Nuts are the ultimate frugal food. They're rich in protein and heart-healthy fat, can be found and harvested for free and turn the simplest of recipes into a gourmet treat. But if nuts aren't stored properly, they can go rancid quickly, and that's not frugal at all! Let's go over how nuts are supposed to be stored, so you don't have any go to waste.
Preparing Home-Grown or Foraged Nuts for Storage
Harvesting your own nuts is a great way to save money, but you will have to take a couple of extra steps to get your nuts ready for storage. First on the agenda: making sure your nuts are dry. After being outdoors (and spending time on the ground), they're likely to have some extra moisture built up, and you need to get rid of it, so they don't mold.
This is easy enough to do. Once you've removed the husks from your nuts, spread them out in a shady area with good air circulation, and allow them to dry for several days. A screened-in porch is an ideal spot because it offers protection from squirrels and other animals that might try to make off with your haul.
When your nuts are dry, stick them in the freezer for 48 hours to kill any bugs/eggs that might be inside them. That may sound off-putting, but grocery store nuts have to be treated for insects, too. After you take care of those steps, your nuts can be stored in the same manner as commercially-produced nuts. Let's look at that process.
The Right Way to Store Nuts
Nuts can be stored in or out of the shell. They'll last longer if you store them in the shell, but they'll be easier to grab and use if you shell them first. So, it's a matter of personal preference. Either way, it's important to store your nuts in an air-tight container, so they maintain the proper moisture level. Even a plastic freezer bag will do the job.
To preserve the quality of your nuts, keep them away from onions and other high-odor foods. They tend to take on the smell of things around them. Store shelled nuts at room temperature for up to three months. Store shelled or unshelled nuts in the refrigerator for up to six months, or in the freezer for a year or more. Label your packages of nuts with the date that they were put into storage, so you know which ones to use first.
If your nuts start to taste stale, just toast them in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. It'll bring back their flavor. Just don't expect it to improve rancid nuts. Once the oils in nuts go bad, there's no fixing them. But as long as you follow these storage tips, that shouldn't be a problem that you ever have to deal with.
A Word About Chestnuts
Chestnuts are not as shelf-stable as other nut varieties and must be handled differently. They do not need to be dried, but they do need to be frozen.
Harvard Medical School. Quick-start guide to nuts and seeds. November 16, 2021.
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources. Nuts: Safe methods for consumers to handle, store, and enjoy. August 2010.