Here’s What You Need To Know About Containers

You stock up on extra food when you go to the grocery store. You buy the bulk-sized bags of rice, flour and sugar. You dry your own spices and want to make sure that they stay fresh.

But what containers should you use? Is any old container good enough or are there ones that you should avoid? Are certain containers good for some foods but not others?

When stockpiling, there are a lot of questions to ask about containers for your own food safety, but they are easy to find if you read the following article.


{adinserter survivalmd}The first thing that you need to know is that many plastics contain BPA, or bisphenol A. This is an industrial chemical that has been used in many different types of plastic containers, including water bottles and food storage containers, since the 1960’s. BPA is found in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.

Epoxy resins are typically used to line the cans of canned foods, water lines and even reusable water bottle lids. This is one of the reasons that you should never use a can of food that has a dent; the epoxy lining may be damaged and leech the BPA into your foods.

Heck, it may do it anyway. This is also the reason that many people have switched to stainless steel water bottles. Fortunately, most stores now offer BPA-free water bottles. If you’re wondering if your plastic container has BPA in it, look at the plastic recycling code on it; if it has a 7, then the container likely has BPA in it.

Obviously, you want to avoid storing your foods in this container. BPA leakage is especially likely if the container gets warm, such as if it sits in the sun or is left in your car on a warm day. BPA has been banned in Canada as a toxic substance and the FDA is looking into it here in the states. However, it’s not banned yet so look at that code.


Food-Grade Plastic Containers

Some containers, especially buckets are perfectly fine for mixing cement in but aren’t safe to store food in. 5-gallon buckets are perfectly acceptable to use to store food such as dried goods in as long as it’s a food-safe container. You can often get these for free from restaurants. Foods such as pickles, flour, cake icing and other bulk food items frequently come in these and they’re food grade.

Even though plastic food containers such as the ones that you use to put leftovers in may be perfectly safe to store foods in short-term, most of them aren’t air-tight and therefore will let air and moisture in. That makes them unsuitable for use as a long-term stockpiling storage container. You want all plastic containers to be airtight.

Another question that we often get is about 50-gallon water storage containers. These, too, should be made of food-safe plastic and shouldn’t have ever had anything other than food (preferably water) stored inside of them. Old oil barrels just won’t cut it even if you clean them over and over again.

Plastic is, to a certain degree, porous and can absorb whatever is stored in it. Just take a look at that leftover container that held spaghetti sauce for a couple of days!

Glass Jars
jar-106855_1920Re-using glass jars such as pickle jars is a great way to keep that item out of a landfill while keeping your food in an airtight container but remember that the epoxy in the lid may contain BPA. This might not be horrible if you’re storing dried goods in it but you probably should check to see if it DOES contain BPA before storing liquids in it.

Mason jars are a great choice for storing both dry foods and liquids in. Now that they have reusable seals, they’re an even better option for stockpiling because if SHTF, you can reuse the seals over and over. They’re practically indestructible as long as you follow the directions that come with them.

Many people worry that glass jars contain lead but manufacturers stopped that practice nearly 100 years ago. Unless you have some REALLY old glass jars, you’re good. However, crystal is another matter, but you’re probably not thinking about stockpiling any food in grandma Ellie’s punch bowl.

Stainless Steel

This has less to do about storing food and more to do with the PROCESS of storing food. Stainless steel ustensils are the best ones to use during canning because they won’t melt and they don’t leech anything into your food.

We’ve already discussed one reason why you shouldn’t use plastic, and here’s another. Plastic can only take so much heat before it melts. You probably don’t want plastic remnants in your strawberry jam.

Aluminum utensils can leech aluminum into your foods, especially if they’re acidic. Aluminum is pretty controversial now as some studies are linking it to everything from cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. In most cases, the studies aren’t well built or are used on a limited amount of test subjects over a short period of time, but still, I recommend avoiding using aluminum utensils just because stainless steel is readily available, more durable and doesn’t add anything extra to any of your foods. At the very least, aluminum can leave a weird metallic taste in some of your foods.

