I’ve received many comments and emails since my Pracital Preparedness post from folks wanting to know where to start and how to build a deeper food storage from there. Food Buckets are an easy solution to this. They are buckets packed with food that has been prepared for long term storage (put in mylar, oxygen removed, etc) and feed a single person or a family for a definitive period of time. A lot of the buckets you see will feed a single person for a month and a family of four for about a week and they average anywhere from $50-$100 each and are generally expected to be “good” for 10-30 years.
Food Buckets are a good idea for folks not looking to get too heavy into prepping but who at least see the need to have food on hand that will store for a long haul. There are any number of scenarios in which it is wise to have food stored up in order to be able to shelter in place for a period of time. Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Chemical Spills, etc. Of course, there are many other situations in which such preparations are prudent but you can easily look at any of today’s headlines to get a list of those.
The fact of the matter is, no matter what you are preparing for, most of the time the food preparations look the same.
Today I’m going to show you how to make your own food bucket that will nicely supplement a family of four for about a week, and cost around $20 each, including a means of water purification. These are also a great thing to have on hand should you encounter someone who is going through a crisis of this sort. You can hand them one bucket and know you’ve given them a good bit of help.
These buckets use items you can get locally with only one exception: You have to order your mylar bags. The ones I buy for this are on Amazon and come with the right size oxygen absorbers for this size of bag so there is no need to purchase them separately. Click here to order the ones I use.
The contents of this bucket are the brain child of my mother and myself. We got to talking about what we’d put in one to make it as useful as possible and chose the contents based on these factors. I encourage you to think about yourself and your family and what your needs might be when designing your own buckets – but make sure you keep in mind the storage life of the food you include as well. See #1 below for more about that.
These buckets are by no means an all inclusive food storage plan. I would have to write an entirely new blog in order to share my thoughts for that. This is just a way of adding a little insurance to your home for your family and is meant to help supplement the food you have on hand should the need arise. I do think it is a wise idea to make more preparations but am going to refrain from telling you what those should be as I feel it is a personal responsibility to research and decide for yourself what best meets your family’s needs.
A few important things to note before we go into this:
- Dried beans and rice have an expected shelf life of up to 30 years when stored in mylar with oxygen removed. This is white rice, not brown rice. Brown rice has an expected shelf life of 6 months due to the oils in it going rancid shortly after that time has passed. If you put 30 year shelf life dried beans in your bucket and combine it with a food that has significantly shorter shelf life, such as brown rice, you’ve essentially shot yourself in the foot.
- Never, ever, ever, ever put an oxygen absorber in with salt or sugar. Doing so will effectively create a rock of salt and sugar and render it pretty much unusable without significant application of an ice pick and some elbow grease. You’ll notice that I don’t store salt or sugar inside of my mylar bags in the making of these buckets. By the way, this applies to brown sugar as well as white and you might like to know that salt and sugar, when stored properly and not acted upon by an outside force (water, bugs, etc), are good pretty much indefinitely.
Now, lets get started!
What to buy in order to make 2 All In One Food Buckets
50 pound bag of white rice $18: If you buy this in smaller packages at the grocery store, you will pay significantly more.
10 pounds of assorted beans $10: I buy pintos in 25 or 50 pound bags at Sams and repackage them into smaller portions for inclusion in these buckets just because it is so much cheaper to buy them that way. Then I go to the grocery store and purchase 1 pound bags of great Northern beans, black beans, kidney beans, red beans, and black eyed peas (my family loves those) for variety.
Boxes of Orange Drink Mix $4 (for both): I buy this for vitamin c and to break the monotony, but mostly for vitamin c. Make sure you get the kind that has a day’s worth of vitamin c in a single serving if at all possible. I use the kind that is artificially sweetened and sealed in little mylar sticks. Please note: This isn’t the place to share your feelings on artificial sweeteners. There are diaries for that. If that doesn’t crank your tractor, get something that does. Simple as that.
Container of salt $2 : Believe me, with all of these beans and rice, you’re gonna want some salt. Get iodized for this purpose because when you start eating off grid food, iodine becomes far more scarce in your diet than you realize. If iodized salt presents some moral issue for you, forget what I said and go with kosher. Personally, I prefer kosher for cooking but in a survival situation, that isn’t what I’m reaching for.
Pool Shock $5: I referenced this in my Practical Preparedness post as a sustainable means of water purification. Liquid bleach is great but it loses its potency after only 6 months. Dry pool shock can be stored indefinitely under the right conditions and can then be mixed up to make fresh bleach to be used to disinfect water as well as a cleaner on surfaces that need it. You can even use it to effectively clean your hands if need be, such as an antibacterial gel would be used. Any port in a storm! I had a lot of folks ask about the document I typed up to share with friends and family on how to use pool shock to make bleach and disinfect water so I am sharing it with you today with the disclaimer that this was done through my own research on the internet and meant for my own personal use. I encourage you to do your own research and use mine at your own risk. Click here for that and be sure and print it off to include in your buckets if you would like.
