Dry Bulk Food Storage - How To Obtain Maximum Shelf Life

Best Food Storage Methods

Food preservation and bulk food storage used to be a way of life... with modern technology, transportation, and supermarkets - most Americans don’t give much thought to food storage.

Many run to the grocery store to purchase food needed for a single meal. What will happen when a disaster strikes and the supermarket shelves are bare within hours. Most individuals and families will immediately find themselves in a food crisis.

Buying dry foods for bulk food storage is smart, efficient, and a practical way to prepare for emergencies and disasters.

Stocking up on survival foods while you can, will save you money, time, and give you peace of mind in a disaster or food shortage emergency.

Note: The storage methods discussed here are for dry bulk foods, such as; grains, beans, nuts, sugars, powders, etc., (not canned foods).

BUDGET - Bulk Food Storage Method: (*shelf life 1 to 2 years )

The budget method is: purchasing and storing bulk foods that come pre-packed in bags or boxes, (the way they usually come packaged from the store). These foods are not packaged for maximum long term storage, they are intended to be consumed within a certain limited time span, usually printed on the expiration date of the packaging.

Average shelf life on most of these pre-packaged bulk food staples such as; flour, sugar, dry grains and beans, is 1 year at 72 degrees F (normal room temperature). The shelf life can be increased several months, by storing in a dark, cool (around 50 degrees) area, such as a basement or a root cellar.

These pre-packaged containers are only suited for products that are rotated on a regular basis. Stored this way, you must also protect them from insects and small rodents.

 BETTER - Bulk Food Storage Method: (*shelf life 2 to 7 years )

Foods are purchased bulk, such as above, then are re-packed inside food grade plastic, glass, or metal, food storage containers with an air tight or gasket sealed lid. Oxygen absorber packets are also added inside the food container before sealing.

Air is composed of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Once all the oxygen has been absorbed, then only nitrogen and carbon dioxide remain in the container or bucket with the foods. This process provides an oxygen free environment for long term storage.

Packaged this way; expect shelf life of around 2 - 3 years if stored at room temperatures, and up to 7 years if stored in a cool, dark, area as stated above.

Note: Do not waist your time or money adding oxygen absorbers to a bucket or storage container without an air tight or gasket sealed lid. The oxygen absorbers will "do their job" by absorbing (pulling) the air from the outside into the un-sealed container.

BEST - Bulk Food Storage Method: (*shelf life 7 to 20+ years )

The key to obtaining the "Best" or maximum shelf life of stored foods, is protecting the foods from these 4 components:

  • Air (oxygen),
  • Moisture,
  • Light,
  • and Heat.

Using Foil Bags or Vacuum Pouches

Using either Mylar foil bags or clear vacuum bags to seal bulk foods inside of the storage container will prolong the shelf-life much longer than without using this additional food storage protection.

Mylar metalized/foil bags are the best method of the two, simply because they also seal out the light, the vacuum bags or pouches do not. Placing the clear pouches inside of another container such as a bucket does reduce the light, but foil bags block all light by themselves.

Mylar foil bags can be sealed and re-sealed, using a heat sealing unit after first adding oxygen absorbers to minimize oxygen.

For an easier method Mylar foil bags now come as a heavy duty zip-lock bag. These are just as easy to use as the food zip-lock type plastic bags in your kitchen but much larger and thicker with a layer of metalized material. They can be reused over and over again.

Food vacuum sealers using thick plastic liners work well for most dry food types such as grains and beans, however, powders and some granular products are not as easily vacuum packaged.

Mylar or thick plastic liners can be resealed after the lid has been removed. Liners should also be used as an extra humidity (moisture) barrier in humid climates. They are recommended for a 7 to 20+ year shelf life of bulk food storage, you will also gain an extra barrier against oxygen or bugs.

Using plastic containers:

Sealing the food product inside a Mylar or plastic liner, along with the use of oxygen absorber packets, before placing in a plastic container, will obtain the maximum shelf life.

Using glass containers:

With glass containers, using a Liner Bag as an oxygen barrier, is not a necessity if you have an air-tight seal. Glass by itself, is a true oxygen barrier, unlike plastic. You can optionally use the foil bags for light protection, and therefore will gain the maximum shelf life.

Oxygen absorbers with glass containers:

Placing the proper sized Oxygen absorber into a glass container, will absorb virtually all the oxygen when sealed. If using a glass canning jar, don't fill the jar too full (not so far that the absorber interferes with the lid), screw the lid on tight, an hour or so later, you should hear the "ping" when the little bubble on the lid collapses and the lid seals.

Oxygen Absorbers and Desiccants

Not sure what oxygen absorbers or desiccants are? Check out our page on Oxygen Absorbers. Our page discusses what they are, how they are used for bulk food storage and the difference between the two.

Storage Containers and Products You Will Need:

Plastic containers:

Air-tight Plastic Containers: available in many sizes and shapes

Buckets: Generally come in 3 sizes;

3 Gallon Buckets
5 Gallon Buckets
6 Gallon Buckets

All Size Buckets Can Be Purchased Here

Tips: A 5 gallon bucket will hold about 40 pounds of rice, wheat or beans
1 gallon = 16 cups
5 gallons = 80 cups

Bucket lids:

Regular Bucket Lids
Regular bucket lid remover tool (optional)
Gamma Seal Lids - these are highly recommended for bulk food storage because they can be screwed on or off (much easier than regular lids), they are reusable and form an air tight seal.

Glass Food Storage Containers:

Glass Bottles & Jars - In Several Sizes
Canning Jars
Caning Jar Lids and Rings


500cc Oxygen Absorbers (highly recommended)
Mylar Metalized Zip-lock Bucket Liners (highly recommended & most convenient)
Mylar Metalized Heat-Seal Bucket Liners (highly recommended)
Diatomaceous Earth As Organic Pest Control:
(This is one of our personal favorites, read about this product below)

Diatomaceous Earth (Fossil Shell Flour) -
When added to grains or dry bulk food storage, it not only makes it flow better, DE kills the bugs that are present and protects the food and grain from further invasions. Bugs can not become immune because they are killed by physical action, not chemical. Food grade DE is completely organic, edible, and safe.

Read about the MANY other Benefits of Diatomaceous Earth here.

For a more detailed discussion about storage containers check out our Page about Food Storage Containers.

5 Tips for Emergency Use of Plastic Buckets

1. For maximum shelf-life of dry bulk food storage, along with a Mylar bag and oxygen absorber.

2. For use as planters, so your plants can be moved inside when it freezes. This keeps some vegetables growing late into the season or even all through the winter.

3. For use as an emergency toilet, place sanitation bags and liquid sanitizer inside the bucket. You can also purchase a bucket kit with toilet seat, made just for this purpose.

4. For storing a bucket-kit of survival supplies for you and your pets, easy to lift, and ready to move quickly in an emergency.

5. Clothes washer during a long term electrical outage. Fill bucket 1/2 full with water, add soap. Cut a hole in the center of the bucket lid; using a clean plunger inside the lid; plunge, rinse, repeat.

Take a large dry towel, and lay the wet clothes inside, roll the towel, grab one end, get someone else on the other, and twist. This will get most of the water out of wet clothes. They will be a little wrinkled, but we're talking about an emergency situation, right?

Top of Page

Home >> Bulk Food Storage