Basic and Economical Food Storage Ideas : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) Preparation Forum : One Thread

I thought this might be a good discussion for those who cannot afford mylar bags or who are just getting started and waiting for supplies to come in the mail. Also for those who feel more comfortable or have no choice but to use resources from local sources and the grocery store. And as time passes, some of items by mail may become scarce or be delayed, so we may need simpler methods.

These are just my thoughts/methods on adequate safe storage. Hopefully others will contridict my "wrongs" and add some more "rights".

Here is what I used on my beans, pasta and rice. I didn't go with mylar bags or oxygen absorbers, however, I would recommend them and hope to place an order soon myself and redo.

First I took the bags as purchased from the store and put them in the freezer. Recommended here was a minimum freezer time of 72 hours. Then remove from freezer and repeat freezing for 72 hours again in two weeks. This will kill the adult bugs in the product at purchase, then allowing the two weeks for any eggs to hatch, then refreeze to kill those.

However, I found I had too limited freezer space, just the top of refridgerator, and probably am just to disorganized to keep up with this so I altered my method at some point as such:

I initially froze the bags for a minumum of 72 hours, then upon removal, I put product on very clean cookie sheets and put in the oven at 140 for at least one hour. Use a thermometer, my lowest "warm" setting on my oven only comes to about 125. Also I was careful to start my timing to allow for the temperature to be maintaned at 140 for at least an hour, i.e. first batch took longer for oven to initally heat up, how many times I peeked in, etc. Let cool very well before sealing away in container.

I believe the 140 degrees kills the eggs as effectively as the refreeze. Plus, upon taking the product out of the freezer, I was reluctant to store it directly into buckets because of the moisture that had sweat into the bags. I was afraid of mold and such growing over time.

Others have commented that the heating will destroy some of the nutrient content of the product, but this is the best trade off I could come up with for lack of mylar and oxygen absorbers. Store multi vitamins also.

After food has cooled well in an open container, store into plastic bags, buckets, glass or your chosen containers.

I stored product in 4 1/2 gallon plastic buckets, $1.00 and 2 1/2 (?) gallon for $.50 from food lion deli. These are food grade and where used for frosting. As additional protection, I added 3/4 bay leaves wrapped in a paper towel on top of the beans/rice in each bucket to repell any new bugs from entering buckets. The buckets for the most part, however, seem to have a good enough seal to keep new bugs from entering. If a particular bucket had a questionable seal, I used duct tape to seal lid to bucket. Use a Sharpie, or permanent marker on the lid and/or side of bucket to name what is in them and the date.

A portion of my product, I have also stored in washed, bleached and well rinsed and air dryed 2 and 3 liter soda pop bottles. These smaller portions are "extras" which I plan to give away if need be, but this could also be used as a primary source if you have nothing else available.

For flour and cornmeal, I prefered to leave them in their original packaging, and again with limited freezer space, running them through the chill was not practical for me. However, this method I have done with flour for years with great success. I took each 5 lb bag and double wrapped it in two bread bags. Twisting each bag slightly and sliding extra back over itself. Then starting the second bag opposite way, twisting and sliding over. With a minumum amount of twisting on the ends, you are getting almost 4 layers of plastic over the 5 lb. bag. Start with clean bread bags, turn wrong side out and shake crumbs out vigorously. Then I hang to air dry them first. Store in as cool and dry space as available. I have mine temporarily secured, but I believe I will soon purchase aluminum trash cans and store my cornmeal and flour left in the bread wrappers in those.

I also did the bread wrapper method temporarily for sugar and canning salt immediately after bringing home from store until I had accumulated enough to make a bucket full. This keeps humidity from causing sugar and salt to get hard until stored away properly. I am betting this would also work storing them in the bread wrappers then directly into an aluminum trash can, but I have alot of buckets.

One more note: When storing in plastic bucket or aluminum trash cans, put boards or bricks or what have you under them to keep the air flow going under the containers. Also keep in mind containers must be food grade if using plastic.

For smaller quanities of product, baking powder, baking soda, 10 x sugar, etc. I have used whatever was available depending on quanity. Cleaned glass and peanut butter jars, serving size soda pop bottles, a real hodge podge. And I have mixed some items in the buckets, wrapped separately from each other using gallon plastic freezer bags.

Buckets, buckets everywhere...and other storage containers. I am very short of any usable space for storage. The only way I can go for storage is UP! If your floor joists will take it (at this point, I always need to check with hubby first) you can build shelves using buckets and one inch boards. Then inbetween the buckets, I am stacking canned vegetables and fruit. Then I am draping sections of storage cloth material over the whole thing to conseal. My temporary storage, buckets in the process of being filled, are lined up under the kitchen table. Thus from the grocery, I put the various items in general buckets.

Note: Trying to keep a running inventory can be difficult. I always inventory and record at the time I date/mark the product. Whether that be coming out of freezer, going into permanent buckets, or when ever; I do not mark the products when they go into temporary storage. That way, if I run out of brown sugar, grab a bag out of the temporary bucket under the table, I do not have to adjust the inventory in the middle of supper, as it hasn't been recorded yet. Granted, this is not exact, but is better than nothing. Also finding powdered drink mixes and peanuts in cabinets, opened, and with a date on them is frustrating, but...well kids will be kids.

