Food Storage Containers - What types to use

Food Storage Containers For Emergency Preparedness

Choosing the right size and type of food storage containers to store your emergency food supply in can sometimes be a challenge, or at the least, a little confusing.

On this page we will try to help you with some beneficial information relating to:

Topics On This Page:

1. Types Of Food Storage Containers

Plastic Buckets & Containers
Sealing Foods In Plastic Containers
Metal Cans
Metalized Foil & Vacuum Sealed Bags
Glass Containers and Canning Jars

2. Tips On Using Food-Storage Containers

Types Of Food Storage Containers:
*(Always use food grade containers for storing anything you intend to eat)

A food grade container is one that will not transfer non-food chemicals into the food, and contains no chemicals which would be hazardous to human health.

(If you are uncertain whether a container is food-grade or not then contact the manufacturer and ask if a particular container is approved for food use).

Plastic Storage Containers

  • Plastic storage containers, particularly 5 or 6 gallon buckets, are the most popular types of containers used for bulk and large amounts of dry food storage.

    Buckets work great when used for storing bulk, dry, emergency foods.
    Examples: Wheat - Rice - Beans - Oatmeal - Flour - Sugar
Food Storage Buckets can be purchased at these retailers:
Nitro-Pak® - 6 gallon buckets - 4 pack
PrepareCo® - 1, 2, 3.5, 5, 6.5 gallon buckets - 4 packs

You will find an excellent selection of Pre-packaged Long Term Emergency Survival Foods at these stores:

The Ready Store® - Buckets & #10 cans
PrepareCo® - Bulk Nitrogen Flushed Buckets, Dehydrated and Freeze Dried #10 cans.
  • Many sizes of plastic food storage containers can be used to store dehydrated and dry goods. You might want different size storage containers for foods like:

           Pasta & Noodles
           Popcorn & Nuts
           Cereals & Granola
           Dehydrated Fruits & Vegetables
           Dried Meats (Jerky)
           Herbs used for seasoning, teas, and health benefits.

  • Look for edible grade plastic food storage containers made from polycarbonate, polyester or polyethylene.

Sealing Foods In Plastic Storage Containers

  • Neither plastic buckets or other plastic containers, are a true oxygen barrier by themselves (un-like glass containers or #10 metal cans). There is a slow transmission of oxygen through the polyethylene walls of the container over time. Another common problem with plastic food storage containers when food is stored for extended lengths of time is insect infestation.

  • There are a few remedies to these 2 issues: You can greatly increase the shelf life and stability of your dry food products, by using/adding one or more of the following items to your plastic buckets or food storage containers before sealing:

*Oxygen Absorbers & Desiccant Packets are NOT EDIBLE, they are only intended for use with DRY foods.

  1. Oxygen barrier bags, plastic or metal.
    Metalized are best, for light and insect control.
    You may purchase the Metalized Oxygen Barrier Bags Here

  2. Oxygen Absorber Packets and/or Desiccant Packets
    Read Our Oxygen Absorbers and Desiccants Page Here

TIP: Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (fossil-shell-four) can be used for organic insect infestation prevention. It is completely organic, and edible. When applied to grains or beans for bulk food storage: Apply 1 Cup (2 1/2 ounces by weight) to each 25 pounds of grain to be treated.

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Metal Cans

  • Metal cans for "home use" are generally harder to find and purchase than plastic or glass containers for food storage purposes. Many people use empty coffee cans or cans from previously purchased preparedness-foods, they work fine for dried or dehydrated food storage.
    As with plastic buckets, It is recommended if you store bulk dried foods in metal cans, you should line the cans with oxygen barrier bags prior to storing and sealing.

  • Most of the food storage products in metal cans are manufactured by commercial food storage producers (such as Mountain House). They generally use #10 (gallon size) metal cans for their freeze dried and dehydrated foods, which have a long shelf life, hold their nutrition value, and have the best taste for extended emergency food storage.

    Commercially packaged freeze dried foods, are packed in airtight NITROGEN PACKED #10 cans. Up to 98% of the residual oxygen has been removed allowing a shelf life of up to 30 years.

  • These #10 cans are coated with a protective enamel inside and out for double protection, including the lid. The freeze dried foods are protected until you are ready to open and use them.

