14 January 2011

Food Storage Friday - Food Grade Storage

When you are working on your food storage, there comes a time when you'll probably end up buying something in bulk: IE a larger package than what you usually purchase. Maybe you just stumbled onto a really great deal like 50 pounds of rice for $10. Even if it's a dry good, once you open that package, you need to store the contents properly, or they will go bad quickly!

The cheapest way to store your food is to re-use containers. I've read of folks re-using even cleaned out 2 litre soda bottles to store rice and beans. Whatever container you are thinking about using, you need to step back and ask yourself:

*Will I be storing this long term? (more than 6 months) If yes, watch that plastic! Remember that plastic can begin to leach chemicals into your food. Try to choose plastic containers that are BPA free. Make sure that any container you re-use is considered food grade. (For instance, those cat litter buckets are NOT food grade. The water I store in my former cat litter jugs are for flushing only around here) It may not seem like a big deal at first, but those chemicals can affect your health and even your kid's fertility down the road. Be smart, only use appropriate containers for food storage!

I've mentioned on here before that I use 3 and 5 gallon buckets for some of my food storage. You can snag these for free or very cheap from bakeries and some restaurants. You'll need to wash them out yourself even if they look clean (you never know!!) I just used a bit of Dawn (or baking soda) and let it soak for a few hours with the soapy water before rinsing it very well. You can even run the lids and smaller buckets through your dishwasher to be sure they are sterile. Before filling any buckets, be 100% sure that they are completely dry. I like to wait a few days before filling any of my plastic containers after washing to be sure. For my large buckets, I use the Ziploc big bags inside the buckets to help keep things tidy and to have an extra layer of protection for my food. They are available in three different sizes, and I usually use the XL ones for 5 gallon buckets.

Plastic storage jars can be had for very cheap at places like your local dollar store (see this post about a great snag at Dollar Tree), but again, watch those plastics. Some places still get pickles and/or peppers in large glass jars - if you are like me and prefer glass as much as possible, you may want to try asking any local sandwich shops if they have leftover glass jars you can have or buy.

About those white paint buckets that look like food storage buckets: This is something that has been debated probably on every food storage site and forum! Here's the thing: many of them could be considered food grade BUT they weren't made for that purpose. Look for buckets that have HDPE (high density polyethylene) stamped on them, or a recycle symbol with a "2" in the middle. You can always call the manufacturer of those buckets that you find like that, and ask them if their buckets are considered food grade (all this has to do with chemicals used in the "molding" of the buckets) - but my honest opinion is that with all the possible sources of free buckets out there, skip yourself the hassle of all this. Plus, those buckets can cost around $5 plus the lid - almost the same price as food grade buckets from a site like beprepared.com (who has free shipping on your order over $30 this month when you order online through their nifty Food Storage Analyzer!) Right now a 5 gallon bucket plus the lid is $7.95. If you buy 10 (share an order with someone!), they are $7 each.

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