After last week's tornadoes ripped through the Dallas area I thought a reminder to be prepared would be good.
Many of us store extra water in case of emergencies, living on the Gulf Coast where we get hurricanes it just makes sense. I also like to pick up some extra non-perishable food when it is on sale and store it for future use. But I need to store both in something that will not leak and will keep out bugs. I'm cheap and on a tight budget and prefer recycling to buying new so here's what I do.
I re-use 1 and 2 liter drink containers as well as good containers I find cheaply in thrift stores. There are arguments back and forth about which ones to use. It is NOT OK to re-use milk jugs as you can never get all the milk residue out and the jugs start breaking down in about 6 months.
The photo above is of the types of containers I use the most as they are free. I go through at least 2 bottles of juice a week and I grab any soda bottles my co-workers leave. The container needs to be one that is made for food or drink, not anything else. PBA free is great if you can find them, I did find some gallon containers at Big Lots and Dollar General for a reasonable price and stored some dry beans and macaroni in them.
If you are reusing drink containers you want to make sure they are clean and sanitized but the dishwasher is not going to do it because of the small opening. I will rinse my bottle with hot water and swish it around to get out the juice residue, then add some dish soap and fill with hot water and let it sit, usually overnight. Then I pour out about half the soapy water, and covering the opening I shake the bottle to agitate loose anything left. Rinse a couple more times with hot water. Then I sanitize it by adding about a tablespoon of bleach and fill to the top with water. Pour some in the lid too and let both sit for a while. Then rinse again several times with hot water.
It might sound like overkill but do you really want to take a chance on getting sick from water that decided to grow something you can't see?
If you are storing water, put in drops of unscented bleach (16 drops per gallon) and add cold tap water. Let it sit open for 30 minutes before capping and storing. I have read that if your tap water is chlorinated you don't have to add bleach but I would rather make sure. I have read variously that you should change out the water every 6, 9, 12 or 18 months. I'm going with 12 months unless I have to use it. When you do use the water for drinking, pour it back and forth between 2 containers to oxygenate it to make it taste better.
To store food like white rice or dry beans or macaroni, leave your bottles to air dry for a couple of days to make sure all the moisture is out. You can get some oxygen absorbers (ebay is a good place to look) to add to keep the food fresh and dry. And adding a bay leave or 2 will keep out any bugs that thought about getting in.
You will also want to store your bottles in a dark and preferably cool place. A cardboard box works to keep out light and makes it easy to store in a closet. I choose to store my water upright just in case, but food filled bottles can be laid on their sides.
Canning jars and other glass food jars you may have can be used also but won't hold as much unless you have the gallon size that those huge pickles come in. They are also heavier and if you live where there are earthquakes it may not be such a good idea.
So be safe and be prepared for the emergencies that mother nature throws at us.