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How to Store Food in a Hot Climate

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Do you want to protect your food storage from hot temperatures so its ready-to-eat when you need it?  Summer heat can turn your pantry into a disaster zone, leaving you with less-than-appetizing meals when you need them most. This guide is designed for families who want to extend the shelf life of their food storage pantry, even during hot spells. Follow these simple strategies to protect your food from heat, humidity, and spoilage.

thermometer showing hot temps

Starting in mid-May, my email box begins filling up with questions about storing food in hot weather. There’s always a new heatwave in the news, and people worry because food is particularly susceptible to the effects of high temperatures. Everyone wants to know what temperature is too hot for food storage. It’s a great question because out of all the factors that affect a food’s nutritional value, appearance, flavor, and texture, heat does the absolute worst damage. With all the time and money we invest in building our food storage pantries and making sure we have adequate water storage, protecting it just makes good financial sense, right?

So I want to share the answer I give to this question. Plus, I’ll share some of the tips we use to store food in a hot climate in our own home since we have only ever lived in very hot parts of the country — Phoenix and Texas.

How to Protect Food From Heat

I once lived in Phoenix, and I know all about summer heat! We had to be careful of indoor temps beginning early to mid-May all the way through October! (Kids don’t exactly wear jackets over their Halloween costumes around here!)

It’s a smart thing to worry about the effects of heat on the food you’re storing, but also guard against light, oxygen, pests, and humidity. In our Phoenix home, a spare bedroom served as our food storage pantry. Since keeping just that one room quite cold at 75 wasn’t realistic, we found other ways to protect the food.

Prevent heat from entering in the first place

Since windows transmit a big percentage of the heat entering your home, we started there. My husband covered the window with an opaque film like this one to help keep out the heat. Plus light itself damages food over time, so this film helped protect the food in more ways than one. Also, the film aided in concealing the contents from any casual passer-by.

Besides window film, always keep your windows covered with blinds and/or curtains, year-round. If you can do something to insulate them, that’s even better. Home improvement stores sell large sheets of Styrofoam, which can be cut to measure any window, and then pressed against the glass and taped to the window frame. Styrofoam insulates stucco homes, and while it’s not at all attractive, it can be effective in keeping heat out of individual rooms. Also remember heat rises, making the second story, if you have one, hotter than the first.

Reduce interior temperatures

During the Phoenix summers, I generally kept the air conditioning set to 80 degrees during the day. With our very well insulated home, this temp worked for us in the dry Phoenix heat. Your situation may be different and you might need to lower the A/C to maintain an ambient temperature of less than 80 degrees.

Test the temperature of your main food storage area occasionally. Install a ceiling fan to circulate the cooler air entering the room or consider buying a small A/C unit to keep in the room and use only on the hottest days. If our home had been less insulated, that’s something we would have added.

Maintain as consistent a temperature as possible

One important factor beyond keeping a room from being too hot for food storage is the consistency of temperature. Try to maintain as consistent a temperature as possible. This might be difficult to prevent, but frequent temperature fluctuations are bad news. For example, repeated swings between 70 and 80+ degrees begin to affect food rapidly.

Under no circumstances store food outside in the heat. Not in attics, outbuildings, or garages (unless they are insulated AND cooled to temperatures in the 70-75 degree range), or crawl spaces. In those instances, the quality of your food deteriorates within just a few weeks, not months or years.

Reclaim or repurpose existing storage space

My #1 tip for prepping is to de-clutter, and this is one of the reasons why that is so important. When you empty your home of unneeded, unwanted items you make room for what you do want, such as stored food! We recently packed up about 1/3 of the stuff in our house and put it in a storage unit. So far, the only thing I’ve missed is having more than 1 wooden spoon in the kitchen! We really DON’T need all the crap we collect. Get started decluttering now.

Consider storing food under beds and in storage spaces around the rest of the house. Thrive Life makes an under-the-bed unit that stores cans of food and is a great way to “find” new storage areas that didn’t exist before. Cansolidators keep food organized and stored under beds or in other handy locations that aren’t quite big enough for shelves. And if you’re buying in bulk, repackage items into smaller packages. In fact, some foods must be repackaged for long-term storage.

