Bulk Buying 101 – pt. 3

Storage Solutions

In my previous posts, Bulk Buying 101 pt. 1 and Bulk Buying 101 pt. 2, I shared information on how to get started buying food in bulk, what foods to buy, where to purchase from as well as a practical cost analysis on a few items we frequently purchase. 


In this post, I want to share some wisdom on storage solutions to have on hand before you hit “order now”.


Storing Bulk Foods


When you order large amounts of food in 25 and 50 lbs they usually come in a brown bag. This is great as a temporary storage solution and for shipping but is impractical for storing in your home.


The main reason is it is not rodent or insect proof. A mouse could easily chew through a corner of the bag and ruin your food. Or, a pantry moth could lay eggs in your oatmeal and in a few short weeks you will find wiggling larvae in the sack! While pantry moths are not harmful to humans most people don’t appreciate the extra protein they add to your food. Ha ha 


Additionally, the sack is not air tight which means your food will oxidize faster and will not last as long. 


5 Gallon Buckets


The quickest and easiest way to store large quantities of food is by dumping out the sack into a 5 gallon food grade bucket. 


I like to get my food grade buckets from our local bakery in the grocery store. They give away their icing buckets for free to anyone who asks for them. Every now and then, we take the kids to get donuts on a Saturday morning and I will ask the ladies if they have any empty buckets available. They are usually very kind and will, also, run the buckets through their industrialized dishwasher which helps remove extra grease. 


I have also gotten many free buckets from my local Amish Food store. Again, just ask the ladies at check out or the deli if they have any buckets they could spare. 


Another location that almost always has food grade buckets in stock is Tractor Supply. They range in price from $3.79 per bucket plus $1.99 for a fortiflex lid. 


Other lids that are easier to open but are more expensive in price are gamma lids, they cost about $20 per lid. I only buy these for things I am scooping out on a daily basis like one flour bucket I keep upstairs. Otherwise, I opt for the cheaper lids. 


My last place I would consider buying a 5 gallon food grade bucket is on Amazon. While the prices aren’t the best, their 2 day shipping might save you in a pinch.


A 50 lb bag of flour will fill a 5 gallon food grade bucket, plus some extra left over (about ⅓) of the bag so plan on having one bucket and something else to put the additional flour in. 


For wheat berries, 25 lbs of berries fits almost perfectly into a 5 gallon bucket. 


Mason Jars


Mason jars also can double as a fairly inexpensive storage solution for dried goods too. Before I had buckets, I stored a lot of my beans and pasta in mason jars. The key to keeping food fresh longer is to keep them out of the sunlight and with little to no oxygen. 


I store my mason jars in my basement and I use this jar vacuum seal attachment to remove the oxygen from the jar with my food saver.


Foods that are soft and can crumble easily like pasta, crackers and cereal store nicely in mason jars. I will also use half gallon sized mason jars to store my dried herbs I harvest from my garden. 


If you’re able to, try to thrift jars from yard sales, facebook marketplace and Salvation Army. A new jar costs about $3.33 for one half gallon jar. For quarts, they cost around $1.19 per jar. This will give you a nice idea if you are actually getting a deal for used jars. If you’re able to find jars for $0.20 – $0.30 per jar you hit the jackpot, buy them all!


See my post on vacuum sealing jars for additional tips and tricks.


Oxygen Absorbers


Additional insurance in storing food is adding an oxygen absorber to remove all oxygen from the package. This will help keep the food from oxidizing as well as suffocating any insect eggs that might try to hatch out in your food. Oxygen absorbers will also help prevent bacteria and mold from growing on your food. 


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Be sure to use the correct size oxygen absorber to the right size container. Here is a general rule of thumb to get you started: 


½ Pint Sized Mason Jar 50 cc

Pint Sized Mason Jar 100 cc

Quart Sized Mason Jar 200 cc

Gallon Sized Mason Jar 800 cc

5 Gallon Food Grade Bucket 2,000 cc


The only downside to using oxygen absorbers is once the package is opened, you have to put in a new absorber every time. 


Regardless of what you choose to store your food in, be sure to have a plan in place before you order. Otherwise you might risk your food getting contaminated or going bad before you have a chance to use it all up.


Finding Space to Store Food


If you’re anything like me you live in an exceptionally tiny house with too many people. This also throws a bit of a curve ball when it comes to storing food. I have found the best place to keep food grade buckets is in my basement. 


I have also been known to store food in nooks and crannies, like the ledge to the steps for my herbs. Or even tucking plastic bins under beds for food. 

If you have to spread food around the house, it is best to have an inventory sheet so you know exactly what you have and where you can find it quickly. 

As you grow your larder learn to rotate food, the oldest in the front and newest in the back to make sure you are keeping up with expiration dates. 

On my final post Bulk Buying 101 pt. 4 I will walk you through what to expect upon pick up day with your bulk order!

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