Survival Basics: Buckets, Lids and Gamma Seals

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Buckets are a fact of life when it comes to food storage. They are strong, light and moisture free, and, when sealed, will keep most, if not all pests at bay.  They are also readily available and the cost is nominal, if not free.

In keeping with the them of survival and food storage basics, in this article I share the ins and outs of food grade buckets, lids and gamma seals to safely store you bulk food items for the long term.

Food Storage Basics Buckets Lids Gamma & Gamma Seals |Backdoor Survival|

Food Grade Buckets Please

The term “food grade” is often mentioned when the subject of long-term food storage buckets is discussed. So what exactly does food grade mean?  Here is the scoop from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA):

The FDA requires that plastics used in food packaging be of greater purity than plastics used for non-food packaging. This is commonly referred to as food grade plastic.  Food grade plastic does not contain dyes or recycled plastic deemed harmful to humans.

Food grade plastic does not contain dyes or recycled plastic deemed harmful to humans. In addition, a plastic container can no longer be considered food grade if it has been used to store non-food items like chemicals, paint, or detergent.

The Society of Plastics Industry has established a seven-point system of categorizing and labeling food grade plastics. Learning how to tell if a plastic container is food grade plastic is easy. Each type is identified with a triangular-shaped label with rounded corners made of three arrows and a number in the center.

The various types are:

1-PET (or PETE): PET or PETE (polyethylene terephthalate) is a clear, tough polymer with exceptional gas and moisture barrier properties. PET’s ability to contain carbon dioxide (carbonation) makes it ideal for use in soft drink bottles. Examples: Soft drink bottles, detergent bottles.

2-HDPE: HDPE (high-density polyethylene) is used in milk, juice, and water containers in order to take advantage of its excellent protective barrier properties. Its chemical resistance properties also make it well suited for items such as containers for household chemicals and detergents. Most five gallon food buckets are made from HDPE. Examples: Milk bottles, shopping bags.

Most but not all food grade buckets are type 2 HDPE. But, and this is a big BUT, unless your HDPE bucket is specifically labeled as “food safe”, assume it is not. You can still use it if it is lined with a Mylar bag prior to use.

3-Vinyl (PVC): Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC) provides excellent clarity, puncture resistance and cling. As a film, vinyl can breathe just the right amount, making it ideal for packaging fresh meats that require oxygen to ensure a bright red surface while maintaining an acceptable shelf life. Examples: Plastic food wrap, shrink wrap, garden hoses, shoe soles.

4-LDPE: LDPE (low-density polyethylene) offers clarity and flexibility. It is used to make bottles that require flexibility. To take advantage of its strength and toughness in film form, it is used to produce grocery bags and garbage bags, shrink and stretch film, and coating for milk cartons. Examples: Squeeze bottles, dry cleaning bags.

5-PP: PP (polypropylene) has high tensile strength, making it ideal for use in caps and lids that have to hold tightly on to threaded openings. Because of its high melting point, polypropylene can be hot-filled with products designed to cool in bottles, including ketchup and syrup. It is also used for products that need to be incubated, such as yogurt.

6-PS: PS (polystyrene), in its crystalline form, is a colorless plastic that can be clear and hard. It can also be foamed to provide exceptional insulation properties. Foamed or expanded polystyrene (EPS) is used for products such as meat trays, egg cartons and coffee cups. It is also used for packaging and protecting appliances, electronics and other sensitive products.

7-Other: This category basically means “everything else” and is composed of plastics that were invented after 1987. Plastics labeled as grade 7 should be specifically noted as being “food safe” before they are used to package or handle food.

These definitions of the various types of plastics are all fine and dandy but how do you tell – specifically – that a bucket or pail is truly food grade? That is an excellent question especially since there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet regarding what constitutes food grade plastic.

There are three methods you can use to identify food grade plastics:

1. Purchase new buckets that are marked “food grade” by the manufacturer. In addition to the actual text, you can look for the marks “NSF”, “FDA” or “USDA Approved”.

2. Find free or low cost used buckets that you know have already been used to store food and haven’t been used for anything else. You can find these at bakeries, restaurants, and food processing plants.

3. Call the manufacturer and ask.

Here are some other tips and things to look for when searching for buckets:

If transportability is important to you, make sure your bucket has a bail or a handle so that it can be easily lifted and carried.

