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DIY Long Term Food Storage Using Food Grade Buckets, Mylar Bags, & Oxygen Absorbers

I have been needing to put my bags of rice, beans, flour, sugar, and other grains into my buckets for a while now. I would say about 2 months….SHAME! SO…what is Long Term Food Storage (LTFS) and why do I believe my family and I need it? Why do I need car, homeowner, or life insurance? Well, coming from a woman who was rear ended twice in one year, then lost her home and 99.9% of her belongings in an “act of God” house fire (No kidding. That is what was concluded in all the reports. Nice closure huh? lol) the next year, and then being fired from her corporate job the next (yeah the hits just kept on coming for a few years! haha)…I would say, “Just in case something happens outside of my control and I don’t have the means to fix it/replace it/or make it better as close to INSTANTLY AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE. For the Double Time Car Damage, it took 2-4 weeks; my home, nearly 9 months (Thanks so much Wells Fargo Property Loss Department!!); my confidence in our economy and that I will get paid what I am worth, about a year after I lost my job I decided I have to be my own boss and not a slave to the dollar; my trust in others to look out for me and my family….ummmm…yeah. SO! LTFS is for those moments we don’t suspect anything will happen. When I lost my job, I was happy we had some reserve flour, sugar, rice, pasta, and spices. That really can add to a grocery bill when your budget is tight. Number One: I am dipping into my food insurance. Number Two: I live so far away from the grocery store, it would cost more in gas for me to get whatever it was that I needed. So, Here is my DIY on how to store those 25-50 pound bags of sugar, flour, beans, whatever you can buy at any big superstore for 10-30 years!!

Materials:

Supplies for DIY LTFS
Supplies for DIY LTFS

-Food Grade Buckets (I have 6 gallon ones)

-Bucket Lids

-Oxygen Absorbers (I Used 1-2000cc for the compacted stuff, 2- 2000cc for beans and loos stuff.)

-Mylar Bags

-Your Food

-Scissors

-Flat iron (I used my old one, or get a cheap one from the store)

-Sharpie (If you want to write on your buckets)

-Tape (If you don’t want to write on your buckets)

-Rubber Mallet*

If you don’t have a rubber mallet, make your own (instructions further down):

-Hammer

-Tennis Ball

– Knife

I bought most of my bulk food at Wal-Mart or Sams Club, but here are some links to the site I got my buckets and all from, and a link to which kind and how many O2 absorbers you need:

Buckets: http://beprepared.com/5-gallon-bucket-with-lid.html

Mylar Bags: http://beprepared.com/metallized-liner-for-buckets.html

Oxygen Absorbers: http://beprepared.com/oxygen-absorbers-2000-cc.html

O2 Chart: https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/emergency_supplies/oxygen_absorber_recommended_amounts.htm

How To Do It

Insert the Mylar Bag into the Food Grade Bucket
Insert the Mylar Bag into the Food Grade Bucket
Empty Your Food from it's original packaging into the Mylar Bag.
Empty Your Food from it’s original packaging into the Mylar Bag.

-Gather the bag together at the top and pick up and set down the bucket to shake all of the contents to a level surface. This allows max space consumption so you can fit all of your goodies in there. 🙂

I found that in my 5 Gallon Bucket, a 25 lb. bag of food fits nice inside, and a 50 lb. bag had a little too much. I was only able to fit about 40 lbs. of it in there. So, do the math and get extra bags to fill up another bucket or two, or use leftover containers/jars for the excess and use in the next few months.

