Alternate Food Storage: A Week in a Bucket, by ChemEngineer

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Food Storage has been talked and written at length, but equally important are the logistics of Food Usage when it comes time to break out that food and begin using it. To store the food that way that it will be used, I’ll put “A Week in a Bucket”. It takes some meal-planning and some smaller packages to be able to store “A Week in a Bucket”; but when it comes time to use these pre-planned, balanced diets, opening one bucket at a time is much preferred to opening a bucket of beans, a bucket of rice, a bucket of canned chicken, canned beef… you get the idea… plus it is easier to inventory as well as easier to “grab-and-go/ take a week” for shorter stints in case of temporary evacuation or trips to “the country”.

Those who store 45 pounds of wheat (or oats, or beans, etc) in mylar lined 5 gallon buckets may get very tired of that wheat (or whatever) before it gets used up or may not have a large enough pantry if several different buckets need to be opened at the same time to provide balanced meals at the point of use. I certainly do not want open food containers all around attracting bugs and rodents if I can pre-plan to get meal-sized portions into mylar and into the buckets, then open them when I need them. Then discard (or reuse) the mylar bags. For me, being a big fan of portion-sized packaging, I consider these “Week in a Bucket” kits to be like a “mega-MRE” with one bucket being opened at a time for an entire week. The “Week in a Bucket” also brings purchasing this food back to a manageable exercise instead of a daunting bulk-food acquisition and storage task. A “Week in a Bucket” can be assembled every week or two, or as often as finances allow, then put on the shelf… and rotated out because we all eat what we store and store what we eat, don’t we? Of course we do.

I have found that I can do some advance menu planning and get an entire week of meals for two (2) people or as many as four (4) people in one 5 gallon bucket depending on what is chosen for the menu and how it is packaged… cans, vacuum-sealed mylar bags, dehydrated portions, etc. So, a years worth of Food Storage will take up 52 of these 5 gallon sealed buckets… which is a little more than a single 40’ by 48” pallet that is 4 layers tall, three buckets wide by 4 buckets long (with 4 left buckets on top). Planning a menu is not difficult, but getting agreement on the menu is time consuming and takes some nutrition knowledge. One way to look at it is the way that my Mother planned menus, “This is what I am fixing, you can choose to eat it or not”, but a more agreeable method would be to get the group together and decide on a menu plan before the food is purchased and before it is placed in the buckets. Depending on your level of patience, somewhere in the middle may be the most realistic menu planning method. In any case, each bucket will have a variety of foods and will be readily marked on the outside for identification purposes. If you choose to cheat and open next weeks bucket because you like the jars of cinnamon applesauce better than mixing up the Jello pudding in this week’s bucket, well, you have a conscience… you can live with it.

