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We all NEED food! In any real disruption, whether that be short or long term, people realize that they need or will need food. If you doubt, or need a reminder, just think back to pictures of grocery store shelves during winter storms or hurricanes. The problem with “ordinary” people (or maybe we should call them irresponsible), is that they wait till the disruption is right at their doorstep!
I knew when I started in preparedness that I didn’t want to be irresponsible. I have a family and I wanted to make sure that their needs are met if I can help it. So to me, as a father and husband, it is a no brainer to have long term food storage!
My good friend Gaye Levy of Backdoor Survival says it well in her book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage…
When most people start thinking about preparedness, they focus on food. Not shelter, gear, sanitation, power, self-defense or the myriad of other concerns that need to be addressed following an emergency or disaster situation. Quite simply, food is the number one concern people have second only to their concern for having an adequate supply of water.
What type of food should you buy, where should you buy it, and how should you store it? You are going to learn that acquiring food for the preparedness pantry does not have to be overwhelming. Furthermore, long-term emergency food storage is something you can do over the course of a week, a month, or even longer, if that is what it takes.
Perhaps even more important, when you have filled your storage pantry, you will be secure in the knowledge that if a disaster strikes, you will have plenty of food to feed your family, along with a few treats and surprises along the way.
My Long Term Food Storage Dilemma
After doing my due diligence and researching long term food storage, I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford to purchase those big pallets of food for my whole family. It would have been nice and easy to place an order online and then just park all that food in a room, but it wasn’t happening for my budget, and I bet it isn’t happening for your own budget either.
There is also the issue with what your family will eat. Many of those long term food packs come with food that your family might not like and won’t eat. Yeah, I know. In an emergency, if they were starving, they would eat it. But still…why push it.
I knew I wanted to store long term food for my family, the issue was how and how much. It wasn’t long that I found that you could store food long term in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers inside of plastic 5 gallon buckets.
Side Note: Now, I will tell you here that I think the easiest form of food storage is buying canned foods at your local grocery store. You can easily create a 30 day menu by using cans. I wrote the article, Anyone Can Do It – Fool Proof Food Storage, which provides information to an old Y2K website with a ton of recipes…no guessing! Below that article, you will find a ton of links to other types of food storage from many of my friends who also blog about preparedness. BUT – canned foods aren’t meant to last for the “LONG TERM.”
The only thing that worried me about making my own long term food storage buckets was ME! At that time, there wasn’t as much information about making your own food storage buckets like now! What if I screwed something up and the food that my family depended on went bad and we were caught without any food during a long term crisis? It’s kind of scary if you think about it, but you have to GET OVER IT!
Making your own long term food storage buckets is very easy. I’m going to list out the steps in a 1,2,3 format. But if you need more encouragement, I’m going to include so many links after my steps that you are going to OD on information and feel like a long term food storage expert!
Steps to Making Your Own Long Term Food Storage Buckets
1. Acquire Your Supplies.
You will need mylar bags, O2 absorbers, 5 gallon buckets w/ lids, a mallet, a pail or bucket opener, an iron, a 2×4 board and the food you want to store.
Mylar Bags – Here you have a few options. You can go with big 5 gallon bag sizes or you can go with 1 gallon bag sizes and place 4-5 in each 5 gallon bucket. You really want to purchase mylar bags that have a decent thickness. I usually get 4mil thick bags from Amazon.
I have a big family, with big boys. I chose to use the big 5 gallon size bags. I figure that we are going to eat! If you are putting together buckets for just two people, you might want to use the 1 gallon size bags and place various types of food in one bucket.
O2 Absorbers – O2 absorbers will absorb the oxygen that you can’t push out of the mylar bag. Various sizes of bags require various cc’s of oxygen absorbers.
To take the guess work out of it though, you can purchase packs of mylar bags with O2 absorbers. Like I said, I purchase them from Amazon already put together.
5 gallon buckets – You don’t really NEED buckets, but you should use them! The buckets are there to protect the mylar bags from being punctured by accident or by little fury critters. They will also serve as an easy place to store your food when you open up your mylar bags. I purchase the orange buckets from Home Depot. I purchase the lids there too. Home Depot has also started selling gamma lids, lids that easily screw off. But you can also purchase them on Amazon.