As long as the bucket is food grade, don’t be afraid to use “free” buckets from the local bakery or fast food joint. Yes, the bucket may smell like pickles but with a good scrubbing with bleach, along with a day or two of airing outdoors, the smell will be all but gone.

Still smelly? Put some baking soda or charcoal in the bucket and seal it up for a few days. Take the seal off, rinse the bucket well and it should be sweet smelling once again.

Important: If a food grade bucket has been used to store non-food items like chemicals, paint, or detergent, it is no longer food grade.

Standard Lids Versus Gamma Seal Lids

Fortunately, most 5 and 6 gallon buckets utilize a universal 12” lid. This means that the various lids are interchangeable. The important thing to look for is a lid with a rubber gasket fitted to its inside rim. With the gasket in place, the lid, when securely attached to the bucket, forms a nice seal.

Often times you will find a source for low cost, used food grade buckets, but they may come with banged up or damaged lids. Fortunately, it is easy to purchase new lids, independent of the buckets themselves. Given the importance of a good seal, it is recommended that you purchase new lids regardless. The seal is what is going to prevent moisture and insects from entering your buckets.

Tip: Applying a light coat of petroleum jelly, Crisco or other lubricant on the lip can keep the rubber gasket supple and helps to avoid tears in the rubber. This will also contribute to a good seal.

Such lids come in two basic types, the standard lid and Gamma seal lid. The standard lid is okay in that it does the job, but, for some, it may be difficult to use. To attach it properly, you have to pound it down hard. Needless to say, this is hard on the hands and nails, so if you decide to go with the standard lid, you should also use a rubber mallet so that you can tap around the edges to secure a decent seal.

Getting the standard lid open, in order to remove it from the pail, is also a challenge. For very little money, you can purchase a special tool that will pry the lid open. The tool is called a bucket lid remover and should cost less than $5 online or at your local hardware store, typically in the paint department.  For a bit more money, you can get a metal lid opener, which is sturdier.

Opening buckets with a lid removal tool |Backdoor Survival|

The other type of lid uses a Gamma seal arrangement. Think of the Gamma seal as a giant screw top for your bucket. All you need to do is snap the outer adapter ring on to the bucket then screw the inner lid into the outer ring. To make it easy, the Gamma lid has a big “X” molded in plastic making it easy to grab onto and spin.

Gamma Seal Lid - Backdoor Survival

Gamma Seal Lid on Food Storage Bucket - Backdoor Survival

When you need to get something out of your Gamma-sealed bucket, all you need to do is unscrew the inner lid, pull out your product, then screw the lid back down.

Gamma Seal Lid on a Food Storage Bucket - Backdoor Survival

There are other advantages:

The Gamma Seal Lid has a stacking channel that is built into the outside rim. This allows you to safely stack several sealed buckets on top of each other, saving space.

They are airtight and leak proof.

They can be re-sealed over and over again.

The bugs cannot get in (although your product has to be bug and insect free to begin with).

The Gamma Seal Lids can be purchased in various colors if your storage system uses color-coding.

The disadvantages of a Gamma Seal Lid?  I can only think of one.  The initial investment can be costly. Still, when you consider that they are reusable and are interchangeable with various sized buckets, the price of a Gamma seal lid is worth it. Plus, if you get the buckets themselves for free, the combined cost of a bucket and lid will still be a great deal.

What About Mylar Bags and Buckets?

When using buckets and lids (either type), an inner bag is recommended but is not mandatory, especially if you are using the bucket for short-term storage to keep out moisture and insects. An example would be the short-term storage of dog food.

In practical use, I prefer a double seal system when I package my goods.  Sometimes I will use a FoodSaver bag and other times I will use a one gallon Mylar bag.  Either way, I will also use a 300 cc oxygen absorber. I then put the bags in the bucket, seal the bucket with a gamma lid, and I am set.  When it comes time to use some of the products, I take off the gamma seal lid, remove a single bag of food, screw on the gamma lid and I am good until the next time.

Something else I recommend, mostly for practical purposes, is to mix up the products in each bucket,  So, for example, fill a single bucket with a 1 gallon bag each of various beans, another 1 gallon bag with rice, and another with oats.  Throw some spices and bouillon in the bucket and you have a grab and go bucket with variety of food stuffs.  This is ideal if you need to get out in a hurry or if you want to share some of your product with a loved one.

