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How to Store Oats Long-Term for Maximum Shelf Life
Oats are one of the best grains to store for long-term storage because they have a maximum shelf life of 30 years and are loaded with nutritional benefits. Although oats have a long shelf life, not everyone knows how to store them properly. Still, it is a piece of practical knowledge because by properly storing oats, you can ensure your food supply in an emergency or crisis. For this reason, we think oats are one of the best survival foods, next to white rice, quinoa, and wheat. This article provides the required storage strategies and knowledge that allows you to store oats and keep them fresh for a long time.
Oats last for six to twenty-four months after being harvested. However, you can increase their shelf life by employing proper storage methods. For example, by storing oats in airtight containers with oxygen absorbers, you can store the oats for more than 25 years. Popular storage methods are mason jars, mylar bags, and food-grade 5-gallon buckets.
The following storage methods apply to:
- Rolled oats
- Oat Flour
- Oat Groats
- Quick Oats
What are Oats?
The oats we eat are the seeds of the Avena Sativa, or the Oat grass. Oats are a grain commonly grown in temperate environments such as Northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and the US. Oats are easy to grow and widely consumed because they grow to maturity within 6 to 10 weeks and are a core ingredient in many recipes.
Oats have high levels of nutrients and contain vitamins and minerals such as Copper, Vitamin B1, Phosphorus, Iron, Selenium, and Magnesium (source). In addition, oats offer high levels of antioxidant properties for the body as well.
Oats are a broad and diverse category of grain, as they can be sliced and diced in many different ways for a different experience. Most commonly, they are consumed in the form of rolled oats or oatmeal and are often used as ingredients in baked goods like oatmeal cookies, oat cakes, and oatbread.
Steel-cut oats are often considered to be the healthiest oats because they are minimally processed and retain more nutritional value.
Types of Oats
There are many different types of oats, such as oat flour, oat bran, and rolled oats, but it’s really just an umbrella term for the different cuts of oats. At the end of the day, it’s all sourced from the same type of oat grass. However, the type of cut will influence your experience and the nutritional value you get from the oat. As you decide the oat is best for you, consider the different options:
- Whole oat groats: Oat groats is the oat seed, as it comes straight from the grass.
- Rolled Oats (Old Fashioned Oats): Rolled oats are whole oat groats after being steamed and rolled. These oats are great for long-term storage because of the reduced oil content following the steaming process.
- Oatmeal (Steel Cut Oats): Steel cut oats are oat groats sliced and diced into smaller pieces. Compared to rolled oats, steel-cut oats have a higher nutritional value because they undergo less processing.
- Instant Oats (Quick Oats): Instant oats are made from oat groats but undergo further processing and limited cooking to allow for faster cooking time. The flakes are thinner than rolled oats and retain lower nutritional value than alternative oats because of the additional processing.
- Oat Bran: Oat bran is the external shell of the oat groats; after separating it from the inner part of the groat, which will become the oatmeal. Oat Bran is lower in carbohydrates and has 50% protein and fiber than traditional oatmeal, making it a nutritious breakfast alternative.
- Oat Flour: Oat flour is rolled oats after being processed. This can be made at home simply, with rolled oats and a food processor.
Personally, we like old-fashioned rolled oats because they are the most shelf stable and can be stored for as long as 30 years.
The different types of oat cuts come with their own shelf life. The shelf life of the oats largely depends on the oil contents and size of the oats. For example, oatmeal has a high oil content, which makes the natural sensitive to oxygen exposure. Exposure to oxygen will cause the oats to go bad due to oxidation when exposed to open air and heat. On the other hand, rolled oats are steamed and then flattened using rollers. The process stabilizes natural oils in oats. Rolled oats will last the longest without using long-term storage containers.
Oats are some of the most nutritious grains. For 1 cup of oats, the nutritional facts are as follows:
|Nutrient(s)||1/2 Cup (125g)||1 Cup (250g)|
How to Store Oats Long-Term?
When planning for long-term storage of oats, we need to consider the placement and environment of the container. The environment should be controlled, limiting the container’s exposure to airflow, heat, direct sunlight, and moisture. Popular storage containers for oats include:
Oats are a staple meal for families in the West. Fortunately, it is often considered a non-perishable item because it has a shelf life of over 25 years if properly stored. However, not everyone is aware of how to store it properly.
