When we discuss long term food storage we usually mean rice, beans, wheat, oats and similar foods that can last about 30 years, these are your staples of bulk and long-term storage. All of these you can bulk buy from a number of different places. Obviously, the larger quantities you can buy the cheaper you can find it. Bulk buying usually means that you will have to repack for long term, usually in mylar bags with an oxygen absorber and then some other more durable suitable container.
I’ve been buying my mylar bags for the past several years from DiscountMylarBags.com. I use the 5mil bags (although I did just acquire a large quantity of 7.5mil bags in a liquidation sale from another place) I use a 1,000cc oxygen absorber in both the 1 and 2-gallon bags, although a 500cc for the 1-gallon bags will work, I just happened on a deal for a bulk order of 1,000cc absorbers. Once you open the packet of absorbers you can repack any unused ones in a FoodSaver bag or a small canning jar, if you have the vacuum seal for the jars (an attachment for the FoodSaver machine) this is the best method of keeping them usable for some time. They also have small resealable bags I use for dose packs when I buy bulk medications.
Bins and Buckets
Many people use 5-gallon mylar bags and food grade plastic buckets, with lids that have a gasket. 5-gallon buckets are fairly easy to store and move. When storing buckets on top of buckets it’s a good idea to use wooden slats across the buckets, rather than placing one on top of the other, so the weight is distributed on the rims and doesn’t crush the buckets below. Do not store more than 3 high and store heavier buckets on the bottom.
The Square buckets seem to stack better but are about 4 gallons vs the typical 5 gallon round ones. When stacking bins or buckets run a 1×4 or similar across several buckets or bins before stacking more on top. This distributes the weight to the rim of the bucket. If you don’t you will find that the weight directly on the lid will break it.
You should also consider storing some bulk foods in smaller amounts, 1 or 2-gallon mylar bags. Depending on the product a 1-gallon bag is about 7lbs of wheat or rice. This is useful if you are only prepping for one or two people, or want some smaller bags to use as trade. These smaller bags can be stored in 5-gallon buckets or plastic tubs. I use the 27-gallon plastic totes from Costco (about $8 each in stores), they store about eight 1 or 2-gallon bags on the bottom and then miscellaneous stuff on top. I find these are easy to move with a dolly, easy to transport on a trailer, and easy to stack on heavy duty shelving. I also use a silver permanent marker and number the bin and cross reference with my inventory so I know what is in it. Do NOT use oxygen absorbers in bags of sugar, you will end up with a very large sugar cube!
Usually you can get away without an expensive sealer to seal the bags. Just squeeze as much air out as possible, place the end over a piece of wooden dowel or 2×4 and use an iron to seal. If I’m sealing a large number of bags I’ll fill them all first, partially seal, leaving enough room to put the oxygen absorber in, then go back and add the absorber and seal. I write the product and date on the bag with a permanent marker. Some sites state that you cannot get an adequate seal, especially with powdered products and I admit I’ve had bags that don’t seal; you can tell because the next day there is still air inside rather than being rock hard. A good impulse sealer is going to cost you around $400, this is where being part of a group comes in handy as you buy one for the group and share, or have ‘packing parties’ once a month or so. However, I did buy one from Amazon and it didn’t work as well as my iron and 2×4 so I sent it back!
Another good way to remove oxygen is using a nitrogen purge coming from a gas cylinder and pressure regulator. Or, even easier still, is purchasing an appropriate amount of “dry ice” and placing a plum sized piece in the bottom of the 5-7 gallon bag. Then partially seal it, leaving about 1” unsealed, for the air and eventually the excess CO2 to escape. After there is no longer a cold spot on the bottom of the bag then complete the seal but also put in an oxygen absorber but it can be a smaller one.
I’ve usually weighed a bag so I know how much is in it, and then log by number of bags and weight. When I put the product in bins I number the bins. This way I can easily select a bin from my storage area by referencing my inventory.
