A Different Kind of Food-in-a-Bucket Plan


A while back, I posted a series of pieces on why and how you should protect your food for the long-term.  I suggested ways to get rid of pests and keep out oxygen and light so that the food would remain viable and nutritious for longer periods of time.  The main way I proposed was by sealing the food in Mylar bags and then placing them in plastic buckets with tight fitting lids.

A reader named Heather who is new to prepping asked me more questions about what to store.  She had a very interesting idea about storing food in a way I had not considered-  by the week’s worth rather than by similar contents or purchase date.  My interpretation of her original question was “What should I put in a bucket to feed my family for a week?”

Hmmm…  I gave it some thought and looked around online, but couldn’t find any other people who had posted information about doing that.

I began by making lists of various types of storage foods that could be used for each meal of the day.  Then I started thinking about how much of each ingredient would be needed for the “average family of 4.”

Before long, I came to the conclusion that this was a pretty hard proposition.  I had to decide if I was going to stick with one space-efficient item for each meal (like oatmeal for breakfast, tuna for lunch, etc.) or whether I needed to provide variety.

How many days of oatmeal would people eat before they’d rather pass on breakfast?  Well, what if I provided different flavorings to add (cinnamon and brown sugar, dried blueberries, etc. sealed in small Mylar bags)?  How much would that add to the cost and how much space would I sacrifice?

Then I came to the quandary about water.  Do I assume that the possessor of the bucket has clean water or does it have to be part of the bucket’s supplies?  After all, these are mostly dried foods so they need water to cook or reconstitute, plus the water needed to drink.

In the end, I came to the conclusion that, in most cases, it would be very hard to put many days’ worth of food into one bucket unless you were willing to sacrifice variety (this is survival not vacation, right?) and water would have to be provided or stored elsewhere.

I was intrigued by the idea still, though.  I have long been concerned that we will have more people show up here hoping to move in than we can possibly handle.  I’ve been sick thinking about having to turn people away, especially if they have nothing.  This seemed like a possible solution.  I like the idea of being able to at least hand them a bucket of provisions that would help get them to their next destination.  To the food in the bucket, we could add some items from our Barter Larder like a multi-tool/knife, matches, skillet, and so on.

In addition to these charity buckets, the idea could be adapted to organize meals for a bug-out situation.  If I think there is the possibility that we may have to leave for some period of time (wildfire risk, radiation plume, etc.), then I could grab these specially prepared buckets and know that we have X number of days of food already organized.  Depending on the number of people in my group, I may be able to fit more than one day’s worth of food per bucket.  My other bug-out preparations would need to include the cooking vessels and water, but we would not be doomed to 18 straight meals of Ramen noodles or granola bars.

So, here is what I thought of for the first couple of days:

Day 1

Breakfast–  Oatmeal with freeze-dried blueberries

Lunch–  Canned soup concentrates

Dinner–  Spaghetti sauce and noodles;  powdered milk or other instant drink mix

Extra– If it’s possible to bake, I’d like to include ingredients to make at least two loaves of bread.

Day 2

Breakfast–  Powdered scrambled egg and bacon mix, plus a small jar of jelly to go on bread made the day before

Lunch–  Tuna fish with small condiment packs of mayo and mustard for making sandwiches

Dinner– Canned chicken, “cooking” soup concentrate, rice, and small spice packets

Extra–  Raspberry Crumble freeze-dried dessert

Day 3

Breakfast–  Pancake mix and small maple syrup bottle

Lunch–  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (with bread made from day 1)

Dinner–  Beef Stroganoff (freeze-dried)

Extra–  Instant chocolate milk

Do you have any ideas about other “menus” that could be put together or more useful ways to package food in the buckets?  Any thoughts on what should or should not be included (besides accounting for special dietary needs, like being gluten-free)?  Please mention them in the comments section below.



4 thoughts on “A Different Kind of Food-in-a-Bucket Plan

  1. That’s a really interesting idea and it makes for easy grab and go emergency scenarios. There are dried potato and cheese breakfast mixes that are quite compact and handy. I don’t know the shelf life but I bought some a while back when they had coupons on them- if you buy a pack of eggs you could get this little potato carton for 15 cents. I thought it was worth a shot. You reconstitute it with hot water then pan fry it. That would be good with the powdered eggs for breakfast or lunch.