Mallet – You will need this to hammer down the lids on the buckets after you finish sealing your bags.
Bucket/Pail Opener – This isn’t necessary, but will save your nails and fingers when you try to open your buckets. They are cheap and you will be glad you have one. You can purchase them on Amazon too.
Food – If you are doing this on the cheap, you probably want to stick with white rice, beans and pasta. All of these foods will last for a very long time. This will get you started, but you might want to add more. Like for example, you might want to store sugar. You can put that in a mylar bag, but don’t include an O2 absorber. It will turn your sugar into a hard block. For other examples of foods that you can store, see the links below.
Iron and 2×4 board – When you get ready to seal your mylar bags, you will place the top of the bag on the board and then iron over it. I used an old iron we didn’t throw out and I had a 2×4 just laying around in the garage.
2.Fill Up the Bags
First thing – Do not open the package that the O2 absorbers come in until you are ready to start sealing your mylar bags! Once you open the O2 package, the absorbers start working. You want to wait until you are really ready.
Setup your buckets in a line or in a work area that will allow you to move easily. Turn on your iron, connect with an extension cord if it makes it easier, and set it on high.
Place your mylar bags inside the buckets and pour your food inside. You might want to go ahead and label your lids with a Sharpie and place it under the buckets of food so you don’t forget what is inside each bucket…in case you are the forgetful type! Make sure you leave some space at the top of the bag so it can seal easily.
Shake the buckets to make sure you don’t have any air pockets. Once all your food is in mylar bags, inside of the buckets, open up your O2 absorbers and drop the appropriate size of O2 absorber inside each bucket.
Grab the 2×4 board, lay it across a portion of the mylar bag, at the top, and run the iron over it. You don’t have to hold it over too long. You will see it seal. (see the Yeager vid below) Again, this is easier than it might sound. You want to leave a portion of the bag unsealed, like at the end. The reason is that you want to push out as much air as possible. I have heard that you can get a long tube/straw and place it on one side of the mylar bag to help get the last bit of air out.
After you are comfortable with pushing as much air out of the bags that you can get, then completely seal the bag. You might want to make a diagonal seal at the end of the bag to close it off. (The first tutorial link I link to below will show you what I mean)
At this point, you can wait till the next day to make sure that the bags sealed before you hammer on the lid. You will notice that the bags will become “tight” and firm as the O2 is absorbed.
Any O2 absorbers that you have left can go into a mason jar. I don’t really know how long this would work because I have always used all of mine!
3. After you are comfortable with your sealed bags, you can place the lid on them and use the mallet to set the lids in place. You will notice that the lids from Home Depot have a rubber seal around the bottom. This makes for a very tight seal.
4. Your buckets should already be labeled, so just find a cool, dark place to store them, like in a closet or an unused room. Your buckets should last for many, many, years.
The above list of steps is what I did to make my long term food storage buckets. It is very easy to do. However, I know that I wanted to see pics and video. Again, you want to feel comfortable that you did everything correctly, your family is depending on you!
Below you will find some of the best tutorials and links that you will want to read/watch to help you feel more comfortable. All of these articles were linked on Prepper Website, so you know they are good!
DIY Long Term Food Storage Tutorials
How to Seal a Mylar Bag in a 5-gallon bucket (Modern Survival Blog) – This tutorial has the pic of using the diagonal seal I spoke about above.
Supersizing Food Storage with BUCKETS (Prepared Housewives) – Good info. with a lot of pics!
VID: Long Term Food Storage (Survive2Day) – If you are looking for a video to walk you through the process, you might want to watch this one!
VID: Beginners Guide to Food Storage (James Yeager) – Yes, that James Yeager, often does videos on preparedness. He walks through putting together food buckets in this video along with other food storage basics!
How to Seal Food in Mylar Bags (Backdoor Survival) – Good tutorial with a lot of pics!
