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Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Fri May 23, 2008 1:16 am
by GeneralDiscontent
Hey all -

I know a lot of you are already well-versed in bulk food storage, but I don't remember seeing a write-up with photos in the past, so as I was prepping some stuff tonight I grabbed the camera and took some pics. I'll try to throw in some helpful links along the way. I have to give credit to the guys at P.A.W. Productions for producing some excellent instructional videos on this process.

I'm going to be putting up a 50-lb. sack of wheat flour:

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Things you'll need for this:

Mylar bags:

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I got mine from USA Emergency Supply. These are the 20" x 30" Mylar metal liner bags. Cost was $1.92 each.

Oxygen absorbers:

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I also got these at USA Emergency Supply - a bag of a hundred 500cc absorbers was $11.97.

Buckets:

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These are 6-gallon buckets - any bakery, deli, sandwich shop, etc., goes through dozens of these a week, so there's no need to pay for 'em - just be friendly the next time you go in to buy something and ask them. Much thanks to Paladin1 for hooking me up with these.

Mason jar w/ band & lid:

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You'll need this to put your oxygen absorbers in after you open them. I stole these out of my finacee's canning supplies.

An iron:

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This is what you'll use to seal the Mylar bags once they're full. **CAUTION**: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, USE YOUR WIFE'S / GIRLFRIEND'S / MOM'S GOOD IRON FOR THIS!!! If they catch you doing this, you are in for a world of hurt. The iron is one of those things women are extremely protective of, much like the "good scissors". If you do it without their knowledge, and then they use the iron and ruin one of their good tops because you got gunk on the iron, you might as well join the French Foreign Legion. Go to Goodwill and buy an iron for a couple of bucks (hell, you can even get a brand-new iron at Big Lots or X-Mart for under ten bucks). Other options I've heard of are curling irons (see previous warning) or hot jaw sealers, which I'm too cheap to buy, but might be worth it if you're going to be doing LOTS of bags.

Things you don't necessarily need, but might make your life easier:

Bay leaves:

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Housewives have been putting bay leaves in their dry goods for years as a method of keeping bugs away. Lots of people think it's bunk, but we've been doing it with all our stuff for years and have yet to find any bugs, so, whatever. Use 'em or don't, it's up to you. They're cheap enough that I'll keep using them.

Gamma seal lids:

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These are nifty lids that feature a collar that snaps onto most 5- or 6-gallon buckets, and an airtight lid that screws into the collar. These are especially nice for when you get into your preps, you can leave the stuff in the container and re-seal the lid. I got mine at Homegrown Harvest for $7.99 each, but I just saw that Sportsman's Guide has them for a buck less.

So, stick your bags in your buckets:

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I folded the tops of the bags down around the mouths of the buckets at first - this is just to keep it from flopping around and getting in my way at first. Once the bags have some weight in them we'll pull them up.

Throw in a few oxygen absorbers and a bay leaf:

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If you do the math, you technically only need two oxygen absorbers for a six-gallon bucket - I'm using a few more than that because 1) they won't hurt anything, and 2) a bag of 100 absorbers is probably more than I'm gonna need for the rest of my life.

IMMEDIATELY put your oxygen absorbers in the mason jar and seal it:

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As soon as you open that bag, the absorbers activate. Putting them in the jar ensures you'll be able to use them later.

Start filling your bucket. Obviously, this is easier if you have two people an can just pour it in. I was working alone, so I used a medium-sized mixing bowl as a scoop.

When you get to the halfway point, throw in a few more oxygen absorbers and another bay leaf:

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At this point you can pull the top of the bag off of the rim of the bucket:

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Pull up on the bag and shake the bucket around to get the flour to settle.

Keep filling your bucket. When you get near the top, throw in a few more oxygen absorbers and another bay leaf:

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Once your bucket is full, you're ready to seal the bag. The method I used was to hold an old book behind the bag, and take the iron and go over the edge of the bag until I started to get a good seal:

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(Don't set the iron too hot - 3 or 4 should do the trick). After I had the bag pretty well sealed, I tipped it over so I could lay the edge of the bag flat on the book and REALLY make sure it was sealed:

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An easier method of doing this is to set the bucket on the ground, and lay a piece of 2x4 across the mouth of the bucket to give you a surface to work on. I didn't have any spare 2x4's, so oh well...

Fold the sealed end of the bag into the bucket:

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Put the Gamma Seal collar on your bucket:

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You'll probably have to press HARD in one spot to get the collar to seat on the bucket, then take a mallet and tap around the edge to secure it to the bucket all the way around.

Put the Gamma Seal lid on...