  1. It is helpful to paste a list on the outside of each bucket telling exactly what is inside each of them, and the proposed week number. What I am going for is essentially like an MRE for 2-4 people for a week, in a single bucket. Example:
    1. WEEK 1
      1. BREAKFAST FOR A WEEK:
        1. 1 Box/ Bag Grape Nuts (or other choice) Cereal
        2. 1 unopened Plastic squeeze Bottle Honey
        3. 1 Box Powdered Milk
        4. 1 Box Powdered Eggs
        5. 15-18 Envelopes Instant Oatmeal
        6. 5# Hard Red Wheat (For grinding/ flour for a loaf or two of bread or biscuits). Add an envelope of yeast/ baking soda and other bread making ingredients, depending on your preferred whole wheat bread recipe.
        7. Don’t forget the little bottle of multiple vitamins and the extra dietary fiber pills or Metamucil (or equal).
      2. LUNCH FOR A WEEK:
        1. 1-2 Box Saltine Crackers
        2. 10-14 Cans assorted Condensed Soup or 14 envelopes Knorr (or equal) assorted dried soup mix
        3. 3-7 cans SPAM or DAK ham or equal sandwich/ seasoning meat, or envelopes of dried meats (to be reconstituted with water).
        4. 1 small jar peanut butter (with the bread made when the bucket was first opened)
        5. 1 small jar grape jelly
        6. 1 small can canned cheese or jar of Cheez Whiz or equivalent.
      3. DINNER FOR A WEEK:
        1. 3-4 boxes pasta, or hamburger helper, or bagged pasta meals (like Lipton or equal)
        2. 3-4 cans pasta sauce
        3. 6-10-12 cans tuna/ chicken/ beef/ salmon or cans of beef stew
        4. 4-6-8-12 cans green beans, peas, spinach, mixed veggies, or corn or dried varieties of these (to be reconstituted with water)
        5. 1-2 pound bag dried beans and bouillon cubes, dried onions, dried tomatoes, etc depending on your favorite bean recipe.
        6. 1-2 pounds bags of rice.
        7. 5-10 envelopes of Dried Mashed Potatoes (add water and heat)
        8. 4-6 envelopes of dried chili mix.
        9. 4-6 envelopes dried Gravy Mix (add water and heat)
        10. 10-12 cans assorted fruit or envelopes of dried fruit (to be reconstituted with water)
        11. 5-10 envelopes assorted pudding or gelatin mix for desserts (mix with water and heat, then let cool).
        12. Throw in some paper plates and bowls and plastic cutlery, and you have a week-long picnic in a bucket.
  1. Try for about four(4) to six (6) different weekly menus that can substitute different cereals, different soups, add the packaged red beans and rice instead of pastas, add macaroni and cheese in place of mashed potatoes, and be creative with the canned meats (like making fried salmon cakes). Hamburger helper comes in many flavors, bagged pasta meals as well, so do not forget those “pre-packaged” meals (and meat can be from canned or dried sources, or fresh. Also, do not forget seasonings like Tabasco, salt and pepper, garlic and onion powder or even Montreal Steak Seasoning and A-1, Asian or Mexican seasonings add spice to anything and break the monotony.
  2. The labor efficiency and space efficiency of only having one bucket open at a time, per week, shows itself by taking up much less room than having 6 or 7 buckets open at once, and the probability of attracting critters or infestations is less with only one open at a time, especially if the mylar bags are sized for a single meal at a time or if we buy the prepackaged dried pasta meals or Hamburger helper (or equal) varieties.
  3. Again, after the menus are planned, getting the ingredients is as simple as adding a week’s worth to your grocery list and putting it aside as soon as the groceries are unpacked. No more quizzical looks from piling multiple cases of canned goods in your cart all at once, just buy them an extra week at a time and nobody will be the wiser. OPSEC counts.
  4. Keep in mind the utility of being able to “grab a week” in one hand and skedaddle (that is a southern term for evacuate) for a short term relocation in case of acute threat where staying in the present location is not possible, say for a short-term chemical spill or gas leak, “fill in your own short term emergency here”, etc. It is also easy to pick up a bucket for a week-long camping trip to a nice alternate vacation location, if you so desire. It is also handy to have these kits assembled in case of “running out of paycheck before running out of month” situations.
  5. You notice that this plan does not include water, but much has been made of water storage as well as water filtering and catchment/ supplies already. The minimum is one gallon per day per person, and to sanitize it, add two (2) or three (3) drops of liquid chlorine bleach or equivalent per liter (quart) and let it sit for 30 minutes. A little more bleach if the water is still cloudy, or any other alternative treatments like UV disinfection if you like that. I am a chlorine bleach fan, personally.
  6. Okay, so how about the extra fresh things to round out the “Week in a Bucket”? We all need fresh vegetables or “greens”, so become familiar with what grows in your area and add that to the plan. Watercress, wild onions, dandelion leaves, even those cattails, duckweed, and other gathered greens will come in very handy… and are not in the buckets. We can all grow lettuce and arugula and onions beginning in March, and we can pack bean and broccoli and radish seeds to sprout for added greens.
  7. We have fruit trees and/ or nut trees someplace close, right? If not, find some or plant some. Fresh Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Pecans, Hickory Nuts, even Walnuts will all be a welcome addition when the time comes. Find and use them now, since there is no need in being forced to learn new skills when we can learn them beforehand.
  8. Salt blocks to pull in wild game, of course! No need to stalk and track if the fresh game will come to you. And, learn to dress these animals too… without wasting parts. Use as much of the game as you can. It is the right thing to do.
  9. Compound Bow and arrows for silent harvesting, maybe even an air gun for squirrels, rabbits, doves or pigeons? That is handy.
  10. Casting nets for bodies of water… yes please, I’ll take a couple if there is a suitable pond or lake nearby… and learn to use them. Or, use hook and line… or even use the compound bow for fishing. That takes some experience and practice, but that is what we like to do. Fish traps in flowing water…if it was good for the Native Americans it can be good for us.

“A Week in a Bucket” is in essence the step between individual MREs and bulk/ mass storage, and possibly will work better for your situation. Give it some thought and evaluate its utility and advantages for yourself.

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This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on May 15, 2012 2:59 AM.

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