Cracking open a ten-year-old bucket of food

School starts up again this week, so I need to start doing breakfast. Since I’m incredibly lazy, I want something easy and fast. Cold pizza is my #1 choice, but who can afford that? I figured I’d just have instant oatmeal. Turns out, my pantry was devoid of the stuff. Musta used it all up last semester. Hmm. Well, let’s rotate some out of storage.

Sometime around 2006 I ran into a really nice sale on instant oatmeal.* As I recall it was a package of ten for a buck. Hey, for brand-name instant oatmeal, why not? So I picked up a bunch. As I’m sure you are familiar with, instant oatmeal is usually packaged in paper pouches – not the best sort of thing for long-term storage. As always, I turned to my trusty vacuum sealer. Sealed up ten pouches to a bag, sealed ’em up in a bucket, and tucked ’em away. Until today. Let’s see what we got.


Inspection tag says this was last inspected in 2011. I need to be a tad more diligent about this sort of thing. Every other year should be good. Surface of the bucket is a bit dusty, but that’s to be expected.


Spin off the Gamma Seal lid and the contents are clean and dry…as expected.


A dozen sealed ‘bricks’ of packages of instant oatmeal. Awaiting the day a hot breakfast is needed before a full day of hanging looters, manning barricades, killing zombies, and rescuing desperate-but-grateful coeds from cannibals.


The individual pouches kept their vacuum and everything appears good. No food smells, no insects, no nothin’.


Everything seems good to go. Contents of pouches aren’t caked together from moisture or anything else. Chalk up another win to the vacuum sealer.

Add some boiling water and…tastes just fine. Without a laboratory I can’t tell what nutritional value (if any) might be, but I can tell you that calorically it’s all there. Some canned/dehydrated fruit, powdered orange drink, instant hash browns, powdered scrambled eggs, maybe a freeze-dried pork chop and you’ve got a pretty decent breakfast after the apocalypse.

This vaccum-seal and bucket combo is also how I store 4# bags of sugar and salt. Sugar, especially, works well in this. The vacuum sealing keeps all the moisture out so your bag of salt or sugar doesn’t become a somewhat useless hard brick…and it keeps the bugs out as well.

I’m always gratified when I get to put food-storage theory to the test…empirical data for the win.

* = Not to toot my own horn, but it occurs to me this is the first time I’ve ever seen a blog post anywhere where a person had a post about something they did ten years ago, and then they have the original post from that thing they did ten years ago. Not a lot of blogs out there have the longevity to pull that stunt.

25 thoughts on “Cracking open a ten-year-old bucket of food

  1. * = Not to toot my own horn… Your getting smug again. Sorry but some one has to tell you, ever since someone GAVE you a BNIB HK-91 its been happening a lot – and if anyone had given any of us a HK-91 we’ll be smug, it doesn’t even have to be BNIB.

  2. Yeah, but it’s instant oatmeal. Gag. Other than that, you’re an inspiration for some of us. Thanks for the post.

    • Well, yeah, its instant oatmeal. Thats the whole point of emergency food storage…it has to be something that has minimal preparation requirements. In a perfecgt world, it’d be oatmeal made in a slow cooker with fresh fruit compote. But, when youre huddled in the shattered remains of your garage, cooking over a bundle of 2×4’s that used to be your living room, and waiting for the tornado sirens to quiet down, you probably aren’t going to have access to things like electricitiy, a pressure cooker, fresh fruit, and time. Thus…instant oatmeal.

      • Excellent point. I could force it down considering the alternatives.
        Speaking of off-grid cooking: We found, over 48 hours of no electricity in sub-zero temps,if you toast your bread directly over the flame from your handy plumber’s lead pot propane burner, your toast will taste like … yup, propane. Use a skillet.

  3. Bravo, Zero.

    Curious about any prep.
    My experience has been that anything processed and packaged has about 110% probability of having weevils, whether it’s flour, pancake mix, pasta, oatmeal, powdered drink mix, or damned near anything known to man.

    So I freeze the stuff for 24 hours, which supposedly expands the water and blows up their evil little eggs, obviating the problem going forward.

    Thoughts/experience appreciated.

    • ‘ve not had that experience. Or, possibly, I have had that experience but not noticed.
      I go through a lot of pasta and rice, and I’ve never found anything in the pasta and I haven’t seen anything in the rice.
      I don’t eat that much ‘boxed food’ but the ones I do are usually packaged within foil envelopes and the like, so if there were insects they would have been there since the factory rather than introduced along the way.

    • Thanks for the reminder. I buy a lot of those Rice-a-Roni type mixes for my husband & the rice is loose in the box. I keep wondering when I’m going to open a box a see wriggling bugs instead of quiet rice grains. Into the freezer they go!

      • I’ve had that happen w/ a box of Pasta Roni. ONLY ONCE. I opened it & it looked like it was full of “cobwebs”. The expiration date had not passed, so I guess the natural little buggers hatched out. And, yeah, you could see the little wriggly guys. I still buy these all the time, because they are really good & my husband loves them. Maybe I should freeze them before putting in the cupboard.

