As everyone is, I’m sure, diligently building their food pantry, the matter of storage often comes up. This is not about food preservation, as I will leave that to the experts. Plenty of information is available both online and there are classes available in most communities through an extension office or similar service.

One of the best options I have discovered for storing bulk food is the plastic bucket. They are generally inexpensive and unlike plastic totes, are water, air, dust and bug proof. Most totes leave something to be desired as certain vermin can find their way inside.

Storing food in plastic buckets can be helpful in a number of ways. Plastic buckets allow you to store large amounts of bulk foods like grains, pasta and dried beans in lightweight containers to be used in the event of a disaster. However, not all plastic products are safe with food. It is important to be able to identify what the industry calls "food grade" plastic. Some plastics leach harmful compounds into their contents. To avoid this problem, flip the bucket over and look for the recycling symbol on the bottom. There should be a triangle of arrows with a number stamped in the middle. The numbers considered safe with food are 1, 2, 4, and 5. The best type of plastic is high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which is indicated by the "2" symbol. HDPE is one of the most stable and inert forms of plastic and all buckets sold specifically for food storage are made from this material. Other types of plastic acceptable for food storage are PETE, LDPE, and polypropylene (PP). These plastics are represented by the numbers 1, 4, and 5 respectively.

Other symbols also indicate food-related uses. A symbol depicting a cup and fork verifies "food grade" plastic, as well as radiating waves means "microwave-safe", a snowflake indicates "freezer-safe" and dishes in water signify compatibility with a dishwasher.

Food grade buckets can be found in most hardware stores and come in various sizes from two gallon to five gallon. Be sure to pick up lids and a lid lifter for opening. To help keep the bucket air tight, put a couple of layers of plastic wrap across the top of the bucket before snapping the lid in place. Better yet, check out gamma-seal lids. A gamma-seal lid snaps onto the bucket, then the entire center screws out, making entry that much easier.

As always, direct your questions and comments to me at disasterprep.dave@gmail.com. Previous columns can be found at my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com.