Wooden casks are OK to store your homemade wine or liquor in as long as it’s untreated and made specifically for such a use. You don’t want to use any kind of lumber that’s been treated with chemicals to store your food in.

Be careful when using wooden cutting boards to prepare food that you’re canning. You don’t ever want to chop fruits or veggies on a board that you’ve chopped raw meat on because the bacteria in the raw meat can soak down into the wood and contaminate whatever you use on it next. Use bleach water at a 10:1 ratio (10 parts water to 1 part bleach) to clean these surfaces and let the bleach set on it for a few minutes so that it can seep into the wood to kill any bacteria. Then let the board air dry until it’s completely dry.

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As a final safeguard, regardless of what you’re storing your foods in, keep them in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight. This will keep any kind of condensation from forming inside the container and it will also help keep your jar seals nice and tight so that you don’t have to worry about losing your hard-earned canned goods.

If you have any other advice to offer about long-term food storage for stockpiling, please tell us about it in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Written by

Theresa Crouse is a full-time writer currently living in central Florida. She was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, where she learned to farm, hunt, fish, and live off the land from an early age. She prefers to live off the grid as much as possible and does her best to follow the “leave nothing behind but footprints” philosophy. For fun, she enjoys shooting, kayaking, tinkering on her car and motorcycle, and just about anything else that involves water, going fast, or the outdoors.

Latest comments
    • Hi …. in reading your posts, you generally do a fine job of giving helpful survival prep info. Where this article is amiss is do to its slant toward selling Survivopedia’s line of freeze dried food. Absent from the article is any mention of mylar bags/O2 absorbers, dehydration, or the fact that no plastic is airtight as air molecules are smaller than plastic molecules and will penetrate over time. I’m sure you want to be known for you credibility. This article fell short in that area.

  • Your posts are an education in survival. This last one on storage,is excellent. Thank you…

  • Theresa!
    Thanks for the great article on storage of goods. However you failed to mention the fact that oxygen absorbers are required to keep the food from spoiling in storage containers. I would welcome your knowledge of where to purchase these items and how many to place inside 5 gallon storage containers for my dry goods like wheat and oats? Thanks for the great article! Rick Cahill

    • Great Article…very informative. I have a couple suggestions I would like to share about this “food-storage” topic. I have found that you can find those food grade buckets at a very reasonable price at a restaurant or C-Store supply store using one of the store’s “Day-Passes” that allow you to shop one day and get these items. All you will have to do is find a restaurant owner or manager that will give you permission to use his/her establishments name on the Pass. I managed to do this since I eat regularly at several restaurants and this is not a big deal. Yes, Burger King, McDonalds, Roy Rogers and other fast-food places will give those pickle buckets to you, but I hate that smell. The best device I have ever been the recipient of was a Food Saver brand food vacuum sealer that my son bought me for last Christmas. He bought the top-of-line one that allows you to seal every type of container you could ever want to use as well. That includes jars, bottles, etc with it’s hose thing which is included. You can also enclose the moisture absorbers as well as oxygen absorbers in the sealed packages too. Really nice machine. Then for added protection you can also put the sealed packages in the buckets also. I’ve never tried this: but could seal a valve in the food grade bucket and then have a refrigeration servicing company pull a good vacuum on it and then close the valve…then you would really have a well sealed batch of product. I do intend to do this on some Oats that I am going to package since they are a great fibre source and good for breakfast even using the Whey substitute powdered milk(has good reviews). Good Luck!

  • I found the tea containers by Arazonia green tea are heavy duty and the cap is substantial. The plastic must withstand the acid from the tea so water should be no problem it is semi transparent so you can see how full it is. I boil the water and rinse it out. I poor the water in boiling and make sure I overfill and poor the boiling water on the cap and pick it up with tongs and screw the cap on but not tight. squeeze the bottle lightly so all the bubbles are gone and tighten the cap. Ihave done this for several months while my wife drinks er iced tea in the summer and have opened the first bottle to test it. It seems to be ok sitting for four months and I will have my daughter test it with her kit she has. She is a visiting nurse and tests drinking water for problems for patients. I found no taste difference and the bottles would only be recycled anyway. If the water needed to be reboiled we would still have water that was free from any major contaminants.