-Add your Oxygen Absorbers-

1-2000 cc Oxygen Absorber in a 5 Gal. Bucket of Sugar
1-2000 cc Oxygen Absorber in a 5 Gal. Bucket of Sugar
2-2000 cc Oxygen Absorbers in a 5 Gallon Bucket of Pinto Beans
2-2000 cc Oxygen Absorbers in a 5 Gallon Bucket of Pinto Beans.
Make sure all of the air is out of the bag. Seal The Mylar Bag with The Flat Iron. After you seal it, push down on the bag to make sure you don't hear any air coming out.
Make sure all of the air is out of the bag. Seal The Mylar Bag with The Flat Iron. After you seal it, push down on the bag to make sure you don’t hear any air coming out. (I ran across a website where a guy used an iron to seal the bags)
Word of Advice: Do not have the heat setting on high and do not leave the iron on longer than a second or this will happen. I had melted holes in my bag, then had to cut and reseal it, until I mastered it. My first one was jacked up. LOL
Word of Advice: Do not have the heat setting on high and do not leave the iron on longer than a second or this will happen. I had melted holes in my bag, then had to cut and reseal it, until I mastered it. My first one was jacked up. LOL. You may have to pull the flat iron apart from the bag as it will melt a bit on the iron.
Stuff the bag inside the bucket, and Put The Lid On!
Stuff the bag inside the bucket, and Put The Lid On!

-Use a Rubber Mallet to beat the lid’s outer edges onto the bucket. A few heavy hits around the lid and you have a great seal!-

My Make Shift Rubber Mallet! I simply put my hammer into a tennis ball my pitbull had popped that day (this happens a lot! lol) and voila'!
My Make Shift Rubber Mallet! I simply put my hammer into a tennis ball my pitbull had popped that day (this happens a lot! lol) and voila’! You can also use your knife and cut a slit in the ball so your hammer will fit. Be careful!
Air Tight Seal! This is where you can tape your old bag's label (the on that the food came in) onto the bucket, or just write it on the bucket in sharpie. If you ever need to get it off, just use hairspray or alcohol.  Don't forget to date your bucket with the month and year you packaged it! I also initial it.
Air Tight Seal!
This is where you can tape your old bag’s label (the on that the food came in) onto the bucket, or just write it on the bucket in sharpie.

If you ever need to get the sharpie off, just use hairspray or alcohol.

-Don’t forget to date your bucket with the month and year you packaged it! I wrote mine on the label, but it would probably last longer if you wrote on the bucket directly. I also initial it.-

Using our old Whey Protein Container to store extra beans that did not fit in my bucket from a 50 pound bag.
Using our old Whey Protein Container to store extra beans that did not fit in my bucket from a 50 pound bag.

*If you have leftover food that did not fit into your bucket, this is where you can use your McGyver Skills and find things to put them in that are food grade (i.e. old spaghetti jars, pickle jars, etc). I have read that you can use the silica packets found in new purses, shoes, etc to put in these containers to help keep it fresher for a longer time. I have not done this yet. You can also use the O2 guide above and buy the size you would need for your containers.

Using Spaghetti jars to store rice, and an old container I received some cookies in once. Make sure your container is Food Grade and air tight.
Using Spaghetti jars to store rice, and an old container I received some cookies in once. Make sure your container is Food Grade and air tight.

I am not Mormon but they have some great ideas, LDS CANNING LOCATIONS, and great tips on Long Term Food Storage. Here is a link to their site that talks about LTFS and their recommendations:

https://www.lds.org/topics/food-storage/longer-term-food-supply?lang=eng#1

I hope this helped you! Please comment below with questions!

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New Years Chicks Update- 8 Weeks

Our babies are growing growing growing! They are now on chicken feed for adults, pellets and cracked corn (dumor brand). Finally started walking outside after leaving their coop door open for a week! I am hoping in four more weeks we will be able to start processing them! They have eaten one and a half 50 pound bags of chick crumble so far..about $15…we want to keep feed costs down, so the sooner they start eating scraps the better! I will try to give them some juice pulp to add vitamins to their diet as well. They just were not digging the tortillas I threw out to them!

