Long-Term Food Storage How To – Plastic Buckets, Oxygen Absorbers, Mylar Bags
I store all my grains, beans, and other dry foods (besides sugar, salt, or sprouting seeds) inside food-grade five-gallon plastic buckets. There is some controversy over what is considered food grade. Most (but not all) buckets with #2 inside a small triangle on the bottom are food-grade. But the only way to be certain is to contact the manufacturer and ask.
You can also order food grade buckets directly from Amazon.com – click here to check the current price and availability.
I buy mine from the local hardware store in the paint department. They also have them at my Wal-Mart, but I prefer to buy from local business owners, if possible. Sometimes they can even be gathered free from bakeries and restaurants. Just make sure that they only contained food products, not paint, chemicals, or other things that can make you sick or dead.
Foods packed in oxygen do not store as well as those in an oxygen-free atmosphere. Oxygen absorbers (available from Amazon.com) work by removing the air from the enclosed container, leaving an atmosphere of 99% pure nitrogen in a partial vacuum inside the buckets.
Do not open the bag of oxygen absorbers until you’re ready to use it because they will absorb oxygen from the surrounding environment, rendering them useless. Have everything ready to go before you open the package. Any unused oxygen absorbers can be stored inside a small canning jar until needed.
Be sure to have everything ready to go before you start. Line the inside of the bucket with an appropriately sized Mylar bag (also available from Amazon.com). These help to keep light and moisture out, thereby extending the storage life of the foods inside. The Mylar bag also offers a layer of protection between the food and the plastic bucket, if for some reason the bucket that you are using is not food-grade.
Pour the food into the buckets a little at a time, shaking each bucket as it is being filled to settle and distribute the contents. Fill each bucket to about ½ inch from the top and throw in one 2000 cc oxygen absorber in each five-gallon bucket of food.
Sealing the Mylar bag is simple. First roll the top of the bag closed on one end, leaving an opening at the other. Then press out any air that is trapped inside. Next, place a 2×4 piece of wood across the top of the bucket, pull the Mylar bag over the 2×4, and seal it across the board with a clothing iron that is set at the highest setting.
Quickly put the lids on each bucket and pound shut by laying the board across the top and striking it with a hammer or rubber mallet (or use a Gamma Lid). After a few hours, the absorbers will create a vacuum that will cause the lids on the buckets to “pop down”, which indicates that there is a good seal and a proper atmosphere for long-term storage.
Be sure to label each bucket with a permanent marker with the date, contents, and weight written on the front.
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Please add your thoughts, comments, and long-term food storage tips below…