Bucket with Beans in Foodsaver Bags - Backdoor Survival

Be sure to label your food storage buckets - Backdoor Survival

Whatever you do, don’t forget to get out your Sharpie or other marker so that you can label label the bucket with its contents and the date it was packed.  Now that I think about it, a bucket filled in this matter would make a great gift for a non-prepper friend or relative.

Additional Resources

Now that you have learned about buckets, lids, and gamma seals, you might also be interested in the following articles on food storage basics.

Survival Basics: What the Heck are Oxygen Absorbers?
Survival Basics: Using Mylar Bags for Food Storage

The Final Word

What happens next?  I suggest that you head out to Wal-Mart, Costco, the LDS Home Storage Center or your favorite bulk food supplier and start purchasing 25 or 50 pound bags of of dried beans, rice, pasta, oats, sugar, salt, coffee, spices and other foods that you know your family will eat.

As always, do your best to purchase a little bit extra with each shopping trip or with each paycheck.   It may not seem like much but trust me, your emergency food supply will grow quickly and you will begin to feel confident that you will have plenty of food to eat during hard times or following a major disruptive event.

Note:  This article has been re-written and updated from the original version that was published in September 2011.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for me daily at Top Prepper Websites!  In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.

Bargain Bin:  Below you will find links to items related to today’s article.

Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage:  This modestly priced book is about food: What to store, how to store it and best practices. It is a roadmap for showing ordinary citizens that long-term food storage is not something that will overwhelm or burden the family budget. A lot of material from Backdoor Survival is here; conveniently located in one place. I wrote this book and am proud of it.

6-gallon Pail with Gama Air-tight Lids – 10-pack:  The whole meal deal.  As of this writing, this works out to about $21 for each combo set of bucket and gamma seal lid.  If you are a Costco member, check their online pricing as well, If still available, you may find a real steal on buckets with gamma seals.

Gamma Seal Lid- 6 Pack: If you can get your hands on some free buckets, this is the way to go.  Or you can purchase singles here.

Plastic Pail/Paint Can Opener:  I told you these were dirt cheap.  This one is only a couple of bucks and shipping is free.  I purchased my own metal bucket opener from Tropical Traditions, but you can get this one at Amazon: Foodservice Aluminum Pail Opener.

Mylar Bags & Oxygen Absorbers: The current price for 30 gallon sized bags plus 30 oxygen absorbers is $18.49. I have seen the price of these come down significantly over the past few years.  I remember paying double that.  Now is the time to stock up.

60 – 300cc Oxygen Absorbers: This is one area where you want to make sure you are getting a quality product. Currently, a pack of 60 (in three 20 unit packs) is about $10 with free shipping.

Sharpie Permanent Markers: Sharpies were invented for preppers! And without question, Amazon is the cheapest place to buy them. Typically, the price on Amazon is less that $7 for a dozen.

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer: As long as the unit has an accessory port (and this one does), an in expensive FoodSaver will work just as well as the fancier models. That is my two cents, at least.

FoodSaver Wide Mouth Jar Sealer: Already have a FoodSaver? If so, check out this jar sealer which can be used to vacuum seal your Mason jars. This is a great option for short to mid term storage of items such as beans, rice, sugar and salt. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and you are set with the added advantage of removing a small amount for current use without having to disrupt your large Mylar bag or bucket of food.  There is also a version for regular sized jarsSee Fast Track Tip #4: How to Use a FoodSaver for Vacuum Canning.


Shop the Emergency Essentials Monthly Specials: The monthly specials at Emergency Essentials feature discounts of up to 35% off sometimes a bit more.

A good value is the Do It Yourself SuperPail Combo which includes 8 x 6-Gallon Buckets with Lids, 8 x Metallized Storage Bags and a 10-Pack of Large Oxygen Absorbers.

Don’t forget that you do not need fancy equipment to seal the metalized bag. A cheap hair iron will do the job.  Forget about a hose and a vacuum sealer. A $20 hair iron works great – just be sure to get one with 2” plates.

Storing Rice in Mylar Bag_09


Need something from Amazon (and who doesn’t)? I earn a small commission from purchases made when you begin your Amazon shopping experience here. You still get great Amazon service and the price is the same, no matter what.

Amazon has a feature called Shop Amazon – Most Wished For Items. This is an easy tool for finding products that people are ‘wishing” for and in this way you know what the top products are.  All you need to do is select the category from the left hand side of the screen.