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DIY Emergency Fire Starters

Make your own fire starters with 3 basic household items! I have been doing this for a couple of years off and on. Mostly b/c I forget to save stuff! But this is so easy and you can keep in your laundry room to remind you to fill up! The video above shows a fire starter I made in action! They are supposed to last 30 minutes, so think of it more like good kindling to start your fire with if it’s damp out or if you just need a “candle-ish” light for emergencies. This is made from stuff that is technically free, you are just recycling!

You can use this typical cardboard Dozen Egg Carton for your Fire Starters
You can also use this typical cardboard Dozen Egg Carton for your Fire Starters
You can use this 30 Egg Cardboard Carton for your project as well. I was lucky enough to get all of my cartons from co-workers, family, and friends:)
You can use this 30 Egg Cardboard Carton for your Fire Starters.

First, you need a cardboard egg carton. It can be a flat one for the 30 eggs, or a normal one. Ask around your work/schools because many people are willing to save some cartons for friends:) SInce I don’t buy eggs anymore, I rely on family members bringing them when they visit, co-workers used to bring them to me, and people I know at my girls’ school.

Dryer Lint- Yes, now you have a reason to remember to clean your lint trap..you are not only preventing a fire from starting because of your neglected lint trap, but you are using the lint to eventually make a fire! Weird recycling thought :)
Dryer Lint- Yes, now you have a reason to remember to clean your lint trap..you are not only preventing a fire from starting because of your neglected lint trap, but you are using the lint to eventually make a fire! Weird recycling thought 🙂

Second, you need DRYER LINT! That is right. Your trash is your treasure! You don’t need a lot. Seriously, I filled one 30 egg carton after 2 loads of laundry. But feel free to save all of your lint in a plastic bag if you want to make a bunch! Shove lint in each egg holder until it reaches the top of the carton.

The last of my hand made soy candle being recycled! I happened to be burning the last of this candle as I was completing this project so I simply waited until the wicks burned out and quickly grabbed the candle.
The last of my hand made soy candle being recycled! I happened to be burning the last of this candle as I was completing this project so I simply waited until the wicks burned out and quickly grabbed the candle.

Lastly, Candle or Melt Wax! Since I am always making my own melts and candles when I get orders in, I save any wax in a “junk candle” that I make for my “survivor candles”. I also use the burned off wax from my melts. When the scent is barely there, the wax can still be put to good use!

If you are a candle hoarder, like me, and have some candle jars laying around with bits of wax on the bottom, simply heat some water in a small pot to about 130-180 degrees (not yet boiling) and let your candle float in the water until the wax melts. Not recommended, but I sit my almost gone candles on my melt warmer (the bulb is far away from the bottom of the glass to prevent fires) and I let my candles melt this way. Mine are also soy candles so my wax melts faster than paraffin candles.

Pour the wax from your candle or melt warmer onto your Lint Eggs
Pour the wax from your candle or melt warmer onto your Lint Eggs

Pour your wax on top of the lint! Some of my wax spilled over the sides..but it was ok. You will have to judge how much you should pour. I let mine soak into the lint for a second and then pour until I see it just over the top of the lint. I am completely impatient and messy so I always have spillage, but it will all be used so it really isn’t that big of a deal.

IMG_0393
Like Joey on Full House…CUT IT OUT 🙂 (My oldest daughter has been watching a lot of re-runs…I love that she loves that old show) You can rip it out too.

 LET IT DRY!! At this point, you can choose to store it somewhere you will remember to keep filling it with lint and wax (and possibly forget about it for 6 months like I did :)) Or maybe you were really awesome and saved a lot of wax so you could complete a whole carton. Send some of that greatness my way!

All you have to do now is tear each egg holder out that is filled and place in a big ziplock to prevent from getting wet.

Burn Baby Burn! Once this thing started burning I realized what a great scent picker I was in the dryer sheet aisle..and a great candle maker! I had some pretty flavorful scents going on in the baby. I thought, "What a great idea for toilet areas...if they weren't so ugly...and open flamey..." haha!
Burn Baby Burn! Once this thing started burning I realized what a great scent picker I was in the dryer sheet aisle..and a great candle maker! I had some pretty flavorful scents going on with this puppy. I thought, “What a great idea for toilet areas…if they weren’t so ugly…and open flamey…” haha!

