Recently I was asked on a forum I frequent how I manage to store food. I responded with the usual "budget your food dollar carefully, etc", but that was not the question...What they (patiently explained) meant was:
"What storage methods do you use that don't break the bank?"
Not everyone can afford to buy #10 cans of wheat and rice or 5 gallon buckets of beans from a friendly internet operation or an LDS cannery. Some folks don't have a food saver sealer and can't afford one.
Well, for a very long time, I have used *found* items to store food in. I recycle almost every container I get!
Pickle jars, Mayo jars, Salad Dressing bottles, 2 liter bottles, buckets from a local bakery, etc.
Although I have explained some of this before, I am going to go over it again for those that haven't been reading my blog for too long.
Two liter soda bottles. They are EVERYWHERE! If your household does not drink soda, ask friends or neighbors to save them for you.
Preparing the bottle:
First, scald out your bottles. Run your house tap water as hot as it will get, or heat up water on the stove until it is too hot to touch. Put about 2 cups of the very hot water in the bottle, shake up the bottle and then pour out water. You may have to do this 2 or 3 times if there is dried soda residue in the bottom of the bottle. Scald the screw on tops as well and set them aside to dry! After you scald out the bottles, drain out all the water from them you can and then set them somewhere to dry. Be patient...drying can take 2 to 4 days, depending on the humidity and temperature.
After bottles are dry, you will need Bay Leaves. These lovely leaves are necessary to prevent an invasion of mites, bug larvae, etc in your stored food. Just buy a few bags or a large bottle of them in the spice section of your local grocery. Dried bay leaves are fairly inexpensive and well worth the investment!
Put one or two bay leaves in the bottle, then commence filling the bottle with what you plan to store. I have used this method to store: Rice, Beans, Flour, Salt (bay leaves not necessary for salt), wheat, instant potato flakes and dried/powdered milk.
A funnel is a good idea. I make my own from poster board or heavy paper so they will fit snugly in the bottle.
Fill the bottle to within about and inch from the top, drop in another one or two bay leaves and then fill all the way to the top and CAP VERY TIGHTLY. You may even want to dip the top of the bottle in melted bees wax to get a complete seal, or tightly wrap some duct tape around the cap to ensure there is no way air or humidity can leak in and ruin your efforts.
Store bottles in a cool dry place.
I have had rice and beans stored this way for 15 years and they tasted just fine!
Ziplock Storage method.
Ziplock bags are a great way to store some foods, especially if you do not have a Food Saver sealing unit.
I normally use the quart size or bigger FREEZER bags as they are sturdy...and sturdy is good, for our purposes.
For flour, again, drop in a couple of bay leaves, put in the amount of flour that can be comfortably stored in the bag that will allow you to close it and seal it.As you seal, make sure you get out as much air as possible. NOW, put that bag inside another one and seal the second bag (I know, I know, seems wasteful to use two bags, but I am overly cautious!) Using duct tape (I loves me some duct tape!) seal the second bag with that.
I also use Ziplock bags to store sugar, pasta, and other dried goods.I usually line a cardboard box with a white unscented trash bag , put my bags in there, fold the trash bag over them and then seal the box up.
Again, store in a cool dry place.
I LOVE all the little *odds and ends* jars I end up with! Pickle and mayo jars, jelly and jam jars...glass jars with good lids are such a good thing!
I store spices in them, homemade mixes for 15 bean soup, my chicken fry breading, my homemade hot chocolate mixes, popcorn (I buy the unpopped old fashioned stuff in a bag), dry pasta, odds and ends of various dry goods when it is too much to toss to the chickens but not quite enough to do anything with. I just add to the jar until it is enough to do something with!
I have a few 1 gallon picle jars that I use to make kim-chi. They work just great!
I get used 5 gallon buckets (for free!) from a local bakery. They even save the lids for me! These are great for bulk food storage of beans, rice and wheat. Most people advocate using dry ice to evacuate the oxygen, but I just never have the transportation or funds to scamper around town looking for dry ice!
I scrub those suckers out very well. First a rinse with scalding water to get any and all food debris out. Then a soapy wash. Then I put in 1/4 cup of bleach and fill to the top with scalding water, let set about 2 hours and then rinse it like crazy with hot water. Finally, I dry it out and let it set overnight to make sure it is dry.
My method is (wait for it...), I get some bay leaves (you knew that was coming, didn't you?), drop 5 or 6 in the bottom of the bucket, fill it halfway with the item I am storing, drop in a few more bay leaves, fill it to the top and drop a few more bay leaves on top. I then put the top on and seal it with (here it comes again!) duct tape.
My main expenses for food storage materials are Bay leaves, Duct Tape and Ziplock Freezer Bags. And the scalding hot water, too, I guess!
Food storage does not require exotic supplies or unlimited funds. Using what you already have access to, you can start and maintain a good food storage system. All these containers will fit quite nicely in the bottom of a closet, under a bed, where-ever, so it doesn't require a massive *food bunker* to have a decent amount of food stored.
Remember to rotate your food storage, too. Store what you eat and eat what you store, people!