of your family. If you live in a remote area, you may need to keep a larger food stock on hand to avoid long grocery trips. No one can argue that buying bulk can save you money in the long-term, but only if you can safely store the extra quantities and avoid food waste. Whatever amount of food you decide to store, you should store it safely in proper storage containers.
For more information on proper food storage, read The FDA's Are You Storing Food Safely?.
When it comes to emergency planning, you should have a good stock of non-perishables on hand for every member of the household, for several days if need be. This is extremely important for those with special dietary needs.
More About Disaster Kits & Emergency Planning
Some like to plan their grocery budget for a whole year to better manage their expenses. But how much food would a family need in a year? That's where a food storage calculator can help and this one is very handy and easy to use - just enter family information to calculate results.
Food Storage Calculator by About's Guide to Latter-day Saints(Lds).
For those that put up food from their own garden or enjoy the abundance of locally-grown farms - canning, home preserving or drying foods may be the best options and these tips can help get you started.
About Canning & Home Preserving
Glass & Ceramic Storage Containers
Glass storage jars, from the regular home canning type to large cracker or cookie jars have been popular for decades. They're versatile, easy to wash, transparent and useful for a variety of dry foods including flour, sugar, rice, pasta, dried legumes, fruit or nuts, as well as cookies and treats. Canisters can be handy on the counter and suitable for smaller amounts for short-term use. The main thing to remember when buying glass or ceramic jars is that the lid should be secure to provide an airtight seal, keep moisture and pests out and that the opening is adequate for easy removal of contents.
Vintage Glass Storage Jars
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Plastic Food Storage Containers
There's quite a variety of plastic food storage containers, in various shapes and sizes. Choose plastic containers that are freezer and microwave safe if applicable. Always consider the opening - that it's adequate for easy removal and that the lid is snug and secure. Not all plastic containers are water-tight, which would be preferred for lunch bag soups or stews. Plastic food wrap or film is a good option for covering left-overs in the short-term, but use heavier freezer bags for frozen foods and to extend the life of fresh vegetables.
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Storage Containers for Freshness & Convenience
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Storing Foods in Vacuum-Sealed Bags or Containers
For long-term storage, storing in vacuum-sealed bags or containers is preferred to keep foods fresher longer and to avoid food waste from freezer-burn.
Food Saver vs Food Sealer
FoodSaver V2860 Advanced Design Vacuum Seal System Review
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It's important for emergencies or disaster kits to have on hand at least three days of water for each family member. Buying bottled water may be the most convenient, but if you're using plastic containers to store up water, they should be BPA-free, stored in a dark, cool location and remember to refresh your stock at least every six months. If you buy plastic, choose only BPA-free products for personal water bottles, toddler cups or baby bottles. Stainless steel bottles are recommended for water bottles, because plastics can break down especially when exposed to heat and sunlight. Glass is the preferred choice for baby bottles.
Visit www.BisphenolAFree.org for more information on Bisphenol A (BPA).
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Storing Foods in a Freezer
Glass canning jars can be used to freeze foods, but you have to allow at least an inch for expansion and it's not unusual to have an occasional broken jar. For this reason, plastic containers or freezer bags are preferred, but vacuum sealing being the best. Foods cannot be kept forever in the freezer and regardless of how you package it, they do eventually dry out, lose their freshness, suffer freezer burn,take on an unpleasant taste or spoil. Follow recommended guidelines for freezer food storage.
Freezing Food and Freezer Food Safety
Freezer Burn - What it is and Causes
How Long Can I Store Frozen Foods - by the National Center for Home Food Preservation
All About Freezers
Why Frozen Foods Suffer Freezer-Burn
Storing Certain Foods
There's a tendency to keep herbs, spices, dressings, condiments and dips forever, without thought as to how old they are. Herbs and spices should be refreshed periodically as they can become stale and ineffective. Adhere to the expiry dates shown on prepared bottles and jars, discard and replenish your stock.
Read about replenishing herbs and spices
Spice Storage Options
Breads or buns stored on top of the refrigerator or on the counter can dry out quickly and increase the clutter in your kitchen. There are some options when it comes to storing breads.
More About Bread Storage Options