Storing canned goods: first purchase a Sharpie permanent marker, write the contents of the can and the date purchased on the cans. Remove the labels, as these will draw humidity, and encourage rust. Then set them out on a few newspapers, and spray them lightly with cooking oil spray such as crisco or pam. Flip them over on the paper and spray the other end. Others have suggested using various petrolium products and lubricants, but I prefer to use the cooking oil. Then I don't have to be so careful when opening the can. Wipe off and spread lightly with a paper towel/soft cloth. Spray very lightly, a little goes a long way, and really your "target" is the rims/lids of the can and a light wiping of the sides. This is also good for home canned products.

I was putting canned goods in 30 gallon rubbermaid plastic storage containers. I had stacked one such "arrangement" three high until hubby realized this and pointed out he would not even consider putting a piano in that area of the house, let alone this "structure". So I compromised and filled each one partly with cans, partly with medical and bath supplies. He is still not real pleased.

One last note on water storage. Many advise to not use milk jugs for water storage. Agreed. The plastic "out gases" over time, putting the plastic chemicals and odors into the water. However, as time and money slip away, most all of us have/use milk jugs regularly, and can accumulate many of them quickly, where as obtaining proper water containers may be cost prohibitive or unavailable.

You CAN store non-drinking/cooking water in plastic milk jugs. In other words, your bathing, toilet and cleaning water. If water is a serious issue for you, I personally would not hesitate to accumulate, wash, bleach, rinse, air dry every milk jug I could lay my hands on. Then in the latter part of December I would fill them and add two drops of bleach.

Naturally, all along one would want to be accumulating drinking water safe containers, but if push would come to shove, well, use your own judgement on this.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.

-- Lilly (, July 13, 1999


Good information, Lilly.

My only comment is that you may be making a lot of unnecessary work for yourself, trying to eliminate non-existent bugs.

Reference A.T. Hagen's Prudent Food Storage: Questions and Answers,

most of that freezing stuff isn't needed. This is one of the internet bibles of food preparation. I think a few people got into a panic because others stored unclean food, found bugs in it, and asked for help. They were told to freeze the food in order to rid it of bugs. This led to the idea that all food had to be treated for bugs. According to Hagen,

1. Buy clean food. Most -- if not all -- of the stuff you buy in a store will be clean.

2. Store the clean food in the proper container. This includes heavy plastic, glass, or metal containers with tight fitting lids.

If it's clean and you don't let the bugs in, there won't be bugs. Notice that there's nothing said here about mylar bags and oxygen absorbers. These are used to extend the life of food storage. The mylar also can help keep bugs out.

Hagen says this about treating bugs, once they are found in food:

Large bugs can be sifted or winnowed out if it's not too heavily infested and you want to try to save it. Then treat it by placing into a deep freezer at 0 F for three to seven days depending upon the size of the package. Refrigerator freezers usually do not freeze low enough to effectively kill all of the life stages of insects, but if left there, will slow their development. If freezing is not workable then the product could be spread on baking sheets and heated to 150 F for fifteen to twenty minutes, cooled and repackaged. Heat treated foods should be consumed shortly thereafter.

What Mr. Hagen is saying is that once you heat the food, it shouldnt be stored. He also is saying that most refrigerator's won't do the job, so you need a heavy duty freezer if you're going this route.

BTW, I have wheat, oats, and beans that were purchased over a year ago, were packaged in 6 gallon buckets, by the seller -- without oxygen absorbers, without mylar bags -- and are still sitting in those buckets -- without bugs. These products were purchased from a supplier who took great pride in selling only good quality food. If you buy your stuff at the grocery store, federal regulations will insure that it was cleaned and inspected at least as well as my food.

-- de (, July 13, 1999.

down, italics!

-- 4 (1@2.3), July 13, 1999.

We have always had a few hundred pounds of wheat berries on hand, which we rotate out of storage as we use it. Last spring, as I was making room in the root cellar for more food items, and inventorying what we had, I discovered a 50pound bag of wheat berries, in it's original paper bag, in a 30gallon metal garbage can. The metal garbage cans,new of course, are what we have used to put our bags of wheat, rolled oats,etc., in for the last 20 years or so. The cans sit on a row of bricks, to keep them off the floor, in the corner of our basement that is our root cellar, or at least as close as we come any more. Our potatoes, canned goods, (both home-canned and store bought), apples, carrots, onions, beer, etc., are all in different areas of the room. Well, the bag of wheat that surprised me was over 5 years old when I found it this spring, and it looked fine. I took a bucket of it upstairs to grind to make waffles for breakfast, and it tasted good. I soaked a couple of tablespoons of it and sprouted it over the next few days, and it sprouted as well as the newest wheat that we have. I'm not saying that everyone whould store their wheat like we do, but I certainly think that it is holding up well, in paper bags in a metal garbage can in a cool dark basemen (not too damp, though). It is dry enough down there that cans don't rust if they aren't on the floor, but it's moist enough that potatoes last all winter and into the spring, and apples do well, stored in large plastic bags in boxes. You don't have to have the fanciest mylar bags and sealed buckets, even though they probably do help.


-- Jim (, July 13, 1999.


Quite impressive. The ONLY thing I would change from my experience would be to use 8 drops of bleach per gallon of water, or 2 drops per quart.

-- Jon Williamson (, July 13, 1999.

The perforated ziploc bags for vegetables can be used for storing beans in smaller packages in buckets flushed with CO2.

-- Tom Carey (, July 14, 1999.

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