There seems to be a lot of confusion in the preparedness community over the reasoning for storing your long-term food storage items in buckets. This is an important topic that I want to try to touch on to clear up some confusion about.
Vaccuum seal storage bags protect your food from oxygen when used properly, and mylar bags protect your food from both oxygen and light, but they do nothing to protect your food from other dangers.
Rodents are a huge danger that we face when trying to protect our food storage. Neither vacuum sealed bags nor mylar bags offer any protection whatsoever against rodants. This is one of the biggest reasons that we tell everyone to store their vacuum sealed or mylar bagged foods inside of plastic buckets. Rodants can actually chew through plastic buckets and storage bins, but it is more difficult for them to, and if you are using other methods to protect against them, like traps ornatural repellants, your food supply should remain rodent-damage free.
What we are in essence doing is creating multiple layers to work together to protect our food supplies.
Plastic buckets come in many different sizes and colors. The most common size for long-term food storage is the 5 gallon bucket, yet any size can be used. Perhaps you have an area under your stairs where a 5 gallon bucket would be too tall to fit, well then, why not use a shorter 3 gallon bucket for that location instead? There is no rule that only a 5 gallon bucket can be used.
Many people say that the buckets are used to protect the food from light. Yes, this is true, however, everyone uses the wrong buckets for this so they are not receiving the light-blocking ptrotections that the buckets could be providing.
Most people insist on using bright white buckets for their food storage. While this does look good, and gives a "clean" and bright appearance to your food storage area, white buckets do not block very much light at all. If you were wanting to block light from reaching your foods you would instead use black plastic buckets as I do with my food storage like the one shown below.
If you look inside a white bucket you will be able to see the light shining through the bucket. Yes, it does limit the amount of light allowed through the bucket, but it does not prevent it. A black bucket on the other hand completely prevents light from entering into the bucket and will keep the food safer from light for a longer period. All of my long-term food storage has been done in these light-blocking black plastic buckets.
Another thing to think about with using buckets is the lids. There are a couple different options that you have to chose from with bucket lids. A standard plastic bucket lid like the one shown below is relatively inexpensive and normally is included free with the bucket.
I do not recommend using these lids however because they require a special tool to remove them with, and they are not made to be reused over and over again. We need to check our stored food on a regular basis to make sure that nothing has happened to it, and that it is still "good to go" for when we need it. This means that we need to inspect the food to make sure that the seals have not been compromised and that rodent or insect damage has not occurred.
I inspect my food buckets once a month while I am doing other routine safety inspections like checking the smoke detector batteries and fire extinguisher levels. Other people feel good with checking theirs every couple months or once a year. How often you check them is up to you, but I would suggest checking them frequently so that if anything is detected, it can be resolved quickly before something happens and you need to rely on what you have stored.
I recommend spending a little extra and purchasing Gamma Lids for your food storage buckets. These lids are designed to be repeatedly removed and put back on easily by hand with no tools. There is an outer ring that snaps onto the bucket like a standard lid does, and there is an inner lid with a cross design on the top that is used as a handle. The lid is threaded and screws into the outer ring to close the bucket creating a water-tight seal.
These lids are well designed and will outlast you. You will not have to worry about needing to replace them because they are wore out in a few years. All of my storage buckets for bulk food storage, and emergency supplies like first aid equipment is stored in buckets with Gamma Lids so I can access anything quickly when it is needed.
Speaking of First Aid Supplies, I also have my buckets color coded. As I said, my food storage is in black buckets. I also use red buckets for my first aid supplies and I use white buckets for cleaning supplies like soap, laundry detergents, Pinesol, etc. For after a widespread long-term disaster I have garden seeds stored in green buckets.
By color coding the buckets I know at a glance where something is when I need to access it, which makes it easier on me.
You will also need a way to mark what you have stored in each bucket, especially if you end up with 50 matching 5 gallon buckets of food and need to know when making dinner after a disaster where you put that container of nutmeg, lol.
I do not mark on the buckets what I have stored in them, because it changes over time. Instead I use the plastic pouches that you often see on packages that are shipped from overseas that the shipper will put the shipping documents or packing list inside. I simply attach one of those to the side of each bucket with the adhesive on the back of the pouch, then I insert the inventory list of that bucket inside it.
I purchased a box of 1,000 of them for a whopping $25 several years ago and still have plenty to last the rest of my lifetime.
One thing that I want to caution people on is something that I recently found out that someone else in the preparedness community was teaching something on their YouTube channel that completely goes against everything that we teach regarding long-term food storage. He was telling people to pour their bulk dry foods directly into the food-grade plastic buckets along with the oxygen absorbers like in the photo below, and then sealing the lid.
Unfortunately someone that I know followed his advice and packed their long-term food supplies without using either FoodSaver vacuum sealed or mylar storage bags. He added his food into the bucket, and tossed in the oxygen absorbers, sealed the lid up, and thought his food was protected.
Unfortunately he happens to live on the mainland in an area that has been ravaged by the recent floods. He found a situation where he had to rely on his long-term food storage to feed his family, and his food was almost all ruined.
By not using the airtight bags inside the buckets, he was not able to open the buckets from time to time to inspect the bags to make sure the oxygen absorbers were doing the job correctly and keeping air from getting to his food. The buckets also did not seal tight enough so moisture was allowed to get into the food causing beans, rice, wheat, and corn to start sprouting and molding right inside his buckets without him knowing it.
Needless to say he was devistated when he saw the condition of his food and that all the hard work and time that he put into his preparations was in vain.
If he would have used sealed bags inside of the buckets, none of this would have happened. He would have been able to open the buckets to inspect the bags to see if they were still sucked in showing that the absorbers were still working correctly, or if the bags were loose showing that the bags seal had failed. The sealed bags would have also prevented water from being able to get to the food even if it did get inside the buckets.
Because he decided to do it the cheap and easy way, he is now relying completely on government handouts to feed his family instead of them being able to rely on the food they were so proud of storing up.
Don't do what he did, and try to save a few dollars or skip steps on your food storage. Do it right the first time and your food will be there for your family when you really need it.
Until Next Time,
Aloha & 73