One of the top categories of questions I get via email has to do with storing food. For the beginner, storing food in buckets sounds bizarre and mysterious. This updated article gives instructions for repackaging foods and how to do it so your stored food has the longest possible shelf-life.
Here are a few tips to de-mystify this process along with a video that provides a nice explanation as well.
1. Storing food in buckets is smart because the heavy-duty plastic helps to keep out pests, light, moisture, and oxygen, four of the five enemies of food. Buckets should be made from food-safe plastic.
2. A mylar bag can be used as a liner in any bucket and provides a double layer of protection for the food. You’ll want to include an oxygen absorber in these mylar bags, and this package on Amazon includes both the bags and the absorbers.
3. Label the outside of each bucket with the contents, either with a Sharpie, a printed label, or a china marker. You don’t want to have to open each bucket and mylar bag in search of a certain food.
4. If you use an iron to seal the mylar bags, check to make sure the seal is tight. The first time I sealed up dried milk in these bags, I was unpleasantly surprised to find white powder trailing along behind me as I carried them to the pantry. The cat loved it.
5. Ask for free buckets at grocery store bakeries.
6. Buy oxygen absorbers online. You’ve seen these absorbers before in packets of dry soup mixes and similar foods. They literally absorb the oxygen inside a container. (The process of oxidation ruins food.) Use these general guidelines for deciding how many absorbers to use.
100 cc oxygen absorber Large canning jar, 32 ounces
300 cc oxygen absorber #10 can
300 cc oxygen absorber one-gallon container
1500 cc oxygen absorber five-gallon bucket/container
The amount of absorbers needed depends on the size of container but also the amount of headroom you leave at the top of the container and the size of the food. Tiny pieces of food, rice, for example, will have much less oxygen in between rice grains than will lima beans or larger foods, but these guidelines are good for most foods.
7. If you’ll be sealing a lot of mylar bags, a hot-jaw sealer may be worth the initial investment.
8. Store buckets a few inches off the ground and don’t stack them more than 3 buckets high.
9. What to store in the buckets? Just about anything, including toiletries (these won’t need to be sealed in mylar). Typically, people store dry goods, such as beans, cornmeal, wheat, and rice, in buckets.
10. If you plan on using some of what you’ve stored in buckets, invest a few dollars in Gamma Seal Lids. These have an outer ring that snaps on the top of an open bucket and then a smaller lid that is inserted within the ring and then twisted until closed. These lids allow for easy access to food you’re using and yet provide an air-tight seal when closed and can be used for years.
This video walks you through the process of sealing buckets with mylar bag inserts.