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By Kellene Bishop

I’ve have to admit I’ve got buckets on the brain right now. A friend suggested that I share with you why that’s the case. To put it simply it could just be because that’s how I alleviate anxiety. But for some of you, buckets may be a way to peacefully organize your storage items, including food and preparedness supplies, in a more strategic manner.

5 Gallon Buckets with Gamma Lid photo c/o Home Food Storage

5 Gallon Buckets with Gamma Lid photo c/o Home Food Storage

I’ve stored food, medical, camping, and many other supplies in plastic buckets for as long as I can remember. They are tough enough to store nails in and very versatile. If there ever is a flood, I’ve ensured that a lot of the supplies in buckets will be undamaged, and if there is an earthquake, a great deal of the items will stay in tact and unbroken. I make sure that I use food-grade buckets only. When it comes to the lids, I use regular 5 gallon lids, but I have several gamma lids also. I replace the old lid with a gamma lid once I’m getting into the bucket regularly for items such as wheat, beans, and rice. The gamma lids have a great seal on the bucket, but can be easily unscrewed in the inner circle of the lid for my use. The gamma lids cost about $5 to $7, so that’s why I don’t just use them on all of my buckets. The 5-gallon buckets also have “toilet seats” for emergency sanitation. (I’d like to pat the guy on the back who came up with that idea.) I’ve been using 5 gallon buckets to store a great deal of my items almost exclusively until about 2 years ago. That’s when I discovered the 4 gallon square bucket.

4 Gallon Square Bucket with Flip Top Lid

4 Gallon Square Bucket with Flip Top Lid

Although only 42 years old, it doesn’t take much for me to throw my back out, so hefting a 5 gallon bucket isn’t exactly my favorite thing to do. Also, when I see a group of round buckets, I can’t help but notice the space I’m wasting—both inside and outside the buckets. So when I discovered 4 gallon square buckets, my biggest concerns were alleviated. They are manageable to lift, they store nice and tight with the wall and other items, and are easy to fill more thoroughly. They can also stack about 6 or 8 high comfortably (depending on the weight of the contents). While there isn’t a “gamma lid” contraption for the square buckets, there are rubber sealed lids with essentially a flip open top. Much like I use the gamma seal lids, I use these more rugged lids in place of the standard ones when I’m regularly using the contents of a square bucket. They even have a nice little “stay open” feature when I’m scooping contents out. Then all I have to do is snap the lid back into place.

Since discovering the 4 gallon square bucket, I’ve begun using them even more than before. One way I utilize them is by storing all of the contents of a particular meal in a bucket along with the recipe. This way, I don’t have to go hunting for the various ingredients when I go down to my pantry. And in the event of a survival situation, I can give myself some peace of mind without having to stress “what will I cook?” since I label the buckets according to the meals that are inside. Sometimes I have enough for 20 servings in each bucket, sometimes 50. It all depends on how “ingredient intensive” the meal is. For example, for my Chicken Poppy Seed casserole, I put the Rice-A-Roni in a FoodSaver bag (in its original box), along with the cans of chicken, cream of chicken soup, Ritz crackers, poppy seeds, powdered sour cream, salt, and pepper with a large label on the bucket that says “Chicken Poppy Seed Casserole.” I’ve created several recipes for items which are “pantry friendly” that I know the hubby and others already love and have buckets of these meals stored accordingly. Can I just tell you what kind of a peace it gives me to go into the pantry and see buckets of meals that actually sound good and are easy to make? I mean really, which would you rather see? A bucket labeled “wheat” or a bucket labeled “Beef Stroganoff?” 🙂

When I use items from the buckets (which I do all of the time) I simply replace the ingredients with future grocery shopping trips OR with other items I have in my supplies. Either way, what I don’t want is a false sense of security when I see labeled buckets. I want to know I can rely on them to have the meals inside. It’s also MUCH easier to take a semi-annual accounting this way.