Whether you intend to buy oats or harvest them yourself, it is important to learn the proper storage methods to ensure your oats reach their maximum shelf life of 25 years. If you do this properly, you can guarantee high fiber and nutritious food to your family in an emergency.
How to Reduce Exposure to Airflow?
Once you know the reasons grains spoil, the approach to protect your food storage is simple. Your goal is to reduce exposure to airflow, heat, direct sunlight, and moisture to zero. This could be accomplished by placing the container in the right environment and using the right tools to limit exposure.
When packaging oats, make sure to include oxygen absorbers in the mason jar, mylar bag, or the 5-gallon bucket. As the name suggests, it will absorb the oxygen in the container, protecting the oats from airflow. Although often overlooked, oxygen absorbers are one of the most powerful tools in a prepper’s toolbox. It can extend the shelf life of oats from 24 months to 25 years!
Oats contain natural oils that are sensitive to heat and air. If you include the step of storing oxygen absorbers with your oats, your oats will last much longer. And we recommend doing so.
|CCs Needed||Size of Container|
|100 cc||32 oz Mason Jar|
|300 cc||1 Gallon Container|
|1500 cc||5 gallon Bucket|
How to Reduce Exposure to Heat, Sunlight, and Moisture?
To protect against heat, sunlight, and moisture, all you need is a good airtight container. The aforementioned containers work best but keep in mind there are pros and cons to each container option. Personally, we prefer mylar bags within 5-gallon buckets because it adds an extra layer of protection, better preservation, and stores oats in bulk.
Since mason jars are smaller than 5-gallon buckets, we use mason jars to store grains we expect to use within 12 months. Still, to ensure freshness, it’s good to keep an oxygen absorber in the jar until you begin using it.
Storing Oats in Humid Environment
Generally speaking, oats should not be stored in highly humid areas as it encourages the growth of molds. In such scenarios, the best way to store the oats is with desiccants. The desiccants can be added to the food container to extend the shelf life of oats. The benefits of desiccants are that they help decrease the moisture that builds from temperature shifts in the containers. This is an essential tool for tropical preppers.
Related Article: Oxygen Absorbers vs. Silica Gel Packets
Storing Oats In their Original Packaging
Oats stored in their original packaging have already been processed and factory sealed. The original packet is meant to keep pests, air, and moisture out of reach. If you want to have an extra supply of oats for daily consumption, you’ll leave the oats in the original packaging or place them in a mason jar. A mason jar can help prolong the freshness of the oats. When stored in their original packaging, rolled oats have a shelf life of 18 to 24 months. After opening the package, you should not keep it for more than a year as the oats have been exposed to the air. After opening the package, ensure you consume the oats before two years.
If you use its original packaging, make sure to reseal the bag after opening. The oat packages from grocery stores are not designed for prepping but instead for consumption. So, ensure the bag is resealable to help prolong the shelf life of the food as it can protect from oxygen exposure. The packages should be kept in dark, dry, and cool places. However, this method of storage can’t last longer than two years because it will expire.
Can you Store Oats in a Freezer or Refrigerator?
Yes, although not necessary, oats can be kept in a freezer or refrigerator. This is an especially effective storage method if you live in a hot and humid environment. As we mentioned earlier, your goal is to control the environment and limit direct sunlight, heat, and moisture. Refrigerators and freezers are dark, cool storage locations. Just ensure the storage container is airtight to prevent air from leaking in. However, do keep in mind that a fridge or freezer will have limited shelf space, and there may be a better use of freezer space for another food item.
Additionally, freezing oats has no effect on their nutritional value and is actually beneficial since freezing oats kills any bacteria as well as insect or pest eggs that may be attached to them. Fortunately, oats can be cooked straight out of the freezer, so there is no extra wait time to defrost them.
Note: oxygen absorbers have the same effect on bacteria, insects, or pest eggs as freezing the food as it kills organisms that need oxygen to survive.
How Long can you Store Oats?
The maximum shelf life of uncooked oats can be over 25 years when stored properly. However, shelf life varies greatly depending on the storage method. Oats in their original packaging and stored in a pantry may last up to two years. Oats sealed in an airtight container with oxygen absorbers can last more than 25 years without going bad.