The Amazon Top Most Wished For and Best Selling Outdoor Items
Emergency Preparedness Items from
Shop Amazon Tactical – Great Selection of Optics, Knives, Cases, Equipment
Amazon Gift Cards

Help support Backdoor Survival. Purchases earn a small commission and for that I thank you!



A Practical Guide to Storing Food For the Long Term

99 cents for the eBook – also available in print!

When most people start thinking about family preparedness, they focus on food. Not shelter, gear, sanitation, power, self-defense or the myriad of other concerns that need to be addressed following an emergency or disaster situation. Quite simply, food is the number one concern people have second only to their concern for having an adequate supply of water.

The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage is a book about food: What to store, how to store it and best practices. It is a roadmap for showing ordinary citizens that long-term food storage is not something that will overwhelm or burden the family budget.

This book is based upon my own tried and true personal experience as someone who has learned to live the preparedness lifestyle by approaching emergency preparedness and planning in a systematic, step-by-step manner.


Survival Basics: Buckets, Lids and Gamma Seals — 51 Comments

  1. Other than mixing the contents of pails, which I simply never thought of, I pretty much follow your guidelines. I have plenty of pails and lids, having bought several hundred in a big load from Walton Feeds in 1999. I never throw away anything that’s useable so I’ve kept them as they were emptied of their contents. I did give a few away but there’s still no shortage at my place.

    • Wow! Pretty cool that I passed on a new tip to a seasoned pro :) We are going to make up “survival buckets” of mixed product as holiday gifts. The recipients may not appreciate the effort now, but the time will come when they will be grateful.

      — Gaye

  2. Good rundown on the different types of plastics. I might also point out that the types of plastics used for temporary (and espeically long term) water storage is also important due to chemical leeching. As such, unless your intended use is for a very short period of time be wary of the plastic containers you use to store water. The same rule of thumb can be used as for food storage.

  3. Very timely post SW. We’ve been adding to our food storage and just yesterday put away a number of additional buckets worth. We went with the more traditional mylar bag inside of a standard bucket approach, tho.



  4. Gaye,

    Recently, my wife came home with a 5 gallon bucket with a snap-down gasket lid from FireHouse Subs. It has the #2 on the bottom and was used to store pickles, which it still smells like. I think she paid a $2 dollar donation ( to some firefighters association).

    Do you have any experience or concerns with this type of lid?

    If nothing else it can be used as a utility bucket of some sort around the house.

    • I was able to score some free buckets that had held pickles. It took a while but I was finally able to get the smell down to a manageable level with bleach, baking soda and fresh air. I did not want to trust the lids, however. In my opionion you have a few options: purchase a new lid, use the bucket and the original lid as a second layer of protection with well sealed mylar bags inside, or use the bucket for some other purpose such as storing charcoal briquettes.

      As you read in my article, I use a bucket with a gamma seal lid and place one gallon mylar bags of food inside. This creates a double layer of protection and is probably overkill. I sometimes put food saver bags of food inside the bucket. Since the bucket with a gamma seal alone is good on its own, I feel confident about using the food saver bags which may tend to lose their seal after 3 to 5 years. Regardless, however, I am rotating my stored foods so they will be long gone five years from now.

      Hope this helps.

      — Gaye

      • Gaye,

        While this topic has not been posted to in a while, HyVee’s with bakery’s will give away thier food grade buckets for free w/ lids.

        One question I have is if foods are sealed in mylar bags do you need a gasket seal?

        • This is very timely since I have been exploring the possibility of storing food products in Mylar bags without the double protection of a surrounding bucket. The purpose of enclosing the sealed Mylar bags in a bucket is primarily to keep the critters from chewing through the bags. That said, I am starting to put the filled bags in large Rubbermaid tubs instead which are quite a bit less expensive especially when there is a sale. I am beginning to feel comfortable with using the food grade buckets with gamma seal for long term storage without also using an inner liner or mylar. The downside is that once the seal is broken, new oxygen absorbers are needed prior to resealing the bucket.

          Watch for a new article on this topic soon.

          — Gaye

          • I have found that the hand warmers for outdoors works just the same and tend to be cheaper.

            Just want to make sure I have a clear understanding. the gasket lid really isn’t necessary if they are sealed in mylar bags as long as there is a lid?

            If you have a Walmart Super center they will sell 5 gal buckets for 1 dollar each. another good place to get 5 gal buckets.

            Hope that helps.


