It is always best to be prepared for any type of emergency, and proper food storage not only prepares you for natural disasters or financial hardships but also makes your food (and therefore your dollar) last longer and go farther.
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Why Store Oats?
Oats are an amazing food for storage for many reasons. They last a long time, have a variety of uses, and are inexpensive and easy to store.
When stored properly, oats can last up to 30 years! You don’t need a lot of other ingredients to prepare oats; just add water and heat.
Oats are clean and high in fiber and protein. Many long-term storage foods require a great deal of salt or other preservatives, but oats don’t require any additives to stay fresh.
You can use oats in many different ways, including grinding them up into a flour for cooking. You can make other foods stretch farther by adding oats, especially meats.
Adding oats to ground meat makes it bulkier and more filling and gives you larger servings. You can even use oats to feed your livestock or pets.
Select Your Oats
The first step to storing oats is selecting the best kind of oats for long-term storage. Instant oats can be stored, but be careful to note any expiration dates and any other added ingredients for flavoring that may expire more quickly.
Organic oats are a great choice because that way, you are only storing pure, fresh oats, minus any nasty pesticides. Rolled oats will last longer than steel cut oats. You can store any oats, but organic rolled oats are your best option for long-term storage.
Types of Oats
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Since oats are such a diverse food, they definitely make for a great staple to have in any home when you are looking for longer-term storage food options. They already have an incredibly long shelf life, and when they are correctly stored, that shelf life can even be extended further.
These oats are great for animals and aren’t good for human consumption because the outer husk of these oats is not actually digestible for humans. So, when looking for the best oats to store long-term, you will probably want to take a pass on the raw oats – unless, of course, you have animals that could benefit.
Steel Cut Oats
These are oat groats that have been cut into pieces with steel blades. These oats take far less time to cook than whole kernels. Total cook time is only around 20-40 minutes. They also have a better texture than some other oat types, which makes them a great breakfast item.
Regular Old-Fashioned Oats
These are oats that have been steamed and flattened and then dried into small flakes. This helps to stabilize the healthy oils found in the oats, which in turn allows them to last longer. When properly stored in the ideal environment, these oats can last for up to thirty years!
If you want to store your oats long term, then you want to skip on storing the instant oatmeal. Instant oatmeal is made by cooking the whole grain oat groats. They are then rolled out thin and dried. Flavoring and other additives are also added in for flavor. While you don’t want to store instant oatmeal as a long term food option, it could still be a good choice if you want a three month supply of food in the pantry.
It’s fine to keep oats in the container you purchase for storage in your pantry or regular use, but grocery store packaging is not the best option for long-term food storage.
You will need food grade storage buckets, food storage bags, a vacuum or heat sealer, and oxygen absorbers.
Be careful when selecting an oxygen absorber, as there are different types available for dry or moist goods. For oats, you want to be sure to select oxygen absorbers for dry goods. Mylar bags are best because it also offers protection from light and moisture rather than just air.
You can purchase 5-gallon plastic buckets at most hardware stores, but just be sure they are food grade buckets (this helps prevent any harmful chemicals from seeping into your food and assures that the containers will keep air and moisture out).
Select Your Space
You will need a cool, dry, and dark space are for optimal storage. The ideal temperature for storing oats is around 65° Fahrenheit. This could be a pantry, a basement, or spare room; just make sure that you choose a space where you can easily control and monitor the levels of light, heat, and moisture.
Pack Your Oats
Now that you have everything prepared, it’s time to pack your oats in an airtight container for storage! First, take a Mylar bag and place it in a bucket. Fill the bag with oats.
A Mylar style storage bag
Add oxygen absorbers (be careful to sift through and remove these when you consume the oats; you don’t want to accidentally cook and ingest the oxygen absorbers) according to the directions on the packaging for the amount of oats you are storing.
Squeeze the air out of the bag, then vacuum seal or heat seal the bag to suck out the rest of the air and seal the bag.
At this point, you can trim the top off of the mylar bag if you want to, but it is not necessary.
You may want to practice using the heat sealer in advance if you are not used to working with one since you will want to work fast to avoid exposing the oxygen absorbers to air for too long and reduce their efficacy.
Use a rubber mallet to seal the lid onto the bucket.
Using Mason Jars for Long Term Food Storage
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Oats are just one food you can choose to store in mason jars long term. However, you want to make sure you have everything you need to get started. You need to have a clean area to work, sterile mason jars, oxygen absorbers, labels or a permanent marker, and a small funnel or scoop (optional) to help place the oats into the mason jar with little mess.
*Pro Tip: If you are buying your oxygen absorbers in bulk, you can store the extras in mason jars, as well!
Fill each jar and label each with the name of the oats and the date they were placed in the mason jar. You now need to reduce the air volume. Press down on the oats and remove air pockets. Continue to do this as you fill the jars. Finally, add in the oxygen absorbers in each jar and then tightly seal the mason jar according to the manufacturer’s directions.
Most of the oxygen will be out of the jars within 6 to 12 hours. You want to store your mason jars in a cool, dry, and dark location that is at least six inches from the ground. Mason jars are ideal for long term storage and, when correctly done, can last indefinitely against oxygen.
Place Your Oats in the Storage Space
Move the bucket into your predetermined cool, dark, dry storage space. Depending on the type of oats you stored, you may be able to keep them for up to 30 years.
If you store the oats in a mylar bag alone without the bucket, they can last up to 15 years.
And voila! Now you know everything you need to properly and safely store dry oats.