The type of oats is also another important factor in how long the oats will last. For example, rolled oats have the longest shelf life compared to other oats because these oats are steamed and then rolled, thereby stabilizing the natural oils in them. On the other hand, Oat flour and Oat bran have a much shorter shelf life because of their features. Oat flour has a small surface area, so minimal exposure to oxygen can easily spoil it unless oxygen absorbers are used to remove excess air. Similarly, oat bran has a shorter shelf life because it is coated in a high natural oil content making it a poor candidate for long-term storage. It’s not recommended to always include oxygen absorbers in your oats storage containers.
Use the following chart to compare how long you can store different types of oats.
|Type of Oat||Storage in Pantry (Years)||Properly Stored Container (Years)|
|Oatmeal||1.5||5 to 15|
|Oat Bran||1||Not suggested|
When cooked, oats can be stored in a freezer for up to 3 months. This may be a good tactic for preppers who expect a hurricane or flooding and would like to have precooked meals for their family.
How Long will Oats Last in Mylar Bags?
Mylar bags are made from a synthetic material that does not allow air, moisture, insects, or sunlight to enter the bag. By placing the oats in the mylar bags, adding oxygen absorbers, and sealing them, the food can be stored for 25 years. However, do keep in mind that mice and large pests can easily penetrate a mylar bag. For extra protection, the mylar bag can be stored inside a plastic bucket or in a freezer.
How Long will Oats Last in Mason Jars?
When the mason jar is kept at standard room temperature and pressure, the oats will typically last for two years. The oats will last up to 3 years if kept in a cool, dark place. After which, the oats will start to smell and appear funky. However, if you reinforce the jar with oxygen absorbers, the oats can last for more than 25 years. You can use the chart above to compare different types of oats.
How Long will Oats Last in Food Grade 5-Gallon Buckets?
In an unopened food-grade 5-gallon bucket, oats can remain fresh for over 25 years. It is the most effective and safest method to store oats for the long term. However, it is important to know that the shelf life of oats in plastic buckets will be reduced to 6 to 9 months after opening it. This is because it will be exposed to environmental aggressors such as air, moisture, and heat. After unsealing the plastic bucket, it can be difficult to reseal it without a gamma lid.
How long will Oats Last in the Freezer?
Uncooked rolled oats kept in a freezer have a shelf life of up to 10 years. If you follow this method, it will be one of the easier and more effective methods for protecting oats long term. Simply place them in a freezer-safe bag, and by storing them in a freezer, they will be protected from air, moisture, heat, and pests. It also keeps the oats from being attacked by bacteria and kills insects. However, do consider that oats will take up space in the freezer, which can be important real estate for preppers.
Why do Oats Go Bad?
Oats last from several months to several decades in correct condition. However, it will start to go bad at some point. When exposed to air, heat, sunlight, or moisture for a prolonged period of time, oats will be susceptible to mold and spoilage. In addition, this condition might attract insects and other pests to the oat. Changes in temperature and exposure to sunlight can cause the growth of viruses. If your oat jars are not sealed properly, insects and rodents can chew through your oats as well.
Pantry Moths and Pests
Since pests and insects are hard to see with the naked eye, occasionally, the oats you purchase might carry insect eggs on them. When eggs are left alone, they can hatch and destroy your oats. To prevent this, it’s important to use oxygen absorbers, as the tool will kill the insect eggs by removing the oxygen from the containers.
How can you tell if Oats have Gone Bad?
Check for the presence of mold, eggs, and other pests. You can also inspect their texture, smell, and color. Destroyed oats will have a rough or flaky texture depending on the type of oats but will typically have a funky odor. A change in color may occur due to a bacterial or pest attack. Growth or molds can also lead to changes in color, thus showing the oats have gone bad.
Oats have a maximum shelf life of 30 years when stored properly. However, in its original packaging, it only lasts two years. In order to ensure oats reach their maximum shelf life, you should consider storing them in mason jars, mylar bags, or 5-gallon buckets with oxygen absorbers.
Still, it is important to remember that there are different types of oat cuts, each with a different shelf life. However, by following the right storage practices, your oats will last for several more years and ensure your family’s food security in a crisis.
Related Article: 11 Supplies You Need for DIY Food Storage
Related Article: 6 Best Grains for Long Term Storage
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If you are looking to buy cookware, you probably came down to ceramic cookware vs stainless steel cookware. Learn to see which is better for you.