How To Store Bulk Foods


Last time we talked about dehydrated foods. This week we’re going to discuss the best ways to store your bulk foods.

First, select only the best food grade containers that will exclude light, oxygen and moisture. This will greatly extend the shelf life of your food. The best storage containers are the No. 10 double enamel gallon-sized cans and the food grade plastic buckets. However, you may also store food in canning jars with tight-fitting lids as well as heavy plastic containers such as soda bottles and apple juice, Gatorade and fruit juice containers. Plastic or glass gallon-size jars and Rubbermaid® type containers with lids work well also. The stackable containers will save space.

No. 10-Size Double Enamel
The No. 10-size cans hold approximately one gallon and are ideal for smaller quantities of food. You can purchase plastic lids to put on the cans after they are opened.

Most food storage companies use these types of containers. They are nitrogen-packed with an oxygen absorber packet sealed inside the can. These packets absorb free oxygen from the air around them and chemically bind it. This removes the oxygen from inside the can, which helps prevent insects from hatching or even living. This also prevents rancidity from occurring.

The atmosphere inside the can is mostly nitrogen, which is ideal for long-term storage of foods. If the oxygen level is below 2 percent, the food will stay good for a lot longer. You can order a wide variety of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods that are packed in the No. 10 cans with an oxygen absorber in the can. They are packed for long-term storage and are ready to go in a heavy cardboard box that holds six cans and stacks on top of each other. To see the many different foods available go to my website.

Oxygen Absorber Packets
The oxygen absorber packets look like a tea bag or sugar packet. This method is a relatively new procedure and is proving to be one of the best ways to keep foods fresh. They must be used up within 15 minutes of being opened and exposed to the air.

These packets absorb the oxygen from the container and trap it in an iron powder, salt and moisture mixture. This is the safest way to remove oxygen. These oxygen packets can be purchased from my website.

5- or 6-Gallon Plastic Buckets Or Pails
These buckets have tight-fitting lids with rubber gaskets. They are ideal for large quantities of grains, beans, legumes, sugar, flour, etc.

You can purchase an inner liner that is made from a metallized foil, which will keep the light from harming the food and causing it to deteriorate. It also acts as a moisture barrier and keeps rodents out. The bucket with a metallized liner, when sealed properly with a tight-fitting lid, is a very good method of storing food.

To seal the Mylar® liner, line the bucket with the bag and use one oxygen absorber packet per gallon of grain, beans, dried food, etc. Pour one gallon of dried food or grain in the bucket, then add an oxygen absorber, add another gallon of food or grain and continue until the bucket is full. Then get out as much air as possible. Lay the bag as flat as you can. The bag will be much taller than the bucket.

You can use an iron to heatseal the end of the bag. This way you can use the bag over and over again. Pierce a hole in the corner of the bag and hold the bag below the seal so you don’t suck up the contents of the bag. Suck all the air out with the hose or a smaller attachment to the vacuum that can be inserted into the end. When the air is sucked out and the bag looks vacuum-packed, hold the end and seal it with an iron. Do not let air back into the bag.

Note: Never use buckets that have contained chemicals, paint, Sheetrock™ mud or kitty litter, etc. Restaurant food grade containers are ok; wash them well and rinse with bleach and water.

Gama Lids for 5-gallon buckets
There are special lids available for 5-gallon buckets that have a center section that screws on and off. It makes it nice to open and close the lids when using bulk foods on an everyday basis. I use these lids and love them.

I keep my buckets of wheat, rice, beans, pasta, etc. handy so I can use out of them every day. I also keep a smaller container of these products in my kitchen cupboard, so when I run out I just fill it up from the bucket. The buckets are stored in my pantry.

Mylar® Bags
The ones previously mentioned can be purchased from my website. [link] The heaviest Mylar® bags in the large size are the best for lining the buckets. The bag can be sealed with a hot iron. Oxygen packets can be inserted before sealing. However, I have stored a lot of food in buckets without Mylar liners.

As long as the buckets are sealed properly, they will be just fine. If I know that I am going to sprout the beans, legumes or grain, I do not put an oxygen absorber in the can or bucket. Lack of oxygen will kill the enzymes that are alive in the kernel and they won’t sprout. I will talk about the importance of sprouting in another article.

Methods For Storing Grains

Bay Leaves Method: An alternative to using oxygen absorbers is to use bay leaves. They can be spread throughout the container or food or grain. Use two bay leaves for small amounts up to one gallon, or five leaves in the 5-gallon buckets. It keeps the weevils and other bugs out, because they don’t like the smell of bay leaves.

Freezing Grain Method: If your buckets of grain are placed in the garage for the winter, the freezing temperatures will probably kill any weevil that is present. You can also deep-freeze grain in 10-pound bags and leave it for a week to kill the bugs.