Stacking Square Buckets photo c/o Preparedness Pro

Stacking Square Buckets photo c/o Preparedness Pro

Buckets are also great to keep other types of contents in them. For example, I’m frequently getting good deals on small bottles of olive oil. (Thank you, coupons!) Instead of stacking them on a shelf and leaving them to the wiles of an earthquake, I wrap them up with newspaper (again–thanks to coupons) and place them in a bucket marked “olive oil.” (Yes, I came up with that brilliant label all by myself. Hee hee.) Now, with these square buckets full of olive oil, I can easily and securely stack them on top of each other. Whereas with my large containers of olive oil that I got from a warehouse, all I can do is have their big selves take up space on the shelf or floor in a single layer. That sure is a waste of height, don’t you think? This way I’m not forced to shell out for expensive shelving for everything. The same goes with BBQ sauce, spices, salad dressings, etc. Some items simply come in awkward sizes and shapes, but the buckets sure make things nice and organized for me. Since I don’t buy my items “by the case” usually, I can’t store them that way. 

Here’s another thought. If I had only a day’s notice to move all of my things, wouldn’t it be a heck of a lot easier to take buckets out of the pantry than stopping to pack regular sized bottles or boxes of food and supplies?

I also use buckets for storing medical and hygiene items, as well as groups of supplies such as cheese waxing, egg preservation, sewing, dental, etc. This prevents me from purchasing or paying “too much”. What I mean by that is when I see deodorant on sale for 59 cents, I may think that’s a good deal. But when I go downstairs and see two buckets marked “deodorant,” I’m easily reminded that anything more than FREE is a bit expensive to me. In other words, when I know I’ve got a bucket full of a particular hygiene or medical item, chances are I already have enough and don’t need to spend the money.

Now remember, you can put diatomaceous earth IN your buckets of goods and prevent the insect critters from bothering anything. I would definitely put the DE in the bucket if it’s a grain, legume, rice, or pasta. But when you have a cluster of buckets full of items that don’t already come with their own supply of insects *grin*, then you can simply sprinkle DE around your grouping of buckets instead of putting it inside of them.

Where do you find these buckets? There’s several options. “Wally World” sells them, but I hate their prices. You can easily get used buckets that were used for food grade purposes. During the harvest season you can get them directly from fruit growers for 50 cents or so. You can also obtain them from bakeries in your local grocery stores for FREE. So try making a few calls and make the most of those options first. However, in many areas I’ve lived, getting them year round has been a challenge. Thus I’m in love with Five Star Preparedness as my bucket source for this reason. They have used, 4-gallon, food grade buckets all the time, and tons of them too. (You can get about 25-28 pounds of grain and such in each bucket.) Each used bucket and lid are $2 each. They guarantee that each bucket and lid will be in sound condition or they will replace it cheerfully. Even better, for those of you who are in Utah or who come through the area, if you pick up the buckets yourself they are only $1.50. They will ship them in increments of 10 all over the continental U.S. with no additional handling charge. Another option is that you can have them make a massive delivery to your area based on a minimum bucket order. Apparently they frequently have church and community groups that request these by the hundreds. The minimum bucket count for the order depends on where they are being delivered. You can also get the new lids that I mentioned as well for only $2. I found these same lids at “Wally world” for more than 3 times their price! You can e-mail them at fulfillment [at] fivestarpreparedness [dot] com or you can call them during business hours at 801-734-9596 (which is answered in the same office as our executive answering service in Utah.)

So now perhaps you’ll look at buckets a bit more differently. Didn’t you know? Plastic is the new gold? 🙂

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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By Kellene Bishop

As you all know, I’m big into using coupons to build up my food and other emergency preparedness supplies. With the coupon culture comes some unexpected consequences that one may not anticipate. The most obvious consequence is that I buy a lot of the smaller containers as opposed to the large, warehouse size. The good news is that smaller containers are actually a good way to store your food in preparation for an emergency. In an emergency survival situation, smaller is definitely better. Here’s why.

