January 17th, 2011
I am currently building long-term food storage supplies for my family. I am interested in using 5-gallon buckets to store beans, rice, pasta, salt, sugar and other possibilities. Is there any problems using standard buckets as seen in the large box stores? I have seen Mylar bags for this purpose – what is the function and need of these? Finally, I believe I read about using hand warmer packs to remove oxygen from sealed containers to help with shelf life and insect control. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.
You should never use any material for food storage that is not food-grade rated. 5-gallon buckets not specifically manufactured for food, such as those at your local building supply store, are not adequate for food storage. Chemicals in the composition of the bucket can leach out into your stored food items. Food-grade buckets are available online at very reasonable prices. Many restaurants get their food delivered in these buckets which they then throw away. You should ask around your local restaurants to see if this free source of food-grade buckets is available. Just make sure not to store your food in buckets that have held pickles because your food will absorb the taste. Mylar bags are used to further cut down on light, air, and water infiltration in your stored food products. It’s just a second line of defense in food storage. Hand warmers are NOT labeled for food use. I would find a source of food-grade oxygen absorbers. There are plenty of them available online. Thanks for writing!
I just read in today’s newsletter your answer to another reader about water. Your answer seemed to be referring to sealed bottled water. My question is, when you fill washed out milk or juice jugs with water to store, is there a shelf life for the faucet water I have stored in these jugs? In the past it seems that after some time the water has a very nasty taste, almost as though it has spoiled. This is so even with the water that I put through my Brita filter pitcher.
I saw your answer to the question to the shelf life of bottled water; however I have two 55-gallon drums of water that has been stored since 1999. (Y2K) I remember putting something in it to keep it fresh, but I don’t remember what. Will that water also be O.K. to drink with just a little shaking to aerate it?
Dear Jeanene & Nana,
First of all, don’t use empty milk jugs to store your water in. The water will sour. It’s nearly impossible to remove all traces of the milk from the jug. As for the rest of your questions, a reader involved in the bottled water business wrote in with some excellent advice:
The smell is caused by the leaching or breakdown of chemicals from the plastic into the water and studies have found they may cause cancer. There is testing currently happening of just how serious this problem is that may result in better plastic; however, everyone needs to assess this risk when storing water.
While maybe the lesser of evils for “short term” storage for emergencies, better long term storage systems need to be used for personal “survival systems”. Please suggest your readers rotate the water at least annually if storing for short term emergencies. Keep sunlight away from the containers and the leaching will be less.
At the company I work for we sell a LOT of bottled water nationwide (all 50 states). Probably one of the silliest ways to purchase water. There are recalls of water from bottling companies on a regular basis due to various contamination problems. This indicates bottled water is not always the best way to purchase this precious resource. Readers should check for recalls from the company they purchase their water from. A simple email to the site of the company will get the answer if anyone is concerned.
For short term disasters when the local water supply is contaminated, plastic is a good alternative; however, those wanting to keep water for years in a corner of the basement should seek a safer alternative than plastic. For long term water storage and use consider a water filtration system, like reverse osmosis to remove dangerous pollutants and chemicals just before using the water.
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