Sealing Food in Five Gallon Buckets is an Important Skill for Preppers (Preparedness Advice Blog)
VID: Long Term Food Storage: Dry Pasta in Mylar Bags (The Modern Survivalist) – This is a short video where Ferfal uses a hair straightener to seal a small mylar package.
Food Storage: Packing pails for long term storage ( Candian Preppers Network)
Tips & Tricks You Want to Know About Your DIY Long Term Food Buckets
Food Storage Demystified – (Ready Nutrition) – Lots of great tips to help you understand more about your food buckets!
Food Grade Buckets – (5 Gallon Ideas) – Understand the difference between food grade and non-food grade buckets!
Oxygen Absorbers For 5-Gallon Food Storage (Modern Survival Blog)
FREE – Food Storage Inventory Spreadsheets You Can Download For Free (Prepared Housewives) – Who doesn’t like FREE stuff?
A Food Storage Tip When Using Mylar Bags (Ed that Matters) – A great tip for storing rice and beans together in the same 5 gallon bucket!
Survival Basics: Using Mylar Bags for Food Storage (Backdoor Survival) – Some great tips!
Guide to Long Term Food Storage (The Daily Prep) – A graphic resource with links to specific topics and questions you might have.
The 15 Commandments of Food Storage (Survival Mom) – Just good info.
How Many Buckets of Freedom Do You Have? (The Organic Prepper) – Some thoughts on why it is important to have buckets of food!
Food Storage (Peak Prosperity) – There is a ton of info. here regarding food storage of all types. I’m including it because it does discuss long term food buckets.
8 Tips For Storing Food in Mylar Bags (Food Storage & Survival) – Great tips!
How Much Food Will Fit in a 5 Gallon Bucket? (Preparedness Advice Blog) – Good info.
12 Staples of Long Term Food Storage (US Prepper’s) – A good list of food to have.
3 Great Resources
The Prepper’s Cookbook (Tess Pennington) – This book is one of the best when it comes to cooking with your food storage. The book contains a ton of recipes, charts, how-to store food for long term food storage (various ways), food calculator and more! Read the review here. The book has 4.5 stars and 209 reviews on Amazon. It is definitely one you want in your preparedness library!
The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage (Gaye Levy) – This ebook is concise and packs a powerful punch. You can read my review here. The book has 4 stars and 33 reviews on Amazon. You can often find it for $.99!
The Pantry Primer: A Prepper’s Guide to Whole Food on a Half-Price Budget (Daisy Luther) – I haven’t done a book review on this book. But knowing Daisy and reading all the articles that she puts out on her website, I know it is going to be good. The book covers building your pantry, cutting costs, storing food and also contains recipes.
Spices & Herbs?
I’m sure that your family will be very appreciative of all your efforts to provide food for extended emergencies. However, with all the bulk food that you store, you might find that eating becomes boring. Since food is so important to us, why not prepare a little bit more to have “good food” that your family would eat.
One thing that you will want to do is to store spices and herbs to make your food storage have various tastes. Spices, seasonings and herbs usually store very well. You might also want to grow your own herbs. Having fresh herbs is easy, frugal and can be done in your big garden or even in containers. Below you will find some good articles to reference.
Long Term Storage for Spices (Florida Hillbilly)
Food Storage: Storing Herbs and Spices for Long Term Storage (Self-Reliant School)
The Spice of Life (Paratus Familia Blog)
Food Storage, Bulk Spices, And My Must Haves (New Life on a Homestead)
10 Spice Blend Recipes (The Mountain Rose Blog)
Drying Herbs? Here’s what you do with them next (I Am Liberty)
How Do I Store That? Dried Herbs (Preparedness Mama)
Herb Gardening Basics (Simply Living Simply)
Food storage makes sense! You know it does or you wouldn’t have read this article. If you are looking for other ways to store food, including more tips, tricks and cooking ideas, take a look at the “Food Storage” tag on Prepper Website. There you will find pages and pages of great food storage articles. Just a note – at the bottom of each tag page, there is a link to take you to the next page!
Do you have a favorite food storage article or tip? Link it below in the comments!