NOW test it out! My fire starter smelled really good!

HAPPY RECYCLING!

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Chick Drama

Homesteading leads to sometimes funny predicaments. This chick became stuck in its feed bowl and we had to help it out 🙂 Must have gotten a little too hungry! No worries, we saved the day!

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The Aquaponics System

What is Aquaponics, you ask?

According to the book we followed, which was very informative, called Aquaponic Gardnening by Sylvia Bernstein, “Aquaponics is the cultivation of fish and plants together in a constructed, recirculating ecosystem utilizing natural bacterial cycles to convert fish waste to plant nutrients. This is an environmentally friendly, natural food growing, method that harneses the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics without the need to discard any water to filtrate or add fertilizers.”

In short, you have a tank of fish that has a pump that sucks the water from the tank (with the fish poops) and pushes it into the growbeds (which are filled with inoculated gravel or hydroton) to feed and water the plants. Then, the plants filter the water and it slowly drains back down into the fish tank.

In 2012, after moving back into our home after it was rebuilt, we jumped right onto our first project of building an aquaponics system. With the help of Rob Nash @ Hanna Leigh Farms and Brite Ideas in Austin, we were able to view systems, ask questions, and finally develop our own floor/flow plan! To help with energy costs, we decided to design and Ebb and Flow system. Putting it together, taking it apart, and putting it back together again=a long night! We designed 2 4ft x 8ft beds which were 12 inches high, and purchased a 300 gallon water trough from Tractor Supply. Next came the piping, which we bought from Home Depot. We wanted everything new, so it was costly! But if you know what you are doing, you can use refurbished materials to make it much cheaper! Unfortunately, there were not many videos or blogs on how to do any of this stuff so I hope this post will give some of you a little direction! We used way too many screws to put our beds together! It was VERY HEAVY! SO we took some out when we rebuilt it, realizing we did not need that many. We were just scared the water that would be going into the grow bed would be so heavy that it would cause the whole thing to burst open! We were total amateurs I know :).

The book mentioned above gives great references for calculating the amount of water, what size pump you need, what type of system you want, the PH levels you need, lighting, etc. It is an amazing help!! We decided to put our system in our garage so it would be close and we could monitor it. Also, we were scared our fish would die if it were outside in the winter. My advice, put it in a hoophouse or greenhouse of a sort. We have terrible field mice so they were always coming in to get our goodies! So, after we built the beds, lined them with pond liner, bought the tank, started the seedlings, hung the fluorescent lighting, filled the tank with water, added Air Stones to the tank, filled the grow beds with hydroton (volcanic rock you can find on amazon for a small bed or find a hyroponics store, CAUTION it is expensive but considered the Cadillac of growing media), and assured the plumbing worked correctly, we were ready to prime the system. This means putting the bacteria in the system and boosting your nitrification cycle, before you even think about adding your fishies! Teaming with Microbes is another great book for understanding this part of the system. We went to Brite ideas in Austin and they gave us a 5 gallon bucket of compost tea they brewed, Mr. Nash gave us some Red Wrigglers (you can buy this online, which we ordered 1000 from Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm online and divided in half. 500 for each growbed), and we added all of this to the system and let it run on a normal schedule, “The Cycling Process” (45 minute off, 15 minute on Cycle) until the Ammonia had cleared up and we began seeing Nitrates present in the system. This is called the Nitrification process (again, the Aquaponic Gardening book is a great reference).

