There are many types of food storage containers. In this article, we will examine each type and explain the pros and cons of each.
You must use food grade containers for storing food. The reason is that you don’t want chemicals in the food reacting with the material that the storage container is made out of. Common food storage containers are five gallon buckets, metal cans, and glass jars.
Five gallon buckets that are made of food grade plastic work very well for storing food. Remember you must have buckets that are made from food grade plastic. If other types of buckets are used, they may impart an off taste to the food being stored. This is not very appealing and I don’t recommend it. Plus, the chemicals in the food may react with the sides of the container and impart more than an off taste to the food.
Food grade buckets can be purchased from a supply house. I have used the Ropak brand for years, and they work very well. However, Ropak is a manufacturer, and to buy directly from them, you will have to buy a palette worth of buckets. So, you may want to do this with a few friends so you can split the cost.
What’s nice about these buckets is that they have a gasket in the lid that keeps it sealed while in storage. So, if you use nitrogen to pack the food in the buckets, it will stay in the bucket for years, or as long as the gasket is good. I have buckets that have been store for fifteen years and have never had a problem with them.
There is one important thing you must remember with these buckets. You don’t want to stack many of them on top of each other. In other words, when you stack two buckets, the well in lid of the bucket on the floor is the same size as the bottom of the bucket on top, so there will be no slippage of the top bucket off of the bottom one. The problem is that over time, the weight of the top bucket can break the lid of the bottom bucket, causing all sorts of problems such as loss of atmosphere, contamination, insect infestation, and other undesirable things.
Personally, I learned about the problems with stacking buckets in the beginning of my food storage career, so I have never had the problem. As a result, I can not tell you how many buckets you can stack on each other without breaking any of the lids. I built shelves where the space between the shelves is just big enough for one bucket. That way, I have never had any problems. But these shelves are very substantial and were built specifically for this purpose.
Glass jars are a very popular method of storing food. Most grocery stores sell canning jars, so they are not hard to come by. You may consider the cost of home canning equipment to be initially expensive, but the advantage is that the jars can be used over and over, as long as the mouth is still in good shape (no chips or cracks). However, the lids cannot be used over. Some people may say that you can use them over, but don’t believe them. Trying to use lids over will just cause you a lot of wasted time and headaches. Yes, in the beginning I tried it, but it just caused me a lot of grief.
Canning lids are actually comprised of two parts, a ring and a lid. The ring holds the lid down on the jar. I think it is a good idea to store some canning rings and lids in addition to your food, so you will always have a supply on hand. You will also need a pressure cooker to seal the jars. There are various types available along with lots of information on learning how to do home canning.
Metal cans are another very popular method of food storage. The metal cans used in the canning industry for wet-pack canning are designed to last only for a few years. So, canned goods must be rotated frequently to keep the stock healthy.
If you decide to buy empty metal cans and a can sealer, and do the canning yourself, you will find that they are not as easy to come by, and are somewhat expensive. Members of the Mormon Church have been storing food in cans for years and are very experienced at it. Their canning facilities have all the necessary equipment to do this. However, if you don’t have access to one of these facilities, you will have to acquire the equipment yourself. This can be costly, and you will have to determine if the cost is worth it to you or not.
No. 10 metal cans are popular in the long term food storage industry, probably because they are a good size for food storage. One benefit of these cans is that they are lined with a special liner that does not react with the food. Mountain House foods packs their freeze dried food in No. 10 cans that have enamel on the inside and outside of the can AND lid.
No. 10 cans packaged by the manufacturer will also have the correct type of inert atmosphere that doesn’t react with the food, and will be sealed properly. Once these cans have been opened, they can not be resealed. In the case of Mountain House food, a plastic lid is supplied to reseal after use. The manufacturer recommends that the contents of the can be used with two to three weeks after opening. Also, you should treat any leftover prepared food as you would treat fresh food
I believe that diversification is good when you are putting together a food storage program for your family. I think it is good to have food storage comprised of No. 10 cans, 5 gallon buckets, home-canned jars, and store-bought canned goods. I personally have all four types, and like the versatility of having all of them.
If I was just starting to create a food storage program for my family, I would start with a commercially-packaged food unit comprised of No. 10 cans. Yes, you will have to pay some money, but it is the quickest way to start a food storage program for your family. Some manufacturers like Mountain House, offer food that has a 25 year plus shelf life! Since Mountain House has been around for over forty years, they can actually state that their food has been shown to last more than 30 years. They know because they’ve stored food that long and tested it.
After you get a food unit comprised of No. 10 cans and have some store-bought canned goods, you can expand your food storage to include 5 gallon buckets, and home-canned jars.