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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Rodent-Proofing the Pantry for Winter: My Task for the Week


You may remember, last February we discovered there had been a mouse in our house nibbling at 2 packages of food. We never did find the little critter. He may have slipped out as quietly as he stole in. 

In response to this discovery, we put absolutely every food item that was not already in a can, glass jar, or hard plastic container into the various freezers and fridges of our home.

This was our first encounter with mice. We have seen rats in our area, but not mice. However, this summer, we discovered a family of mice living in our garage and a mouse or two was spotted near our garden. 

We took care of the family of mice that we discovered in the garage, but for all we know, there are more just waiting for the opportunity to come inside for a savory repast in my pantry.

The weather is cooling. Soon the nights will be rather chilly, and the outdoor food sources will become scarce. My plan is to make sure that even if a mouse did find its way into our house, my pantry would be as inhospitable to the tiny diner as possible, while still maintaining the ability for me to easily prepare human meals. 



I buy large bags (25 to 50-lb) of pantry staples, such as rice, flour, oats, and beans. A paper bag is flimsy protection from chewing critters. I could go out and buy more, large plastic containers, such as the one in the photo above. These are very nice containers. They're sturdy, thick-walled, and seal well. However, they also cost about $25 each. This is expensive for my current budget. So, I am using what I have to secure our pantry staples. 


I've mentioned using the institutional-sized, plastic jugs in which my vegetable oil comes packaged, like the one above. The sturdiness of the plastic jugs is reinforced with an outer cardboard box.


Once I finish the oil, I wash it out and allow it to dry. After it has thoroughly dried, I can fill it with some of the pantry staples.

This past week, I emptied the last 35-lb jug of vegetable oil and readied it for the 25-lb bag of rolled oats that I purchased in summer. I am now up to 3 of these large jugs for pantry storage, holding the rolled oats, steel cut oats, and brown rice.


In addition to these jugs, I use some 1-gallon jugs in which seasonings came packaged (bought many years ago), some 1-gallon mayonnaise jars, and the 3-lb plastic tubs from Crisco-type shortening.


I am nowhere near done. I still need to find a container for the 50-lb sack of pinto beans that I bought earlier this month. I may have to play musical chairs with some of the staples in the larger jugs, pouring the steel cut oats (currently in a 35-lb jug) into a 1-gallon container, then filling the larger jug with the pinto beans.

Mouse-proofing the food is a great start. I am also using peppermint oil to deter entrance of these critters. According to folklore, the scent of peppermint may mask the pheromones that are left behind from previous mouse-entrance. I dabbed a couple of cotton balls with peppermint oil and placed these on the floor of the closet (former back-up pantry) where we found evidence of a mouse, as well as the floor of the kitchen pantry.

If we still find evidence of mice this winter, our next step will be to "borrow" some used kitty litter from a friend. It sounds extreme, but the scent of used kitty litter has been known to keep mice away. 

Update: I moved the brown rice to a 1-gallon jug and filled the large 35-lb jug with pinto beans. About 35 pounds of dried beans fit into this large, institutional jug, leaving me with pintos to fill 2  1/2 one-gallon containers.


16 comments:

Conni said...

You have been BUSY, as usual, and it sounds as if you will win this battle! I would, however, continue to monitor my stores, as determined rodents can chew through plastics (we had to switch our dog and chicken feed to metal garbage cans as the heavy duty Rubbermaid cans were no match, and this was after they had chewed through the sheetrock into the storage area😩‼️)
I LOVE your posts! I’ve been a homemaker for 52 years but continue to learn and be inspired by your resourcefulness and upbeat attitude. Thank you

Kris said...

Those darn mice! I've never seen rats anywhere near where I live--that would seem more intimidating to me than mice, but mice ARE pesky little critters. Sounds like you have a good start on keeping them away. I'm sure you know this, but peanut butter is a great way to bait mouse traps!

Lili said...