Post Cereals on display in Palo Alto, CA. Photo c/o AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Post Cereals on display in Palo Alto, CA. Photo c/o AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Smaller is Better Reason #1: Cost. We all know that you usually get better value on bigger containers of an item. However, when it comes to using coupons, I’d much rather get 5 free small jars of mayonnaise than pay over $5 for a large one. Most coupons do not come with size restrictions on when you can use them. Some do exclude use on trial/travel size, but not all of the time. And most coupons only require that you buy at least their smallest “regular” sized item in order to use the coupon. So let’s compare for a moment. The other day I got 5 boxes of Post Raisin Bran for 88 cents each in the 20 oz. size. The Raisin Bran cost 04 cents per ounce. Now, at Costco, I could get it for 15 cents per ounce. (Keep in mind there’s a membership involved to get that price as well.) So, perhaps now you can better understand why I believe that I can’t afford to shop at the warehouses in most cases. I reserve my warehouse spending to meats, cheeses, eggs, and perhaps some other specialty items like the tarps I like so much at Costco. At least these items can be canned or otherwise preserved. Even then, I still keep my eyes open with the coupon usage in regular grocery stores. I got a gallon and a half of milk for only 17 cents and 2 pounds of block cheese for $2.99 the other day. Costco and Sam’s Club can’t match that.

Condiment Packets photo c/o clubheinz.com

Condiment Packets photo c/o clubheinz.com

Smaller is Better Reason #2: Waste. Obviously in the event of a long-term emergency survival situation, we will be without the luxury of refigeration. This is another reason I’m a big advocate of buying small. When I open a warehouse size of Miracle Whip in the midst of an emergency, I’d better plan on using it all to feed an army or throwing it out due to spoilage. However, when I open a small 15 oz. jar of Miracle Whip, it’s probably just the right amount for a pasta salad or white sauce. I am also a big advocate of saving small condiment packets you are given at the fast food restaruants. I’ve got a lot of salt, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, relish, and other items this way, so when I want ketchup for a sandiwch, I don’t have to open an entire jar. I can just open a couple of condiment packages instead. No wasting. No refrigeration necessary.

Smaller is Better Reason #3: Trade. Just as I advised my clients to only keep small bills of U.S. currency on hand for an emergency, the same goes for food items as well. It’s a heck of a lot easier to trade a small can of tuna for what you may need rather than trying to get the best bang for your buck with a large warehouse size of it. In a time of emergency in which food, water, and ammo is king, you may have a hard time “finding a market” for trading your larger items for something that you really need, and thus you’re likely to “under trade” for it. 

Smaller is Better Reason #4: Portability. I’d much rather stuff a small can of Vienna Sausages and a couple packages of ketchup in my travel pack than a big 24 oz. container of chicken and a large bottle of ranch dressing, wouldn’t you? In an emergency, even if you have to leave your home temporarily during the day, you shouldn’t do it without some food and water supplies on you. You may be able to assist someone you find along the way, or you may get held up somewhere as well. Regardless, it’s obvious that the smaller containers will travel better than the large ones.

Square Bucket Storage photo c/o Preparedness Pro

Square Bucket Storage photo c/o Preparedness Pro

Smaller is Better Reason #5: Storage. It’s easier for me to safely store a lot of little items in containers and place on the shelf rather than large items. For example, when I find a great sale on plastic bins, I’ll take them home and stuff them with toothpaste, or mustard bottles or baby wipes. I’m able to get a heck of a lot more in that enclosed container than I would be able to stack on the shelf or slide under the bed and have them remain there–organized. Given that we’re all struggling to find room for everything, the easier storage component of the smaller items shouldn’t be underestimated.

Dollar for dollar, I’ve discovered that the smaller items make more sense for an emergency. Smaller definitely is better in an emergency. 

