Most food purchased from grocery stores isn’t meant for long-term storage. Food manufacturers want you to eat your purchased food quickly so you’ll return to the store and buy more. Therefore, any foods that aren’t in cans won’t be packaged properly for a long shelf life. Plastic bags and cardboard boxes won’t keep out pests, oxygen, light, heat, or humidity. It’s up to you to repackage everything, but this can get expensive.
Enter the plastic food-grade bucket. You can purchase these new online or at food-storage stores, but if you live near a bakery, chances are they have stacks of these they will either give away for free or at a very nominal charge. I was skeptical of this until I asked the bakery manager at my local grocery store. His response was, “How many do you want and do you want lids to go with them?” A short time later, I had ten like-new buckets with perfectly good lids. I washed them out with hot soapy water, dried them, and then began filling them with wheat.
I use those white buckets to organize non-edibles, such as dental supplies, soap, shampoos, and camping gear. Just slap a label on the outside, seal with a lid, and you’re on your way to being better organized. I know some SurvivalMoms who store a week’s worth of food in two or three buckets, thinking they’ll be ready to grab at a moment’s notice in case they ever have to evacuate.
Another very inexpensive option are cleaned out soda and juice bottles. These may be marked with an expiration date, but that date applies to the beverage inside, not the bottle itself. I use these bottles to store rice, oats, cornmeal and other dry goods. You’ll need a good funnel, but other than that, these are free with the purchase of the juice or soda inside!
My grandma used to keep and re-use every food container that entered her kitchen: empty jelly jars, margarine tubs, and Kool-Whip containers. Glass jars can be re-purposed to hold large amounts of yeast (be sure to refrigerate), dried herbs, and dehydrated veggies. Plastic margarine and Kool-Whip containers are better used for organizing non-food items, such as first-aid and sewing supplies. Before throwing out perfectly good containers, consider how it can be reused. A free container is always best!
Speaking of free, my favorite price!, check with school cafeterias and restaurants for white plastic buckets, PETE containers in various sizes, and even large glass jars. I was told by one manager, “We’re supposed to send those out to be recycled, but you can have all you want!” Ask around, and don’t be shy!
Be aware that not all plastic containers are food-friendly. According to The Virtual Weber Bullet, here are plastics to avoid.
- HDPE white plastic containers of unknown food grade status
- Garbage cans or pails
- Mop buckets
- Laundry detergent or kitty litter buckets
- Dry pet food buckets
- 5-gallon utility buckets from home center stores
- Household storage containers
- Garbage bags
- Any container — even if made of food grade plastic — that has been used to store non-food items like chemicals, paint, or detergent
When it comes to storing food, safety comes first, thriftiness second. There’s no point in investing hard-earned money in food and then ending up with something tainted when you really need it.
One final budget-friendly suggestion is the mylar bag. You know how much I love these for long-term storage, but did you know they can be cut into smaller sizes and resealed? Using nothing but a hot clothes iron and a flat surface, you can prepare small bags for seeds, herbs, dehydrated mixes, smaller amounts of beans and rice and much more.
There’s no doubt that prepping costs money, but it’s still possible, with a little creativity and good information, to become better prepared on pennies, or less!