Diatomaceous Earth Method: Diatomaceous earth (DE) can be mixed into your stored grains and beans to control insects without having to remove the dust before consuming it. For every 40 pounds of grain or beans, you mix in one cup of DE with it. Coat every kernel and mix it in small batches. Cover your mouth so you don’t breathe the dust in, as it can irritate your lungs.

The DE you want to use is sold as an organic garden insecticide. There are several different types of DE. Make sure you get the kind that is approved for human consumption and not the swimming pool type. You can find DE at places like home and garden stores and Intermountain Farmers Association stores.

The Causes of Deterioration

Oxygen: Oxygen is the one thing that will rob the nutritive value from the food. All living food contains enzymes which when exposed to oxygen start to break down. The nutritive value is lost, little by little, as it breaks down. That is why it is very important to remove the oxygen from the containers before you package them. It’s also good to store grains as a whole grain rather than a cracked grain. Once the kernel is cracked, it dies and the rancidity process begins. Grain will store much longer in its whole grain form.

Bacteria: Bacteria, yeast and molds are controlled by processing, canning, dehydrating, drying, freezing, etc. Bacteria is the most common cause of spoilage, so it’s important to keep all food properly processed. Once beans, meat, vegetables, etc. are opened, they must be used up quickly to prevent spoilage. Once I open dried eggs, I like to keep them in the refrigerator in quart jars with lids so no moisture gets into the bottles. A rule of thumb is to use any can of dehydrated food within one year of opening it.

Insects: Insects grow in food (and especially anything made with grains such as flour) because the eggs or larvae are already in the product before you package it. The rodents deposit their waste product in the food and eat it as they reproduce. Again the oxygen absorbers will remove the oxygen and prevent insects from living. Lack of oxygen kills bugs and larvae.

Shelf Life: Rotate your food and use it within the estimated period of time determined by research done on each product. There is a shelf life chart in my books; Food Storage 101, Where Do I Begin? and Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook.

When the food is stored too long, two things happen:
  • The nutritional value breaks down.
  • The color, flavors, texture and smell change and people will not eat it.

As you find containers for your bulk food, try to get containers that are dark and cannot be permeated by light. The two most common containers that allow light in are glass jars and plastic buckets or bottles. If these are used, they need to be stored in heavy cardboard boxes in a dark room.

Humidity And Moisture: Dehydrated foods store well when the moisture is removed. The moisture levels of dehydrated food should be less than 10 percent. The food will be hard, not leathery. Be sure to keep all containers up off the floor and away from anything that is high in humidity like dryer vents, water heaters or anything that could flood and damage the food or rust out the cans.

Temperature And Location
A cool dark place is a must. The temperature of the room should stay constant throughout the year. Find the coolest place in the house — usually it’s a basement, if you have one.

Try to find a place that stays between 45-65 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. I know this is impossible in climates where the temperature fluctuates from season to season, but the lower the temperature, the longer the shelf life. However, you want to stay 10 to 20 degrees above freezing. Most basements are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and will cut the shelf life down a little.

If you store your food in a garage or shed where the temperature fluctuates, you can cut the shelf life down even more. Where I live it is popular to have a cold storage room located in a basement and built under a porch. Usually it has a dirt floor, which maintains a cooler temperature. My husband built us a root cellar that is well-insulated and stays a constant temperature year-round.

eFoods Global
A company that I recommend for fast, easy, nutritious gourmet meals that will store for up to 15 years is eFoods Global. This is a new concept in storable foods that are delicious, nutritious, affordable and convenient for daily use. If you would like to try the same six meals that I received, simply go to, watch the three-minute video and then click on the WIN button. After you receive your six meals for $9.95, you can order a shipment of food to be delivered to you once per month. This is more cost-effective, and over a few month’s time you will have enough good-tasting nutritious meals stored for an emergency. 

Food storage 101, “Where Do I Begin?” and many other books may be purchased on my website, You can also contact me via email or by phone: 435-835-0311.

Personal Liberty

Peggy Layton

a home economist and licensed nutritionist, holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition from Brigham Young University. Peggy lives in Manti, Utah with her husband Scott. Together they have raised seven children. Peggy owns and operates two businesses: One called "The Therapy Center", where she is a licensed massage therapist and hypnotherapist, and the other an online cookbook and preparedness products business. She is nationally known for publishing a series of seven books on the subject of food storage and also lectures and teaches seminars about preparedness and using food storage products. Peggy practices what she preaches, has no debt, grows a huge garden, lives off the land, raises chickens, bottles and dehydrates food and has time left over to operate her businesses. To check out Peggy's cookbooks and self sufficiency products go to her website To get a free sample of three different storable meals that have a 15-year shelf life go here.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.