Food Storage, Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Yesterday afternoon/night we in the Tidewater Virginia area held our first food storage meeting. There were 14 of us present, many more interested that could not make this meeting but plan to participate in the future. It looks like we will have one or two more meetings before a food preparation day.
Most, but not all participants attended the Lowesville seminar or were with someone who had attended. We used Chris and Becca’s discussion about how they planned and executed their food storage day as the framework for our meeting.
First the recommendations, mistakes or challenges:
– Have an agenda. We started out talking about water storage, filtration and purification. Lots of great discussion.
– Make sure someone takes notes to summarize decisions and record info about websites, products, etc.
– If you generate questions, assign them to different people in the group to go research and get back to the group.
– Understand that there are a lot of sites out there that have slightly differing material as to how much wheat, grain, beans, legumes, etc. you need to have on hand. Don’t get stuck trying to read all of the info on all of the sites. Pick one or two and go with it.
– The biggest challenge was that our group had people who are in different stages of preparation. Some people already had rice and other food in long term storage, others were starting from scratch. You MUST make the time to let everyone talk and get comfortable with where they are and where they think they want to go with this. That is going to add a lot of time to your meeting, but since you are among friends, it all works out.
– Figure out what your base unit of issue is going to be. Chris and Becca had a great arrangement – their unit of issue was 1 bucket of wheat (36 pounds), 1 bucket of beans (36 pounds), 1 bucket of rice (38 pounds), and one bucket of oats (22 pounds). This is enough for a 3 month supply for an adult. Depending on how many people are in your family and how long you want to store for, start with this base unit and scale up. This is the best and easiest way to do it….the only decision you have to make is what kind of wheat and what kind of bean you are going to order.
Each participating family would come in and determine how many of the 4 bucket “kits” they needed. Keeping it simple not only makes it easy to figure out how many pounds of each “thing” (rice, wheat, beans, oats) you need to order, but also the number of buckets, O2 absorbers and mylar bags you need to order. It was all very simple. Or so I thought….
So we decided to take the simple wheel and reinvent it. Silly me… I thought we would just figure out how many bucket kits we each wanted and would be on our way. Oh no, that isn’t the way it went… So from something simple, this is where we stand. We have added a fifth food (quinoa) and an additional bean. Everyone is responsible for their own buckets and lids. We now have to figure out how much of each the items each family wants. Stick to keeping it simple….go with the four bucket kit. As Chris said, you are talking about surviving on this food, not eating at some 4 star restaurant. Now we have a bit of an accounting issue to keep track of the 3 or 4 or 6 or 2 bucket kit each family may order and sort out how many mylar bags and O2 absorbers we need. I will let Dogs take care of that since he was the one who wanted to add all the moving parts……don’t let nuclear engineers come to your first meeting……
Next meeting is to determine where we are going to order the food from. Everyone has homework. After the first food storage day for the five foods, we will have an additional day later in the year to add to the basic with sugar, spices etc.
This first meeting took five hours. We had fun, we had pizza, veggies and brownies. Someone had purchased a sample pack of dried food. Another member took those ingredients and other dried ingredients and made four dishes to sample. The chili was excellent. We decided if it got down to eating rice for months on end, it would all taste excellent.
We also shared different books and other ideas.
I know in the end it will all work out, I just wanted to pass along our experience.
The biggest recommendation is to set some basic guidelines before having a first meeting.
I have no doubt that later Dogs will be adding his two cents, well maybe ten cents worth knowing him.
"don’t let nuclear engineers come to your first meeting……" Classic.
Awesome post, Cat. Between this and CM’s latest report re food, I guess this’ll be on our short list of things to ramp up on w/our core group….
Thanks — and VIVA! — Sager
Hey Cat – you have my sympathies with the accounting and figuring parts. We recently custom-configured (food allergies – no fun) our 2-adult 1-year supply, and I spent 2-3 days factoring and figuring cost per unit, how many lbs of something went into a bucket, and how many buckets/absorbers/mylar I’d eventually need for the final order in bulk. I think I pulled out all my hair, my eyelashes and eyebrows 🙂 All I can say is thank God for the formula functions in Excel spreadsheets.
If you want to go simpler, many places like Walton Feed do offer pre-packaged 6gal poly buckets with mylar inserts at reasonable costs vs. buying in bulk and packaging yourself. You definitely will save money doing it yourself, but if you have a large enough order, you might be able to arrange a discount on the SuperPails that evens it out. Just a thought.