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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Yes, You Can Find Space
By Kellene Bishop

We’ve all thought it.  “Where in the world would I put a years supply of food storage?!”  Unfortunately, such a question leads many to not even attempt to be prepared for an emergency.

55 Gallon Water Barrels

55 Gallon Water Barrels

When it comes to having somewhere to put your emergency preparedness supplies, it usually boils down to priorities.  I know you don’t want to hear that, and I realize this isn’t ALWAYS the case.  But throughout my emergency preparedness consulting, I’ve always been able to find “more room” for emergency preparedness—even in a small studio apartment.  The ultimate question you have to ask yourself is how important those emergency preparedness supplies are.  I understand a 55 gallon water barrel doesn’t usually match anyone’s décor.  But do you really think you’re going to care about that when your family needs food, water, or medical supplies?  Grant it, you could be artistically inclined and perhaps arrange the canned goods against your wall to resemble a Van Gogh, but I’m not talking about getting quite that creative.  

I understand when you have a 500 square foot apartment, space is limited.  But the question is limited to “what”.  While not everyone has a basement, storage rooms, or large pantries, I’ve been in big beautiful homes decorated to the hilt and have been told by the owners that they don’t have food storage because “they don’t have room.”  Geesh.  Clearly, I’m not talking to those people here.  I’m speaking to those who actually want to do something to better prepare their family for an emergency.  My hope is that you rethink your priorities of the storage of other items in your home and perhaps help you uncover some problem solving skills.  Here are a few additional suggestions on storing your emergency preparedness supplies.

  1. “Under the Bed” Storage.  I have yet to look under someone’s bed and not see stuff underneath it.  But it’s usually “stuff” that isn’t life saving or providing any semblance of security.  You can store an entire years’ food supply for one person underneath a twin sized bed.  Now, presuming that everyone in your home has a bed to sleep on, this can easily take care of your storage requirements.  I don’t recommend storing just the food storage for one person underneath their bed.  Instead, I would put the powdered milk and wheat under one bed, for example, pasta and beans under another.  For the record, I’m not saying to substitute your bed frame with your food storage.  I’ve seen folks do that.  When push comes to shove, I’m all about a comfortable nights sleep, and I’m not sure wheat bags are intended for that.  🙂
  2. Store things you don't use often in the garage. Photo c/o greendarlingblog.com

    Store things you don't use often in the garage. Photo c/o greendarlingblog.com

    Stuff the Cupboards.  You’ve already got food in your cupboards, but are they really full to the max?  I see a lot of homes that don’t maximize the use of their existing cupboard space.  Instead of using the space under your kitchen sink for detergents, use it for more practical purposes like Tupperware stuffed with pasta, legumes, etc.  Store those big kitchen gadgets like the George Foreman grill you don’t use very often in the shed or garage.  I assure you it’s equipped to handle the heat, whereas your supplies necessary for chicken ala queen can use that valuable space inside.  Maximize the cabinet space you already do have with emergency preparedness items.  These should be a priority for you. When you see space in your pantry or cupboards, think about what you could be storing there in the form of food storage.  Behind our towels in the linen closet you’ll find dried peaches.  In the corner of the entry closet you’ll find salt, powdered milk, and some other items.  Finding space for items is a lot easier after you’ve obtained them.  And acquiring them will do more to help you and your family. 🙂

  3. Compact Loose Items.  I store a great deal of items in used 4 gallon plastic square buckets.  They’re great for organization but also because I get the benefit of available height without spending a lot of money on shelves.  Besides, in the event of an earthquake, the square containers are waterproof and can take a bit of a beating, protecting what’s inside.  
    Square Buckets photo by Preparedness Pro

    Square Buckets photo by Preparedness Pro

    These square buckets can be obtained for free from bakeries and restaurants and they don’t waste any space like the 5 gallon circular ones.  I store ingredients for specific meals in them as well as specific categories like dental, pain relievers, bandages and pasta.  This way I don’t have loose pieces cluttering up space.  Minimizing loose pieces actually creates more space.  You’ll be surprised what you can store in a closet from floor to ceiling when you use these square buckets.  Just like you can utilize space under the beds, you can also utilize space at the back of deep cabinets, under the stairs, under the deck, the back of the shed, behind the couch, under the desk, in the crawl space, on the back porch, and in every closet in your home with these square buckets without intruding on the rest of your space.  

