Friday, 7 August 2015

07:45 – I get a lot of email from new preppers, and one of the most common questions is what to do with those 50-pound bags of flour, sugar, beans, and other dry staples that they’re buying at Costco or Sam’s Club. The good news is that they don’t have to do anything at all immediately other than keep the bags in a cool, dry place where insects and rodents can’t get to them. The bags themselves are usually pretty resistant to water vapor and air. If you check the best-by dates on these large bags of bulk staples, you’ll usually find that they’re at least a year or two out.

But when you have time, it’s a good idea to repackage these foods in containers more suitable for long-term storage. Use oxygen absorbers if you have them, other than for sugar, but if you don’t have oxygen absorbers don’t worry too much about it. There really isn’t all that much oxygen in a full container anyway.

Clean, empty 2-liter soda bottles are a popular choice because they’re free and readily available, and do an excellent job of protecting against oxygen and moisture. The downsides are that they provide no protection against light, little protection against rodents, and are a pain in the butt to fill. We consider this the fourth-best method, and recommend that you save those bottles and use them for water storage instead.

Another popular choice is 5-, 6-, or 7-gallon plastic pails. You can often get these at little or no cost just by asking a restaurant to save their old buckets for you. Alternatively, you can buy them relatively inexpensively from Home Depot, Lowes, or a paint store. Don’t worry about them being rated food-grade, because you need to use a foil-laminate Mylar bag as a pail liner. These cost about $2.50 each, including a 2000cc oxygen absorber, less in quantity. The food itself comes into contact only with the food-safe Mylar bag, so whether or not the pail is rated as food-safe is immaterial. I wouldn’t re-use a pail that had contained paint, solvents, insecticides, or similar toxic materials, but otherwise you should be fine.

Most bulk dry staples stored in a thick foil-laminate Mylar bag inside a plastic pail with an oxygen absorber should remain good for at least 10 to 20 years. This method provides excellent protection from light, oxygen, moisture, and insects, and reasonable protection from rodents. You can simply fill bags with the bulk staple. Just before you seal the bags, toss in an oxygen absorber and then seal the tops of the bags using an old clothes iron set on high (no steam), making sure the edge to be sealed is free of food dust or other contaminants. When you’ve finished that, squeeze as much air as possible out of the bag and seal the small remaining gap. Depending on the type of food and its packed density, you’ll probably be able to fit 25 to 40 pounds in one 5-gallon pail. We consider this the third-best method.

Another method is to use one-gallon foil-laminate bags and oxygen absorbers and then, optionally, store those bags in a new steel trashcan. The one gallon bags will typically hold 5 to 8 pounds of food, and you should be able to fit about 25 of those bags into a $25 32-gallon steel trashcan. This method offers excellent protection against light, oxygen, moisture, insects, and (if you use the trashcan) rodents. You can purchase 7-mil (very thick) foil-laminate one-gallon bags and oxygen absorbers from the LDS on-line store for about $0.45 each in quantity 250. We consider this the second-best method.

So what’s the best method? For items they offer, we recommend buying bulk staples in #10 steel cans from your nearest LDS Home Storage Center. You’ll pay more per pound than buying the bulk staples in 50-pound bags, but it’s already packaged for long-term storage. If you have more money than time, this is definitely the way to go. If money is tight, go with the one-gallon Mylar bags.

My time this week was occupied almost exclusively on science kits and relocation issues, but I did spend some time in the evenings doing prepping research.

  • We put in an offer on a house in the mountains. The asking price was way high, and the house has been on the market for a couple of years. We made a reasonable cash offer, and they came back at only about 3% below their asking price. It’s a nice house, but their asking price was about a third higher than it should have been for that neighborhood. Oh, well. We’re in a strong position because we’re paying cash and we’re not in any hurry.
  • I read the rest of the post-apocalyptic novels in Angery American’s Going Home series. Books 1 and 2 were okay; books 3, 4, and 5 less so.
  • I was able to get an hour or so in on the prepping book, again mostly just jotting down notes about stuff I want to write about in detail.
  • I ordered one or two minor long-term food storage items, including four pounds of yeast.

So, what did you do to prep this week? Tell me about it in the comments.

09:26 – One of the signs of a chemistry geek is that they often use lab beakers with handles instead of normal drinking mugs. I’ve always thought that was a really bad idea. The last thing a working chemist should make a habit of is drinking from lab beakers. Otherwise, one day in the lab he’s likely to grab a beaker off the bench and take a big gulp of whatever happens to be in it.

That said, one of the items that arrive yesterday from one of our lab equipment suppliers was some one-liter polypropylene beakers with pouring spouts and handles. Normal people would call them measuring cups. They’re pretty heavy-duty plastic, are reasonably light, semi-nesting (the handles don’t allow them to nest fully), and graduated. I decided to add a couple of them to each of our car emergency kits. They’re tall-form rather than short-form, which means they have the form factor of a regular mug. They’ll work fine as drinking mugs or as bowls, come to that.