bulk food storage

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bulk food storage containersBefore living at treetops, we'd never thought about bulk food storage. But, as our family started to think more about self sufficiency, we realised that long term food storage was going to play a major part for us. Long story short, after doing research on the internet and getting some good advice from friends, we decided on the best way for our family to move forward...

The system that we use was shown to us by some good Mormon friends. They were very generous to share their knowledge - both in terms of what to store and then on how to store it. We simply copied what they did. This is not the "only" way or even the "best" way to store bulk food for the long term. It is just one of many options available.

We store our dry goods (wheat, barley, oats, beans and legumes, rice, nuts, seeds, etc.) in metal food grade pails that have a removable lid (with a locking ring). I fill the pail 85% full with dry goods and then insert a tall drinking glass with a tea light inside. Just as I am about to seal the pail, I light the candle and close the lid. This final step removes the oxygen from the pail and helps improve the quality of the long term storage. I try to open the pails no more than once per month to replenish smaller containers in our "everyday" pantry. I have been using this system for 2 years now and overall, it is working well. Although, I'm always on the lookout for improvements...

bulk food storage systemTo make this system work, first, we found a good bulk food distributor that was also organic! Our main motivation in selecting this particular approach (to storage) was not frugality (although, this was at least a partial outcome). Our main motivation was to have access to high quality, more affordable organic food. Our secondary motivation was to have at least a 3 month "emergency" buffer supply of staples (to protect against bad weather, job loss, etc.). Because of our motivations, "storage" is only part of our system. We also have a manual flour grinder and a manual oat flaker. (Please read our article on homemade flour for more information on this topic). In addition, we try to store all items as close to their "whole food" state as possible. This is important for both nutritional quality and longevity - ground flour and flaked oats lose nutrition more quickly and do not have as long a storage life as whole wheat (in grain form) and oats (in groat form).

Second, we found a food grade metal pail distributor. I personally liked the idea of the metal pails as I'm trying to minimise my use of plastic. However, even these "food grade" pails are coated internally with a resin. I haven't yet confirmed with the supplier what the coating is - it may be an inert resin, it may be BPA - I don't don't know. Our pails are stored in a dry and stable environment (in our house), so I am not too concerned either way. If you plan to store your items in a humid, hot or unstable environment (like a shed), you might want to consider other options. Food grade plastic buckets are available through most hardware stores (for a reasonable cost). And, I have even heard that some bakeries will have pails to "give away", if you ask.

The candle trick is a really important step to minimise spoilage and pest outbreaks (and is not as difficult as it might sound). I am clumsy with regular matches and lighters. So, I use a BBQ lighter to keep my fingers out of the way.

As I mentioned earlier, we have been using this system for 2 years and are reasonably happy. With that said, I have found the base of the metal pails tricky to clean out after storing "oily" or "fine" items (such as nuts and seeds). So, even though I use them for these items, I wouldn't recommend them to others for these items (unless you use a liner to cover the bottom of the pails).

We are short on storage space, so the moveable cart works really well for us! We are still looking for the best way to remove humidity from the pails (perhaps some type of food grade desiccant?), but haven't yet added this step into our system. We'll keep you posted on progress. Happy storing...


Posted: 4 years 9 months ago by treetopsdreaming #18
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A few visitors have asked where we sourced our bulk food storage pails. In the end, we made our purchase from The NCI Packaging Shop (based in Melbourne): www.thepackagingshop.com.au/. We chose metal, food grade (retail), laquered pails and laquered lids (with a locking ring).

Although we have been happy with our choice so far, please do your own research. After all, you need to make the best decision for your unique situation :-)