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Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Stocked up on Rice and Beans? Eliminate Pantry Insects Before They Hatch

Many of us have stocked up on some dried foods in the past year or two, like grains and dried beans. Pantry pests that have been dormant or not yet hatched may now be about to become a problem. Open packaging and older products are most at risk. But pantry pests, such as the Indian Meal Moth, can infest products that you've just brought home from the store, too.

Prevention is the best cure

While we can't ensure there are no insect eggs in our purchased food, there are two things that will kill eggs or larvae of most small pantry insects, heat and cold. Both treatments will prevent these pests from becoming a problem in the future. 

If you have freezer space, and your freezer can be set to 0 degrees F, you can kill these pests before they become a problem by freezing packaged grains for 4 days. Simply place the goods, right in their package, into the freezer and wait 4 days. Pest problem solved.

If you lack freezer space or your freezer can't be cooled to 0 degrees F, you also have the option of heating the dried food. Spread dried rice or beans in a shallow tray. Heat in a 130 degree F oven for at least 30 minutes. (both methods are recommended by the University of Minnesota Extension.) Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Since I stocked up on rice, meals, flour, beans, and popping corn this past year, I have been cycling all of the grains and beans through my large deep freeze before storing in airtight containers. After 4 days of freezing, I bring the products into the house to warm gently at room temperature, turning the packages over every 4 hours, to air-dry any condensation that develops upon thawing.

There's a further heat option, and one that may appeal to canners, dry canning. Dry canning kills the insect eggs and seals the jars in one process. Here's a good explanation for how to dry can in this article.

I don't know about you, but with the looming worldwide food shortages, my plan is to keep all of my household's food in usable condition. But I thought this little reminder might help someone else.

If you find you have overstocked pantry supplies, community food pantries will be more than happy to take the excess (and still unexpired) goods off your hands. 

15 comments:

  1. I use the freezer to eliminate pests, but I have never used the oven. Have you ever kept any of your dried beans long enough that they no longer soften no matter how long or how they are cooked? That has happened to me on occasion.

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    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      That hasn't happened to me personally, but it did happen to my dad with kidney beans. He phoned me asking what to do and I didn't have much help to offer. I wonder if soaking, partially cooking, then freezing would help in that situation. Freezing causes beans to soften once they're cooked. So I wonder if beans that refuse to soften up would then soften enough to recook if they were frozen. That would be such a bummer to have some beans not soften with a meal planned around them. As for how long we typically keep our beans, I think the max has been about 4 years. We eat enough bean-based meals that they get used fairly soon, most of the time.

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  2. Good idea. I mostly use the freezer technique for flour since I used to have a problem with moth infestations from the flour, and I noticed a huge improvement.

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    1. Hi Kris,
      Yeah, I think freezing works well for flour. It will not only keep the pests at bay, but also if it's whole grain flour, freezing will definitely prolong its life before the oils in the whole grain go rancid.

      Delete
  3. I freeze flour sugar, cornmeal and just about everything else. I buy cornstarch and cream of tartar in bulk and freeze that. And yeast as well as vital wheat gluten and docel. And while we're at it, I freeze whole oranges for orange chicken when I want to zest the orange. And leftover lemon rinds are chopped then frozen so I can grind those in my garbage disposal. I freeze leftover bacon grease to use in just about everything. Chicken broth is frozen in a tub and I add to it when I have small amounts of chicken broth. When it's full I can make soup. Butternut squash puree gets frozen as does cooked black or pinto beans. I'm off subject but just thinking about other things I freeze. Sorry.

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    1. Hi Alice,
      no worries about getting off topic. That's what makes comment sections interesting, I think. Your comment reminds me of what I used to do with leftovers. I would keep a large plastic pail in the freezer and whenever I had some broth or leftover anything (meat, veggies, potatoes), I would add it to the pail. When the pail was full, I heated it all on the stove as a soup/stew. Sometimes it was v very good, sometimes not so much. But at least nothing was ever wasted.

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  4. On a separate note, do you think we can freeze spices to extend the shelf life? We store our spices in a cabinet near the stove and don't use some often enough. These eventually have to be thrown away. I freeze near expiration date canned goods taken out of the can of course. With food being so expensive these days, we can't afford to throw anything away. I was preparing my grocery list and was horrified to see diced canned tomatoes, 14.5 oz on sale for $2.50 ea.. We have a case of tomato paste that will soon expire, can't let that go to waste!

    Have a nice day,
    Laura

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    Replies
    1. I read Alice's comments and thought about all the spices that we throw away. Thank you, Alice, for sharing what you have been freezing.

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    2. Hi Laura,
      definitely you can freeze spices. I've frozen cumin, cinnamon, and paprika that I've bought in large containers. It works well and keeps the fresh flavor of the spice.

      Oh my goodness! $2.50 as the sale price on canned tomatoes sounds like robbery! Are there any tomato products that would be less expensive? When I shop at the restaurant supply, I buy whole canned tomatoes in the #10 cans for a lot less than the diced. I freeze the tomatoes in their juice in smaller containers. Have you checked Costco for prices on those large cans of tomatoes? Good luck! I've always heard your state is expensive.

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    3. I was scanning a Safeway ad while making my list and that caught my eye. Every Friday the store has a $5 sale for which the canned diced tomatoes was 2/$5. Imagine having to go only on that day to pay that price! Yes, food prices in our state is ridiculous. We buy 10# cans of tomato products including ketchup from Costco or Sam's and freeze in smaller containers. We decided to get membership to both and compare prices, as well as shop the clearances at both.

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    4. Thanks for the tip about spices. I told my husband and he agreed that we can freeze spices, "except salt", he said. Well, why weren't we freezing them? I'm thinking to save space and keep it together and organized in the freezer I should store the individual spices in Ziploc bags and stack it in a container. How do you store your spices?

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    5. Hi Laura,
      Oh, a Safeway ad. I don't shop at our local Safeway (and now our local Albertsons as they merged) because they're an expensive store in my area. That explains the super high prices on the canned tomatoes.

      My spices -- I keep very small bottles of each in the cupboard so I can get to them, but the large bags for refilling are all the freezer. I double bag the spices for the freezer and that keeps the flavors sealed in. I've kept spices frozen for several years without losing taste. My big problem is I "lose" things in the freezer. I know that I have cumin in there now but I haven't actually seen it in a while. It's slipped to the back of a shelf, I think.

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    6. Thanks, that's a good idea to keep small bottles of spices handy and refill as needed from the freezer. As we freeze more lately, including bits of leftovers, we're having trouble finding stuff too. I like the idea of combining soup related leftovers in one bucket.

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  5. Where I live no one would think of freezing flour. I’ve never heard of anyone getting moths either. Where do you think they come from? Production facility, storage, transport? Would you be living in a certain climate like Florida or Hawaii to have this occur?

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    1. Hi Teresa,
      well, count yourself lucky! I live in the Pacific Northwest of the US and we get the pantry moths in grains and the webby stuff on flour packages occasionally. I think they migrate from one package to the next in the large warehouses. Once home, they can get into all of your other grains if you don't catch them early or do a super thorough cleaning job. When we bought our current house, I discovered pantry pests in one of the cupboards. I had to really clean that cupboard well, then store everything in heavy duty plastic for a while. It was a nuisance, but I did take care of them and didn't have a problem again for many, many years. About 9 or 10 years ago I discovered moths in a large bag of brown rice. I worked to eradicate any trace of those, too. I'm much more proactive about pantry pests, now. Consider yourself very lucky to not have to worry about this.

      Delete

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