How To Store Bulk Food

Do you use grains, seeds, nuts, sugar, sweeteners, spices, teas, coffee, and pasta in your day to day cooking? 

Do you use a lot of sugar, nuts, flours, and more during the holidays?

Do you have a large family to feed?

Do you enjoy making gifts of food to give away to bless others?

Do you buy supplies for your local church meetings or other group meetings?

If so, then buying in bulk would be a good option for you.

In a year, how much of these items do you use?

If you know about how many pounds of different foods your family uses in a week, with a little math, you can easily calculate how much you need for a month, six months, or a year, and buy in bulk and save a huge amount on your family food bill.   Some families keep a month, six months, or a years supply on hand.  Typically, the larger the size of package you buy, the more you save per pound.

Using a freezer, and a little extra storage space to store some containers, I am able to store a years supply for my family’s needs for many of these items.  In the freezer I can store bulk items such as meat, broth for soup, grains, flour, ground nuts, yeast, butter, frozen fruits and vegetables, etc.

In the pantry, I can store canned produce from the garden, canned produce I find on sale or case lots, staples such as sea salt, raw honey, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds in the shell, spices, dried herbs, pastas, baking supplies such as baking soda and baking powder, corn starch, potato starch, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, cereals, and various sweeteners.

Some items are easy to store for several years at a time such as whole grains, beans, rice, and whole seeds.  Coconut oil can be stored for 5 years or so.  Olive oil, grape seed oil, and safflower oil should all be used in six months or so.  Raw vinegar can store indefinitely.  Honey can store forever, never throw it out.  Raw honey is best.  On the rare occasion you got fermented honey (basically it naturally took on a little moisture), don’t throw it out, it is even better for you and sells for a high price if you can find it for sale. 

Here is a picture of 10lb of organic spaghetti pasta:

For ground flours, shelled nuts, pasta, and most oils, I try to maintain at least a three month to six month supply of most of these pantry items because it really saves a lot of money to buy them in larger sizes.  My flour, or shelled nuts, I will refrigerate them of I have a few months supply.  If I have more than 3 months supply of flour, or ground grains, shelled nuts on hand, I will freeze the extra to prevent the oils from going bad.  I always like to refrigerate any shelled, raw, chopped, or ground nuts to protect the oils.


Here is a chart and more information on how long you can store pantry foods and what methods are best for long term storage.

Here is a chart to help you understand how much food per person, the average family will use:

Decide where you will store your bulk food items:


Possible pantry storage spaces would be a closet, cabinets, a spare bedroom, a garage, a storage shed, dry basement, dry root cellar, a spare wardrobe, a dresser, a blanket trunk, a spare freezer, or under the bed. 

3 basic considerations that you should have for storing pantry items:

        moisture (safe from too much moisture and mold)

        temperature (safe from extreme temperatures)

        pest proof (safe from insects and rodents)

There are several great options to make a “pantry” depending on your storage space.   The best choices would be spaces with stable temperatures in the range of 50 degrees to 75 degrees fahrenheit.  But many foods can handle frozen temperatures just fine.  The extreme heat temperatures, above 100 degrees, will cause break down of viable enzymes and nutrients and reduce the amount of time you can store most foods.  A grain may go from an indefinite life span in dry storage in the best temperatures, versus a one or two year life span in extreme heat temperature storage. 

There are pros and cons for different pantry space choices.  For example, attics are not a good option due to high heat in the summer months, but they may be a viable option in the winter.  

If your climate is fairly stable, with little seasonal temperature change, garages are a good option.  But if you have severe seasonal changes it may not be a good option for some products.  If your garage gets extremely hot in the summer, it would not be a good option for some heat sensitive items such as whole grains.  However a garage would be fine for other items.  If it freezes hard in the winter, it would not be a good option for liquids in glass containers, such as home canned peaches, stored in the winter, as your jars are likely to freeze and break.

What ever location you choose, sturdy shelving and/or sturdy drawers are very important because bulk items are heavy.  

