Bulk Food Storage

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The Question

Sometime in the next year we will have a complete change of job and residence and there probably will be a number of lean months ahead financially. We have no debt, but we have no assets either. I am planning to buy large quantities of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, dried beans, peas and rice and pickle and freeze as many vegetables as possible to get us through that uncertain time without worry of food stuffs. At this point we are unable to have a garden but try to buy as much produce in the fall from neighbor as we can. We also get one deer given to us by a trophy hunter each fall for meat.

I am heading back to the traditional meat-potato-vegetable-garden salad supper meal, or stir fry with rice and homemade soup and bread and skipping all the fancy, more varied meals.

I am trying to plan and prepare by purchasing these items while we are still able to but I would like some more advice on how to store such items. I noticed the bay leaf in flour idea in the last newsletter to keep the bugs out, but are there any other ideas I could use to better keep things long term? Does the bay leaf work for rice, peas salt? I have a collection of large pails from bulk laundry detergent, and the ice-cream pails used by hospitals (just phone the kitchen and they'll save you some).

Start Early

One thing that could help is to start buying your non-perishables now. Each time you grocery shop, buy a few items that you will need. I do this a few weeks before Thanksgiving, and it helps.

Pick Containers Carefully

While you can get good 5 gallon containers from restaurants and such, PLEASE tell her NOT to use any except those specifically saying they are made of food grade plastic! The manufacturer is required by law to put the notice on the outside of the container, so look for it. Containers used for holding laundry detergent (and any other non-food material) are not the same as food grade, they contain chemicals which can and will bleed through into your food and contaminate the food. Also, it is impossible to completely clean detergent or whatever out of the containers, chemical residues will remain. I save every glass jar, 2 litre soda bottle, every reusable food container, even gallon-sized pretzel containers, and store foods in them. Its not worth jeopardizing your family's health just to save a dollar.

Also, while bay leaves can impede infestation of bulk flours, they aren't adequate to completely protect your investment. One good easy technique is to put your flour in the freezer for 24 hours, which kills the little nasties. Then put an oxygen absorber in with your flour or other bulk foods - these are available in craft departments at Wal-Mart, K-Mart or other major like store- and seal tightly. These techniques combined should help keep your flours fresh and bug-free.

'Store' Money Instead

Since you are doing this *sometime within the next year*, I would suggest that you invest the money you are going to use to purchase these items now and buy them right after you move. This will give you more money to work with, eliminate the need to move all the food you have bought, and will allow for the food to remain fresher longer after your move.

Try Extension Service

Have Faye contact the Extension Service in her province/county for information on storing vegetables in sand (and other ways as well).
Ellen B

Try Baker's Supply

If you will use it within 6 months, then store the flour in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight and away from heat sources. If longer, then in the freezer in zip lock type gallon bags. Yeast stores wonderfully in the freezer. Generally, if you're storing the stuff in the seal-tight plastic buckets, there shouldn't be a problem with bugs or anything unless the stuff is already in there.

If you haven't already, it might be a good idea to get in touch with either a bakery's supplier for purchases of flour at 50-100 lbs. at a time. Much cheaper than at the supermarket. Either that, or join a food co-op. The same thing goes for grains like rolled oats, rice, etc... for the storing and the purchasing of it.
Joyce in MA

Cold Air Helps

Flour, cornmeal and other grains will keep longest without getting bugs if put in the freezer for 24 hours. Legumes such as peas and beans keep for a long time in glass jars with tight lids. I would think plastic containers with tight lids would also work. Dry milk keeps well in the fridge. I use bay leaves with pasta when I store it over the summer in Florida. It doesn't seem to get buggy if kept in sealed jars. I have a large glass jar for just that purpose.

Store the Nutrient, Too!

For sugar and salt, all she needs to do is make sure that they remain airtight and they will not get bugs in them. They will store that way indefinitely.

For yeast, she needs to keep it frozen and it will last even longer than the expiration date on the package, and keeping it frozen will help to make it last longer once she opens it, otherwise the package should give a expiration date.

Rice should be stored airtight and will last for 2 years if it is white. Brown rice will go rancid and so should not be stored longer than 6 months.

Dried beans and peas can be stored airtight in a cool place. They are good indefinitely, but will get harder the longer they are stored and will have to be soaked longer.

For pickling and freezing guidelines, the best thing that I have found is called the Ball Blue book. It has guidelines for canning, freezing and pickling and I got mine for only $3.00 brand new.

One thing to remember for preserving food, there are many ideas out there, but you want to keep as many vitamins and minerals in the food and keep it as safe as you can. The food might look okay, but due to improper freezing or storage, have lost any nutritional content. You do not need to panic about storing food, but follow guidelines and directions so that the food you have is safe. The best thing to remember is to keep it cool and dark. When foods are stored at normal household temperatures, the nutritional content is gone in half the time as it would be if you store them at 50-60 degrees. If you are going to spend the money to buy the food, you may as well spend the time to take care of it properly.

Having a food storage is not just for losing a job or emergencies, but makes eating very inexpensive. We have a family of 5 and buy just the things that we can get at the grocery store and a few things at our church cannery and we eat for one to two hundred dollars a month. We do this by having a storage and buying things that are on sale and buying a bunch of them when they are on sale and then using those things until the next sale comes.

Another thing for your reader to consider, if she does not grow her own vegetables and things that she plans to freeze, or if she does not have someone just giving them to her, she probably can buy the products already produced cheaper than she can buy the produce and preserve it herself. Many farmer's markets and pick your own produce places are not that inexpensive once you add in the cost of the supplies to freeze or can the items. Sometimes it is worth it, but be careful and check.
Kim S. in American Fork, Utah

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