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...and label it with permanent marker:

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...and there ya go. I had a bit left over from a 50-lb. bag after doing two buckets, so I sealed it with the food saver - we'll put this in the pantry and use it in the immediate future:

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Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Fri May 23, 2008 6:13 am
by herbalpagan
Great write up and good clear pictures! I would have put the bay leaves in the bucket to keep outside insects out of the bag. By putting them IN the bag, you might end up having your flour taste like bay. The oxygen absorbers will help deep the bugs from "breathing".

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Fri May 23, 2008 6:51 am
by GeneralDiscontent
herbalpagan wrote:Great write up and good clear pictures! I would have put the bay leaves in the bucket to keep outside insects out of the bag. By putting them IN the bag, you might end up having your flour taste like bay. The oxygen absorbers will help deep the bugs from "breathing".
That's a good idea - I'll probably open the buckets and throw one inside (that's the nice thing about the Gamma Seal lids, they just unscrew). I've kept bay leaves in all our jars of flour, rice, etc., in the pantry for years and never noticed any flavors "leaching" into the flour, but then again this will probably be stored a LOT longer before getting used than my other stuff...

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Fri May 23, 2008 6:42 pm
by Molon Labe
Nice write up :D . How long, do you think, that the flour can stay good for?

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Fri May 23, 2008 7:39 pm
by GeneralDiscontent
Molon Labe wrote:Nice write up :D . How long, do you think, that the flour can stay good for?
A looong time :lol: Generally, wheat flour has a shorter shelf life than white flour - in a jar in your pantry, you're looking at 6 months to a year. This study indicates that when stored in a low-oxygen environment, wheat flour that had been stored for 11 years was perfectly edible (although appearance and aroma may be affected, it was safe to eat).

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sat May 24, 2008 1:32 am
by Apollo-11
Excellent pictures. Well done, young grasshopper. Nice to see someone doing it right. (Take it from someone who did it wrong, ruined a bunch of food, then did it right the *second* time.)

Wheat berries (whole wheat seeds) will keep for decades longer than flour, but they are somewhat more difficult to come by, and you need to mill the berries into flour once you open them up in the PAW. So flour is good. (We are storing both wheat and flour.)

One thing you might consider is to rotate that into use in 8 or 10 years and replace it.

Don't Gamma Seal lids just totally rock?

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sat May 24, 2008 6:38 am
by JakkSchitt
Can dog food be stored this way?

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sat May 24, 2008 9:55 am
by brer
I have seen people store flour this way and still end up with weevils in the flour occassionally, or in the case of using bay leaves, bay leaf flavored weevils..

One trick that seems to work well is to freeze the entire bucket for a week after you seal it.

Edited to say "Great presentation."

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sat May 24, 2008 10:45 am
by NikIniquitous
I've recently heard that sifting the flour prior to storage will eliminate the insect eggs. Yes, they are already in there :P

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sat May 24, 2008 7:06 pm
by GeneralDiscontent
Apollo-11 wrote:Excellent pictures. Well done, young grasshopper. Nice to see someone doing it right. (Take it from someone who did it wrong, ruined a bunch of food, then did it right the *second* time.)

Wheat berries (whole wheat seeds) will keep for decades longer than flour, but they are somewhat more difficult to come by, and you need to mill the berries into flour once you open them up in the PAW. So flour is good. (We are storing both wheat and flour.)

One thing you might consider is to rotate that into use in 8 or 10 years and replace it.

Don't Gamma Seal lids just totally rock?
Thanks! We already buy wheat berries in small quantities to use in recipes (multigrain bread, etc). I brought up stockpiling some and getting a grain mill, and the finacee said "It damn well better be the end of the world, because that what's it's gonna take to get me to HAND MILL my own flour". So, she kinda kept me in check on that one :lol:

We will definitely rotate this into use eventually. And Gamma Seal lids definitely rock - I just wish they weren't so pricey... :(
Jakk wrote:Can dog food be stored this way?
Maybe - I would think dog food would have a much higher fat content than most dry goods, so it would have a greater potential to go rancid. i know from experience that if you look around you should be able to find bags of dog food that have expiration dates that are about 18 months out, so you might be better off to just stock up and set up a rotation schedule for your pet food.
brer wrote:I have seen people store flour this way and still end up with weevils in the flour occassionally, or in the case of using bay leaves, bay leaf flavored weevils..
One trick that seems to work well is to freeze the entire bucket for a week after you seal it.
Definitely - SOP is to freeze your dry goods for a while to kill anything. Unfortunately I don't have a chest freezer, and our regular freezer isn't big enough to hold 50 lbs. of flour. I suppose I could have done it in batches, but the mylar bags were backordered and I had the bag of flour sitting in my kitchen for a couple of weeks - I was REALLY ready to get this done ASAP :lol:

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 1:15 am
by The Commander
This is the push I needed to get started. How much mylar bagged rice fits in a 5 gallon bucket?