Hi Plickety Cat,
Thank you for all the suggestions. Somehow we will get through this order as a COMMUNITY. This meeting was a learning experience in how to agree as a group, most of us are friends that have known each other for years. If we can’t get through a bulk food order together, I wouldn’t want to think what would happen when we really need each other.
It was helpful to listen to those who have knowledge and experience with different foods. Tonight I am making stuffed peppers with quinoa. I had never heard of quinoa until two days ago.
I know the buckets your referring to, what kind of shelf life do they have? I ask because I am currently accumulating 20lbs bags of rice (it is a staple food in my house….wife is filipina). I was reading that the buckets can be stored for 5+ years compared to the bags.
We currently cycle through the storage we have, but I am thinking the buckets may be easier to store as well. These buckets work for any dried food too right? Can you ‘mess up’ when sealing them….more frankly put, is there a simply mistake one can make when sealing?
This is the site Chris recommended for buckets. Untied States Plastic Corp. http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/product.asp
These pails are tough enough to store nails and secure enough to protect contents. Strong reinforcing ribs guarantee that they keep their shape. Made with a tapered design, pails nest to save space, and they separate easily. Pails and lids are made of high-density polyethylene and meet NMFC, FDA and UFC requirements Container and cover can be hot filled up to 190° F, and frozen. All pails have a sturdy wire bail with a plastic handgrip. Lids are available, see bottom of page. Ok for use with motor oil. Bucket measurements are as follows, 11.91" dia. x 14.50" high x 10.33" dia. at the bottom. Not UN or DOT approved for shipping — for storage only. The wall thickness is .090" +/- .005". Cartons and pallets come one color per carton or pallet and cannot be broken for discounted price.
I thought you needed a liner too, is this not true? I don’t want to be buying extra items that don’t do anything, lol
Yes, you use a liner as well as these other items:
Mylar bag, 4.0 mil mylar bag 20"x30" Sorvent Systems http://www.sorbentsystems.com/mylar.html
Gamma lids for buckets, Recommended over the snap lids. US Plastics http://www.usplastic.com/catalog/product.asp
Oxygen absorbers, Latter-Day Saints catalog. Item 81382000 http://www.ldscatalog.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay
Cat – quinoa is yummy! It’s also a complete protein… one of the only grains that has more protein than carbs, and it’s gluten-free, gotta love that. Hope you enjoyed your stuffed peppers last night 🙂
That1Guy – A poly bucket alone (without liner) will keep frequently used items reasonably protected for several months to a year as long as it has a gasketed lid or GammaSeal lid. Adding a dessicant to this bucket will help with mold/mildew caused by humidity, but unless you have an airtight seal and an O2 absorber you may still have problems with minor oxidation.
A mylar bag alone (not in a bucket) will normally keep stored items edible for 5+ years if you also add an oxygen absorber. These aren’t as convenient to lug around, but you can get the large ones and stack them flat in a storage area like you would feed sacks or bags of dog food if you have a safe location. The only real concern is critters chewing on or indavertant nicks and cuts of the bag.
The bucket plus mylar liner with oxygen absorber (and dessicant if needed) is the best way to protect any dry foods for 5+ years. I know people who have opened rice that is 15 years old and you can hardly tell the difference from the fresh stuff.
The most common mistakes with these methods of storing food long term are:
- Not using food-safe containers (i.e. old paint buckets or garbage bags)
- Not having a proper seal (i.e. bad bucket lid or not sealing the mylar bag completely)
- Using the wrong size oxygen absorber for the container size (i.e. too small to get a good "vacuum" seal)
- Storing improperly prepared food (i.e. packing in bugs or rot)
One tip I got from a survivalist is to seal the mylar liner as close to the edge as possible after squishing out all the air, then snip only a small amount off when you need to replenish your short-term stores. This way, you can add another absorber (if necessary) and reseal the opening, which allows you to use the same liner bag several times. Even without adding another absorber, squishing out the air and resealing the bag will help keep out bugs and humidity to prolong the life of the food once opened. Sorbent Systems does make reusj90imkjable ziplock mylar bags, but I seem to remember they didn’t come big enough to use as liners for 6 gal buckets… but would be great for packaging smaller servings or non-food items you wanted to protect but needed easy access to (like documents and ammunition).
Thanks Cat for the great sharing of experience! I like the group approach you initiated, which we have not been able to muster up yet. We’re still pretty much on an island so to speak… as far as the planning and executing is concerned. We are, however, in our 3rd year in a CSA. That may be a place to make some connections with kindred spirits.
And quinoa is wonderful! But I never thought about stuffing peppers with it! I’m going to have a surprise for my wife when she gets home tonight.