Hi Conni,
Thank you for mentioning that about rodents chewing through plastic. Our plastic compost bin in the yard has been chewed through, and this is thick plastic. So, that's a good reminder for me to keep vigilant this fall and winter. That is crazy that the rodents chewed through sheetrock even!

Also, thank you for the kind words. I so appreciate them! Words can make a person's day.

Lili said...

Hi Kris,
Yes! Good reminder -- peanut butter is what we've used to bait traps in the past. It seems to work really well and is easy to smear onto a trap of any sort. Thanks for adding this info!

Allie said...

Those Cambro containers you got are expensive but so fantastic! I worked in a restaurant kitchen, and those are a standard for storage in the industry. Every restaurant walk-in is stacked to the ceiling with them, so you can definitely trust them. I like the square shaped ones for maximizing space utility, as don't have a ton of storage availability living in Pasadena.

Alice said...

Here's an idea--get a cat! We've had cats our entire life and I am pretty sure they are why we don't have mice. When we moved into the house we are in right now, we had a mouse in the garage and it wasn't long before the cat had it cornered and we never saw it again.

My parents always had cats thanks to me bringing in all the "lost" cats from all over the neighborhood. Now they do not have cats and they always have mice in the basement. But mom isn't so good about putting her bagged or carton foods in mice-safe containers. Her way of dealing with it is putting mouse traps between all her boxes and bags of food on the shelf in the basement. Needless to say, we don't eat anything she gives us from that shelf.

Alice

live and learn said...

Since you don't regularly get mice, hopefully the ones you took care of last year will do the trick of any coming in this year. As others have said, the plastic may slow them down, but a mouse can chew right through it if they want what's inside. I think I'd leave some permanently set traps in the pantry to help if a mouse does get in.

We had a lot of mice that would come into our old house each winter. While occasionally, they would get in the food, mostly they got stuck in the walls and died. The following stench as they decomposed was pretty bad. We had an exterminator come once to see if he could figure out where they were coming in to no avail. A mouse can get through a hole the size of a pencil. Anyway, he suggested that we add a sunflower to our traps with the peanut butter. He said mice can lick the peanut butter gently enough to not set off the trap, but they have to pull hard enough on a firmly set sunflower seed, that the trap will definitely spring. We found this to be true.

Good luck.

Cat said...

Maybe they'd loan you the cat as well! Thankfully, our cats seem to prevent this issue. I find dead mice, generally by the back door, that our indoor/outdoor cat takes care of, and occasionally a (dead)small snake or mouse in our garage.

Looks like you've done a good job preparing for them, though.

Cheryl said...

I think it depends on the cat, ours would just play and we would still once in awhile get them inside our cellar from people (son and husband) leaving the outside door open. I buy mouse poison and change it out every 6 months. I hate mice.

Lili said...

Allie said...
Those Cambro containers you got are expensive but so fantastic! I worked in a restaurant kitchen, and those are a standard for storage in the industry. Every restaurant walk-in is stacked to the ceiling with them, so you can definitely trust them. I like the square shaped ones for maximizing space utility, as don't have a ton of storage availability living in Pasadena.


Hi Allie,
Oh you live in my favorite town of So Cal! Lucky you!
That's good to know that those round containers are well-regarded in the restaurant industry. I would have preferred square ones, but when and where I bought these, this is what was available. I'll show my smaller rectangular bins sometime. I use those in an easily accessible spot for all-purpose and whole wheat flour. They're about twice the capacity of common Rubbermaid plastic canisters, so I don't have to refill them as often, but just barely light enough for me to grab them with one hand, if needed. Square and rectangle is definitely the way to go for maximizing capacity.

Lili said...

Alice said...
Here's an idea--get a cat! We've had cats our entire life and I am pretty sure they are why we don't have mice. When we moved into the house we are in right now, we had a mouse in the garage and it wasn't long before the cat had it cornered and we never saw it again.