    I would go with strawberry jam and almond butter. You may have to reconsider your nut foods if you have a team member or charity who is allergic. You might list the contents on each bucket exterior and have a small variety ( maybe a bucket option that doesn’t have wheat/gluten, soy, or nuts. Those are the most common allergies, to my knowledge.

    Great article!

  2. This woman is only asking about what is already common practice amongst backpackers and canoe campers- being able to dig out one week’s (or day’s) food from the rest of the month long supplies. I suggest alternating wheatena, cream of wheat, cream of rice, grits, oatmeal and dried hominy. The grits and hominy would benefit from bacon bits. The cereals could be made with spoonfuls of powdered milk. You can also buy Williams Country Gravy flavored with Real Sausage at http://www.williamsfood.com which makes a nice breakfast- claims for 6 but I have found it’s good fr 3-4. I also highly suggest buying a small pressure cooker and practicing with it. I bought one off Amazon (a Hawkins 1 liter model) for my projected long distance backpacking trip. They are extremely low tech- you cook by the “whistles” (flushes of steam) instead of time- and foolproof-designed to preserve their gasket and the safety plug melts prior to explosive force being reached. The goal is to cook things like dried beans, jerky, rice etc with a minimum of fuel. I have cooked dried beans in about 7-8 minutes in mine.
    Back in my Boy Scout days we would fix Backpacker Paella on the 2nd night of a trip-a can of chicken, a can of shrimp, and a package of yellow rice would feed 3 starving boys. If you keep on adding stuff- a can of peas, a can of mushrooms, more yellow rice- you can feed even more. Go Latin with black beans and rice and diced meat sticks. Cook chili beans and rice. This is all very doable in a pressure cooker(mine cost about $35)

  3. I am relatively new to prepping, and i was having a hard time wrapping my head around how much of what to have on hand. So, I decided to prep supplies into jumbo Rubbermaid totes, 3/mo. This way i know i can be good for 30 day periods. In a set of totes I’ll have:

    48oz peanut butter
    2 Jars jelly
    8 hamburger helpers
    4 chicken helpers
    4 tuna helpers
    dehydrated hamburger crumbles (10 lbs BEFORE dehydrating)
    10 cans chicken breast
    10 cans tuna
    40 cans veggies (assorted)
    10 cans chunky soup
    4 bags instant mashed potatoes
    4 boxes mac-n-cheese
    2boxes Zatarians
    Dehydrated sliced smoked sausage
    4 cans meaty spaghetti sauce
    1 large bag spaghetti
    4 boxes powdered milk (make 2 gal ea)
    dehydrated breakfast sausage crumbles (10lbs BEFORE dehydrating)
    1tub oatmeal
    1box cream of wheat
    2 tubs powdered eggs
    10pkgs white gravy mix
    5pkg brown gravy mix
    8 cans ham (Family Dollar)
    4 cans Spam
    5lbs sugar
    1 lb brown sugar
    5 lbs allpurpose flour
    5lbs self rising flour
    5lbs cornmeal
    Yeast (cake or pkgs)
    1 tub cocoa
    1tub lard
    5 lbs rice
    5 lbs pinto beans
    2 large bags egg noodles
    1 large ketchup
    1 mustard
    1 jar syrup
    1jar molasses
    2 large cans coffee
    2 large boxes tea bags
    1 quart honey
    4 jars pickles
    Salt, pepper, season-all, cinnamon
    8 cans infant formula
    4 boxes infant cereal
    4 jugs applejuice

    1life straw
    8 rolls toilet paper
    Dish soap
    Trash bags
    Papery plates/flatware
    Laundry detergent
    1quart bleach
    1 gallon white vinegar
    2 beach towels
    4 kitchen towels
    2 kitchen scrubbers
    4quarts Lamp oil
    10 small sterno burners
    I have a 55 gallon drum w/lid i have been gathering dry dogfood and cat food in.

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