Garage Food Storage: Expert Tips for Every Home

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In this article, we’re going to dive into the what, why, and how of garage food storage. From understanding what types of food you can store in the garage to organization hacks, avoiding common pitfalls, and maintaining the perfect temperature and humidity levels – we’ve got you covered. 

So, let’s get started. 


The Perfect Environment for Storing Food in Garages

Surprisingly, creating the right environment in your garage for food storage isn’t just about clearing space among the tools and old bikes.

Here are some important factors you might not have thought about.

How Do Temperature and Humidity Affect Food Storage in Your Garage?

Understanding temperature and humidity and their effects on food storage can be the difference between a successful, well-stocked garage pantry and a dangerous one. 

So, let’s break it down.

Temperature: When it comes to food storage, temperature matters. Most foods prefer cooler temperatures, especially those you’re likely to store in your garage. 

In fact, a drop of 10°F can double the shelf life of many products! 

That’s why it’s crucial to keep your garage as cool and stable in temperature as possible.

Humidity: The other half of the equation is humidity. Different foods have different moisture requirements. 

Too much humidity can lead to mold and mildew, while too little can cause foods to dry out and lose their nutritional value. 

So, it’s all about striking that balance.

Here’s a handy table with various foods and their ideal temperature and relative humidity ranges. Remember, the right conditions can make your food last longer and retain its quality.

FoodTemperatureHumidity
Canned goods32°F (0°C) to 85°F (29.4°C)Below 15%
Dried beans and lentils32°F (0°C) to 70°F (21.1°C)Below 15%
Rice, oats, and other grains32°F (0°C) to 70°F (21.1°C)Below 15%
Granola bars, peanut butter, powdered drinks, freeze-dried fruits and veggies, instant potatoes or soup, beef jerky, nuts, dried fruit, applesauce, spices32°F (0°C) to 70°F (21.1°C)Below 15%
Canned tuna, chicken, and other meat32°F (0°C) to 85°F (29.4°C)Below 15%
Flour and sugar32°F (0°C) to 70°F (21.1°C)Below 15%
Bottled water32°F (0°C) to 85°F (29.4°C)N/A
Soda32°F (0°C) to 85°F (29.4°C)N/A

Using this table as a reference, try to group similar foods in your garage based on their temperature and humidity needs. 

It may take a bit of trial and error, but the end result will be worth it.

Create the Right Conditions for Garage Food Storage

Now that you’ve got the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of garage food storage, let’s look at the ‘where.’ 

Believe it or not, the location of your food storage in your garage can impact its longevity and safety. 

Here are a few pointers to find the best spot:

1. Keep Food Out of Direct Sunlight: You want your stored food away from direct sunlight. Sunlight can degrade food packaging and speed up spoilage. Choose an area that doesn’t get much sun, or shield your food with a cover or a curtain.

2. Store Food Off the Floor: Never store your food directly on the garage floor. Always use shelves, pallets, or cabinets that elevate your food off the ground level. That helps prevent pests from getting into it and having a feast. 

3. Use a Well-Ventilated Area: Proper ventilation can prevent mold and mildew. If your garage has a window, consider placing your food storage nearby, as long as it doesn’t get direct sunlight.

4. Keep Food Away from Hazardous Materials: Remember the cardinal rule: Keep food storage away from anything potentially harmful. So, store your food away from paints, fertilizers, pesticides, or cleaning materials.

5. Store Food in a Temperature-Controlled Area: Garages can get hot in summer and freezing in winter. Find a spot in your garage that remains relatively cool and stable in temperature.

You’ll help ensure your food lasts longer by choosing the right area in your garage. 

Signs of Spoilage or Contamination in Food Stored in the Garage

It’s essential to keep an eye out for any signs of spoilage or contamination in your garage-stored food. 

Regular checks can keep you safe and prevent unnecessary waste. 

Here are some things you should look out for:

Canned Goods:

  • Swollen or bulging cans: This is a clear indication that bacteria may be growing inside the can, causing gas production and pressure build-up.
  • Dented or damaged cans: Dents or damage can compromise the can’s seal, introducing bacteria.
  • Leaking or rusty cans: These are signs that the can’s integrity has been compromised, possibly allowing contaminants inside.

Dry Goods (Rice, Beans, Oats, Pasta, etc.):

  • Mold or dampness: If your dry goods appear damp or moldy, they are likely exposed to moisture and are no longer safe to consume.
  • Insect activity: Insects like weevils or pantry moths can infest dry goods. Look for tiny holes in the packaging, live or dead insects, or larvae.