Certain foods cannot be stored for long term, due to the amount of moisture or oils in them, these include:
- Whole wheat flour
- Milled grains (other than rolled oats)
- Brown rice
- Brown sugar
Bulk Grains and Mill
So, back to bulk buying. Depending on your financial resources there are a couple of ways you can go about adding to your stores. You can search for a bulk grain store in your area and if you live near the country you can usually find a farm that will bulk sell you grains. While we are on the subject of grains, such as wheat, you should also store a grain mill. There are a number on the market but buy a good quality, heavy duty one such as the Wonder Junior Deluxe or Country Living. I have read some bad reviews on the Wonder mill this past year, with parts breaking or my suggestion would be save for the Country Living mill, it’s expensive but American made and, pre-shtf, you are going to get great service. Also buy some spare parts, because post SHTF you probably won’t be able to order on line ?
DO NOT skimp and buy a cheap mill, remember you pay for what you get.
If you do not have a bulk grain store in your area there are a number of other options available to you. If you have a club membership to places like SAMS or Costco (my favorite after having both) you can find 25lb and 50lb bags of staples such as rice, pinto beans, sugar, and sometimes salt. You can also find deals on coffee, but more on that in another article. If you buy one bag every time you go you will be surprised how quickly it will add up. If you are a member of a preparedness group you can spread the cost of a membership out between group members, and get the membership that gives you a dividend back each year. Last year I was able to buy the top-rated Food Saver for $20 with my dividend from Costco. Depending on where you live you might find that you have a couple of different Costco stores within reasonable distance. You might find, as I have, that different stores stock different items. Also, if you are a member of a preparedness group, you can all contribute a small amount a month to a common fund which makes the purchase of staples for a group much cheaper and easier.
In addition to food you will find many of the other items you should have on your supply list at the membership warehouses, from toothpaste, toilet paper, multi vitamins, spices, coffee, etc. Depending on the time of the year you can also buy pool shock (bleach), tents and camping gear and much more. If you already have a membership then you know that unless you go in with a shopping list and cash it is very easy to buy lots of other stuff! As I don’t have a garden where I currently live I will buy a 10lb bag of carrots, cook what I need for me for a week and then can the rest. It is surprising how quickly I end up with several cases of quart jars of carrots. I recently discovered canning potatoes, so I’m going to give that a try. In the idea world we should waste nothing and always look for opportunities to add to our supplies.
Another, and often overlooked, resource for bulk supplies or staples is The Church of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) home storage centers. They do not require you to be a church member to purchase from them. The LDS Church has long promoted that families are prepared and have food stored for emergencies. They facilitate this with their home storage centers and there is one in every major city. Most of the calculators you find on the web that calculate how much food you need to store are based on numbers that the LDS provide. Their basic formula is 25lbs of wheat, rice, corn and others grains per person per month and 5lbs of dry beans per person per month.
Not too many years ago you could buy bulk bags of product, as well as mylar bags and #10 cans and can or seal your bags at their facilities. You can no longer can at their facilities and all their products are available canned or packaged for storage, with the exception of the availability of 25lb bags of hard red and white wheat. You can order mylar bags and oxygen absorbers from their online store. They carry 1-gallon, 7mil bags for $0.80 each, or 250 for $94 (37.6c each), which is a very good deal (I’ll be placing my next order of bags with them). The prices on their web site include shipping to CONUS. The best prices are when you pick up from a home storage center and the price list can be found here. For example, a case of pinto beans is $44.75 for a case of 6 #10 cans online and $31.50 /case at the center (at the time of writing). You can also buy individual cans at the storage center. As mentioned above they also carry 25lb bags of hard wheat, currently red wheat is $10/bag. They also carry honey, apple slices, dried onions and carrots, pancake mix, potato flakes, both quick and regular oats, spaghetti bites and lots of other items. Their form also lists the storage life of the products. You can find a home storage center in your area here.
If you do not have a local home storage center near you reach out on any social media preparedness groups you belong to. My guess is you will find a LDS member or someone willing to go to the store and pick up stuff and meet you part way. Otherwise, again this is where a group is useful, you plan a road trip with a trailer or large vehicle if you can.
