Long-Term Food Storage How To – Plastic Buckets, Oxygen Absorbers, Mylar Bags

Long term food storage plastic buckets

I store all my grains, beans, and other dry foods (besides sugar, salt, or sprouting seeds) inside food-grade five-gallon plastic buckets. There is some controversy over what is considered food grade. Most (but not all) buckets with #2 inside a small triangle on the bottom are food-grade. But the only way to be certain is to contact the manufacturer and ask.

You can also order food grade buckets directly from Amazon.com – click here to check the current price and availability.

I buy mine from the local hardware store in the paint department. They also have them at my Wal-Mart, but I prefer to buy from local business owners, if possible. Sometimes they can even be gathered free from bakeries and restaurants. Just make sure that they only contained food products, not paint, chemicals, or other things that can make you sick or dead.

Foods packed in oxygen do not store as well as those in an oxygen-free atmosphere. Oxygen absorbers (available from Amazon.com) work by removing the air from the enclosed container, leaving an atmosphere of 99% pure nitrogen in a partial vacuum inside the buckets.

Do not open the bag of oxygen absorbers until you’re ready to use it because they will absorb oxygen from the surrounding environment, rendering them useless. Have everything ready to go before you open the package. Any unused oxygen absorbers can be stored inside a small canning jar until needed.

Be sure to have everything ready to go before you start. Line the inside of the bucket with an appropriately sized Mylar bag (also available from Amazon.com). These help to keep light and moisture out, thereby extending the storage life of the foods inside. The Mylar bag also offers a layer of protection between the food and the plastic bucket, if for some reason the bucket that you are using is not food-grade.

Pour the food into the buckets a little at a time, shaking each bucket as it is being filled to settle and distribute the contents. Fill each bucket to about ½ inch from the top and throw in one 2000 cc oxygen absorber in each five-gallon bucket of food.

Sealing the Mylar bag is simple. First roll the top of the bag closed on one end, leaving an opening at the other. Then press out any air that is trapped inside. Next, place a 2×4 piece of wood across the top of the bucket, pull the Mylar bag over the 2×4, and seal it across the board with a clothing iron that is set at the highest setting.

Quickly put the lids on each bucket and pound shut by laying the board across the top and striking it with a hammer or rubber mallet (or use a Gamma Lid). After a few hours, the absorbers will create a vacuum that will cause the lids on the buckets to “pop down”, which indicates that there is a good seal and a proper atmosphere for long-term storage.

Be sure to label each bucket with a permanent marker with the date, contents, and weight written on the front.

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Please add your thoughts, comments, and long-term food storage tips below…


  1. Good article for beginners. I seal the Mylar bag 3/4 across top before I put in the oxygen absorber then press out air and then seal. Each bucket holds 33 pounds of grain so I buy 100 pounds (two 50 pound bags or four 25 pounds bags) and 3 buckets. Then fill and seal.

  2. Although I use a similar method for large quantities, I also package some bulk foods in smaller quantities. I use both gallon mylar bags and 1 quart plastic jars.

    The bags I get from Amazon have an open bottom and a “zip-lock” top ( https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007TLBEN0/ref=oh_aui_search_detailpage?ie=UTF8&psc=1). I load the bad, add an ozygen obsorber (300 or 500cc) and seal with a hot iron. Then when I go to use the product, I open it at the “zip-lock”, use what I need, then reseal the bag with the zip. I have not, to date, had anything go bad, they store well on a shelf or inside a tub, and I can put up smaller quantities at a time. I use a felt pen to write the contents and the date originally sealed on the outside of the bag. These work best for powdered items (like oatmeal and instant potatoes) for preventing punctures.

    Another way I have found here to store smaller quantities is with 1 quart sized plastic bottles with screw on lids. I get these by the case at Dollar Tree (for $1 each) (https://www.dollartree.com/Paw-Print-Plastic-Treat-Jars/p341907/index.pro) or (https://www.amazon.com/32oz-Clear-Plastic-Black-Ribbed/dp/B01N2TWKK0/ref=sr_1_36?ie=UTF8&qid=1532702406&sr=8-36&keywords=1+quart+storage) or use a similar sized square jar that I get nuts and chocolate covered raisins in from Costco. After filling these I put a bead of rubber cement around the lip of the jar, then put a square of wax paper over the opening, and screw on the lid. After 2-3 days the seal is set and I have found that the wax paper is slightly depressed. Again this works for us in the mountains (5,000 ft+) and may not last as long at lower altitude, higher average temps, or higher humidity. But it does not cost much to test it. I use this for pasta, instant rice, and beans.

  3. For regular bucket lids don’t forget a bucket lid wrench. It gets the lids off without damaging them.


    • Patientmomma:

      And although they stack nice and the weights are good, 4-gallon square buckets are a bugger to get the lids off of.

      I also have a gamma lid for the products I’m going to use regular (rice, wheat, oatmeal, etc.) so I can easily reseal the bucket.

  4. All great comments. I have yet to fill a bucket myself. I buy the prefilled buckets and probably pay quadruple the amount. One of my goals is to do this to add to my stockpile and save some money.

    I also try to shop local whenever possible. If I need a handyman, electrician or plumber I find a small local business versus the large businesses. I feel I’m helping the small business owners and helping my community. It’s a good feeling.

    • If I have to pay commercial price for buckets, Calrose (my preferred) rice runs me about $20/33-pound bucket (w/mylar bag and O2 absorber). The process takes me about 30 minutes to do.

      If I’m paying attention I can order 5-gallon buckets from a candy maker for January pickup for $2 each, with lid. That drops the cost to about $17/33-pound bucket after tax (we don’t have a sales tax). And they are better (heavier duty) buckets.

  5. I love pulling out freeze dried food getting it all ready and putting in oxygen absorbers. You know they aren’t any good when the red dot changes color from red to rust color. Ironically what is inside an oxygen absorber is iron powder……..

  6. Hello all, May I post a question the group? Some of you may have read a few of my diatribes about our misadventures living a semi-retired life in the Philippines. It is rare to find any products here that preppers will need for food storage. Shipping on products purchased online from overseas is most often cost prohibitive. Now, years ago I read of folks that would use a small piece of dry ice (frozen CO2 gas) in a bucket. The dry ice displaces the oxygen-containing air as it melts. I also read of a few folks using nitrogen gas to displace the air in a bucket before sealing. I would like to ask if any of the group have any real-life experience with these alternate procedures? How did it work out? Perhaps a shorter storage life but far superior to not protecting the storage foods? Shielding gas and the like would be no problem for us to obtain here.

  7. I have gotten quite a few food grade buckets by going to the deli/bakery section of Walmart and local grocery stores and asking for their empty icing buckets from cake/doughnut making at the stores. You know they are food grade because they held food previously (icing). A little elbow grease to clean them up and instant free bucket. On top of using them for storing foods, can be used for growing plants that you don’t want in the regular ground, put a toilet lid on and a plastic bag inside and you have a instant toilet, could be used to store all kinds of stuff that you want in a waterproof container….plastic buckets are great to have.

  8. I can see the oxygen absorber removing the oxygen from the bag, which shouldn’t have a lot in it anyway because we squeeze as much as possible out before sealing. But how does the sealed, in the bag, oxygen absorber remove the oxygen in the bucket to cause the lid to pop down indicating a good seal?