Packaged Goods (Granola Bars, Jerky, Crackers, etc.):

  • Discoloration or foul odor: These are often indicators of spoilage.
  • Change in texture: If a typically crunchy food item has become soft or vice versa, it’s likely spoiled.

Glass Jars (Home-Canned Goods, Spices, etc.):

  • Cloudy or frothy liquid: If you notice this in your home-canned goods, it’s a clear sign of spoilage.
  • Loose or bulging lids: This indicates that the vacuum seal has been compromised, potentially allowing bacteria in.

Overall, if something seems off – food smells, looks, or feels different than it should – it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it. 

Remember, no amount of saved money is worth risking your health.


Storing Food in Garages: The Right Way

Now that you’ve created the perfect environment for garage foods, let’s look at what foods can (and can’t) be stored in your garage.

What Types of Food Can Be Stored in the Garage?

If you’re running out of space in your kitchen pantry, consider putting extra food in your garage. 

That’s a great idea. But before you start moving all your kitchen stuff to the garage, it’s important to know that many foods shouldn’t be kept there. 

Certain foods need special conditions or containers to prevent spoiling or getting contaminated.

Let’s start with what foods CAN be safely stored in the garage. Typically this means shelf stable food that can safely be stored in a garage or pantry long-term (at least one year).

This includes:

  1. Canned Food: Soups, vegetables, fruits, and meats can stay safe in cans for a long time.
  2. Dried Beans and Lentils: Dry foods are perfect for garage storage.
  3. Rice, Oats, and Granola Bars: Store them in airtight containers, and they’re good to go.
  4. Peanut Butter: Unopened jars can be stored for months.
  5. Powdered Drinks: Tea, coffee, hot cocoa, and powdered fruit drinks are all fine.
  6. Freeze-dried Fruits and Veggies: These can last for years if kept properly sealed.
  7. Instant Potatoes or Soup: Perfect for when you want a quick, hassle-free meal.
  8. Beef Jerky: A great source of protein that’s garage-friendly.
  9. Nuts and Dried Fruit: Keep them away from moisture, and they’re OK to store in your garage.
  10. Applesauce: Unopened jars of applesauce can be stored just about anywhere cool and dry.
  11. Spices: Most spices don’t spoil. They just lose flavor over time.
  12. Canned Tuna, Chicken, and Other Meat: Canned products are usually safe as long as the can isn’t dented or swollen.
  13. Other Boxed Food: In general, boxed foods are OK to store in the garage. However, you should store the food inside a plastic containers to keep insects and rodents from getting at them.

Now, let’s talk about the stuff you should NOT store in the garage:

  1. Fresh Produce: Fruits and veggies need refrigeration to keep the food fresh.
  2. Dairy Products: These will spoil quickly without refrigeration.
  3. Eggs: They need to stay refrigerated to avoid bacterial growth.
  4. Fresh Meat: This should always be refrigerated or frozen.
  5. Bread and Baked Goods will dry out and spoil without proper humidity control.
  6. Chocolate: This will melt in the garage – especially here in Florida.
  7. Soft Drinks: They can explode if they freeze during winter.
  8. Pet Food: According to Jacksonville Vet clinics, dry cat or dog food should always be stored in a cool, dry environment under 100 degrees. Garages can easily exceed this temperature in hot summers.

Storing extra food in your garage is a great way to create extra space in your kitchen. However, it’s important to remember what works and what doesn’t.

Can I Store Canned Food In My Garage?

While reading through the list above, you’ve probably jumped to the next logical question: “Can I store canned goods in my garage?”

The good news is that most dry canned foods are perfect for storing in your garage. However, they must be kept away from extreme temperatures, shielded from moisture, and not exposed to direct sunlight.

This includes typical pantry staples like soups, canned vegetables or fruits, meats, tuna, chicken, and some spices.

We recommend using metal or plastic racks and shelves to store canned foods. They’re sturdy and ensure proper air circulation. If you have been storing canned goods that you use frequently, try using a dispenser to make access a breeze.

Moving some excess canned foods to the garage can be a fantastic space saver, helping you declutter the kitchen or pantry. It also serves as an emergency backup.

Having a stock of extra food supplies is a must in areas that suffer frequent power outages or natural disasters.