How Long Will Opened Cans of Freeze Dried Foods Last?

The following factors are very important in the shelf life of opened food storage:

  • Oxygen and Moisture
  • Heat and Light

Once cans are opened you can prolong the foods shelf life by decreasing the above factors as much as possible.

Summary: Store the opened freeze dried foods in the most -

  • air-tight,
  • dry,
  • cool,
  • and dark environment as possible.

If you follow the above recommendations, you should be able to store the opened cans of food comfortably for an additional 6 to 12 months.

Mountain House and other great brands of long term storage foods in these #10 cans may be purchased at the following recommended stores: Nitro-Pak®, PrepareCo® or The Ready Store®

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Metalized Foil & Clear Vacuum Sealed Bags

  • Clear vacuum seal bags used with home Food Vacuum Sealers, work well for dry food storage, but we suggest the added protection of placing them inside Mylar bags. Vacuum sealed bags are popular with those doing their own food storage because most of the moisture carrying air is removed from the food and therefore prolongs the shelf life.
    - Food vacuum sealers work great to extend the shelf life of home dehydrated foods before storing them.

  • Mylar metalized foil bags are one of the most efficient and necessary items for those doing their own food storage and also for the commercial food industry. These metalized bags increase the shelf-life, keep out damaging light, oxygen, and moisture, they also deter bugs and pests from destroying the food. It is highly recommended that Metalized Oxygen Barrier Bags are used when ever possible to place your food product in before storing them, no matter what kind of container you are using.

  • Commercial emergency foods sealed in metalized or Mylar-foil pouches (such as used for MRE's), have a shelf life of 5 to 10 years. These types of pouches may initially be a little cheaper to purchase than the #10 cans of freeze dried foods because of their smaller size, but keep in mind, if you have a larger family they may not be as cost  effective in the long run.

    If possible we suggest storing a good mix of all types and sizes of emergency food.

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Glass Containers and Canning Jars

  • Glass containers and jars are a good personal food storage container, but they must be handled with care, they don't handle hard bumps or being dropped.

  • One great advantage of glass canning jars is the ability to be reused over and over again. Canning jars do require specialized canning equipment when using a steam or boiling-process to "bottle" the food for storage. Glass canning jars can usually be purchased at warehouse or department stores, like Costco, WalMart, and some grocery stores carry them also. Storing Dry Foods in Glass Containers or Jars

  • When storing dry foods in glass jars or containers, it isn't necessary to use oxygen barrier bags, oxygen cannot permeate through glass the same as plastic.

  • You may however, use oxygen absorbers and/or desiccant packets with dry foods in glass containers. It will help to keep foods fresh and give a longer shelf life.

*Oxygen Absorbers & Desiccant Packets are NOT EDIBLE, they are only intended for use with DRY foods.

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Tips On Using Food Storage Containers

  • One of the best ways to be emergency prepared (and to save money) is to buy bulk food. Most people in the U.S. live within 30 minutes of a store that sells large bags of rice, flour, sugar, beans, etc. Buying these products in bulk can be a huge savings and can quickly add to your emergency food storage supply. Use the plastic bucket, glass, and metal food storage containers described above to store these bulk foods.

  • Another great method of food preparedness (which we cover on the survival garden page) is to grow and preserve your own food. Either option requires the right food storage containers and knowledge of storing the food properly.
  • Start a survival food system by estimating how many food storage containers you will need for each food type, and how many you will need of any given size.

  • For those with limited storage space keep in mind, round containers take up more storage space , try and stick to square or rectangular shapes.

    Get a matched set. If your budget and space permit, consider getting containers that are all the same type, with multiples of commonly used sizes. A matched set will stack more compactly and more easily than assorted, unmatched containers.

  • When stacking on shelves place the lighter and smaller items towards the top, and the larger and heavier items (especially buckets) towards the bottom. This makes for easier lifting up high, also in an emergency event such as a earthquake, there is less chance of the heavier items falling from the top and hitting someone.

*Avoid re-using disposable food storage containers that come pre-packed with food, such as margarine and sour cream tubs. Save them for sending food home with family members who don't bring back containers.

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