              • I would be concerned about two things: are they food grade and can they be sealed against the instrusion of insects, bacteria, debris and other nasties. Of course water purifiers would be necessary. Also, the purpose of the water makes a difference too (drinking, bathing, cleaning). That said, storing in any bucket theb running through a Berkey or other similar type system before drinking should be okay.

                The most important question, though is the first. Are they food grade?

          • Again sorry for such a long wait on the posts I’ve been so busy. Yes they are food grade they come from the bakery and are already washed out.

  5. I always do the mylar bad no matter what it is better to be safe than sorry. I also seal stuff into usable 1 lb bags too. I do this about every other bucket or so. This way I have usable amounts without breaking the seal on a complete bucket. I have also been doing my own type of homemade MRE’s that are sealed in their own mylar bags. Great post Gaye.

  6. There is one draw back on gama lids that i found and that is they break when you stack them over 3 high.

    I had a large number of buckets stacked 5 high.

    I had a few buckets with gama lids in what i call wekk food paks. The few gamma lids that were on the bottom of the pile cracked. Other than that i cant fine anything wrong with them.

    For ultra long storage i still prefer the regular locking lids.

    P.S. when sealing a mylar bag I only seal about 4 inches of the end so i can cut along the sealed edge and re-use the bag

    • > There is one draw back on gama lids that i found and that is they break when you stack them over 3 high.
      > I had a large number of buckets stacked 5 high.

      It’s not how high you stack them, it’s how much weight, load or stress they take. I guarantee you can stack these exact same containers 10 high with two pounds of rice in each and they will not crack. But put 300 pounds in the upper one of a stack of two and the bottom one will probably crack almost instantly.

      Let’s say the bucket lid load limit was 45 pounds, and you put a mere 20 pounds in each container, that bottom lid with 4 buckets on top of it is now supporting 80 pounds, how soon do you think that 45 pound capacity lid is going to last with 80 pounds on it?

  7. Unless one has a steel or concrete room without any holes the size of a quarter, these buckets can easily be chewed thru by rats and other vermin. I know, several of mine were.

    • Putting food in mylar bags before putting it in the bucket will help that a LOT. If the vermin can’t smell the food they won’t try chewing through the buckets. Technically the mylar is good enough by itself, but it’s very easily punctured, so most folks go the extra step and protect the sealed mylar bags inside a food grade bucket.

  8. Could a bag of wheat be place in a large zip lock baggie and stored in a Rubbermaid container? It might not keep for 10 years but would it keep 2 years? I’m just looking for alternatives that could be just as good but cheaper that using the mylar bags and buckets.

  9. An extra option for when those buckets start smelling. *I learned this from my brother, who moved thousands of people from here to there, professionally .* Put some coffee grounds in and seal it…the grounds will absorb any smells. I moved half way across the US and did this for my freezer, fridge and I do it when I store empty plastic containers. No bleach used and a little baking soda rinse out when I need to use it and anything is good to go.

    • A lid with a gasket provides and extra layer of protection but no, it is not 100% necessary as long as the Mylar bags are properly sealed. I am pretty sure the critters and the mice can not break through the lid.

  10. Any food container is fair game. Using a former container for dry dog food to store rice is okay since it had to be food grade to hold dog food, and it had to be leak proof to hold kibble. But a former container for cat litter may not be appropriate for anything edible.

  11. I am really enjoying your site a lot! I have a couple questions. I plan on packaging my foodstuff in 1 gallon mylar bags with oxygen absorbers, then storing those in the 5 gallon buckets. Is it necessary for them to be food grade since they are going to be in the mylar bags first? If so, do I also need to put oxygen absorbers in the buckets (using regular lids), even though there will be absorbers in the individual bags themselves?
    And this next question is kind of random…if im not supposed to store wheat berries the same way as rice or beans, then how do i store them for long term storage?
    Thank you so much! Your blog has a lot of great information in an easy to understand format. :)

    • Technically the mylar bags are enough by themselves, but I always use food grade in case of accidental punctures in the mylar bags….those bags aren’t terribly tough even if you go with a 5 or 6 mil bag. And the incremental cost of using food grade buckets versus non-food grade is pretty low compared to the risk.

      And if the bags don’t get punctured you shouldn’t have any need of o2 absorbers in the bucket, just in the bags should be fine.

  12. You may not want to place the oxygen absorber directly in with the food as yhe more time that goes by the greater chance of it turning to zinc oxide which s poisonous. I use the thickest clear storage bag (food saver) withdraw all of the air. I then put that in a Mylar bag and put the oxygen absorber in between the two layers. This way I at least have a chance of eating my food. Also order small bags of oxygen absorbers because once you open the bag you need to use them all quickly.