  • Great article. I’ve been storing grains for 40+ years (yes I’m that old lol) anyway, I have never seen the need for oxygen absorbers, though I do like the mylar bags. I was taught to use cotton socks, fill one pair of infant socks—one with salt, the other with peppercorns. The salt will absorb any moisture retained after sealing and the peppercorns repel or something (anyway, it keeps any bugs from living inside the grain). Since most of my life has been spent living near water, I’ve never had a problem with my food storage going bad. Salt is a mineral our bodies need anyway and peppercorns…… stored whole and almost have an everlasting shelf life. We, as humans have gotten used to having those two around that now it just makes sense to store them together along with making them work for their space. 😉
    In re storing in jars: Although I do store some items in plastic, I do try to keep those storage containers to the BPA-free type.
    I mostly in glass jars these days. Especially since finding a company online which I can order those odd jars new lids. I share because I like their products. I have not business link other than that. I have old half gallon pickle jars and even these they have lids for. 🙂 Don’t know what to order? They have info and pictures so you can know what and how to measure to get what you need.
    Keep up the great articles. Even an old amateur like me is still in the learning curve. 🙂

  • I was wondering if you have had an article about storing coffee and tea and how long it can last and how to store thanks so much for your articles they are very helpful

  • We have our dry goods stored in their original packages in a metal trash can-to keep out mice. We have one can full of MRE meals and the other has pasta,dry beans,rice flour&sugar. I have the cans sitting on pallets in case of water leaks, which we have had (up to an inch on occasion. Canned foods up on shelves. Dehumidifier running to keep moisture/mildew down.

  • I have found out the hard way that even the heavy duty ziplock freezer type bags are not very good at storing dry goods like rice. I have had white rice, and poultry starter-grower to mold or mildew in these bags. Also, it is good to put your rice, flour, cornmeal, etc. in the freezer for 48 hours to kill any insect larvae or eggs contained in it before storing. Let it dry thoroughly before storing. Don’t leave it in the freezer too long, however, because some of these products take on a “freezer” smell that is really unappetizing!

  • From the experience of others and my own, I definitely disagree with a couple of things in the chart of storage times which you include in the article. Whole oat groats store for only about a year, just a little longer than steel cut, while rolled oats store for 20-30 years. The reason they last so long is that they are steamed before the rolling process. Groats and cut groats go rancid. The same with the brown rice! You cannot store it more than a year and it will also go rancid and bitter. The storage length for both the groats and brown rice can be lengthened by storing in the freezer but both will definitely need to be rotated. I have had to throw away both, so I know! I would like to prevent the same waste happening to others!

  • I just watched the Video, “FEMA to Preppers, America Faces Imminent Disaster in 2016”. Nearly a Year ago, I became aware of an attack on a Power Plant attack in which automatic weapons were used, but disaster was avoided by very alert operators at the plant switching the appropriate power supplies over quickly enough. Around the same time I was advised by NASA and the Meteorological Agency of upcoming Sun’s coronal activity which may give bursts of EMP’s powerful enough to do-in our power grid(one happened in 1895 and just a few years ago in Ontario). Now I have seen the threat of ISIS using an EMP Bomb which could do-in our power grid.FOR THE NOTED REASONS: I PUT TOGETHER(FOR ABOUT $1,000) AN EMERGENCY OFF-GRID POWER SUPPLY/SOLAR WITH BATTERIES. I was primarily concerned with my family of three having water as you cannot live without it. After putting together the power supply, I purchased a 300 watt, 3 Amp Dehumidifier and bought a PUR water filter system with a years supply of filters and a Steri-Pen(UV Based/battery powered under 100 bucks). The Solar Panels are 100 watts each and batteries(3) 105 AmpHr each and Pure Sine wave 1000 watt Inverter. I checked with the company supplying the equip and they said OK for 24hr operation and this will give us about 18 pints of drinking water a day. I will answer any questions anyone has for more info as I care about all>