How To Store Food In 5 Gallon Buckets

Food that is correctly packed and sealed inside 5-gallon buckets can last more than 20 years. Storing food in sealed buckets effectively prevents spoilage caused by pests, light, and moisture. Eliminating oxygen inside the bucket is vital when using this method, so packing and sealing it correctly at the onset is essential to ensure the longevity of your food.

For long-term storage using 5-gallon buckets, dry food should be placed inside sealed mylar bags, along with oxygen absorbers. Oxygen can also be removed from the bucket using dry ice. For short-term storage, food can be placed directly inside food-grade buckets and sealed with tight-fitting lids.

While packing your food into a 5-gallon bucket and closing the lid doesn’t sound difficult, keeping food safely for long-term storage requires a few more steps. Fortunately, the process isn’t complicated, and these handy plastic buckets are an excellent resource for stockpiling many essential foodstuffs.

How To Store Food In Buckets

Storing food in 5-gallon buckets is an excellent way to ensure you always have enough of the basics in your pantry. Best of all, buckets can be stacked on top of each other, so they don’t require a lot of storage space.

You can use three techniques to store food in 5-gallon buckets.

Use The Bucket As It IsAdd Mylar Bags With Oxygen AbsorbersUse Dry Ice
Food won’t last as long as the other methods.This method will store food the longest.A popular method that keeps food fresh longer than just using the bucket.
No additional equipment is required.Food is sealed inside an airtight mylar bag inside the bucket.Oxygen is forced out of the bucket using dry ice.
Novice friendlyRequires additional supplies, including mylar bags, a sealer, and oxygen absorbers.Some practice tries may be required to perfect the method.

We will go into more detail about these a little further on so you can choose the best one to use.

Is It Safe To Store Food In 5-Gallon Buckets?

Keeping food fresh in buckets is a cost-effective, versatile way to take advantage of bulk-buy specials and ensure you never run out of many basics. There, however, are some things to keep in mind before you start:

  • Know which foods can be stored in plastic buckets – Not all foods are suitable to keep in buckets. This storage method is only recommended for dry foods with a moisture content below 10%. It is limited to provisions like beans, pasta, oats, sugar, flour, and rice.
  • Only use food-grade plastic buckets – While it is tempting to use any suitably sized bucket, plastic quality counts when storing food. Ensure that you only use food-grade plastic buckets.
  • Secondhand buckets that are frequently available free of charge are fine so long as they were originally used to hold food. If you are unsure, it is better to avoid using unknown plastic buckets. Over time harmful chemicals from some plastics could leach into your food, which is something you want to avoid.
  • Always wash and dry the buckets – Whether the buckets are new or being repurposed, it is essential to clean them thoroughly. Create a soapy mixture with dish soap, or remove the top rack and place them in your dishwasher to get them completely clean. Then carefully dry them. Any trace of moisture could spoil your food.
  • Know the enemies – The four major food spoilers you are working to eliminate when storing food in buckets are: light, moisture, pests, and oxygen. Keeping your sealed buckets in a cool area is also recommended to prevent damage from heat.

Now that we’ve covered the basics let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of storing food safely in 5-gallon buckets so you can always feel confident about your food supply.

5 gallon bucket with food

How To Store Food Long Term In 5-Gallon Buckets

If food is prepped and sealed correctly before being placed inside a 5-gallon bucket, it can keep for decades. For anyone who is living in a remote area or is worried about food security, it is incredibly reassuring to be able to store food in this way.

To successfully store food safely in 5-gallon buckets, it is essential to create a clean, airtight, dark, dry environment. The best technique for your food to last indefinitely is the mylar bag method.

For the mylar bag technique of food storage, you will need the following supplies:

  • Food grade 5-gallon buckets
  • Tightly fitting lids – Gamma seal lids are recommended.
  • Mylar bags – The 18” x 28” with a zip end closure fit comfortably into 5-gallon buckets.
  • Heat sealer. If you don’t have a heat-sealing appliance, you can use a hot iron or hair straightener to seal the top of the mylar bag.
  • Oxygen absorbers – 2000cc is suitable for buckets of this size.
  • A permanent marker

8 Steps To Store Food In Buckets Using Mylar Bags

While storing some types of dry food directly inside sealed buckets is possible, plastic is permeable, so air will get in over time. By placing food inside an airtight mylar bag, 5-gallon plastic buckets offer a rigid, pest-resistant, light-proof exterior, while the sealed mylar bag will keep the contents safe from air spoilage.