The AP System. Beds are slightly angled down towards the tank to enable gravity feed.
The AP System. Beds are slightly angled down towards the tank to enable gravity feed.
Long View of Garage AP System
Long View of Garage AP System
The Fish Tank with Compost Tea in the system. Notice the PVC Line drains from bottom of each grow bed with shut off valve (to help control drain timing, you want to make sure your plants have enough time to soak up the nutrients) into the fish tank. The Pipes in the water are connected to our Underwater Pump (purcahased at Home Depot) and split off into the two different grow beds.
Hydroton as the media, Media Guard to keep hydroton from falling down the drain, Flexible pipe that allows the flow of water into the beds. You will notice your wrigglers gathering by this pipe because all the poops are here! NOM NOM NOM:)
Some of the seedlings for the AP system. Planted in COCO Core (coconut husk media to grow plants in) so we would not tear roots when replanting, also kept the water from being tainted with any foreign matter that soil may have that would throw off nitrification levels.
Some of the seedlings for the AP system. Planted in COCO Core (coconut husk media to grow plants in) so we would not tear roots when replanting, also kept the water from being tainted with any foreign matter that soil may have that would throw off nitrification levels.

Finally, we were ready for FISH and PLANTS! You have to have good timing on this because the plants are what filters the water for it to be a healthy level for the fish to stay in. You also need the fish poop to grow the plants. So put your plants in when they are a decent size, and have enough to fill your growbeds. Sylvia Bernstein talks big on ratios on this part. Ratio for water, fish, and plants. We found a guy who sold Tilapia and Catfish for us to purchase a couple of hours away, so we headed out!

Going to the Fish Farm! Picking out 40 Tilapia and 40 Catfish for our AP system:)
Going to the Fish Farm! Picking out 40 Tilapia and 40 Catfish for our AP system:)
The hand chosen Tilapia to make all of our AP dreams come true!
The hand chosen Tilapia to make all of our AP dreams come true!
The Catfish Chosen for the job!
The Catfish Chosen for the job!
Fish added to the system AT LAST! This may have been a picture I took a little later...or the water made them look bigger lol.
Fish added to the system AT LAST! This may have been a picture I took a little later…or the water made them look bigger lol.

What a great day it was to have fish in our tanks! Let the poop shooting begin!

In the words of the LORAX, LET IT GROW! Also, lesson learned, squash is too big for an AP system my size..I really had no other room in this bed. I did add tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce, but I had to wrestle with the vines to find any of it! I am still a novice gardener, so lesson completed:)
In the words of the LORAX, LET IT GROW! Also, lesson learned, squash is too big for an AP system my size..I really had no other room in this bed. I did add tomatoes, peppers, and lettuce, but I had to wrestle with the vines to find any of it! I am still a novice gardener, so lesson completed:)
Tomato Tomawto...they started small...
Tomato Tomawto…they started small…

In the pic above, you can see we added mylar to the walls to prmote sunlight. We also added suntubes in the garage to help wit hnatural ligthing. We thought that is all we would need, but it proved to not be enough, hence the fluorescent lights hanging as well.

Later on…

Growing Up! Best Jalepenos and tomatos I have ever eaten! This was always a beautiful site. Most people hate going in their garage...this made it Heaven :) until the mice ruined it lol
Growing Up! Best Jalepenos and tomatos I have ever eaten! This was always a beautiful site. Most people hate going in their garage…this made it Heaven 🙂 until the mice ruined it lol

My husband and I are NOT scientists, or mathematical geniuses! This was all completed by trial and error, the API water test kit (found at fish stores), and lots of research!

I wrote the article, but my husband is the real genius behind all of this. He spent hours researching, reading, talking with AP System owners, looking at blogs, and being the most amazing person I have ever seen! Going from Grunt Infantry in the US Army, to building this beautiful masterpiece and sustaining it, is really an amazing feat! We are available to answer questions so please do!

We did take our system down a few months ago. Our plan is to build a hoop house outside for this baby! Now that we know what we are doing in AP systems, it should not be so difficult…building the hoop house however is a new venture we will document! Until then… stay sustainable!