7 Simple Garage Food Storage Ideas

Now that you’ve got a good idea of what food can and cannot be stored in your garage, let’s talk about how to organize your food storage effectively. 

Here are some top tools and methods you can use to bring order to your new garage pantry:

1. Metal Can Rack Organizers: These will help store more cans in less space while ensuring you use the oldest cans first.

2. Plastic Shelf Food Organizer: Similar to the metal can rack, these will keep your canned goods in order and easily visible, letting you know exactly what food you have at a glance.

3. Standing Can Dispenser: I love these because they let you customize your can storage according to your needs and preferences. They’re perfect if you have different can sizes to accommodate.

4. Can Shelf Steps: These let you arrange your cans in a “stadium seating” style, enabling you to see everything you have without digging around.

5. Over-the-Door Rack: Over-the-door racks can be a lifesaver if you’re working with a small garage or limited space. They’re perfect for storing spices, condiments, or snacks without taking up valuable shelf or floor space.

6. Shelving Units: These are incredibly versatile and can hold different types of containers and boxes. Overhead racks and garage cabinets are great because they put food out of reach and save garage space.

7. Bins and Baskets: Bins and baskets help store loose items or small packages. You can also use them to put similar foods together in groups or separate them by expiration date.

How to Rotate & Replenish Your Food Storage

OK, you’ve stored your food, but the work isn’t over. 

Keeping your garage food storage effective means maintaining a good rotation and replenishment system. 

Here’s how to make sure you’re always stocked up and waste-free:

1. First-In, First-Out (FIFO) Principle: Stick to this golden rule of food storage. 

It’s as simple as using the oldest items first before opening newer ones. When you restock, put the new items at the back, pushing older ones towards the front. 

This way, you avoid leaving expired food at the back of your shelves.

2. Keep an Inventory: Knowing what you have and where it is can save you time and money. 

A simple spreadsheet or a dedicated app can work. 

Include details like the item’s name, quantity, and expiration date. Update it every time you add or remove items from your storage.

3. Regular Check-ups: Remember those signs of spoilage we talked about? Regularly check your food stores for them. 

This also helps you monitor what’s running low so you know when it’s time to restock.

4. Restock Based on Use: Don’t buy items in bulk just because they’re on sale. (I’m looking at you, mom.)

Before you stock up, consider how often you use the item and how much storage space you have. Overstocking can lead to waste if you can’t consume the items before they spoil.

5. Have a Use-By Plan: For items nearing their expiration dates, plan to use them in your meals soon. This way, nothing goes to waste.

Following these best practices can help ensure your garage food storage stays organized, efficient, and, most importantly, safe to consume.

Storing food in glass containers and cans Pin

Choose the Right Tools to Store Food in the Garage

Let’s get into picking the right tools to make your garage a true food storage location.

Should You Use Clear or Opaque Food Storage Containers?

It may seem trivial, but there’s much discussion on whether you should use transparent or opaque containers to store food. Especially if you’re considering long-term food storage.

Understanding the reasons behind each will help you make the best choices for your garage food storage.

Clear Containers:

The main reason to use clear containers is visibility. 

You can quickly glance at your pantry and know precisely what you have, how much of it is left, and where it’s located. 

This can make your cooking or shopping planning significantly more straightforward.

But there’s more to it than just convenience. Clear containers can also help prevent food waste. 

How often have you found an old can of something tucked away in the back of your pantry, long past its expiration date? 

You can see everything with transparent containers, helping you use up your items before they spoil.

That said, exposure to light can be detrimental to some foods. 

Light, particularly sunlight, accelerates the oxidation process in many food items, leading to faster spoilage and loss of nutritional value. 

This includes items like oils, flours, and certain spices. These should be stored in opaque containers instead.

Opaque Containers:

Opaque containers shield your food from light exposure, extending their shelf life and preserving their nutritional value. 

This is particularly important for certain foods, including:

  • Whole Grains, Cereals, and Pasta: These foods are rich in oils that can go rancid when exposed to light. Opaque containers help keep these items fresh longer.
  • Coffee: Light can degrade the flavor of coffee, particularly if it’s already ground. Storing coffee in opaque containers will keep it tasting its best.
  • Some Types of Tea: Like coffee, some teas are light-sensitive and should be kept in opaque containers.

While opaque containers offer these advantages, they have one potential downside: you can’t see what’s inside. 

However, you can mitigate this with thorough labeling. 