Decide what you will store your bulk food items in:

One option is to store your bulk foods in 5 gallon buckets with a tight fitting or gasket seal lid.  The 5 gallon bucket with a gamma seal lid is a nice option, because the gamma seal lid is very easy to twist open.  It has two parts, and the outer part has the gasket seal and the inner part twists open.  It is much easier to use than the standard lids, but costs extra.   The bucket is a great storage option because it is stackable, moisture proof, crush proof, and pest proof.

Here is a picture of a 5
gallon bucket and a 1 gallon bucket for food storage.

If you are storing buckets with several years supply of wheat or beans, it is the best idea to use oxygen absorbers in your buckets and storage containers.  But for shorter storage, this step is not necessary. 

You can also store items in glass jars of various sizes,  in airtight containers, in reused containers, or ziplock bags.   Some plastic totes are ok, but be sure they were intended for food storage, because some plastic materials could cause cross contamination and would make the food unsafe to eat.  

Here are some of my smaller containers I refill from my larger bulk storage of specific items I use every day such as sucanat, sugar, rice, and oatmeal.  Most of these hold 5lb and 10lb of various products.

Some bulk items come already packaged in containers, and if they do, I use and reuse them.  Some bulk items come in plastic bags.  These may or may not need to be repackaged.  For example, you can leave 5lb and 10lb bags intact and just slip them into your larger bucket or on a shelf in the pantry.   Depending on where and how you store them, you can make use of a combination of options.

Here are some 10 lb bags of natural flour, 10lb ziplock bags of sucanant sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice, sunflower seeds, and oats, and 5lb bags of nuts, popcorn.  I can store these like this on a shelf, or if I have double or triple this amount, I can put these bags into 5 gallon pails or put them in the freezer.

When I lived on the farm, I turned one of the spare bedrooms into a food pantry.  I lined the walls with shelving units and left the corners open for stacking buckets and larger items.   The shelves also stored my canning, dehydrating, and food prep equipement.

I got the idea for using the spare room from some of my Amish friends.  They often had a spare room next to the kitchen, and a room in the basement used for food storage. 

One Amish friend had her husband build a unheated room off of the kitchen that she used as a pantry, and it doubled as a cooler in colder weather.  It had a screened window that she would leave open in the fall and winter time to keep meat she was butchering or curing before she canned it.  She would cool her pies and cakes in there too.   She had a generator to power freezers that she sold meat from they raised on their farm, thousands of gallons of apple cider she bought in bulk, and she rented freezer space to other Amish.  Typically the Amish do not have freezers on their farms, they keep them at a “non-Amish” neighbor’s house as they do not use electricity.  But this family had a huge industrial generator and they were able to have several freezers.

Usually, all my Amish friends had a room they created in their basement that held 2,000 quarts of food or more.  Also crocks of sour kraut, vinegar, vanilla extract, sour dough starter, aging cheese, fresh root vegetable, fresh apples, buckets of honey, buckets of eggs, souring milk, and more.  If they did not have a basement, then they had a spare room they used for this purpose.  All of my Amish friends also took advantage of cold and freezing temperatures outside to store additional foods in unheated rooms such as garages, sheds, or barns.

I lived as neighbors with the Amish for 15 years and spent a lot of time learning from them.  For nearly two years, before having my own children, I spent two to four hours daily with an Amish woman twice a week, working along side her in her home and garden.  This was done in private, because if the “Amish church” had known of it, they would have stopped the intimate friendship with an outsider.  But thankfully, they never knew, and my friendships with many Amish women spread into a 15 year span in many homes through out their community.   In many ways this blessed my life.  One way in particular, was in learning how to grow, harvest, and store food.  

As a young girl, I also watched my grandma store foods.  She used the space under a stairway as a pantry to store her canning.  She used an unheated screened porch as a refrigerator in the colder months to cure her meats and have extra cold storage.