    • As we were hefting 50 lb bags of flour, a salty Navy cook told me his buggy-flour treatment: Put the bug-infested stuff in the fridge for 24 hours so the bugs migrate to the middle to stay warm. Transfer to freezer for 24 hours to kill said bugs. Open the bag and dig down to the center where you can remove a ball of dead bugs and most of the surrounding detritus.

  4. Imagine my surprise when I clicked on the link and it took me all the way back to 2006. You stand the test of time….like a fine wine. Congrats to you, Commander!

  5. Question. Why spend a gamma seal lid on a long term storage bucket? Was that bucket in more regular use at some point?

    I’ve been buying the gammas for buckets I think I’ll keep getting into, like rice and flour, but regular lids for anything long term.


    (our local Lowe’s has food grade buckets, and gamma seal lids so I just add one or two when I’m there and think about it…)

  6. This undoubtedly comes under a “gilding the lily” heading, but….I’d really like to see a square plastic bucket kind of container that’s about 6-8 gallon capacity and sized to hold multiple layers of pint, quart and 2-quart canning jars (different size square plastic buckets, obviously) with horizontal and vertical room between them for cardboard cushions, AND has a gamma lid. I understand the convenience of individual oatmeal packets, but when vac-sealing stuff purchased in bulk, I’ve found the plastic “roll bag” material is not zero-perm. Glass is.

  7. “This vaccum-seal and bucket combo is also how I store 4# bags of sugar and salt.”
    I take the cheap way out. We get 22 lb. buckets of Sun detergent for laundry at Walmart – it is in rectangular buckets with a snap on lid. (The detergent gets transferred to #10 cans with cheap plastic lids so we don’t have to take the lids off and on of the buckets while we use it.) Then I rinse out the bucket and let it dry. I put 4 lb. bag of sugar in a zip freezer bag, put it in the bucket with some 1 lb. boxes of salt – pop the lid on and tuck it away. I don’t see the need for vacuum sealing salt and sugar – just be sure to keep them dry and away from critters.

  8. I like to make “meals almost ready to eat.” Recently I made some Veggies, Rice and Beans which turned out really yummy. Just layer the stuff in a quart jar, add an oxygen absorber, and vaccum seal. Yes, I like double protection. (The layers look pretty in the jar.)

    Since I have the stuff out, I usually make a dozen at a time.

    Back in 2009, I made up a batch of Chicken, Rice and Veggies. Tried one out yesterday and it was great.

    Veggies, Rice and Beans
    1 Cup Dehydrated Refried Beans
    2/3 Cup Rice
    1/3 Cup Freeze Dried Tomatos, Peas, Corn, Mushrooms, Veg Soup Mix, Broth (I freeze dry my own broth using a Harvest Right freeze drier)
    1 tsp Shallots, Garlic Powder, Mex Spice Mix

    Bring four cups of water to a boil, remove the oxygen absorber and slowly add the contents of the jar to the water, cover and simmer until most of the water is absorbed.

    I’ve really enjoyed your blog these many years.

    Best Regards

  9. I have never had a problem with rice. My method is short medium term (now to 5 years). I freeze in a deep freezer (NOT a refridge freezer compartment) for a week or two. Pull it and fill with re cycled Ocean Spray bottles. Under the bed due to space. Fits tight but holds a lot. Eating 2010 right now. Now when you get serious about instant oatmeal, buy 50lb bags from Honeyville. For those I use the Mylar/oxygen absorber and the above food grade buckets from Lowes. I just use the regular lids and bought a bucket wrench. That stuff is put away for a long time. One tip boat cruisers use. If you pour rice in water to cook, the bugs float. Strain them out and cook. Remember germs are killed by heat and you really might need the calories. NOG

  10. okay, it freezes in nature every year and yet the first warm day bugs hatch out in force. so why would putting rice/oatmeal/etc in the freezer for a short time kill the bugs/eggs? also, the bugs don’t get in, they are already there. or at least their eggs are. the bugs excrement is toxic, on the order of ricin, not extra protein. sure, you can survive a bit of it but enough will make you sick and/or kill you. instant oatmeal has been processed so there will be less bug eggs than raw oatmeal by far. diatomaceous earth mixed in well will destroy the nits tender exoskeleton and kill them with the side effect of adding calcium to your diet. O2 absorbers keep them from hatching in the first place. DE works to protect pets from worms and dry pet/livestock food as well. DE has many uses and is very cheap. check it out.

  11. If you don’t want to go the instant oatmeal route pouring boiling water over old fashioned oatmeal and letting it set in a covered pot for about 5 minutes works fine. Pouring your oatmeal and boiling water in a insulated food jar and giving it 15 minutes to cook = best oatmeal ever.

    I eat a lot of oatmeal.

  12. As a data point, ate some shelf stable bacon today, that expired Jun 2014. Stored in the pantry. Just a bit crunchier than I remember it being, otherwise fine.


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