    • I am confused by your comment of “you may not want to place the oxygen absorber directly in with the food…”. I thought that it o.e. went directly in with the food. Doesn’t the little bag that the o.e. ingredients are in protect the food? How would you know that it has turned to zinc oxide? I placed my o.e. on top of my oatmeal, which I just put in the bucket – does that mean the oatmeal will not be edible? I do not expect the oatmeal to last for years, as we use quite a lot of it, but I want to clarify my storage information.

    • ????? …. not sure where you got your idea about 02 absorbers being/turning poisonous … the absorbers are constructed of food grade outer material – near sterile manufacturing environment – FDA approved for direct food contact for the last 25-30 years …

      food CANNOT be separated and isolated from the 02 absorbers to work properly …. your method is entrapping 02 into pockets within the mylar bag/food bucket … nothing goes into the mylar bag but food ….

  13. Hi Gay,
    I just wanted to kick out another idea for where to shop for rice, lentils, dried chick peas, and spices. I get mine at a an Asian grocery store. We are very lucky to have a nice store close to our house.

    Spices can be purchased in bags for a fraction of the cost at regular stores or even Costco. (Be sure to check the ingredients though. I found some black pepper with added MSG, but most is great.)

    I can get a larger selection of lentils and such there. Food and nutrient diversity is a concern for our family. I have also been playing around with how other people/cultures cook everyday without modern ranges. Indian food has peaked my interest: cast iron, open flames, flat breads, staples of lentils, beans, rice, and potatoes.

    I know a lot of people might be concerned about where the food is made. I was very surprised at the large number of items produced here in the USA or Canada. It will say on the package.

    As always love your blog!

  14. Cherri, Take out the number of absorbers you intend to use immediately and put the rest in a canning jar, put on a lid and, if you have one, use your food saver vacuum with a jar sealer accessory to seal it up. We, use this method frequently and have had great success with it. Make sure you put the oxygen indicator “OxyEye” in the jar where you can see it to make sure it is staying sealed.

  15. A question about bouillon. I know I’ve read that you have to be careful, in general, about using packages of dry ingredients (like flavor packets for rice or the dry cheese for macaroni and cheese) past their expiration dates, as they can contain some kind of spores that can be toxic. How do you recommend storing the bouillon? In the jar they come in? And how long a shelf life would they have? Or should you just rotate out like any other canned or boxed good? Thanks.

    • Honestly? I think most packaged food expiration dates are bogus and are there for corporate CYA purposes. But that is a story for another time, right?

      I have used bouillon that is 5 years old without a problem. It is, after all, mostly salt, which is a natural preservative. When I am storing spices inside my rice and bean packets, I put them in a separate little baggie first. I do this mostly so I can locate them quickly. Try not to be over-concerned but if you are, package them separately and rotate them just like the rest of your food storage items.

      • Agree on the expiration dates. But I am more cautious with dry packet ingredients. I like the idea of storing the flavorings with the food. That’s always one of my concerns. Am I storing enough flavor and enhancements with all those beans and rice to make it palatable and interesting? As always, use common sense, and we’ll be fine.

  16. I’m with Steve from an earlier post, mice will eat through anything plastic. I had grain for our hoses stored in plastic garbage cans and the mice ate through it in no time. They even went through the top handle which was an extra thick plastic, plus they’ve chewed through a 2×6 subfloor. The only thing we use now for grain storage is metal trash cans. If mice have access to your storage area I wouldn’t recommend using plastic buckets for long term storage.

    • The mice will only eat through containers that smell of food. So if you bag things in mylar and make sure to wipe down the bags before storing them in the plastic buckets you should be fine. I have a bit of a mouse problem in my basement (fieldstone foundation in a 100+ year old house), but none of my buckets have been touched. Rice, pasta, beans, drink mixes, etc are all stored in mylar then placed in the buckets, along with soy sauce bottles and standard 1 pound salt cardboard containers. I buy sugar in 10 pound bags which I store directly without opening into buckets. I know sugar is shelf stable, but I wanted to further protect them from accidental punctures which would then bring the vermin.

