How to prepare your family to survive and thrive in todays uncertain world

Food Storage Container Options

So a reader asked me the other day about four gallon buckets, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to elaborate on how I store food, and provide some recommendations for suitable containers and whatnot.

My Favorite – Four Gallon Buckets

I’ve made no big secret of this, I prefer using four gallon square buckets for most of my dry storage needs.  There are a few rather logical reasons why I like using these square buckets instead of round buckets.

First, they waste significantly less space than the round buckets.  If you take nine buckets of each type and place them in a square, the wasted space is readily visible.  You also don’t waste as much space if you’re storing bulkier items.  While it’s less relevant if you’re storing wheat in the buckets, if you store, say, boxes of canning lids, they fit far better into a square bucket than a round bucket.

Second, they stack nicely and are very stable when stacked.  You can stack them up to eight high if you want, and since the stacks are quite dense when they’re next to each other, they have more intrinsic stability than round buckets do.  This is especially the case when you stack them up against a wall.

Used buckets are generally fine, but you want to be careful about what they were used for.  Make sure it wasn’t anything toxic, staining, or strong smelling.  For example, I would suggest you avoid using buckets that were previously used to store pickles.  That smell will never go away!

Now sometimes these buckets can be hard to find.  You used to be able to find them used easily from bakeries and delis, but those sources seem to have dried up lately.  I recommend trying Craigslist first and foremost.  If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, I have four gallon buckets for sale here.  If you are looking for large quantities of buckets, you can often try large food service companies in your area with some success.  Finally, if you want new buckets, I highly recommend the folks over at Five Star Preparedness.  They have good quality new buckets at a reasonable cost.

Mason Jars

Now these are truly a great storage container.  Suitable for all kinds of things, people use these mostly for canning fruits, vegetables, soups, meats, fish, and the like.  However, they are far more versatile than that.  If you have something that doesn’t need preservation other than to be in an airtight container, these are perfect.  In particular if you’re repackaging some off the shelf item.

Another big benefit of these jars is that they are reusable.  The lids aren’t reusable for the most part, but you can get reusable lids from a few vendors online.  The jars themselves though can be used over and over until they are damaged or broken.  This is all by itself a huge benefit!

Now if you don’t know how to can food, we’ll talk about that at another time.  It’s not that hard and it’s a great thing to know how to do.  If you’re just repackaging, you have a couple of options.  First, you can put the items in the jar, drop in an oxygen absorber, and seal it up.  A better option is to use a Food Saver with a mason jar attachment.  It quickly seals anything you want into the jar.

If you have items that need to be stored in the dark, you should be sure to put your jars in a box once they’re sealed up.

#10 Cans

Now these tend to be very popular with people for all sorts of different kinds of food.  But honestly, I’m not a huge fan of these for most dry storage applications.  The claim to fame is that they are pest and rodent proof, and are impervious to the elements.  Now these are all great things, but honestly if you package your food correctly and don’t do something like bury them in the ground or leave them out in the rain, it’s overrated.

You’re certainly entitled to your own opinion, of course, and if you like these cans, go right ahead and use them!  You can commonly buy storage items already packaged in them.  Otherwise you can get a canning unit and use them to can your own.  Some LDS canneries will loan one out, but often they restrict that to LDS members.

Mylar Bags

Mylar is a ‘space age material’ which means it’s the best thing since sliced bread, right?  Well, it truly is a fantastic material.  It’s water and airtight, impermeable to light and insects.

I tend to use these bags in conjunction with the four gallon square buckets.  Since mylar can be damaged easily by sharp items the buckets provide extra protection.  And, of course, it’s much easier to stack buckets than piles of bags!

To use a bag, you fill it with the dry food, add an oxygen absorber packet or two if you want, and seal it with heat.  You can use a sealer designed for sealing mylar bags or you can simply use a clothes iron.  Practice sealing bags empty until you have a handle on it, then move onto the real thing.

You can buy these readily just about anywhere online, at restaurant supply stores, or at your local LDS cannery.

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7 Responses to Food Storage Container Options

  1. Another option which I use for dry food is FDA approved, gold lined, food grade, paint cans. They come in all the sizes that you would find at your local paint store. I uses the small ones to store spices and seasonings in. Add an oxygen absorber for long term storage. There are several places to order these over the internet. Here is a website to get you started
    Click on “paint cans”.

    • I was just listening to a podcast about those the other day, but didn’t catch a link to where you can find them.

      Thanks for the tip, Debbie!

  2. Mylar bags & food safe buckets seems redundant…if you going the mylar bag route, and have access only to non-food buckets (home depot, etc), you should be good to go, yes (since mylar is airtight, the gases from the bucket shouldn’t come in contact with your stored grub)? The availability of the ‘free’ buckets from restaurants is almost zero in my area…I guess more folks are getting on the bandwagon…and the price of food grade buckets with shipping is fairly unreasonable, compared to the ones at the local big box store.

    Care to comment?

    • You’re right, it is redundant. I tend to be very redundant with things that matter. Part of it is my professional background, and part of it is my nature, I’d guess! A key tenet of the survival and preparedness mindset is the ‘Two Is One and One Is None’ concept. I wrote an article about it here that expounds on it in depth.

      The key with storing with mylar bags is keeping them safe. For me, cardboard isn’t going to cut it, so you’re looking at some hard container. I use four gallon buckets because I have a good source for them locally at a good price. And I use them for all kinds of things, not just food, because of the benefits that I talk about in the article.

      You can certainly use regular buckets, rubbermaid totes, ammo cans, or really just about anything that is structurally stable to store Mylar bags in. You just gotta make the best out of what you have available to you!

  3. I like the 4 gal bucket idea because of the lighter weight to lift – in addition to the other advantages stated. This is a big plus.

    Also good to mixing the contents of a bucket – a big bag of wheat plus small bags of beans, lentils etc. Maybe even spices if you want a truely “grab and go” pack.

    I’m a worrier and I worry about mice and rats. This seems like a weakness of using plastic buckets and Mylar bags. Maybe a cat would do the trick -if you leave enough space between buckets for them to get at everything.

    For in-kitchen storage, consider the beautiful holiday popcorn cans. I’ve been able to find them very cheap at thrift stores.