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 5:48 am
by GeneralDiscontent
The Commander wrote:This is the push I needed to get started. How much mylar bagged rice fits in a 5 gallon bucket?
Personally we don't Mylar-bag our rice since we use it at a pretty good clip and it gets rotated into use fairly quickly, but I can tell you that a 25 lb. bag of rice will fill a five gallon bucket to a bit past halfway - so, I'd guess around 40 lbs. to completely fill the bucket.

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 6:25 am
by Apollo-11
The Commander wrote:This is the push I needed to get started. How much mylar bagged rice fits in a 5 gallon bucket?
Approx 25 lbs by my experience.

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 8:55 am
by brer
I second appolo-11.

I do not like filling my buckets to full capacity, also the mylar bag will take up a bit more room than you think.

If all you have is a standup fridge, just mylar bag and seal the 25 pound bag of rice in toto, then put it in the freezer section of your fridge. After a week or so put it in the 5 gallon bucket.

I am currently eating off of a bag of rice that I put up a few years ago with nothing but a sealed mylar bag and freezing, no O2 absorbers. It worked great on the rice.

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 1:23 pm
by URBAN ASSAULT
Sifting of flour as it goes into the liner is a good idea, especially if you can't go the freezing route.

As for rice and such, we have always put a piece of dry ice in the bottom of the liner before pouring the rice/grain/legumes on top. You let the dry ice sublimate before sealing your liner and that drives most, if not all, of the excess oxygen present in the product out of the pail.

This really improves the storage life of your food. Make sure that the dry ice is completely gone before sealing your liners though, or your liner might pop from the excess pressure build-up.

It takes a little trial and error to figure the best way for you to do this, but it is well worth it.

BTW, GREAT storage thread with pics GeneralDiscontent, you are a credit to the board! Keep up the good work.

-urban

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 4:46 pm
by ZombieGranny
Before Off Topic contributors and their posts are "burned to the ground" as stated by 'The Powers That Be', I have decided to take action and remove the 6,747 unwelcome posts contributed by me in the past 7 years.

My apologies to forum members for any inconvenience this may cause. This is the 4th time it's been threatened and I'm too old and tired to fight it again.
Bless you.

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 8:07 pm
by GeneralDiscontent
ZombieGranny wrote:You used 9 packets in your bucket. At that rate you will only be able to pack 11 buckets. That's over $1 for the absorbers in each bucket... Why waste the money?
Because I might put up 2-3 buckets at a time, tops - if you watch the P.A.W. Productions videos, they feel that the odds of the oxygen absorbers still being good after being removed from the original packaging then stored in a mason jar for later use at slightly less than 50%. The odds of them still being good after 3 or 4 more rounds of this are slim to none. I'd rather use more now as a cheap form of insurance - there's no sense in pinching pennies on absorbers that are 12 cents apiece if it potentially means ruining thirty dollars worth of food.

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 10:05 pm
by ZombieGranny
...

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Sun May 25, 2008 11:37 pm
by URBAN ASSAULT
A better route to protect the Ox absorbers after first breaching the original package would be to reseal the unused absorbers using a FoodSaver vacuum machine. If there is no Ox in the package for them to absorb, then they should still be good for the next time you are ready to pack another batch of pails.

-urban

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Mon May 26, 2008 12:56 am
by GeneralDiscontent
URBAN ASSAULT wrote:A better route to protect the Ox absorbers after first breaching the original package would be to reseal the unused absorbers using a FoodSaver vacuum machine. If there is no Ox in the package for them to absorb, then they should still be good for the next time you are ready to pack another batch of pails.

-urban
D'oh, don't know why I didn't think of that. :oops: Good tip, Urban. I'll do that next time. Now that I'm thinking about it, I might even seal up individual packages with 3 or 4 absorbers each in them - that way I could just keep "single-use packets" on the shelf in the pantry to throw in each bucket as I pack them, and I wouldn't have to worry about exposing the other absorbers...

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Mon May 26, 2008 1:12 am
by IllicitDreams
Excellent post... I had seen some of the videos on youtube. I just need to get out and get me some buckets.

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Mon May 26, 2008 1:13 am
by URBAN ASSAULT
GeneralDiscontent wrote...
I might even seal up individual packages with 3 or 4 absorbers each in them - that way I could just keep "single-use packets" on the shelf in the pantry to throw in each bucket as I pack them, and I wouldn't have to worry about exposing the other absorbers
Hell, that is an even better idea than my original suggestion. Good show mate.

-urban

Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Mon May 26, 2008 11:11 am
by ZombieGranny
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Re: Bulk Food Storage

Posted: Mon May 26, 2008 2:15 pm
by phil_in_cs
Excellent info and great photos.