As a young woman, I also met an elderly couple who raised a huge organic garden, fruit and nut trees.  Even in their 70’s, they produced enough food for themselves, many neighbors, and sold all their surplus to the local nursing home in Albany, Indiana.  They used the space in an unheated upstairs room to store lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, cultured milk, and canned foods.  One thing that really stood out to me was each fall the wife would meticulously wrap each fresh pear in newspaper before setting it in place to store.  This prevented the pears from ripening too fast and kept a long storage life.   The husband was always so proud to show me his refrigerator.  It only had eggs, raw milk, butter, and strawberry freezer jam.  But his wife could cook up a feast in minutes from the food they had stored.

How To Buy And Store Bulk Sugar

Let us use this example as your introduction to your first bulk purchase. 

First, estimate how much bulk sugar you would like to store. 

Next, find a bulk food club or bulk food store in your area.  In our local area there are several options.  I run a discount buying service for bulk foods, and facilitate a local homschool buying club through Weiser Natural Foods

Let’s say you connected with a local bulk food club, and just bought your first 50lb bag of bulk sucanat (sugar cane natural) or evaporated cane juice (AKA natural sugar).  

The 50lb bag of natural sucanat was approximately $96 including shipping, and you saved an average of  $105 over buying it in smaller bags.  Hum, I can think of a lot of ways my family can use that $105 savings.

The 50lb bag of organic evaporated cane juice was approximately $60 including shipping, and you saved an average of  $25 over buying it in 5lb bags.

Additional savings were gained in not paying for gas to go to the store each time  you needed a small bag of sugar.

Now what do you do with it?  Read on….

How To Store Bulk Sugar

It will store just fine in a sealed 5 gallon bucket.  You can pour it all in at once, or put it in smaller ziplock bags and put them into the bucket or pantry.  Ziplock bags and airtight containers will also hold this product just fine in the pantry closet, freezer, or cabinet.  A two gallon ziplock bag will hold 15lbs of sugar.  I generally put 10lbs in that size bag and it fills them 3/4 full.  So a 50lb bulk would be reduced to 5 of the 2 ga
llon ziplock bags.  

Set your bag in a stable position that is comfortable to work with.  I like to set mine on a kitchen chair so it is at a good height for me to work with.  With scissors, carefully open your bulk bag.

Use a sturdy scoop, or measuring cup, to lift out the product.  I like to use a stainless steel 2 cup measure.  I have also used a food scoop, drinking glass, and a small sauce pan as a scoop before too.  It doesn’t matter as long as it feels sturdy, feels good in your hands, and can hold the weight of the product you are scooping.  A disposable plastic cup will not hold up to scooping sugar.

Carefully fill the container of your choice.

Here is a picture of 50lbs of sucanat divided into 4 ziplock bags and two 2.5lb reused plastic containers.  I put 25 lbs in two bags.  The other two bags had 10lbs each. 

Now store the bags in a safe place, in a closet, in buckets or totes, the freezer, or whatever space you have.   And enjoy the savings !!!

More Links and Information:

Pantry LIst From The Stallion Stores

Pantry List from Whats Cooking America

Pantry List from The Urban Homemaker

Ideas on How To Plan Your Pantry

Food Planner

This is an absolutely fabulous resource for cooking affordable meals using items in your pantry you bought in bulk or on sale.

Menu Plan Monday Challenge From $5 Dinners

Eat From the Pantry Challenge Blog Linkup

Weekly Meal Plans from $5 Dinners

Free Printable Planners for Grocery Lists, Pantry Storage, Freezer Storage and a whole lot more.

Pictures of Food Pantry Storage On AOL
I found over 600,000 pictures on AOL in this search and you can click through the thousands of images to build your plan of what will work best for your situation.
Click on this link to see  PICTURES

How do you store your food?

Please stop in and leave a comment on how you store your bulk foods. 

Please share.

2 thoughts on “How To Store Bulk Food

  1. Weiser Academy

    Hi Jamie,
    Thank you so much for the compliment and I would be honored if you linked this article to your blog.  I hope to get to know you and will be reading your blog too.
    Thanks again.


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