These eight steps to create a long-term, airtight environment to store your food in 5-gallon buckets:

  1. Open the mylar bag and use it to line the inside of the clean, dry 5-gallon bucket. Press the bottom down around the bottom edges.
  2. Fill the bag with your dry food until it almost reaches the top of the bucket. Ensure that there is space to seal the bag so the bucket lid will still fit on and close securely.
  3. Place the 2000cc oxygen absorber into the mylar bag, and seal the bag, while pressing out any additional air. If your mylar bag has a zip-end closure, squeeze out excess air before sealing the last bit at the end.
  4. Use the heat sealer, hair straightener, or hot iron to seal the top of the mylar bag. This step is recommended even if the bag has a zip-end closure. Just be sure to seal it above the zip closure so you can use it when you open your sealed food.
  5. Use the permanent marker to label the top of the mylar bag. Include the name of the food being stored as well as the date. You may also like to include any special cooking instructions or a label from the original bag.
  6. Place a tight-fitting lid on the bucket. Gamma seal lids are highly recommended as they create an airtight seal that will further protect the bucket’s contents.
  7. Label the outside of the bucket. Include what it contains, when it was packed, and the expected expiration date.
  8. Store the sealed buckets in a cool, dry area where they won’t be exposed to sunlight.

How To Store Food In Buckets Using Dry Ice

Using dry ice is a step up from using the bucket on its own because, if done correctly, it displaces the oxygen in the bucket with carbon dioxide. In the absence of oxygen, pests and spores are stopped in their tracks, making your food last much longer inside the sealed bucket.

You will need one ounce of dry ice per gallon bucket you use. You will therefore need around 5 ounces of crushed dry ice per 5-gallon bucket.

Here’s what you need to do to store food in 5-gallon buckets using dry ice:

  1. Ensure that the bucket is completely clean and dry.
  2. Add at least 4 inches of the dry food you are storing in the bottom of the bucket. This step is essential as the dry ice must not touch the plastic bucket, or it may crack.
  3. Then, using gloves, carefully place the dry ice on top of the food.
  4. Then fill the rest of the container.
  5. Now place the lid on the bucket, but don’t seal it. Leave a gap so the oxygen displaced by the dry ice can escape. If you close the bucket too soon, the plastic bucket could split quite dramatically.
  6. Give the dry ice at least 30 minutes to push all the oxygen out of the bucket, then seal the lid. If possible, use a tight-fitting gamma seal lid to ensure the bucket is tightly sealed.
  7. Label the bucket with the contents and the date it was packed. Then store it in a dark, cool area.

Things To Remember When Storing Food In 5-Gallon Buckets

Unlike many other food storage methods, no preservation ingredients are added to food when you keep it in buckets. Storing dry food in buckets works by simply eliminating the conditions that could cause the food to spoil.

The techniques used to store food in buckets differ, but they all have some things in common. While preparing your buckets and packing them away, keep the following tips in mind:

  • If possible, pack your food when the weather is warm and sunny. You need the dry ingredients to stay completely dry and not be affected by high air humidity.
  • Elevate your buckets slightly above ground level when storing them. This helps to keep the buckets at the same temperature as the room.
  • Avoid stacking them more than three buckets high. Not only are full buckets extremely heavy if they fall, but additional weight could affect the integrity of the buckets at the bottom.
  • Always store your food buckets in cool, dark places, away from direct sunlight.
  • If you use regular bucket lids, you can ensure they are sealed tightly by gently tapping them all the way around using a rubber mallet.
  • Build up your food supply gradually. Buying large quantities of food can get expensive, so gather your storage supplies and look out for bulk buys and special offers to take advantage of as they arise.

What Food To Store In 5-Gallon Buckets

Dry food stored in 5-gallon buckets must have moisture content levels of less than 10%. It is essential only to choose foodstuffs that meet this criterion.

It is always a good idea to find a balance between dry ingredients that store well and food that your family actually eats. Fortunately, there are lots of nutritious options to choose from. Popular foods for storing in 5-gallon buckets include:

  • Corn meal
  • Flour
  • Wheat berries
  • Salt
  • Rolled oats
  • White rice – take note that brown rice is unsuitable for long-term storage. It contains oils that give it a relatively short shelf life.
  • Popcorn
  • Pasta
  • Dried beans and legumes
  • White sugar
  • Potato flakes
  • Non-fat dried milk can be stored for up to four years using the mylar bucket method.

Frequently Asked Questions

If Mylar bags are airtight, what is the purpose of using a 5-gallon bucket?

Dry foods can be safely stored in airtight mylar bags without the extra barrier provided by a bucket for short periods. However, the mylar bags are easy to puncture and can easily be nibbled by vermin. The buckets also protect contents from light and are easier to stack and store than mylar bags on their own.

Can I seal my food in a 5-gallon bucket without mylar bags or dry ice?

If you plan to use your food within a relatively short period, then storing some foodstuffs in sealed buckets is possible. The problem is that since the environment will not be airtight, any pests or bugs that may have found their way into the bucket could quickly proliferate and ruin your food.

Adding an oxygen absorber before sealing the lid will help the food last longer. However, oxygen will get into the bucket over time, so this is not an ideal option for extended periods.

Must I only use one large mylar bag inside the bucket, or can I use several smaller ones?

It is entirely possible to store multiple sealed bags inside a 5-gallon bucket. This approach works particularly well for smaller items like herbs where you may not have enough to fill a bucket.

Each mylar bag should contain its own oxygen absorber and be completely sealed. It will also help to add an additional oxygen absorber to the bucket to remove any oxygen around the bags. Just remember to label the bags and the bucket carefully so you remember what’s inside each!

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