How To Store Bulk Foods Properly
November 11, 2013 by Peggy Layton
Storing bulk foods that are dehydrated or freeze-dried is a very good idea. Storing dried foods in bulk will ensure that you have a stockpile of necessary food items just in case of a natural disaster, lean economic times, loss of a job or any other disruption to our normal routine.
Dehydrated or freeze-dried bulk foods such as wheat, rice, barley, oats, quinoa, amaranth, Kamut, spelt, beans, legumes, pasta, dried corn, dried vegetables, dried fruits, dried meats, sugar, powdered milk and other dried dairy, and any other dehydrated or freeze-dried food products can be purchased from stores that specialize in bulk foods. Health food stores, Chinese and Mexican markets, and food storage stores can get these items in bulk for you. This week, I’m going to discuss the best ways to store bulk foods. If you are storing grain, be sure to get organic wheat, rye, barley, corn and oats that are not genetically modified organisms (non-GMO). Organic grains are more expensive but much better for you. Do not feed your family GMO foods. GMOs are causing all kinds of health issues because the body does not recognize it as a food and it acts like a free radical in the body.
Select Your Containers
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 No. 10 double enamel gallon-sized cans and food-grade plastic buckets. However, you may also store food in canning jars with tight-fitting lids as well as in heavy plastic containers such as juice containers. Plastic or glass gallon-size jars and Rubbermaid® type containers with tight-fitting lids work well also. Clean and dry the containers well before using them. Stackable containers save space.
No. 10 Gallon-Sized Double Enamel Cans: These cans hold about one gallon and are ideal for smaller quantities of dried 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 either nitrogen-packed or contain 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 prepackaged dehydrated and freeze-dried foods that are packed in No. 10 gallon-sized cans with an oxygen absorber in the can. They are packed for long-term storage and are ready to go in heavy cardboard boxes that hold six cans each and stack on top of each other.
Moisture is the enemy. So once the No. 10 gallon-sized cans are opened, place the lid that comes with them on the can to keep out moisture. 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. Another way to keep out moisture is to use oxygen absorber packets.
An oxygen absorber packet looks like a tea bag or sugar packet. It takes one packet per gallon to remove oxygen from food, so in a 5-gallon bucket you would layer five packets, one per gallon of food. 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 within 15 minutes of being opened and exposed to the air. I keep unused packets in a quart jar with a tight lid so they do not activate and ruin.
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. Oxygen is the one thing that will rob the nutritive value from the food. All living food contains enzymes that start to break down when exposed to oxygen. 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.
5-Gallon Plastic Buckets: Buy 5-gallon buckets that have tight-fitting lids with rubber gaskets. They are ideal for large quantities of grains, beans, legumes, sugar, flour, etc. I store premade meals in Mylar pouches that require only water and cooking time. I like to label my buckets with soups, entrees, breakfasts, breads, snacks, etc. That keeps the food organized, so I can find what I need quickly. Always label what is in the bucket and the date of purchase on each package. I have found that most Home Depot, Lowe’s and even Wal-Mart stores have food-grade buckets that are ideal for storing food. Purchase them locally to avoid shipping charges.
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.
Gamma Lids For 5-Gallon Buckets: Gamma lids are special lids that have a center section that screws on and off. I use these lids on my buckets in my pantry and love them. I keep my buckets of wheat, rice, beans, pasta, etc. handy so I can use 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.
Mylar Bags: Use large Mylar bags to line your buckets. The bags are made from a metallized foil, which will keep light from harming the food and causing it to deteriorate. It also acts as a moisture barrier and keeps out rodents. The bucket with a metallized liner, when sealed properly with a tight-fitting lid, is a very good method of storing food. Oxygen packets can be inserted before sealing. However, I have stored a lot of food in buckets without Mylar liners.
Use a lid lifter to take off the plastic lids that come with the 5-gallon buckets. Lid lifters are handy to have when lids are sealed tight and you need a tool to get them off. 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.
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. Use two bay leaves for small amounts up to one gallon, or five leaves in 5-gallon buckets. Bay leaves keep out the weevils and other bugs; the insects don’t like the smell.
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 such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Intermountain Farmers Association (IFA) stores.
This information came from my book, Emergency Food Storage and Survival Handbook. This book, as well as all my other books may be purchased on my website.