Having a solid long-term food storage plan is an excellent step in emergency preparedness. Whether you are preparing for a natural disaster or sudden unemployment, having food storage buckets can drastically decrease stress and worry. If you are new to long-term food storage, the most important thing to keep in mind is to “just start.” It may seem overwhelming in the beginning, but as you dive in and start getting your plan together, the process can actually become quite fun.
- Arlene Lee
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While there are many different food storage methods available, using five-gallon buckets are an excellent choice for maximizing space and food quantities. Below is a guide on how to get started with your long-term food storage plan including FAQ, beginning steps, and in-depth bucket information.
Food Storage FAQ
How long does food last when it’s stored long-term?
Dry foods that are well packed can be stored up to 20-25 years in five-gallon buckets.
What items can be stored long-term?
Pretty much anything can be stored long-term in food storage buckets, especially dry goods. Food items such as beans, flour, sugar, rice, and cornmeal are excellent to have on hand in an emergency. Note that foods with high sugar or oil content need to be stored in vacuum-sealed jars to prevent spoilage. Also consider stocking toiletries like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, feminine hygiene products, and toothbrushes to name a few.
How can I make long-term food storage more affordable?
Creating a long-term food storage system takes a significant time and money investment. However, it is not necessary to stockpile two years of food all at once. Focus on creating a short-term plan and gradually add on until you feel comfortable with the amount of food you have stored. Breaking up the process into small increments will help stretch your financial resources.
How much food should be stored?
This is going to be different for each family but start with a two to four-week supply and gradually build up to around a six-month supply. The size of your family unit and geographical location will also be used as gauge on how much food you would require in the long-term.
Start Here: A Total Beginners Guide to Food Storage
If you are completely new to food storage, start with these simple steps to jump-start the process. Once you have the basics covered, start expanding to larger quantities of food.
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- Angela Paskett
- Publisher: Living Ready
Step One: Focus on stockpiling food that your family actually eats. Avoid wasting by stocking your pantry with unconsumed food. This rule also applies to long-term food storage.
Step Two: Gather your family’s favorite recipes. For this initial step, focus on two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners that your family enjoys and have ingredients that are easily stored long-term. Some recipe ideas include pancakes, oatmeal, soup, spaghetti, and home-made pizza.
Step Three: Note down the ingredients in each recipe and purchase only a few food items just enough to make each meal seven times. At this point, you will have a two-week backup food supply.
Step Four: Now that you already have a two-week supply plan, start essentially the process over again and consider adding bulk food storage into your plan.
Taking Your Food Storage to The Next Level
Now that you have a short-term plan in place, it’s time to start growing quantities to cover the more long-term food shortage requirements. The best way to engage into a long-term plan is to invest in food storage buckets. These buckets are typically five-gallon size and can store a wide variety of items.
Choosing Your Storage Technique
- Mylar Bags with Oxygen Absorbers. This is definitely the top method for long-term food storage. While it is the most intricate of all three methods, it provides the most probable likelihood that your food will be consumable for the longest time. There is a wide-variety of tutorials available in YouTube that will help you step-by-step with this process.
- The “Do-Nothing” Method. This involves basically just putting your food into a bucket, sealing the lid, and not much else. If you plan to rotate through your food on a regular basis, like every five years, then this could work well for you. However, since there is little protection from the elements and pests, this is not a totally reliable option for long-term storage.
- Using Dry Ice. If you decide to use dry ice for your food storage, remember that you only need about one ounce of dry ice per one gallon of the container. So, a five-gallon bucket would need five ounces of dry ice. The trick with dry ice is to ensure it is used properly, to avoid ending up with a puddle of water at the bottom of your bucket. Before trying this method, try a one bucket experiment to see if it’s something that works for you.
- Gaye Levy
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
- Paperback: 58 pages
Deciding Which Foods to Stockpile
Once again, remember to focus on storing the amount of food your family will surely consume. It is bad enough to be left in crisis and even worse to have a stockpile of food no one wants to touch. Keep in mind that you need about 24 buckets to consume for a full year. Using proper storage methods, the items listed below can last 20 years or more.
- Water is a survival essential and is arguably more important than any food item. Make sure to have at least one gallon per person, each day during an emergency situation. Three days is a good starting point, and some people opt to store up to a two-week supply.
- Dried beans are versatile and full of protein. They can be used in soups, stews, and chilies.
- White rice is high in starch and an excellent source of energy. Mixing rice and beans together provides essential amino acids for the body. It is one of the best sources of calories per pound among the survival foods. Having a few buckets each of dried beans and rice is a good place to start after you have your short-term plan in place.
- Rolled oats are very versatile and an inexpensive food to stockpile. You can easily make them into oatmeal by adding hot water or grind them into flour if needed.
- Nuts are an excellent source of proteins and fat. Having a good variety of nuts on hand can make a make a big difference in your overall emergency nutrition plan. Make sure they are dry roasted and salted for best storage results.
- Other options to consider include grains like wheat, quinoa, and corn as well as powdered coffee and powdered milk. Remember to focus on the types of foods your family enjoys when rounding out your long-term food prep plan.
Other Food Storage Methods
The five-gallon bucket storage method is great for dried foods, but not ideal for fruits, vegetables, and meats. Below are some other options to keep in mind as you create your long-term food storage plan.
- Canning. When canning foods, you must seal the contents while hot, to kill any bacteria that may spoil the food. Canning is an excellent way to add variety to large quantities of dried food by preserving fruits, vegetables, meats, jams, and jellies for future use.
- Smoking. A good way to preserve meat and fish is by smoking. Long-term storage requires vacuum sealing for optimum preservation.
- Pickling. This is a well-established method that uses salt and vinegar to preserve various vegetables, fruits, and meats.
Storage Tips and Tricks
Now that we have detailed the storage methods, below are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind as you continue developing your food-storage plan.
- Label Everything. Create a labeling system that identifies both the food and year it was packed. Also, determine the shelf-life of the food you pack.
- Find Free Buckets. Ask grocery store bakeries or fast food chains for any leftover five-gallon buckets. If you don’t have any luck there, websites like Amazon offer five-gallon buckets at a reasonable price.
- Storage Location. Store your food in a dry basement, dark room or closet, or indoor pantry. Avoid keeping food outdoors (like a garden shed), damp location, the garage, or attic. This will preserve the freshness of your food. In addition, ensure your buckets are positioned a few inches off the ground and are stacked no more than three buckets high.
- Bucket Types. Your storage method will determine whether you need food-grade plastic or not. For example, if you use mylar bags, using five-gallon buckets with food-grade plastic is less important. Either way, it is better to select buckets made of heavy duty plastic to keep away light, moisture, pests, and oxygen – the four main food spoilers.
- Pets. Do not forget your pets in your food storage plan. They will need food and water like everyone else in the family.
- Fredrick M. Woods
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
- Paperback: 24 pages
- Arlene Lee
- Barbara Phipps
- Audible Audiobook
As mentioned previously, the hardest part of any long-term food storage plan is just getting started. Hopefully, this guide has jump-started your emergency food prep plan and helped you begin preparing for the unexpected.
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