    For those of you who don’t want to go around asking for free buckets and cleaning them out, check out The Bucket Guy.  (They also have a great price on zip-lock Mylar bags and 1500 cc oxygen absorbers.)  Tell them that you heard of them through Preparedness Pro for a discount below what they advertise on their site. 

    Ultimately square buckets are about making the most of your existing space.  Other sturdy, square containers will accomplish this as well.  I don’t recommend using cardboard though—it’s not as sturdy or reliable against bugs, kids, and moisture.

  4. The "Waterbed" photo by Preparedness pro

    The "Waterbed" photo by Preparedness Pro

    Get Creative.  There are a couple of “crazies” out there who bury their food storage out in the back yard, but I strongly advise against this.  Why?  Because in an emergency you need to conserve your physical energy.  Having to locate and dig up your food just to survive is a bad way to use your energy.  Plus you have to be really, really careful how you store it underground so it doesn’t leak or get underground “yuck” in it as well.  (Let’s not call them crazy. Let’s just call them zealous.)  As you can see in the picture, my husband got a bit zealous himself and put several 55 gallon drums of water under a mattress set we have in a spare bedroom.  We affectionately call this our “waterbed”.  I cleaned out a great deal of scrapbooking supplies to make more room for a lot of freeze-dried foods I purchased on sale.  On the other hand, for years I had a round piece of wood covered with beautiful circular tablecloth at both ends of my sofa in the living room.  These full water barrels were the most “kid proof” furniture I owned.  And they weren’t unsightly in the least.You can always “hide” food storage with a full length curtain from the floor to the ceiling or some sort of a room divider.  I also like to hang things from the ceiling.  In fact, for years my husband had shelves hanging from the rafters in the basement with chains.  Now he has bunk beds going the entire length of the room and we use that as shelving.  This way we not only have the maximum amount of storage space, but in unfortunate circumstances, we also have more room for others to sleep.  

    You can also stack plywood boards and #10 cans or 4/5 gallon buckets on top of each other to make shelving, too.  In other words, your food and emergency supplies ARE your shelving.

    I also make use of the space behind a door and attach hanging door shelves on the backs of them.  Again, the key is to look at all of the unused space in your home and get creative with it.

  5. Use Your Outdoor Space. There are many items that can actually be stored outdoors, such as medical supplies, pasta, rice, water (so long as you leave room in the container for expansion), fuels, etc.  You can also store food storage sealed in #10 cans outside that are coated with double enamel.  They will only rust if they are dented.  My husband and I also obtain used 50 gallon barrels from a local cannery (for free) and store extra clothing, sleeping bags, pillows, etc inside after sealing them in bags that suck all of the air out of things.  (I know, eloquent, eh?)  That’s a whole lot of space that you can make available from within your home simply by transferring appropriate items outdoors.

Mind you, I can be a creative “pack rat.”  When my husband and I got married I was living in an 800 sq. foot apartment, but when we moved into our new home it still required a full-sized moving truck to transport everything.  Many close friends helped us load the truck that day.  Time and time again these same friends who frequented my home asked me where in the world I had all this stuff “hiding.”  I was still able to have an inviting home in spite of my food storage.  

Bottom line, if you WANT to store precious goods to help you and your family in an emergency, you will find a way to do it.  Really.  I’m not saying you haven’t wanted to up to this point.  But I hope I’ve helped you ask yourself the right questions to make it a higher priority. 

Copyright 2009 Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.  All rights reserved.  You are welcome to repost this information so long as it is credited to Preparedness Pro & Kellene Bishop.

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