You will find that buying from the LDS home storage center and in #10 cans is a fairly cheap and quick way to get some basics stored if you are just starting. It saves you time and money in repacking from 25 or 50lbs bags and you are not having to open a 5lb bucket when you have a minor emergency and need food. As mentioned above, they do allow mixing and matching if you go to the storage center, so you can buy a single can or pouch of a product and try it out. I will say their powdered milk is probably the best I’ve tried, as is their hot chocolate.
Many Wal-Mart stores are now carrying Augason Farms products in #10 cans. Check them out and if they are not carrying it ask that they start. Or order on-line and have it delivered to the store. There are a number of other manufacturers of dehydrated and long-term storage foods, such as: Mountain House, Emergency Essentials, MyFoodStorage, My Patriot Supply, Ready Store, Valley Food Storage and I also found quantities of products from all of these at Overstock. Each of these companies offer 5-gallon buckets of product, most offer a monthly program, where you pre-order and pay a monthly fee and various other incentive or discount programs. Costco also carries ‘emergency food’ from several different manufacturers, including Mountain House and Thrive. These are available on-line but I’ve also occasionally seen it available in local stores. Again, as always, do your homework on prices and don’t forget shipping costs. With some of the companies, such as Walmart and Costco, you might be able to get it shipped for free to your local store where you can lick it up. I also saw that Costco has a help/information email (email@example.com) if you have questions about their emergency food products.
Restaurant Supply Warehouse
Other sources for bulk food are restaurant supply stores. These usually require a membership and you can usually find a large variety of dehydrated vegetables, soups, and other products. Search your local area for supply stores.
Another place where you can sometimes score some good prices is Amazon. You do need to compare prices but somethings you can get good deals on bulk items, especially if you have a Prime membership and are not paying shipping. I’ve found comparable prices on canned Bega cheese, Red Feather butter, salt and other items. Once you calculate shipping from a supplier versus free shipping with Prime you come out on top. Again, this is where a group comes in useful because you can bulk order and share the cost of the membership.
Buy Before You Try
There is no point in buying a years’ worth of powdered milk, pancake mix, etc. if you and your family won’t eat it. My group had a week at our place one summer and I cooked eggs and pancakes every day from dehydrated products and everyone, including some 7-year old kids, liked them.
As always do your research, in many instances portion sizes listed on their packets are far less than you will need in an emergency. I, and others I know, have tried some when hiking and camping and a ‘2-person’ packet is just enough for one, and in some instances you are still hungry.
In a disaster you could be doing a lot more manual labor than you normally do and will need far more calories than you normally eat.
Another thing you might want to consider if you are having a large shipment delivered it OPSEC. Ask the company how the product is packaged – it might not be a good idea to have 30 cases of product being delivered that has the company/product name clearly displayed on the boxes.
Do It Yourself
Don’t forget a good dehydrator as it can save you a lot of money if you by bulk fresh vegetables (or even frozen packages that are on sale) and then dehydrate them. Store in mylar bags or vacuum sealed canning jars. With the right vacuum sealer, you can also avoid the need for oxygen absorber altogether by vacuum sealing the mylar bags.
Harvest Right probably have the best home freeze drying machines. They are an investment. If you have your own garden these are an excellent way to store your produce for long-term.
One important point – INVEST IN SEVERAL GOOD QUALITY HAND CAN OPENERS!! And a bucket wrench/opener.
Personally, I have a diverse food storage ‘program.’ I have #10 cans as well as 1, 2 and 5-gallons mylar bags of food and, product depending, quart and gallon jars, some vacuum sealed and some canned. I also diversify where I store my food. I will admit that my inventory ‘process’ has let me down a bit, I thought I had everything inventoried until I was at an ‘undisclosed location’ a couple of weeks ago and found several bins where I had obviously just added stuff too without inventorying; good thing is, I have a lot more coffee than I thought I did ?
When storing food, think about how you might store a few buckets with numerous items in it for those that show up asking for help but are not part of your group. This can include a small amount of several items like beans, flour, baking soda, rice, bullion cube, salt, water purification tabs, noodles (Ramon), oatmeal, among other things.
No matter your financial or storage space resources are, start somewhere. It could be the extra bag of sugar each time you shop, you will be surprised how quickly it will add up if you are consistent.