Mylar Bags $2 each, purchased in quantity of 10. Click here. Note, buckets and bags are not included in the price of these food buckets, only the food is.
How to assemble
Here are the supplies, minus the pool shock because one of us forgot to bring that out for this picture. You’ll see that I have the mylar bags and oxygen absorbers (on top of the bags) for packaging, two 5 gallon buckets, two lids, and all of my food stuffs for packing the buckets.
These lids I get have a tiny rubber seal inside. Now, your mylar bags will protect the food but this offers another layer of protection. If you have buckets on hand that don’t have this seal but still go with the mylar bags you are fine. I just like this added protection and assurance that my supplies will be safe.
I bought my buckets and lids at Lowes. I guess you can see that though. 🙂 Many bakeries will give you buckets and lids free for the asking. They were once used to hold icing so you have to give them a very good scrubbing out but the option is there if you would like it.
Here we are: Beans, Salt, Orange Drink Mix, and Pool Shock. You’ll see that I packaged the pintos myself in quart sized bags. That is because I bought my pintos in a 50 pound bag to save money. The other dried beans came from the grocery store or Dollar General.
To begin with, place a bag in each bucket. As you can see, these bags are large enough to extend over and give plenty of room for sealing. You can even cut the tops off once sealed and have room enough to seal them again.
You might want to get a scoop or something to get your rice out with. I used to use a 2 quart pitcher but now I have a fun little feed scoop that I reserve for food use.
Fill each bucket about 3/4 full with rice.
Now toss some dried beans, in their original package, on top of that.
I add about 5 pounds of beans per bucket.
After that I just take my drink mix packets out of the original container (it takes up too much space) and place them on top of the beans. You can add as many or as few of these packets as you want. I just use one package per box, which is about enough for 10 quarts.
Before you open your oxygen absorbers, get a large jar ready and fill it about halfway full with rice. Pack every single bucket that you are going to pack. Then, open your oxygen absorbers and drop one down into each bucket. Put the remaining ones into this jar of rice and add more rice to fill completely. Screw the lid on tightly and they will be good next time you need some.
Note: The strength of your oxygen absorbers vary based on the size of container you are storing food in. These that sell with the bags at the link I gave you are the right size for 5 gallon bags. If you decide to purchase other bags or want oxygen absorbers to use in mason jars and such, you’ll need to look up the correct ones to order. This is easily available online though, usually from the folks you purchase the O2 absorbers from.
Now we need to seal our bags. Don’t feel like you are on a timer here. Of course, you want to move quickly but you should just shoot for having the bags sealed within ten minutes, which is easily done. O2 absorbers work more slowly than ya think :).
We are using a heat seal crimping tool that is specifically designed to seal these sort of bags but you don’t have to have one. Most folks I know use the old tried and true method of placing a metal level on top of the bucket, laying the top of the bag over it, and then ironing it with a regular old household iron set to it’s highest setting.
When you’re done, it will look like this.
The next day, it will be all sucked in like this. Note: This may take two days and that is okay.
Now place each bag of pool shock in a zipper seal bag and seal it.
Do the same with your salt.
We didn’t include the salt in with our food because we had an O2 absorber in there and don’t want to turn it into a brick. We didn’t include the pool shock because it is never a good idea to store chemicals with food.
Place the pool shock and salt on top of the sealed mylar bag. You may need to crush the salt a little bit to make it fit. In the excess space (nooks and crannies), shove some of those cheapie grocery store plastic bags. This is a great idea because they can be used for trash and many other uses once you open the bucket up. They are handier than you think!
Now we have to put our lid on. The first time I did this, I was gentle with it. As a result, the lid did not go on. So I thought I’d show you how you do this in a quick video so you could see. You basically give it a good beating. Got any frustrations? Work them out here.
Last but not least, label your bucket. I write on the sides of mine so I can stack them and not have to mess up the stack to see what is written on the lid.
What do you do with all of those extra Mylar bags you have now? Well, you can make more of these or you can just put them in buckets and make entire buckets of beans, rice, etc. They are very handy to have! Just remember, stick with long life storage foods if possible.
I like having buckets of :
- Oats (I prefer whole)
- Dried Beans
- Sugar (remember, no O2 absorbers!)
- Instant Potatoes or Shredded Dried Potatoes
- Rice (of course)
These are just some ideas to get you started.
And guess what? These buckets make great gifts! In fact, I’m giving these two away this afternoon. Nothing says “I care about you and I don’t want you to slowly die of starvation due to your lack of preparedness for obvious potential disasters.” like a big old bucket of 30 year food storage!
As with all of my Preparedness posts, this is meant as an introduction only so I have kept it basic on purpose. If you have any specific question, I’m happy to answer them in the comments.