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How We Use Food Storage Barrels & Best Foods for Long-Term Storage

Using food storage barrels for long-term food storage is a great way to get ahead and be more self-sufficient. But what foods are best stored long-term and how do you use that food all the way to the bottom of the barrel without running out of your backup?

A woman sitting beside 55 gallon food-grade barrels.

We love having food-grade 55-gallon barrels where we can store dry goods. We have an entire post where we share our bulk-buying tips for long-term food storage, so be sure to check out that post if you need more information on where to start.

We also have water stored long-term to ensure a reliable water supply. But here we’re sharing how we maintain a good supply of food, use good rotation practices, and top off our stores when we run low.

A 55 gallon food barrel of white flour.

Two Barrels of Each Food

The way we maintain a good supply of food is that we actually keep two barrels of each type of food. That way we’re eating from one barrel while the other stays topped off, and when one barrel gets empty, we restock that barrel and start working on the other.

This means we’re always eating the oldest food first and using smart rotation practices.

A 55 gallon food barrel of black beans.

Best Food for Large Bulk Storage

For some items, having 110 gallons of certain foods will take even our large family a very long time to work through. Because of this, it’s very important that the food being stored is shelf-stable for the amount of time it will take your family to work through it.

For us, we store the following items because we know they will last on the shelf for a long time, and/or it’s a food item that our family eats on a regular basis.

White Flour

White flour is great to store in a large 55-gallon barrel because it won’t spoil or go bad, if stored properly, for at least a year or more.

We do like to keep two large barrels of white flour as a backup baking source. It takes us a long time to work through it because we prefer our home-milled flour best, but it’s still great to have for items like this brownie mix in a jar, or our favorite quick cobbler mix.

Hard White Wheat

We keep our hard white wheat stocked up because it’s one of the grains we use most in our baking.

Do keep in mind if you’re wanting to store whole wheat (wheat berries) that you’ll also need a food mill in order to grind them into flour.

We love our Nutrimill grain mill, but you can also check out the Mockmill KitchenAid attachment, or the KitchenAid grain mill attachment.

Whole Oat Groats

We roll our own oats in our house, so we like to buy whole oat groats. They store longer than rolled oats and we like the flavor of freshly rolled oats better.

You will need to have an oat roller to buy oats this way.

Here are a few options for oat flakers:

Black Beans

We use a lot of black beans in our family. We love them with our tacos and in black bean enchiladas, in soups and stews, and I even like to soak and pressure can my own black beans.

Beans are also a great item to store because they’re packed with nutrition. A bowl full of beans will keep my family full much longer than a slice of bread. So if you’re just getting started with your food supply, beans are a great item to stock up on.

White Rice

Our family prefers brown rice to white rice, so we don’t store white rice in the quantities as the other foods. But if you like white rice it will store well in 55-gallon food storage barrels.

Just know that brown rice does not store as long, so it’s not recommended to buy in such large quantities.


Sugar is another item that stores very well long-term. We don’t keep our large barrel of this completely filled, and we don’t even have a backup barrel, but what we do have is a good quality evaporated cane juice.

I mainly keep sugar on hand for preserving jams and jellies. In our area, sugar can get pretty hard to find during the preserving season, so having a large food storage barrel about 1/3 full will get me through the year. I’ll then top it off as needed.


If you don’t have any other bulk storage, my biggest recommendation would be to get yourself some salt. You can eat all kinds of food in a survival situation, but it’s not going to taste good if you don’t have a little bit of salt.

Not only that, but our bodies need salt, especially if you’re having to work extra hard.

We like Redmond Real Salt and buy it in bulk directly from them. (Using that link for Redmond Salt will automatically give you 15% off your order!)

A 55 gallon food barrel of wheat berries.

Where to Find Large Storage Barrels

Many times you can find local sources for large food-grade barrels. Think of any local bakeries or stores that might buy food in bulk. Sometimes these foods are shipped in barrels and the store has no use for them once they’ve worked through the product.

You can also check on Facebook Marketplace, Craigs List, and Locavore, but we recommend looking locally since they can be expensive to ship.

Best Storing Practices

The reality is that a lot of our dry goods purchased from the store have insect eggs in them. Most families eat through the food before those eggs have a chance to hatch, but there’s nothing worse than opening up a large bin of food only to realize it’s been ruined because it had eggs in it.

One way we manage our food is to buy large quantities of dry goods in the wintertime when the temperature is below freezing. We then leave those bags of food in the trunk of the car, covered and protected from moisture, and allow them to sit in freezing temperatures for three days.

If you don’t have this ability, throw the food in a large chest freezer for three days before storing it.

If that’s also not an option, you can sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth in the bins and this will take care of the problem. Be sure to read the package or research how much to use for the number of grains you’re storing.

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