My parents always had cats thanks to me bringing in all the "lost" cats from all over the neighborhood. Now they do not have cats and they always have mice in the basement. But mom isn't so good about putting her bagged or carton foods in mice-safe containers. Her way of dealing with it is putting mouse traps between all her boxes and bags of food on the shelf in the basement. Needless to say, we don't eat anything she gives us from that shelf.


Hi Alice,
Oh my -- no I wouldn't want to eat food from bags or cartons that were right in the main path of mice, either.
For the time being, we can't get a cat (multiple reasons). Someday, though, we'll be able to have a cat again. I agree, cats are a great deterrent for mice .

Lili said...

live and learn said...
. . . the plastic may slow them down, but a mouse can chew right through it if they want what's inside. I think I'd leave some permanently set traps in the pantry to help if a mouse does get in.

We had a lot of mice that would come into our old house each winter. While occasionally, they would get in the food, mostly they got stuck in the walls and died. The following stench as they decomposed was pretty bad. We had an exterminator come once to see if he could figure out where they were coming in to no avail. A mouse can get through a hole the size of a pencil. Anyway, he suggested that we add a sunflower to our traps with the peanut butter. He said mice can lick the peanut butter gently enough to not set off the trap, but they have to pull hard enough on a firmly set sunflower seed, that the trap will definitely spring. We found this to be true.


Hi live and learn,
Oh yes. I've seen what some sort of critter (we think a rat) did to our outdoor compost bin -- chewed right through tough plastic. So, I know these thinner plastic containers won't keep a determined mouse out. But what I did read was that a plastic or glass container will help conceal the smell of the food, in contrast to cardboard or paper. I'm putting some of my hope in that idea. In addition, we didn't have a mouse in our kitchen pantry, but in a hall closet, what we called our back-up pantry, a ways away from the kitchen. So, the pheromone trail may not even come close to the kitchen pantry.

We have no idea where that one mouse went. The average lifespan of house mice is 12 months, so his body may be found someday, we don't know. Maybe taking care of his family members took care of the immediate problem. We're surrounded by wooded areas where we live, so there are more just like this one close by.
I'm going to pick up a small bag of sunflower seeds, though, and use those in the peanut butter as bait. Thank you for that tip!

Lili said...

Cat said...
Maybe they'd loan you the cat as well! Thankfully, our cats seem to prevent this issue. I find dead mice, generally by the back door, that our indoor/outdoor cat takes care of, and occasionally a (dead)small snake or mouse in our garage.

Looks like you've done a good job preparing for them, though.


Hi Cat,
Oh gee, snakes. I did have a cat when I was younger and lived in Utah, and she, too, would bring in small snakes. Ugh. Those always freaked me out. You know, in my area, you can rent goats to chew down blackberry canes. I wonder if anyone rents cats to take care of rodent problems?

Lili said...

Cheryl said...
I think it depends on the cat, ours would just play and we would still once in awhile get them inside our cellar from people (son and husband) leaving the outside door open. I buy mouse poison and change it out every 6 months. I hate mice.


Hi Cheryl,
So, you had a Tom and Jerry situation, where the mice and cat were friendly adversaries of sorts.
About the door -- that is one of the things that we have considered for how the mouse got inside. Our family members have a habit of leaving the door to the garage slightly cracked open when going in and out to the yard or garage. I've asked everybody to make sure they close that door tightly when going out, and I'm doing the same now all of the time, too. Thanks for what you said, as it makes me think that this could be the "how" with that mouse.

Making Cents Of It All said...

Next time you are at the supermarket, ask at the deli counter. The pasta salads, egg salad and such come in big buckets. My store throws them away so they don't mind giving them out. I have also been given the pickle buckets but they are harder to get the smell out of them. Great job on the pantry.

Lili said...

Making Cents Of It All said...
Next time you are at the supermarket, ask at the deli counter. The pasta salads, egg salad and such come in big buckets. My store throws them away so they don't mind giving them out. I have also been given the pickle buckets but they are harder to get the smell out of them. Great job on the pantry.


Hi Marybeth,
Thank you for this tip. I'll ask at the grocery store. Again, thanks!

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