  17. Great article! Just wish I could give the some review for the product! About two years ago we found the gamma seals and thought we had found a great treasure , but upon inspection last week this wasn’t the case! The lids we have , developed rather nasty cracks around the top next to the spin lid which compromises the seal. They were installed according to instructions and we’re not subjected to any adverse conditions. Don’t intend to bash the product ,just a warning!

    • If you don’t mind sharing, where did you purchase your gamma lids? Mine were purchased both at Costco and Emergency Essentials and are fine. One thing I do, however, is ensure I do not stack them no more than 3 high. I am not saying that was your problem, just letting everyone know that is a precaution I take.

      • We purchased a pack of 24 Gamma lids from Costco about a year and a half ago. 8 red, 8 blue, and 8 white lids came in the pack. Two weeks ago we discovered all the red lids have identical cracks in the center of the lids. 5 of the lids had never even been used. They were just sitting in a closet. The blue and white ones are all fine so far. I spoke with Casey at Gamma2 (760-734-4003, option #2) and he said he spoke to the owner who refused to replace the lids. He said we’d have to take them back to Costco. So I’m apparently supposed to pry all the lids off and empty the buckets so I can haul them all back to Costco. It’s ridiculous! Also, Gamma2 has a warranty listed on their website. It doesn’t specify any time frame or anything about when and how a product would be covered under warranty, so I asked Casey and he said it’s on a case by case bases. Clearly the problem is a manufacturing error. Anyway, I plan to talk to Costco next and let them know that Gamma does not stand behind their products.

        • I am pretty distressed to hear about this. Costco will take anything back with no time limit. Have you considered replacing the lids first and returning the defective lids after. Also, if you ordered them online, Costco will arrange a pickup.

          Be sure to check back and let us know what happens.

          • So I spoke with Costco today. I had spoken with them a couple of weeks ago and they said I would need to return everything. That’s why I contacted Gamma2 because I didn’t want to have to do that. Anyway, I told Costco what was going on with Gamma2 refusing to replace the lids. This time the lady got the company on the phone which apparently got the lids from Gamma2 and sold them to Costco. This other company (Food for Heath International, I think?) said the issue I was having us a known issue and they would replace the lids. She said I should have them in about a week.

            I’ve sent Gamma2 multiple emails informing about all the people I’ve run across having the same issue and I sent another email about my phone call with Costco today. I received no responses. I’m happy to be getting new lids, but I’m not confident I won’t face the same problem or that the rest of my other lids won’t develop cracks. Either way I’m still left with the impression that Gamma2 is a sleazy company.

  18. I’m a little lost on one item. The article states “In addition, a plastic container can no longer be considered food grade if it has been used to store non-food items like chemicals, paint, or detergent.” but… it then states “Yes, the bucket may smell like pickles but with a good scrubbing with bleach, along with a day or two of airing outdoors, the smell will be all but gone.” Is using bleach to clean it out nullifying the non-food items like chemicals, etc or is the key word “storage”? Thank you.

      • Gaye, I think what Sean is asking is, if using bleach would be considered a chemical negating the food quality of the bucket. Which it wouldn’t since bleach cam be used to purify water. Am I getting this right Sean???

        • Thanks for explaining, Pam. I can be dense sometimes.

          Yes, bleach is considered an FDA approved disinfectant, and thereby no considered a chemical contaminant when used to clean the bucket. Non-food grade buckets are actually manufactured with toxic chemicals in the plastic material itself. These chemicals can then leach out into the food.

          Hope this explains things a little better.

  19. I store food in large aluminum tins, such as the ones in which Christmas goodies are packed, with the presumption that mice cannot eat through them. You can buy them at thrift shops usually, although you may have to go to many shops to get an adequate supply. Prices range from 25 cents to several dollars.

    • The only issue with those tins would be how airtight they are. If air is moving in and out of the tins as pressure changes, then the food won’t store as long as something with an airtight seal. Of course if you put the food in a sealed mylar bag first then the tins would work well.

  20. can i store rice in a bucket, without the myler bag, with oxygen aborbers, but not with a grama lid, long term ?

    reason why i ask: i bought 2gallon buckets, (to store rice), but the store did not have the grama lids, nor did they have a lid with a gasket.

    • As long as you get a good seal, you should be fine. The O2 absorber will keep any insects from taking up residence. If you live in an area of high humidity, you might want to throw in a desiccant as additional insurance. Because of where I live, I do not bother.

      One nice thing about rice is that it has a nice long shelf life (5 years) on its own. Proper packaging keeps the insects at bay and extends the life for the extreme long term.

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