At a minimum, you should include the food item’s name, the date it was stored, and the expiration date. 

You can also include other pertinent information like cooking instructions or allergens.

Essentially, there’s a place in your garage pantry for clear and opaque containers. If you choose the correct container for your food, you’ll help keep it at its best.

Use the Right Food Storage Containers in Your Garage

Selecting the right containers when storing dry foods in your garage is critical. Here are some top contenders:

  • Airtight Plastic Bins or Buckets with Lids: These are game-changers. They’re durable, stackable, and effortless to clean. Plus, their airtight seal ensures your food remains fresh and moisture-free. However, they may leach chemicals into food under high temperatures or direct sunlight.
  • Glass Jars with Rubber Seals or Metal Clamps: A visual treat, these transparent containers let you quickly identify what’s inside and are resistant to odors and stains. They’re great for reusable storage. However, they’re heavy, fragile, and if you’re storing liquids that might freeze, there’s a risk of breakage.
  • Metal Cans with Lids or Plastic Liners: Want something rodent-proof? Metal cans are your answer. They’re strong, tough and can be recycled when they’re no longer used.

Your garage is a completely different environment than your kitchen, so some containers just don’t make the cut. For example, cardboard boxes & paper bags are a no-go. It might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised. Rodents and insects love paper products because they’re easily converted into nests. Plus, they’re susceptible to moisture and mold.

Creating the Right Conditions for Food Storage in Your Garage

Your garage might primarily serve as a vehicle parking spot, but with a bit of work, it can double up as a makeshift pantry. That means you’ll need to monitor your garage humidity level and control room temperature.

Here’s what the ideal storage environment looks like:

Cool & Dry: Aim for a temperature range between 32°F and 85°F. Within this range, most food items remain fresh and intact. This also means keeping food in a dry environment, ideally with humidity below 15%. High humidity can be a food’s worst enemy, leading to mold growth and food degradation.

Insulation & Ventilation: If your garage often sees temperature swings or becomes a humidity chamber in certain months, consider installing insulation. This keeps your garage cool during summer and warm during winter. Alongside, ensure that your garage is well-ventilated to prevent any potential buildup of moisture.

Here are some conditions you should actively avoid:

Direct Sunlight: Avoid storing food in areas of your garage that are exposed to direct sunlight. Over time, the sun can oxidize your food, diminishing its quality. 

Close Proximity to Heat Sources: Also, keep food away from heat sources, like heaters or dryers. These can elevate the surrounding temperature and potentially spur bacterial growth.

To keep a close eye on your conditions, regularly monitor the temperature and humidity in your garage. Invest in a good-quality thermometer. It ensures that your food storage remains within the desired temperature range.

Similarly, a hygrometer will keep tabs on moisture levels. You’ll want to regularly monitor your garage humidity levels to avoid exposing your food to mold-inducing conditions.

In conclusion, while your garage might not be a bespoke pantry, it can serve as an effective food storage space with the right conditions. 


What to Avoid When Storing Food in the Garage

While storing food in your garage can be a convenient way to keep non-perishables at hand, there are some things to watch out for. 

Steer clear of these common mistakes:

1. Avoid Storing Food Near Chemicals or Hazardous Materials: Most garages have various household items, from gardening tools to automotive supplies. Storing food near paint cans, gasoline, pesticides, or cleaning products will risk contamination.

2. Avoid Storing Food in Original Packaging: It might seem easy to store food in its original packaging. However, this can expose your food to moisture, air, pests, or bacteria. Instead, transfer your extra food to durable, airtight containers like glass jars, metal cans, or plastic buckets.

3. Don’t Store Too Much Food: We get it. Stacking up your garage pantry with a surplus of food is tempting. But, as a rule of thumb, only store what you need and what you will use within a reasonable time frame.

If you avoid these pitfalls, you’re on your way to creating a long-lasting, efficient food storage system in your garage.


Wrapping It Up

Converting your garage into a pantry might seem a bit out of the box. Still, with the right know-how, it’s a great solution to store foods for emergency preparedness or if you have a small pantry.

We’ve covered how temperature and humidity affect food storage and the perfect spots to keep your food from spoiling. You’ve also got a better idea of what foods are fit for garage storage and the ins and outs of container choices.

But remember, it’s not just about stacking and forgetting. Regular checks for spoilage, rotating your stock, and keeping an eye on those ever-so-important conditions ensures your garage food storage remains edible.

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Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including BobVila.com, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.

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