Rotate, rotate, rotate

Finally, if you’re just not able to keep your house cool enough in the hot summer months, you may need to rotate through your food more quickly. Rotate food by using the oldest food first. This is a smart idea anyway, regardless of the season.

Expert Tips About Protecting Your Food Storage

  • Grab a thermometer and identify the coolest spot in your house – maybe a basement corner or a north-facing room. This becomes your “temporary pantry” for the hottest months. Relocate your most heat-sensitive items to this cooler zone.
  • Divide bulk items into smaller, airtight containers. This minimizes air exposure, maximizes freshness, and allows you to easily rotate your stock (use the older stuff first!)

What IS too hot for food storage?

Food retains its nutrients, flavor, color, and texture when stored at 75 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler. It’s amazing how quickly food breaks down in hot temperatures. It won’t poison you, but for sure, it won’t be pleasant to eat. I’ve suffered through mushy tuna, discolored ketchup, and very, very strange looking bottled salad dressings — and had to throw them all away, which is a sad waste of money.

Folks who store food in basements in cool parts of the country have reported that even something like brown rice, which typically doesn’t have a super long shelf life when compared with white rice, remained fresh-tasting for ten years or more.

The problem is that even variances in temperature can and will eventually affect food. Few of us can store food in an area that is consistently and constantly at 75 degrees — and, the cooler, the better. I’m always envious of people in cold parts of the country who enjoy basements that maintain constant food-storage-perfect temperatures.

Generally speaking, the higher the temperature, the shorter the shelf life.

How do you know if a location is too hot for food storage?

Purchase a good, inexpensive thermometer like this one. I suggest adding one right away. Hang it near the entry of the pantry for quick temperature checks. Also, use it to test different areas of your home to identify the best location for food supplies. That particular thermometer also keeps track of humidity, in case that’s an issue.

Lessons on Humidity

After leaving Phoenix, we ended up in a part of Texas that is both hot (although not as hot as Phoenix) and humid. It was an interesting transition, to say the least. How to keep rooms from being too hot for food storage was no longer the only question we had to answer. In addition to these actions, I recommend you take after a big move, we now had to address humidity and pest that thrive in humidity.

How to Address Humidity

Here, we set up the same metal shelving units we used in Phoenix in a small storage room with an A/C unit installed in the wall. The metal shelves worked out great there, but here, they met their match, unfortunately. Although we set the A/C to also remove humidity, it proved inadequate on days when the humidity level was 80% and higher. In two cases, we ended up with rust on the shelves and rusty cans. About two dozen or so Thrive Life cans rusted beyond viability forcing me to repackage the food. Some of my canning jars rusted, too. This despite the dehumidifier setting on the AC and the occasional use of Damp Rid.

I love the Damp Rid product. In fact, they fascinated a writer interviewing me for BuzzFeed who described them as “kooky and mystical” crystals! I don’t know about kooky and mystical, but I do know they do a great job of absorbing humidity anywhere I’ve put them.

So, to solve our humidity problem, we moved to wooden shelves and a free-standing dehumidifier to accomplish the apparently Herculean task.

How to Deal with Bugs that Like Humidity

One final word — this humid climate also increased the number of bugs we have to deal with, something that wasn’t an issue in Phoenix. To combat this, I use diatomaceous earth around the baseboards of the pantry room. High humidity affects its usefulness as a pesticide so I also refresh it every so often. Learn more about it and how to maximize its usefulness in this article.


How hot is too hot for food storage?

While there’s no single “too hot” temperature, ideally, your pantry should stay below 75°F (24°C) for optimal food quality and shelf life. Heat accelerates spoilage, leading to mushy textures, discolored foods, and nutrient loss.

Where should I avoid storing food?

Avoid storing food in attics, garages, or crawl spaces, which can become extremely hot.

Can I store canned food in a hot garage?

I advise against it. Canned food prefers cool, dry pantries below 75°F (24°C). Extreme heat shortens shelf life, rusts cans, and ruins food quality. Opt for a climate-controlled garage or cooler storage location if necessary. Read more about storing canned food in your food storage pantry.

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Final Thoughts

Putting money into food storage only makes sense if you can actually use it when you need it the most. Protecting it from heat and humidity may cost a few dollars but in the long run, it saves even more.

How do YOU protect your food storage from high temps?

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